25 June 2015

2015 NBA Draft: 1st Round Grades

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The 2015 NBA Draft is tonight and by many accounts, it could get wild (I also said this a year ago). Continue reading to see my live grades for every selection tonight in Brooklyn and see if your team made out well, or if they have more work to do going forward.

Final Mock

1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Kentucky
Ultimately, I never bought the talk of Jahlil Okafor going first overall ahead of Towns and in the end, they made the right decision. Towns is the best player in this draft and that is because he has the skills to be a dynamic two-way player. He showed flashes of a nice inside-outside game during his short time in Lexington and he should be a force immediately on the defensive end thanks to his length, size and athleticism. He and Andrew Wiggins should team up to make a very exciting core in Minnesota.
Grade: A

2. Los Angeles Lakers - D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
Wow, ultimately all the smoke regarding the Lakers and Russell led to some fire. Now I am a big fan of Russell and I think he will be an excellent NBA player. He has got an excellent shot, he is an exceptional passer and he is really good at creating shots not just for himself but for others. The Lakers have an aging Kobe Bryant and a nice point in Jordan Clarkson but Russell will give this team some much-needed firepower. Saying all of that, they had a bigger need at center and Jahlil Okafor is a better prospect in my opinion. In short, it is a very good pick but not quite a great one.
Grade: B+

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
I am all for taking the best player available over selecting for need and there is no question on my mind that Okafor is the best player available at this point. Without Russell on the board, there is not a clear-cut guy for the Sixers to take here. And with the injury questions with Joel Embiid and the worries that he may not be able to play next season, there is a little more of a need here than there was before. Plus, Okafor will be a much-needed upgraded to a feeble Philadelphia offense. However, I wonder if this will be creating a glut in the frontcourt for this team. There is now a lot of bigs there without much in the backcourt. Again, a good but not a great pick.
Grade: B+

4. New York Knicks - Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Probably not the guy that Knicks fans are excited to hear about which I can understand. While the hype train has been high on him of late, he is not the best guy on my board nor the guy I would have taken. And we always know the risks of taking the international prospects considering we have not seen them in person. But I think that Porzingis is more likely to be a hit than a miss to be honest. I think he was born to be a stretch four in the NBA with his terrific jumper and he should be able to be a presence defensively with his ability to block shots. The Knicks can afford to wait.
Grade: B

5. Orlando Magic - Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Croatia
Hezonja is not the best guy on my board here (that would be Justise Winslow if you have not guessed already) and I think that Winslow may have been a better pick here but Hezonja does make sense. The Magic have little in terms of offense on their roster and what Hezonja will bring to is an excellent offensive skill-set with the ability to do a lot of things on that end. In particular, his perimeter shooting will be greatly appreciated in Orlando. He has the size and athleticism to fill a hole at the three but one thing he really has to work on is his defense and his defensive effort. One thing I am not in love with is his headstrong personality.
Grade: B+

6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Given that there all the rumors of George Karl wanting to trade DeMarcus Cousins and how owner Vivek Ranadive is upset at Karl about that and all of the other nonsense, this pick does not really answer anything about what the team is doing. If they trade Cousins, they have a replacement at the five. If they keep Cousins, they get some much-needed post defense and can allow Cousins to slide over to the four, something he is reported to want. Cauley-Stein has some work to do on the offensive end but he looks like he will be a defensive force right away. He is long and athletic enough to guard every position and he looks like a perennial recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Grade: A-

7. Denver Nuggets - Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
I would have gone with Winslow (again) here but given that it is not certain that Ty Lawson will be a Nugget next season, there could be a hole at the point. Ultimately, they can afford taking a higher ceiling prospect like Mudiay because their roster is a mess and I think it is a good pick. Depending on the kind of system that new coach Michael Malone will run, Mudiay should be a great fit if they keep their up-tempo style that they found some success with after firing Brian Shaw. He is a pure point guard thanks to his athleticism and his explosiveness. Mudiay is excellent at driving and getting to the tin but his outside jumper needs some work.
Grade: B+

8. Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
Taking Johnson with Justise Winslow on the board? I am not much of a fan of that. To be fair, I like Johnson a lot. He fills a big need at the three for the Pistons and Stan Van Gundy will love the caliber of defense that he will bring to the floor. Johnson is one of those guys that can guard multiple positions thanks to his size, length and athleticism. He also has some nice potential on the offensive end and he can hit the outside shot, but I don't think he has a higher ceiling on offense than the aforementioned Winslow.
Grade: B-

9. Charlotte Hornets - Frank Kaminsky, PF/C, Wisconsin
Obligatory Winslow mention aside, in the wake of trading Noah Vonleh to the Trail Blazers, the Hornets could use a stretch four and they need some shooting in the worst way. Kaminsky will be able to bring both. There is no question that he has some really exciting skills offensively and can do some things on that end that few seven-footers can. I do not love him as much as others do because he is not that athletic and he could really be a mess on the defensive end at the next level in my opinion, especially if he is guarding fours.
Grade: B

10. Miami Heat - Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Finally, Winslow goes and it is a great fit. Luol Deng can opt out this summer and create a big void at the three and even if he does stick around, he is on the south side of 30. Miami has a lot of moving pieces this offseason so taking the best player on the board is pretty wise. As you can tell, I am a big fan of Winslow as I think he can just about do it all. He should be tremendous on the defensive end thanks to his versatility and ability to guard multiple spots and while his offensive game has not fully come together yet, he has got a lot of skills to work with. He is efficient, is a very good passer and doesn't need the ball in his hands.
Grade: A

11. Indiana Pacers - Myles Turner, C, Texas
Given that Turner is both raw and inexperienced, there comes some risk with this selection but the reward could be very high. For a seven-footer, he has the rare ability to step outside and make threes while also showcasing some impressive shot-blocking skills during his time in Austin. He does have a funky running style and he needs to get stronger. But for a team that looks like they are willing to move on from Roy Hibbert and are looking to play a more open offensive style, Turner fits.
Grade: B

12. Utah Jazz - Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
I am not as high on Lyles as others are because while he definitely has a lot of talent, he needs to work on his jumper if he is going to be used as a stretch four, particularly from the perimeter, and he is not a particularly impressive athlete nor is he a great defender. He does have some great size and length, takes care of the basketball and is a solid passer but while I can't fault him for not playing that much at Kentucky given all the talent on that roster, he was not all that impressive when he did get on the court. The Jazz have the ability to take a chance on a guy given their intriguing roster but he has got some things to prove to me right now.
Grade: C

13. Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
Booker is probably the best player on the board at this point and he makes a lot of sense for the Suns. Booker is probably the best shooter in this NBA draft and while he is young (still only 18), his shot is good enough to make an impact right away and should be a great fit for a Suns team that loves to run and shoot. He also showed in the pre-draft process that he is a nice athlete and he has the ability to get to the rim while also being a good passer. His limited wingspan could limit his ceiling defensively, though.
Grade: A-

14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Cameron Payne, G, Murray State
I had the Thunder taking Payne multiple times throughout the draft process and it is easy to see why. They could use a guy like him to come off the bench as he can be an excellent facilitator as he has great handles and court vision and while his perimeter shooting is a little inconsistent at the moment, he has shown the ability to hit threes during his time at Murray State. However, his defense can leave something to be desired at times but he also has the ability to gobble up some steals thanks to his anticipation and length.
Grade: A-

15. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn) - Kelly Oubre, SG/SF, Kansas
Adrian Wojnarowski reports that this pick is going to the Wizards and they are taking Oubre. For the Wizards, I do not entirely get this move since a wing like Oubre does not fill a need for some frontcourt depth, specifically at power forward. However, he could help boost a less-than-impressive bench on the wing. I am not a huge fan of Oubre because while he is very talented, he was not all that impressive in his sole year in Lawrence and comes with some questions about his work ethic.
Grade: C-

16. Boston Celtics - Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
Now there have been some rumblings that Marcus Smart, last year's sixth pick, could be on the move but if that doesn't happen, then Boston just created a crowded backcourt. Rozier does not fill a need nor was he the best point guard on the board (I'd taken Tyus Jones, Jerian Grant and Delon Wright over him). He is an excellent defender but he can't shoot and Boston already has players like that already. Unless somebody is on the move, I don't like this pick.
Grade: F

17. Milwaukee Bucks - Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
The second questionable pick in a row although this is more defensible than the Rozier selection. Vaughn's draft stock was rising lately but I think there are better players on the board and while he does fill a Milwaukee need for a shooter, he also  is not very athletic and does not offer that much on the defensive end. I don't think he is quite ready to play at the next level given that he is only 18 and I think this was a reach for Milwaukee.
Grade: D+

18. Houston Rockets (from New Orleans) - Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
This does not fill the Rockets' biggest need (backup point guard) but I like this fit. Dekker seems like he would be a good fit in with what Rockets GM Daryl Morey likes to do with his teams, and Corey Brewer is a free agent. Dekker plays really well without the ball and he has got the athleticism to guard multiple positions at the next level. He showed the ability to shoot the threeball in the NCAA Tournament but he needs to be able to hit it consistently to succeed at the next level and I think he can and will.
Grade: B+

19. Washington Wizards - Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
So after the Wizards traded this pick to the Hawks, now the Hawks have traded it to the Knicks as per the Woj. Jose Calderon is not the point guard of the future for the Knicks (and he may not be their point of the present if he gets moved) and Grant will fill a big need at the point. He didn't play anything like the triangle in college but given that he is an excellent passer and can shoot (although he could improve his mechanics with his jumper), he should be able to fit reasonably well. All in all, a fine pick.
Grade: B

20. Toronto Raptors - Delon Wright, PG, Utah
Point guard is not the biggest need on the roster for the Raptors but Wright can be a useful player for them coming off the bench. Kyle Lowry is a very good point guard but he is not the best of facilitators and is more of a scorer but while Wright does not contribute much with his shot, he is an excellent passer and distributor. Toronto was awful defensively last year and their backcourt really needed an infusion of defense and Wright should bring that. A little more typical for the Raptors one year after Bruno Caboclo.
Grade: B+

21. Dallas Mavericks - Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
Anderson was a guy that I thought was a little underrated throughout this draft process and I really like this fit for the Mavericks. Rick Carlisle can only do so much scheming defensively as they were lacking on that end outside of Tyson Chandler and Anderson has the ability to be a defensive force. He will be able to guard multiple positions thanks to his plus athleticism and length and that will be welcomed in the Big D. Anderson also put a lot of effort in his jumper and showed some improvement this pass season with the Cavs and that will certainly be appreciated by a franchise that loves the threeball.
Grade: A

22. Chicago Bulls - Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Now I like Bobby Portis a lot and I am a little bit surprised that he has slipped to the 22nd pick. But either this was a value selection or one of Chicago's bigs are on the move. Portis would give the Bulls some more stretch four looks given that he can shoot it out to the three-point arc. He is not a great athlete but he plays very hard and is strong. He really competes on the defensive end and is a solid rebounder as well. Even with the lack of need, I like this pick a lot.
Grade: B+

23. Portland Trail Blazers - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
This is an interesting selection because this is looking like an offseason of transition with recent reports that LaMarcus Aldridge is leaving in free agency as well as the trading of Nicolas Batum to the Hornets. Hollis-Jefferson should help fill the void of Batum. Hollis-Jefferson is one of the best defensive players in this draft. He was terrific on that end at Arizona and he is one of those guys that can guard multiple positions which is currently en vogue. He also is a great rebounder for a wing guy. Offensively, he can finish in transition but he contributes little with his jumper. But color me a big fan.
UPDATE: This pick is going to the Nets in a trade that will send, among others, Mason Plumlee to Portland. Makes sense for both parties.
Grade: A-

24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Just as I was writing out an analysis of this selection, Wojnarowski reports that Jones is going to the Timberwolves (more details here). Jones would have been a great pick for the Cavaliers but even as the Timberwolves already have their point guard in Ricky Rubio, Jones makes sense for them. Jones may not be the most impressive athlete but he has really improved his perimeter jumper and has really nice ball-handling skills. His defense is lacking, though.
Grade: B+

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Jarell Martin, F, LSU
Even as Jeff Green exercised his player option to return to the Grizzlies, they needed some further help on the wing and have reportedly been very high on Martin throughout the process. I am not the biggest fan of Martin because I am not certain he has a position in the NBA, his passing skills are not all that impressive nor was he a consistent defender at LSU. He does have a high ceiling, however, as he is very athletic and has got a lot of tools to work with offensively and has shown a versatile skill-set.
Grade: C+

26. San Antonio Spurs - Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia
Draft and stash! We all know that the Spurs are known for taking these kind of players and especially since they have a number of key free agents plus are likely to get into the LaMarcus Aldridge derby. Milutinov is an intriguing prospect physically as he is a legitimate seven-footer, is long and is mobile. He has shown some offensive game as he finishes well around the rim and can do a little shooting as well. We won't see him for a couple of years but he could be interesting if and when he comes.
Grade: B

27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston) - Larry Nance, Jr., F, Wyoming
Nance is a very good athlete, has nice size and he plays hard. However, I am surprised to see him coming off the board in the first round as he really was a second round prospect in my eyes. He does play hard but I do not know what his position is at the next level and he does not have that much of a ceiling, especially on offense as he is not a consistent jump-shooter and does not have that many moves. He could be useful defensively but I think the Lakers took him too early here.
Grade: D+

28. Boston Celtics (from Clippers) - R.J. Hunter, G, Georgia State
The Celtics could have taken Hunter at 16 and Rozier here and that would have made much more sense. They do already have a ton of guards but Hunter is the kind of player that the Celtics need even with last year's first-round pick James Young still in the mix. He will not be much defensively in the NBA but he is an excellent shooter with deep range. Hunter is also a pretty solid passer as well. This pick makes the Rozier selection even more questionable in my opinion.
Grade: B

29. Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta) - Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse
This is a pick that everybody zeroed in on correctly from the get-go, including myself, and it makes a lot of sense. The Nets' draft future is frankly a disaster and what I thought made the most sense for them was taking a high-upside player and that is what McCullough is. He showed a lot of promise early in the season before suffering a torn ACL which really hurt his stock. He already was raw but he showed some nice shot-blocking skills and can also hit threes. McCullough could be insurance for a potential Thaddeus Young departure.
Grade: A-

30. Golden State Warriors - Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Golden State is fortunate to have a ton of depth so they really could have done anything with this selection. I like them taking a bit of a project in Looney, who I thought would have been gone by now. Looney is a kid that needs to work on his post game and get stronger but he has shown some skill at shooting the three and he is also a good rebounder. Given that David Lee's future is murky at best in Oakland, Looney is good insurance. Looney at one point was being discussed as a potential lottery pick so to get him at 30 is very good value for the league champs.
Grade: A-

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