Coming Down The Stretch: For weeks, NBA teams have looked at potential draft prospects, flying in dozens and dozens of would-be draft picks trying to decide who is draftable, who is a summer league candidate and who just might fit on a D-League roster.
Keep in mind, not all workouts and team visits are about wanting draft a player. Sometimes draftable players need someone to work out against, so when you see the laundry list of names associated with teams, that does not make them all draft candidates.
So with the 2015 NBA Draft just three more days away, here is what we know on a few situations:
Towns Closing In On #1 Overall
The Minnesota Timberwolves are doing all of the due diligence you do when you hold the top pick, and that included working out guys that may not make sense at number one. The general consensus is that virtually everyone associated with the Timberwolves believes Karl-Anthony Towns is the perfect fit for the Wolves roster. The problem is that more and more people are saying Flip Saunders, the final decision maker, is still stuck on Jahlil Okafor as too may be owner Glen Taylor. As more film work and study is being done with the Wolves, there is a sense that Towns is ultimately their guy, but calling it a lock is far from certain.
Towns is an advanced metric darling, and his all-around game seems to fit the Wolves a little better than Okafor, whose best attributes are offensive in nature. The problem is the old school basketball guys see what Okafor is right now as a player, and that he could project into that transcendent franchise player. Towns may be the safer pick, and the more appropriate fit, but will the Wolves swing for the fences or simply draft the player almost everyone believes is the can’t-miss talent at the top of the board?
Lakers Leaning Towards A Big
As a franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers have built a legacy around franchise big men whether it was George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and even Andrew Bynum (although he’s not nearly the caliber of the others). If there is one franchise that understands how an elite big man can change the game, it’s the Lakers. Equally, if there is one franchise that understands what it takes for a big man to become elite in the NBA, it’s the Lakers.
The Lakers have taken long looks at the top-tier guards, having both D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay in for workouts twice. They smuggled in Kristaps Porzingis under the cover of darkness (not really) for a private workout. In total, the Lakers have seen more than 80 draft eligible prospects all across the board.
There is temptation to go small in this draft, especially given the state of the NBA game and how much it’s become a small guy league. With that said, the Lakers still seem to be leaning toward the big guy the Wolves do not take.
If Towns is going number one overall, Okafor looks as close to the number two overall selection as anyone in the class. The Lakers are still working the process and are not at all ready to make a commitment, but it seems that the narrative in the room is still the best big on the board and the Lakers, they understand completely how much that matters.
76ers Like Porzingis
There was a narrative floating around that guard D’Angelo Russell was reluctant to be a 76er. Most of it stems from a cancelled work out that was later attributed to being really sick. Russell did reschedule the workout and, according to sources, really did well in that workout and thoroughly impressed everyone involved in both his on the court work and how he presented himself in meetings. Some said he did well enough to cement himself a serious candidate for the third overall pick. The problem is the Sixers, like most of the teams in the top five, have a serious interest in international big man Kristaps Porzingis. There is a growing sense that Porzingis could be the swing for the fences move that 76ers GM Sam Hinkie has become known for, although sources close to the process say that while Porzingis is a conversation on a regular basis, there is still a real probability that the 76ers go Russell and leave Porzingis on the board. Like the Lakers, the Sixers are far from decided on who they are taking, as there is merit for each option and that includes Emmanuel Mudiay, who sources say is also in the picture at number three too.
Mudiay In The Mix At Four
So if the Timberwolves take Towns at one, then the Lakers take Okafor at two, the Sixers take Russell off the board at three, the Knicks at four have some choices.
Knicks sources have been fairly adamant that Mudiay is firmly in the mix, despite Phil Jackson’s historical lack of interest in point guards. That said, the names connected to the Knicks continue to change with virtually every conversation. When the process started Willie Cauley-Stein was their top guy, then it became Justise Winslow, then it was Trey Lyles, then it was Cameron Payne and now we are back to Mudiay. The Knicks are also a serious landing spot for Porzingis.
There is a lot there for the Knicks. That said there is also a narrative that if Towns, Okafor and Russell are off the board, this where the Knicks trade down into the next tier of picks and try and extract an additional asset or two that’s more ready to play right away.
Pegging what the Knicks will ultimately do is something of a mystery in this draft, there are solid prospects available to the Knicks, but it does not seem like they have a really defined shortlist and that is generally an indicator of a trade down. If you are not in love at number four, move down to somewhere you are, especially if it can yield more than what is there at four all by itself.
Magic Playing Catch At Five
The Orlando Magic have typically been as clandestined a group as they come when it comes to the draft. They do not publish any workouts, they do not allow media in the building and they ask players to refrain from tweeting or talking about their workouts with others. They see no value in sharing that information.
That also makes it hard to get a good read on where the Magic are leaning. Sources close to the process will only talk about prospects in groupings and refrain from anything that would tip their hand. Justise Winslow is in the mix, as is Porzingis (viewed by league sources as Orlando’s guy), as is Mario Hezonja. Willie Cauley-Stein is said to be a favorite of a number of Magic executives, but is not considered their guy since others in the front office aren’t sold on him, at least according to sources.
The Magic are absolutely in catch who falls to them mode, and both of the international players are squarely in the mix at five.
Is Mario Hezonja In Play At 6?
While Emmanuel Mudiay seems like the right fit for Sacramento, more and more insiders are warning that Mario Hezonja could be Vlade Divac’s guy at number six. The Kings have been very thorough in working out all kinds of options at the six, including Cameron Payne and Willie Cauley-Stein.
The other wrinkle at six is that Sacramento has been after Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets with the sixth pick as the center piece of a deal. If Mudiay falls within range of the sixth pick there could be a deal to be had for Denver in which they can dump off Lawson on the Kings and pick back to back at six and seven and jump start their rebuild with Mudiay and their perceived favorite Hezonja.
Sources close to the process say that Denver is seeking too much for Lawson and that Sacramento isn’t willing to part with future draft assets and the six for Lawson and his contract.
This one could go to the wire. If the Kings hold the pick, Mudiay and Hezonja seem like the prime targets.
The next full Mock Draft, featuring all 60 picks will drop tomorrow morning. The final Consensus Mock Draft will drop Wednesday afternoon and we will try and get a Draft Day mock reflecting everything we know on draft day up on Thursday. So if you are a draft junkie, we will try and keep you satisfied.
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