With the 2014 draft in the bag and Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker getting settled in the NBA, it’s time for an early look at the cream of next year’s crop of prospects. Though the 2015 draft doesn’t project as deep top to bottom, there’s a substantial amount of lottery talent that will make rebuilding teams quite happy. Here are SI.com’s top 10 prospects for next year.
Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke | 6-foot-11, 270 | Freshman
The most polished big man to arrive in the college ranks in recent years, Okafor is to next year’s draft what fellow Chicago-to-Duke product Jabari Parker was to this one – the safest bet to have a long, productive career. With a bevy of post moves, outstanding footwork and the ability to score with either hand, Okafor should put together a freshman campaign solidifying his place in the conversation for the No. 1 pick. He’s a very good rebounder with a 7-5 wingspan who will hold his own on the glass at the next level.
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, SMU | 6-5, 190 | Freshman
Mudiay brings everything NBA teams dream about in a modern-day point guard, with size, skill and elite physical ability. He can fill up the box score, get to the rim, excel in the open floor and finish in traffic. He’s displayed an ability to find the open man and his feel for the court should improve with a year of seasoning under Larry Brown. Mudiay profiles as an outstanding defender with the versatility to guard all three perimeter spots. The keys for Mudiay will be improving his perimeter scoring and taking better care of the ball.
Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona | 6-7, 237 | Freshman
A big wing with a nasty streak, Johnson’s game is easy to love. With toughness, a high motor and a love for contact that shatters the stereotype of West Coast players, Johnson will play any role to win games. He’s a tank off the dribble who nobody could really stop at the high school level, but also unselfish enough to pass up good shots to create great ones for his teammates. Johnson uses his large lower half both to post up defenders and create space for rebounds on both ends, and is also a strong defender who guarded every position in high school. If he improves his ballhandling and becomes a more consistent shooter from deep, he could play shooting guard at the next level.
Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas 6-8, 255 | Freshman
A bruising, athletic big, Alexander’s blend of strength and quickness made him nearly unstoppable as a high school player. Though a bit undersized at 6-8, his 7-2 wingspan helps make up for it and also makes him a formidable rim protector. He’s got an NBA-ready body, rebounds the ball consistently and has developed a mid-range jumper defenses have to at least respect. Alexander has made major strides in his back-to-the-basket game in the past year, but continued skill development would go a long way to ensuring pro success.
Karl Towns, PF, Kentucky | 7-0, 248 | Freshman
Towns boasts an unusual blend of size and skill and looked to be in the best shape of his life at the Jordan Brand Classic. He can step out and shoot the three (although he falls in love with it at times) or back defenders down with his huge frame. His ability on the perimeter makes him attractive as an NBA stretch four. He’ll have to fight for minutes for the first time at Kentucky, an experience that could ultimately pay dividends by making him fight for his spot every day and increase his mental toughness. Towns has also been part of the Dominican senior national team already, so experience of competing against grown men also helps his case.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Cajasol Sevilla (Latvia) | 7-0, 220 | 19 years old
Porzingis pulled out of this year’s draft at the last second, and likely helped his stock by waiting another season. He’s another stretch four-type player who likes to shoot from the perimeter. Porzingis has also displayed impressive shot-blocking ability, averaging 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes last season. He's a very young prospect with an uncommon skill set for a 7-footer, making him a valuable commodity. As is the case with most young big men, Porzingis needs to add strength and show he can handle the NBA's physical style.
Mario Hezonja, SG, Barcelona (Croatia) | 6-8, 200 | 20 years old
Hezonja advanced rapidly through the European system and debuted with Barcelona as a teenager. He’s noted as an excellent shooter with great size at the two, and also a great passer and skilled off the bounce. His offensive versatility and smooth athleticism have scouts very high on him, and he’s one of if not the most hyped European two-guard since Drazen Petrovic. Several reports note that he could stand to gain some on-court maturity, and he’ll also need to add weight to compete in the NBA. But the Hezonja hype continues to build, and if he’s in the pool next season expect even more of it.
Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville | 6-8, 230 | Junior
After a strong sophomore campaign (14 points, 8.4 rebounds per game), Harrell’s return to Louisville came as a surprise to many, as he was considered a first-rounder and possible lottery pick. If he’s able to build on those numbers and expand his game, he’ll stay there. A physical post who loves to bang around the basket, Harrell’s 7-3 wingspan helps make him an imposing force down low. He’s a very solid athlete with an improving offensive skill set that includes a midrange jumper, and also active defensively which often translates into blocks and steals. He’s not a natural with his back to the basket and will need to add something there to be more than a role player-type. His junior year will be critical to maintaining lottery status.
Myles Turner, PF/C, Texas | 6-11, 242 | Freshman
The appeal of Turner lies in his size and shooting ability. He’s able to stretch the floor effectively, and bigs with skills like his are valuable commodities. Turner is comfortable in the mid-range as well and should be able to put his full arsenal on display at Texas. He’s an able shot-blocker and a smart player who rebounded at a high rate in high school. However, he’s rail-thin which makes you wonder exactly what will carry over at the NBA level, and if Turner doesn’t improve his body it will hurt his stock.
Chris Walker, PF, Florida | 6-10, 205 | Sophomore
Had Walker not encountered eligibility issues in the first half of the season, he’d likely have been a critical part of a very good Florida team and a possible lottery pick. A strong sophomore year could catapult him back to the top of the draft. Walker’s an elite athlete for his size (though he could add some muscle) and frequently a highlight-reel type player. He’s active down low and will rebound and block shots. Walker doesn’t have much of an offensive skill set yet but he’s an underrated passer and can defend multiple positions. An extra year under Billy Donovan could do Walker some good, and he’ll be a prospect to track throughout the season. If he shows signs of putting it together, he’s enough of a physical specimen to go high.
• Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas, freshman: Versatile scorer with a deadly perimeter game.
• Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan, junior: Should thrive as a scorer with Stauskas and Robinson now in the NBA.
• Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C, Kentucky, junior: He could be the best rim protector in this class, but what else can he do?
• Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona, sophomore: High-level athlete who continues to put it together as a scorer.
• Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas, sophomore: A strong guard who will help pick up the scoring slack for the Wiggins-less Jayhawks.
• Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin, junior: If he can prove March wasn’t a fluke, he could be a potential lottery pick.