We have been hyping up the talent pool in the 2014 NBA draft for months, but there is actually a chance that the 2015 version could be better.
Yannis Koutroupis of Basketball Insiders suggested as much:
The 2015 draft was already looking strong. It’s highlighted by five big men with All-Star potential in Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Myles Turner (Undecided), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Trey Lyles (Kentucky) and Karl Towns (Kentucky). If those five were eligible to make the jump straight to the NBA this year, the only way one of them would fall out of the top 10 is because of team needs. They’re big time prospects and within short order you’ll be hearing a lot more about them along with SMU bound guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Arizona’s wing Stanley Johnson and Duke forward Justise Winslow among others.
That is a lot of potential franchise-changing prospects, and they haven’t even stepped on a college basketball floor yet for an official game. With that in mind, let’s dig into a way-too-early 2015 mock NBA draft.
The order of the picks was borrowed from a NBADraft.net mock since that is clearly yet to be determined.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Duke was led by one-and-done Jabari Parker this season, and the Blue Devils will have another short-lived superstar next year.
Jahlil Okafor is an absolute beast on the boards and could become the best low-block scorer in all of college basketball. He is also a shot-blocker and incredibly strong, and he will likely lead Duke much further than the early loss it suffered in the most recent NCAA tournament.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Cliff Alexander, PF/C, Kansas
Okafor won’t be the only big man to come off the board right away.
Kansas’ Cliff Alexander will follow in Joel Embiid’s footsteps as an early pick (assuming Embiid's injury doesn't knock him too far down the board), although he certainly has a different game. While Embiid is an athletic specimen, Alexander muscles his way to points and rebounds down low. One thing they do share, though, is a love of swatting shots on the defensive end.
3. Orlando Magic: Karl Towns, PF/C, Kentucky
The idea here is that the Orlando Magic take Dante Exum this year to pair with Victor Oladipo.
That means they will look to bolster their depth down low in next year’s draft, and a good place to start with Alexander and Okafor off the board is Kentucky’s Karl Towns. Towns isn’t as powerful as Okafor or Alexander, but he is highly skilled and can mix in a number of quick moves and even an occasional hook shot down low.
4. Utah Jazz: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
The Utah Jazz will take a glance at Emmanuel Mudiay, but with Trey Burke at point they will go for Stanley Johnson.
Johnson will have no trouble getting out in transition with Burke and company and will give Utah a much-needed scorer on the wing for the foreseeable future. He can play above the rim with incredible athleticism, but it is his wingspan and lateral quickness that make him so intriguing.
He has the potential to be a shut-down defender.
5. Boston Celtics: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, SMU
Sporting News is certainly high on Mudiay:
If Mudiay takes SMU to the NCAA tournament and beyond this season, he will rocket up draft boards. He is explosive off the dribble, has a solid perimeter shot and has the chance to demonstrate his floor-general abilities under Larry Brown.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, International
Kristaps Porzingis surprised by withdrawing from the 2014 draft, but that decision will pay off after another year of development.
Porzingis is an impressive athlete for his size (7’0") and has range that extends near the three-point line. He is also a formidable rebounder and shot-blocker with his lengthy wingspan, but the fact that he will be such a mismatch for so many big men is why he will be a top-10 pick.
7. Sacramento Kings: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Duke is absolutely loaded in the freshmen department this season, and Justise Winslow will be the lockdown defender of the bunch.
He is one of those stretch forwards who can play anything from point guard to power forward, which is an absolute nightmare for opponents trying to game-plan. Winslow can shoot the three, throw down rim-rattling dunks and rebound, but his ability to defend up to four positions will make him something of a LeBron James lite in Durham this season.
8. Detroit Pistons: Mario Hezonja, SG, International
There is always room for people with lethal three-point shots in the NBA, especially when those prospects check in at 6’8” and can create their own shots off the dribble.
Mario Hezonja gets out in transition and scores from nearly anywhere in the half-court set, which will be a much-needed offensive boost for a Detroit Pistons team that looked stagnant at times this season.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Myles Turner, C, Texas
There are a lot of incoming freshmen flying off the board early in this draft, and Myles Turner will add to that.
Even the potential presence of Joel Embiid won’t deter the Cleveland Cavaliers from taking Myles Turner, thanks to Turner’s versatility. Turner can play power forward just as easily as he can play center, and he would be an incredible tandem with Embiid on the boards and in the paint.
Turner can block anything within his lengthy vicinity and score on the low block, so he would help Kyrie Irving rack up some assists as well.
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Willie Cauley-Stein surprised by coming back to Kentucky after the Wildcats made it to the Final Four, although he may have been motivated by the fact that he missed their later games in the NCAA tournament.
Cauley-Stein is a rebounding machine who can score a little bit, and he would fit in nicely on the block alongside the more athletic Anthony Davis. There would be nothing wrong with a Kentucky tandem down low for the Pelicans.
11. New York Knicks: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Duke passed along word that Tyus Jones will get some invaluable experience with the USA basketball program that will undoubtedly help his game going forward:
Jones is just the type of floor general point guard who will thrive in that environment with so much talent around him. He will also make an impact right away in the NBA because of his ability to control the pace of the game, find open teammates when the opportunities present themselves and score on his own when he needs to.
12. Denver Nuggets: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Montrezl Harrell is yet another player who could have entered the 2014 draft as a potential lottery pick, but he will be back in Louisville to swat shots regularly yet again. Look out ACC.
He will play his way into lottery status next year as an absolute force down low on both ends of the floor. The fact that he could be one of the Cardinals’ go-to guys on offense this season will help him improve his stock that is currently bolstered by his excellent defense.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Chris Walker, PF, Florida
Chris Walker didn’t have much of a statistical impact in Florida during his abbreviated freshman campaign, but he will thrive as the Gators’ premier option next season.
He is an athletic freak who can play a number of different positions, score from inside or out and shut someone down on defense with his wingspan, quickness and vertical leap. Chances are, there will be room for him at the NBA level.
14. Phoenix Suns: Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
Kelly Oubre isn’t the best outside shooter yet, but he is powerful off the dribble and gets to the free-throw line with ease.
He is incredibly strong and uses that strength to elevate and finish above the rim in dramatic fashion. Oubre is also a formidable rebounder, but it will be his dunking and offensive explosions that thrill fans at the next level.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky
The fact that Dakari Johnson has the potential to be a lottery pick and get buried on Kentucky’s depth chart says a lot about the Wildcats’ depth.
Johnson is a rebounding machine who can score on the low block when put him in the right position by his guards. He isn’t going to thrill with his individual moves, but he bullies his way to the basket and is a solid finisher.
16. Charlotte Hornets: Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan
Look for Caris LeVert to become Michigan’s next superstar now that Nik Stauskas is no longer around, much like Stauskas did when Trey Burke left.
LeVert can drill it from behind the three-point line and create his own shot off the dribble. He will also improve his defense with a more prominent role this season and become a first-round pick and All-Big Ten performer.
17. Brooklyn Nets: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
Wisconsin is going to challenge for a national title after last year’s Final Four run, and Sam Dekker is a primary reason why.
He has three-point range, but he is especially dangerous from mid-range and in. He can create off the dribble and post up smaller defenders and is an impressive rebounder from his small forward position.
18. Washington Wizards: Aaron Harrison, SG, Kentucky
Aaron Harrison proved how clutch he can be in the NCAA tournament, and NBA teams certainly took notice.
However, his all-around game still needs a little work and consistency, which is why he returned to Lexington. He will improve on the defensive end and with his shot selection and decision making, which will land him in the first round of a loaded draft.
19. Chicago Bulls: Marcus Paige, PG, North Carolina
North Carolina passed along Sporting News’ high accolades regarding Marcus Paige:
Paige could contend for National Player of the Year at North Carolina as the Tar Heels try to outduel Duke, Louisville and Syracuse in a daunting ACC. He is an absolute playmaker who is capable of scoring 25 points on any given night and dishing out 10-12 assists on the next.
There is certainly room for a point guard like that in the NBA.
20. Toronto Raptors: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
The Toronto Raptors impressed this season by reaching the playoffs, but they need some more offensive playmakers to seriously challenge for a spot in the conference finals.
That is exactly what Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is, and he will prove it at Arizona this season.
He is a high-energy player on both ends of the floor and will rack up steals, deflected passes, assists, rebounds and points throughout the campaign. NBA front offices are always looking for multi-faceted forwards, and Hollis-Jefferson will fill that role for the Raptors.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Marc Garcia, SG, International
Like many lengthy international guards and small forwards, Marc Garcia can score from anywhere on the floor.
He has a smooth three-point shot, can attack off the dribble and can create opportunities for teammates when the defense collapses. Garcia needs to improve his rebounding and overall toughness when he gets inside on both ends, but that will come with time in the NBA.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue
The Memphis Grizzlies are predicated on strong defense, rebounding and interior toughness, and A.J. Hammons can help in those categories.
The Purdue prospect still hasn’t fulfilled his incredible potential from when he arrived on campus, but his size and rebounding ability will entice NBA teams when the draft rolls around next year.
23. Golden State Warriors: Alex Poythress, SF/PF, Kentucky
Reminder, Kentucky is absolutely loaded.
Alex Poythress will be approximately the 35th Wildcat to be taken in the first 23 picks because of his explosive athleticism and ability to play above the rim. His wingspan and physical tools jump out immediately, and they allow him to swat shots and score down low.
He could stand to improve his jumper a bit before heading to the NBA.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Bobby Portis may be something of an unknown among college basketball fans because he plays at Arkansas, but he is certainly on the radar of NBA scouts.
Portis is an absolute beast from mid-range in on the offensive side with a soft jumper, the ability to blow past slower defenders and a strong post-up game. He is also an impressive passer when the double-team comes but needs to improve his rebounding to be an impact player at the next level.
25. Houston Rockets: Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Frank Kaminsky didn’t sound too excited about the NBA when he explained why he didn’t want to leave Wisconsin, via ESPN.com:
I am at the pinnacle of my basketball playing career, at least in my eyes. I know the NBA has their crazy fans and all, but if you look at all of their games, there are games when teams like the Bobcats get hardly any fans, and it looks flat out boring.
At the Kohl Center, we play in front of nearly 17,000 fans every single time we step onto the court. When we travel, we play in front of sell out crowds who absolutely hate us. Not because of who is on the team, but because of where we go to school. Who could leave that?
However, Kaminsky will find himself in the NBA after the 2015 draft because of his ability to stretch the floor from the center position. His three-point shooting and touch passing will be difficult to deal with for many big men at the next level, and he is a solid rebounder as well.
26. Miami Heat: Jabari Bird, SF, California
The Miami Heat looked old in the NBA Finals, and they could use all the athletes they can get if they hope to return to the mountaintop.
Jabari Bird is one of those stretch forwards who can create his own offensive opportunities off the dribble and hit from the outside when the opportunity presents itself. He isn’t the strongest player and won’t help much in the rebounding department, but his scoring prowess makes up for that.
27. Indiana Pacers: Ilimane Diop, C, International
Roy Hibbert didn’t look like he had a lot left during the NBA playoffs and down the stretch of the 2013-14 season, and the Indiana Pacers will look to the interior in the 2015 draft.
Diop checks in at 6’11”, but his wingspan is what makes him so dangerous as a shot-blocker and rebounder. He is also an impressive low-block scorer who will free up more space for Paul George to operate on the perimeter.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas
There was a lot of firepower that left Kansas this season, so Wayne Selden may see a larger role as a returnee.
He can stroke it from behind the three-point line and attack the rim off the dribble and is a solid defender and passer. Selden does need to improve his overall consistency, but the skill sets and physical abilities are there.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Andrew Harrison, PG/SG, Kentucky
For as great as Russell Westbrook is, the fact that his knees have been injury-prone in the past should scare the Oklahoma City Thunder into adding some depth at the point guard spot.
Andrew Harrison will never be the scorer that Westbrook is, but he is a solid shot creator who also puts his teammates in position to score. Kevin Durant will certainly appreciate that.
30. San Antonio Spurs: LeBryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State
LeBryan Nash as a first-round pick is something of an optimistic projection, but the thought here is that he finally lives up to his potential as the main offensive cog at Oklahoma State now that Marcus Smart is gone.
Nash arrived on campus as a highly regarded recruit but has been inconsistent at best. He can score from inside and outside and is a decent defender. Of course, if he lands in the San Antonio system, the Spurs will absolutely find a way to maximize his talent.
They almost always do.
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