05 June 2015

2015 NBA Mock Draft: 3rd Edition

While the NBA's best are duking it out in the NBA Finals (check out my predictions here), the 28 remaining teams are looking to get in their positions in one year from now. That process begins in less than three weeks with the NBA Draft. Here's my third mock.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Kentucky
Both Towns and Jahlil Okafor are exceptional talents and would be great players to have on a Minnesota roster that needs help. However, I think Towns is the better prospect and would be a better fit for a team with his inside-outside game on both ends of the court due to his length, athleticism and nice jumper for a big man. From the onset of his NBA career he should make a major impact on the defensive end with his shot blocking skills. And if he is able to work in a three-point shot as rumored, look out.

2. Los Angeles Lakers - Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Okafor would give the Lakers a very promising frontcourt along with last year's first-round selection Julius Randle, even as it could be interesting to see them fit together in the paint. Okafor projects to be an impact post scorer right away considering he has such an advanced set of moves for somebody only 19 years old. He may never be an elite defender or free throw shooter but he should develop into a solid rebounder.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
Philadelphia appears to be in good hand in their frontcourt with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid but they really need some help in the backcourt and specifically at the point. I think Russell would have the edge over Emmanuel Mudiay due to his strong perimeter shooting and his passing ability and ability to create for others should help improve a miserable offense. His defense shortcomings could be masked on this club with the aforementioned big men.

4. New York Knicks - Emmanuel Mudiay, G, China
The Knicks were, naturally, the biggest losers of the lottery and now it looks like they could try to move this selection. Should they stay at four, they will likely take the guard that Philadelphia does not take (although they are reportedly big fans of Justise Winslow) and here, that's Mudiay. Mudiay is a pure point guard which may seem like an odd fit for the triangle, nor is he a great shooter yet, but he can be dynamite with the ball in his hands. His selection could be a sign that the Knicks may not be as rigid with the triangle as previously thought.

5. Orlando Magic Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Orlando has the double-double machine of Nikola Vucevic in the mix but they need to find him a complement in their frontcourt. Porzingis would be able to provide spacing for not just Vucevic but the rest of the offense which could sorely use his outside shooting as the big Latvian has the shooting stroke that you normally see from a guard. He needs a good deal of polish and certainly needs to get stronger and tougher but he has shown some promise with his shot-blocking abilities.

6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
The Kings were a disaster defensively after firing Michael Malone and could certainly use the kind of defensive force like Cauley-Stein, who with his athleticism could defend almost every position on the court. He also would allow DeMarcus Cousins to play more power forward, which may be a better fit for his size. Cauley-Stein's still-developing offensive game would not be a worry next to the gifted Cousins.

7. Denver Nuggets Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Denver could use just about anything at this point as their roster has become a mess with a dearth of talent and promise. I would look for them to take the best player available with this selection and that has to be Winslow at this juncture. He is still a little raw on the offensive end but he is efficient, is a solid passer, takes care of the ball and plays well without the ball. Where he will make his money in his pro career will be on the defensive end as he will be able to guard three positions at the next level, and we know that Denver could certainly use some help on that end.

8. Detroit Pistons - Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Croatia
Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince are the top options at the three for the Pistons at the moment and given that both are well past their prime at this point, the Pistons could sorely use a long-term solution at the position. Not to mention that as a team Detroit struggled from the perimeter this past season, and shooting is a weakness that Stan Van Gundy has expressed a desire in fixing, so Hezonja would be an ideal selection for them. He has an excellent skill-set offensively but he does come with questions about his demeanor and has to work on his defense.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
The Hornets could look to take a wing player with this selection given the gamble on Lance Stephenson came back to bite them and Gerald Henderson is a free agent. Johnson would give them a player that gives them versatility on both ends of the floor, but particularly so defensively. His size, length and athleticism allow him to guard multiple positions, something that is currently en vogue in today's NBA. For a perimeter player, he rebounds well and while it is not his strength, he can hit a shot from the perimeter.

10. Miami Heat - Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
The Heat are somewhat of an organization in transition with key players getting older or entering free agency so they could do just about anything with this selection. If they are looking for a player that could help them right away, Booker would make sense. Even as he is only 18 with much of his game still to be developed, his jumper is NBA-ready and that would be big for a team that could really use it. Miami had the seventh-worst shooting percentage from three point land this past season at only 33.5 percent.

11. Indiana Pacers Myles Turner, C, Texas
David West is not getting younger and Roy Hibbert's future in Naptown is uncertain. Turner would not only give the Pacers an infusion of youth to their frontcourt, he also would fit the more open style of basketball that the team hopes to employ next season. Turner is raw and did not play a whole lot in his sole season in Austin, and his running style is raising some concerns, but his shot blocking and shooting skills are very intriguing.

12. Utah Jazz - Kelly Oubre, SG/SF, Kansas
The Jazz, thanks to a multitude of high draft picks, have collected an intriguing amount of young talent on their roster and thus they can afford to take a chance on a talent that could pay off for them big time. Oubre was inconsistent as a freshman in Lawrence but he did show a lot of promise. He is long and athletic and shows all the skills to be a true presence defensively. Oubre's jumper looks to be where he will make an immediate contribution on offense.

13. Phoenix Suns - Frank Kaminsky, PF/C, Wisconsin
Kaminsky may not be the defensive force that Phoenix could use in their frontcourt but he does seem to be a perfect fit for coach Jeff Hornacek's style of basketball. He is not particularly athletic, strong and he likely will struggle defensively throughout his career. However, few big men have the kind of offensive skill-set that he has from his post game to his perimeter game. Kaminsky should excel in such a wide open attack that the Suns employ and allow Hornacek to really mix up his lineups to keep defenses at bay.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
When the Thunder have everybody healthy, they are a title contender. Therefore, they don't have the kind of glaring need that your typical lottery team would. GM Sam Presti could afford to go with the best player available approach regardless of need and Payne could apply in that aspect, and his shooting ability, albeit streaky, could certainly help too. He has excellent court vision and passes the ball very well, even in transition.

15. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn) - Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
Atlanta had a brilliant regular season but even that could not hide the fact that they lack depth in their frontcourt. Now with Paul Millsap being a free agent this offseason, that need could only be exacerbated this offeseason. Now Lyles is young and raw but he has the skill-set that Mike Budenholzer likes from his bigs. He has the athleticism and the length, not to mention the shooting to be a stretch four. However, he does need to get stronger.

16. Boston Celtics - Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
The Celtics have built an intriguing frontcourt but they could use some further depth at the power forward position with Brandon Bass and Jonas Jerebko being free agents. Portis is not particularly athletic but he has an NBA body, he consistently plays hard and he has himself a solid offensive game with a solid jump shot that can stretch out towards the three-point arc. What he will also bring to the table that will be sorely needed in Boston is his ability to block shots. The Celtics had no player average more than 0.7 blocks-per-game this past season.

17. Milwaukee Bucks - Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
Milwaukee has themselves a number of interesting and intriguing pieces on their roster, and they already appear set at the small forward position with Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, Dekker could make for an unique fit in the style that the Bucks have run under Jason Kidd this past season because of how well he can play without the ball. Dekker has seen his draft stock rise thanks to a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament and he showed some promise with his jump shot.

18. Houston Rockets (from New Orleans) - Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Houston has been getting some big-time play in big spots this postseason from Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni but both are at least 37 and aren't playing on guaranteed contracts for next season while usual starter Patrick Beverley is a restricted free agent. Jones has the ideal point guard skills that you want and his jumper should fit in with the style of team that Daryl Morey has built to this point, namely one that shoots a ton of threes.

19. Washington Wizards - Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Paul Pierce has seen a good deal of minutes at the power forward position in this postseason and in the regular season and while he has made it work, it is obviously not a long-term answer. Looney is raw and is not likely to be an immediate contributor as he needs to get stronger and grow his post game. However, he has shown a skill for working the glass, specifically on offense, and his shot from three is very good for his position.

20. Toronto Raptors - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
Toronto was terrible at-times defensively this past season and their weaknesses on that end of the court was one of the key reasons why they fell apart and were swept by the Wizards in the playoffs. The Raptors are good enough offensively to cover for Hollis-Jefferson's mediocre jump shot but they could his defensive skills. His size, length and athleticism should allow him to defend multiple positions and he should be able to be a strong defensive specialist in the NBA.

21. Dallas Mavericks - Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
Well it is safe to say that the Rajon Rondo era in Dallas has come to a close. If and when he leaves Big D, it will leave a hole at the point as neither J.J. Barea nor the immortal Raymond Felton should be starting point guards in this league at this point in their careers. Grant does not have major upside considering he is already 22 but he is a great passer and, thanks to his athleticism and length, should be at least a decent defender at the next level. Rick Carlisle could also certainly help in that regard as well.

22. Chicago Bulls - Delon Wright, PG, Utah
It was a relative return to normality health-wise for Derrick Rose this season, but he still missed 31 games. Both of his backups, Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich, are free agents and both of them are on the wrong side of 30. Wright already is 23 years old but while that may make his career a little shorter on the back-end, it also means that he should be able to contribute right away. He takes advantage of his size as a passer and he distributes very well. What new coach Fred Hoiberg will also appreciate is his game on the defensive end.

23. Portland Trail Blazers - Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Regardless of whether or not LaMarcus Aldridge returns to Portlandia this summer (it's no guarantee in my eyes), the Blazers could use a physical force in their frontcourt and Harrell certainly fits that bill. Harrell should be able to make an impact as a tough physical defender in the paint and is a plus rebounder, both of which will be helpful to this club. His offensive game is nonexistent outside of the paint and he also is not bereft with moves but Terry Stotts is a good enough coach to work around that.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers R.J. Hunter, G, Georgia State
The Cavs should be a title contender once again next season (having a guy like LeBron James certainly helps in that manner), but they could use some depth on the wings as J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert both could leave this summer. Hunter is one of the best shooters in this draft from the perimeter and also is a smart playmaker with the ball in his hands. His defense is not a plus but Cleveland has the kind of players (read: James) that can help cover for him.

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Justin Anderson, SG/SF, Virginia
Memphis is a club that has become a tough playoff out with some tremendous defense and a decided home-court advantage at "the Grindhouse," but one thing they have needed for years now is perimeter shooting. Anderson is a player that has worked hard on his jump shot and it showed as he was hitting 45 percent of his threes this past season in Charlottesville. Factor that with his talents on the defensive end due to his size, length, athleticism and ability to cover multiple positions and it sounds like he would be a good fit with the Grizzlies.

26. San Antonio Spurs Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
The Spurs are still pretty loaded on their roster which, as always, allows them to take some risks on the draft day on either foreign prospects or raw college products. Wood would certainly be the latter as he is quite raw and probably would have benefited from a third year at UNLV. After all, he still is only 19 and has a long way to develop physically. That said, he has lottery talent as he has great length and a nice touch from the perimeter, not to mention some game on the glass.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston) - Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
Showtime simply needs talent and they should gamble with their second first-round selection on a high-upside prospect. Vaughn is still only 18 and coming off an uneven freshman campaign at UNLV when he entered it as a potential top ten selection. However he has excellent scoring instincts and can make shots in different ways, something the Lakers could sorely need. He also has the ability to develop into a solid defender.

28. Boston Celtics (from Clippers) - Robert Upshaw, C, Washington
Upshaw is a significant risk from an off-the-court standpoint and he has been kicked out of two Division I programs. That said, he has the talent to be a serious contributor defensively given his massive size and length and he showed an excellent shot blocking ability during his short season at U-Dub (and he would more a true rim protector than Portis would be). His offensive game is still coming along although he does finish very well.

29. Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta) - Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse
Given that the Nets are not likely to be a factor for a few years and have limited picks and financial flexibility going forward, they really need to add some youth and talent and should take some risks. McCullough was looking like a top-20 pick this season before suffering a torn ACL. Couple that with the fact that he is rather raw and that makes him a project. He does have the ability to shoot from three and moves well defensively while also having the ability to block shots.

30. Golden State Warriors Jarell Martin, F, LSU
Golden State is fortunate to have so much depth so they could afford to take some chances with their draft selections, especially given the uncertain nature of picking at the end of the first round. Martin is very athletic and showed some promise of a nice face-up game during his time in Baton Rouge. He has the tools to be a nice contributor offensively but he still needs some polish and consistency, while also showing more effort on the boards.

Check out the NBA Mock Draft database at Walter Football for even more mocks.

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