The top prospects in the 2015 NBA Draft are making the rounds of workouts and sit-down meals with team brass with a little over two weeks left until the league’s official selection process begins in New York.
The likes of Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke center Jahlil Okafor, Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell, and former Guangdong Tigers guard Emmanuel Mudiay, have all met or are soon to meet with the owners of the top four picks in this year’s draft.
The workouts typically serve as the first up-close and personal look for a team’s top officials, particularly the general managers who will be largely responsible for making the pick and will answer with their jobs if the pick doesn’t pan out. But in terms of what the player can do in an actual game, little can really be determined from a few drills.
Really the time is best spent getting to know a Towns or Okafor on a personal level, and just like in most any other profession, trying to form a sense of whether the two sides can work together. Think of it really as the second or third round of a prolonged job interview for the average person.
As of now, it doesn’t seem like Towns, the presumptive No. 1 pick after his stellar run with the Wildcats nearly resulted in a perfect season and national title, has moved from the top spot. But in our mock draft below, those that come after Towns will be jostled around when the selections are announced on June 25 at the Barclays Center.
Mock Draft 2.0
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns, F, Kentucky
Towns is reportedly only meeting with the T-Wolves and Lakers, which makes sense given he won’t go lower than No. 2. He’s barely scratched the surface of his talents, and while his offensive game catches up with his considerable defense and rebounding skills, Towns could be a major contributor immediately. He fits very well with what Minnesota already has in place with Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, and Anthony Bennett. Towns has the body and attitude of a player who can be a consistent scorer and rebounder for several years.
2. L.A. Lakers - Jahlil Okafor, F, Duke
Okafor worked out with the Lakers on Tuesday, and had dinner with them on Monday. His offensive game is already more polished than Towns, and he has a very high ceiling. He showed great maturity at Duke, and looks like a player who wants to improve. The Lakers need defense, ranking No. 29 overall last season, but Okafor may not immediately fill that need. If Minnesota balks at Towns, L.A. will be right there. But Okafor would slot in nicely beside last year’s top pick Julius Randle and budding point guard Jordan Clarkson. Oh, and that Kobe guy, too.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
The possibility of Philadelphia trading down from here will be floated in the next few weeks, but if they keep it Russell makes a ton of sense. Russell plays the game with a relaxed and effortless style, and can score in so many ways. He’s also a creative playmaker who would be able thread the ball to big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid and stretch the floor for them to work inside. Russell might have the most potential of any player on the board.
4. New York Knicks - Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
Missing out on the No. 1 and No. 2 pick hurt the Knicks hopes for Towns or Okafor, but Mudiay is no consolation prize. He’s a gifted athlete and borderline prodigy point guard who can get to the rim at will. Pairing him with an inspired Carmelo Anthony could be an excellent combination for next season. Mudiay also seems to have an advanced understanding of the game, and could thrive as an open court player.
5. Orlando Magic - Willie Cauley-Stein, F, Kentucky
With the backcourt set with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton, and Nikola Vucevic a double-double machine down low, Cauley-Stein can do all the little things on defense and block shots at the next level to help out a Magic defense that was No. 23 in the league last season. The 21-year-old spent three seasons in Lexington with some of the most talented young players in the nation, so he should be a solid addition from the start of his NBA career.
6. Sacramento Kings - Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Point guard would be ideal, but a trade scenario to get one isn’t out of the question. Porzingis is a 7-footer blessed with incredible shooting touch, but he needs to fill out and might be better served bulking up on a contenders’ bench. But if the Kings keep him he certainly possesses the ability to keep defenses honest for DeMarcus Cousins to work inside.
7. Denver Nuggets - Justise Winslow, F, Duke
Another team in need of defense, the Nuggets require help on the frontline and Winslow has the skill set to guard most forwards while playing some shooting guard with his unique blend of size and smoothness around the rim. He is a particularly intriguing player, because he showed so many signs of improvement towards the end of the Blue Devils season. Winslow is also physically ready to play at the next level.
8. Detroit Pistons - Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
Hezonja’s already played against Europe’s top talent with Euroleague titans Barcelona since 2012, nailing 38.2 percent of his threes. Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy needs shooters to stretch the floor, and Hezonja fits that bill perfectly. At 6-foot-8, he can get his shot off over anyone, and probably won’t fall out of the top 10. Hezonja knows how to go to his left, and also finish with his left. The 20-year-old can be a star if he proves he has a strong work ethic in the NBA. He already has a reputation for being a tough defender.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
A man-child at 6-foot-6 and 242 pounds, Johnson wowed scouts with a cut up frame that can bang inside immediately. The 19-year-old put up 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds with 1.5 steals as a freshman. He also nailed 37.1 percent of his three-point attempts. The Hornets need scoring and Johnson gives them some extra punch on the frontline.
10. Miami Heat - Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
With Dwyane Wade’s contract situation a thorn in Miami’s side, it might make sense to take a shooting guard of the future. Booker’s known as a smart player with amazing shooting range (41.1 percent from three) and what’s scary is we haven’t seen his full repertoire after only 21.5 minutes a game last season. He often seemed like the most advanced player on a team of superstar college players.
11. Indiana Pacers - Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
Crazy for four Wildcats to go in the lottery? Perhaps. But like Booker, Lyles didn’t really have the opportunity to spread his wings in college when surrounded by so much talent. He’s a bit wiry at 242 pounds on a 6-foot-10 frame, but he's an effective player. Lyles originally hails from Indiana and he’d give the Pacers some versatility in the frontcourt and help out center Roy Hibbert on the defensive end and with rebounding. Can put the ball on the floor or make the extra pass as well.
12. Utah Jazz - Myles Turner, PF, Texas
Turner remains a prospect to replace Hibbert in Indiana, but Utah could have a massive frontline with Turner and Rudy Gobert. A trade seems very possible here with the Jazz already stacked with depth at every position except maybe point guard. Turner’s a true 7-footer with the ability to shoot, knocking down 83.9 percent of his free throws in one season in Austin.
13. Phoenix Suns - Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
The Wisconsin native exploded for 13.9 points and 5.6 boards in his final season in Madison, and played a huge role in the Badgers run to the Final Four. He also showed off excellent athletic traits with a 34.5 vertical leap at the combine and has a huge wingspan to go with it. Dekker will likely be a slasher and shooter to fill out the Suns rotation at small forward. But the 6'9 forward can adjust his game to fit into multiple offensive schemes.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Portis shouldn’t be this low, but at least he’s still in the lottery and for a good reason. The SEC Player of the Year logged 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and more than a block and steal a game for the Razorbacks. Portis is a little raw and probably needs to refine his perimeter game. But he's also a high-energy player who could be a gem for a team that needs an infusion of intensity.