The Los Angeles Lakers struck NBA Draft Lottery gold on May 19, landing the number two overall selection in the upcoming draft. Barring a trade, it will be the team’s highest pick since 1982 when they took James Worthy with the top pick.
Now that the draft order is officially set, we can officially begin to speculate where all of this year’s prospects will be starting their NBA careers. So without further ado, here’s the first version of my 2015 NBA Mock Draft.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
Towns is the best all-around prospect in this draft class. He has a smooth jumper for a big man, can finish down on the block and is an exceptional defender who can anchor a defense. Pairing him with reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins is too enticing to pass up.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Okafor isn’t a perfect fit alongside Julius Randle, but he’s the safest pick in this draft. His low-post game is as polished as any prospect since Tim Duncan. He’s an excellent passer out of double-teams and possesses tremendous size and length, although his defensive effort needs to become more consistent. Okafor and Randle could develop into an incredible frontcourt duo for many years to come.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
Russell’s skill set and basketball IQ are advanced far beyond his age. He has superb court vision and passing ability, plus he’s a natural scorer from anywhere on the court. The thought of him operating in pick-and-roll action with Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel would have me ecstatic if I was a Sixers fan.
4. New York Knicks – Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Emmanuel Mudiay is the best available player on my board, but the triangle offense would be a terrible fit for him. Drafting Winslow gives them a strong, physical wing that can defend multiple positions. He’s a solid perimeter shooter and floor spacer that can attack the basket and finish through contract. If his offensive game continues to round into form, Winslow could be an exceptional NBA player.
5. Orlando Magic – Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
The Magic can match any offer sheet that Tobias Harris signs this summer, and all reports out of Orlando indicate that they will, so they get arguably the best defensive prospect in the draft with Cauley-Stein. Vucevic and Harris struggle on the defensive end, but Cauley-Stein’s rim protection and ability to guard virtually every position will pick up the slack.
6. Sacramento Kings – Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Porzingis is a seven-footer that can shoot and put the ball on the floor. That shooting ability will allow DeMarcus Cousins room to operate down low, along with netting himself plenty of burn as a pick-and-pop stretch four. The sky is the limit for Porzingis, who could be special if he fulfills his potential.
7. Denver Nuggets – Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China
Trade rumors are swirling around Ty Lawson, who seemingly isn’t happy in Denver anymore. The Nuggets get a replacement for him if they decide to part ways by getting the best player on the board and a top-four talent in Mudiay.
8. Detroit Pistons – Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Croatia
Stan Van Gundy wants to space the floor with shooters, and that’s Hezonja’s best attribute. He has great range, surprising explosiveness when attacking the basket and an outstanding 6-foot-8 frame that should allow him to play the two or the three.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
The Hornets get a big, physical wing that’s superb on the defensive side of the basketball. Because of his incredible build at 6-foot-7, approximately 240 pounds, Johnson can defend multiple positions and contribute on the glass. If he can become more consistent as a scorer, watch out.
10. Miami Heat – Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
Dwyane Wade’s knees won’t allow him to play full seasons anymore, so some additional depth from a player that can play the two or the three would help tremendously. Oubre has excellent length and defensive upside, but will likely make the biggest impact with his scoring instincts.
11. Indiana Pacers – Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
Paul George will be back next season to go with George Hill, who is coming off arguably the best season of his career. To complete their perimeter attack, Indiana selects a premier three-point shooter with a solid feel for the game.
12. Utah Jazz – Myles Turner, C, Texas
The Jazz already have a fantastic young core that finished the season by going 19-10 in their last 29 games, all without Alec Burks. They simply need to continue adding depth, and they get a big man with a sweet stroke and good defensive instincts by selecting Turner.
13. Phoenix Suns – Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Alex Len made some strides last season, but Kaminsky is such a skilled seven-footer that can score inside and out. The Suns are another team that likes to space the floor and “Frank the tank” excels in that regard.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder – Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
Enes Kanter is a restricted free agent and the Thunder have a lot of money tied up with their big three. Lyles adds a cheap option for a big off the bench with a quality skill set for someone that’s 6-foot-10.
15. Atlanta Hawks (Via Brooklyn) – Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Paul Millsap is set to hit the open market and will surely garner interest from several other teams. Atlanta gets another power forward with a few similar qualities in terms of his prowess on the boards and the capability to step away from the basket and knock down midrange shots, although he needs to become more consistent in that aspect.
16. Boston Celtics – Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
Dekker is a versatile forward at 6-foot-9 who is an adequate perimeter shooter. Boston drafted a wing in James Young last year, but I’m not sold on him being a significant contributor at this level. Dekker has a great motor and feel for the game. Brad Stevens would enjoy having a player like this on his team.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
The Bucks are another team with a great young core that could take some big steps forward in the next few years. One of the things they need is another talented big off the bench. Portis has an intriguing skill set with excellent size at the four.
18. Houston Rockets (Via New Orleans) – Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
If Houston doesn’t want to match any offers Patrick Beverley might receive as a restricted free agent this summer, Payne is the guy to take at No. 18. He has a natural ability to score the basketball and knows how to utilize his length on defense.
19. Washington Wizards – Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Nene has one year left on his contract and he’ll turn 33 later this year. Harrell can step in and provide a physical presence in the paint and on the glass with an astounding motor and phenomenal strength.
20. Toronto Raptors – Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
Legitimate wings are in short supply in this draft class. Toronto gets one of my favorites with this pick. Anderson’s combination of leaping ability, outside shooting (45.1 percent from three last season), defense and physical profile should make him a successful role player at the very least.
21. Dallas Mavericks – Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Jones has a fantastic basketball IQ, rarely gets in difficult spots with the ball and shoots from the three-point line with extreme precision. He showed how clutch he was throughout the year, but took it to another level in the national championship game, taking over in the second half. He’s the type of player Rick Carlisle will love, especially after dealing with Rajon Rondo.
22. Chicago Bulls – Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
Chicago’s point guard options right now are the injury prone Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Aaron Brooks is a free agent and Grant, as a four-year college player, could immediately make an impact off the bench in his rookie season. He has a prominent skill set and was a terrific leader at Notre Dame.
23. Portland Trail Blazers – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
Hollis-Jefferson is arguably the best perimeter defender in the draft. With Wesley Matthews either on his way out via free agency or missing the early stages of the 2015-2016 season due to a torn Achilles tendon, Hollis-Jefferson can fill a large portion of the defensive void.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers – Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
If Kevin Love is indeed on his way out of Cleveland, Tristan Thompson probably takes his spot as the starter, given his stellar efforts in the playoffs. Wood is a versatile four that has shown the ability to hit jumpers, but needs to add strength to his wiry frame.
25. Memphis Grizzlies – Robert Upshaw, C, Washington
Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufous are both set to hit the free agent market in July. Koufous can probably find a more significant role elsewhere for perhaps a more lucrative salary, so odds are Memphis loses at least one. Upshaw has had some issues off the court that could be ironed out learning from the veterans on this team. If he manages to do so, Memphis could have a steal.
26. San Antonio Spurs – R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
Hunter struggles a bit to create his own offense, but wouldn’t need to worry about that with San Antonio. He can shoot the ball and operate well within a system. Additionally, he’s a coach’s son and a high character kid — just the type of prospect the Spurs like.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Via Houston) – Delon Wright, PG, Utah
Wright played a full college career with the Utes and it shows with his feel for the game. He knows how to create for his teammates and has great size at the point guard position. His shooting improved last season, but still needs some work to become a better fit alongside Jordan Clarkson. Wright does possess considerable lateral quickness however, which could provide the Lakers help they desperately need on defense.
28. Boston Celtics (Via L.A. Clippers) – Jarell Martin, PF, LSU
Boston went with Dekker earlier to add a versatile wing to the roster, so they get some frontcourt depth here. Martin is a bit undersized at the power forward position when it comes to height, but provides versatility of his own. He often times players bigger than his size as well.
29. Brooklyn Nets (Via Atlanta) – Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas
Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young can both opt out of their contracts and I don’t think anyone would blame them for wanting out of that mess of a situation Brooklyn is dealing with. Alexander was a projected lottery pick early in the season until some eligibility issues forced him to sit out a huge chunk of the year, crushing his draft stock in the process. This could turn out to be tremendous value at the end of the first round.
30. Golden State Warriors – Rakeem Christmas, PF, Syracuse
The Warriors have the best roster in the league from top to bottom. I mean, that’s sort of why they’re in the NBA Finals. As a result, David Lee has been buried on the bench. They could look to shed his contract in a trade and replace him with Christmas, who has a 7’5″ wingspan and impressed scouts at the combine with an improved offensive game. Even though he’s already 23 years old and the team he’s joining is in the finals, Golden State doesn’t have much to worry about so late in the first round.