2015 NBA Mock Drafts: Sam Vecenie
The NBA Draft declaration process has come and gone, with 91 players deciding to throw their name in the hat for the draft.
Now, before preparing the hot take cannon and lamenting that 'there are only 60 picks. How did all of these kids get bad advice and declare for the draft?' remember some truths about this process. First and foremost, if history is any indication, that 91 number will likely be reduced by approximately 20 by the time international players decide to pull their names from consideration June 15. Second -- and more importantly -- there are more options than ever for players to earn a living playing basketball professionally. For 22 and 23-year-old kids like Terran Petteway or Tyler Harvey -- both of whom are on track to complete degrees prior to the draft -- there is not a major reason to return to school. For others -- like Jherrod Stiggers, Michael Frazier, or Michael Qualls -- they're close enough to their degrees that returning in the summer and finishing it out is a distinct possibility.
These kids have the rest of their lives to finish out degrees, if they want them. However, the unfortunate reality is that they only have a finite amount of time to maximize their earning potential playing the game they love. Within the next decade, the odds are high that injury and age will rob these kids of the ability to play professionally. So let's slow down a little bit before ridiculing how many of these kids 'got bad advice' or 'shouldn't have turned pro.'
Having said that, there were quite a few first-round prospects that decided to return to college, making room for some new players in this mock draft. Players like Kris Dunn, Caris LeVert, Jakob Poeltl and Domantas Sabonis will now all be a part of the 2016 NBA Draft, which means there are some definite winners from the declaration process that will earn themselves guaranteed contracts due to their choices. Guys like Terry Rozier, Robert Upshaw and Norman Powell have entered the first round in this mock, after those departures.
It's also worth noting that NBA prospects like Ron Baker, Brice Johnson, Amida Brimah, Melo Trimble and Yogi Ferrell returning have decimated the depth of the second round in this draft. Because of that, I think we're going to see an international-heavy round that sees somewhere between 10-15 picks being used on stash players. NBA teams would much rather have European teams pay to develop their prospects as opposed to them having to do it while wasting minimum contract years in the process. Here, I've projected 12 international players to be taken in the second round of the draft.
NBA Mock Draft - 04/29/2015
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns, PF, Kentucky: This is the first time I've moved Jahlil Okafor off of No. 1 line in the draft. However, Towns is the pick for the Wolves, in my opinion. The two players are close enough that you can take the player that best fits your team, and that will be the 7-foot big man from New Jersey that can comfortably do a lot of different things. He's physical enough to get a bucket in the paint, but also skilled enough to stretch the floor with his solid jump shot. That ability to stretch the floor is a big reason why he makes more sense for them, as Towns has the potential to keep the paint open for Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves are also in need of a rim protecting center, and Towns profiles to provide this after working out his foul issues.
2. New York Knicks
Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke: The Knicks still get their man at No. 2 in Okafor, a perfect fit for what they want to do for a multitude of reasons. First, his post ability and passing skill for a big man will fit the triangle splendidly. Second, the Knicks seem hellbent on contending as soon as possible, and Okafor is the more ready of the two players. The readiness is an important factor here. Knicks fans will be expecting this player to become the savior of the franchise along with Carmelo Anthony. Neither of these guys are ready to play on defense in the NBA, but at least Okafor knows how to stay out of foul trouble, which should help him make an early impact in order to get the fan base behind him. And in New York, that legitimately matters.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
D'Angelo Russell, SG, Ohio State: I buy the rumors that the 76ers have their sights set on Russell. He fits exactly what they need to a T. He's a great pick-and-roll guard that will help their big men develop offensively. Also, he's a great shooter that will help the floor-spacing starved roster. The Sixers will let him grow through his pains adjusting to the physical NBA, and coach Brett Brown will help him develop defensively in their system. A perfect fit for both parties.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China: The Lakers solve their point guard problems here by getting Mudiay, a terrific 19-year-old that has potential to become an All-Star. Imagine something of a pass-first Tyreke Evans -- a 6-foot-5 lead guard that can barrel his way into the lane at just about any time. While he may not be on the level athletically of a John Wall, he's a similarly creative passer that should become an excellent playmaker for others due to his unselfishness and ability to play in the pick-and-roll. This pick should pay dividends for the Lakers.
5. Orlando Magic
Justise Winslow, SF, Duke: The Magic are in a strange place here. One thing they could easily do is take Mario Hezonja, who is a potential star scorer that is getting semi-limited minutes for Barcelona in Spain. But the Magic have defaulted to terrific athletes in recent drafts under Rob Hennigan (Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo), and there are few better than Winslow. He was incredible in helping to lead Duke to highest heights in college basketball. Winslow has improved his jump shooting a lot, as he's shooting 42 percent on nearly three attempts per game from 3, which points to the potential at least for improvement if not purely developed skill. He's also improved as a ball-handler, and looks like he may legitimately turn into a true two-way star.
6. Sacramento Kings
Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein is a perfect fit for what the Kings want to do, and an added benefit is that he fits well next to DeMarcus Cousins. But let's start with his schematic fit. In George Karl's offense, the Kings will want to get out and run, and there are few big men who do that better than Cauley-Stein. On defense, he may be the best perimeter-defending big man that has entered the NBA Draft, as he's probably going to be athletic enough to guard anyone 3-5 on the next level. That makes him incredibly valuable next to Cousins, who is a good post defender generally but struggles to move his feet on the perimeter. This one seems like a solid marriage of fit and skill.
7. Denver Nuggets
Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia: The Nuggets love their international players, and have a really strong scouting staff from which to pick them. Their selecting of guys like Jusuf Nurkic, Evan Fournier, Nikola Jokic, Joffrey Lauvergne and Izzet Turkyilmaz in just the last three drafts alone isn't an accident. Here, they pick a terrific scorer that could end up becoming a star in the NBA. Hezonja is a strong athlete and great shooter, and is extremely confident. Plus, he fits with the up-and-down style that Denver seems to want to get back to after the Brian Shaw era has unceremoniously ended.
8. Detroit Pistons
Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona: This could be an absolute homerun pick if the Pistons play it right. Johnson could line up as a small ball 4 next to athletic marvel Andre Drummound, and really space the floor in Stan Van Gundy's offense. He's strong enough at nearly 240 pounds to at least hold his ground down low. Or he could just play the 3 and continue his progression into an excellent slasher and solid floor-spacer. Lot of options with Johnson, which makes him a strong fit for the Pistons' frontcourt, which has some uncertainty beyond Drummond.
9. Charlotte Hornets
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia: First and foremost, they're a team that is begging for a high-upside, potential star. And while their previous two top-10 picks have been power forward prospects -- Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh -- neither has the skill of Porzingis. The Latvian is one of the more fluid 7-foot athletes that you'll see enter the draft, but he needs to get stronger and needs to develop a better feel for the game. Coaching will be the key with him. If he gets high levels of coaching, he could become an all-star. If not, he might only be a rotational big man.
10. Miami Heat
Kelly Oubre Jr., SF, Kansas: Oubre is another guy that will need a strong coach, but if he goes to the right situation he could develop into an all-star. With veterans like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh around (as well as potentially Luol Deng) to go with seasoned coach Erik Spoelstra, it's hard to envision a better place for Oubre. He'd fit right into Spoelstra's preferred high-pressure defensive scheme, and could take time to develop into his stardom on offense. His athleticism and slashing is strong, and his shooting has potential. He just needs to continue to improve his ball-handling.
11. Indiana Pacers
Bobby Portis, PF, ARK: Portis is a tough, physical power forward/center combo that big that defends well inside, moves well on the perimeter, and can already shoot an outside jumper. The Pacers' frontcourt would seem to be in a period of transition given David West's age and the somewhat consistent Roy Hibbert trade rumors, so picking a guy that could contribute a bit early off the bench (only Hibbert, West and Ian Mahinmi are under contract next year), then hopefully develop into something after a year of learning would be smart.
12. Utah Jazz
Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA: The Jazz are a decent candidate to trade this pick, in my opinion, for more immediate help. However, Looney could be an interesting option to pair with the rest of the Utah frontcourt. His length and defensive versatility could continue to help the Jazz build a terrifying defense. Also, his potential for shooting ability as well as offensive creation should be something that coach Quin Snyder appreciates. I don't think he's a potential star due to limited explosive athleticism, but he could be one heck of a two-way role player due to his skill and motor.
13. Phoenix Suns
Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin: This is the perfect marriage between scheme and player. Kaminsky is going to be able to space the floor for the slashing play of Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, as well as attack closeouts from players who charge at his shot too hard. The collegiate national player of the year will always have some defensive deficiencies, but he'll always be effective as long as he can shoot and handle the ball in space.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder
Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky: This would add a terrifying spacing element to Oklahoma City's roster in between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on offense. Booker's shot is going to translate to the NBA immediately, and he'd be a guy that would force defenses to cover him at all times from behind the 3-point line. Booker will be an adventure defensively early though, as his strength and length doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. While coach Scott Brooks always seemed to value a defense-first guy at the 2-spot, maybe the new coach will want something different.
15. Atlanta Hawks
Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin: With both of the Hawks' starting forwards (DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap) set for free agency, it makes sense for them to add another piece there. Dekker is a guy that, like Carroll, moves really well off ball and would fit perfectly into the Hawks motion-heavy offense. He also has potential from behind the 3-point line, and at 6-9 could defend multiple positions depending on personnel on the floor. This would be a solid pickup as a role player for Atlanta.
16. Boston Celtics
Myles Turner, C, Texas: We're now at the portion of the draft where the guys have high ceilings but low potential to contribute early. That fits Turner, who could turn into a pick-and-pop guy with Marcus Smart over the course of the next few years. But more importantly, he could morph into the rim protector that the Celtics desperately crave, as his 12.3 percent block rate and combination of timing and wingspan prove.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona: This is a reach, and I think the Bucks are major possibility to move up or down in this draft (or simply trade out of it) due to what they have on their roster. Still, Hollis-Jefferson fits the Bucks' defensive scheme to a T, as his length and versatility would be perfect for the heavy switching they do. His offense needs a lot of work, but coach Jason Kidd would really like him and he could play immediately.
18. Houston Rockets
Tyus Jones, PG, Duke: The Rockets are an analytics-heavy organization that could use a point guard, and Jones is really liked by statistical models. While I'm not convinced that Jones and Harden would be the best fit together defensively, Harden has improved a lot on that end and could at least make up for it a little bit. But with Patrick Beverley, Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry potentially leaving in the offseason, shoring up that spot makes a lot of sense.
19. Washington Wizards
Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky: The Wizards could certainly use a big floor-spacer like Lyles, who is tremendously skilled in the midrange and with his handle for a guy that's 6-foot-10. The Wizards could also use more of a traditional power forward type, as Nene and Marcin Gortat both fit better as centers.
20. Toronto Raptors
Montrezl Harrell, PF-C, Louisville: The Raptors could stand to lose Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough next season, which means they could stand to pickup another physical, solid power forward to groom to replace them. At the very least, you can trust Harrell to work as hard as any other player in the league, and he'll be good on the boards from day one in the league. The key for him will be whether or not he can develop a consistent jumper.
21. Dallas Mavericks
Jerian Grant, PG, ND: The Mavs have so many roster holes due to free agency that they'll likely go with the best player available. Luckily, that fits a position of need, as Rajon Rondo will not be back with the Mavericks next season. Grant is 23 and might be able to play early as a rookie, which could help the team stay competitive next season if they resign Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis.
22. Chicago Bulls
Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State: The Bulls need a backup behind Derrick Rose (or simply an injury replacement in case he gets hurt again), and Payne could work in that regard. He's a good pick-and-roll player that is an explosive scorer and shooter that could be a solid change of pace off the bench. He also has a long wingspan that could help him on defense, but more than likely he'll take a while there.
23. Portland Trail Blazers
Christian Wood, PF, UNLV: Wood's a high upside power forward at 6-foot-11 who has really good ball skills as a slasher and at least has fixable mechanics as a big man. And if LaMarcus Aldridge decides to leave, it's worth having another developmental potential all-star. However, as a young, lanky player, he likely would not contribute next season.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Delon Wright, PG, Utah: The Cavs could use a better caretaker guard off of the bench, and Wright would be an upgrade over Matthew Dellavedova. Wright's a smart offensive player that can create plays for others on the talented Cavs' roster. He's also big enough to guard 2-guards if they want to play him next to Kyrie Irving in two point guard lineups.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia: Anderson would fit right into the grit-and-grind mentality as a great, long athlete and a physical defender. However, he'd also add a different element as a shooter that could help to provide offense. This seems like a strong pickup for a team that figures to still be contending as long as they keep Marc Gasol in the offseason.
26. San Antonio Spurs
R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State: Of course the Spurs end up taking the best player available, who figures here to be Hunter. It also doesn't hurt that he'd help to replace two free agents this offseason in Danny Green and Marco Belinelli. Hunter is a bit of a chucker, but he'd fit the motion-heavy Spurs offense and you'd think they can get him to fix that part of his game. Overall, a smart player going to a smart offense.
27. Los Angeles Lakers
Robert Upshaw, C, Washington: He was one of the big winners of the pre-draft declaration process, as so many players pulled out of the 2015 iteration that teams may be willing to look over his past for his high-end skill set. Upshaw was the best rim protector in the country this season prior to being dismissed from the Huskies' program, and the NBA is always looking for that extremely valuable talent. The Lakers especially need help inside, so they may be more willing than others to look past Upshaw's concerns.
28. Boston Celtics
Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville: My guess is the Celtics move this pick in an effort to create roster space and cap room. But if they keep it, Rozier seems like the kind of guy that general manager Danny Ainge would fall in love with as a high-motor, terrific athlete that can get into the lane and make plays. He's just undersized to play the 2, and he doesn't have a point guard's mentality.
29. Brooklyn Nets
Jarell Martin, PF, LSU: The Nets' cap situation is still basically a disaster next season, with approximately $93 million committed to players if everyone opts in to their deals. One guy who will have a choice is Thaddeus Young, who could get a longer term deal by exercising his early termination option. If the Nets get an indication that he will do so, they could do worse than taking this terrific athlete from LSU.
30. Golden State Warriors
Norman Powell, SG, UCLA: The terrific defender would can defend all three perimeter positions, which would be a perfect fit in the heavy-switching concept that the Warriors run. He also gets out into transition well and would be a terrific running partner for Curry on the highest-paced team in the league.
31. Minnesota Timberwolves
Aleksandar Vezenkov, SF, Bulgaria: The Wolves have another second round pick, and Vezenkov's ability to space the floor could eventually profile well with the Wolves.
32. Houston Rockets
Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas: Alexander was a top-10 prospect in the 2014 high school class, that struggled mightily in 2015. The Rockets take him here to try to resurrect his athleticism.
33. Boston Celtics
Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse: McCullough slides to the second round, but with a teacher like Stevens in tow the Celtics could get the most out of him.
34. Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Qualls, SG, Arkansas: Qualls could provide the Lakers with athleticism and defense on the wing.
35. Philadelphia 76ers
Georges Lucas Alves de Paula, PG, Brazil: de Paula is a big point guard with potential on the defensive end. He'll likely come over in 2015, and could use some time in the D-League to prepare.
36. Minnesota Timberwolves
Tyler Harvey, SG, Eastern Washington: Another shooter to put in between Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins.
37. Philadelphia 76ers
Guillermo Hernangomez, C, Spain: Hernangomez is a per-minute statistical star, so he'd fit well in the analytically-heavy Sixers front office.
38. Detroit Pistons
Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky: Johnson could be a solid backup center behind Andre Drummond.
39. Charlotte Hornets
Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV: Vaughn could provide what the Hornets thought they'd be getting in Lance Stephenson once they end that experiment.
40. Miami Heat
Jordan Mickey, PF, LSU: Mickey is a potentially good defender that could help protect the rim for the Heat, as well as hedge screens hard in their scheme.
41. Brooklyn Nets
Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia: Milutinov has started in Serbia for a while now, and could potentially be a solid backup center.
42. Utah Jazz
Cedi Osman, PG, Macedonia: Osman could develop in Europe for a couple of years as a playmaker that the Jazz could use down the road.
43. Indiana Pacers
Joseph Young, SG, Oregon: The Pacers could use a combo scoring guard off the bench, and Young could really provide some punch.
44. Phoenix Suns
Aaron White, PF, Iowa: The Suns will want more frontcourt depth due to uncertainty regarding the Morris twins, and White's potential to space the floor fits.
45. Boston Celtics
Mouhammadou Jaiteh, C, France: The Celtics have four picks in this draft, and at least one of them will be used a stash. Jaiteh works there.
46. Milwaukee Bucks
Treveon Graham, SG, VCU: Graham is a long, solid defender that can shoot 3s. He could eventually replace Jared Dudley.
47. Philadelphia 76ers
Vince Hunter, PF, Texas-El Paso: Hunter would work well as a high-energy slasher next to either Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid.
48. Oklahoma City Thunder
Brandon Ashley, PF, Arizona: Ashley's a mobile defender that could also eventually develop as a shooter.
49. Washington Wizards
Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky: Harrison has a shot to stick as a slasher that gets to the free throw line.
50. Atlanta Hawks
Lucas Dias, SF, : The Hawks could take a shot on an international guy here with high upside.
51. Orlando Magic
Michael Frazier II, SG, Florida: They could use another shooter to put next to Elfrid Payton.
52. Dallas Mavericks
Arturas Gudaitis, C, : The Mavs will likely want to keep as many roster spots open as possible, so stashing a big seems possible here.
53. Cleveland Cavaliers
Timothe Luwawu, SG, : Luwawu is a good athlete that defends and passes well, but doesn't shoot yet.
54. Utah Jazz
Marc Garcia, SG, Spain: Garcia has a shot to become a useful player in time, but at only 19 he might not stay in the draft.
55. San Antonio Spurs
Olivier Hanlan, PG, Boston College: Hanlan could end up being a solid scorer and he'd fit in well with the Spurs as a smart bench player.
56. New Orleans Pelicans
Alan Williams, C, Santa Barbara: With both Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca up for free agency, Williams could fit.
57. Denver Nuggets
Nedim Buza, SF, Bosnia: With the Nuggets it's always safe to go European. Buza is a projectable athlete with a decent shot.
58. Philadelphia 76ers
Daniel Diez, SF, : The 76ers are going to have to stash quite a few players due to them having five picks.
59. Atlanta Hawks
Rakeem Christmas, C, Syracuse: Christmas could help make up for losing Elton Brand, Pero Antic, and potentially the starting forwards.
60. Philadelphia 76ers
Richaun Holmes, PF, Bowling Green: A long athlete that can block shots and rebound will be solid.