Pick-by-pick analysis of NBA Draft
Jun. 25, 2015
Analyzing all 30 picks in the first round of the NBA Draft:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns (F, Kentucky)
Analysis: Towns was a big part of a well-oiled machine in Lexington this season for a team that nearly completed an undefeated campaign. But it was hard to really define what sort of impact Towns had as a star because Kentucky's roster was so deep and full of talent. So we'll find out just how good Towns can be with a very young, but very talented Minnesota roster. He fits the program well, and will immediately give the T-Wolves a presence down low both on offense and defense. He's a stud shot blocker and a solid rebounder, but his calling is on the offensive end, where he can stretch a defense with a good outside shot and dependable low-post moves. The Wolves get a whole lot better by taking Towns.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - D'Angelo Russell (G, Ohio State)
Analysis: This is where it starts to get interesting. The Lakers go with the star freshman guard over Duke big man Jahlil Okafor. This says a lot about the Lakers' offseason hopes of landing a big-name free agent in the post. But Russell makes sense here either way because Kobe Bryant is aging and isn't as healthy as he used to be. Russell, the Big Ten freshman of the year, has tons of upside and might be the best pure basketball player in this class. He has great passing abilities, is an excellent scorer and has the potential to be an explosive athlete. That's what Los Angeles wants to get back with this selection and perhaps the Lakers can pair him with some larger names through free agency.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jahlil Okafor (F, Duke)
Analysis: Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor? Just how big can this Sixers lineup get? Selecting the best player on the board gives Philadelphia some serious options to consider, namely whether the team should trade one of its three giants or keep and use them all. What Okafor, the ACC's first-ever freshman player of the year, brings is an unparalleled ability to score in the low post. He's a little rough around the edges defensively, but that's what Noel is in Philly for. Okafor can be one of the league's best offensive big men almost right away, and depending on how much time Embiid will (or could) miss this upcoming season due to injury, Okafor could be a very valuable piece. But let's wait and see which teams come calling with trade offers.
4. New York Knicks - Kristaps Porzingis (F, Spain)
Analysis: Conventional wisdom would suggest New York was going to take Emmanuel Mudiay with the fourth pick. But instead the Knicks, who had expressed interest in moving down potentially, go with the Latvian-born Porzingis, who has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. Most foreign players are shrouded in a little bit of mystery, but it's been well-documented that Porzingis has tons of upside thanks to his incredible size and athletic ability. The stretch-four has a great outside shot, can play down low and is solid defensively. But he's exceptionally raw and very young, so his development could be predicated on his environment, which in his case is not good. In this case, the mystery may continue until later this offseason.
5. Orlando Magic - Mario Hezonja (F, Spain)
Analysis: Back-to-back foreign-born selections in the top five picks. But while Porzingis was an absolutely justifiable fourth-overall selection, Hezonja is more of a surprise. But he fits what Orlando is looking for over players like Justise Winslow and Mudiay. The Magic don't need a point guard, and they don't really need a small forward. Hezonja (6-foot-8), a Croatian- born player, gives them a dimension as a forward or a guard because he can shoot the ball outside. In fact, he shoots the ball almost better than anyone else in this class. So if the Magic were looking for a guy who can create spacing on the floor, Hezonja is their man.
6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein (F, Kentucky)
Analysis: Cauley-Stein becomes the second Kentucky player selected, which comes as no surprise. It's a bit shocking the Kings still went with the 7-foot freak athlete over the position that seems to perpetually elude them - point guard - with Mudiay still on the board. For now, the Kings will pair Cauley- Stein with DeMarcus Cousins (who is the center of many trade rumors) to complete a formidable frontcourt. Cousins is an offensive force, and Cauley- Stein is an exceptional defensive playmaker in the low post. His shot-blocking ability earned him a high choice alone, but he can defend anyone and anywhere on the floor. With upside, he does have the potential for growth offensively.
7. Denver Nuggets - Emmanuel Mudiay (G, China)
Analysis: The wait is finally over for Mudiay, who is regarded as a top-four talent in this class. His game is a bit mysterious, considering he played last season not only in China but spent a large portion of the campaign on the bench with an injury. But he's lauded as one of the best pure point guard prospects in years, and really only has one downside to his game - his shooting ability. But that can be fixed with plenty of work this offseason, while his abilities to pass, defend and play in transition at elite levels are intangible. This should be a steal for the Nuggets, who likely didn't envision a player of Mudiay's caliber slipping all the way to the seventh pick.
8. Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson (G/F, Arizona)
Analysis: This pick seems pretty fitting for the Pac-12 freshman player of the year, who was a do-it-all type of athlete for the Wildcats in 2014-15. Johnson is a very athletic wing player who is a strong scorer with a great ability to play transition basketball. He's a solid defender as well with good size and an even better wingspan who will help a Detroit team hoping to get some star power that will develop and lead the team in the right direction. He has an outstanding build for the NBA and gets to the foul line like no one else.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Frank Kaminsky (F, Wisconsin)
Analysis: The Hornets needed shooting entering the draft. What do they do? Get the Wooden Award winner and Big Ten player of the year in Kaminsky, who can stretch a defense with his outside shooting ability and low-post prowess. He's a questionable NBA-level player, but he truly believes he was built for the professional game. He has the size for sure. The Hornets traded Noah Vonleh earlier, but also went out and got Spencer Hawes - seemingly the same type of player as Kaminsky. The offseason will tell what the future holds for the Hornets and their first-round choice.
10. Miami Heat - Justise Winslow (G/F, Duke)
Analysis: The Heat should be thanking their lucky stars a player of this caliber fell to the 10th selection. Winslow is a good catch-and-shoot player, but he really made a name for himself with his ability to slash to the basket and score. A star in the transition game, Winslow is a player who has tons of upside and will constantly develop in the right type of system. It worked out well for Dwyane Wade, who Winslow compares to exceptionally well. A national championship winner in his only season at Duke, look for Winslow to have a big impact right away in South Beach.
11. Indiana Pacers - Myles Turner (F, Texas)
Analysis: The Pacers were pretty heavily tied to Kaminsky prior to their selection, but with the national player of the year off the board just two selections earlier, they decide to go with another big man in the Texas youngster Turner. Turner needs development, but he can be a strong low-post player with good offensive and defensive qualities. It's a bit surprising the Pacers didn't go with a guard like Murray State's Cameron Payne, but Turner fills another need for Indiana, which watched as David West opted out of his contract to become a free agent. Turner doesn't run well, and his ability to play against greater competition is in question, so he could be a bit of a project for Indiana.
12. Utah Jazz - Trey Lyles (F, Kentucky)
Analysis: Another Kentucky domino falls. Lyles was a bit of a quietly productive player for the Wildcats this past season because most of the focus went to guys like Towns, Cauley-Stein and the Harrison twins. But the freshman Lyles proved his size (6-10) didn't just label him as a power forward/center. He runs the floor well, has a bit of an outside jump shot and is a solid low- post scorer. With players like Trevor Booker and Derrick Favors taking up much of the playing time at the four position, Lyles could be relegated to a primary reserve role. He doesn't project well to a small forward and isn't a pure center. But he wasn't able to showcase all of his skills at Kentucky, so perhaps he'll get his shot with Utah.
13. Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker (G, Kentucky)
Analysis: Seeing a pattern here? Phoenix goes with the shooter from Kentucky who was slated in mock drafts to come off the board a few picks earlier, so the Suns luck out in that sense. Booker is one of the best outside shooters in this draft, and after dealing Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics midway through last season, the Suns could certainly use his scoring services. Booker was second- best among major-conference freshmen in 3-point shooting in the nation last season for the Wildcats, and he's a silently good defender. He should flourish with the Suns as one of the primary scorers in the near future.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Cameron Payne (G, Murray State)
Analysis: Payne becomes the highest-selected Racers player in program history as he heads to Oklahoma City. The Lute Olson Player of the Year was a dynamic sophomore leader for Murray State, helping his team go undefeated in Ohio Valley Conference play in 2014-15. He's an excellent facilitator, has an outstanding outside shot and will provide the Thunder with a pure point guard option who will relieve Russell Westbrook off the bench. Payne gets an opportunity to learn behind several of the most talented players in the game, so he should be able to hone his skills in practice alone. Watch for this mid- major player to excel in this type of environment.
15. Washington Wizards (from Atlanta Hawks) - Kelly Oubre Jr. (G/F, Kansas)
Analysis: Oubre shouldn't get too comfortable in Atlanta because he'll be traded to the Washington Wizards, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. He actually would have fit in well with Atlanta, which seems to be missing a dynamic scoring threat off the dribble. But Oubre's talents will be well- received in Washington, where he'll get to work with some of the best budding young superstars in the game in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Oubre was a strong player for the Jayhawks who got it done on both ends of the floor. After losing Paul Pierce, the Wizards will like Oubre's fit at the small forward position.
16. Boston Celtics - Terry Rozier (G, Louisville)
Analysis: Interesting pick here for the Celtics, especially with guys like Sam Dekker and Bobby Portis still on the board. But the Celtics lack a dynamic scoring guard (you know, aside from Isaiah Thomas), and that's what Rozier brings to Boston. He's small and doesn't have the best outside shot, but he knows how to get to the basket and can defend like no one else. Rozier is an outstanding athlete, but it seems there were better options for the Celtics that were still out there.
17. Milwaukee Bucks - Rashad Vaughn (G, UNLV)
Analysis: Vaughn was a highly coveted prospect in the mid- to late first round, so this selection seems relatively appropriate. Vaughn earned the Mountain West Conference player of the year award despite tearing his meniscus about three-quarters of the way through the season. He's also exceptionally young at 18. That hasn't hindered his ability to be an all-around scoring threat from both the outside and driving to the basket, which is something the Bucks need. He'll need to improve his defensive abilities, but offensively he boosts Milwaukee immediately.
18. Houston Rockets - Sam Dekker (F, Wisconsin)
Analysis: There was talk before the night began that Dekker could be a borderline top-10 selection. But after he (appropriately) falls a little bit, he should fit in quite well with the Rockets. His stock was boosted a bit by some circus shots he was able to make in the NCAA Tournament, most of which he likely won't be able to get off in the NBA. Either way, he's a 6-8 athlete who can put the ball of the floor, and score from inside and outside. He'll be a nice complement to James Harden, who does so much of the scoring for Houston. Dekker will be able to receive drive-and-dish passes that he can turn into open shots with the Rockets.
19. Washington Wizards - Jerian Grant (G, Notre Dame)
Analysis: Per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Grant will be dealt to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. Grant was labeled as a point guard with the Fighting Irish, and he averaged almost seven assists per game this past season. But his true ability is scoring the basketball in a number of ways, namely by using his unbelievable explosiveness to get through defenders and to the rim. Knicks fans can rest assured a little bit after the Porzingis selection that they finally get their next deadly scoring threat.
20. Toronto Raptors - Delon Wright (G, Utah)
Analysis: Wright is a very solid pick this late in the first round for his defensive ability alone. He's likely the best defensive point guard in this year's class and led the Utes last season in steals. His offensive ability is a bit of a work in progress, especially when it comes to outside shooting. Still, Wright is an explosive player who makes excellent, cerebral decisions in the passing game and is very active defensively, which makes this selection work for the Raptors who already employ Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
21. Dallas Mavericks - Justin Anderson (F, Virginia)
Analysis: Anderson was one of the key cogs in Tony Bennett's defense-first scheme at Virginia in 2014-15. Anderson is a versatile player who is outstanding on defense and a strong finisher on the offensive end. He fractured a finger against Louisville, and an appendectomy forced him to miss more time this past season, but he came back in time for the ACC Tournament and to earn second-team All-ACC honors. Anderson should be able to be an impact player for the Mavericks, assuming he can stay healthy.
22. Chicago Bulls - Bobby Portis (F, Arkansas)
Analysis: Portis wasn't expected to last this long, but the reigning SEC player of the year finally jumps off the board to the Bulls. He's an outstandingly tenacious player on both offense and defense, and by all accounts is still growing (listed currently at 6-11) after he shot up an extra inch in height in his two seasons on campus. Portis isn't an exceptional athlete, but he knows how to use his body in the low-post offensive game and can stretch a giant wingspan out in the paint. The Bulls have the aging Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol down low, so adding some young size (Portis declared after his sophomore campaign) to the depth chart is wise at this juncture.
23. Portland Trailblazers - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (F, Arizona)
Analysis: Excellent value pick for the Trailblazers here at No. 23. Hollis- Jefferson falls into a category with Justise Winslow and former teammate Stanley Johnson as a transformative small forward headed to the NBA. He's on the larger side (6-7) with a big wingspan, and is hyper athletic with a dangerous ability to drive the lane and score the ball at the rim. The former Wildcats player doesn't possess a strong outside game, but he makes up for it with top-notch transition skills and a defensive effort that is second to none. He's still very raw, especially on offense, but Hollis-Jefferson has the ability to develop into a versatile pro player.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers - Tyus Jones (G, Duke)
Analysis: Per Adrian Wojnarowski, Cleveland will send Jones to Minnesota in exchange for the 31st and 36th picks in this draft. The Eastern Conference champions will not pick in the first round now. Minnesota, however, gets one of the most mature freshmen to enter the draft in memory. He's a true leader coming off a national championship with the Blue Devils. Jones is an excellent passer and is never afraid to take the big shot late in the game. Though a bit undersized, Jones gets the opportunity to run the point behind Ricky Rubio, and should be able to take advantage of a young lineup that includes some of the best transition names in the league.
25. Memphis Grizzlies - Jarell Martin (F, LSU)
Analysis: Martin is an extremely talented and athletic big man who can score the ball off the dribble - a trait not very common in 6-10 big men - as well as down low. He's actually most famous for his between-the-legs dunk against Florida during the 2014-15 season, which showcased his leaping ability. But he's so much more than an explosive jumper. He was first on the Tigers in scoring (16.9 ppg) and second in rebounding (9.2 rpg), finishing in the top three in the SEC in both categories. Memphis can use all the rebounding and scoring help it can get.
26. San Antonio Spurs - Nikola Milutinov (F, Serbia)
Analysis: Though Milutinov, who played for Partizan in Serbia last season, may not be joining the Spurs this season, San Antonio gets a nice 7-footer late in the first round. The bigs in San Antonio, namely Tim Duncan, are getting up there in age, so the Spurs selected a tall, youthful player who can spend some time developing in a pro setting overseas before he moves over to the NBA. It's a smart pick for San Antonio, which always seems to go with the smart pick later on in the first round.
27. Los Angeles Lakers - Larry Nance Jr. (F, Wyoming)
Analysis: Maybe this is just in case the Lakers don't end up getting a priority free-agent big man this offseason? Nance isn't a bad choice, but this selection seems a little high on a player with a second-round grade. At Wyoming, Nance showed his versatility by being a mover inside and displaying a little bit of outside range with a set shot. His father was a stellar NBA talent, but this Nance is much more of a project. With plenty of push in the right direction, Nance could be somewhat of a role player for the Lakers eventually, but certainly not right away.
28. Boston Celtics - R.J. Hunter (G, Georgia State)
Analysis: The slide is over for the shoot-first, think-later player who gained tons of fame when his Georgia State Panthers ousted Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and then his father/coach (with a torn Achilles) threw himself from his sideline chair. Hunter gives the Celtics a much-needed dimension in the 3-point game, and Hunter can shoot from (literally) anywhere on the floor. His range is limitless. He has a 6-11 wingspan and possesses good size for a pure shooting guard. Hunter needs to beef up his defensive attributes, and at times he was a ball hog for the Panthers (though in all fairness, he had to be in a sparse Sun Belt Conference). He should be an immediate impact player for the C's.
29. Brooklyn Nets - Chris McCullough (F, Syracuse)
Analysis: McCullough missed most of the 2014-15 season with an ACL injury. But boy, did he have upside before that. He's a big player (6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan), but isn't resigned to just a low-post mover role. He can use a strong leaping ability in the rebounding game, and he does have a bit of an edge when it comes to scoring off the dribble. The Nets really need all the help they can get after some big roster changes (and likely some more upcoming) this offseason, and if McCullough can develop and move past the torn ACL injury, he'll be a nice upside player.
30. Golden State Warriors - Kevon Looney (F, UCLA)
Analysis: The NBA champion Warriors land a HUGE steal with the last pick in the first round. Looney was projected to be an early- to mid-round selection just a few weeks ago, but questions about some simple injuries seemed to derail his status just a bit. Looney has tons of upside as an athletic big man who can be a shot blocker and rebounder on the defensive end, and a quick- moving low-post scorer on offense. Golden State naturally was propelled to a championship by the shooting abilities of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and solid all-around play by Draymond Green. Looney gives the Warriors more of a post presence with his animalistic ability to get his hands on the basketball at any time.