This past week the ping pong balls were picked and the order was determined for the 2015 NBA draft which goes on June 25th. The lottery is made up of some of the usual names we see every year (Timberwolves, 76ers) and some teams that haven't been there in a while (Heat, Thunder). For teams like the 76ers, this time of year is their NBA finals, after putting a team on the floor full of d-league talent their fanbase gets to see what all that pain was for, the 3rd overall pick. The big winners of the draft lottery were the Lakers who could have lost their pick to the Sixers if it fell outside the top 5 but find themselves picking at no.2 ahead of what is likely Kobe's last season. The Knicks find themselves with only the 4th pick after their disastrous first season under Phil Jackson's watch who has stated openly that their pick is available in a trade. This draft is pretty deep at all positions, especially big men with Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns leading the way.
A positive about this year's draft lottery was the fact that the worst team actually got the first overall, pick, as the Timberwolves will now get a no.1 pick to pair with Andrew Wiggins, another no.1 pick who was acquired from Cleveland last summer. Can you imagine if a team like the Thunder, whose season was an anomaly, lucked out into the the first overall pick? OKC will likely bounce back next season and in the meantime Minnesota can now put some solid pieces together to make a massive improvement in the next couple of seasons.
We are now less than a month away from the NBA Draft from the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn on June 25. Let's do some predictions, here is our mock draft for the top 14 picks in the draft.
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14 Oklahoma City Thunder - Devin Booker
The Thunder need some shooting to help space the floor when Westbrook drives like a crazy man. Watching Westbrook drive into the heart of the defense only to kick out for Dion Waiters to toss up another brick was a depressing watch this past season. Durant's injuries and more importantly his impending free agency loom heavy over this season so they need to use this pick to help the team right now, not down the road. Booker is the best pure shooter in this draft and should complement their offense. Booker shot 41% from beyond the 3-pt line this season with Kentucky is often talked about is the same way that Klay Thompson was coming out of college. With Westbrook, Ibaka, and Durant the thunder are not lacking in athleticism but offensively they have poor spacing and the young sharp shooter would help new head coach Billy Donovan.
13 Phoenix Suns - Trey Lyles
The Suns are one those teams with a lot of good players but not many great ones. This is largely a product of picking around this range every year. They have young talent across the board so positional need is not really their concern. What is important for the Suns is shooting and playing up-tempo. Current starting center Alex Len has shown improvement but he is a big guy in the traditional sense and struggles to keep up with the Suns' pace.
Trey Lyles can play forward and centre in smaller lineups, he has huge wingspan and quick feet. Lyles has a smooth jumper and his handles are impressive for a big man. His versatility and all-around skillset will allow to slow in either beside Len is big lineups or beside Morris in small lineups. The Suns keep missing the playoffs by a spot or two, they need to start using these picks to get over the hump.
12 Utah Jazz - Sam Dekker
The Utah Jazz are in a unique spot as an up and coming team whose starting lineup is more or less set. The Jazz need depth, shooting and versatility, all traits that Sam Dekker would bring to the table. Dekker's draft stock rose during march madness as Wisconsin went on their impressive run. Dekker is a very good creator off the bounce that can play the 3 behind Hayward, a player he is often compared to. Dekker can also come in to play small-ball 4 if Gobert or Favors rack up fouls (which they tend to do).
The Jazz play two big men that don't shoot from outside and their guards aren't lights out either. Dekker is capable 3-pt shooter with good form that should benefit from open looks in their offense. The Jazz are a team on the rise and Dekker should help them take the next step.
11 Indiana Pacers - Willie Cauley-Stein
The writing seems to be on the wall with Roy Hibbert and the Pacers. Cauley-Stein would be a great option to replace him. Pacers President Larry Bird has voiced his praise for Will the Trill while saying nothing but negatives about Hibbert. The Tyson Chandler comparisons are obvious but accurate, his defensive ceiling is unmatched in this draft as his combination of rim protection and pick and roll coverage makes NBA teams drool.
Cauley-Stein was able to stay with point guard when switched on the pick and roll, something that big men struggle with and is becoming increasingly valuable in today's NBA. He will always been limited offensively but will get his points on the offensive boards, alley-oops and finishing on the pick and roll. With the return of Paul George and this pick, the Pacers will be one of the more improved teams next year.
10 10 Miami Heat - Kelly Oubre
Going into next season the Heat will have a stellar starting five but they struggle when Dwyane Wade takes his usual games off and they need some depth behind him on the wing. It's not a done deal but it appears Dragic is going return to solidify the point guard spot so the Heat should focus on bringing in depth on the wing to cover for Wade.
Kelly Oubre disappointed in his only year at Kansas but showed flashes of the potential that made him one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. He has an ideal body to play wing in the NBA and his athleticism should only help him to become a plus defender. Oubre has a solid shooting stroke and the concerns about his toughness and attitude should be straightened out with Wade teaching him how to be a pro.
9 Charlotte Hornets - Mario Hezonja
Just because you are the greatest player in NBA history doesn't mean you make a great GM. The Hornets have struggled to hit on any of their high draft picks and are left with a team of underachievers. The Hornets are in the difficult place of having some established players in their lineups who are not that great but unfortunately are under contracts with decent price tags. While they have expanded resources, both salary and high picks, on their front court and youngsters Zeller and Vonleh have shown flashes of their potential.
The Hornets offense and outside shooting specifically are horrible. The league is lacking in 2-guards and Mario Hezonja of Barcelona in the ACB league offers a combination of shooting and athleticism that is difficult to find. He would instantly become their best outside shooter and will hopefully their offense do something other than Kemba Walker fade-aways.
8 Detroit Pistons - Frank Kaminsky
Greg Monroe is likely on his way out and Josh Smith and his massive pay checks were sent packing so it would be smart for the Pistons to focus on bringing in a 4 that would complement Drummond and be able to play the 5 in smaller lineups. They need to have a stretch 4 beside Drummond to make their offense work and Frank Kaminsky is the best one of those in the draft. Kaminsky may struggle against more athletic players but he has a high basketball IQ and plays smart team defense. Frank the Tank would return to big ten country and be an instant fan favorite in Detroit.
7 Denver Nuggets - Stanley Johnson
The Nuggets weren't the worst team this season, but they may have been saddest. Head coach Brian Shaw resorted to rapping in the pregame routine to better relate to players, a classic old guy move. Their two best players struggled all year, Lawson with injuries and off court issues and Kenneth Faried with consistency. The Nuggets are losing wing depth this summer and Stanley Johnson is talented player that can fill their shoes. His biggest potential is on the defensive end where his strength and size combination would allow him to guard 2,3 and some 4's depending on the situation. Comparisons between Johnson and Metta World Peace (A.K.A Ron Artest) are accurate as his tenacity is his biggest strength but can also lead to some questionable decisions.
6 Sacramento Kings - Justise Winslow
The Kings are a mess of an organization that don't seem to have much of an idea about what they're doing. Their recent losing history has led to a roster full of young talent including the behemoth DeMarcus Cousins. If his play in the NCAA tournament is any predictor, Justise Winslow might end up as the best player in this draft. Winslow climbed draft boards during the NCAA torunament as he torched teams and got to the basket at will. He would add depth on the wing where Ben McLemore has struggled to grow into the starting role and Stauskas spent his first season getting embarrassed defensively and promoting a his own brand hot sauce.
Winslow has everything you want in NBA wing in today's game, his 6-foot-6 size and defensive intensity profile him as a premier 3 and D wing. Winslow has a decent shooting stroke and should continue to improve there. The Kings may actually get this one right.
5 Orlando Magic -Kristaps Porzingis
The dark horse of this draft, Kristaps Porzingis is a fluid, soft shooting big man with shot blocking skills and comparisons to Pau Gasol. I know, we've heard this story before and the cautionary tales of Darko, Bargnani and Jan Vesely loom over this pick. The Magic have a solid young core growing with a lot of pieces except for a power forward to slot in beside Vucevic.
The Latvian is super-skilled and more athletic than most players his size. The biggest struggle with finding a stretch-4 is that they tend to hurt your team defensively but Porzingis profiles as the rare combination of defense and floor spacing shooting. He needs to add more weight but so does every big man entering the NBA. Playing beside Vucevic with the Magic would be a deadly combination of a bruising rebounding stud and skilled play-maker.
4 New York Knicks - Jahlil Okafor
The Knicks continued their losing ways in the draft lottery, falling to the 4th pick. It would be a Knicks fan's dream if Jahlil Okafor fell to them at the number 4 spot. Okafor is a dominant offensive player, especially in the post where his touch and footwork are well beyond his years. He struggled in the national championship game but it's not fair to judge him based on that one game, he was a beast and will only improve and he gets in better shape.
The concerns about his questionable free throw shooting are only going to get worse as these playoffs have shown what effect that can have on a team (looking at you Deandre). The biggest concerns are about his defense as he lacks elite athleticism and can be foul prone. His 7-foot-5 wingspan should go along way to helping his defense and he has quick feet that should translate well on that end. This of course may all be for nothing when the Knicks trade away this pick for an overpaid veteran.
3 Philadelphia 76ers - Emmanuel Mudiay
Some day all these high picks have got to pay off.....right? Always looking to the future, the 76ers take a player with extremely high upside that may need more polishing than others in the draft. The Sixers have invested heavily in their front court using high picks on Noel, Embiid and Saric so they would be wise to address their lack of talent in the backcourt. Mudiay is the best floor general in the draft and would replace the departed Carter-Williams as the team's point guard and he has the length and defensive upside that would fit well with the rest of their team. He is an impressive athlete who excels in the open court and in a fast-paced system The 76ers are still years away from contending so any concern about Mudiay's NBA readiness is likely not as much a deal for them.
2 Los Angeles Lakers - D'Angelo Russell
A bit of an off the board pick but one I would make if I were the Lakers. The common perception is that the Lakers would take whichever of the two big men (Towns and Okafor) falls to them but I'm not sure that would be the smartest decision. Okafor is a very talented player but his deficiencies don't mesh with last year's pick Julius Randel. A front court of Randel and Okafor, two bruisers that struggle defensively and athletically would be a difficult pairing. Russell is a star whose court vision and ability to get to the basket are unmatched in this draft and he has the skills to come in right away and excel in the pick and roll. He has the look of James Harden, with an even better 3-pt shot at this point of his career. L.A. brings a big spotlight with it and Russell is not short on swag and will never be one to shy away from the moment.
1 Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns
They may have lost Kevin Love but they may have dodged a bullet as the Wolves' future looks a lot brighter after Andrew Wiggins had his outstanding rookie season and other young talent showed flashes of what could be (LaVine, Muhammad, Dieng). With Rubio at point guard and Wiggins on the wing the Wolves would be smart to go big with this pick.
Reports have said that Flip Saunders is a big fan of Okafor who is a polished offensive big man that lacks the elite athleticism to be a rim protector. Towns however is a stud, a skilled big man that can keep up in the fast-paced game with Wiggins and Rubio. Towns has solid shot-blocking skills to help the Wolves struggling defense but also has a smooth shooting stroke that should translate well into the pick and roll game and provide spacing for Wiggins.
Not sure this is good news for Towns if you saw his reaction at the draft lottery, he isn't too high on the idea of spending the next five to seven years in chilly Minnesota but the Wolves would be best to pick the best player in the draft and worry about that in five years.
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