This year’s draft has average potential start power, but lots of depth and a number of question marks. Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell headline the draft as three of the best freshmen from last year’s NCAA season. Next, Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja, and Emmanuel Mudiay are international players with huge potential creeping into the top 5 and even possibly the top 3. After those top six, the draft opens up immensely. There are strong wings like Justice Winslow, Stanley Johnson, and Sam Dekker, sharpshooters like Devin Booker and Rashad Vaughn, and too many talented big men to count. In addition, the point guard crop has a very diverse set of strengths and weaknesses, as a lot of them look to be slotted for the back end of the first round. That will be an interesting dynamic to pay attention to, as we saw many playoff teams in need of point guard depth. Finally, we are already hearing a lot of rumors about potential trades and pick swapping at the top, so I am sure the next few days leading up to the draft will be almost as exciting as the draft itself.
|NO.||TEAM||PLAYER||POS||SCHOOL||YEAR||HT / WT|
|1.||Minnesota||Karl-Anthony Towns||C||Kentucky||Fr.||7-0 / 250|
Analysis: Minnesota seems to be intent on taking Karl-Anthony Towns. Despite the logjam in the frontcourt for Minnesota, KAT is the best prospect on the board and offers more versatility than Jahlil Okafor. He can score facing the basket, score with his back to the basket, and is great at moving within an offense. It would be a big surprise if Towns was not called first by Minnesota on draft day.
|2.||LA Lakers||Jahlil Okafor||C||Duke||Fr.||6-11 / 270|
Analysis: With Towns off the board, the Lakers receive a very solid consolation prize in Jahlil Okafor. Los Angeles has lacked a big man presence of a true big man since Andrew Bynum, and Okafor looks to be the answer. Despite the fact that the Lakers have been fairly ambiguous about this pick and worked out a number of other top prospects, Okafor should be a no-brainer.
|3.||Philadelphia||Kristaps Porzingis||PF||Latvia||Intl.||7-1 / 220|
Analysis: With how much Kristaps Porzingis’ stock has risen, the Latvian has to be glad he pulled his name out of the 2014 draft and waited one more year. Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkle has already shown interest in Porzingas, as Philadelphia was one of two teams that asked him to keep his name in the hat for last year’s draft. Furthermore, the 76ers need this type of game changer for their organization. After everything that has happened the last three years, Hinkle will swing for the fences on Porzingis and hope that Dario Saric, a 2014 first round pick who stayed in Europe last season, is ready to come over soon to create a formidable front court pairing.
|4.||New York||D’Angelo Russell||PG||Ohio State||Fr.||6-4 / 195|
Analysis: New York will be excited to see Russell fall into their lap. He is the kind of floor general that this team needs. While he is not an exceptional athlete, his game has no glaring weaknesses. Russell is an unselfish player who wants to get better and is someone the Knicks can immediately plug into their starting line up.
|5.||Orlando||Willie Cauley-Stein||C||Kentucky||Jr.||7-0 / 242|
Analysis: Willie Cauley-Stein is a dynamic defender who is capable of playing either the 4 or 5, especially when paired with a offensive-minded guy like Nikola Vucevic. Cauley-Stein makes sense here because the Magic need more of a frontcourt presence to support an already athletic backcourt. This addition might be the one that helps push Orlando over the hump in their transition from a team consistently in the lottery to one that is competing for a playoff spot.
|6.||Sacramento||Emmanuel Mudiay||PG||Congo||Intl.||6-5 / 190|
Analysis: Emmanuel Mudiay was once thought to be the top pick in this year’s draft but after spending the last year playing in China, he has fallen out of the top five. Mudiay is still capable of making a big difference for a team in need of a point guard. While Sacramento has serviceable point guards on its roster, none of the team’s other options can match his star power. Mudiay’s size, athleticism, and potential will make the Kings very happy he slipped to them at 6.
|7.||Denver||Mario Hezonja||SF||Croatia||Intl.||6-8 / 215|
Analysis: The Nuggets could go in a lot of directions at this point and there are safer wing players still on the board, but expect them to take this opportunity to draft a higher-upside player from overseas. Hezonja will bring them tremendous athleticism, size and poise. He will take some time to adjust to the NBA game as his decision-making and maturity are currently considered his greatest weaknesses, but Denver would be a good place for him to develop as the Nuggets are not in a hurry to return to Western conference contention. Hezonja could be a project that pays off in 2-3 years.
|8.||Detroit||Justise Winslow||SG/SF||Duke||Fr.||6-6 / 222|
Analysis: The Pistons will be pleased to see Justice Winslow fall to them at No. 8. Detroit lacks a superior defender on the wing to lock guys down and can also create on offense. With Caron Butler traded, the SF position is wide-open for a guy like Winslow to step in on day one. He is hard worker who made huge strides in one year at Duke.The transition to the pros will also be better for him under another high intensity coach like Stan Van Gundy.
|9.||Charlotte||Stanley Johnson||SG/SF||Arizona||Fr.||6-6 / 242|
Analysis: The Lance Stephenson experiment has come and gone, leaving Charlotte once again with a hole at the shooting guard position. Stanley Johnson is another great athlete and superior defender to plug in next to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and he’ll be able to play off Kemba Walker. At Arizona, Johnson was the kind of guy that filled the stat sheet, but also proved he can be a solid shooter. This pick not only covers a need for the Hornets, but also gives them great value.
|10.||Miami||Devin Booker||SG||Kentucky||Fr.||6-6 / 205|
Analysis: After losing LeBron James in free agency, the misfortune continued for the Miami Heat when the team was hit with a string of injuries. Chris Bosh should return to form and Hassan Whiteside burst onto the scene to strengthen their frontcourt. Unfortunately, contract talks with Dwayne Wade are not going well, so it may be time to draft a shooting guard or swing man to replace him. Devin Booker fits the bill, as he is a bigger guard who can help cure the Heat’s three-point shooting woes. Ideally, Booker will learn from one of the great shooting guards in the game in Wade, before eventually stepping in to replace him.
|11.||Indiana||Cameron Payne||PG||Murray St.||So.||6-2 / 185|
Analysis: Indiana suffered the unfortunate fate of losing its best player, Paul George, for the majority of last season. Hopefully, George will be fully recovered and back to form next year. This Pacers team still has the key pieces to contend now if they want to take another run at the title. But they will need to strengthen their backcourt if they want to truly be considered contenders, and with Winslow, Johnson and Booker coming off the board in the previous three picks, Murray State’s Cameron Payne will be the best player left who fits what the Pacers are looking for. This will work well, as Payne is a dynamic point guard who played at an exceptional level despite facing mid-major opponents most of the time. If he can adjust to the tougher level of competition, he’ll be a great fit for the Pacers.
|12.||Utah||Myles Turner||C||Texas||Fr.||6-11 / 240|
Analysis: Myles Turner has looked great in his pre-draft workouts, moving him up the draft board and bypassing a few similar prospects. Utah could use a big man with his upside to fill in as a back-up to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. In his one year at Texas, Turner showed he was versatile playing inside-out, but he will still require some development from the mental aspect of the game. The Jazz liked what they saw in Turner during his workout and the former Longhorn could fill the hole left by Enes Kanter.
|13.||Phoenix||Frank Kaminsky||C||Wisconsin||Sr.||7-1 / 230|
Analysis: Frank Kaminsky is a player who can come in and contribute on the offense right away. This pick might seem odd, as the Suns already have a talented young center in Alex Len, but he’s been hampered at times with injuries. In addition, trading Miles Plumlee left the Suns shorthanded in the frontcourt. Kaminsky would be able to fill this void and his shooting ability makes him ideal for running pick and rolls with guards Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe.
|14.||Oklahoma City||Kelly Oubre||SG/SF||Kansas||Fr.||6-7 / 205|
Analysis: Kelly Oubre is one of the biggest mysteries in the lottery. He came on strong for Kansas last year in conference play and stepped up when teammates went down with injuries. Meanwhile, the Thunder have done very little to bolster their backcourt over the last few years. Hopefully, he won’t be thrust into a big role too quickly with, but a year playing on the same team as Kevin Durant will hopefully help his development and regardless of whether Durant decides to stay or go, Oubre can eventually step in and contribute.
|15.||Atlanta||Trey Lyles||PF||Kentucky||Fr.||6-10 / 240|
Analysis: Trey Lyles took one for the Kentucky team this year by stepping back and allowing others to be primary contributers. He was not able to showcase his full repetoire, but over the last few weeks of workouts, he sparked the interest of several teams who are now considering picking him. With Paul Millsap’s future in question and a lack of frontcourt depth, Lyles is the smart pick especially if he falls all the way to 15. It would not be surprising though to see a team trade up to get him.
|16.||Boston||Sam Dekker||SF||Wisconsin||Jr.||6-9 / 220|
Analysis: In Sam Dekker, Boston would be picking up a well-rounded swing man to bring together their squad. Jae Crowder and Evan Turner both stepped in admirably for the Celtics and helped lead them to the playoffs, but Dekker is a more polished and dynamic scoring threat than both of them, and could be the glue that ties together this team’s solid crop of guards and big men. Despite not having as high of a ceiling as some of the other swing men taken at this point, Dekker is an exceptionally hard worker who will thrive under Brad Stevens’ tutelage.
|17.||Milwaukee||Bobby Portis||PF||Arkansas||So.||6-11 / 245|
Analysis: Milwaukee can go a lot of different directions with this pick as they have a very solid core of young players to build around. Although shooting is one of their biggest weaknesses, bolstering their frontcourt is also high on the team’s offseason priority list. With only a handful of guards left with mid-first round grades, they will try to draft an offensive big man. They’ll go with Portis because he has greater size and a more polished game than many of the other big men available at this pick. So expect the Bucks to address this need if there are no sharpshooting swing men available.
|18.||Houston||Jerian Grant||PG||Notre Dame||Sr.||6-4 / 200|
Analysis: Houston desperately needed a point guard toward the end of last year. Although Harden can do it all in the backcourt, having a guy who can matchup well defensively, hit the open three, and be a floor general when Harden is on the bench, could help them push for the Western Conference championship again. Patrick Beverley’s future is uncertain, so Grant will help to shore up their point guard issues.
|19.||Washington||Kevon Looney||PF||UCLA||Fr.||6-9 / 222|
Analysis: Kevon Looney is another interesting first round prospect. While he had some huge games as a Bruin this past year, there were also times he looked lost in his first year at the college level and his team flew under the radar until March. Regardless, he has an immense amount of athleticism and has shown he’s a versatile stretch-4 type on the offensive side and a solid rebounder. While his decision-making still lags, this pick by Washington will strengthen its frontcourt as Nene and Marcin Gortat continue to age. Looney won’t be under pressure to contribute right away and instead will be allowed to develop and adjust to the NBA.
|20.||Toronto||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||SF||Arizona||So.||6-7 / 210|
Analysis: Toronto found itself in many high-scoring games last season, finishing fourth in the league in scoring while in the bottom third in points allowed. The Raptors have some dynamic offensive players, but lack a true lock down guy on defense. In two years at Arizona, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson proved he can guard any position on the floor. At the NBA level, he can guard four different positions. His offensive game still has a ways to go, but with his work ethic and athleticism, that facet of his game should come around with time.
|21.||Dallas||Tyus Jones||PG||Duke||Fr.||6-1 / 185|
Analysis: The Dallas Mavericks are in desperate need of a point guard. The Mavericks tried addresing this issue by trading several of their bench contributers for Rajon Rondo but the result was not as positive as expected. Instead, a patchwork group of point guards put together a valiant effort, but this team was carried by Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Monta Ellis, and not much else. Tyus Jones will not be an immediate starter, but he can provide a spark from the bench from day one. He is a high intensity player that loves lowering his shoulder in the paint and making big jumpshots. Jones can definitely help re-invigorate the Mavericks backcourt before their championship window closes.
|22.||Chicago||Delon Wright||PG/SG||Utah||Sr.||6-5 / 180|
Analysis: In Delon Wright, Chicago will find a multi-guard asset who can play alongside Rose and step up as the point guard when the former MVP needs a breather. With Rose’s injury history, filling up the Bull’s backcourt is always a smart move, whether it’s just to let him rest or to fill in for a longer stretch games. Wright is one of the oldest players projected in the first round as he stayed at Utah for four years. In his senior campaign, he led Utah to a Sweet 16 berth before eventually losing to Duke. Wright can contribute in every aspect of the game as he led his team in almost all statistical categories.
|23.||Portland||Montrezl Harrell||PF||Louisville||Jr.||6-8 / 255|
Analysis: It seems like Montrezl Harrell could have come out each of the past two years and been a first round pick, but instead, he has twice gone back to college and improved his game. Louisville did not have its typical regular season success in it’s first season as part of the ACC, so a lot of what he did went unnoticed. But during the NCAA tournament, Harrell’s attitude and intensity were on display and it paid off with a trip to the Elite Eight. The Trail Blazers do not know what the future holds for current big man LaMarcus Aldridge, but adding a high motor guy like Harrell will help them immiediately on both ends of the floor.
|24.||Cleveland||Justin Anderson||SF||Virginia||Jr.||6-6 / 230|
Analysis: After drafting former Virginia Cavalier Joe Harris last year, it would not be surprising if the Cleveland Cavaliers took another this year in Justin Anderson. Most of the questions regarding Cleveland’s offseason will be directed at the Kevin Love situation, but also very important will be the situations with Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. If Anderson goes to the Cavaliers, one or both of those guys will be expendable. Anderson will be a younger, cheaper version of them, and with lots to prove. It helps that his three-and-D style of play is very conducive to playing alongside LeBron James.
|25.||Memphis||Rashad Vaughn||SG||UNLV||Fr.||6-5 / 200|
Analysis: The Memphis Grizzlies have been near the top of the West for several years now. They need reinforcements at the shooting guard and small forward positions assuming they are able to re-sign their top priority, Marc Gasol. Rashad Vaughn declared after a great freshmen year that was cut short by a knee injury. All signs are the knee is healed and had that injury not occured, he would have been selected even higher in the first round. Regardless, this could be a steal for the Grizzlies, as Vaughn was putting up numbers on par with some of the top freshmen in the country until his injury. More importantly, Vaughn is a pure scorer, which the Grizzlies will need if they want to continue to compete in the West.
|26.||San Antonio||Guillermo Hernangomez||PF/C||Spain||Intl.||6-11 / 250|
Analysis: When was the last time two international players were drafted in the same first round from the same international team? Hernangomez along with his teammate Kristaps Porzingis put together some great wins for CB Sevilla. Hernangomez is not as likely to come straight over to the league, despite being 21 already, but his post skills and defensive presence are already very well developed and he could eventually be a steal for the San Antonio Spurs, who are nearing a changing of the guard.
|27.||LA Lakers||RJ Hunter||SG||Georgia St.||Jr.||6-6 / 185|
Analysis: The Lakers acquired this second first round pick by taking on Jeremy Lin and his salary. They must be very happy they did after missing Kobe Bryant and their first round pick, Julius Randle, all season long. Now that both of those players are back and they have already selected high in the draft, expect them to take a safer pick later in the draft that can fill in as a role player. RJ Hunter’s name was not known by many until he hit his buzzer beater in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but he has been a big time scorer for Georgia State the last three years. He also played point guard most of the time, so he has the ability to distribute the ball and lead an offense. Hunter would be a great value pick for the Lakers as the first round winds down.
|28.||Boston||Chris McCullough||PF||Syracuse||Fr.||6-9 / 200|
Analysis: McCollough was questioned by many when he decided to come out after a disappointing freshman year that saw him start slow before tearing his ACL. He has the talent to be future NBA player, but given his injury and lack of experience at the college level, it will take some time for him to unlock his potential. The Celtics have loaded up on young talent at the frontcourt positions, so this is an insurance pick that will hopefully pay dividends in the years to come.
|29.||Brooklyn||Christian Wood||PF||UNLV||So.||6-10 / 215|
Analysis: Christian Wood could be the second player from UNLV to be selected in the first round. Wood has a great face-up game and good rebounding skills. He needs to put on weight, but when he does, he could be a great rotational player for a team like the Nets. Brooklyn has a lot of question marks surrounding their frontcourt particularly with Brook Lopez about to hit free agency, but Wood could help steady any changeover that occurs with his elite height, wingspan, and jumping ability.
|30.||Golden St.||Terry Rozier||PG||Louisville||So.||6-2 / 190|
Analysis: Terry Rozier’s competitiveness is on a whole different level. Rozier wants to win and gives his all to achieve it day-in and day-out. Watch any game film of Louisville over the last two years, and he can be seen wreaking havoc with his quickness and grit. Sometimes his intensity leads to him playing out of control, but that can be worked on in the NBA. He would be a perfect fit for the Warriors run-and-gun playing style, looking to reload for another title run.