Connect with us

NBA Draft

NBA PM: 2015 Draft is Loaded With Big Men

The 2015 NBA Draft features many talented big men, including possible No. 1 overall pick Jahlil Okafor.

Alex Kennedy



2015 Draft is Loaded With Big Men

The NBA was once a league full of dominant big men, but that’s no longer the case. Now, we’re in the golden age of point guards and many teams around the league have a star-caliber floor general running their offense rather than a star anchor in the paint. Elite big men are such a rarity these days that the NBA recently removed the center position from the All-Star ballot.

That’s why the 2015 NBA Draft is so special. This has the potential to be one of the best classes of power forwards and centers in recent memory since there are a number of talented big men who will likely be top picks.

Seven big men are currently projected to be lottery picks: Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis, UCLA’s Kevon Looney, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, Texas’ Myles Turner and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.

In addition, other big men such as Kansas’ Cliff Alexander, Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson, Florida’s Chris Walker, Arkansas’ Bobby Portis, Syracuse’s Chris McCullough, North Carolina’s Brice Johnson and UNLV’s Christian Wood are currently projected by DraftExpress to go in the first round as well.

The big men in this draft are certainly talented, but Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress also believes that the lack of top point guard prospects is opening the door for a lot of bigs to potentially go in the first 30 picks.

“I think that part of the reason why you’re seeing so many big men in our top 30 is because this is a really weak class for point guards,” Givony told Basketball Insiders. “There might be one point guard in our top 20 right now and maybe two in the first round, period. That just leaves a lot of spots open for the four other positions, including power forwards and centers. I think that’s why we’re seeing some of these bigs [in the top 30]. But it’s a nice class for big guys too. I do think this draft, as a whole, is much better than advertised so far.”

Okafor is one of the most skilled center prospects to enter the league in years. He’s incredibly gifted on the offensive end, with exceptional footwork and post moves. He seems like an NBA veteran with all of his moves and countermoves, and he says his footwork comes from jumping rope and doing drills, which he started at a young age. He also has a very high basketball IQ, and he has studied film of elite big men such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan since he was 15 years old. He has an NBA body at 6’11, 270 lbs. and a 7’5 wingspan, which is impressive for an 18-year-old. His skills have been on display in his freshman year at Duke, as he’s averaging 17.1 points on 64.6 percent shooting from the field as well as 7.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and one steal. NBA talent evaluators are drooling over Okafor and believe he has superstar, franchise-cornerstone potential. He’s currently the frontrunner to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and Givony believes he has the highest ceiling of any center in this class.

In most drafts, Towns would probably be the top overall selection, but he’ll likely have to settle for top three in this draft. The 19-year-old from Kentucky is extremely well-rounded and he has all of the physical tools to be a great big man, at 7’0 with a 7’3.5 wingspan and a 9’5 standing reach. It remains to be seen if Towns will be a power forward or a center at the next level since he’s so versatile, but he seems to have the two-way skills and size to thrive in the NBA. While Towns isn’t as gifted offensively as Okafor, he is the better defender of the two. As a freshman at Kentucky, Towns has averaged 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in just 18.8 minutes, which are excellent numbers in limited minutes. On most teams, Towns would be the star, but Kentucky is loaded with talented players and he’s splitting time with Cauley-Stein and Johnson, who are currently projected to be first-round picks as well. Towns isn’t as NBA-ready as Okafor, but there’s no question he has amazing upside.

Porzingis has drawn rave reviews from NBA talent evaluators who have watched him play. He hasn’t gotten as much attention as some of the top NCAA prospects since he’s playing overseas, but don’t be surprised if he solidifies himself as a top pick once he shows what he can do during the pre-draft process. Porzingis is still a work in progress since he hasn’t been playing at a high level for very long and he’s only 19 years old, but he is skilled, versatile and capable of making an impact on both ends of the floor. Porzingis is 7’1 and potentially still growing. However, he’s still very skinny at 220 lbs. (the size of many guards) so he will need to bulk up significantly. Due to his build, he’s projected to be a power forward in the NBA. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports wrote a great article about Porzingis in which he’s described by his international coach as “a cross between Andrea Bargnani, Pau Gasol and Ersan Ilyasova.”

Looney is 6’9.5 with a 7’3 wingspan and he has turned heads with his excellent motor, rebounding skills, defensive intensity and willingness to do the dirty work. As a freshman at UCLA, he has averaged 14.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. He needs to continue to work on his offensive game and develop some post moves, but he seems like he could be solid on the glass and on the defensive end in the NBA. At only 18 years old, he still has plenty of time to work on his game and grow as a player.

Cauley-Stein is in his third season at Kentucky, and he’s currently 21 years old. Despite the fact that he stayed in school for several years, which tends to hurt a prospect’s stock, he’s still being projected as a lottery pick. At the very least, he seems like a lock to be a mid-first-round selection (barring injury, of course). Cauley-Stein may never be an elite two-way center, but he should be a very good rim protector in the NBA. He’s currently averaging 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Last year, he averaged 2.9 blocks as well. His recent 21-point, 12-rebound, five-steal, three-block performance against No. 6 Texas seemed to help his stock. A team that needs an interior defender will have to consider selecting Cauley-Stein, who is a legit seven-footer with a 7’2 wingspan and 9’2 standing reach.

Turner is only 6’10, but he more than makes up for that with his 7’4 wingspan. The 18-year-old was one of the top recruits in the country and he’s playing at Texas, averaging 11.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 19.9 minutes off of the bench. He recorded five blocks in two of his first five college games and he projects to be a very good rim protector. In addition to his shot blocking, he is a talented shooter – a combination that NBA teams will love. Turner is also a very efficient player with a high basketball IQ. It was a bit concerning to see Turner struggle in his matchup against Kentucky last week, but he could become a very good big man if a team develops him and utilizes his skill set correctly.

Kaminsky had his coming out party last year during the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 16.4 points and had a monster 28-point, 11-rebound outing against No. 1 Arizona. Last season, he finished in the Big Ten’s top-12 in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and blocks. Many teams fell in love with Kaminsky during the tournament last year (he was named his region’s Most Outstanding Player) and hoped he would enter the 2014 NBA Draft, but he decided to return to school for his senior year. That’s looking like a good decision, as he’s averaging career-highs in points (16.4), rebounds (8.9), assists (2.2), blocks (2.2), steals (1.3), field goal percentage (54.5 percent), three-point percentage (43.8 percent). In other words, he has been fantastic and is helping his draft stock. He’ll be 22 years old on draft night so he doesn’t have the upside of some of his peers, but he seems like a lock to be a first-round pick since teams are in love with his well-rounded game.

Throw in Alexander, Harrell, Johnson, Walker, Portis, McCullough and Wood among others and it’s clear that this class has quite a few quality big men, after last year’s draft featured a lot of talented perimeter players. Quality bigs are usually hard to find, but not in the 2015 NBA Draft.

What About Mudiay?

Emmanuel Mudiay is widely regarded as the top non-center prospect in the 2015 NBA Draft, and there’s a chance that he could be the first overall pick depending on how he does during the pre-draft process and what that specific team needs.

As Basketball Insiders’ Yannis Koutroupis recently pointed out, Mudiay’s stint in China may be coming to an end earlier than initially expected due to a sprained ankle and the fact that Mudiay has nothing left to prove overseas.

During his time overseas, he showed that he can play at a high level against professionals, averaging 18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals with a 25.6 PER. Now, there’s a good chance he’ll return to the U.S. and start preparing for the draft as soon as his ankle gets healthy.

This is similar to what Dante Exum did last year after his high school season ended in Australia. He spent much of the year training individually in Los Angeles and preparing for the draft process, which didn’t hurt his stock at all as he was selected fifth overall by the Utah Jazz. If anything, the mystery surrounding Exum actually helped him because talent evaluators fell in love with his potential and focused on that more than anything.

For more on Mudiay’s skillset, which teams could pick him in the draft and more, be sure to check out Koutroupis’ full article here.


Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.

Steve Kyler



The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.

Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.

Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.

There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.

Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.

In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.

Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.

Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.

This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?

There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.

Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.

Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.

The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.

There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading

Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18

With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.

Steve Kyler



A Lot of Mock Movement

With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.

It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.

Here is this week’s Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects –

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: The Draft Is More Than One Thing

Eveluating an NBA Draft prospect is more than just one thing, and getting caught up on just a player’s college career is often a mistake.

Steve Kyler



It’s Not Just One Thing

With the main part of the NCAA Tournament getting underway today, there will be a lot of focus on the top players in college and how they may translate to the NBA. The challenge NBA teams face in evaluating talent is not only to avoid the hype that comes with tournament success but also to peel back what a player does for his team versus what the player may be capable of in a different environment.

The NBA Draft’s history is littered with NBA misses on NCAA tournament darlings as well as overlooking talent based on a bad read of a player based on how he may have played in college.

No one is suggesting that how a player plays in college is not important, but there is no question that players can and do evolve once they advance in age and their career. Equally, the player with obvious defects in their game often improves once they get into 24/7 professional life and have the resource to train smarter and more intensely.

There are hundreds of examples both ways.

Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was labeled as a bad shooter. As Oladipo closes his fifth NBA season, he’s seen his shooting percentages increase every year to a very respectable 36.9 percent three-point average and 80.4 percent from the foul line.

Miami’s Edrice “Bam” Adebayo wasn’t highly thought of offensively coming into the NBA Draft and has demonstrated in the NBA a much wider skill set than anyone expected. Adebayo was on a stacked Kentucky team and wasn’t a primary focal point, so judging him solely on how he played at Kentucky would have been a mistake.

Adebayo’s Miami teammate Justise Winslow was often considered one of the top players in the 2015 NBA Draft; many expected him to go in the top five. He was a college darling and has yet to make a meaningful impact in Miami, mostly due to constant injuries but also that his college skill set hasn’t translated as many had expected.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was an elite college defender in his lone season in Arizona. So far, through four NBA seasons, Gordon has shown flashes of that defensive presence but has yet to crack the top 100 in defensive rating in any of his NBA seasons. Does being an elite player in college translate? Very rarely.

A glance at the Naismith Awards winners over the last 20 years shows how infrequently in the last decade the elite in college become elite in the NBA.

Naismith Award Winners

2017 Frank Mason III 2007 Kevin Durant
2016 Buddy Hield 2006 J. J. Redick
2015 Frank Kaminsky 2005 Andrew Bogut
2014 Doug McDermott 2004 Jameer Nelson
2013 Trey Burke 2003 T. J. Ford
2012 Anthony Davis 2002 Jason Williams
2011 Jimmer Fredette 2001 Shane Battier
2010 Evan Turner 2000 Kenyon Martin
2009 Blake Griffin 1999 Elton Brand
2008 Tyler Hansbrough 1998 Antawn Jamison

Again, no one is suggesting that college performance doesn’t matter, its simply no longer the best measure of a player’s potential or ability in the NBA for a number of factors.

The situation is often the biggest factor in success at any level. It is not uncommon in college basketball for a player to play out of position or in a role that isn’t always ideal for their skill set. Equally, in college, some players are asked to do more than they’d be asked to do in the NBA, which can also skew the results.

There is no doubt that some things translate more easily than others – rebounding, shot blocking and free throw shooting. However, historically, even some of the best college players have struggled in the NBA.

Judging a player based solely and exclusively on what you see in college has historically been a mistake on both sides. Draft history is littered with NBA All-Stars and MVP candidates falling in the draft process, while the number of top 10 picks that were elite in college that have washed out is extremely high.

There is no question the more you can see a player, the more you can learn, but there is a balance to the process and something to consider when you see a player erupt on the big stage this week.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading

The Strictly Speaking Podcast


Trending Now