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NBA AM: Looking Ahead To The 2015 NBA Draft

While the 2014 NBA Draft class has yet to log their first regular season game, it’s never too early to peek over the ledge and see what’s coming next June in the 2015 NBA Draft… Does Greg Monroe have doubts?… Suns and Bledsoe still not talking?

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Never Too Early To Look Ahead:  While the 2014 NBA Draft class has yet to log their first regular season game, it’s never too early to peek over the ledge and see what’s coming next June in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Before we get too far into this, there are a couple of things to know: The NBA does have a real desire to alter the NBA age limit going forward. With a new Executive Director running the NBA Players Association, this conversation is likely to pick up considerable steam. It is unlikely to affect the 2015 NBA Draft, but it might have impact on the 2016 NBA Draft. Here are some of the notable names to keep an eye out for, assuming they all enter the draft next summer as many expect they will.

Jahlil Okafor C 6’11”; 272 lbs. Duke

Okafor is arguably one of the most skilled low post players we’ve seen coming into college in some time. He draws a striking comparison to Charlotte’s Al Jefferson in terms of having a knack for scoring on the low block. At just 19 Okafor is simply scratching the surface on his potential, and assuming he continues to make the progression at Duke that’s he’s made in high school he could be a lock for the top overall pick next June.

Cliff Alexander PF/C 6’9″; 254 lbs. Kansas

Alexander is a monster; there are just no two ways about it. He is physically dominating and imposing. He is an amazing finisher around the basket and an elite level rebounder. Tough and tenacious, Alexander is going to get a lot of consideration at the top of the 2015 NBA Draft board. He has work to do on his refining his basketball skills, but as an overall NBA prospect he is a beast in every sense of the word.

Emmanuel Mudiay PG 6’5″; 200 lbs. Guangdong (China)

Mudiay is arguably the uncontested top point guard prospect in the 2015 NBA Draft. He has opted to forego college and will play next season in China, which poses a few wrinkles for his pro career. It’s unclear how much Mudiay will play in China; although the assumption is he’ll play a ton, there are question about how much he will develop in that environment versus being coached in college and playing against top tier college players. Mudiay has an amazing mix of size and pure basketball skills. He has a solid handle and is an elite athlete. His size presents a number of bonuses. He is long and rangy making him a better than expected rebounder and defender. He also has solid quickness and control. Assuming those things continue to progress and he can refine some of his decision making issues, Mudiay projects to be the top guard off the board.

Karl Towns PF/C 7’0″; 248 lbs. Kentucky

Towns is massive, standing at 7’0 with 7’3 ½ wingspan and a jaw dropping 9’5 standing reach. He has some elite physical tools. Throughout his path tho Kentucky Towns has been something of a mixed bag, he’ll give jaw dropping performances on some plays and sort of disappear on others. However, when he is on his game, he is as impressive a draft prospect as they come and with a chance to be a showcase player at Kentucky, Towns could get a lot of consideration in the top of the draft in June. Towns is playing this week with Kentucky during their overseas trip and has lived up to the hype so far.  He will play for the Dominican Republic during the 2014 FIBA World Cup before making his collegiate debut.

Kelly Oubre SF 6’6″; 204 lbs. Kansas  Oubre might be the best non-big man in the 2015 Draft class. He is an elite level scorer with solid athleticism and a knack for playing and finishing around the basket. He is an above average passer and rebounder for his position and an engaged defender with solid size and length. Oubre took part in this year’s adidas Nations tournament in Long Beach and went head-to-head with some of the other top tier talents and had a strong showing. Oubre is absolutely a guy to watch this college basketball season, he really could be one of the top guys taken next June.

Myles Turner C 6’11”; 242 lbs. Texas

Some of the shine has come off of Turner’s star a little in his path to Texas. He has elite level size, and athleticism. He is a solid shot blocker and rebounder and has a very high basketball IQ. Turner has a chance to really improve his draft stock this year if he can improve on some of the mechanical weaknesses. Scouts have voiced serious concerns about his lower body. Turner’s ability to shoot the ball is an added bonus for a player of his size. A strong season at Texas could really put Turner into the mix in the top five.

Kristaps Porzingis PF 7’0″; 220 lbs. Sevilla

Porzingis pulled out of the 2014 NBA Draft and is expected to take another run at it in 2015. The key issues for Porzingis this past summer still exists. He is super undersized in the weight department, and while h has an impressive array of skills, he is still very much a raw project-type player. Another season aboard should help, but unless he can add some bulk to his frame he still looks to be a project type player.

Stanley Johnson SF 6’7″; 237 lbs. Arizona

Johnson has had a busy summer bouncing from elite skills camp to elite skills camp and guarding some of the best players along the way. At LeBron James’ Skill Academy, Johnson drew LeBron James and held his own. At adidas Nations Johnson pulled Arron Afflalo and Tracy McGrady and held his own. Johnson has a great mix of NBA size for his position, and a solid knack for scoring and defending. He proved he can do it against some elite level NBA guys. There is a real chance that Johnson could sneak into the top five in 2015, especially if he continues to showcase himself at Arizona as he did this summer. Johnson passes the eye test in almost every way and pairs that with a solid basketball IQ and a good feel for the game defensively. He is absolutely a player to watch.

Are There Doubts?:  Pistons; big man Greg Monroe is back in the country after spending some time with the NBA’s Basketball Without Boarders program. Monroe took to twitter recently to dispute reports that he’s be offered lucrative high dollar offers by the Pistons tweeting “can’t reject anything that was not offered to me.”

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News is reporting that Monroe and his camp might have doubts about the plan and the vision that new team president Stan Van Gundy has for the team, and that signing the one-year qualifying offer sheet is under serious consideration.

If Monroe signs the $5.3 million offer he would become an unrestricted free agent next summer and have the ability to block or veto and trade.

The Pistons have maintained for weeks that re-signing Monroe was their top offseason priority, however with a little more than a month remaining until the start of NBA training camps, the clock and the calendar are conspiring against a long term deal.

Monroe pledged last week that upon returning from abroad he would focus in on his contract situation, so there is still a chance for a deal either with Detroit or via sign-and-trade with another team, although the belief is that any sign-and-trade involving Monroe would have to send serious assets back to the Pistons, so we’ll see how this plays out.

It’s important to note that if Monroe does sign the qualifying offer, that does not preclude him from signing a new deal in Detroit next summer, it simply means Monroe would have more control of his future in that scenario and would likely be able to extract more in his next deal.

Still Not Talking?:  Amid reports that Suns free agent Bledsoe is frustrated with his free agency, there have been reports that relationship between the player and the team are strained and that the relationship may be unrepairable.

Suns’ owner Robert Sarver told Paul Coro of azcentral.com and the Arizona Republic that he wasn’t sure what to believe and that some of this is likely posturing as part of the free agent process.

“We value Eric as a player,” Sarver said. “I hope at some point we’ll be able to sit down and meet with those guys and make a deal.

“We haven’t heard from the guy in four months, so I couldn’t tell you. I do know that when he played here, he felt good about the organization, his coaching staff and his teammates at the end of the season. We had the same feelings toward him.”

Sarver admitted that not everything was in his control, but remains hopeful for a resolution.

“Hopefully, at the end of the day, Eric comes here and does a contract,” Sarver said. “If that doesn’t happen, then he’ll be here for a year and we’ll have a year to figure it out on both sides.”

The Suns are reported to have offered Bledsoe at four-year, $48 million contract.

There have been some reports suggesting that the Suns contract is structured to de-escalates over the life of the deal, giving the team more financial flexibility down the road.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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