The stars always steal the show at every NBA draft, hogging all the discussions before and after the selection process. This year has proved no different, with everyone intrigued over how the uncertain top five will play out.
There's countless literature available on Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. It's not hard to find an opinion on D'Angelo Russell, and "mystery man" Kristaps Porzingis' rising popularity has become the league's worst-kept secret.
Where they land sets the tone for Thursday's first round, but a majority of clubs have no hope of snagging any of those prospects. They must instead dissect the unheralded candidates to close out Round 1.
Stars typically don't get their start in the 20s, but contenders will be happy to walk away with a valuable asset to toss into the rotation. Let's take a closer look at some interesting names who slipped to the end of the latest first-round mock draft.
|2015 NBA Mock Draft: Round 1|
|1||Minnesota Timberwolves||Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke|
|3||Philadelphia 76ers||D'Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State|
|4||New York Knicks||Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Congo|
|5||Orlando Magic||Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia|
|6||Sacramento Kings||Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky|
|7||Denver Nuggets||Justise Winslow, SF, Duke|
|8||Detroit Pistons||Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia|
|9||Charlotte Hornets||Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona|
|10||Miami Heat||Myles Turner, PF, Texas|
|11||Indiana Pacers||Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State|
|12||Utah Jazz||Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky|
|13||Phoenix Suns||Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin|
|14||Oklahoma City Thunder||Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky|
|15||Atlanta Hawks (from Nets)||Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin|
|16||Boston Celtics||Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas|
|17||Milwaukee Bucks||Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas|
|18||Houston Rockets (from Pelicans)||Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame|
|19||Washington Wizards||Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA|
|20||Toronto Raptors||R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State|
|21||Dallas Mavericks||Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV|
|22||Chicago Bulls||Tyus Jones, PG, Duke|
|23||Portland Trail Blazers||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona|
|24||Cleveland Cavaliers||Delon Wright, PG, Utah|
|25||Memphis Grizzlies||Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia|
|26||San Antonio Spurs||Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville|
|27||Los Angeles Lakers (from Rockets)||Robert Upshaw, C, Washington|
|28||Boston Celtics (from Clippers)||Jarell Martin, PF, LSU|
|29||Brooklyn Nets (from Hawks)||Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville|
|30||Golden State Warriors||Christian Wood, PF, UNLV|
Justin Anderson, SG/SF, Virginia
Of the three players we'll discuss, Justin Anderson is the safest bet to secure a first-round selection. While projected to the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 25, that pairing probably represents a pessimistic slot for the Virginia guard/forward.
According to Sports-Reference.com, the Cavaliers compiled a 91.0 defensive rating through three years with Anderson on the court. The physical defender has the size and strength to excel at the pro level, and he's confident in the flexibility he can offer. As he told Todd Dybas of the Washington Times, the NBA's evolving style plays right into his hands:
I can play the four. I’m a natural two or three, but, like we were talking earlier about, the way the NBA’s going playing small ball, with my body I think I can guard multiple positions.
You got to be versatile. Just try to hone your skills. The best thing about it is there’s so much room for improvement for me.
After two subpar shooting seasons, Anderson exploded from beyond the arc as a junior. He nailed 1.8 three-pointers per game at 45.2 percent accuracy, a massive improvement from the previous year's 29.4 percentage.
If that progress sticks at the next level, he'll become a valuable three-and-D perimeter presence. As much as Memphis values defense, it needs some outside scoring to keep up with its more explosive Western Conference competitors.
Delon Wright, PG, Utah
With so many one-and-done freshmen entering the mix as teenagers, 23-year-old Delon Wright already has a few years over his younger peers. As Salt City Hoops' Ben Dowsett noted, he's also about to become the first Utah alum selected in a decade:
Adding everything together, he's not a high-upside choice. Even when offering praise, ESPN Insider Chad Ford limited the guard's ceiling.
"He's an excellent, pass-first point guard who, if he can continue to improve his jumper, could be a terrific NBA backup," Ford wrote in his latest mock draft. Although it's quite the backhanded compliment, several squads would sign up for that.
A pickpocket extraordinaire, Wright averaged 2.1 steals during his senior season after swiping 2.5 balls per game the previous year. Dorell Wright, a forward for the Portland Trail Blazers, endorsed his brother's defensive acumen to Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.
"That's the No. 1 thing, and that's the thing that every team in the NBA needs," he told Hughes. "He's willing to sacrifice his offensive game to get on the court to guard guys."
The Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls should give him a look, but Wright's limited shooting will cause him to slip a tad further. After getting spurned by a lack of depth during the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers grab an NBA-ready talent to spell Kyrie Irving.
Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
Terry Rozier is a tough prospect to project. On one hand, he's a point guard who recorded a 41.1 field-goal percentage and 3.0 assists per game for Louisville last season. On the other, he's a tenacious driver and defender.
The definition of a true point guard has expanded, with all of them no longer required to unselfishly create offense for everyone else. Rozier attacks the rim with fury and finishes well. Louisville coach Rick Pitino evaluated his former player, per NBA.com's Chris Dortch.
“I think you see what a special player Terry Rozier is because when the play breaks down and things don't go well, he, like [Dwyane] Wade his idol, he can get his shot off any which way and almost every 15 to 17 foot shot he takes, you think it's going in,” he said.
Rozier's size may draw some detractors, but his shooting presents the biggest threat to his first-round status. During his sophomore season with the Cardinals, he made 48 of 157 three-pointers. Like Wright, he'll have to earn a role with defensive fortitude.
A borderline Eastern Conference playoff candidate, the Brooklyn Nets aren't his ideal designation, but they're intent on not bottoming out after throwing away several future picks. They'll need some guard depth behind veterans Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.