2015 NBA Mock Draft: Pre-Training Camp Edition
As long as basketball never stops, neither will the mock drafts.
Based on everything we saw last year and the offseason camps and tournaments, we've projected the 2015 first round with training camp approaching.
The draft order was generated based on next year's projected standings. It also reflects all previous trades that were made involving future picks.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Emmanuel Mudiay, China, 6'5", PG, 1996
Emmanuel Mudiay's decision to pass on SMU and play the following season in China shouldn't hurt his NBA draft stock. He could have chosen to play in outer space for all I care—nothing changes the upside tied to his physical tools, top-shelf athleticism and polished offensive attack.
At 6'5", he's quick off the bounce and explosive rising up. Mudiay reminds you a little bit of John Wall, given his size, speed and hops.
And he has a strong floor game as well—Mudiay can run the offense and get teammates involved as a facilitator. And he's capable of putting up points, whether he's scoring in the lane or pulling up in the mid-range.
Big men Jahlil Okafor and Karl Towns will also be in the No. 1 overall debate, but after drafting centers Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, the Sixers might be inclined to look at Mudiay, who just might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the draft.
2. Orlando Magic: Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6'11", C, Freshman
Without any obvious answers on the board, the safety factor tied to Jahlil Okafor should give him a leg up on his draft-night competition.
Between his 6'11", 272-pound frame, 7'5" wingspan, polished offensive game and exceptional basketball IQ, there isn't a safer option on the board.
And chances are he puts up big-time production as a freshman at Duke, where he'll have the chance to dominate inside as a scorer and rebounder.
Okafor isn't the slickest athlete, and he's not as natural of a rim protector as last year's top center prospect, Joel Embiid, was for Kansas.
But his ability to create high-percentage shots for himself, whether he's facing the rim or backing down his man, drives his appeal at every level.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl Towns, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Freshman
Karl Towns turned heads during Kentucky's summer trip to the Bahamas, where he showcased his high skill level and versatility against legitimate international competition.
From hooks shots and drives to jumpers, putbacks and slams on the break, we saw it all from Towns, whose polished game and mobility allow him to operate all over the floor.
He has terrific touch both over the shoulder and facing up, and given his shooting mechanics and comfort, there's a good chance Towns evolves into a true stretch option later in his career.
You also can't ignore his noticeable passing instincts, particularly from the elbows, while his live motor and competitive edge only sweeten the package.
He'll have to learn how to anchor a defense, but with a 7'3.5" wingspan and quick feet, Towns has some two-way upside that is worth targeting at the top of the 2015 draft.
4. Utah Jazz: Cliff Alexander, Kansas, 6'9", PF/C, Freshman
Cliff Alexander's game is fueled by an overwhelming blend of 6'9" size, superhero strength, high-level athleticism and constant energy.
He's an easy-bucket machine inside, where he finishes plays with authority from high above the rim. Defense and rebounding are also part of the package—at this point, Alexander's physical tools translate to heavy interior activity and production.
We've also seen him score at the low block with his back to the basket, although his post game and ball skills need improvement.
Chances are most of Alexander's buckets this season are set up for him, whether they're off a dump pass, lob or transition opportunity. But if he can add to and expand his offensive repertoire over time, the potential here is enormous.
5. Milwaukee Bucks: Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6'7", SG/SF, Freshman
Coming off a productive offseason consisting of appearances at the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy, Adidas Nations and Under-18 FIBA World Championships (he was named MVP), Stanley Johnson looks poised to emerge as an immediate impact contributor.
And it starts on defense, where his size, quickness, strength and toughness can overwhelm opposing wings and guards.
Johnson clearly takes pride in his defense, an aspect of his game that drives his two-way NBA potential.
Offensively, he's at his best attacking the rim, given his ability to play through and finish after contact.
Over the past year, he's also made strides as a scorer on the perimeter. We've seen him catch fire as a spot-up shooter or create his own shot in the mid-range.
Johnson isn't overly explosive, but his defensive tools, basketball IQ and intensity play to his high basement floor. Consider him a safe bet anywhere on the board.
6. Phoenix Suns (via Lakers): Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6'7", SF, Freshman
Kelly Oubre will be the freshman filling Andrew Wiggins' shoes on Kansas' wing, where he's a dynamite scorer and versatile all-around contributor.
He has the NBA size and high-flying athleticism. But he also has the offensive attack—Oubre can take over stretches of a game with step-back and pull-up jumpers, explosive drives to the rack and a little finesse in between with runners and floaters.
Look for Oubre to put up points in bunches next season while sprinkling in some passing and rebounding on the side.
He's another safe bet with a pretty enticing ceiling to chase after.
7. Sacramento Kings: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 7'0", PF, 1995
After pulling out of the 2014 draft despite generating lottery buzz one month before it, Kristaps Porzingis will start the 2014-15 season as an easy top-10 candidate.
Scouts raved last year about his athleticism, mobility and skill set that allowed him to play out on the perimeter and high above the rim. It's just a rare blend of strengths for an 18-year-old 7-footer.
He scores off cuts and catch-and-finishes in the lane, as well as dribble-drives from outside that showcase his ability to put the ball on the floor.
We've also seen some shooting touch, something that plays to his upside as a stretch 4 or 5.
Defensively, his size, length and foot speed translate to blocked shots and steals.
Assuming his production rises as his role abroad increases, expect Porzingis to once again emerge as a trendy name in the months leading up to June.
8. Boston Celtics: Mario Hezonja, Croatia, 6'8", SG/SF, 1995
At just 19 years, Mario Hezonja earned a roster spot on Croatia's 2014 World Cup team, although the minutes weren't quite there for him.
And they may not be there for him with Barcelona next season, either, although that shouldn't stop NBA teams from knocking down his door.
Hezonja has been generating buzz since 2011 when he took home MVP of the Under-16 European World Championships.
He's a sensational athlete who is capable of creating his own shot from anywhere on the floor, whether it's a step-back, pull-up or slash through traffic.
Hezonja is all about potential, but he should be offering enough to entice teams with a top-10 pick.
9. Detroit Pistons: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6'7", SF, Sophomore
As a freshman, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's defense and energy earned him a spot in Arizona's rotation. And it's that potential defensive versatility—driven by his size, 7'1" wingspan and quickness—that ultimately holds the most value to NBA teams.
But it looks like Hollis-Jefferson has spent the summer working on his offensive skills, particularly his jumper. He connected on just two three-pointers last year and 68.2 percent of his free throws.
“I made a big, big leap toward where I want to be,” Hollis-Jefferson told Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated. “I'm still leaping. I'm not all the way there. And I'm going to keep working.”
An active rebounder, underrated passer and productive slasher and cutter, Hollis-Jefferson is a jump shot away, as you just don't see many NBA wings without one.
10. New York Knicks: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Junior
Willie Cauley-Stein should be ready to roll by the start of the season after breaking his ankle late last year during the NCAA tournament.
Though he hadn't shown much progress as a scorer, which won't be his projected NBA role anyway, Cauley-Stein managed to block 2.9 shots per game in less than 24 minutes. And that defense is ultimately what teams will be targeting early next June.
At 7'0", Cauley-Stein is a ridiculous athlete who moves and jumps like a wing. This past season, he found a way to keep his motor activated for longer stretches, leading to tighter rim protection and heavier interior activity.
No, he's not a guy you can feed in the post and ask to get you a bucket. And chances are he'll never be that guy.
But as a center who can finish (he shot at least 59 percent in back-to-back seasons), rebound and anchor the paint, his Tyson Chandler-like potential should still hold lottery value.
11. Atlanta Hawks: Caris LeVert, Michigan, 6'7", SG, Junior
Foot surgery kept Caris LeVert off the floor for 16 weeks this offseason, but he returned to Michigan's lineup during a recent trip to Italy, where he averaged 14.3 points on 40 percent shooting from downtown in four exhibition games.
LeVert should be atop every breakout list heading into next season with Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III both off to the pros.
Now listed an inch taller at 6'7", LeVert should attract plenty of attention so long as the extra touches he receives result in more production. He has terrific size for a 2-guard, along with a sweet jumper, an active motor and plenty of athleticism.
He'll need to fine-tune his in-between game in the mid-range, but LeVert seems like a pretty safe bet somewhere in the mid-first round.
12. Houston Rockets (via N.O.): Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8", PF, Junior
This is a big year for Montrezl Harrell, whose second-half breakout last season raised the bar moving forward.
His leaping ability and overwhelming power have led to plenty of interior production, whether off dump passes, lobs or offensive rebounds. He averaged 14 points on a whopping 61 percent shooting last season, having expanded his scoring range and arsenal from foul line to baseline.
The mid-range game is next—Harrell will eventually need to show scouts he has some promise as a shooter out to 18 feet or so. We've seen him hit the occasional jumper, but if he can start sticking them with some regularity, his draft stock would benefit big time.
I like the J.J. Hickson comparison myself.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Myles Turner, Texas, 6'11", C, Freshman
Myles Turner offers an always-appealing combination of size and shooting touch. But it's the third element of rim protection that differentiates him as a prospect.
Most stretch big men aren't impact defenders. While Turner can step out and knock down jumpers at 6'11", he also has terrific shot-blocking instincts in the paint.
Turner isn't the most polished post scorer or overly quick or light on his feet, which might limit his perceived upside. But he clearly has first-round-caliber tools and strengths for an 18-year-old center.
14. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow, Duke, 6'7", SF, Freshman
Justise Winslow's world-class physical tools and athleticism, along with a fully charged motor, should translate immediately at Duke despite his lack of offensive polish.
He's the type of kid who can make an impact without needing his number called or the ball in his hands.
Offensively, his presence is felt in the drive-and-slash game and transition. Defensively, he's relentless—an on-ball hound powered by quickness, explosiveness and strength.
His jumper and ball skills are a bit behind, but Winslow excels in the areas of the game you just can't teach. Look for him to win fans and scouts over with energy and activity the way Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did at Kentucky a few years ago.
15. Indiana Pacers: Delon Wright, Utah, 6'5", PG, Senior
Delon Wright hit NBA radars last season after transferring from junior college, and with Utah expected to make some noise in the Pac-12 this year, the buzz should start to pick up.
Scouts are drawn to his 6'5" size at the point guard position, where he has mismatch potential once he rounds out his game.
Wright is crafty off the dribble—he has that ability to shake defenses with hesitation and change of direction. And having averaged 5.3 assists per game, he's shown off legitimate instincts as a facilitator, while his 6.8-rebound-per-game average reflects his nose for the ball and activity.
As a scorer, Wright averaged 15.5 points last year, and almost all of them came within 15 feet from the hole. Having only hit 12 three-pointers as a junior, he'll need to extend his shooting range, but his 79.3 percent free-throw stroke gives us reason to believe there's promise.
One of the country's top guard defenders, Wright will not only emerge as a Conference Player of the Year candidate but a serious riser on the NBA draft front.
16. Brooklyn Nets: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'9", SF, Junior
Despite Wisconsin's success as a team last year, it wasn't the best season for Sam Dekker, whose shooting numbers plummeted and offensive game appeared to plateau.
Dekker has apparently done something about it—he was the talk of the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy in August, where he was labeled as "clearly the most impressive performer in Las Vegas," according to CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello.
He even measured in at 6'9", an inch taller than Wisconsin listed him last season, while his upper body looks to be more filled out than it did four months ago.
With Wisconsin expected to compete for a national title once again, the stage should be set for Dekker.
17. Phoenix Suns: Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6'10", PF, Sophomore
At 6'10" with smooth athleticism and mobility, Bobby Portis has the tools and fuel shared by NBA power forwards. And between his over-the-shoulder game, face-up attack and jumper, he has a promising skill set in place.
Portis just needs to polish it up during his sophomore year, when scouts will be looking for a little more consistency, offense and rebounding.
He's also an active defender who blocked 1.6 shots per game last year, thanks to his length and aggression.
There's a lot to like about Portis' game if he can put it all together.
18. Memphis Grizzlies: Kevon Looney, UCLA, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman
The appeal to Kevon Looney centers on offensive versatility that includes 6'9" size, strong rebounding instincts and a face-up package consisting of a jumper and handle.
“They told me I could show my versatility, that I’d be able to handle the ball some, that I could rebound, I could play inside-outside," Looney said of UCLA's coaching staff to Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register. "I saw it last year with Alford and his players. Kyle (Anderson) played inside-outside. Zach (LaVine) had a lot of freedom on the wing."
Looney should have an immediate role at UCLA, where his toughness down low and skill set on the perimeter could present opposing front lines with all sorts of matchup problems.
19. Toronto Raptors: Terry Rozier, Louisville, 6'1", PG, Sophomore
Scouts should be all over Terry Rozier this season with Russ Smith no longer in Louisville's picture. Rozier, a lightning-quick point guard with a dangerous jumper (36 three-pointers at 37.1 percent clip last year), will see a whole lot more touches in the offense this season, even with Chris Jones there to share the backcourt.
Rozier has some serious athleticism and hops that help drive his upside at the position. This year, he has to show scouts he's capable of commanding an offense and creating for teammates, something he's apparently been working on this summer.
“I learned a lot about [how to run] the pick and roll. That was my goal on what to get better at,” Rozier told College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster. “Just how to read it. I struggle a little bit coming off pick and roll, mainly setting my man up.”
20. Washington Wizards: Chris Walker, Florida, 6'10", PF/C, Sophomore
Chris Walker will enter his sophomore year with something to prove after accomplishing very little individually last season following NCAA suspension (academic eligibility issues).
A highly decorated recruit out of high school, Walker's sales pitch to the pros centers on his size, effortless athleticism and bounce. He offers an above-the-rim presence as a finisher, rebounder and shot-blocker.
Florida coach Billy Donovan told Chris Harry of Fox Sports that Walker actually put on 20 pounds since last season, something that should benefit him down low.
This year, scouts will be looking at Walker's ball skills in the post, which appeared limited in the little action he saw in 2013-14.
21. Portland Trail Blazers: Terran Petteway, Nebraska, 6'6", SG, Junior
After leading the Big Ten in scoring in his first year playing for Nebraska (he was a transfer from Texas Tech), Terran Petteway should enter his junior season as a prospect to keep an eye on.
At 6'6", he's a wiry wing who can generate offense on demand. With the pull-up and step-back game working in the mid-range and an off-the-dribble attack that led to 204 free throws last year, Petteway is a tough cover once he's found his rhythm.
And his offensive confidence is at a whole other level—almost to a fault. Petteway's shot selection and self-control can be shaky, but there's no denying his ability to put the ball in the hole.
With Nebraska on the rise and Petteway expected to lead the way, consider him a strong breakout candidate heading into 2015.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Dakari Johnson, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Sophomore
The NBA guys are always looking for 7-footers, which obviously helps Dakari Johnson, who gives Kentucky an option to feed on the low block.
It's not always pretty, but Johnson uses his body to set himself up for short jump hooks, catch-and-finishes and offensive rebounds.
If Johnson wants to separate himself this season, he'll need to show off a little more touch and scoring range, as he tends to lean on his size and strength over polished moves and footwork.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Heat): Norman Powell, UCLA, 6'4", SG, Senior
No more Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams or Zach LaVine means a much heavier workload for Norman Powell, an excellent athlete who's at his best attacking the basket and getting out on the break.
And based on the improvement he showed last year and the buzz he generated at Adidas Nations this summer, Powell looks poised for a breakout senior year.
He'll definitely have to improve his shooting numbers—he has been below 30 percent from downtown in each of his last two seasons. But between his defensive tools, developing offensive game and increased role next year, the writing is on the wall here—look for Powell to emerge as a rising NBA prospect.
24. Golden State Warriors: Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'6", PG, Sophomore
Andrew Harrison played with noticeable confidence and control during Kentucky's August trip to the Bahamas. And he also appeared lighter on his feet and more explosive off the bounce—a significant development, given his struggles finishing at the rim last season.
At 6'6", he has the size and ball skills to cause problems at the point guard position.
This year, scouts will be all over his decision-making and body language, as well as his ability to command Kentucky's offense.
Harrison has the tools—he just has to apply them.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston): Alex Poythress, Kentucky, 6'8", PF, Junior
Alex Poythress was Kentucky's energizer during its August trip to the Bahamas, where he continuously made plays without needing the ball or his number called.
And that's his game. His ball skills are limited, both on the perimeter and in the post. We haven't seen much improvement in terms of Poythress' ability to create.
But when that motor is activated, he's capable of making a significant impact, whether he's cutting through the lane for a bucket, keeping balls alive or putting back a miss off an offensive board.
An NBA team like the Lakers might want to target Poythress' potential activity and athleticism instead of searching for late-round upside that probably doesn't exist.
26. Chicago Bulls: Branden Dawson, Michigan State, 6'6", SF, Senior
Injuries have kept Branden Dawson from making a steady case for himself as a prospect, but his NBA role player potential remains intact.
Dawson is an energetic athlete with great strength and length, which plays to his defensive effectiveness and versatility.
Offensively, he's mostly used for finishing, slashing and cleaning up around the rim, but with great instincts and a tremendous motor, he's seemingly always in the picture. Dawson averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 boards on 61.3 percent shooting as a junior, though he still hasn't hit a three-pointer since arriving at Michigan State in 2011.
He's a mistake-free type of contributor who's only going to take the good shots that find him in the offense.
There isn't much upside attached to Dawson, given his inability to shoot or create, but this late, that's not quite what teams will be targeting. Just ask Josh Huestis, the No. 29 pick in the 2014 draft.
27. Boston Celtics (via LAC): R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, 6'5", SG, Junior
R.J. Hunter established himself last season as one of the most lethal perimeter scorers in the country after averaging 18.3 points and nailing 100 threes (three per game) at a 39.5 percent clip.
At 6'6", Hunter has good size for a 2-guard, though he's awfully skinny, which will hurt him in the paint and defensive end.
But it's his outside stroke, as well as his ability to free himself up and use it, that should attract NBA interest next season. Hunter moves like Rip Hamilton off the ball, with the ability to come off screens and curls and knock down shots with a quick release and plenty of range.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Wayne Selden, Kansas, 6'5", SG, Sophomore
Wayne Selden failed to stand out in a secondary role for Kansas last season, but with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid out of the picture, his touches and opportunity should increase.
Scouts like his 6'5" size and diesel 230-pound frame for a 2-guard. Selden demonstrates impressive body control as a finisher in the open floor, and he's a capable shot-maker in the mid-to-long range.
But he'll have to improve his shooting percentages this year, as well as show some progress with regard to his ability to create, something he did very little of as a freshman.
29. Chicago Bulls (via Cleveland): A.J. Hammons, Purdue, 7'0", C, Junior
A.J. Hammons hasn't shown much progress offensively, but his 3.1 blocks per game last year and monster 7'0", 280-pound frame will likely keep him in the conversation.
Hammons made a wise move to return to Purdue for what should be an easier year to jump up draft boards.
Between his low-post game, touch out to 12 feet and defensive rim protection, a team looking for depth up front might want to target Hammons late in Round 1.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Brice Johnson, North Carolina, 6'9", PF/C, Junior
Brice Johnson has flashed some athleticism and bounce around the rim, where he averaged 6.1 boards and 1.3 blocks in just 19.4 minutes per game.
This year, he'll be looking at a 20-plus-minute role for the first time. And scouts will tune in to see whether or not he's added to his offensive repertoire.
For the most part, he's still mostly an off-ball guy. Showcasing more of a post game this season could do wonders for Johnson's stock.