The 2015 NBA Draft tips off on Thursday night, with the Minnesota Timberwolves picking #1 overall for the first time in franchise history. The following mock draft projects the top 14 picks from a draft class that has the potential to be one of the best ever.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns (PF, Kentucky)
It only makes sense for the T’Wolves to pair Andrew Wiggins, a freak athlete, with another athletic marvel in Karl-Anthony Towns. With a 7’4″ wingspan and unbelievable footwork in the post, it’s hard not to like what a raw prospect like Towns has to offer. Wiggins and Towns, if they do end up being teammates, have the potential to be a top-tier one-two punch in the NBA for years to come.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – D’Angelo Russell (PG, Ohio State)
With a gaping hole at nearly every position entering Kobe Bryant’s final season, the Lakers will need a point guard that can serve under the Black Mamba’s tutelage and absorb as much of those leadership qualities as he can. D’Angelo Russell fits that bill perfectly. Russell is like a left-handed Damian Lillard with a similar ability to nail three-pointers off the dribble and knife through the defense for an acrobatic layup.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Emmanuel Mudiay (PG, Congo)
After forgoing college to play a year in China, electric point guard Emmanuel Mudiay shows flashes of Derrick Rose in more ways than one. He struggles to shoot from the perimeter with consistency, but has an uncanny ability to finish in traffic and find his teammates. The 76ers would be thrilled to get consistent production out of him right away, but if not they can always tank for another top five pick.
4. New York Knicks – Jahlil Okafor (C, Duke)
The Knicks were abysmal last season and Jahlil Okafor is a solution to a lot of their obvious issues. While New York will be active in the free agent market, plugging Okafor into that center position is a tremendous improvement in its own right. Add a player like Lamarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson to that mix, and you have a team with instant playoff potential.
5. Orlando Magic – Kristaps Porzingis (PF, Latvia)
Draft experts are fascinated with the lanky Latvian with a sweet shooting touch, some of them going as far as to say that he has the potential of Dirk Nowitzki. While that may be his ceiling, the floor for Porzingis is probably someone like Andrea Bargnani––a “stretch four” that doesn’t come anywhere near realizing his potential. He needs to build some serious muscle if he doesn’t want to end up closer to the latter.
6. Phoenix Suns (Trade via Sacramento) – Justise Winslow (SF, Duke)
I think that the Sacramento Kings are far more inclined to trade their pick than keep it, especially if Russell and Mudiay are both off the board. A viable trade option is for Phoenix to flip the Morris twins and the No. 13 pick to the Kings in exchange for Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas and the No. 6 pick. A guy like Justise Winslow, a two-way stud, is perfect for a Suns team that desperately needs help on the wing.
7. Denver Nuggets – Willie Cauley-Stein (C, Kentucky)
Denver is an absolutely terrible defensive team, and what better way to improve in that category than to snag the best shot-blocker in the draft? Willie Cauley-Stein’s instincts on defense are unparalleled, and if he polishes up his offensive game, he can become a consistent starting-caliber center in this league.
8. Detroit Pistons – Stanley Johnson (SF, Arizona)
Stanley Johnson has the potential to be an important contributor on both ends in the NBA. While he may not become a star, he’s exactly the type of guy that the Pistons need: scrappy, disciplined, and with a high basketball IQ.
9. Charlotte Bobcats – Mario Hezonja (SG, Croatia)
Charlotte has its big man and superstar in Al Jefferson, and improved its depth after trading for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes, but where the Bobcats lack consistency is scoring from their wing players. Mario Hezonja is an absolute freak athlete and prolific scorer. You might as well call him the Croatian Vince Carter.
10. Miami Heat – Myles Turner (C, Texas)
Myles Turner is the future of what an NBA center looks like. Long arms, strong and athletic, but also with a feathery shooting touch from all over the court. He also has shot-blocking acumen to go along with his dazzling skill set. Miami needs somebody to reinforce their front court alongside Chris Bosh, and Turner would do just that.
11. Indiana Pacers – Devin Booker (SG, Kentucky)
Depth at the shooting guard position is a serious concern for the Pacers, and Devin Booker can provide sharpshooting off the bench for an Indiana team that ranked 17th in the NBA in three-pointers made last season. Don’t be surprised if Indiana moves up to take a big man, though, since Roy Hibbert’s stats have continued to trend downward in the last three seasons.
12. Utah Jazz – RJ Hunter (SG, Georgia State)
Another pure shooter at the shooting guard position, and arguably the best shooter in the draft, is RJ Hunter out of Georgia State. He was a hero in the NCAA tournament, and NBA teams are hoping that his unbelievable range can translate to the next level. Utah, a team that ranked 19th last season in three-point percentage, could always use another shooter.
13. Sacramento Kings (Trade via Phoenix) – Frank Kaminsky (C, Wisconsin)
With George Karl actively trying to ship Demarcus Cousins out of town, the Kings will likely look to add depth down low in the draft. Frank Kaminsky’s versatility and high basketball IQ earned him unanimous national player of the year honors, but it remains to be seen if the 7-footer possesses the athleticism necessary to defend NBA big men.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder – Bobby Portis (PF, Arkansas)
OKC has been shopping Steve Novak, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones, which leaves room on the bench for a guy like Bobby Portis to jump in and make an instant impact. Portis has a deadly jump shot and is ferocious on the boards, which could prove invaluable to a Thunder team that wants to retool its bench. Portis is thin and athletic enough to play the three as well.
**BONUS** 23. Portland Trail Blazers – Montrezl Harrell (PF, Louisville)
Regardless if Lamarcus Aldridge skips town or not, Portland needs another power forward. Meyers Leonard isn’t going to cut it, especially if Aldridge actually does leave. Montrezl Harrell provides energy and tenacity on the offensive glass and would be a fantastic addition to the Trail Blazers’ front line.
Contact Ryan Clarke via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @RClarkeASU.