Projecting the first 30 picks in the 2015 NBA draft while focusing on team need and fit.
The lottery won’t take place until the middle of May, but that won’t stop us from analyzing the draft based on the projected selection order. Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor are heavy favorites to be the first two players off the board, but which prospect will be taken next?
SI.com's Common Sense Mock Draft seeks to answer that question—as well as which players will be selected with the ensuing 27 picks in the first round—using a formula similar to other standard mocks. The biggest difference is that the CSMD places a heavy emphasis on two principles: team need and fit. Without further ado, here's our projections for the first round of the 2015 NBA draft.
The Towns-Okafor debate can easily go either way, but for the Wolves, the Kentucky center makes a little more sense. His face-up ability and athleticism makes him a better fit next to Nikola Pekovic, whose interior skill set more closely mirrors Okafor’s. With Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine still figuring things out, Minnesota can take Towns and afford to be patient with all three.
The Sixers replace the departed Michael-Carter Williams with a shinier new prospect who boasts the upside to be the best player in this draft. The developmental timeline makes sense as Philly throws Joel Embiid into the fray, waits on Dario Saric, and continues to lose for another year or two (at least).
The Lakers could address several needs with this pick. Winslow and power forward Julius Randle, who missed almost all of last season because of a broken leg, would give Los Angeles a strong core to build around. In the short-term, the Duke product’s ability to guard multiple positions would instantly boost the Lakers’ porous defense.
Assuming new coach George Karl isn’t pushing for a trade at point guard, he should be comfortable handing over the keys of his uptempo offense to Russell. The 6’5’’ lefty will need help around him, but there should be little hesitation to move forward with an accurate shooter and creative passer pulling the strings.
For an in-limbo team that could go so many different directions this off-season, Cauley-Stein is a safe pick and should be immediately useful on the defensive end. He’s athletic enough, in theory, to play next to Jusuf Nurkic, and gives Denver another piece to play with as the franchise determines its course.
Charlotte goes with the best player left on the board, in this case a gifted scorer who can play both wing positions and make plays for himself and others. The Hornets take a chance on upside and hope the Croatian star makes an effective, speedy transition to the NBA game.
With David West and Luis Scola getting up there in years and Roy Hibbert potentially on the way out, Indiana adds interior depth with Lyles, whose offensive skill set is more diverse than he had the chance to show at Kentucky. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball isn’t an elite athlete, but can be a smooth, productive player in time.
The Jazz made strides after this season's All-Star, but they probably need at least another season before they can be taken seriously as contenders in the Western Conference. Though Oubre needs time to develop, the 6’7’’ wing would represent an intriguing addition to Utah’s young nucleus.
Booker gives Phoenix a potential high-level perimeter scorer to play alongside fellow Kentucky products Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight (if they keep him). You could do a lot worse than being known as Lexington West (did we mention Archie Goodwin is on the roster, too?).
The Thunder could use another capable scorer and distributor to bolster their second unit and, on occasion, spell do-it-all point guard Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti won't pass up the opportunity to take a proven playmaker who can aid a playoff push next season.
The Celtics should not resist using their first-round pick on an unfinished project, seeing as they almost certainly won’t be ready to make a deep playoff run next season. Enter Turner, a 6’11’’ big man who can block shots and space the floor by stepping away from the paint and knocking down jumpers.
Milwaukee takes a long-armed, versatile forward with great rebounding potential. Sound familiar? Looney, a Milwaukee native, becomes another intriguing piece in Jason Kidd’s fast-moving rebuild and fits nicely alongside the Bucks’ young stars.
Even if Houston re-signs Patrick Beverley when he enters unrestricted free agency this summer, it should jump at the chance to add a skilled point guard who can complement James Harden and buoy reserve units. Jones’ advanced skill set and composure should make for a smooth transition from Duke to the NBA.
Portis is a well-built, productive post who can move around the floor and has some catch-and-shoot ability. He’s not very developed, but profiles as a useful player and fairly safe selection that could log some rotation minutes as a rookie if needed.
Wright would be an excellent addition regardless of whether the Raptors elect to make radical personnel moves this summer after being swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Wizards. The 6’5’’ point guard is a savvy distributor and strong defender capable of logging quality minutes off the bench.
The Mavs’ roster has gotten up there in age, and what Hollis-Jefferson lacks in polish he provides in the form of defensive energy and elite athleticism. He’ll be a project that could pay off nicely as Dallas gradually transitions to the post-Dirk era.
NBA fans—and Bulls partisans in particular—will hope Derrick Rose can maintain the form he has flashed during this year’s playoffs. Payne doesn’t project as Rose’s eventual replacement, but he can provide stability to a backcourt that’s featured a rotating cast of backup point guards in recent years.
A well-rounded wing who shot the ball at an impressive 45% clip from three as a junior, Anderson can guard on the perimeter and gives the Blazers some depth. He may never be more than a role player, but that’s all Portland needs from him—assuming it can keep LaMarcus Aldridge around.
When LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are locked in, the Cavaliers are the most terrifying offensive team in the league. That shouldn’t stop them from adding more perimeter firepower. Hunter, a 6’5’’ shooting guard who showed serious range and shot-making ability at Georgia State, fits the bill.
It was a rough one-and-done career for Alexander at Kansas, but all the physical tools that made him a coveted prospect are still there. He might require some time in the D-League, and he needs an environment that will keep him focused. Memphis, already with some depth up front, can offer that.
San Antonio probably wouldn’t use Wood much next season—particularly if 39-year-old Tim Duncan decides to return—but Wood could spend that time rounding out his game, with a D-League stint possibly in store. The 6’11’’ power forward offers an intriguing combination of size and athleticism.
It might be wishful thinking, but come on—with a name like that, George Lucas, of all people, deserves to be in Hollywood. The Brazilian star possesses immense physical tools and a developing feel for the game. He’s far from ready, but with Jordan Clarkson looking like a keeper and Kobe riding off into the sunset, the Lakers can wait on him as the franchise transitions.
The Celtics may endure another transition season as general manager Danny Ainge continues to stockpile assets for a long-term rebuild. In any case, Harrell can immediately help Boston with his rebounding and energy, even if his upside is limited, in part, because of his size (6’8’’) as a frontcourt player.
A tough scorer with good physical attributes, Rozier gives Brooklyn a player that could contribute immediately. With no first-rounder until 2017 and a veteran roster mostly locked in for a couple more years, Brooklyn can hope Rozier figures it out quickly, and that he can eventually succeed Deron Williams.