A little more than a week has passed since the Golden State Warriors raised the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions, and it’s already time to start prepping for next season. On Thursday night, lives and basketball franchises will change forever as the 2015 NBA Draft is set to take place. While Karl Anthony-Towns seems to be the universal choice for the No. 1 overall selection, nothing is certain after he shakes hands with Adam Silver and exits stage left. Trade rumors are starting to run rampant and stocks of prospects continue to rise and fall with each passing moment.
Here is what we at Athlon believe is going to transpire come Thursday night in Brooklyn.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves — Karl Anthony-Towns, Kentucky (7’0, 250)
Towns may not be as NBA ready as Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, but the scouting gap between the two lottery picks has widened recently. Towns is more naturally athletic and possibly has more potential upside in the long-term. But where Towns truly surpasses Okafor is rim protection, something the T’Wolves desperately need.
2. Los Angeles Lakers — Jahlil Okafor, Duke (6’11, 270)
Okafor is an NBA starter right now. His footwork, passing, and ability to finish from the interior is already at an elite level. His game is a back-to-the-basket throwback and should be an interesting fit in the modern NBA. Once drafted, Okafor will be the Lakers’ new go-to-man. Look for possible trade scenarios as reports are surfacing that Dwyane Wade and Demarcus Cousins are on Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak’s radar.
3. Philadelphia 76ers — D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State (6’5, 195)
Russell is a complete point guard that can score any way he wants to. His game has a natural flow, reminiscent to that of Chris Paul, but with more physicality and roughly the same game command. The Sixers need a franchise player and D’Angelo Russell could be their new answer.
4. New York Knicks — Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia (6’11, 210)
The 19-year-old Porzingis has been catching scouts and GM’s attention after a series of fantastic workouts in recent weeks and seems to almost be a lock for the Knicks at No. 4. Porzingis is still raw but offers a lot of offensive upside down the road. Look for him to hit the Garden hardwood after he hits the weight room.
5. Orlando Magic — Justise Winslow, Duke (6’6, 225)
Winslow worked his way into the lottery after a brilliant run through the NCAA tournament that displayed his incredible physical acumen. Winslow is still underdeveloped as a pure scorer but has the tools to step in immediately as a role player for the Magic who desperately need depth.
6. Sacramento Kings — Mario Hezonja, Croatia (6’8, 200)
Emmanuel Mudiay and Winslow could also be considerations for the Kings at No. 6. Hezonja is a well rounded scorer, especially for being just 20 years old. Hezonja will definitely add depth and firepower to a marginal Kings offense. Trade talk for Demarcus Cousins is beginning to heat up and this pick could be used as a chip in such trade talks. Cousins could wind up a Laker as the Kings take the No. 2 pick.
7. Denver Nuggests — Emmanuel Mudiay, China (6’5, 200)
Mudiay is a physical specimen for being just 19 years old. Mudiay, originally committed to SMU, spent his one year of ineligibility playing professional in China. With whispers escalating that Ty Lawson’s time in Denver being over (and possibly traded to Sacramento), Mudiay could be the Nuggets new starting point guard come October. While Mudiay is exceptional in most categories, shooting will be his biggest weakness.
8. Detroit Pistons — Stanley Johnson, Arizona (6’7, 240)
Johnson was one of the better two-way players in college basketball this past season, but if he wants big NBA minutes, his offensive game is going to have to develop. Johnson is already a pro-ready defender that can be a great building block for Stan Van Gundy’s new direction Pistons.
9. Charlotte Hornets — Devin Booker, Kentucky (6’6, 205)
After the Lance Stephenson experiment fell flat — embarrassingly flat — the Hornets are left with a hole on their perimeter. Enter 18-year old Devin Booker, the sweet stroking freshman wing from Kentucky. Booker should compete for starter’s minutes immediately and lure double teams away from Kemba Walker.
10. Miami Heat — Trey Lyles, Kentucky (6’10, 240)
Pat Riley goes against his norm of drafting for now and will draft Trey Lyles for the Heat future. After losing Chris Bosh to a blood clot, Riley has to be thinking youth first, and the physical Lyles could be a solid fit amongst a group of Miami bigs that struggle to score. This pick could be a possible chip in a trade that sends Dwyane Wade to the Lakers.
11. Indiana Pacers — Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (7’0, 230)
This pick could be the most interesting pick in the draft. The Pacers have several needs and Murray State point guard Cameron Payne or Willie Cauley-Stein make a lot of sense here too, but Kaminsky is ready to contribute right away for a Pacers squad that is looking for more ways to score, especially on the interior. Kaminsky is a man of many offensive skills and could fit nicely in Indy’s pick-and-roll scheme with Paul George and George Hill.
12. Utah Jazz — Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (7’0, 240)
If WCS isn’t scooped up by the Heat or Pacers, he is a good fit for the Jazz. Protecting the rim has become vital in the modern NBA, and Cauley-Stein is the best in the draft at guarding the iron. WCS is a student of the game and is sure to pick up the slack in his offensive repertoire as he develops.
13. Phoenix Suns — Myles Turner, Texas (7’0, 240)
Turner could end up being the steal of the draft — we just wont find out for a few years. Turner is very raw offensively, but has shown glimpses of an inside-out game that has been on display for recent workouts. Turner is ready defensively and will see solid minutes if drafted by Phoenix.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder — Cameron Payne , Murray State (6’2, 185)
The Thunder can only hope Payne is available at No. 14, and if he is, take him. By many scouts observation, Payne is ready to be an NBA point guard right now. Putting Payne at the point could limit the number of ridiculous shots that Russell Westbrook takes, freeing up Kevin Durant to win another MVP trophy.
15. Atlanta Hawks — Kelly Oubre, Kansas (6’7, 205)
Oubre definitely underachieved at his only season under Bill Self, a mass producer of NBA talent, and Ourbre’s draft stock has been fluid as of late, but that isn’t scaring away NBA GMs who see him as a first-round risk. Oubre is arguably the most athletic wing in the first round but lacks offensive prowess. The Hawks may just be looking for best available talent at No. 15. Oubre could be their option.
16. Boston Celtics — R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (6’6, 185)
Hunter has impressed execs in his recent draft workouts with his sweet shooting and could go as high as No. 10 to Miami. The Celtics need perimeter spacing, and Hunter could be the gunner that allows for Marcus Smart to be a more free-flowing point guard. Trade rumors have the Celtics using their two first-round picks and trading up into the lottery. No one on the C’s roster could be safe.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Bobby Portis, Arkansas (6’11, 245)
Portis could be one of the safer picks in the draft, as his game is as well rounded as other big men that will be selected ahead of him. Portis is a true rim protector but also has a balanced offensive game that includes a decent jumper. Portis is gritty and physical, just what the Bucks need as they continue to develop.
18. Houston Rockets — Tyus Jones, Duke (6’1, 185)
Jones proved to the basketball world time and time again last season that he has the ability to hit big shots and run a high-scoring offense. Jones may not be a lock as a franchise point guard but he will certainly be an upgrade over Father Time (Jason Terry) and Pablo Prigioni, who can contribute offensively from behind the arc. Tyus Jones is a no-brainer for Houston.
19. Washington Wizards — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona (6’6, 220)
Hollis-Jefferson would be joining an already set core of John Wall, Otto Porter and Bradley Beal. But the Arizona product would bring his NBA-ready defensive game to a team that lacks it on the perimeter. RHJ has developing to do offensively but could prove to be a nice piece off the bench in the Playoffs for the Wizards, who are so close to being the class of the East.
20. Toronto Raptors — Sam Dekker, Wisconsin (6’9, 220)
Dekker will be the player to watch on Thursday night. Dekker could be drafted anywhere from No. 10 to Miami to the last pick in the round to Golden State. Toronto could also use this pick to go big (if any are available) and upgrade over Tyler Hansborough. Dekker is ready to contribute to an NBA offense immediately and could be a fantastic piece for the Raptors as they continue their rise.
21. Dallas Mavericks — Jerian Grant, Notre Dame (6'5, 200)
Grant might be the most NBA ready wing in this class, as he can score any way that he wants to. Grant also has great size for his position that will allow him to be a combo guard that has become so popular in recent seasons. With Rajon Rondo more than likely on his way out of Dallas, Grant would be a fine replacement weapon in Rick Carlisle’s offense.
22. Chicago Bulls — Justin Anderson, Virginia (6’6, 225)
The Bulls can go many different directions with this pick. Hollis-Jefferson, Dekker, and Grant are all options for Chicago if available. Anderson will provide great athleticism and game intuition on the perimeter that will allow for parting with the aging Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich much easier.
23. Portland Trailblazers — Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (6’8, 253)
Harrell might struggle finding a permanent position in the NBA. At Louisville, he was the Cards defensive anchor and secondary scoring option, but his game translates awkwardly to the next level. Too small for a full-time power forward and not offensively polished enough for a full-time small forward, Harrell is going to have to use his excellent rebounding ability to make a name for himself and secure major minutes.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers — Rashad Vaughan, UNLV (6’6, 210)
This pick is all about depth for the Cavs. They were greatly exposed in the NBA Finals and are desperately seeking second unit scoring. Vaughan could be their answer at No. 24. If Cleveland is able to bring back their high-priced free agents, Vaughan could be a very serviceable role player with tons of long-term upside being only 18 years old.
25. Memphis Grizzlies — Kevon Looney, UCLA (6’9, 222)
Looney’s stock has fallen since the beginning of the college basketball season. Once thought of as a lottery pick, questions about his oft-injured hips and unusual frame for a big man have raised questions for NBA execs. The Griz are looking for more front court depth to back up an aging Zach Randolph. Bobby Portis could also be in play for this pick.
26. San Antonio Spurs — Delon Wright, Utah (6’6, 181)
Delon Wright might be the perfect player for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Wright is a multifaceted offensive weapon who is extremely intelligent and efficient on both ends of the floor. Wright could serve as a combo guard off the bench while learning how to be an NBA point guard under future Hall of Famer Tony Parker.
27. Los Angeles Lakers — Terry Rozier, Louisville (6’2, 190)
The Lakers need a lot, and they need it in a hurry if they hope to contend in the near future. This pick is likely to be gone via trade by the time its due. But if the Lakers hold the pick, Rozier should be available and Kupchak should pull the trigger. Rozier is very talented offensively in spurts but is also very sporadic at times. Some time on the bench learning the position could do Rozier worlds of good.
28. Boston Celtics — Jonathan Holmes, Texas (6’9, 242)
If the Celtics keep this pick, which is unlikely, Holmes would be a nice choice of GM Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens and their analytically driven model. Holmes has the experience and wherewithal to be a good role player for a long time. The Celtics lack depth and Holmes could serve as a remedy to that problem.
29. Brooklyn Nets — Jarell Martin, LSU (6’9, 239)
The Nets are in dire need talent on their roster. Home-run talent is going to be sparse at No. 29 and making a trade with little to nothing to bargain with is going to be hard to do. Martin could very well slip to the second round as he is a second-tier talent in terms of big men in this draft. Most execs see Martin as a versatile stretch-four who can run the floor well for his size. Chris McCullough from Syracuse could also be in play here.
30. Golden State Warriors— Cliff Alexander, Kansas (6’8, 240)
Alexander is a bit of a wild card who used to be considered a lottery pick However, a shaky career at Kansas has sent his stock sliding to the point of being a second-round pick. Alexander is very talented and plays his best when off the ball offensively. Alexander is probably most noted for his defensive ability who could be worth the risk at No. 30.