NBA Draft 2015: Updated 1st-Round Mock Draft as Regular Season Draws to a Close

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06:  Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Duke defeated Wisconsin 68-63.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Wednesday marks the end of the NBA's regular season, a day that's been months in the waiting for a majority of teams hanging in their respective conference's basement.

The Knicks, 76ers, Timberwolves and Lakers have been merely playing out the string for months. Their scoreboard watching down the stretch was more about percentage points and ping-pong balls than interest in actual results.

Elsewhere, teams like the Kings, Pistons and Hornets were jettisoned from the conversation early on, despite actually trying to win. The Thunder and Suns spent all season battling for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference only to get thrown into the lottery due to late swoons (Oklahoma City can still win the No. 8 seed, though it's behind New Orleans at the moment). And then there are teams like the Magic and Jazz, who are well into their respective rebuilds but not quite ready to take the next step.

With Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns establishing themselves as the clear top two prospects in this class, the next big date after Wednesday will be the lottery drawing on May 19. Until then, though, let's take a quick look at what to expect from the entire first round, paying special attention to the top of the lottery. 

1New York Knicks*Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
2Minnesota Timberwolves*Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
3Philadelphia 76ersD'Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State
4Los Angeles LakersEmmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
5Orlando MagicJustise Winslow, SF, Duke
6Sacramento KingsKristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
7Denver NuggetsKevon Looney, PF, UCLA
8Detroit PistonsStanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
9Charlotte HornetsWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
10Miami HeatMario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
11Indiana Pacers*Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconsin
12Utah Jazz*Myles Turner, PF, Texas
13Phoenix SunsKelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
14Oklahoma City ThunderDevin Booker, SG, Kentucky
15Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn Nets)R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
16Boston CelticsJakob Poetl, C, Utah
17Milwaukee BucksTrey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
18Houston Rockets (via New Orleans Pelicans)Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
19Washington WizardsSam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
20Toronto Raptors*Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
21Chicago Bulls*Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
22Dallas MavericksBobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
23Portland Trail Blazers*Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
24Cleveland Cavaliers*Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
25Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers)*Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
26Memphis Grizzlies*Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
27Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)*Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas
28San Antonio SpursKris Dunn, PG, Providence
29Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks)Jarell Martin, PF, LSU
30Golden State WarriorsDakari Johnson, C, Kentucky
(Denotes tie)

Top 10 Analysis

1. New York Knicks: Karl-Anthony Towns (C, Kentucky)

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Karl-Anthony Towns has been the top player on my board since before it was fashionable to do so. He's been the most talented player in this class since his arrival in Lexington; the only question was when he was going to show it on a consistent basis. 

The answer: Just in time to make everyone reconsider Jahlil Okafor being a no-brainer at No. 1. Towns scored in double figures seven times in his first 20 collegiate games. He did so 12 times over his final 19, including 41 combined points in the Elite Eight and Final Four. Kentucky is probably celebrating its 40-0 season right now if the Wildcats guards would have done a better job of getting him the ball down the stretch against Wisconsin.

Should they land the No. 1 pick, the Knicks' choice between Towns and Okafor will say a lot about their immediate plans. Selecting Okafor is a move designed at an instant turnaround. He's the more instantly translatable player and can probably already be written in as the Rookie of the Year favorite. Towns may struggle early in his NBA career as he gets acclimated, but he has perennial All-NBA potential.

I'm giving Phil Jackson the benefit of the doubt here and assuming he'll emphasize long-term rewards.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor (C, Duke)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06: Amile Jefferson #21 and Jahlil Okafor #15 of the Duke Blue Devils react after a play in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If I'm Flip Saunders, my first move of the offseason is finding a taker for Nikola Pekovic. At age 29, he'll be in his early 30s by the time this Timberwolves core is ready to contend in the Western Conference. He's also missed pretty significant time in each of his five NBA seasons and is coming off an Achilles surgery.

There's no telling what he'll look like as an asset in 12 months. On the other hand, he'd probably have teams lining up and willing to give up a couple of solid young pieces if Saunders floated him on the market this summer.

Landing at No. 2 and selecting the leftover of the Okafor/Towns debate would help make that decision easier. Jahlil Okafor checks a lot of Pekovic-like boxes. He's a big dude with nimble feet, a solid rebounder and a not-so-great rim protector. The mean, '80s-movie-villain looks and intimidation factor aren't there, but the decade in age difference can help assuage the disappointment. 

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell (PG/SG, Ohio State)

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 21:  D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drives against T.J. McConnell #4 of the Arizona Wildcats in the second half during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Moda Center on March 21, 2015 in Po
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

D'Angelo Russell has become the forgotten superstar in this class, which is at once unfair and totally understandable. The egg he laid against Arizona during the round of 32 is something best left forgotten, an abysmal two-way performance in which he all but shot Ohio State out of the game. With a vast majority of lottery talent playing their way deep into the tournament, it's only natural that Russell exits the conversation.

So, as a reminder: Russell is awesome at basketball. He's an in-his-prime Brandon Roy clone, able to affect the game off the dribble, knock down threes and grab rebounds far better than most at his position. You'd prefer he get to the line a little more given his usage, but pro coaches can teach him how to force and play through contact.

The Sixers have built their young core almost entirely around length and defense. Russell adds a bit of much-needed offensive flair.

4. Los Angeles Lakers: Emmanuel Mudiay (PG, China)

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 12:  Emmanuel Mudiay #5 of the World Team drives to the basket against the USA Team on April 12, 2014 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

I couldn't think of a more perfect fit if I tried. The Lakers have been desperately searching for a point guard for what seems like forever now. Emmanuel Mudiay is the perfect LA import, equipped with a flashy all-around game and athleticism that will spark interest in an increasingly moribund franchise.

Because he left the United States for a Chinese excursion, Mudiay's stock will be in flux over the next couple months. A few questionable workouts, and we could see him potentially dropping out of the top five. It'd be a shock to see him fall much more than that given the weakness of the point guard position, but expect synonyms of "mystery" to be all the rage when describing Mudiay.

For now, he sticks with the Lakers.

5. Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow (SF, Duke)

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Magic have to address the issue of positionality wherever they wind up going in June. Outside of power forward, they have young, foundational starters at every position. Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo look like keepers in the backcourt, Tobias Harris is having the best year of his career and Nikola Vucevic is a nightly double-double.

Orlando may wind up considering someone like Kristaps Porzingis here, but I'm going with best player available. Justise Winslow would give Orlando three unbelievable defenders on the perimeter. With Harris also hitting free agency this summer, he'd be a nice insurance policy in case anyone decides to break the bank on a 22-year-old wing averaging 17 points a night. 

6. Sacramento Kings: Kristaps Porzingis (PF, Latvia)

Kristaps Porzingis was a potential lottery pick last season and is a borderline lock for the top 10 in this year's draft. A truly unique talent, Porzingis would make a potentially deadly pairing with DeMarcus Cousins. Both players are skilled enough to space the floor out to the mid-range—Porzingis is even a decent three-point shooter—and pass the ball well.

I know it's often derided, but a Porzingis-Cousins frontcourt would provide the platonic ideal of a Triangle-base system. At the very least, George Karl is creative enough to know how to use players with such varied skill sets.

If Porzingis can add a little weight and become more willing to use his length, he also has potential as a rim protector. As it stands, though, he's a perfect fit for the go-go style Karl prefers, which should become more ingrained in Sacramento next season.

7. Denver Nuggets: Kevon Looney (PF, UCLA)

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

No one has any idea what the Nuggets will look like next season. Their roster construction has been a mess for years now, and this offseason appears to be the one where something will break. Jusuf Nurkic is probably the only untouchable. Denver would be the first call I'd make if I were in need of a point guard or high-energy power forward.

Kevon Looney, as such, is a bit of a placeholder. He's kind of on the Zach LaVine plan, meaning he's a ball of potential who is yet to be totally molded. There is a rim-protecting, slam-dunking, Serge Ibaka type resting there somewhere. He just needs to find the right situation that will help him figure it all out.

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson (SF, Arizona)

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

I'm still not sure how I feel about Stanley Johnson's NBA translation. Look at his body type and defensive aggressiveness, and you see a less athletic Ron Artest. Take a gander at his stat sheet, and a 37.1 percent three-point shooter emerges—a number far better than anyone expected. Watch him on film, and you see an NBA player.

Just not one that's likely to play in any All-Star games. Johnson, to me, projects as a third- or fourth-best player on a good team, someone good for the occasional big moment but best left in a tertiary role. Comparisons to the likes of Artest and Gerald Wallace are natural, though both were more springy during their younger days.

We're yet to see Stan Van Gundy make a first-round pick since arriving in Detroit, so this selection will demonstrate which type of players he's trying to acquire. Johnson fills a need for a defense-first wing, but his up-and-down shooting goes against Van Gundy's more typical pace-and-space desires.

9. Charlotte Hornets: Willie Cauley-Stein (C, Kentucky)

Al Jefferson can become a free agent this summer, and given Charlotte's struggles this season, it might be ill-advised to bring him back. Jefferson saw his numbers take a massive step back, missed a good amount of time to various injuries and turned 30 in January. Considering even peak-Jefferson was a defensive liability, paying him into his mid-30s feels like an undesirable outcome.

In many respects, Willie Cauley-Stein is Jefferson's polar opposite. He's built in the mold of Tyson Chandler, a rim-charging freak athlete who can protect the rim and finish through contact. The Hornets have tried developing a somewhat similar player in Bismack Biyombo, but Cauley-Stein is already more offensively skilled than Biyombo will ever become. 

10. Miami Heat: Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia

Given his history, I wouldn't remotely be shocked to see Pat Riley shop this pick if the Heat are able to land in the top 10. So, for now, I'm going to put Hezonja here as a placeholder. 

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