2015 NBA Mock Draft: Latest Predictions for All 1st-Round Prospects

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2015

Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Karl-Anthony Towns (12) shoots against Wisconsin Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky (44) in the first half of the 2015 NCAA Men's Division I Championship semi-final game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The time has finally come to turn in our final term papers for the 2015 NBA draft. All the research, all the talks with scouts and all the rampant discussion across social media will finally pay dividends Thursday night.

While those months of research have given us a generally strong view of what's to come for the first dozen or so picks, that doesn't mean we're right about everything. Each year, the draft brings with it a series of surprising decisions, ranging from the truly confounding to the prescient.

Three years ago, the Boston Celtics blew up their core by trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world by selecting Anthony Bennett. The Philadelphia 76ers continued the most blatant rebuild in NBA history last year, selecting two players in the first 11 picks who would play a combined zero games for them.

All of that should tell us one thing: No matter how much time and effort are put into the predraft process, nothing is truly settled until Thursday night. With that in mind, let's take a look at how the first round may shake out.

Mock Draft

1Minnesota TimberwolvesKarl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
2Los Angeles LakersJahlil Okafor, C, Duke
3Philadelphia 76ersD'Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State
4New York KnicksEmmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
5Orlando MagicKristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
6Sacramento KingsJustise Winslow, SF, Duke
7Denver NuggetsMario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
8Detroit PistonsCameron Payne, PG, Murray State
9Charlotte HornetsDevin Booker, SG, Kentucky
10Miami HeatStanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
11Indiana PacersWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
12Utah JazzMyles Turner, PF/C, Texas
13Phoenix SunsKelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
14Oklahoma City ThunderTrey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
15Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn Nets)Frank Kaminsky, PF/C, Wisconsin
16Boston CelticsSam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
17Milwaukee BucksKevon Looney, PF, UCLA
18Houston Rockets (via New Orleans Pelicans)Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
19Washington WizardsBobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
20Toronto RaptorsRashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
21Dallas MavericksR.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
22Chicago BullsTyus Jones, PG, Duke
23Portland Trail BlazersChristian Wood, PF, UNLV
24Cleveland CavaliersRondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
25Memphis GrizzliesDelon Wright, PG, Utah
26San Antonio SpursRakeem Christmas, PF/C, Syracuse
27Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas
28Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers)Robert Upshaw, C, Washington
29Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks)Justin Anderson, SG/SF, Virginia
30Golden State WarriorsGuillermo Hernangomez, C, Spain

Top Five Analysis

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky

The reasoning now is the same as it was a couple of months ago. Towns isn't the best player in the class right now. He will be in two or three years, which falls directly into the timeline the Timberwolves have carved out. Pushing the issue and taking Jahlil Okafor because of his easy projectability hampers the ceiling of what's shaping up to be a dynamic young core.

Ricky Rubio's quietly developed into one of the NBA's best defensive point guards, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine both project as solid perimeter defenders and Towns has the skills to be a real two-way threat. Towns didn't always show a defensive tenacity at Kentucky, but he's learning. I have yet to find a fully formed aspect of his game, which is both a criticism and a compliment.

Like Wiggins this year, we should see Towns slowly come into his own as next season progresses. If head coach Flip Saunders does as solid a job of bringing him along as he did the 2014 crop of rookies, look out.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke

The Lakers aren't going to pass up Okafor. Maybe they should—I've had D'Angelo Russell second on my board since May—but they won't. Okafor is everything this Lakers front office wants in a young prospect. He's instantly translatable, a proven winner at every level and a potentially marketable star on the offensive end.

There are legitimate basketball concerns about building a frontcourt around Okafor and Julius Randle, two players with generally similar skill sets and weaknesses. The Lakers will not be a rim-protection juggernaut.

But Randle's coming off a serious injury and is perhaps more of an asset than a building block; the Lakers are going to be aggressive about adding a veteran piece this summer, possibly in a trade if they strike out in free agency.

The fact is Okafor has the potential to join the Lakers' long line of elite centers. That's enough to justify the selection alone.

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

Mar 19, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes guard D'Angelo Russell (0) shoots flagrant 1 foul shots against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the second half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Go
Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Russell isn't a point guard, but we've reached a point in NBA discourse where positionality is less important than ever. The Ohio State product is a classic combo guard built in the mold of a left-handed Brandon Roy who can work as a primary ball-handler or off the ball equally well.

Sam Hinkie, the Sixers' general manager, worked under Daryl Morey in Houston. He's watched from afar as James Harden has transformed the way the Rockets play. Russell shares many of the same qualities and arguably projects as a better spot-up shooter.

The cat has been out of the bag on this pick for months, per the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey. The Sixers want Russell.

4. New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China

Cut away all the Frank Kaminsky jokes and almost-incessant reports about the Knicks going a different direction with this pick, such as this one from CBS Sports' Ken Berger, and the answer remains the same. Mudiay has been seen as New York-bound since the beginning of the process and should wind up sticking here if the Knicks stick here.

Built with a ready-made NBA body (6'5", 200 lbs) and elite athleticism, Mudiay's easiest comparisons are to Russell Westbrook and John Wall. He attacks the rim with a reckless abandon, consistently finishing through contact as if it isn't even there. When things are clicking, the All-NBA and All-Defensive whistles start whirring in your head.

What's scaring teams is his floor. Guards who can't shoot are dropping out of the NBA like flies. Only the truly special, the ones on the Wall-Westbrook level, survive. Rubio's an All-Defensive talent and one of the league's five best passers, but you won't find a Timberwolves fan who is 100 percent sold on him because of his shooting woes.

Considering Mudiay isn't an elite passer at this point, things get awfully scary once you start picking at his flaws.

(Note: If I were to bet, the Knicks trade this pick to a team looking to move up for Kristaps Porzingis. But we're not mocking trades here, mostly for the sake of sanity.)

5. Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia

Porzingis is arguably the only player for whom the Knicks could justify passing on Mudiay. On paper, there is no other player in this class with his array of skills. Porzingis is a 7-footer with good athleticism, a three-point stroke, aggressive shot-blocking tendencies and an above-average basketball IQ. He's everything we heard about Darko Milicic—only there's actual film to back it up.

Of course, Porzingis is also rail-thin (220 lbs) and has never come close to playing the extended minutes he would at the NBA level. There is no way he could handle even average NBA 4s defensively at this point, and he'll need a lot of cognitive work to make things click when defending perimeter players.

The Magic are one of a handful of teams that can afford to take such a risk. Their roster is built around manic defenders who are lacking in their ability to space the floor. Orlando signed Channing Frye to a big contract last summer hoping he'd fix the problem, and Porzingis at his very worst will be a better two-way version of that type of player.

Orlando will be doing backflips if he's available. If not, look for Justise Winslow in this spot.

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