This year’s draft class expected to be one of the best ever.
With the NCAA Championship game upon us, there are tons of NBA draft prospects this years NCAA tournament.
In fact, five of our projected top-10 picks were in the final 4 this year.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a number of eye-opening performances that may have helped move the needle for a couple of prospects. Duke’s Justise Winslow, Utah’s Jakob Poeltl and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker might fall under that category.
But with so many potentially high-profile matchups left for NBA scouts to see, the draft board will remain fluid after the tournament and all the way through the NBA Draft.
1. New York Knicks: Jahlil Okafor C
If you had to pick the most dominating offensive player in the draft, you would probably choose Okafor. Even though he has had a somewhat mediocre NCAA Tourney, he is a monster in the post and makes the ball looks tiny in his hands. After placing as one of the worst offensive teams in the league, and in need of a dominating big, Okafor is the perfect pick for the the Knicks.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns C
Out of every player in the draft, the one with the most potential upside is Towns. With his offensive game developing, and his defensive game already top-notch, Towns could become a superstar in the NBA. Towns has been a somewhat streaky performer in the tournament, but if he can level the performances night-in-night-out, it will only improve his draft stock. The T-Wolves already have a solid center in Nikola Pekovic, but if Towns is drafted to the Wolves, don’t be surprised if you see Pekovic’s name atop the trade market. Pairing Towns with last years #1 pick Andrew Wiggins, Wolves fans will have to be excited for the future.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Justise Winslow SF
At Duke this year Winslow has been sort of a third wheel to Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, but talent-wise, is one of the best prospects in the draft. He arguably has the best all-around stat line in the entire NCAA Tournament. He is a great on-ball defender as well as a solid rebounder. His amazing athleticism allows him to make sick chase-down blocks. He already is a prolific slasher on the offensive side and has a developing jump shot. Winslow would help the 76ers play up-tempo offense.
4. LA Lakers: Emmanuel Mudiay PG
Choosing to forego college and play overseas, Mudiay is an exciting point guard prospect. With the lack of a franchise point guard over the past few years, Mudiay will fit nicely into that role. The Lakers 2014 1st Round Draft choice, Julius Randle, and Mudiay would be the faces of their franchise during the Lakers rebuild.
5. Orlando Magic: Stanley Johnson SF
Stanley Johnson had a rough NCAA tournament, having shot 7-of-26 combined against Wisconsin, Xavier and Ohio State.
However, as Arizona’s leading scorer, he’d been consistent enough throughout the year to keep the alarms from sounding in March. He’ll have to work on his shot selection and creativity, but Johnson has a promising shooting stroke and a refined in-between game in the mid-range (44.4 percent on two-point jumpers).
At 6’7″, 245 pounds, he has some terrific physical tools for the NBA wing, where he projects as a two-way small forward.
The Magic desperately need some athleticism and offense between Oladipo and their bigs. Johnson would likely have the chance to compete for a starting position right away.
6. Sacramento Kings: D’Angelo Russel
The Kings could give Duke’s Justise Winslow and Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein a look here, but it’s tough to imagine them passing on the chance to land their floor general of the future.
Russell averaged 19.3 points and 5.7 assists while making 95 threes on 41.1 percent shooting from deep. He can create and make shots from anywhere, find teammates as a passer and spread the floor as a shooter.
Russell flashed it all at Ohio State, from point guard vision and takeover scoring ability to leadership and killer instinct.
And at 6’5″, you can stick him at either backcourt position, which should give the Lakers a little more flexibility when it comes to building the rest of their roster.
7. Denver Nuggets: Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis went for 18 points and eight rebounds against Real Madrid last weekend. He nailed a pair of threes, had a couple of nice drives and a few big-time finishes above the rim.
At 7’0″, Porzingis’ ability to stretch the floor as a shooter, face up and attack or separate in the mid-range fuels some wild offensive potential.
A skinny 220-pound frame may make him more of a risk-reward pick, but if Porzingis can add some muscle (he’s only 19 years old), his offensive versatility could take him to All-Star heights down the road.
The Nuggets showed us last year they aren’t afraid to draft overseas. Once again, they just need to grab the best available talent, regardless of position. And nobody left on the board offers a higher ceiling than Porzingis.
8. Detroit Pistons: Kevon Looney
Kevon Looney was quiet down the stretch of the season. It’s clear he’s more of a project than an immediate solution for an NBA team.
But the upside tied to Looney hitting his stride is lottery-worthy. At 6’9″, he’s shown the ability to face up on the perimeter and knock down jumpers or use the dribble. And you just can’t teach Looney’s nose for the ball, which translated to 9.2 rebounds a game and 54 putbacks on the offensive glass.
He’ll need to get stronger and sharper in the post, where he struggles to create his own shot, but Looney’s offensive versatility fuels some enticing mismatch potential.
Possibly a great compliment to Monroe and Drummond, the Pistons might want to grab a more athletic big man to develop up front.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Willie Cauley-Stein
The Hornets and their 15th ranked defense should be salivating at the opportunity to land Willie Cauley-Stein, who has as good of a chance at making an immediate impact as anyone left on the board.
A raw offensive game won’t diminish the effectiveness of his world-class athleticism and foot speed for a 7-footer. We’re talking about a big man who can protect the rim, switch onto guards and pressure full court.
With Kentucky up one in the closing seconds against Notre Dame (Elite Eight), Cauley-Stein chased point guard Jerian Grant baseline to baseline and forced him into to a wild, off-balance (and unsuccessful) heave. A few plays earlier, he switched onto Grant and blocked a step-back three-point attempt.
The value tied to this type of defensive versatility could be enormous, regardless of how weak his post skills and jumper look.
10. Indiana Pacers: Kelly Oubre
Kelly Oubre wasn’t particularly convincing this year at Kansas, where he averaged just 9.3 points per game. But he can bring potential to the table, which is enticing for general managers.
At 6’7″, he’s an electric above-the-rim athlete who can handle the ball, connect from outside and score in the mid-range. He also has some promising defensive tools if he can ever figure out how to use them.
However, inconsistency and a questionable motor could cause Oubre to slip a bit. With David West’s contract up at the end of the 2015-16 season, the Pacers can start grooming Oubre as a long-term replacement.
11. Boston Celtics: Devin Booker
The Boston Celtics could use another shot-maker, which is exactly what Devin Booker projects as in the pros.
Though not a player you’d feature or isolate, Booker’s ability to knock down jumpers and finish off movement is where his NBA value lies.
Booker found his shooting rhythm over the past couple of NCAA tournament rounds, having hit two threes against West Virginia and two more against Notre Dame.
I like the J.J. Redick comparison for Booker in terms his style of play and skill set.
12. Utah Jazz: Mario Hezonja
Mario Hezonja is stuck in the doghouse. He played just six minutes in a matchup this weekend against Kristaps Porzingis and Sevilla, marking the 10th consecutive game he’s logged fewer than 20 minutes.
It might make him tough to reach on, given the small sample size scouts can evaluate, but Hezonja’s monster upside has displayed itself in spurts since 2011.
At 6’8″ with elite-level athleticism, he has mismatch size for a wing, as well as a sharpshooting stroke (39.6 percent from three), an above-average handle and strong passing ability.
He could give the Jazz a much-needed offensive jolt at either the 2 or the 3.
13. Phoenix Suns: Myles Turner
It didn’t take very long for Myles Turner to decide he’d be heading straight to the pros.
Turner ended the season averaging just 5.6 points over Texas’ final eight games. He was fairly inconsistent throughout, though some blame can be placed on his role in the offense.
However, the combination of Turner’s potential to stretch the floor (17 made threes, 83.9 percent from the line) and protect the rim (2.6 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game) could go a long way in the pros.
There are questions as to how strong of a post player he’ll be, but if Turner can improve his shooting consistency (27.4 percent from three) and hold his own physically on defense (4.3 fouls per 40), that should be enough to justify lottery value.
14. Houston Rockets: Trey Lyles
Trey Lyles has been a rock for Kentucky all year, and he continues to flash a skill set built for the NBA power forward position. At 6’10”, he’s shown he can play inside or out, thanks to a natural mid-range shooting stroke and a sharp ability in the post.
Add the fact that Lyles is also a high-IQ passer who plays within the offense, and we’re probably looking at one of the safer bets outside the top seven or eight.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Montrezl Harrell
Montrezl Harrell had an up-and-down NCAA tournament, which is pretty much what we saw from him throughout the year.
He’s super strong and explosive around the basket, where he can overwhelm inferior athletes as a finisher, rebounder and post defender.
But Harrell’s shooting touch hasn’t come around through three years, and at 6’8″, he’s slightly undersized for a player who’s expected to live in the paint.
Still, you draft Harrell for his motor and ability to provide activity on the interior. On a team with talent, like the Hawks, he would be able to play to his strengths in an energizer role up front.
16. Philadelphia 76ers: Sam Dekker
Sam Dekker’s career high entering the NCAA tournament was 22 points. In four games since it started, he’s averaging 21.7 points.
Dekker picked a good time to break out. He always looked the part of an NBA wing, with 6’9″ size and fluid athleticism. But this is really the first time we’ve seen his versatility come together and produce big numbers with consistency.
He’s a terrific driver off the dribble, given his impressive handle and burst, both turning the corner and exploding up toward the rim.
And though he’s been inconsistent as a shooter through three years at Wisconsin, he clearly has threatening shot-making ability, having hit 13 threes through four NCAA tournament games.
Dekker isn’t much of a playmaker or creator, but if you’re an NBA team like the Sixers, you value his basketball IQ, discipline and ability to score within an offense.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Frank Kaminsky
The Milwaukee Bucks should be all over Frank Kaminsky if he’s still available here. (Probably not, especially if he wins the tournament) A lack of athleticism and strength limit his upside, which explains a potential slide. But you won’t find many big men as skilled as Kaminsky, who’s developed incredible footwork and moves in the post along with a deadly jumper, connecting at a 41.5 percent clip from three.
He put on a show against Arizona in the Elite Eight, having flashed the entire inside-out repertoire in a 29-point performance.
There are questions as to how high his NBA ceiling reaches, but not his role in the NBA game. He’s going to stick for a long time as a stretch 4 or 5.
The Bucks could use another big man, particularly one who can score.
18. Washington Wizards: Jerian Grant
The Elite Eight loss to Kentucky won’t cloud Jerian Grant’s season or NBA outlook.
At 6’5″, Grant has the size and skill set to play on or off the ball. He’s flashed the vision and passing instincts of a point guard, particularly out of drive-and-kick and pick-and-roll situations. Grant dished out 11 assists in the Sweet 16 against Wichita State, and finished the year with a strong 6.7-2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
But he’s also threatening enough as a scorer to play that 2-guard position, where he can separate one-on-one into jumpers and generate offense (finishes, free throws) off drives.
Grant would ultimately give the Wizards, who rank No. 18 in offensive efficiency , some backcourt versatility and a high-IQ passer.
19. Philadelphia 76ers: Delon Wright
A poor NCAA tournament might have hurt Delon Wright’s chances of rising up draft boards. He shot 29.6 percent and averaged three assists to 3.6 turnovers through three games.
But teams have likely seen enough of Wright through two years to understand his strengths and limitations. He’s ultimately a strong enough player to hold late-first-round value.
At 6’5″, he can handle the ball, run an offense and set the table for teammates. And he’s also a terrific on-ball defender who has the versatility to guard both backcourt positions.
20. Toronto Raptors: Christian Wood
We’ve seen general manager Masai Ujiri reach on upside before. He did it last year with Bruno Caboclo. Ujiri will have the chance to land another high-ceiling prospect in Christian Wood, who’s coming off a breakout year for UNLV.
At 6’11”, he’s bouncy around the rim and skilled out on the perimeter, where he can knock down jumpers (25 made threes), separate in the mid-range and put the ball on the floor. He averaged 15.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
Wood finished the season strong by scoring 21 points against San Diego State on March 12 and 28 points against Nevada the day before.
At 220 pounds, he’ll need to add bulk. But if worst comes to worst, Wood gives the Raptors a little jolt of athleticism and versatility to their frontcourt. He’s a risk-reward play at No. 20.
21. Chicago Bulls: Jarell Martin
Jarell Martin could be a nice hit-or-miss late-round value pick. He’s coming off a strong sophomore year, having averaged 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds.
Listed at 6’10”, Martin has flashed face-up mobility and plenty of athleticism. He can separate and knock down shots in the mid-range, as well as finish off cuts, slashes and drives on the move.
Improving his jumper, which only connected at a 26.9 percent three-point clip, would go a long way toward his NBA outlook.
I like Tobias Harris as a solid ceiling comparison.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Jakob Poeltl
Despite the loss in the Sweet 16, Jakob Poeltl played Jahlil Okafor as well as anyone has all year, having held the potential No. 1 pick to just six points and eight rebounds.
Though he’ll need to add strength, Poeltl doesn’t back down, and at 7’0″ with quick feet and sharp instincts, he projects as a strong post defender, rebounder (18.2 percent rebounding percentage) and rim protector (3.2 blocks per 40 minutes).
Poeltl even turned it on offensively down the stretch, having averaged 13.5 points over Utah’s final six games. Though not a particularly threatening one-on-one player, he has a good feel for positioning himself for finishes, whether it’s off dump-downs, pick-and-rolls or scoring chances on the low block.
Poeltl’s potential to anchor the paint should ultimately be enough to draw lottery consideration. And the Mavs could use a big man capable of doing the dirty work inside.
23. San Antonio Spurs: Bobby Portis
A lack of explosiveness and strength around the basket may keep teams from reaching on Bobby Portis, but his shooting touch and physical tools are both NBA-friendly.
At 6’11”, Portis has excellent mechanics and fluidity in the mid-range, where he’s consistently knocked down pick-and-pop and drive-and-kick jumpers. And he’s a tough cover at the high post, where he can face up and attack, drop-step into a hook or fall away over the shoulder.
At No. 23, you can argue that Portis is the best prospect available and will be an asset for the Spurs frontcourt. He’s not an upside pick, but assuming he can hold his own physically, he should be able to put the ball in the hole when it finds him in scoring position.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Hunter
Though most know him for his three-minute, 12-point explosion that helped knock off Baylor in the NCAA tournament, Hunter has been a volume scorer since his freshman season.
He’s averaged at least 17 points a game in each of his three years at Georgia State while making 253 threes in 99 total games. Hunter’s shooting percentage cooled off this past year, but given his mechanics and track record, there aren’t many questions concerning his jumper.
To make up for the decline in accuracy, Hunter doubled his assist rate and took 69 more free throws than he did in 2013-14.
Hunter’s high IQ and shot-making ability would ultimately fit right into Cleveland’s offense.
25. Boston Celtics: Cameron Payne
Cameron Payne slid under the national radar, but scouts caught on to what he was doing at Murray State. He finished the year averaging 20.2 points after scoring at least 20 points in 10 of his final 11 games.
He can create and knock down shots from anywhere, having also hit 84 threes on the year. Payne even flashed some impressive playmaking and passing instincts running the point. He finished No. 6 in the country in assist percentage.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Robert Upshaw
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Robert Upshaw’s camp after he was kicked off Washington’s team back in January. However, with talent running thin this late, a desperate general manager looking for value could be enticed by Upshaw’s upside.
At 7’0″, he was leading the country in shot blocking before being dismissed. The Huskies would go on to lose 11 of the team’s final 13 games once he left. They were 11-4 with him.
If Upshaw keeps his head on straight, he could certainly bring something to the table as a finisher, rebounder and rim protector.
The Blazers really need size and defense, and with a second first-round pick, Upshaw may be a gamble worth taking at No. 26.
27. Los Angeles Lakers: Kris Dunn
Now that Jeremy Lin’s contract is up, the Lakers might want to consider adding a point guard to develop.
And outside of D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, no point guard offers more upside than Kris Dunn, who possesses NBA size, athleticism and playmaking ability. He led the country in assist percentage this year, per Sports-Reference.com, while averaging 15.6 points, 5.5 boards and 2.7 steals per game.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers: Rashad Vaughn
Rashad Vaughn missed UNLV’s final nine games after tearing his meniscus, but Vaughn’s knee is now 100 percent.
Behind D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor, Vaughn was the nation’s third-leading freshman scorer before going down. He can create and make shots with high levels of difficulty, mostly out on the perimeter.
The knock on Vaughn revolves around his shot selection. He takes a lot of jumpers, a result of questionable strength and explosiveness when it comes to attacking and getting to the basket.
However, for an 18-year-old with 6’6″ shooting guard size, Vaughn’s one-on-one skills and shot-making ability are worth gambling on this late.
29. Brooklyn Nets: Terry Rozier
We saw both the best and worst of Terry Rozier during the NCAA tournament. He was at his best against Northern Iowa in the third round, when he finished with 25 points and seven assists in his most balanced effort of the year.
Rozier is quick and explosive off the bounce. He’s a constant threat to get to the basket in the open floor or slice through a gap in the half court. And when he’s on, he can score in bunches as a pull-up shooter and driver.
But Rozier shot Louisville out of the Elite Eight with a 6-of-23 performance (three assists, three turnovers) in a loss to Michigan State.
Poor shot selection, shooting inconsistency and questionable playmaking instincts could cause Rozier to slip late into the first round.
30. Golden State Warriors: Rondae Hollis Jefferson
Though not a particularly threatening scorer, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s athleticism and defensive versatility could hold enough value this late in Round 1.
And quite frankly, he’s actually had a few impressive offensive games this postseason. Hollis-Jefferson went for 17 points against Wisconsin in the Elite Eight and 23 points against Texas Southern in a second-round win.
Still, the Warriors should covet his ability to lock down three positions on the floor. If he ever learns how to shoot, Hollis-Jefferson could become a major steal.
The 2015 NBA draft will be held on June 25 in New York City at either the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. it will be televised nationally by ESPN.