It is almost time for all rumours that have typically surrounded the lead up to the NBA Draft to stop, as we are just one day away from the 2015 NBA Draft. This year’s class is headlined by big men, with Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor projected to be selected with the first two picks. The draft also contains star potential at the guard spots with the likes of D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay projected to be drafted high.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Kentucky, Freshman, 6’11”, 250 lbs
2014-15 stats: 10.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.3 blk, 56% fg
While Flip Saunders reportedly admires Okafor’s game, Towns is likely to be the pick here for the Timberwolves. Towns’ college stats may not be eye-popping, but he has the highest potential in this draft class and is a legitimate two-way player who has a burgeoning low-post game. Towns displayed his post prowess in the NCAA tournament where he scored 25 points against Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional Final, repeatedly scoring down low. Towns’ offense is not limited to the paint, as he has shown an ability to step outside and knock down a midrange shot, something that was his primary strength heading into his freshman year at Kentucky. Towns is also an impressive free-throw shooter for a big man and hit 81% of his foul shots this season. With Towns slotting in alongside Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, the Timberwolves are likely to have one of the athletic teams in the league.
NBA Comparison: DeMarcus Cousins
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke, Freshman, 6’11”, 270 lbs
2014-15 stats: 17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.4 blk, 66% fg
With Towns off the board, the Lakers will be looking to take the best available player at number two. Throughout high school and college, Jahlil Okafor has been a man amongst boys, with an incredibly polished post game. According to ESPN’s draft insider, Chad Ford, Okafor’s post game includes several moves and counter moves that opponents “never see coming”. Okafor is also an excellent passer and has incredibly large hands which allow him to catch difficult passes into the post. Due to his prowess in the paint, Okafor tends to see double-teams from oppositions, however due to his passing ability, he is able to stay away from trouble. While Okafor is arguably the best offensive player in the draft, his deficiencies lie on the defensive end, where he has been known to be a liability. Despite his size, Okafor was not an excellent shot blocker in college and isn’t considered a rim protector. Okafor is also a poor foul shooter, and converted a paltry 51% of his foul shots during his season at Duke. Despite these weaknesses, Okafor is likely the most NBA ready prospect in the top ten.
NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State, Freshman, 6’5″, 180 lbs
2014-15 stats: 19.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 45% fg, 41% 3pt
Much like the Lakers, the Sixers are also looking to draft on talent rather than position. In D’Angelo Russell, Philadelphia will be catering for both needs. After trading away Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers have a hole at the point guard spot and Russell would be an excellent fit. A left-handed player, Russell’s game has been compared to Houston Rockets’ superstar, James Harden. Like Harden, Russell is a terrific ball handler and shooter. Russell is also an underrated passer despite averaging just five assists per game. Russell’s ability to hit the long ball is something that is likely to translate into the NBA and his crafty handles should allow him to get to the basket despite his lack of athleticism. Like Okafor, Russell is not considered to be a great defender, however he should be able to improve on that aspect of his game as he matures.
NBA Comparison: James Harden
4. New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China, 6’5″, 190 lbs
2014-15 stats: 18.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.9 apg, 48% fg, 34% 3pt
Mudiay’s path to the NBA is unlike any of the other prospects. After initially committing to SMU, Mudiay backtracked and opted to play professionally in China for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the CBA. While the consensus is that Mudiay would have been better off playing college ball, his season of playing professionally allowed Mudiay to play against bigger bodies, something that will hold him in good stead in the NBA. At 6’5″, Mudiay possesses good size at the point guard position and his athleticism should allow him to become a good defender over time. In his time in China, Mudiay showed an ability to finish strong through contact, something that can will carry over into the NBA. However, Mudiay needs to improve his outside shot as he is currently a streaky shooter. Mudiay is also a poor free-throw shooter and shot just 57% from the free throw line in China.
NBA Comparison: John Wall
5. Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia, 7’1″, 209 lbs
2014-15 stats: 11.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 55% fg, 46% 3pt
Porzingis is somewhat the mystery man heading into this draft, having become a very popular pick in the past few weeks. The interest between the Magic and Porzingis’ camp is mutual, according to sources, and he is likely to be a good fit in Orlando alongside Nik Vucevic. While Porzingis has a very slight frame, he is an outstanding shooter at his size and is likely to be a matchup nightmare for many teams. He is an excellent three-point shooter and shot an impressive 46% in his last season with Sevilla in the Spanish league. Porzingis runs the floor extremely well and is extremely athletic compared to previous European draft prospects. He has been compared to former lottery picks, Pau Gasol and Andrea Bargnani, but is likely to be a better shooter than both. Like Bargnani, Porzingis’ is not a great rebounder for someone his size and until he adds some upper body strength, he is unlikely to be a force on the boards in the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Andrea Bargnani
6. Sacramento Kings: Justise Winslow, SG/SF, Duke, Freshman, 6’6″, 222 lbs
2014-15 stats: 12.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 48% fg, 42% 3pt
Okafor’s team mate, Justise Winslow has been one of the scouts’ favourite players in this draft class due to his maturity. With the toxic situation brewing currently in Sacramento, a player of Winslow’s character would be a welcome addition. Winslow is an elite athlete and has great size for a shooting guard at 6’6″. His athletic prowess has resulted in him being highly effective in the open court and he has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways, scoring off the dribble as well as spotting up. A somewhat underrated part of Winslow’s game is his outside shot, something which proved to be excellent in the season past, as he shot 42% from long range. Winslow is also an excellent on-ball defender, using his great lateral quickness to often block shots from the guard position. Winslow needs to do better at avoiding turnovers if he is to be a complete player in the NBA, however possesses star potential.
NBA Comparison: Jimmy Butler
7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja, SG, Spain, 6’8″, 201 lbs
2014-15 stats: 11.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 46% fg, 38% 3pt
Hezonja is as enigmatic a prospect there is in this draft, as evidenced by his proclamation that he is the best player in this draft. Hezonja is confident, borderline cocky and his afraid of no one. Hezonja has a solid offensive game and can score both in transition and in the half-court. While Hezonja is proficient in getting to the basket and scoring at the three-point line, he lacks a mid range game, something which he must work on. Hezonja has shown glimpses of being a good defender at the NBA level and should be able to guard shooting guards as well as small forwards. Hezonja is an explosive athlete and this combined with his unlimited range is likely to make him a potential offensive force in the NBA. Hezonja has the star power to become a household name, but he must ensure that he constantly works on his game and does not become overly complacent.
NBA Comparison: J.R. Smith
8. Detroit Pistons: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin, Junior, 6’9″, 218 lbs
2014-15 stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 53% fg, 33% 3pt
With Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond filling out the Power Forward and Center spots, Detroit will look to find a wing with this pick. Dekker has an outstanding NCAA tournament with Wisconsin, hitting a number of big shots en route to the final against Duke. Dekker has shown flashes of becoming an explosive scorer without quite putting it altogether. He possesses an NBA ready body, with good size at 6’9″ and he should be able to compete with the bigger bodies in the NBA. Dekker is at his most lethal as a spot up shooter as evidenced by his heroics in the NCAA tournament and he should receive plenty of open looks with the attention on the two big men as well as Brandon Jennings in Detroit. In order to take his game to the next level, Dekker must develop an ability to create his own shot as he is not proficient at handling the ball.
NBA Comparison: Gordon Hayward
9. Charlotte Hornets: Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin, Senior, 7’1″, 230 lbs
2014-15 stats: 18.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 55% fg, 42% 3pt
Kaminsky is extremely skilled for someone his size, with an outstanding shooting stroke as evidenced by his shooting numbers from last season at Wisconsin. What Kaminsky lacks in athleticism and explosiveness, he makes up with his basketball IQ and great fundamentals. Kaminsky has excellent footwork for a big man and can score inside as well as outside. The main drawback to Kaminsky is that he is unlikely to develop his game too much due to his age. Furthermore, Kaminsky lacks the quickness and physicality to be able to deal with opponents on the defensive end. He is likely to be a very productive role player in the NBA and should provide good minutes alongside Al Jefferson at the power forward spot for Charlotte.
NBA Comparison: Tyler Zeller
10. Miami Heat: Stanley Johnson, SG/SF, Arizona, Freshman, 6’6″, 242 lbs
2014-15 stats: 13.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 45% fg, 37% 3pt
The Miami Heat are likely to take Johnson. With Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside holding down the paint for the foreseeable future in South Beach, Miami is likely to go for a guard or wing player at 10. Stanley Johnson is an excellent defender, who could slide in at small forward or shooting guard for the Heat. Johnson is a versatile two-way player and has immense upside. He is said to be ultra competitive and possesses the intangibles needed to be a winner. Johnson is a solid shooter who can knock down the long ball, but he needs to develop consistency on the offensive end. Johnson is not a great passer and averaged under two assists per game in his solitary season at Arizona. Whether it be playing behind Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade, or starting after either leaves in free agency, Johnson should be able to compete right away for Miami.
NBA Comparison: Kawhi Leonard