Projecting the first 30 picks of the 2015 NBA draft.
Minnesota—at least until next month’s NBA draft lottery—is officially on the clock.
No, having the most ping pong balls doesn’t guarantee anything, but the ‘Wolves gave themselves the best opportunity to add another top overall pick to the stable by losing 12 straight to end the season and cap a woeful 16-win campaign. So before the lottery, the combine and individual workouts send the draft process into total chaos, here is SI.com’s Mock Draft 1.0, ordered by record.
* Indicates player has not formally declared for the draft.
Let the debate begin: Karl Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor is the NBA’s version of Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota. The early nod goes to Towns, whose free throw shooting (81.3%) has become an increasingly popular topic amongst NBA executives. Think about this: Towns will likely get at least a year of Power Forward 101 from Kevin Garnett.
The Knicks solidify the pivot with Okafor, the best center prospect in years. At 19, Okafor already has a diverse low post game and has shown flashes of a consistent face-up game, too. He needs work defensively but he will step into the middle of the triangle next season and contribute immediately.
This pick could go a few directions. D’Angelo Russell is the best player on the board, but the Lakers are likely to pursue Rajon Rondo this summer, eliminating the need for a point guard. Winslow has had a meteoric rise, and while his offensive game is raw, there looks to be a Jimmy Butler-type player ready to be molded.
The Latvian Dirk Nowitzki? Maybe. Porzingis continues to evoke rave reviews from international scouts who see him as a tremendous stretch four prospect. He’s mobile, has a nice mid-range game and has the tools to evolve into a consistent three-point threat. He will need to bulk up, but he’s a terrific prospect.
Oh, the things George Karl could do with a point guard who reads the floor like a five-year vet and thrives in transition. Questions about Russell’s athleticism are drowned out by praise for his playmaking and brilliance in the pick-and-roll. Russell is an ideal complement to DeMarcus Cousins.
Denver is unpredictable. The Nuggets began to dismantle thire roster in February and could do more tinkering on draft night. For now, pencil in Hezonja, an athletic, sweet shooting two-guard whose inconsistent playing time was more due to team politics in Barcelona than diminished play.
Detroit has a massive hole at small forward and Johnson, a defensive-minded forward who has evoked comparison’s—at least physically—to Ron Artest, looks like a nice fit. Johnson needs polish offensively but he made 37.1% of his three’s last season.
Dealing Enes Kanter left the Jazz a little thin up front. Cauley-Stein is limited offensively but he is a versatile defender who can slide between both frontcourt spots. He may never be more than a good role player, but he’s a low risk choice in this spot.
On a deep Kentucky team, Lyles numbers are misleading; scouts see the potential for a skilled inside-out player. The Suns badly need an offensive presence in the frontcourt. Lyles will take time to develop, but his upside is pretty high.
Yes, Oklahoma City is disappointed not to make the playoffs. But giving Sam Presti another lottery pick cushions the blow. The outside-the-box Thunder will undoubtedly surprise a few people on draft night but for now pencil in Booker, one of the draft’s best shooting prospects, who fills a need in OKC.
Poeltl played well in Utah’s loss to Duke, impressing scouts with his defense on Jahlil Okafor. Poeltl is mobile, finishes well around the rim and works hard on every possession. He will need to bulk up and his brutal free throw shooting (44.4%) will have to improve.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge’s recent history suggests he is not afraid to take a flyer on a project. That’s Oubre, who was billed as Andrew Wiggins' heir at Kansas but struggled to put a complete season together. Oubre has a good looking jump shot and the physical tools to slide between either swing spot. He’s a D-Leaguer next season, but a Marcus Smart-James Young-Oubre core is a nice one for Brad Stevens to develop.
Dunn has enjoyed a rapid rise up draft boards the last two months as scouts have gotten a closer look at the total package he was believed to be before injuries slowed his ascent. Dunn is a big time athlete, but needs to learn the nuances of playing point guard. Who better to teach him than Jason Kidd?
Can Dekker be a consistent NBA three-point shooter? That’s a question Rockets GM Daryl Morey and others will have to decide. Dekker has an NBA body and is athletic enough to be a serviceable defender. But is he the shooter that powered Wisconsin to wins over Arizona and North Carolina? Or is he closer to the erratic player that couldn’t make a three against Duke? Dekker’s 33.1% season average won’t cut it.
The Raptors, predictably, got nothing from Bruno Coboclo, last year’s first-round pick who played sparingly in eight games this season. Portis isn’t particularly dynamic, but his offensive skills could help a Raptors team that gets the bulk of its scoring from perimeter players.
Will Rajon Rondo return? Dallas’s fear of losing Rondo could lead the Mavs to taking another point guard in the draft. Payne is a good playmaker in a crowded field.
Grant has put up strong numbers for two straight seasons, and is as NBA-ready as any point guard in this range. At 22, Grant is on the older side, but the Bulls didn’t hesitate to take 22-year old Doug McDermott last season.
The Blazers love the mid-majors, so why not grab another? Hunter didn’t shoot the ball particularly well last season but he has good size for a team that could need some help at shooting guard next season.
The Cavs add a defensive-minded wing as insurance in case Iman Shumpert becomes too pricey to bring back.
The Grizzlies need shooters—when don’t they?—and LeVert, who made 40% of his three’s in each of the last two seasons, is one of the best left on the board.
Alexander’s college career ended prematurely because of eligibility issues and he never lived up to his potential. Still, he’s a potent rebounder and shot blocker who could be a high value pick this late in the draft
Virginia defended better than the Lakers last season. A lot better. Anderson will help and, if his perimeter shooting develops, could be a steal.
Wood brings a big, athletic, defensive-minded presence to a Boston frontcourt that doesn’t have much of one. Wood needs to mature physically, but he can shoot from the outside, a skill G.M. Danny Ainge is fond of.
Deron Williams still has two more years left on his contract, but it doesn’t hurt to think about the future. The Duke connection with GM Billy King puts Jones firmly in play in this spot.