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.
Moke’s Notebook: Word is beginning to trickle out about a few prospects, and as we turn in our updated mock drafts, Kelly Oubre and Robert Upshaw have each seen their stock slide a bit.
For me, the wildcard in all of this is the Los Angeles Lakers. There are still a fair amount of people out there who believe that the Lakers could walk away from the draft with Emmanuel Mudiay when it’s all said and done. If they opted to trade back to make that happen, draft boards will be blown up. At this point, though, until I hear something concrete, I will continue to have my top two be the big men whose names we have been calling for several months now.
The New York Knicks are another team being mentioned as potentially trading back—a move that could make some sense if the franchise is truly in love with Justise Winslow. Some mocks have Mario Hezonja and Kristaps Porzingis going a bit higher than I do, and while I think either Myles Turner or Sam Dekker could eventually find their way in to the top 10, it’s still a bit too early to think that anything is definitive or set in stone. Once the calendar hits June 1, we should expect to have a little more clarity as to what will transpire with the top five picks, but for now, I wouldn’t expect to see too much movement.
Joel’s Notebook: At this point in the weekly mock draft process, I find myself falling into the trap of believing that certain players need to fall in certain ranges of the draft, and of course since we all read each other’s stuff and get a lot of the same information, it’s easy to see how some of that could happen. When the draft rolls around, however, there are always surprises and guys who rise up out of nowhere, so I’m making some unconventional picks this week because I’m assuming there will be a few curveballs. There always are.
The most controversial switch this week is sending Justise Winslow to the Knicks at No. 4. Phil Jackson supposedly loves him even though small forward is just about the only position at which the Knicks absolutely do not need a replacement. Still, it’s easy to see how a team could believe in Winslow as a sure-bet star, and along those lines it’s not the worst pick even with Carmelo Anthony on the roster. Winslow is arguably the most desirable player there if Okafor, Towns and Russell go in the top three, or they could trade that pick.
Orlando doesn’t need a point guard, but Mudiay is huge and could absolutely play alongside Elfrid Payton. He’s also far and away the best player available at the fifth spot in the draft. Willie Cauley-Stein falling to No. 8 would give Detroit a little insurance for the potential loss of Greg Monroe, though admittedly there would be redundancy after that selection too.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson isn’t projected as a lottery pick, but I’ve got him going to OKC this week because he’s really going to impress a lot of teams in the interview process, and while he can’t shoot a lick from midrange, he does everything else really well. On a team like the Thunder, he’d be a perfect energy guy off the bench. Delon Wright to Dallas is a bit high at No. 21, but he’s being undervalued as only a fringe first-rounder right now and the Mavericks really do need help at point guard.
Curveballs are coming in this draft, but it’s impossible to predict where those will occur. This week is just a stab at some the possibilities.
Alex’s Notebook: In each of my mock drafts, I’ve had former Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker going higher and higher and today he cracked my top 10. The reason for his ascent is because people around the NBA are falling in love with him.
Many NBA executives believe he’s the best shooter in the draft and they really like his potential since he’s only 18 years old. He has also done a very good job selling himself to teams, displaying his intelligence, maturity, strong work ethic and team-first attitude during meetings.
He didn’t start a single game in college, but that had more to do with Kentucky’s loaded talent and platoon system than anything to do with his game. He was named the 2014-15 SEC Sixth Man of the Year.
Even though he played fewer minutes than we would’ve gotten at other schools, Booker emerged as a very important player for the Wildcats since his excellent shooting spread the floor and created space for others. Booker averaged 10 points per game (the third-best PPG on the team) and shot 41.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Booker has drawn comparisons to Klay Thompson (who is someone he studies film of and looks up to) and if he can shoot the ball well in workouts, expect him to continue climbing.
To get an idea of what kind of person Booker is, he’s a self-described “Synergy Sports addict.” Synergy is the game film service where one can watch every play of NCAA and NBA games. He says he spends a lot of his free time studying film of NBA shooting guards so that he can mimic some of their moves, but also because he’s already trying to learn each two-guard’s tendencies so that he’ll be prepared to defend them when that time comes. While most prospects are just trying to make it through this crazy pre-draft process, Booker is already doing homework on his NBA opposition. That’s the kind of kid we’re talking about here.
Between Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Booker and perhaps Trey Lyles, it’s possible that Kentucky could have as many as four lottery picks (and seven total selections) in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Steve’s Notebook: There are a couple of players to watch as the 2015 NBA Draft draws closer… the biggest being Kristaps Porzingis, the 7’0 forward from Ventspils, Latvia. There is a sense that the Philadelphia 76ers may have him atop their draft board. Like all things with Philly, you never know what they will really do, but Porzingis at three is becoming a serious consideration. The problem for Porzingis is if he does not go number three, where he lands after that is wide open.
There was talk that the Orlando Magic were equally high on Porzingis, but there is a growing sense that Willie Cauley-Stein could be their guy if the New York Knicks don’t pluck him off the board first.
If the 76ers and Magic go in different directions, Porzingis could be on the board a lot later than expected, considering he’s projected as the top international prospect in the class.
The other player to watch is Mario Hezonja. Considered one of the better competitors in the class, Hezonja is a high flying, dunking and three-point shooting machine. The knock on Hezonja is that he’s been sort of tough to play with and is a little self-centered as a player. He’s clashed with teammates and coaches, but more and more teams label him the surprise or dark horse of the draft saying he may be off the board before some of the hot collegiate names like Justise Winslow or Stanley Johnson. Hezonja projects to be a two-guard at the next level, and he has no shortage of suitors.
Lastly, there’s R.J. Hunter. Dubbed as one of the better shooters in the class, Hunter has a lot of fans. Much like Nik Stauskas last year, there is a growing sense that Hunter could be in the hunt as high as seven to the Denver Nuggets, with a more realistic range between 11 and 17.
The nature of the draft process is for every player that climbs, someone has to fall so some of the perceived order of things could change pretty dramatically once the actual picks start taking place.
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