2015 NBA Mock Draft: Early Look at Potential Landing Spots for Top College Stars

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2015

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 15:  Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 15, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's never too early for an NBA mock draft. Not even in February, when we don't know the draft order or even which players will declare. Because mock drafts are fun at any time of the year, darn it. 

This year's class has some excellent prospects, especially at the top of the draft, and there are certainly enough teams in need of a stud to reverse their fortunes. If you don't believe that, just look at the Eastern Conference standings. 

But along with mocking the first round, I'll also take a closer look at a few teams who seem poised to come away from this draft most improved. From their likely draft position to the amount of picks they hold, these teams should leave the 2015 NBA draft feeling quite good about their haul. 

2015 NBA Mock Draft
1New York KnicksJahlil Okafor, C, Duke
2Minnesota TimberwolvesKarl-Anthony Towns, PF, Kentucky
3Philadelphia 76ersD’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State
4Los Angeles LakersEmmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
5Orlando MagicStanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
6Sacramento KingsKristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
7Utah JazzWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
8Denver NuggetsMario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
9Indiana PacersMyles Turner, PF/C, Texas
10Detroit PistonsJustise Winslow, G/F, Duke
11Boston CelticsDevin Booker, SG, Kentucky
12Atlanta Hawks (via Nets)Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
13Houston Rockets (via Pelicans)Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
14Oklahoma City ThunderMontrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
End of Lottery
15Philadelphia 76ers (From Cavaliers via Heat)Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
16Charlotte HornetsR.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
17Phoenix SunsBobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
18Milwaukee BucksFrank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
19Washington WizardsJerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
20Chicago Bulls (via Cavaliers)Malik Pope, SF, San Diego State
21Cleveland Cavaliers (via Bulls)Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF/SG, Arizona
22San Antonio SpursTrey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
23Boston Celtics (via Clippers)Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
24Dallas MavericksCliff Alexander, PF, Kansas
25Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets)Caris LeVert, SF, Michigan
26Portland TrailblazersDelon Wright, PG, Utah
27Toronto RaptorsDomantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
28Memphis GrizzliesRon Baker, SG, Wichita State
29Brooklyn Nets (via Hawks)Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky
30Golden State Warriors Justin Anderson, F, Virginia
Draft order based on current records

The Teams With the Top Four Picks

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 29:  Dez Wells #44 of the Maryland Terrapins defends against D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half on January 29, 2015 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Much like last year's draft was all about finishing with a top-three pick, this year feels like a top-four type of year, with Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay and Karl-Anthony Towns looking like the four franchise players to be had. 

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While Russell's excellent season will make him a serious consideration for the top overall pick, Okafor appears to be the gem of this class. As Chad Ford of ESPN wrote last week, there's a pretty general consensus that Okafor is the top man on the board:

As of today, every team I spoke with has Okafor as the No. 1 pick. When there is no clear No. 1 pick, teams tend to focus on team needs instead of overall talent. However, when there's a clear-cut No. 1, needs tend to go out the window.

Both Kevin Pelton and I and Fran Fraschilla have detailed why Okafor remains the odds-on favorite to go No. 1. To put it succinctly, he's the most offensively polished freshman we've seen come along in a decade. While his lack of explosive athleticism and defensive prowess doesn't put him in the same elite company as Anthony Davis or LeBron James as far as draft prospects go, he's a very good No. 1 pick.

Don't sleep on Russell, however. He's averaging 19.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. But if you really want to know why Russell has the sort of killer instinct and ability to bend a game to his will, well, you only need to hear what he said after putting up 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists against Sacred Heart in November.

"I didn’t honestly know who the opponent was, just prepared the best way I could," Russell told Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. "And I just told myself whoever was guarding me, I was going to destroy them. So I just tried to do that and it landed good for me."

Don't be surprised if Russell destroys his fair share of NBA opponents, too.

Philadelphia 76ers 

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 06:  Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers enters the huddle during a time out during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 6, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Sixers will almost assuredly have one of those top four picks. And good riddance—the Great Tanking Experiment of the last several years can't all be for naught. 

If the season ended today, the Sixers would have the third pick, and being able to select Russell would almost assuredly be the ideal situation for the team. The Sixers absolutely need a pure scorer to go along with the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel, the yet-to-debut Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who will be in Europe for one more season. 

Add in Michael Carter-Williams at the point, and the need for a scorer on the wing is pretty clear (even if Tony Wroten has been a pleasant surprise at shooting guard). Of course, the team could also go after the more physical and athletic Mudiay, but with the need for a pure scorer, Russell makes the most sense.

Oh, and the Sixers will also likely have a second pick in the first round where they should be able to nab another excellent prospect. In this case, I have them grabbing Sam Dekker from Wisconsin. Dekker's size and athleticism on the wing fits with the type of player the Sixers have seemed to covet in their rebuilding experiment. 

If the draft went down this way, it would certainly be a win for the Sixers. And another indication that their tanking experiment might just come to fruition in a few years with so much young talent on the roster.

Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 15: Nick Young #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at STAPLES Center on January 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

The best thing that can happen to the Lakers is to end up with a top-four pick, and not just so they can draft one of this year's top players. No, it's because the team's first-round pick this year is only top-five protected. 

While the Lakers are the sort of team that prefers to "rebuild" through free agency, adding another young stud to pair with Julius Randle would not only give the team a young core, but it would also be an attraction for potential free agents. Add in the fact that they also own the Houston Rockets' first-rounder, and the Lakers could seriously inject some young talent into the roster this season. 

And if there is one thing the Lakers probably need, it's some more young talent. Well, that and a superstar who can coexist with Kobe Bryant.

Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 06: Jae Crowder #99 talks with Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics during the 4th quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden on February 6, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the 76ers 107-96. NOTE TO USE
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Celtics are another team with two first-round picks, though, they are currently winning enough to push themselves out of a top-10 pick. Even the most competitive of Boston fans can probably acknowledge that losing now would benefit the Celtics greatly in the future. The quality of player between pick Nos. 5-8 and the picks from No. 9 to No. 14 in the lottery could end up being pretty great. 

Still, also owning the Los Angeles Clippers' first-rounder means the team should be able to improve in the first round this year. And even if they keep winning, they may be able to package their two picks to move up a few spots in this draft. 

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