Jahlil Okafor capped an All-American freshman season with a national title for the Duke Blue Devils, but his play in the national championship against Wisconsin wasn't the type of performance that guarantees a player the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Instead, the star big man might have lost some ground to Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns for the top spot on June 25.
Inconsistent play may have prompted some concern about Okafor. The Chicago native had an exceptional performance against Notre Dame during the ACC Tournament scoring 28 points on 13-of-18 shooting, but he would later struggle during stretches of the NCAA Tournament, scoring just six points against Utah, and nine points against Gonzaga. On the season, Okafor averaged a 17.3 points per game, and shot 66.4 percent from the field, which are solid numbers for a freshman.
Towns was also plagued by sporadic play, but some dips in production may have been the result of a crowded Kentucky frontcourt. John Calipari's squad included notable big men Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson, who have cut into each other's playing time. But Towns seemed to show improvement late in the season, scoring 25 points against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, and 16 points against Wisconsin in the Final Four. He also showed more of a presence on the glass, increasing his rebounding numbers against tougher competition.
While Towns and Okafor are expected to compete for the top pick, they are not the only players who drew scouts attention during the Final Four. Cauley-Stein is expected to be a lottery pick, and Duke's Justise Winslow is considering an emerging forward. Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky had impressive efforts throughout the tournament and could potentially slip into one of the first 10 selections.
The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, two teams lacking in elite big men, will likely consider a power forward or center in the draft considering the point guards available in free agency. Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic are expected to be targeted by both teams.
The below mock draft is ordered by the current standings, with the worst record having the top pick, but the order can change once the NBA holds its draft lottery on May 19.
Though most players haven’t declared their eligibility for the draft, it’s also important to note that the mock is based off players’ performances in the NCAA Tournament and during the college regular season, as well as team needs and scouting reports. But again, lots could change after the draft combine from May 12 to 17, and individual workouts.
Mock Draft 1.0
1. New York Knicks - Karl-Anthony Towns, F, Kentucky
A long and athletic big man, who from the get-go doesn’t need the ball to be effective. Sounds like the perfect young guy to pair with high-volume shooter Carmelo Anthony.
2. Philadelphia 76ers - D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
He and Mudiay could switch places here. Philadelphia’s long rebuilding process continues, but they can have a crafty playmaker capable of scoring far better than Michael Carter-Williams ever could.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jahlil Okafor, F, Duke
Okafor is expected to be selected as a top-three pick. Pairing Andrew Wiggins with a highly skilled Okafor gives Minnesota myriad options to run and play in the half court.
4. L.A. Lakers - Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
Transformed into a foreign commodity after he decided to go abroad, Mudiay fits the mold of scary athletic guards like John Wall, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving. The Lakers may consider Mudiay a possible combo guard to supplant Kobe Bryant, who enters the final year of his contract.
5. Orlando Magic - Justise Winslow, F, Duke
No one player’s stock improved more during the tournament then Winslow. The Magic need help almost everywhere, but Winslow is the type of powerful slasher they need to team with Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo. Winslow has considerable amount of room to grow, but could blossom into a solid pro.
6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein, F, Kentucky
Very little offensive skills, but Cauley-Stein can be a like a Tyson Chandler for the Kings, and make up for DeMarcus Cousins’ defensive woes. Unlike many of the players in this group, Cauley-Stein has three years of experience playing alongside top talent.
7. Denver Nuggets - Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
The Nuggets have moved their first-round picks the last two years, but might hang on to Porzingis, a bouncy 6-foot-10 forward with some legitimate skills down low and mid-range touch on his shot. Weighing just 220 pounds, he probably needs to bulk up, but scouts are enamored with his skills.
8. Detroit Pistons - Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Detroit will probably see Greg Monroe leave in free agency, and 6-foot-9 Looney can step right in next to Andre Drummond. But Mario Hezonja could move this high if Stan Van Gundy thinks he fits the offense better. Looney has loads of potential, and might be too talented to pass on.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
A bit of a slide for Johnson after a disappointing tournament run, but he already has NBA bulk and the Hornets need scoring on the wings to help Kemba Walker. Johnson is a competitor, and shows a strong interest in improving his game.
10. Indiana Pacers - Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
Some insurance and or depth behind Paul George, and with a 7’2 wingspan Oubre has the physical makeup to guard most wing players at the next level. His defensive potential might remind some of Kawhi Leonard.
11. Miami Heat - Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
This might seem too low for a 6-foot-7 guard that’s faced some tough competition in Spain and knocks down roughly 40 percent of his three-pointers. But until his performances in workouts are revealed, if at all, Hezonja’s an untested commodity.
12. Utah Jazz - Myles Turner, PF, Texas
Turner figures to be another one-and-done after playing well in the Big 12, with 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Turner also has some touch on his jump shot, but with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors already on the roster, Utah possibly moves this pick unless Hezonja falls.
13. Phoenix Suns - Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Phoenix might love Turner if he falls here, but Portis has more polish to his game and certainly more experience after two years in college. Portis put up 15 points and eight rebounds against Towns and Cauley-Stein and another 13 points in their second meeting, performances that put him in play to move into the top 10.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Kaminsky’s seasoned game, combining deft post moves with solid shot blocking, could help draw defenders away from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Kaminsky could be an effective big man in his rookie season.