NBA Draft 2015: Jonathan Wasserman's Top-30 Big Board Entering the Lottery
The 2015 NBA predraft process is officially underway for teams and prospects.
With the combine in Chicago all wrapped up, workouts should begin right away. Players could find themselves in different cities every couple of days auditioning for general managers who haven't seen them up close.
Expect to start hearing all sorts of rumors about potential trades, as well as who showed up who in workouts. Just make sure not to automatically buy everything you read. This is that time of year when a lot of smoke is blown.
For the following big board, rankings are based on each prospect's NBA potential—not necessarily their impact in college.
30. Cedi Osman, Macedonia, 6'8", SG/SF, 1995
Cedi Osman played a lot for a 20-year-old in Euroleague, where he went against quality competition and produced at a decent rate.
At 6'8", Osman has excellent size for a wing who can handle the ball, pass and shoot. His jumper will ultimately have to become more consistent, but he did knock down 41 threes in 55 games.
He'll also need to add strength, but Osman appears to have a good feel for the game, as well as some exciting athleticism.
I like him as a late-first or second-round draft-and-stash play for a team not looking to add rookie salary.
29. Justin Anderson, Virginia, 6'6", SF, Junior
Justin Anderson immediately stands out due to his ripped 6'6", 230-pound frame. And he's an excellent athlete who tied for second at the NBA combine with a 43" max vertical.
Anderson wasn't considered much of a prospect until this year, when he changed his mechanics and suddenly become a sniper from downtown (45.2 percent).
He doesn't create or score one-on-one, but Anderson seems like a nice three-and-D option late in the first round.
28. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8", PF, Junior
Strong and explosive around the basket, Montrezl Harrell projects as an interior energizer, finisher and rebounder.
I wouldn't bank on him doing much scoring, though. Harrell still struggles with the jumper and post game, which is a bit concerning for a 21-year-old, 6'8" power forward.
Still, he finishes everything that comes his way and plays with a motor and intensity that should translate to 50-50-ball victories.
For a team looking for a jolt of activity up front, Harrell should be a nice option to bring off the bench.
27. Chris McCullough, Syracuse, 6'10", PF, Freshman
Chris McCullough might fall under the boom-or-bust category, given how raw he looked through 16 games before he tore his ACL. But the upside he flashed could be worth gambling on once all the talent dries up midway through the 20s.
At 6'10", he's an above-the-rim athlete who was effective around the basket and promising in the mid-range with his jumper. He was also active defensively, having averaged 2.9 blocks and 2.4 steals per 40 minutes.
We aren't likely to see results from McCullough for another year or two, but he offers obvious long-term potential once he builds back strength and adds some muscle.
26. Jordan Mickey, LSU, 6'8", PF, Sophomore
Jordan Mickey was a standout in Chicago at the NBA combine, where he went for 17 points, eight blocks and eight rebounds in five-on-fives Thursday.
He even looked comfortable as a mid-range shooter, though it's something he'll need to continue refining.
Mickey has unteachable instincts around the rim, having led the country in shot-blocking and averaged 9.9 rebounds per game. But he's flashed enough offensive promise to suggest he'll continue to improve.
Though slightly undersized at 6'8", Mickey has a solid 238-pound frame. And he tied for the highest max vertical—37.5"—for a power forward or center.
Mickey's ceiling is limited, but I'd count on him sticking and ultimately lasting long-term as an active, versatile reserve.
25. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6'7", SF, Sophomore
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's 6'7" size, 7'2" wingspan, quickness and athleticism make him the top wing defender in this draft.
He offers lockdown potential, as well as the versatility to guard small forwards, 2s and ball-handlers.
However, no three-point jumper in the arsenal should weigh heavily on his value. You just don't see many successful players at his position that can't stretch the floor as shooters.
Still, he's effective enough around the basket to finish plays off drives and cuts.
Either way, if you're taking Hollis-Jefferson in the first round, it has to be due to his defensive-specialist potential.
24. Delon Wright, Utah, 6'5", PG, Senior
Delon Wright just knows how to play the game, though at 23 years old with fairly average athleticism, his upside is clearly limited.
Still, he has terrific size for a ball-handler, having measured 6'5 ½" at the combine, and his basketball IQ, passing and defense are each top-notch.
Becoming a three-point threat and improving his pull-up game would ultimately do wonders for his offensive outlook, but the rest of his strengths should translate and hold value in a backup role.
23. Robert Upshaw, Washington, 7'0", 1994
I wouldn't question the general managers who've taken Robert Upshaw off their boards. There is obviously major risk attached to a kid who's been kicked off two teams in three years.
However, while there are concerns regarding his character, there aren't many about his NBA tools and potential.
He was leading the country in shot blocking (4.5 per game, 7.2 per 40 minutes) before being dismissed from Washington in January. Upshaw also measured in at 7'0" with the longest wingspan, reach and hands in the class.
He projects as a rim protector who also has some untapped offensive upside.
Call me an optimist, but having spoken with Upshaw at the combine, you get the sense the message was received after his second mishap.
It's going to take a gambler to pull the trigger, but I'd roll the dice late in the first round.
22. Christian Wood, UNLV, 6'11", PF, Sophomore
Christian Wood flashed some attractive versatility as a sophomore, having made 25 threes while shooting 56.3 percent inside the arc and averaging 10 boards and 2.7 blocks.
He covers a lot of ground at both ends of the floor.
Wood has a promising shooting stroke, as well as the ball skills to face up, attack, spin off line drives and score on the move.
On the downside, he came in at just 216 pounds at the combine with a high 14.7 percent body fat—the second-highest in Chicago. Wood tends to get moved around easily down low, and though he looked capable from downtown, his 28.4 percent clip shows he still has a ways to go.
21. Tyus Jones, Duke, 6'2", PG, Freshman
Tyus Jones has his limitations due to a lack of strength and athleticism. Chances are he struggles at the rim and defending the perimeter.
However, his ball skills and basketball IQ are both razor-sharp. Jones is a natural facilitator with excellent vision, and he's a threat to pull up off the dribble, score with the floater or knock down threes (37.9 percent) spotting up.
He has low-end starter to high-end backup potential at the point. Consider Jones a late-first-round talent.
20. Kevon Looney, UCLA, 6'9", PF, Freshman
There is a lot to like about Kevon Looney, though also plenty to question.
At 222 pounds, he lacks the strength and post game of your traditional NBA power forward. But he isn't quick or athletic enough to play the wing.
On the bright side, he can handle the ball and shoot, having made 22 of 53 threes. And he has a terrific nose for the ball on the offensive glass, where he finished with 54 putbacks, per Hoop-Math.com.
Looney is ultimately a project who offers both high-potential reward and risk. We could either be talking about a face-up mismatch or a tweener.
I'd feel more comfortable gambling on Looney later rather than earlier in Round 1.
19. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, 6'6", SG, Junior
I wouldn't worry too much about R.J. Hunter's three-point inconsistency as a junior. He hit enough triples—253—through three years to prove himself as a shooter.
Hunter's NBA value lies within his ability to knock down jumpers off movement. Curls, down screens, back screens, pin downs—Hunter can free himself up and make shots without needing to dribble.
He also improved as a playmaker this past year, having racked up 126 assists after totaling just 114 assists through two seasons.
At 185 pounds, I wouldn't bet on Hunter's 19.7-point-per-game scoring average to translate, but his shot-making skills and basketball IQ should work just fine.
18. Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6'11", PF, Sophomore
Bobby Portis aces the NBA eye test for a power forward, thanks to his 6'10 ½" size, 246-pound frame and 7'2" wingspan. But his skill set is also wired for NBA play.
Portis has a sweet shooting stroke out to 20 feet, and he's a polished scorer around the post, whether he's back-to-the-basket or facing up from the short corner.
Unfortunately, he has heavy feet. Portis isn't very explosive off the bounce or elevating upward. His 31.5" max vertical at the combine was disappointing, though not surprising.
But Portis is just too sharp offensively to let athletic limitations prevent him from making a mark. He may not offer much rim protection or eye-opening upside, but he's a safe bet outside the lottery with starter potential.
17. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'9", SF, Junior
As long as he lands in a place that allows him to play to his strengths, Sam Dekker may be able to contribute from opening night.
His 6'9" size for a wing, above-average athleticism and high basketball IQ are obvious NBA-friendly attributes, and his offensive skill level covers a lot of ground. He's a smart passer, a threatening driver and slasher and a capable outside shooter.
But despite his shot-making ability, Dekker's jumper needs work. He's shot below 34 percent from three and 71 percent from the line in back-to-back seasons.
Becoming consistent from behind the arc will be key to his NBA value, especially considering he doesn't create or score much one-on-one.
16. Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6'7", SF, Freshman
Kelly Oubre wasn't the most convincing high-profile prospect of the bunch, but he did flash the upside that's become a bulletproof vest for his draft stock.
He hit enough jumpers to highlight his shooting potential, while his above-the-rim athleticism was visible from Day 1.
However, he struggled at times as a secondary option in Kansas' rotation. Oubre isn't a very proficient shot-creator in the half court, where he relies heavily on spot-up shooting, line-driving and off-ball slashing. You wouldn't call him much of a playmaker either, having finished the season with just 28 assists in 36 games.
He's excellent in transition, but Oubre must improve his one-on-one ball skills.
Having said that, his weaknesses are all correctable. And at 19 years old, time is on his side.
He'll need a year in the D-League, but Oubre is still a project worth taking on somewhere in the late lottery to mid-first round.
15. Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6'6", SG, Freshman
Devin Booker's appeal as a prospect stems from his shot-making skills and ability to score within his team's offense.
He isn't a player you'd feature, given his limited one-on-one skills and blow-by burst. But Booker is dangerous shooting off movement or spotting up off the ball, where his 41.1 percent three-point stroke looks as sharp as anyone's in this year's field.
Booker also has excellent body control as a finisher off drives, cuts and transition opportunities.
And he put up some very promising numbers at the combine regarding his defensive outlook. Booker had both the fastest lane agility time and shuttle run time, which measures how quickly one changes direction.
14. Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6'10", PF, Freshman
Though Trey Lyles isn't super explosive, his blend of physical tools, skill level and basketball IQ is easy to buy.
He has a natural shooting stroke in the mid-range, as well as the ball skills to attack closeouts and the body control to finish on the move or adjust in midair.
Lyles also has polished footwork and touch with his back to the rim around the low block.
His defensive outlook isn't particularly exciting, and I'm not sure he's quick enough to consistently shake-and-bake as a go-to scorer.
Still, Lyles projects as a high-end role player or middle-tier starter. I'd consider him a safe bet outside the top nine.
13. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7'0", PF/C, Senior
Frank Kaminsky projects as a safe pick just based on his 7'0" size and convincing 41.6 percent three-point stroke. It gives him the potential to consistently stretch the floor and bring opposing anchors away from the rim, something that holds NBA value in itself.
But his face-up game has also become very sharp, thanks to much-improved footwork and excellent touch. Kaminsky can put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts off the dribble, as well as spin off line drives and score on the move.
I wouldn't peg Kaminsky as a plus defender (4.5 percent block percentage, per Sports-Reference.com), which hurts his value as a big man.
But given his shot-making ability, skill level and basketball IQ, there is no questioning his fit in today's NBA.
12. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6'5", PG, Senior
The only significant knock on Jerian Grant right now is his age. He'll be 23 years old by the start of next season, which lowers his perceived NBA ceiling.
However, Grant still has the potential to upgrade someone's backcourt with valuable versatility and playmaking ability.
At 6'5", he can play the 2 and score from all three levels. But Grant has really blossomed into a terrific passer, particularly off drive-and-kicks and ball screens (6.7 assists to 2.2 turnovers per game).
He should be able to comfortably play either position. Improving his three-point shooting consistency (31.6 percent) will be a priority, but the 50 threes Grant hit suggest improvement can be made.
He's an ideal option for a team looking for an NBA-ready reserve guard. I'd take my chances anywhere outside the top nine.
11. Cameron Payne, Murray State, 6'2", PG, Sophomore
The only thing not convincing on Cameron Payne's resume is the competition he faced.
At 6'2" with long arms and smooth athleticism, Payne checks out physically, even if he is a bit skinny. He has strong legs and shifty change-of-direction quickness.
But it's Payne's skill level that stands out. He's sharp in every facet of the game, from his passing (No. 6 in the country in assist percentage, per Sports-Reference.com) to his scoring (20.2 points per game) and defense (1.9 steals per game).
He's a threat to make a play whenever he's handling the ball. Payne has good vision, a dangerous pull-up jumper and a strong floater and runner game.
I wouldn't dock him too much for the lack of quality opponents he played against. If I were a general manager looking for a point guard, I'd take Payne anywhere outside the top nine picks.
10. Myles Turner, Texas, 6'11", C, Freshman
Myles Turner's sales pitch centers on his rare two-way versatility. He has the potential to stretch the floor as a shooter and protect the rim. Usually with big men, you get one or the other.
Turner looks like a natural when it comes to getting into the delivery on his jumper. He can catch, set and shoot from any spot or angle on the floor (17 threes made), whether it's a spot-up, turnaround or step-back.
And, per Sports-Reference.com, he blocked a whopping 12.3 percent of his opponents' two-point shots when on the floor—a better rate than Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns.
But he isn't the strongest low-post scorer, and despite his shot-making ability, he only made 27.4 percent of his threes.
I'm not as concerned with his mobility, something that's been questioned throughout the year. I'd actually be more worried about his shot selection. Most of the looks he gets himself are of the low-percentage variety.
Centers who shoot in the 40-45 percent range lose value.
Still, a big man this skilled and instinctive defensively is worth taking outside the top nine. I'd consider Turner a high-risk, high-reward option.
9. Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6'7", SF, Freshman
There isn't much to question about Stanley Johnson, who checks out in just about every area.
At 6'7" and nearly 242 pounds, he has a textbook body and physical tools for a two-way wing.
And Johnson averaged an impressive 19.4 points per 40 minutes as a freshman on a highly competitive team. He's sharp in the mid-range, having made 44.4 percent of his two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com, and he flashed a promising shooting stroke that hit 43 threes at a 37.1 percent clip.
Johnson also projects as a defensive asset—one that can lock down and guard multiple positions.
He isn't overly explosive—Johnson shot just 52.7 percent at the rim—and he can stand to improve his one-on-one attack.
But Johnson should offer plenty of value if he ends up going later in the lottery. He's a safe bet with high-end starter potential.
8. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 7'0", PF, 1995
After generating lottery buzz in 2014 before pulling out of the draft, Kristaps Porzingis managed to meet the high bar this year the media had set for him.
At 7'0", he's a fluid, above-the-rim athlete with some unique perimeter ball skills. Porzingis looks very promising as a shooter (36.9 percent from three). There is no wasted motion with the jumper, which he can make off the catch, off the dribble or over the shoulder.
And he can put it on the deck and attack closeouts like a wing. Porzingis projects as a perimeter-oriented scorer athletic enough to pick up easy buckets in the open floor and in catch-and-finish situations.
Porzingis also moves well enough for his size to become a defensive asset down the road.
But at 220 pounds, there is some risk tied to his outlook. Will he be able to hold his own in the paint or separate one-on-one in the pros? His rebounding numbers haven't been all that impressive (7.7 per 36 minutes) overseas either.
Still, his blend of size, athleticism and shot-making ability is convincing in itself. Porzingis has All-Star upside if he can tie all the versatility together.
7. Mario Hezonja, Croatia, 6'8", SG/SF, 1995
Mario Hezonja is loaded with NBA upside stemming from his mismatch 6'8" size, elite athleticism and perimeter ball skills for a wing.
He's automatic in the open floor, deadly from downtown (39.1 percent from three) and a dangerous slasher and driver.
Barcelona even used Hezonja as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, where he can pass over the defense, pull up off the dribble or attack the rim.
He has a game and the physical tools built for today's NBA. Don't be surprised if Hezonja emerges as an immediate rookie contributor. His role moving from one level to the next should remain relatively the same.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Junior
Willie Cauley-Stein's defensive versatility fuels some unique NBA potential, while also differentiating him from just about every center in the league.
You just won't find many 7-footers who protect the rim, can switch onto guards and pressure full court.
Cauley-Stein is an incredible athlete, both in terms of his vertical leaping ability and lateral quickness.
Though not much of a scorer, creating shots isn't something teams will ask him to do.
Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan could potentially receive a $100 million deal despite averaging just 11.5 points per game. There is major value tied to Cauley-Stein's defense, as well as the easy above-the-rim buckets he picks up offensively.
5. Justise Winslow, Duke, 6'6", SF, Freshman
Teams really can't go wrong with Justise Winslow outside the top three. His explosive athleticism, relentless motor, hounding defense and positive energy play to his "sure thing" label.
Even if he fails to develop the rest of his offense, Winslow should still have something to offer.
The big question with Winslow is just how much his ball skills will improve. Right now, he isn't a very sharp shot-creator or one-on-one threat.
Winslow picks up most of his buckets as either a spot-up shooter, line-driver and open-floor weapon.
He only made two of 19 pull-up jumpers, per DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony, all year, a number that should kill any of the James Harden comparisons that popped up throughout the season. He did make 41.8 percent of his threes, though his 64.1 percent free-throw clip makes you wonder if his long-range accuracy was somewhat fluky.
There is no question he'll become a two-way asset in this league, but whether he can justify top-five value will come down to the progress he makes as a ball-handler, scorer and shooter.
4. Emmanuel Mudiay, China, 6'5", PG, 1996
Emmanuel Mudiay already looks the part of an NBA point guard. If he goes to a team searching for a new floor general, chances are Mudiay can immediately fill the role.
At 6'5", 200 pounds, he's an above-the-rim athlete with mismatch size and strength for a ball-handler. And he's lightning-quick off the dribble, where he can change direction and slip through gaps to break down defenses.
Mudiay also has a strong feel out of pick-and-rolls, both as a scorer and table setter.
On the downside, there are questions concerning his jumper and decision-making. He was never considered a good shooter in high school, and after shooting 13-of-38 from downtown and making 27 of 47 free throws in China, he doesn't appear to have made many strides. He also turned the ball over 3.3 times a game overseas.
Still, Mudiay is clearly an NBA talent with high-end starter potential. But to get there, he'll have improvements and adjustments to make regarding his shot and shot selection.
3. D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6'5", PG/SG, Freshman
Spectacularly skilled, from his handle and jumper (95 threes, 41.1 percent from deep) to his dynamic scoring ability (19.3 points per game), D'Angelo Russell offers superstar NBA potential.
And with unteachable vision and passing instincts (five assists per game), as well as legitimate 6'5" size, Russell possesses the versatility and physical tools to play either backcourt position.
The only knock on Russell stems from his lack of above-the-rim explosiveness—the same knock that likely led to five franchises passing on Stephen Curry in 2009.
It wouldn't be overly surprising if Russell eventually emerged as the top prospect from this class.
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6'11", C, Freshman
The most polished post scorer we've come across in recent memory, Jahlil Okafor should be ready to roll offensively from Day 1 on the job.
At 6'11", 270 pounds, he has a body built for the NBA's interior. Meanwhile, his skill level from 15 feet and in is off the charts. He has advanced moves to go to and instinctive ones to counter with.
Okafor also possesses an extremely impressive basketball IQ.
His 4.5 percent block percentage, per Sports-Reference.com, is a bit scary. Centers who aren't proficient rim protectors (Greg Monroe, Nikola Vucevic, Nikola Pekovic) lose some NBA value points.
But Okafor's offensive game is just too strong and convincing. He projects as an option teams can go to for half-court offense against a set defense. And there just aren't too many of those in today's game.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6'11", PF/C, Freshman
Of those likely to generate No. 1 overall consideration, you can argue Karl-Anthony Towns offers the most certainty and the most upside.
At 6'11", 250 pounds with a 7'3" wingspan, he's the better athlete and defender than Duke's Jahlil Okafor, who blocked 34 fewer shots despite playing 321 more minutes.
Towns also flashed rare shooting potential for a big man, having knocked down 81.3 percent of his free throws and making a handful of pick-and-pop jumpers. Okafor's 51 percent free-throw mark highlights his lack of comfort shooting with two hands on the ball.
And though not as polished as Okafor in the post, Towns' gradual improvement as a back-to-the-basket scorer suggests there is more development to come.
He possesses unparalleled offensive versatility in this draft, as well as a high defensive ceiling. Except for the Philadelphia 76ers, who are just so crowded up front, I'd consider him the can't-miss option at No. 1 overall.