The lingering debate over draft strategy continues to wage on with only six days left until the 2015 NBA Draft. When should a team draft out of need over talent? The 14 teams in this year’s lottery will no doubt have incalculable discussions over whether to take the best player available or draft for a specific position.
Yet, to be fair, most times there isn’t really a wrong way to go unless one player is universally recognized as franchise cornerstone, like New Orleans’ center Anthony Davis three years ago or San Antonio’s Tim Duncan way back in 1997. And for most squads and in most years, a lack of talent and or a glaring hole(s) in their lineups is the very reason a team finds itself in the lottery.
There are times when a team just happens to be in need of a defensive-minded center with a huge ceiling on offense and they luck into the No. 1 overall selection. Of course, this is in reference to the current Minnesota Timberwolves, a squad that finished last in the NBA in points allowed and opponent field goal percentage, and was 27th in rebounds per game.
So unless Minnesota has a trick up their sleeve, Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns, the resounding top selection and most talented player with the highest upside, should be their pick at No. 1.
But for the 13 teams after the Wolves, the decision won’t be so easy.
That’s why, as ESPN’s Chad Ford points out, many teams rank players and place them in tiers, and further rank them within each grouping. From there, if a team’s highest rated player is gone when its their turn to pick, they don’t reach down to a lower tier but pick the next guy on their rankings and move on.
So let’s hold a mock draft if teams picked solely on talent and see how the lottery might shape up.
1.Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns, F, Kentucky
Seems inevitable, and makes complete sense to be the No. 1 player overall due to his impressive physique and accomplishments with John Calipari's talent-rich roster. Towns won’t command the ball and be the top scoring option as a rookie, but should rebound and block shots immediately.
2.L.A. Lakers - Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
Most scouts have Okafor here, but his issues on the defensive end are just too glaring, especially on the pick-and-roll. Mudiay’s the second most talented guy in this draft, and can help a team on both ends of the court. He shares similarities to John Wall in 2010.
3.Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
Like Okafor, he is a smart and polished player but shows a lack a killer instinct at times. Russell is a lights out shooter but also lithe and will need to adjust to the beatings he’ll take when he drives to the hoop. He plays with an effortless style and should be an immediate scorer.
4.New York Knicks – Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Unquestionably the most offensively skilled big man in this year’s class, but Okafor didn't show a dominant presence on the boards and on defense. He’s not an incredible athlete, just a center who moves better than most. His best trait may be his dedication to becoming a top NBA player.
5.Orlando Magic – Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Picking Porzingis involves strict faith in his considerable abilities. He’s touted as an excellent athlete and shooter, but needs to bulk up. How Porzingis does that without having it affect his game is his greatest challenge. The ceiling is very high for Porzingis and he could be snagged at No. 3 or No.4 by a daring team.
6.Sacramento Kings - Justise Winslow, F, Duke
A rare blend of smarts, talent, and athleticism, but Winslow’s 6-foot-7 frame means he might be a tweener at the next level. Does he take on a more slasher role in the NBA or does he battle with bigger players in the paint? Winslow is very much a work in progress, but he showed positive signs towards the end of the NCAA Tournament.
7.Denver Nuggets – Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
An excellent shooter and penetrator at 20 years old, with good size at 6-foot-8. But questions arise about his ability to defend in the NBA. He has the athleticism to do so, but has yet to show a hard-nosed approach to the game.
8.Detroit Pistons – Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
A lights-out shooter (maybe the best in the draft) who fits well with most teams' offenses. He's also a smart player with a fluid game.
9.Charlotte Hornets – Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
Didn’t get much burn in Lexington, but he’s a lanky and powerful rebounder with a budding offensive game. He can can get off the ground for dunks and tip ins, while also knocking down outside shots.
10.Miami Heat – Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Maybe too high for some, but talent-wise Portis’ game is very advanced. Should he polish his play, Portis could be a another Greg Monroe or Jeff Green.
11.Indiana Pacers – Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
Owning perhaps the most NBA-ready physique in this year’s class, Johnson’s powerful and shows nice touch on his jumper. But the ability to rebound and defend with the big boys at 6-foot-7 remains unclear.
12.Utah Jazz – Willie Cauley-Stein, PF, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein’s a top 10 or even top 7 pick on most mocks, but those are based on team need. He can rebound and block shots, but his offensive game is weak and he may not have a very high ceiling.
13.Phoenix Suns – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
His long arms make up for his 6-foot-7 frame, and he should be able to defend most small forwards. But his offensive game needs work outside of dunks.
14.Oklahoma City Thunder – Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
The most experienced player listed so far, the ACC Player of the Year Grant doesn’t have the upside of any one before him in this draft, but he’s the type of guy who can contribute right away and won’t need much help from coaches to adjust. Grant is a fine scorer who can get into the lane and draw fouls, but needs to work on his outside shot.