Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2015 NBA Draft. Included is a revised Mock Draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts and information from in and around the process.
Here is Consensus Version 1.0:
The Minnesota Timberwolves were in one of the least desirable positions in the NBA, in the midst of a horrific playoff drought with their lone superstar headed toward free agency and almost certain to leave for greener pastures. Then, to their great fortune, the Cleveland Cavaliers – equipped with the last two No. 1 picks – went into win-now mode with the arrival of LeBron James. That helped them turn their biggest problem, Kevin Love, into a bright future featuring the now reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. And, because of all the injury issues they dealt with this year, they’re positioned with the best odds to win the draft lottery once again.
Should they win, there will be a ton of debate over who they should choose between Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. Towns’ stock has gained a lot of steam after his strong finish to his freshman campaign; in fact, a lot of mock drafters have moved him into the top spot. Towns is certainly more versatile than Okafor and may even have more upside, however, for the Timberwolves the decision is pretty simple. Okafor, despite having a very similar skill set to Nikola Pekovic, is the one they need to invest in. Okafor is much more prepared to contribute from day one, an important factor for the struggling Timberwolves, and he has a long standing close relationship with Wiggins – perhaps the most important factor.
In today’s day and age, teams start positioning themselves to pluck away star players in free agency years in advance. With that in mind, the Timberwolves need to be diligent in their efforts to make sure that Wiggins, who clearly has the star power to lead them out of this dark era, especially with Okafor on his side, doesn’t start to feel like he’ll be better off elsewhere as Love did. Okafor is a perennial winner, fresh off of a NCAA national championship. He’ll help change the culture and make Wiggins’ work load much lighter immediately. As intriguing as Towns’ upside is, Okafor is ideal for the Timberwolves in every single aspect.
This first one of these consensus mock drafts is always a little bit like driving in the dark, because with no workouts, no combine, no anything, really, to go off of, we’re all just kind of throwing darts in terms of which players we think will land in the lottery and in the first round in general. That said, here are a few opening thoughts on this year’s draft class:
1. Karl Towns, at this point, looks like the easy pick over Jahlil Okafor for the top overall selection. One looks dominant on both sides of the ball, and one doesn’t. In today’s NBA, that extra “rim protector” gear is important.
2. I’d take Emmanuel Mudiay over D’Angelo Russell or Justise Winslow if I were Philly GM Sam Hinkie. Mudiay is the mystery man, having played in China last season, but he’s a huge, 6’5 point guard with a much more well-rounded skill set than Michael Carter-Williams has. They traded him away because they hoped they’d get a kid like this. In fact, I’ve heard a few times that Mudiay might have been who they wanted all along. It’s not like they need any more bigs with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid in place.
3. Pick No. 5 might be too low for Justise Winslow. He could go third or fourth before this is all said and done. Already, he looks like this year’s meteoric riser, though Tyus Jones could do the same thing for himself during the workout/interview process this year. He’s an impressive kid who will be a steal if he falls out of the top 15.
4. Doesn’t Sam Dekker in Utah just feels like the perfect thing? He’s a sure-thing lottery pick at this point, and the Jazz could be a good fit for him. He’d fit well in Oklahoma City, too.
5. Providence’s Kris Dunn was one of my favorite draft eligible players this year, but he’s heading back to school. I would have had him right alongside Jerian Grant in that second tier of point guards this year. As it stands, the field at that position thins out quite a bit after Grant.
6. I’ve got Cliff Alexander pretty high, but considering he was predicted to be a top-three pick coming out of high school, a mostly disappointing year at Kansas can be overlooked. I think he falls somewhere in the 20s when everything is all said and done, and maybe closer to the teens than the 30s.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Orlando Magic do with their selection. They are slotted to be the fifth pick at the moment, but they could always move up on lottery night.
The reason Orlando is an interesting team to watch is because they already have their center of the future (Nikola Vucevic) and backcourt of the future (Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo). Since the top four players in the draft are centers (Jahlil Okafor and Karl Towns) or guards (Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell), I’m curious to see who Orlando targets.
At the moment, I have them picking Justise Winslow. Since Rob Hennigan took over as the Magic’s general manager, he has targeted defensive-minded athletes and Winslow fits that description. He’s a two-way threat and his game reminds me of Jimmy Butler’s. I think putting Winslow alongside Payton and Oladipo (as well as Aaron Gordon as he continues to develop) could make Orlando a very scary defensive team and that seems to be their goal.
Tobias Harris is a restricted free agent this offseason and Orlando may let him walk if he receives a lucrative offer, and it’s very possible that the Magic will move Maurice Harkless this summer. Drafting Winslow makes a lot of sense since the he could either replace Harris or complement him since they are very different players. Winslow is the exact kind of player that Hennigan has fallen in love with during the pre-draft process in recent years.
One more option for Orlando could be to draft a rim protector. Down the stretch, the Magic realized that they need to put a shot-blocker next to Vucevic, who really struggles on the defensive end. This is why Orlando moved Dewayne Dedmon into the starting lineup late in the season. But it’s clear that Dedmon isn’t a starting-caliber big man, so it’s possible that Orlando will try to address this need with their first pick. Prospects like Towns (if they move up) or Willie Cauley-Stein could be targeted if they do decide to look at rim protectors. It’s worth noting that, at the moment, Vucevic is the only center set to be under contract for Orlando next season.
Finally, trading the pick is also a possibility since the Magic are already a really young team (eight of their players are 24 years old or younger) and they will enter the 2015-16 season with playoff aspirations. Perhaps moving the pick for a veteran could be their best move, but only if the right player becomes available.
May the best man win. That’s how the second tier of point guards in the 2015 NBA Draft will play out.
The first two guards off the board will be D’Angelo Russell and Emmanual Mudiay – they are the 1A and 1B floor generals of this class.
The next bunch is basically the same quality of NBA player, with slightly different tool sets.
Jerian Grant looks to be more of a Kyle-Lowry-type guard at the next level. He’s bigger, stronger and slightly older than the rest of the bunch; not the typical point guard; more of a hybrid one-two type guard that’s proven.
Tyus Jones is the baby of the bunch. He’s young and a little more unproven than the rest, but has a lot of upside and could be a solid NBA point guard in time.
Cameron Payne is more of a scorer first. While he can certainly lead a team, he is a lot more like a Lou-Williams-type scoring guard with long arms and a tenacious, in-your-face kind of game.
Terry Rozier might be the most balanced of the bunch. He too is a hard-nosed player who’s good at either guard spot. His natural position is as a lead guard. He is great off the bounce and can score in bunches.
The problem NBA teams are going to face in figuring out an order for these guys is they are all sort of the same tier of player and none have a major flaw that should move them toward the back of the list.
This one really may come down to workouts. The best-case scenario is some head to heads, where each guy goes at each guy. However, that may not happen. The workout process has become so much about politics and working the system that a straight head-to-head match-up might not be allowed to happen by the players’ various agents.
This draft looks to have some interesting options for teams seeking a point guard and while the next tier may not have bona fide All-Stars, all four of these guys could be starters in the NBA or at least play a significant role on a team trying to win.
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