2015 NBA Mock Draft: Jonathan Wasserman's 1st-Round Predictions
With just a few days to go before the 2015 NBA draft, teams and NBA prospects are wrapping up their final predraft workouts. In the meantime, rumors continue to fly left and right.
The Los Angeles Lakers recently brought in Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay for second auditions, per ESPN.com's Chad Ford. Meanwhile, it remains wholly unclear which prospect(s) the Philadelphia 76ers covet at the No. 3 spot.
Those selections will ultimately have a major impact on the New York Knicks' decision at No. 4, where they can hold firm or trade back to a team looking for a star.
What follows is a look at how the first round is expected to play out on Thursday.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6'11", PF/C, Freshman
The Timberwolves worked out D'Angelo Russell on Thursday, per ESPN.com's Chad Ford, but logic suggests this is just a formality. Unless Minnesota has favored Russell all along, there shouldn't be much he can do in a one-on-one workout to suddenly persuade management he's the superior prospect to Karl-Anthony Towns.
With above-the-rim athleticism, textbook physical tools and an inside-out offensive game, Towns has the highest ceiling in the class, and happens to fill a major need—rim protection—for the Wolves.
He ultimately gives them everything Nikola Pekovic can't—spacing on offense and a defensive anchor down low.
Towns worked out for Minnesota on Saturday, per Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press, and have seemingly settled on him as their guy. The Timberwolves have reportedly informed him that they'll be selecting him No. 1 on Thursday, according to SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6'11", C, Freshman
There is a decent chance the Los Angeles Lakers are still weighing their options, having brought in Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay for second workouts. They even conducted one with Kristaps Porzingis, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
But assuming Okafor had the edge heading into the predraft process, we're betting on him emerging from it as the pick.
He gives the Lakers an option they can immediately feature in the half court, as well as a potential long-term centerpiece in the middle.
Assuming Marc Gasol re-signs with Memphis this summer, look for the Lakers to build their frontcourt through the draft while using free agency to fill out their backcourt and wing rotation.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6'5", PG/SG, Freshman
There has been buzz suggesting the Philadelphia 76ers could be interested in Latvia's Kristaps Porzingis at No. 3, per ESPN.com's Chad Ford, but we're going to chalk it up as traditional late-June smoke and noise.
It's just too difficult to buy into the idea general manager Sam Hinkie would pass on D'Angelo Russell, who offers similar All-Star upside, less perceived risk and much-needed balance to a lineup without a lead guard.
Hinkie ultimately had to have Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay on his mind when he sent Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline. Russell's versatility as a passer, scorer and shooter is what separates him from the latter. He also oozes with the confidence and maturity teams typically look for in primary decision-makers.
Hinkie is clearly a gambler, so it wouldn't be completely shocking if he rolled the dice on Porzingis. But with Joel Embiid recently suffering a setback, he just can't afford to miss here.
4. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 7'1", PF, 1995
The New York Knicks will likely be sifting through offers for the No. 4 pick. If they make a deal, chances are it's with a team looking to snag Kristaps Porzingis.
Even if the Knicks keep the pick, Porzingis could be the favorite here regardless, as he certainly has the upside to justify the selection.
Team president Phil Jackson recently reinforced his team's commitment to the triangle offense in an interview with the New York Times' Scott Cacciola, and Porzingis has the skill set the system values. Jackson may ultimately covet his shooting and face-up game for a big man.
Seeing how Porzingis' stock has seemingly risen around the league as of late, New York could even take him and look for a better trade offer after the draft.
5. Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow, Duke, 6'6 ½", SF, Freshman
The Orlando Magic were one of the league's worst defensive teams last year, and though Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein is arguably the top defender in the draft, a lineup with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Cauley-Stein could have trouble scoring efficiently.
Justise Winslow, who recently worked out for Orlando, offers the Magic a potential lockdown wing defender, along with plenty of offensive upside as a slasher, attacker and shooter.
Though the Magic won't be looking to fill a specific position, Winslow also happens to be a quality insurance policy if Tobias Harris' price rises too high in restricted free agency this summer.
For what it's worth, Winslow played with both Payton and Gordon on the 2013 Under-19 FIBA World Championship team that took gold. If the Magic do select him at No. 5, it shouldn't take him long to rekindle chemistry with his former teammates.
6. Sacramento Kings: Mario Hezonja, Croatia, 6'8", SG/SF, 1995
Barcelona lost Game 1 of the Spanish ACB Finals, but Mario Hezonja made the most of his time on the floor, having hit five of six three-pointers en route to 18 impressive points.
In terms of upside, he's neck and neck with Emmanuel Mudiay, who, to most, would seem like the obvious pick here. But Mudiay is a ball-dominant guard who struggles with shooting and turnovers, making him a questionable fit in a lineup that's already committed to a competent Darren Collison through the 2016-17 season.
Hezonja is loaded with potential stemming from his elite athleticism, 6'8" size for a wing, deadly three ball and impressive handle.
Vlade Divac, who's now in charge for the Kings, is likely fairly familiar with Hezonja and the international scene. The Kings could insert Hezonja at the 3, move Rudy Gay to the 4 and try the small-ball approach.
7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, China, 6'5", PG, 1996
Point guards, like NFL quarterbacks, are always vulnerable to sliding. Emmanuel Mudiay isn't likely to be an option for a Magic team that's set in the backcourt, and with the Kings committed to Darren Collison, they could pass as well.
That leaves Mudiay to the Denver Nuggets, who will simply be looking to draft the top talent on the board, regardless of position.
If Mudiay is gone, don't be surprised if the Nuggets consider Mario Hezonja, whose sharp competitive edge should appeal to new head coach Michael Malone.
8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6'6 ½", SF, Freshman
After acquiring a stretch 4 in Ersan Ilyasova via a mid-June trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Detroit Pistons will likely use the draft to fill their gaping hole on the wing.
With Croatia's Mario Hezonja off the board in this scenario, president Stan Van Gundy should be looking at Arizona's Stanley Johnson, Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, Kentucky's Devin Booker and possibly Kansas' Kelly Oubre. The former, a 6'6 ½", 242-pound bully, is the obvious top complement to Ilyasova, who isn't as physical or tough defensively.
Johnson offers scoring ability, having averaged 19.4 points per 40 minutes and shot 37.1 percent from three-point range as a freshman, as well as the tools to guard small forwards, 2s and ball-handlers.
“Hopefully, everything’s pointing to me getting picked here,” Johnson said following his workout in Detroit, per NBA.com's Keith Langlois.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0 ½", C, Junior
The Charlotte Hornets take Willie Cauley-Stein here because they value talent above team fit.
“We’re going to take the best player available,” general manager Rich Cho said recently, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “We’re going to address the shooting this summer, but it could be through the draft, free agency or a trade.”
Cauley-Stein ultimately has the potential to become one of the league's most valuable and unique defensive players. He gives the Hornets a rim protector, as well as a big man who can switch onto guards in pick-and-roll coverage.
Kentucky's Devin Booker may fill a more direct need, but if Cauley-Stein is available, Charlotte shouldn't pass.
10. Miami Heat: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'9", SF, Junior
Sam Dekker was the first big name to meet with the Miami Heat back in May, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman. For the most part, he's only working out for lottery teams.
Without any obvious potential stars left on the board, Miami could opt for Dekker, a versatile wing with a high floor and attractive role-playing qualities. And given his experience (back-to-back Final Fours) and NBA body, the Heat could tap into his versatility from opening night.
Dekker doesn't excel in any one area, but it's his ability to make plays within an offense, whether it's as a cutter, passer, driver or shooter, that should hold legitimate NBA value.
11. Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner, Texas, 6'11 ½", C, Freshman
Myles Turner potentially offers a blend of strengths most NBA bigs can't: rim protection and the ability to stretch the floor. Usually, centers do one or the other, but not both.
Indiana has worked out Turner with Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, two bigs whose shooting strokes should considerably intrigue the franchise.
Turner's superior defensive upside could tip the scales in his favor. Indiana can take a year and groom him as its long-term anchor in the middle.
12. Utah Jazz: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7'1", PF/C, Senior
I'm not sure how the Utah Jazz can let Frank Kaminsky get by them at No. 12. You could argue he's the best player available or an ideal fit for a frontcourt that has two interior-oriented bigs.
The Jazz have a handful of guards and wings but very little depth up front behind Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Filling out the frontcourt rotation with a big man with a reliable perimeter stroke makes perfect sense for Utah.
I wouldn't worry about Kaminsky not having worked out for the team. He's been around long enough for management to have recognized his strengths, weaknesses and high character.
13. Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6'6", SG, Freshman
The Phoenix Suns could be looking at Murray State's Cameron Payne here, but given the likelihood the team re-signs Brandon Knight in restricted free agency, this is a good spot to fill a separate need.
In terms of talent, Devin Booker justifies the No. 13 overall selection. With Gerald Green and Marcus Thornton entering free agency, the Suns could also use another shot-maker on the wing.
Booker's ability to shoot and score in off-ball settings should hold extra value in a lineup consisting of two ball-dominant guards (Knight, Eric Bledsoe).
The Suns finished the 2014-15 season ranked 20th in three-point shooting percentage. Booker would be a strong addition and ideal fit in Phoenix.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, Murray State, 6'1 ½", PG, Sophomore
Cameron Payne hasn't worked out for Phoenix, which may or may not mean something, but if Indiana takes a big at No. 11, Payne could easily slip to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Payne is a stud offensively whose only real knock is a poor strength of schedule. He's a terrific passer, a dangerous scorer off the dribble and a threatening shooter with plenty of range.
Look for the Thunder to try to upgrade their backcourt depth and add Payne's playmaking and firepower off the bench.
Though he suffered a non-displaced fracture in the ring finger of his off hand during a workout with Denver, per DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony, that shouldn't factor into anyone's draft decision.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6'10", PF, Freshman
At No. 15, the Atlanta Hawks take Trey Lyles as the best available talent, though with Paul Millsap entering unrestricted free agency, they may also soon be in need of a starting a power forward.
Lyles offers that potential thanks to strong physical tools, a polished inside-out repertoire and a high basketball IQ.
Kansas' Kelly Oubre could also be an option here, though Atlanta will likely view Lyles as the better overall prospect.
UNLV's Rashad Vaughn will be another name to keep an eye on.
16. Boston Celtics: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, 6'6", SG, Junior
You'd like to think the Boston Celtics will try to package No. 16 with No. 28 and move up, but it's unclear how much of a kicker that late-first rounder will be. If they stick here, R.J. Hunter should get strong consideration, given Boston's lack of size and shooting in the backcourt.
Hunter also happens to be an underrated passer and a high-IQ presence, two strengths coach Brad Stevens is likely to value.
Hunter received an invite to the green room, per ESPN.com's Andy Katz, meaning he's likely among the top 20 on a sizable portion of teams' draft boards.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6'10 ½", PF, Sophomore
The Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks could be threats to snatch up Bobby Portis, but there is a good chance he's there for the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 17.
Portis worked out for the Bucks and fills a need as an offensive-minded big. At 6'10 ½", he has a smooth mid-range shooting stroke and refined post game from both the elbows and block.
A lack of explosiveness limits his upside at each end of the floor, but Portis ultimately projects as a safe bet and high-end role player with starter potential.
18. Houston Rockets: Tyus Jones, Duke, 6'2", PG, Freshman
It wouldn't be surprising if the Houston Rockets were set on Tyus Jones for the past month. With Patrick Beverley and Jason Terry both entering free agency, the Rockets need a point guard and playmaker that is comfortable passing before shooting.
Jones fits that description.
He's a natural facilitator who can set the table for teammates and score opportunistically as a pull-up and spot-up shooter.
Jones' track record as a one-and-done national champion only enhances the appeal tied to his leadership qualities and maturity.
19. Washington Wizards: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6'7", SF, Sophomore
At No. 19, the Wizards will have the chance to add a defensive stopper in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who just worked out for the team on Thursday, per the Washington Post's Jorge Castillo.
Hollis-Jefferson ultimately has the potential to become one of the game's premier defensive weapons, with the ability lock down on the wing, as well as guard ball-handlers, 2s and hybrid 4s.
Washington could even try using him as a small-ball power forward, the way the Golden State Warriors did with Draymond Green. Hollis-Jefferson will become a huge steal if he can start knocking down open jumpers around the arc consistently.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6'4", PG, Senior
With Lou Williams expected to generate all sorts of interest in free agency, the Toronto Raptors could look to cover themselves and add another playmaker in the draft. Jerian Grant will be in play here if the Wizards don't take him with the previous pick.
Grant, who worked out in Toronto earlier this month, is a terrific passer and setup man at the point. Given his 6'4 ¼" size and scoring ability, the Raptors could even slide him off the ball alongside Kyle Lowry.
Toronto could look at Montrezl Harrell and Kevon Looney, but neither are necessarily obvious upgrades at power forward.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6'7", SF, Freshman
Someone slides every year. Without the production to show for the upside, it could be Kelly Oubre in 2015. But the Dallas Mavericks shouldn't let Oubre slip past them at No. 21.
He didn't have the most convincing season at Kansas, having averaged just 9.3 points, totaling 28 assists in 36 games and disappearing in key spots.
However, Oubre possesses an NBA-friendly blend of athleticism and shot-making ability. He's smooth in the open floor and threatening from downtown. In addition, he's flashed promising defensive potential fueled by lateral quickness and a 7'2 ¼" wingspan.
22. Chicago Bulls: Rashad Vaughn, UNLV, 6'5", SG, Freshman
Even if Jimmy Butler re-signs with the Chicago Bulls in restricted free agency, Rashad Vaughn's shooting touch and scoring ability should attract the franchise. Chicago could use another shot-maker off the bench, especially with Mike Dunleavy entering free agency, Doug McDermott having struggled as a rookie this past season and Tony Snell's offensive inconsistency.
Vaughn's name has been heating up over the past month, as he's been able to showcase his silky smooth jumper in workouts.
Chicago hosted Vaughn earlier in June. Virginia's Justin Anderson could be another wing on the Bulls' radar, but Vaughn, still just 18 years old and the much bigger one-on-one threat, should get the edge.
23. Portland Trail Blazers: Kevon Looney, UCLA, 6'9", PF, Freshman
Portland has zero power forward depth behind LaMarcus Aldridge, who could depart Rip City as a free agent this summer. Though Kevon Looney is a project, no prospect remaining on the board is likely to offer much as a rookie.
Looney is a versatile forward who can face up and shoot or handle the ball in the open floor. He also has a strong nose for the ball on the offensive glass.
There is risk tied to his skinny frame and uninspiring athleticism, but his mismatch potential is worth pulling the trigger on this late in the first round.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Terry Rozier, Louisville, 6'2", PG/SG, Sophomore
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Cavaliers could decide to package this pick with Brendan Haywood's non-guaranteed contract in exchange for a playmaker.
But if the right offer never comes around and Cleveland still wants additional playmaking, Terry Rozier could be the play here. Though not a great passer or orchestrator, Rozier is explosive in the open floor and a constant threat to attack a defense off the dribble.
He's also tough as nails on defense and rebounds very well for the position. The Cavs would ultimately be a great fit for Rozier, who'd be able to play to his strengths and away from his weaknesses as a facilitator.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Delon Wright, Utah, 6'5 ½", PG, Senior
Delon Wright worked out for the Memphis Grizzlies and makes sense for them based on team needs and style of play.
He's one of the top defensive guards in the draft, having racked up 155 steals and a whopping 77 blocks in two years at Utah. At 6'5 ½", most of Wright's value lies within his ability to force turnovers and guard both backcourt positions.
However, he's also a strong table-setter who can control the pace and run an offense. Wright projects as a potential high-end, defensive-minded backup point guard.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'7 ½", PF, Junior
A lack of offensive progression over the past two years could make Montrezl Harrell vulnerable in this draft. Not much has changed regarding his scoring and shooting weaknesses. However, his strengths—athleticism, finishing and rebounding—should hold value in an energizer role.
Harrell's motor translates to easy buckets, second-chance opportunities, physical defense and interior activity.
The San Antonio Spurs would ultimately be a fitting home for Harrell, as he'd be able to focus on what he does well and not have to worry about creating offense.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets): Justin Anderson, Virginia, 6'6", SF, Jr.
It shouldn't necessarily be considered a slip if Justin Anderson is there at No. 27, given his limited upside and small sample size of production. But with their second first-round pick, the Lakers will take the three-and-D wing who shot 45.2 percent from three-point range as a junior.
They'll have to hope it wasn't a fluke—Anderson wasn't much of a shooter prior to this year, and he doesn't offer anything else on offense.
But at 230 pounds with a 43" max vertical, he's a physical, diesel, athletic wing who can guard 2s, 3s and hybrid 4s.
28. Boston Celtics: Arturas Gudaitis, Lithuania, 6'10", PF/C, 1993
With two first-round picks and no can't-miss options this late, don't be surprised if the Boston Celtics trade No. 28 or draft-and-stash an international prospect.
Arturas Gudaitis is a well-known name overseas, where he's showcased his above-the-rim athleticism and some face-up skills in Euroleague.
He has some intriguing defensive potential as well, something Boston could clearly use up front.
29. Brooklyn Nets (via Hawks): Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse, 6'10", PF/C, Senior
At No. 29, the Brooklyn Nets take advantage of a draft process that values potential. Rakeem Christmas would likely be a lot higher on boards if he wasn't 23 years old.
Christmas' stock has risen following a breakout senior year and standout performance at the NBA combine.
Without any upside left to chase this late in the draft, look for the Nets to take a hard look at Christmas, who could be physically and fundamentally ready to contribute as a reserve.
30. Golden State Warriors: Christian Wood, UNLV, 6'10 ½", PF, Sophomore
Christian Wood could need a year in the D-League, but he's oozing with potential that stems from his size, athleticism and face-up game.
At 6'10 ½", he hit 25 threes as a sophomore and looked comfortable attacking off the dribble and scoring on the move.
Wood is also a weapon around the basket, where he pulled in 10.0 boards and blocked 2.7 shots per game.
He hasn't generated much buzz in workouts, bur he did visit Golden State, where he'd be a solid fit as a possible stretch 4 and above-average run-and-jump athlete.