While half of the NBA is focused on making the playoffs and fighting for a championship on the final day of the year, the rest of the league has already turned its attention to the NBA draft.
Whether a team was intentionally tanking or just wasn't very good, the squads at the bottom of the standings will be rewarded with high picks in the upcoming draft. Fortunately, there are a few franchise-changing talents available at the top.
Although a lot can change in the coming months, here are projections for the first round with a breakdown of the top picks. Order based on standings as of April 15.
|NBA Mock Draft 1st Round|
|1||Minnesota Timberwolves||Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky|
|2||New York Knicks||Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke|
|3||Philadelphia 76ers||Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China|
|4||Los Angeles Lakers||D'Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State|
|5||Orlando Magic||Justise Winslow, SF, Duke|
|6||Sacramento Kings||Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia|
|7||Denver Nuggets||Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky|
|8||Detroit Pistons||Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia|
|9||Charlotte Hornets||Stanley Johnson, SG, Arizona|
|10||Miami Heat||Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas|
|11||Atlanta Hawks (via Nets)||Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah|
|12||Utah Jazz||Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin|
|13||Phoenix Suns||Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame|
|14||Oklahoma City Thunder||Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky|
|15||Indiana Pacers||Myles Turner, C, Texas|
|16||Boston Celtics||Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky|
|17||Milwaukee Bucks||Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA|
|18||Houston Rockets (via Pelicans)||Kris Dunn, PG, Providence|
|19||Washington Wizards||Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin|
|20||Toronto Raptors||Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas|
|21||Dallas Mavericks||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona|
|22||Chicago Bulls||Tyus Jones, PG, Duke|
|23||Portland Trail Blazers||Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville|
|24||Cleveland Cavaliers||R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State|
|25||Memphis Grizzlies||Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State|
|26||Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets)||Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia|
|27||San Antonio Spurs||Christian Wood, PF, UNLV|
|28||Boston Celtics (via Clippers)||Caris LeVert, SF, Michigan|
|29||Brooklyn Nets (via Hawks)||Delon Wright, PG, Utah|
|30||Golden State Warriors||Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky|
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns
While different people will have their opinion, there is no clear-cut leader for the top overall pick. ESPN's Myron Medcalf breaks down what the top options bring:
Karl-Anthony Towns is unlikely to have a better rookie year than Jahlil Okafor, who is as polished as any big man in years. However, the Kentucky freshman simply brings more to the table for a potential NBA team.
Unlike his competition, Towns is a good defender who could develop into a quality rim protector. He also has shown signs of developing an outside shot, and he is far from a liability on the free-throw line. This all makes up for a weaker low-post game.
Additionally, a young, athletic team like the Minnesota Timberwolves could have success in the future as a fast-paced squad that out-hustles opponents up and down the court. Towns runs the floor well and should be better suited for this type of attack.
It seems like there is no wrong choice here, but Towns would be the smarter pick if Minnesota wins the lottery.
2. New York Knicks: Jahlil Okafor
If you're looking at how a player fits in an organization, the New York Knicks can't do much better than drafting Okafor.
Will Phil Jackson calling the shots, the Duke star is the perfect fit down low for the triangle offense. He is outstanding with his back to the basket and can even create from the perimeter in one-on-one settings. Even against NBA defenders, he should score at a high rate.
Just as importantly, he knows how to pass out of the post when a shot isn't there while setting things up for his teammates.
Despite these positive traits, there are still concerns about how he will fare on the defensive end. Former NBA center Stacey King thinks this is an issue:
Even when he gave max effort, Okafor never showed the ability to be a quality shot-blocker and doesn't have the quickness to guard pick-and-rolls at the next level. He could quickly be a star offensive player in the NBA, but there are plenty of questions about his all-around ability going forward.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Emmanuel Mudiay
After trading away Michael Carter-Williams at the deadline, it seemed clear the Philadelphia 76ers would need to go after a point guard in this draft. Fortunately, there are two very good ones available at No. 3 if the draft plays out this way.
D'Angelo Russell was clearly the best guard in college basketball this season, filling up the stat sheet for Ohio State with 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and five assists per game. He came into college as a shooting guard but showed off an elite passing ability in his freshman season and proved to NBA scouts he can be a point guard going forward.
However, it's important not to dismiss Emmanuel Mudiay, who went to China instead of playing in college. Even without getting much playing time with his new team, scouts still like what they see in the former Texas high school basketball star.
ESPN's Chad Ford provided a scouting report on the prospect:
Mudiay's appeal is based around a terrific combination of size, athleticism and power at the point guard position. He can get anywhere he wants on the floor, finishes at the rim, and plays with a terrific motor. His jump shot still needs more work and he can still polish his point guard skills, but he's likely to be the first international player to hear his name called on draft night.
Russell has a better feel for the game at this point, but Mudiay has more athleticism and, in turn, more upside. Considering the 76ers continue to build for the future and don't mind waiting for players to develop, Mudiay is the more likely pick on draft day.
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