NBA Mock Draft 2015: Predictions for Prospects on Cusp of Round 1

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJune 20, 2015

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 29:  Terry Rozier #0 of the Louisville Cardinals looks down court in the first half of the game against the Michigan State Spartans during the East Regional Final of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Carrier Dome on March 29, 2015 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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
1Minnesota TimberwolvesKarl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
2Los Angeles LakersJahlil Okafor, C, Duke
3Philadelphia 76ersD'Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
4New York KnicksEmmanuel Mudiay, PG, Congo
5Orlando MagicKristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
6Sacramento KingsWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
7Denver NuggetsJustise Winslow, SF, Duke
8Detroit PistonsMario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
9Charlotte HornetsStanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
10Miami HeatMyles Turner, PF, Texas
11Indiana PacersCameron Payne, PG, Murray State
12Utah JazzTrey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
13Phoenix SunsFrank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
14Oklahoma City ThunderDevin Booker, SG, Kentucky
15Atlanta Hawks (from Nets)Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
16Boston CelticsKelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
17Milwaukee BucksBobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
18Houston Rockets (from Pelicans)Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
19Washington WizardsKevon Looney, PF, UCLA
20Toronto RaptorsR.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
21Dallas MavericksRashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
22Chicago BullsTyus Jones, PG, Duke
23Portland Trail BlazersRondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
24Cleveland CavaliersDelon Wright, PG, Utah
25Memphis GrizzliesJustin Anderson, SF, Virginia
26San Antonio SpursMontrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
27Los Angeles Lakers (from Rockets)Robert Upshaw, C, Washington
28Boston Celtics (from Clippers)Jarell Martin, PF, LSU
29Brooklyn Nets (from Hawks)Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
30Golden State WarriorsChristian Wood, PF, UNLV
Author's Predictions

Justin Anderson, SG/SF, Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JANUARY 31: Justin Anderson #1 of the Virginia Cavaliers reacts following a shot against the Duke Blue Devils at John Paul Jones Arena on January 31, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

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

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 27: Delon Wright #55 of the Utah Utes reacts against the Duke Blue Devils during a South Regional Semifinal game of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at NRG Stadium on March 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martine
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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:

Ben Dowsett @Ben_Dowsett

Crazy that Delon Wright is about to become the first Ute drafted since Bogut 1st overall in 2005.

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

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27:  Terry Rozier #0 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the second half of the game during the East Regional Semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Carrier Dome on
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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.


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