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: As promised, things are getting a bit more interesting in our sixth mock draft. From what I am hearing from individuals close to the draft process in New York City, the Knicks have almost “no idea” what to do at number four, but they only present one place where the 2015 NBA Draft could fork.
There is still conflicting information coming out of Los Angeles as to who exactly the Lakers will end up walking away with once the draft is over, but we can rest assured that, in some order, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will be selected at the top. The Philadelphia 76ers are hard to read, from what I am hearing, but the prevailing sentiment is that they will eventually settle on either D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay at number three. After that, all bets are off because of two reasons: the Knicks and Willie Cauley-Stein.
From what I understand, the Knicks would be willing to trade back in the draft with interest in both Justise Winslow and Cameron Payne (as has been reported). As for Cauley-Stein, there are some that believe he is a serious threat to crack the top four. So, at this point, what happens between the third and sixth pick is still very much in the air, but Anthony-Towns, Okafor, Russell, Mudiay, Winslow and Cauley-Stein are the consensus top six, and I haven’t encountered anyone who is debating that. Who goes where is still up in the air, mainly because of the willingness of the Knicks to deal.
I haven’t gotten any new intel on either Kristaps Porzingis or Mario Hezonja, but I would watch those two names closely over the next few weeks, because we have seen international prospects sometimes jump the order.
The involved individuals with whom I have spoken have intimated to me that this draft is looking deeper than many initially thought, with Frank Kaminsky expected to be somewhere around the top 10 and Payne, Tyus Jones and Sam Dekker all being fringe lottery picks.
Joel’s Notebook: First of all, my No. 30 pick didn’t go through, so let me clarify that I have Rakeem Christmas going there. Christmas is reportedly doing really well in workouts and with Draymond Green up for extension and David Lee a trade candidate, shoring up the frontcourt rotation with depth and athleticism wouldn’t hurt.
Moving on, four of the top five picks in my mock draft this week attended either Kentucky or Duke. I’m not sure what that means, other than I’m leaning especially heavy away from the two international lottery kids for some reason. Detroit would be thrilled to land Hezonja at No. 8 considering he’s such a cutthroat scorer on the wing, which is something they obviously need, while Porzingis falling to Miami at No. 10 fills another need and represents another great value for the HEAT. I’m not sure I actually think both guys fall that far, but that’s where I’ve got things falling for now. It’s sure to change as we get close to the draft.
Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker both going in the top nine seems a little rich for what those guys bring to the table, but I haven’t heard or read many negative things about either player at this point in the process, so if there are teams looking to go the safe route, gathering up players that should have a place in the league for years even if they don’t transform into superstars is a reasonable strategy. Denver needs a home run, which is why one of the international kids could make sense at No. 7 if things play out this way, but Charlotte adding Dekker is a reasonably safe play. If they wanted to swing for the fences, though, Devin Booker is generating a lot of buzz lately as someone with All-Star potential if he’s able to get himself into better shape.
Indiana, meanwhile, is probably going to draft a point guard because while George Hill is plenty talented, the Pacers need someone that occasionally can act more as a distributor in that role. I’m not sure if it will be Jerian Grant or Cameron Payne that ultimately gets the call, but either guy would be a big help there. Myles Turner would be hard to pass up, too, though I think their need for backcourt help supersedes their need to move on from Roy Hibbert. We’ll see in a few weeks whether I’m actually right about that.
Alex’s Notebook: In my last few mock drafts, my top six has been the same: Jahlil Okafor to Minnesota, Karl-Anthony Towns to Los Angeles, D’Angelo Russell to Philadelphia, Emmanuel Mudiay to New York, Justise Winslow to Orlando and Kristaps Porzingis to Sacramento.
However, I switched things up this week and, while it’s still very early in the process and hard to say what will happen, I think this top six is a realistic possibility too.
This week, I have Winslow going to the Knicks. It’s possible they trade down to pick him, but I have him going at No. 4 in this mock. It’s no secret that the Knicks have expressed interest in Winslow. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher met with Winslow at the Combine and were reportedly impressed with him, and Carmelo Anthony took the Duke product to a New York Yankees game and talked about mentoring him. I think Winslow is a very talented two-way player with a ton of upside, and I believe he could be a good piece for the Knicks. His arrival also could mean Fisher is planning to move Anthony to power forward, which, I believe, is for the best. If the Knicks aren’t sold on Mudiay or don’t want to reach on someone like Willie Cauley-Stein (who has a very limited offensive game and doesn’t seem like the kind of franchise cornerstone you want from a No. 4 pick), it’s possible they go with Winslow.
This would make things very interesting for the teams picking after New York.
Up until this point, I’ve had Winslow penciled in to Orlando because he seems like a perfect fit for the athletic, defensive-minded team Rob Hennigan is building. Their last several draft picks (Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon) have been high-upside, defensive-minded players and Winslow fits that mold. Also, with Tobias Harris’ future up in the air, Winslow could’ve made sense as his potential replacement. However, if he’s not on the board, I think the Magic would go with Porzingis. He’s a very intriguing player, who’s a great athlete (who runs the floor well) and a very good shot blocker (which is important since he’ll be playing alongside Nikola Vucevic). But, most importantly, he can shoot the basketball, which Orlando’s offensively challenged roster desperately needs. Cauley-Stein has come up as an option for the Magic, but I’m told the front office is split on him. There are some who like him, while others feel he’d be a bad fit and isn’t nearly skilled enough. I think the 7’1 Porzingis would be the pick here, and while he’d be a project, he could be a very good fit with this up-and-coming Magic team.
This leaves Mudiay on the board for Sacramento, and the Kings would be thrilled to have a potential franchise point guard fall to them at No. 6. Mudiay doesn’t make sense for the Magic since they already have their backcourt of the future in Payton and Oladipo, but the Kings would snatch Mudiay up in a heartbeat. They’ve been looking for a long-term answer at point guard for quite some time and Mudiay could be that guy. While this seems pretty low for Mudiay, I’ve talked to a number of executives who have predicted he could go later than expected and be available in this range.
We’ll obviously have a better idea of what the top of the draft will look like over the next few weeks as the draft gets closer, but this is an interesting scenario to consider since it’s not out of the question.
Note: One other change I have from last week is Cameron Payne climbing to the Indiana Pacers at No. 11. This kid is the real deal and it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues rising and cracks the top 10. Like Moke said, the Knicks could trade down to select him or a team like the Sacramento Kings (who will reportedly work Payne out) could pick him. For a behind-the-scenes look at Payne’s pre-draft training and to learn more about him, check out my recent article here.
Steve’s Notebook: The top of the 2015 NBA Draft Class has been fairly set for some time. In some combination: Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kristaps Porzingis should come off the board with the first six picks.
The next six still are way up in the air with as many as 15 guys possible in the next six picks. However, there are some names that seem to be getting fairly locked in as “the next six.”
There has been a lot of talk about Justise Winslow going in the top six, and that still very well could happen, but more and more executives are saying similar things about Winslow – good player with lots of potential, but not the player you build a team around. It’s easy to understand why fans are enamored with Winslow, he was stellar all season and in the NCAA tournament, he was a stifling defender and one of the more consistent offensive players for Duke. With that said, can he really defend small forwards in the NBA?
Looking at Winslow’s defensive numbers on the season, he was an excellent man to man defender allowing .7 points per possession. However, the challenge in really grading Winslow is the small sample size. Winslow had just 240 defensive possessions last season. Is that enough to say he’ll be an elite NBA defender?
The teams at the top of the board are not as sold as some of the fans seem to be. There is little doubt that Winslow is a top 10 selection, however it’s looking more and more that if the Knicks don’t take him at number 4, he could be on the board for a little bit longer.
Another name to watch in the process is Arkansas’ Bobby Portis. Word is he is working out incredibly well and that more and more teams see him as one of the better frontcourt swing players in the next tier. While Portis in the top 10 seems unlikely, there is a growing sense Portis is to go mid-to-late lottery.
There are few names getting a lot of love from executives:
R.J. Hunter is said to be doing really well for himself. Sam Dekker grabbed a few more fans at his Pro-Day. Rakeem Christmas is firmly in the hunt for a late first-round pick or as one of the early second-round picks. Florida shooter Michael Frazier has done well in the process so far and has a few teams in the late first round that have indicated he is firmly on their radar as a possible draft option if things fall a certain way. Richaun Holmes has picked up some momentum – maybe not enough to get into the first round, but his stock is on the rise. 7’2 big man Satnam Singh continues to get workouts and more and more teams are asking questions about him, which bodes well for his chances to be a very late second round pick.
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