With the end of the Las Vegas Summer League, the 2015 NBA Draft season is officially upon us. While the draft process has largely become a two- to four-year cycle, in my opinion it doesn’t begin in earnest until a majority of the previous year’s draft picks suit up and play their first games with their respective professional teams.
So that means it’s time to put out a big board of prospects!
Yeah, this is still way too early to do one of these. Undoubtedly, I’m going to look foolish for publishing this as some players improve and others stagnate in their development. Before you take a look at the board though, here are some general thoughts on the class of 2015:
1. The top of this class isn’t as good as 2014, but it’s not nearly as bad as 2013 either. There might not be a guy who I like as an “overriding franchise talent,” but there are a few guys here who I think could potentially be all-stars or the second-best players on title teams.
2. The depth of this class is pretty similar to 2014. I didn’t love the depth of the 2014 class, and I don’t particularly like the depth of this one either. The players near the bottom of this board are all pretty flawed, although some will definitely make an NBA impact in some regard.
3. Keep in mind that, again, this is really early to do this. There will be guys on this list that fall off by the end of the season, and guys that aren’t on this list who rise up into the lottery. It’s unlikely that the top 7 picks are going to be freshmen, as I have listed here. Also, just because I don’t have Caris LeVert here doesn’t mean that he couldn’t put on strength this offseason and become a lottery pick that can both create for himself at the rim and shoot from distance.
4. We’ll be doing this monthly from now until February based on the information we continue to gather. This will most likely affect international prospects most. I might watch more tape on someone like Marc Garcia, who I have lower than most other draft people do, and fall in love with him. Or I might decide that Kristaps Porzingis deserves to fall. It will be a continual process to nail down as the 2015 draft continues to hurtle towards us.
So without further ado, here is our first big board of the 2015 NBA Draft season.
2015 NBA Mock Draft / Big Board
The man in the middle on what could possibly be the most talented team in the NCAA next season, Okafor is a skilled, long-armed center that can protect the rim and score from the post. He has excellent footwork both on offense and defense, and utilizes his 7’5 wingspan to both block shots and score efficiently from the paint. His midrange game is also coming along well, which will be important for the development of his overall offensive game. Conditioning may be an issue for him in the future, but right now he looks like a potential franchise anchor in the middle.
Power Forward/Center, Kentucky
If you made me guess which one player could leap up and take the #1 spot from Okafor, right now my pick would be Towns. He’s one of the most diverse prospects to come along in a while, possessing the size to protect the rim and the athletic fluidity to run the floor. Most importantly though, he already has expansive range out to about 20 feet and the rudimentary ability to put the ball on the deck and get to the rim. His next development will be improving his defensive instincts, but Towns may be the closest prospect to LaMarcus Aldridge since the real thing was drafted.
Point Guard, International
Making waves this week for eschewing the NCAA to go professional
, Mudiay is a 6’5 point guard that uses his size and athleticism to get into the paint and make plays for both himself and others. His biggest strength is his play in the pick-and-roll, which will translate very well to the NBA’s screen-heavy league. Part of the reason he’s so effective there is that he’s an excellent pull-up shooter in the mid-range, which is also an important skill that often takes years for many young players to develop. Combining these things with his natural passing skills and athletic ability, and he’s the clear choice for the top guard in the draft.
Power Forward, Kansas
Alexander is a beast, through and through. He’s almost guaranteed to have a massive freshman campaign at Kansas, where his combination of overall athleticism and strength will be too much for just about every collegiate player to handle. In fact, he’s probably the freshman most likely to be on the All-American team at the end of the season. He finishes through contact, rebounds absolutely everything around him, and plays well in the pick-and-roll. The questions around Alexander simply revolve around his size, as he’s only about 6’9 in shoes. Measurements will be extremely important for him next offseason, and if he does well there it wouldn’t surprise me to see him shoot up this board.
Small Forward, Arizona
Already possessing an NBA body and superior athletic ability, Johnson may be the most professional-ready NCAA prospect in the draft. He already has good touch from the three point line and is an absolute beast in transition. At nearly 6’8 with a 6’11 wingspan, Johnson will have excellent size for the small forward position. His overall explosiveness might leave something to be desired, but he’s a bully all over the floor that has a high compete level. He should it in nicely with the Wildcats and propel them to another Pac-12 title.
Small Forward, Duke
I probably have Winslow rated a bit higher than most people, but after seeing the kind of impact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had on Kentucky in his freshman season, it’s hard not to get excited about Winslow. Winslow is the same type of high-energy, tough, defensive-minded player that any coach would kill to have. His more apt NBA comparison might be Andre Iguodala though, as his passing is quite advanced for someone his age, and Duke might be able to play through him a bit more at times this season because of it. His frame is already NBA-ready, let alone NCAA ready, so I expect him to have a major impact for he Blue Devils next season even if his scoring ability in the half-court still leaves something to be desired.
Power Forward/Center, Texas
Turner’s draft stock was always going to be a bit volatile given the fact that his game isn’t quite as developed as some of the other prospects listed, but his decision to go to Texas may have exacerbated it. Rick Barnes doesn’t always get the best out of freshman — Kevin Durant excluded — and Turner’s skills are still somewhat rudimentary. When he’s on, he runs the floor like a wing, shoots well from out to 20 feet, and protects the rim with his long wingspan. When he’s not, his athletic stiffness tends to show up a bit more, and he doesn’t call for the ball as much as he should. Turner could go anywhere from 1st to 15th on draft night, and I wouldn’t be surprised. Therefore, I’ve split the difference and gone for him at 7th.
Power Forward/Center, Latvia
Our own Kevin O’Connor wrote about him at length last week, so I won’t go too deep here. He’s a mobile big that shoots threes and is seven-feet tall. Read Kevin’s post
to get a more full picture of this Latvian mystery man.
Before surprising everyone by pulling out of the 2014 NBA draft, Cauley-Stein looked slotted to go somewhere in this vicinity in what is a more highly-touted class. He should get a good amount of run with the Wildcats this year as the oldest and best defensive big man in their loaded front court. However, one of their three centers (Towns, WCS, and Dakari Johnson) will most likely drop on draft boards due to a lack of playing time. Cauley-Stein is an excellent defensive center who moves well both laterally in space and at the rim. He needs to show some development on offense though this season to keep this lofty ranking.
Shooting Guard, Kansas
Selden was expected to be a one-and-done player last season, but he got lost in the shuffle behind Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. However, with those two gone (as well as Naadir Tharpe’s ball-hogging tendencies), look for him to take a massive step forward this season. He improved upon his ball-handling and instincts in the pick-and-roll last season, and he ironed out what was at times a flat jumper. Already possessing an NBA-level body for a shooting guard, I’m going out on something of a limb and predicting that Selden will be the better of the two between he and Kelly Oubre.
Small Forward, Arizona
It’s entirely possible that Hollis-Jefferson pushes Stanley Johnson down mock drafts, and it won’t be because Johnson is doing anything wrong. Hollis-Jefferson is simply that good. Another energy/do-it-all defensive player type, you can always expect a high energy and compete level out of him. He’s a monster on the boards for a small forward, attacks relentlessly, and defends the best player on the floor. He’s below Winslow here because I think his ancillary skill level (shooting, passing) is a level below the Duke freshman, but he’s still a lottery-level prospect worth watching.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Croatia
Rafael Uehara broke him down last Friday, so I’ll just link you there.
I like the athleticism, but I just wonder if the iso-heavy nature of his game translates well to the way the NBA is going. He probably goes higher than this on draft day assuming he gets some minutes at Barcelona, but I’m not thoroughly convinced of him.
Power Forward, Louisville
I love Harrell’s game so much. He’s an incredibly explosive power forward with long arms that attacks the rim and runs the floor. Also, he started to show the semblance of a midrange game last season, which will be essential to his NBA prospects. However, there will not be a player whose measurements are more scrutinized than his. According to DraftExpress’s measurements database
, he was 6’6.5 in shoes in 2013. He’s listed at 6’8 right now, so it’s possible that either the measurement is off or that he’s grown recently. However, he needs to measure at least an inch or so taller than that to keep this spot.
Point Guard, Duke
As this seems to be another draft bereft of elite point guard talent at the moment, Jones’s stock will only be elevated come draft time. While Jones is not necessarily the best athlete, his instincts are top-notch and he knows how to distribute the ball to get everyone involved offensively. Like Tyler Ennis last season, he’ll need to show some development with his outside jumper to keep this spot. But with a multitude of weapons around him at Duke, look for this facilitator to get everyone involved.
Power Forward/Small Forward?, Florida
Walker is the premier athlete in this draft class for his size. His leaping ability is absolutely incredible, and he uses it to dunk and swat shots away around the rim with ease. He’s also shown some rudimentary ball skills in transition, but ultimately I think his best fit is as a power forward that protects the weak side of the rim and potentially develops a midrange game. The questions with him are mostly around the level of competition that he’s faced so far. His high school in Florida was quite small, and he still hasn’t played heavy minutes for the Gators yet. I’d look for that to change this year, and if Walker performs he will skyrocket up this board.
Small Forward, Kansas
Oubre is an interesting prospect, as he has great size and length for the small forward position at 6’7 with a near 7’2 wingspan. However, the skill set and decision-making haven’t particularly come along yet in the way you would hope for from a potential lottery prospect. He takes some bad shots and doesn’t have a great sense of his limitations. Plus, while he has the length and athleticism to be an elite defender, he doesn’t particularly get after it in the way you would hope. I really like Oubre as a prospect because of his athleticism, but there are some things he needs to improve upon in the near future to raise his NBA stock.
In the spacing-and-shooting starved modern NBA, centers that have range out to 23 feet are extremely important. Kaminsky is something of a super Ryan Kelly, who made a large impact for the Lakers last season as a second round pick. Kaminsky has the ability to step away and shoot the three, but also has good footwork in the post and an array of up-fakes with which to score. He also does fairly well defensively for someone with athletic limitations, as he averaged nearly two blocks per game last season. He’ll also be a darling of the statistical community, as I’ve written before.
Shooting Guard, Kentucky
The 2014 NCAA Tournament’s clutch shot-maker, I favor Aaron over Andrew of the two Harrison twins. He does a better job of slashing to the rim to create his own shot, and the outside shooting seems to be more well-developed. He’s not a superb athlete at the shooting guard position, but his ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line should translate well to the next level. While his shooting is better than Andrew’s he does need to still continue to develop it beyond the streaky nature that he shone last season. There are some definite question marks here, but the whole package is definitely there for a solid NBA 2-guard.
Small Forward/Power Forward, Wisconsin
Another statistical darling from Wisconsin, Dekker has great size and solid athleticism for the small forward position. He shoots the ball well from deep, and also crashes the offensive glass hard. Because of that ability to crash he glass and his 6’9 size, it wouldn’t surprise me if a team could get him to steal some minutes at the 4 in order to create some space. While that’s an option he’s mostly going to be a small forward in the NBA, and he’ll need to work on improving his perimeter defensive skills in what will presumably be his last season in Madison.
Point Guard, Utah
I’ve been lucky enough to interview and profile Delon, whose brother is Dorell of the Portland Trail Blazers. You should read that
to get a more full view of Delon. The quick version is that he’s an big, long, attacking guard that both creates plays for himself and others in the paint. He’s also a tough defender that is tasked with the best offensive player on the opposing team each night. He has a very real chance to shoot up draft boards this season if he can improve his shooting from distance.
Shooting Guard, Georgia State
In my opinion, Elfrid Payton was not the best prospect in the Sun Belt this season. R.J. Hunter was. Hunter is a smooth-shooting guard, first and foremost, but he’s also improved his ancillary abilities to create with the ball in his hands and in the pick-and-roll. He’s somewhat comparable to Klay Thompson and Nik Stauskas, although slightly shorter. This is a smart player that should have a long NBA career as a role player though, and that’s all you can ask for at this stage of the draft.
Power Forward/Center, Arkansas
Portis is an interesting face-up 4 who, like those listed before him, is what new-age NBA teams are looking for from their bigs. I worry about his upside due to his lack of athletic explosion and the fact that he’s mostly still a midrange player, but Portis should have a solid year for the Razorbacks. The place he needs to improve is on the defensive end, where he needs to become a borderline elite rim protector on the NCAA level, and slightly better when moving in space. If he can improve those aspects though, he’ll probably get drafted higher than this due to his complete offensive arsenal that involves both shooting and the ability to post.
Point Guard, North Carolina
Paige is a prototypical point guard that fits the direction that the NBA is going. He’s an excellent three-point shooter (albeit with a slow release) that should force players out on him, and then he has excellent ball-handling maneuverability to get into the paint and draw players to him. Once he does that, he’s an excellent passer that hits the open man directly in the shooting pocket. His ability to control the pace of the game will most likely be unmatched in the NCAA this season, and I expect him to be among the favorites to win ACC Player of the Year.
Yup, another Kentucky player (he won’t be the last). Johnson is a pure post center that uses his immense frame to excel scoring close to the bucket and rebounding. He protects the rim well with his ability to block shots, but he needs to improve his lateral ability defensively. My guess is that he’s used more as a low-minute, high-leverage bench player again just like he was last season with the Wildcats. He’s the most likely Kentucky big man to see his minutes decline throughout the season though, despite his skill level, so he’ll need to be careful and play well early.
I was a bit surprised when Hammons didn’t declare for the draft this year, as he’s old for his class. There may not be a better rim protector in the draft when he’s on the floor, and he’s extremely fluid for a seven-footer that weighs 280 lbs. On offense, he also has strong potential as a pick-and-pop big man, as he has solid range out to about 20 feet. He needs to improve his conditioning immensely (he’s only able to play about 20-24 minutes per game right now), but if he does that he’ll be an unstoppable force in the Big Ten this year.
Power Forward, North Carolina
Johnson is a Brandan Wright clone that will be expected to take a step forward as James Michael McAdoo leaves the Tar Heel program. His value revolves around his mobility at nearly 6’10 and his ability to score, where his per-40 and advanced numbers are absolutely outstanding. He does have a slightly short wingspan though for his height, and he still only weighs around 210 lbs. Putting on some weight will be essential to his ability to play the 4 in the NBA, but if he can do that he’s a more mobile athlete than just about any power forward he’d be lined up against.
Shooting Guard, Spain
Garcia is a scoring guard that shoots well from distance. His ball-handling and athleticism could probably best be described as “crafty” or “awkward,” but it gets the job done as he’s able to get to the free throw line. However, he does have short arms and I have some serious questions about who he’ll be able to guard at the next level given the limited tape I’ve seen of him. DraftExpress compares him to Nik Stauskas, and I don’t think that’s a poor comparison. I just think he’s probably slightly less athletic and slightly smaller, which will make him tougher to hide defensively.
A naturalized Spaniard from Senegal, Diop is purely a defensive center prospect that has great length. His rim protection skills have potential to be top-notch, and his mobility is pretty solid for someone his size. I didn’t see much of an offensive game in the admittedly still small amount of tape that I’ve seen of him, but he can run the floor and finish at the rim well. As with most international 19 year old bigs, he needs to put on some weight and strength, but this would be an excellent draft-and-stash opportunity.
Power Forward, LSU
Mickey swatted shots with a complete disregard for human life in the SEC this season. His 9.2 percent block rate was good for third in the SEC (Cauley-Stein was first), and his defensive rebounding rate was ninth in the conference. He has incredibly long arms and great timing defensively, as well as a mobile frame that should allow him to move well in space in the NBA. The biggest question about his prospects would be regarding his height, as he’s slightly under 6’8 in shoes. But his 7’2 wingspan helps to make up for it, and he’s an incredibly athlete that finishes at the rim through contact.
Power Forward/Small Forward, Kentucky
I will never give up on Poythress’s NBA prospects, as he’s an incredible athlete that can defend multiple positions and has the semblance of a jump shot from deep. If that shot becomes consistent, there is a chance that he could fly up draft boards and become a lottery pick, as it would solidify his standing as a small forward on the NBA level. Even if that never happens, he has the size to play the power forward at 6’9 with a 7’0 wingspan in small ball situations, and he’d be able to take most power forwards off the dribble with his ball-skills. Now, the question just becomes if he can actually get consistent playing time at Kentucky with their immense amount of depth this season.
Next five who just missed the board: Jabari Bird, SF, California; Wang Zhelin, PF/C, China, Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan; Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Arizona; Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky;