2015 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions, Underrated Prospects to Watch

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2015

Duke's Tyus Jones reacts during the second half of the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game against Wisconsin Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. Duke won 68-63. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

NBA teams simply don't get a lot of chances when it comes to draft picks, so they have to make them count if they want to be successful in the long run. 

After all, an NFL team can afford to miss on a first-round pick if it hits a home run anywhere from the second to the seventh round. In the NBA, there are only two rounds, and a misjudgment on a certain prospect can set a franchise back years.

With that in mind, here is a look at an entire first-round mock draft, as well as some underrated prospects to watch who could make immediate impacts even if they slip into the second round come draft day.

*The order of the picks is courtesy of DraftExpress as of Wednesday, April 8.

2015 NBA Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayer
1New York KnicksKarl-Anthony Towns, PF, Kentucky
2Minnesota TimberwolvesJahlil Okafor, C, Duke
3Philadelphia 76ersEmmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
4Los Angeles LakersD'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
5Orlando MagicJustise Winslow, SF, Duke
6Sacramento KingsWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
7Denver NuggetsStanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
8Detroit PistonsKelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
9Charlotte HornetsMario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
10Indiana PacersKristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
11Philadelphia 76ers (via Miami Heat in trade)Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
12Utah JazzSam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
13Phoenix SunsFrank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
14Oklahoma City ThunderDevin Booker, SG, Kentucky
15Boston CelticsBobby Portis, PF, ARK
16Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn Nets in trade)Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
17Milwaukee BucksMyles Turner, C, Texas
18Houston Rockets (via New Orleans Pelicans in trade)Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
19Washington WizardsJakob Poeltl, PF, Utah
20Toronto RaptorsKevon Looney, PF, UCLA
21Dallas MavericksJerian Grant, PG, ND
22Chicago BullsMontrezl Harrell, PF-C, Louisville
23Portland Trail BlazersCaris LeVert, SG, Michigan
24Cleveland CavaliersCameron Payne, PG, Murray State
25San Antonio SpursDelon Wright, PG, Utah
26Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers in trade)Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
27Memphis GrizzliesR.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
28Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets in trade)Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
29Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks in trade)Jarell Martin, PF, LSU
30Golden State WarriorsCliff Alexander, PF, Kansas

Underrated Prospects 

R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State

At this point, even casual college basketball fans know Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter as the cold-blooded shooter who ended Baylor’s NCAA tournament dreams with a game-winning three-pointer from well beyond the arc. It also sent the team’s coach—his father—sprawling to the floor in celebration.

It was one of those moments that make the tournament so memorable, but it also forced the nation to pay attention to this mid-major star.

Hunter’s versatility and skill jump out on the film as a 6’6” guard/stretch forward who can launch from three, set up teammates with crisp passes and rebound. He can play anything from a creative point guard to a small forward and is someone who could fill it up quickly off the bench (19.7 points a game this year) for an NBA team.

Hunter discussed one of his best strengths, per Chris Dortch of NBA.com: "The vision. Basketball is so much different when you watch film. You see everything. I've always seen the whole court, and I'm always looking for that next pass. I love passing the ball. That's something I get a thrill out of." 

Hunter proved he can step up in the clutch moments with that tournament shot but also has the ability to get to the free-throw line (6.6 free throws per game this season) and create scoring opportunities during the course of a game. Look for him to play a significant role in someone’s rotation right away.

Jarell Martin, PF, LSU

LSU’s Jarell Martin is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor, which should appeal to NBA teams near the end of the first round.

He averaged 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season alongside Jordan Mickey and earned first-team All-SEC honors in the process. Had he not played next to another superstar big man, those numbers would have probably been even more impressive.

Martin is listed at 6’10”, which is certainly a workable size at the NBA level. He also brings impressive athleticism to the table and can get out in transition or beat slower defenders closer to the basket.

Martin’s versatility on the offensive end is what stands out because he can face up on defenders, hit from mid-range and score on the low blocks with quick and agile footwork. 

That offensive skill set will allow him to thrive in almost any system as either a stretch power forward who can operate from mid-range and on pick-and-rolls or as a bigger threat down low on the boards. He will find a way to contribute in his rookie season, no matter which team drafts him.

Tyus Jones, PG, Duke

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06: Amile Jefferson #21 and Tyus Jones #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indian
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Maybe Tyus Jones doesn’t play above the rim with incredible open-floor explosiveness like so many NBA points guards do today (Russell Westbrook, John Wall and a healthy Derrick Rose come to mind). Maybe Jones doesn’t wow on film with head-turning athleticism and speed.

Still, he is the prototypical leader at the point guard position who always looks to make his teammates better but understands when he needs to step up and score himself. What more does he have to prove after leading the Duke Blue Devils to a championship in his first and only season at the college level? 

Evan Daniels of Scout.com noted that Jones makes his teammates better on the path to victories, even if those teammates are superstars who could go first overall in the draft:

Jones brings plenty of tangible skills to the table, from three-point shooting to elite passing, but his ability to step up in the biggest moments is what ultimately stands out. He was the Final Four MVP who carried the team in the final 10 minutes against Wisconsin in the national championship game and routinely played at his best in the Blue Devils’ most important contests during the season. 

Chad Ford of ESPN suggested that the clutch gene matters to NBA front offices and scouts:

After all, it is the point guard with the ball in his hands in the biggest moments, and nobody in this year's draft proved more capable of handling that responsibility better than Jones. NBA teams will remember that come draft day.

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottPolacek

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