The NBA playoffs have provided lots of excitement with thrilling buzzer beaters and fantastic individual performances.
For fans of teams that didn’t make the field, the real excitement is on the horizon with the draft combine, lottery and team workouts coming up over the next few weeks.
Here’s our first edition 2015 NBA Mock Draft.
1) Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky (C, 7-0, 250)
The Timberwolves are in the lottery again, which is no surprise given their recent draft record. The last time the T-Wolves acquired an elite player through the draft was in 2008, when they traded for Kevin Love after selecting O.J. Mayo fourth overall.
Towns is a 7-foot center who runs the floor well, can shoot from the outside and is able to defend multiple positions. He’d also give the Timberwolves some much-needed rim protection with his ability to block shots. Towns has a little more upside than Jahlil Okafor, but either player would be a solid choice.
2) New York Knicks: Jahlil Okafor, Duke (C, 6-11, 270)
The Knicks have a lot of needs and center is at the top of the list. Okafor is very athletic, defends the paint well, is able to rebound in traffic and scores at the rim with a polished low-post game. He would be able to start as a rookie and make an immediate impact.
3) Philadelphia 76ers: Emmanuel Mudiay, Congo (PG, 6-5, 190)
The Michael Carter-Williams trade opened up a hole at point guard and Mudiay is the best player to fill that role for Philly. He has great size at 6-foot-5 and is a very good passer. His offensive game is still raw and he must improve his mid-range shot to score at a high rate in the NBA.
4) Los Angeles Lakers: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State (PG/SG, 6-5, 180)
Russell is similar to a lot of today’s point guards in that he can score as well as a shooting guard but also is capable of running the offense as a quality playmaker. His offensive game is pretty impressive, and he’s able to shoot from the beyond the arc or penetrate defenses and finish at the basket.
The Lakers could sign Rajon Rondo in free agency as a short-term fix, but the smarter decision would be to draft Russell. It’s hard to pass on a 6-foot-5 combo guard who can score and defend multiple positions.
5) Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow, Duke (SG/SF, 6-6, 229)
Winslow played an important role in Duke’s run to a national championship and is among the most NBA-ready prospects in this class, with a unique blend of size and fantastic athleticism. He’s not going to score 15 to 20 points per game as a rookie, but his perimeter defense will earn him minutes.
A backcourt featuring Winslow and 2014 first-round pick Elfrid Payton would be a pretty good combo for the Magic long-term.
6) Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (C, 7-0, 240)
Even if the Kings decide not to trade DeMarcus Cousins this summer, that shouldn’t force them to pass on the incredible talent of Cauley-Stein. Drafting the athletic Kentucky center would allow Cousins to play most of his minutes at the power forward spot, which is his natural position.
7) Denver Nuggets: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia (PF, 7-1, 220)
Porzingis is a skilled big man who stretches the floor with his outside shot. His defensive game needs work, but the offensive upside is enormous.
8) Detroit Pistons: Trey Lyles, Kentucky (PF, 6-10, 250)
If the Pistons lose Greg Monroe in free agency, they will need to add another frontcourt presence. Lyles would be a good option at power forward and form a Twin Towers duo with center Andre Drummond. The Kentucky forward already has a polished offensive game and would give Detroit a reliable scoring option on the low post.
9) Charlotte Hornets: Stanley Johnson, Arizona (SF, 6-7, 240)
A big, athletic wing would be a good addition to a young Hornets squad. Johnson is a raw talent, but has the ability to defend well on the perimeter and hit 3-point shots, which should help him find a role as a rookie.
10) Miami Heat: Mario Hezonja, Croatia (SG/SF, 6-8, 215)
Dwyane Wade played too many minutes this season and it showed in the last few months, when he wasn’t very effective in the team’s playoff push. Finding an athletic wing who can score, excel on the fast break and spread the floor should be a top priority for Miami. Hezonja fills these needs.
11) Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner, Texas (PF/C, 6-11, 243)
Roy Hibbert’s future with the Pacers is unclear because he’s able to test the free-agent market this summer. Turner would be a fine replacement if Hibbert were to leave Indiana. The Texas center is a great shot-blocker and challenges shots with his long wingspan. He’s also able to consistently knock down shots from the outside and mid-range.
12) Utah Jazz: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin (SF, 6-9, 230)
Dekker was one of the stars of Wisconsin’s run to the national championship game. He’s not afraid to take important shots late in games and is one of the best outside shooters in this class. Dekker is an above-average defender and has pretty good size. His all-around skill set would be a nice addition to a Jazz team with unproven players such as Dante Exum and Trey Burke.
13) Phoenix Suns: Kelly Oubre, Kansas (SF, 6-7, 200)
Oubre has NBA size and athleticism, and he would upgrade the quality of Phoenix’s perimeter defense and rebounding. His offensive game is only above average, but there’s plenty of upside, especially if his shot becomes more consistent.
14) Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, Murray State (PG, 6-3, 185)
The Thunder need to upgrade the backup point guard position so Russell Westbrook, who has battled injuries over the last two seasons, doesn’t have to play too many minutes. Payne can shoot from the outside or attack the rim, which will earn him plenty of minutes as a player who can provide instant offense from the bench.
15) Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn): Bobby Portis, Arkansas (PF, 6-10, 240)
Paul Millsap can test free agency this summer, so it would be smart for Atlanta to draft some insurance. Portis’ strong work ethic, rebounding and low-post defense would make him a quality addition for the Hawks’ bench. He’d also benefit from working alongside a talented big man in Al Horford.
16) Boston Celtics: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona (SF, 6-7, 215)
Jefferson is one of the most athletic players in the draft and among the best defensive forwards available. From an offensive standpoint, he’s able to attack the basket and score over taller, stronger opponens and also pull up and knock down mid-range shots.
17) Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Anderson, Virginia (SG/SF, 6-6, 225)
Anderson would space the floor with his outside shot and add more athleticism to a young Bucks team.
18) Houston Rockets (via New Orleans): Devon Booker, Kentucky (SG, 6-6, 205)
Booker is one of the best shooters in the draft and would benefit from getting open shots on the perimeter when James Harden drives to the basket or Dwight Howard has the ball in the low post. His ability to provide instant offense off the bench would be a valuable asset to the Rockets if veteran Jason Terry, who shot a team-leading 42.6 percent from beyond the arc this season, leaves this summer.
19) Washington Wizards: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame (PG/SG, 6-5, 205)
Ramon Sessions and Will Bynum are not ideal backup point guards, and with All-Star John Wall missing 49 games over his first five pro seasons with various injuries, it’s time for the Wizards to draft a quality player for this role. Grant is a talented combo guard with great size, athleticism and an accurate shot from everywhere on the floor.
20) Toronto Raptors: Delon Wright, Utah (PG/SG, 6-5, 190)
Wright won’t provide much scoring as a rookie, but he’s an excellent defensive player with enough athleticism and strength to defend both guard positions. The Raptors could use that type of player after Washington Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal each scored more than 17 points per game against them in the playoffs.
21) Dallas Mavericks: Tyus Jones, Duke (PG, 6-1, 190)
The Mavericks took a gamble in trading for Rajon Rondo and lost. He’s not likely to return to Dallas as a free agent, so point guard is one of the team’s strongest needs. Jones is a good pick at this stage of the first round as a quality playmaker.
22) Chicago Bulls: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (C, 7-0, 240)
Bulls power forward Pau Gasol is past his prime and has missed games in the playoffs with an injury. Center Joakim Noah has struggled to rebound and provide consisting scoring production in the postseason.
Selecting a frontcourt player with size who can also score in the low post and with a mid-range game such as Kaminsky is the ideal route for Chicago at this spot in the draft.
23) Portland Trail Blazers: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (PF, 6-8, 240)
All-Star power forward LeMarcus Aldridge could decide to leave Portland as a free agent this summer, which would create a huge hole in the Trail Blazers’ frontcourt. Harrell already is an NBA-caliber rebounder, and he could become a double-double guy if he improves his low-post offense.
24) Cleveland Cavaliers: Terry Rozier, Louisville (PG, 6-2, 190)
The Cavs don’t have a real point guard behind Kyrie Irving, who has battled injuries in his college and pro careers. Rozier is an excellent scorer with enough playmaking ability to run an offense. His athleticism would benefit Cleveland’s fast-break offense, which is already strong with LeBron James and several big men who run the floor well.
25) Memphis Grizzlies: Kevon Looney, UCLA (SF/PF, 6-9, 220)
If the Grizzlies don’t re-sign Jeff Green, they could draft a player capable of defending and scoring from both forward positions. Looney also is a good rebounder and has the strength to defend bigger players on the low block.
26) San Antonio Spurs: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (SG, 6-5, 185)
Hunter can stretch the floor and consistently knock down 3-point shots, and the Spurs might need someone to fill this kind of role if Danny Green and/or Manu Ginobili are not re-signed.
27) Los Angeles Lakers: Jarell Martin, LSU (PF, 6-9, 240)
The Lakers need to get stronger in the paint and rebound better, and Martin would upgrade both areas. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-9, but his strong work ethic and willingness to box out help him rebound at both ends of the floor.
28) Boston Celtics (via Atlanta): Christian Wood, UNLV (PF, 6-11, 220)
One of the Celtics’ most glaring weaknesses this season was rebounding, which was a real issue in Round 1 against the Cavaliers, too. Wood is an exceptional rebounder at 6-foot-11 with the length and athleticism to defend multiple frontcourt positions. His offensive game isn’t yet polished, but there is a lot of upside.
29) Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta): Chris McCullough, Syracuse (PF, 6-10, 220)
McCullough is more athletic than a lot of players his size, which helps him attack the basket and score against other power forwards. He also has the presence of mind to survey the floor from the low post and find guards cutting to the basket or teammates on the perimeter for open shots. He needs to bulk up, but the upside at both ends is tempting.
30) Golden State Warriors: Dakari Johnson, Kentucky (C, 7-0, 244)
Johnson is an excellent rebounder, shot blocker and low-post defender. The Warriors need another player with this skill set in the frontcourt because center Andrew Bogut is the team’s only legitimate rim protector. Johnson would be able to fill a bench role right away with his defense and rebounding alone. His offensive game needs improvement, but Golden State wouldn’t ask him to score as a rookie with so many scorers already on its roster.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images