2015 NBA Draft: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns Tops Big Men Rankings

by NESN Staff

June 11, 2015

The 2015 NBA Draft is pretty deep at every position, but the best players in this class are big men.

Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke center Jahlil Okafor are the premier prospects, and although they have disparate strengths, there’s not a whole lot separating them in terms of talent and potential.

The last draft with two big men taken first and second overall was 2009, when the Los Angeles Clippers selected Blake Griffin at No. 1 and the Memphis Grizzlies took Hasheem Thabeet at No. 2. Things worked out pretty well for Griffin the Clippers — not so much for Thabeet.

Here are the top 15 big men in the 2015 class.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (C, Kentucky, 7-0, 250)
Towns is everything you want in a center. He rebounds, blocks shots, plays good interior defense, can shoot from mid-range and the 3-point line and doesn’t turn the ball over often. He has the potential to play a starting role and make a positive impact at both ends of the floor from Day 1 in the NBA.

2. Jahlil Okafor (C, Duke, 6-11, 270)
Okafor isn’t close to the defensive stalwart that Towns is, but he has better size and displays many similar skills on offense. He’s also a willing and capable passer, making him an ideal center for a team that loads the perimeter with outside shooters. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Okafor averages a double-double in points and rebounds as a rookie.

3. Willie Cauley-Stein, (C, Kentucky, 7-0, 240)
Cauley-Stein would greatly benefit from another year in school, but obviously that’s not happening.

He’s a really unique talent. He has great size, but he also runs the floor like a guard and has excellent lateral quickness. This helps him defend multiple positions and excel in transition. Cauley-Stein is a top-five talent in this class, but he doesn’t have a position yet and isn’t likely to reach his potential for several seasons. He’s certainly one of the most high-reward, high-risk prospects.

4. Kristaps Porzingis (PF, Latvia, 7-1, 220)
Porzingis is a difficult prospect to judge. He’s an excellent outside shooter, runs the floor well and has more size at 7-foot-1 than most power forwards. The only issue is he doesn’t rebound well and won’t be a dominant shot blocker or low-post defender because of his lack of strength. Similar to Cauley-Stein, he’s a high-risk, high-reward player, but with a greater level of uncertainty than the Kentucky center.

5. Trey Lyles, (PF, Kentucky, 6-10, 250)
Lyles is a good low-post scorer with an array of fakes and moves, as well as a quality mid-range shot. He needs to improve defensively, but it’s not a glaring weakness.

6. Myles Turner (PF/C, Texas, 6-11, 243)
Turner could step in as a rotation player and provide rebounding and inside scoring as a rookie. He’s also got plenty of strength and could develop into an above-average shot blocker at the NBA level.

7. Frank Kaminsky (C, Wisconsin, 7-0, 240)
Kaminsky has pretty good size and strength and is a better outside shooter than most big men prospects in this class. His foul shooting significantly improved at Wisconsin and he finished his senior season at 78 percent from the line. He’s not the quickest or most agile center, but he makes up for it with a high motor.

8. Montrezl Harrell (PF, Louisville, 6-8, 240)
Similar to Turner, Harrell is a good defensive player and uses his strength to carve out space for rebounds and score from the low post. He is not a great shooter, though, and lacks ideal size for an NBA power forward. Harrell also benefited from being coached by Rick Pitino, one of the best college coaches of all-time, at Louisville.

9. Chris McCullough (PF, Syracuse, 6-10, 220)
McCullough is a tremendous athlete, which helps him run the floor and score in transition. However, he doesn’t have much of a low-post game and lacks the size to be a great interior defender. But as an athletic wing player with impressive size, McCullough definitely is worth taking in the first round.

10. Jarell Martin (PF, LSU, 6-9, 240)
Martin doesn’t have the size of a normal power forward, so he might see more time at small forward at the NBA level. His rebounding, passing and shot-blocking skills all are impressive, but he’s not going to make much of an impact scoring-wise as a rookie. His mid-range shot and foul shooting (69 percent from the foul line as a sophomore last season) must also improve.

11. Christian Wood (PF, UNLV, 6-11, 220)
Similar to McCullough, Wood is an athletic power forward with very good size, but he needs to add some muscle to his build. That said, he still managed to pull down 10 rebounds per game for the Runnin’ Rebels and provide valuable rim protection, along with 15.7 points per game. He’s got a ton of upside and could be one of the players whose stock rises as the draft approaches. Wood could be a steal in the later portion of the first round.

12. Dakari Johnson, Kentucky (C, 7-0, 265)
Johnson is an old-school center who prefers to play with his back to the basket instead of standing on the perimeter. He has unbelievable size and strength, which allow him to rebound, block shots and provide decent scoring from the low post. He’s perhaps the most NBA-ready big man in this class, but his potential and upside are not great. Johnson won’t be a dominant force at either end of the floor, but he could have a lengthy pro career as a valuable role player.

13. Cliff Alexander, Kansas (PF, 6-9, 239)
Alexander is a strong defender who also rebounds and shows underrated athleticism for someone his size. His scoring ability is limited, though, and he’s not a good foul shooter (67.1 percent from the line at Kansas last season). Alexander is not going to be an All-Star caliber player, but he likely would find a nice fit in a backup role as a defensive stopper and energy guy.

14. Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green (PF, 6-10, 243)
Holmes averaged eight rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for Bowling Green last season and he should make the most impact in those two areas at the NBA level. He wasn’t a prolific scorer at Bowling Green, but he did average 14.7 points on 56.3 shooting. He’s worth taking in the second round as someone who could provide much-needed frontcourt depth to the bench.

15. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse (PF, 6-10, 243)
Christmas can defend and rebound as well as any senior in this class. He’s 24 years old, though, and he doesn’t have as much upside as many of the guys ahead of him on this list. That said, he’s still a low-first round, early-second round prospect because of his defense, passing and size. The bust potential with Christmas is pretty small.

Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images

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