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KR: 2015 NBA Mock Draft – First Round

The lottery positions have been confirmed.  The playoffs have reached the penultimate stage prior to the NBA Finals.  And the Association is reestablishing its stance as a yearlong endeavor.  The 2015 NBA Draft is officially in the looking glass for NBA executives, franchises, and fans.  With all of the selections firmly in order, let us take a look at what could, should, and might happen in the first round on June 25, 2015.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns; Forward/Center, Kentucky

Owner Glen Taylor, general manager Milt Newton, and head coach Flip Saunders must have been doing cartwheels out of excitement after the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery revealed that their team was awarded the number one overall selection.  And with this pick, the Timberwolves were granted perhaps the only problem that every team wants to have in the draft.  Given the top tier of talent available at this pick, it is hard to fathom Minnesota making a mistake with whoever they choose.  But although many of the players worthy of the number one selection certainly have the ability to perform, the T-Wolves must play close attention to which player offers the most consistency.

Given this agenda, Karl-Anthony Towns from the University of Kentucky would be the ideal fit at number one.  A hybrid big man who measures at 6’11” and 255 lbs., Towns would give Minnesota a versatile front-court weapon who could improve his already talented skill-set with help from the legendary Kevin Garnett on the backend of his hall-of-fame career.  Few bigs in the 2015 draft class play with as much tenacity, aggressiveness, and consistency as Karl-Anthony Towns, making him the most attractive piece to pair with Minnesota’s current center in Nikola Pekovic to provide the roster with much needed front-court depth.

Assuming Minnesota retains the number one pick, they will be the first team in NBA history to have three consecutive number one draft choices on one roster (Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins).  With the selection of Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves will certainly be trending in the right direction with a roster full of young talent in a seasoned Western Conference.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Jahlil Okafor; Center, Duke

The Los Angeles Lakers were very fortunate to move up in the lottery to receive the number two pick, putting them in a position to draft one of the two most coveted players in the 2015 draft.  And Minnesota’s pick at number one should make the Lakers’ choice that much easier.

To pair up Karl-Anthony Towns with Julius Randle would be a nightmare of aggressiveness.  But assuming Minnesota takes him first overall, the Lakers should still feel very fortunate to select Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, who would probably end up being a better fit in Los Angeles anyway.  Okafor flaunts a versatility that most bigs could only wish to attain.  Offensively, he bullies his opponents no matter their size.  On the opposite end of the floor, Okafor is a talented rim protector and will body up anyone in the post.

With some work on his close-to-mid range jumper and one-on-one defense outside of the paint, Okafor can become the Laker’s next sensation with the accompaniment of Randle and up-and-coming guard Jordan Clarkson.

3. Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell; Guard, Ohio State

Philadelphia does not just need everything, they need ANYTHING – absolutely anything to simply put the ball in the basket.

To a certain extent, you have to sympathize for 76er fans who have had to endure the pain that is a prolonged rebuilding period.  General manager Sam Hinkie is trying every trick in the book to help fans cope with the “tank-and-bank” system, trading away promising young talent for future draft picks that present much higher risks against immediate success.  After selecting a number of front-court players in the 2013 and 2014 drafts with only one currently panning out, Hinkie must avoid any radical stunts and draft the most reliable player available.

At number three overall, Ohio State combo guard D’Angelo Russell provides Philadelphia with an instinctual ability to score the basketball, a skill-set that the roster has not had since Jrue Holliday.  Selecting Russell will allow the 76ers to make do with any of the current point guard options they have while allowing their third overall pick to flourish in a system in which he is the focal point.  Teaming up with the intriguing talent of Nerlens Noel, D’Angelo Russell would be a complementary guard to help boost a backcourt in desperate need of help.  And if Joel Embiid proves to be a success and Dario Sarić decides to leave Croatia for the Association, 76er fans could finally have something to look forward to.

4. New York Knicks – Emmanuel Mudiay; Guard, Guangdong Southern Tigers (China)

The Knicks got the butt end of the stick on lottery night, earning the fourth overall pick with the second worst record in the NBA.  In this instance, that drop from two to four costs New York a chance at one of the top front-court talents in the draft.

But even despite this, Knick fans should not lose all hope.  Assuming Philadelphia chooses the safe pick in D’Angelo Russell, the Knicks will have a very interesting shortlist of players to take.  New York needs a competent big man, and if the right offer comes along, the Knicks could certainly be in position to trade down a couple of spots.  New York could also bring in one of the draft’s many talented swingmen to develop with Cleanthony Early.  But the most logical, Phil Jackson-esque pick here would be the Congolese-American guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

At 6’5″ and roughly 200 lbs., Emmanuel Mudiay is bigger than most players at his position, providing New York with a bigger, more intimidating backcourt in Mudiay and Tim Hardaway, Jr.  In terms of Mudiay’s talent (who opted against his original commitment to SMU in order to play overseas in China), he showed a natural ability to score and facilitate an offense overseas.  But without NCAA experience, most NBA executives classify Mudiay as a mystery man similar to Dante Exum from the 2014 draft.  Only time will tell what New York does at number four.  But selecting Mudiay could be a very high reward for a mid-to-low level risk.

5. Orlando Magic – Justise Winslow; Forward, Duke

One of the most interesting teams to watch for in the 2015-2016 season, the Orlando Magic can go a variety of ways with the fifth overall pick and still come away as winners.

One of the first routes Magic executives will explore is to bolster the front-court and pair a solid power forward with the established talent of center Nikola Vucevic.  But in the style of play that Orlando likes to run, they would be wise to find more established talent elsewhere and help strengthen other areas of need.  Thus, Duke’s Justise Winslow falls right into place.

Although Orlando already has a thriving Tobias Harris playing the three, Justise Winslow’s size and versatility make him a very appealing option for the Magic.  In a starting lineup, Orlando can afford to play small with Vucevic’s excelling ability to rebound and put Harris as the run-and-gun stretch four with Winslow as the swingman.  Coming off the bench, Justise Winslow can exercise his transitional speed and intelligence to outplay opposing bench units.  Accompanied by Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, and Nikola Vucevic, Justise Winslow could be another key piece to making the Orlando Magic a competitive team moving forward.

6. Sacramento Kings – Kristaps Porzingis; Forward, Latvia

Like Orlando, the Kings can go a multitude of ways.  However, only a few will actually warrant them a good grade for their post draft report.

The Kings have some interesting talent in the backcourt, and although management would love to add to its development, the results they have seen from their squad of guards has left a lot to be desired with experienced talent becoming the only source of help to get them rolling.  More importantly, their current franchise player in DeMarcus Cousins has been left alone to fend for himself in the front-court.  And while he has excelled as one of the most talented centers in the league, he needs help if Sacramento wants to keep him satisfied.

Enter the Latvian forward prospect, Kristaps Porzingis.  Measuring at nearly 7’0″ and around 220 lbs., Porzingis not only has the size to excel as an NBA power forward, but an array of weapons in his arsenal to succeed as well.  While Cousins bangs in the point, Kristaps Porzingis can aid in the effort while also stepping outside to space the floor and knock down the outside jump shot.

Although Sacramento has denied the availability of DeMarcus Cousins in the trade market, the organization’s recent woes might have something else to say about that.  If the Kings get the sun, the moon, and the stars in exchange for Cousins, drafting a big like Porzingis would only make more sense.

7. Denver Nuggets – Stanley Johnson; Forward, Arizona

The purgatory that the Denver Nuggets have been residing in for the most recent period has been extremely disappointing, as the upcoming draft has granted them their highest lottery selection during that time.  Ideally, the Nuggets would love to select Justise Winslow and reinvigorate the team’s focus on transitional basketball.  But with Winslow gone already, the Nuggets would have to go with the next best small forward available, a title claimed by Stanley Johnson from the University of Arizona.

While Denver seems firmly invested in Danilo Gallinari, the current roster situations dictate that adding depth at the three would maximize the value of their pick at seventh overall.  And while Johnson would be wise to enhance his three-point shooting, his size and ability to drive the lane and defend is the ideal mold that the Nuggets would like to add to their team.

If the Nuggets decide that they want to part ways with Ty Lawson, they could certainly be in the market for a point guard at seventh overall or choose to trade down if the offers are there.  But unless there is some genuine planning for that course of action by general manager Tim Connelly, Stanley Johnson would be a pick that could pay off greatly in the long run.

8. Detroit Pistons – Devin Booker; Guard, Kentucky

Once again, it seems as if the Detroit Pistons are in an uncomfortable draft day scenario, possessing a relatively high draft choice but with the upper echelon of talent at their greatest position of need unavailable.

With solid starters at the guard positions, power forward, and center, the small forward is the only true weakness of the Detroit Pistons.  But with Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson off the board, Detroit will have to make the best out of their pick elsewhere.  Odds are Detroit will avoid a draft day trade with too much potential to tap into, and while Mario Hezonja is a potential small forward in the making, the Pistons need to focus on players that pose as lesser risks.  And Kentucky’s Devin Booker would be the go-to guy at eighth overall.

Arguably the best three-point shooter in the draft, Devin Booker would drastically upgrade Detroit’s point distribution and take some pressure off the front-court.  Defensively, Booker is somewhat of an unknown, as much of Kentucky’s defensive reputation was highlighted by the bigs and their abilities to protect the rim.  But if his game translates well to the NBA, Detroit will have nabbed the solid pick that they missed out on in 2014 when they lost it to the Charlotte Hornets.

9. Charlotte Hornets – Mario Hezonja; Guard/Forward, Croatia

The Charlotte Hornets were one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this past season, but not for good reasons.  The team struggled to win games like they had the previous year, and questions about the roster’s chemistry ensued when guard Lance Stephenson underperformed immensely.

With the Hornets emphasizing too much of their offense on Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, the team has struggled to find other sources of productivity.  And although Charlotte would love to finally bring in a small forward who can score with a higher frequency than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the top two would already be gone at this point.  But that makes Mario Hezonja that much more of an intriguing option.

While he is a true shooting guard standing at 6’8″, Hezonja’s size gives him the versatility to step out and play the wing.  In terms of his ability, Mario Hezonja is a contender as the best pure shooter in the draft, a primary need for the Charlotte Hornets.  After spending their most recent draft picks mainly on big guys with the exception of P.J. Hairston (who still remains to be an unknown in terms of potential), selecting Mario Hezonja would give the Hornets an offensive weapon that they drastically need to return to their winning ways.

10. Miami Heat – Willie Cauley-Stein; Center, Kentucky

Who knew that LeBron James leaving your team would have a negative impact?  Yes, that was indeed sarcasm.  And while the Miami Heat were certainly not as bad as the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat clearly suffered without him or a healthy Chris Bosh for that matter.

With Shabazz Napier looking to be the foreseeable point guard, Dwyane Wade’s superb career slowly coming to a close, and Chris Bosh on the wrong side of thirty, the storylines for the Heat could have them going one of many ways in the 2015 draft.  With the emergence of Hassan Whiteside as a solid big in Miami, questions about his character overshadowed his success, and it seems as if Erik Spoelstra would much rather have a player who is more coachable on his team for the long run.  Regardless of whether or not Whiteside remains with the Heat or seeks interest elsewhere, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein would be the best fit for the Heat, providing them with an immediate defensive presence in the key and a quality finisher to do the dirty work in the paint on offense.

As much as the Heat would like to delay the inevitable, they will soon need to search for Wade’s successor, and if Devin Booker or Mario Hezonja are available, either player could be tapped for the task to learn from one of the best shooting guards in the business.  But if both have been selected, look for Miami to add some much needed front-court depth in Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. Indiana Pacers – Jerian Grant; Guard, Notre Dame

The past season was a lost one for the Indiana Pacers, who valiantly fought for a playoff berth even with Paul George’s gruesome leg injury last summer.  But with Paul George getting a full offseason to prepare, the Pacers can focus on their first lottery pick since George’s selection in 2010.

With a solid foundation existing in Indiana already, the Pacers will look to draft a player who can actually raise the ceiling of the team.  While George Hill has been a quality point guard for the Pacers since coming from San Antonio, the Pacers’ executives must be realizing that his potential ceiling is not high enough for the team to make it to the NBA Finals.  Thus, the selection of Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant would make a lot of sense at eleventh overall.

If there is one thing that Grant proved in college, it is that he is never short of confidence, thriving in the spotlight especially during March Madness.  His size also makes him an attractive get, helping him to overmatch most opposing point guards.  Being able to learn from George Hill’s experience as a veteran point guard would only help Jerian Grant once he is ready to take over starting duties.  If he is able to do that in a timely fashion, the Indian Pacers should be able to pick up right where they left off with a little more fire power than before.

12. Utah Jazz – Trey Lyles; Forward, Kentucky

Utah was an interesting case last season, giving some teams in the Western Conference a nice run for the eight seed in the playoffs.  This run was largely fueled by forward Gordon Hayward and center Rudy Gobert.

With a solid starting lineup, the Utah Jazz will simply be looking to add necessary depth to their roster for the upcoming season, and no one’s draft stock has trended higher than Kentucky forward Trey Lyles.  Coming out of a non-starter role in his one year in college, the 6’10” Lyles has an exciting array of weapons that should help his transition to the NBA.  Along with a capability to bang in the paint, Lyles has shown flashes of possessing an outside shot, which would certainly help Utah spread the floor in certain lineups.

With the trend of their current bigs succeeding, the selection of Trey Lyles could certainly be a positive influence in his progression to being a solid contributor.

13. Phoenix Suns – Frank Kaminsky; Forward/Center, Wisconsin

It looked as if the Phoenix Suns were on the brink of playoff livelihood earlier last season.  Then Goran Dragić was traded to the Miami Heat, followed by Isaiah Thomas being dealt to the Boston Celtics.  Luckily, the Suns acquired combo guard Brandon Knight to accompany Eric Bledsoe.  However, the front-court seemed to suffer the most from the transactions, losing the facilitators that they had grown accustomed to.  Furthermore, with Alex Len continuing to not live up to his lofty expectations due to a series of injuries, Phoenix will be in the market for a versatile big man.

Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky seems like the ideal fit at thirteenth overall, providing the Suns with a big man who can score inside and out, rebound, and defend well in the post.  The reigning NCAA Player of the Year, Kaminsky proved to be every bit of the hype in the 2015 March Madness, coming up just short to Duke albeit a solid statistical output in the National Championship game.

With the selection of Frank Kaminsky, the Phoenix Suns will be able to properly compete night in and night out at every position on the floor, finally employing the talents of a versatile big man who could be a very talented player in the Association.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder – R.J. Hunter; Guard, Georgia State

Coming off of a very disappointing campaign, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be selecting in the lottery for the first time in recent memory, and all of their recent lottery picks have included some of the most exciting players currently in the NBA.

This trend does not seem to change, as the Thunder would logically be looking for a versatile guard to play the sixth man role, or replace Dion Waiters if he chooses to depart from OKC.  Coming from a smaller school that gained entry into the NCAA tournament, Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter made the biggest splash hitting the game-winning three-pointer to upset Baylor in the round of sixty-four.  The Thunder have clearly missed the absence of James Harden’s ability to produce off the bench, but the addition of R.J. Hunter could certainly help bolster that.

Adding a deadeye shooter like Hunter in the draft, retaining some of their talented bigs, and restoring Kevin Durant back to full health should be the correct recipe to bringing the Thunder back toward the top of the Western Conference next season.

15. Atlanta Hawks (From Brooklyn Nets) – Bobby Portis; Forward, Arkansas

After earning the number one seed in the Eastern Conference this past season, the Atlanta Hawks do not have any waning needs to fulfill.  Nevertheless, their love for selecting front-court personnel who can shoot can be applied here with the selection of Bobby Portis from the University of Arkansas.

At 6’11”, Portis’s ability to shoot from the outside is an essential part of his game.  But what teams like most about Bobby Portis is his motor.  For a forward who prefers to stretch out the floor from outside the paint, Portis is a relentless rebounder and does not shy away from posting up on offense.  Defensively, he could use a little bit more improvement in one-on-one scenarios, but the Atlanta Hawks would be an ideal situation to shape up those issues.

Especially if Paul Millsap plans on departing from Atlanta after his contract is up, Bobby Portis seems like the perfect fit to play along side Al Horford in the front-court.

16. Boston Celtics – Sam Dekker; Forward, Wisconsin

In what many thought would be another casual tanking effort, the Boston Celtics proved to be an immensely resilient bunch despite a multitude of roster changes.  Led by a valiant head coach in Brad Stevens, the Celtics have epitomized the ability to expedite the rebuilding process.  Although they missed out on earning an early lottery pick, more than enough intriguing talent remains for them to continue their restructuring efforts.

Ideally, the Boston Celtics would be able to select Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker at sixteenth overall.  While the Celtics do need help adding front-court depth and rim protection, they need to bring in a long-term small forward, as Evan Turner is not the long term answer unless his price tag comes cheap.  Measuring in the 6’9″ window, Sam Dekker displays an effective long and mid range jump shot as well as an appealing ability to finish in the lane and defend other swingmen.  Dekker also possesses an underestimated athleticism that helps him create his own looks and cover a variety of positions on both ends of the floor.

If the Boston Celtics can add Sam Dekker as well as a solid rim protector either in the draft or in free agency, they will have once again established themselves as a potential threat in the Eastern Conference.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – Myles Turner; Center, Texas

While Trey Lyles arguable has had the greatest draft stock increase, Texas center Myles Turner unfortunately suffered just the opposite.  A five-star recruit in college, Turner flaunts a tantalizing skill-set of rim protection and outside shooting.  However, his ability to rebound is underwhelming for a guy who measures at 7’0″ and over 200 lbs.

Regardless of his flaws, Myles Turner is a logical fit with the Milwaukee Bucks.  After center Larry Sanders admirably decided to step away from the NBA due to personal concerns, the Bucks seemed to lose some of their defensive identity.  With depth at almost every position since the trade deadline, the Bucks need to add some character and some help to their front-court, particularly at center behind current starter John Henson.

If Myles Turner can shore up his rebounding issues and strengthen his repertoire, he could end up being a massive steal going seventeenth overall.

18. Houston Rockets (From New Orleans Pelicans) – Tyus Jones; Guard, Duke

If you want to know what it is like to thrive in the shadow of the Wooden Award runner-up, just ask Tyus Jones, who quietly had a fantastic season at Duke University playing in the background to Jahlil Okafor’s pursuit of the NCAA Player of the Year honors.

A prototypical point guard in his own right, Tyus Jones simply does it all, shooting lights out from around the floor, finishing in the lane, nailing free throws at a high clip, and playing stellar defense.  At eighteenth overall, Jones and the Houston Rockets are a perfect fit, as he would get to play the role of a facilitator for stars such as James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Even with Patrick Beverly, the Houston Rockets are in need of a point guard who has a little bit more versatility than just defense.  And while Beverly is a great defender, Tyus Jones adds a much needed extra dimension to Houston’s quest for an NBA title.

19. Washington Wizards – Kevon Looney; Forward, UCLA

The Washington Wizards’ 2015 playoff run came to a tragic close at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.  Even with some impressive late game heroics from Paul Pierce, the Wizards could not finish as a team.  And although John Wall’s wrist injury played a huge role in the team’s surprising limitations throughout the series, Washington proved desperate for some front-court depth.

With Nenê turning 33 before next season and in the last year of his contract, general manager Ernie Grunfeld will likely consider drafting a versatile forward to pair with center Marcin Gortat.  Washington will likely find the answer with the selection of Kevon Looney out of UCLA.

As a 6’9″ power forward, Kevon Looney has both the size and the determination to protect the paint in the NBA.  Looney is an impressive defender while showing flashes of offensive effectiveness, posting nearly a double-double (11.6 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game) in his lone year at UCLA.  If Kevon Looney can improve his mid range offensive game, Washington will have found the perfect replacement for Nenê.

20. Toronto Raptors – Kelly Oubre; Guard/Forward, Kansas

When Masai Ujiri selected the star Brazilian forward Bruno Caboclo in the same spot of the draft last season, the general reaction was a Bill Simmons-esque “what?!”  But even as a relatively unknown in Brazil, Caboclo flashed some real NBA potential in the scarce minutes he received.  Taking this into account, it is reasonable to assume that the Toronto Raptors will once again explore selecting a player who has a lot of potential but carries a larger possible risk.

Filling the shoes of Andrew Wiggins last season was not an easy task, and at times Kelly Oubre certainly struggled, averaging only eight minutes per game for the first part of the season at Kansas.  While he ended up averaging roughly twenty-one minutes per contest by the end of the season, his stat line was far from reaching what many had expected him to achieve.  However, his size and potential make him too good of an option to pass up at twentieth overall in the draft.

If the Raptors snag Oubre this late in the draft, they can afford to let him grow under the wing and guidance of DeMar DeRozan, a flourishing guard/forward who can show him the ropes of the Association.  This can afford Oubre an adequate adjustment period with quite an advantageous learning curve, adding what could end up being a crucial piece to Toronto’s future success.

21. Dallas Mavericks – Cameron Payne; Guard, Murray State

It is safe to say that the Rajon Rondo experiment in Dallas was a complete and utter failure.  But owner Mark Cuban had to role the dice with the Mavericks and acquire some established talent to make a playoff run with Dirk Nowitzki’s career coming to a close sooner rather than later.  Unfortunately with Rondo clearly on his way to the free agent market, the Dallas Mavericks will surely look elsewhere for a longterm solution at point guard in order to entice Monta Ellis to stay and keep Dirk in the playoff contention window for the remainder of his career.

With the selection of Murray State point guard Cameron Payne at twenty-first overall, the Mavs would be getting potentially one of the biggest steals in the draft.  Although Payne will need to add some more muscle to hold his own against opposing guards, his skill-set is undeniable as an outstanding facilitator and an effective scorer, counting as one of the few players in the 2015 draft class to average over twenty points per game (20.3 points per game).  Defensively, Cameron Payne has shown flashes of absolute discipline – exercising his long wingspan to obstruct passing lanes – but also lack of commitment, focusing more on his offensive productivity.

If he can become a more active player on defense, Cameron Payne could be a great addition to the Dallas Mavericks’ shopping list this offseason.

22. Chicago Bulls – Delon Wright; Guard, Utah

Well it looks like Derrick Rose is back for good.  While he might not ever return to his 2010 MVP form, Rose flashed some highlights of old in the most recent postseason.  Nevertheless, the Chicago Bulls must always remain cautious of his ongoing injury history and must explore a number of possibilities, including a potential replacement for Rose if his knees continue to defeat him.

Utah’s Delon Wright would be a superb reserve to study behind Derrick Rose.  Wright measures at 6’6″, giving him the ability to see and distribute over most, if not all, point guards in the NBA.  But Delon Wright’s true reputation comes on defense.  A prime characteristic of the player mold in Chicago, Wright torments opposing guards defensively, averaging 2.1 steals per game to go with 1.0 block per game as well.  Playing alongside shooting guards Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell would be a nightmare for most teams.

Whether or not Derrick Rose can continue to thrive in the NBA is not the question the Bulls should be asking.  It is whether or not they are willing to remain committed to him.  Regardless of their answer, point guard Delon Wright is the safest choice for the Bulls to continue emphasizing their current culture.

23. Portland Trail Blazers – Rashad Vaughn; Guard, UNLV

The Portland Trail Blazers are in a very odd position.  With their current roster, they have the tools to succeed mightily in the Western Conference.  But something always hinders their run.  Whether it is a bad case of the injury bug or one player’s bad night costing the entire team, the Blazers always seem to catch some bad luck.  And with LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews potentially leaving to test their value in free agency, the team could be in some big trouble.

While it seems likely that executives give in to any and all of Aldridge’s demands, doing so for Matthews seems less likely, making him the odd man out to leave the team this offseason.  Thus, Portland will be in contention to draft a potential replacement for him, making UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn an attractive candidate at pick twenty-three.

Although somewhat of a defensive liability, Rashad Vaughn makes up for it with effective offense.  Shooting just under 40% from three-point range last season at UNLV should serve him well in his role with the Blazers, who will most likely use him for scoring support off the bench given the emergence of Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum.  If Vaughn can improve his defensive mentality, his value could only trend upward at a much higher rate.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; Forward, Arizona

For the team that has it all, who do they take?  Yes, having LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love is close to having it all.  And with a supporting cast of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, the Cleveland Cavaliers do not have any waning needs.  But if Smith and/or Shumpert choose to test their value elsewhere, adding depth at the guard/forward position would become essential.

With adding Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Cavaliers afford themselves a hyper-athletic small forward who can learn from one of the best to ever play the game, let alone the position itself.  Hollis-Jefferson is an excelling defender and has a knack for making plays in the lane, a perfect foundation to build off of in Cleveland.

The Cavs might also feel the need to explore options in case Kevin Love departs as well in light of some lingering “chemistry issues.”  If that is the case, expect Cleveland to immediately address adding depth behind Tristan Thompson at power forward.  But if Love stays, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be a quality fit and understudy to LeBron James.

25. Memphis Grizzlies – Montrezl Harrell; Forward, Louisville

It sounds weird doesn’t it – drafting a power forward even though you have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph?  Maybe not, but while Gasol and Randolph combine to form perhaps the toughest front-court in the Association, the two are not getting any younger, and head coach David Joerger and company must address that sooner rather than later.

What the Grizzlies would likely want to do in that scenario is to acquire a forward with the same aggressiveness as their current starters.  With Montrezl Harrell from Louisville, Memphis gets that exact mold.  Even at just 6’8″, Harrell is one of the most aggressive forwards in the draft, proving to be a tenacious rebounder at both ends of the floor, a gifted finisher at the rim, and a solid post defender.  Although his mid range game needs polishing, his athleticism and potential to possibly turn into another Zach Randolph are too much to pass up at twenty-fifth overall.

Memphis might also feel the need to address the small forward position – especially if Jeff Green chooses to leave – or to add point guard depth behind Mike Conley, creating a number of quality options for the Grizzlies.  But in terms of the team’s current situation, Montrezl Harrell looks best suited to maximize the value of the Memphis Grizzlies’ first round draft choice for 2015.

26. San Antonio Spurs – Justin Anderson; Guard/Forward, Virginia

Here we go again.  With yet another late first round draft choice, the San Antonio Spurs select a player who could end up being one of the biggest steals in the draft.

After drafting a versatile point forward in UCLA’s Kyle Anderson in the 2014 draft, the Spurs will likely choose to continue bolstering their backcourt with the possibility of Danny Green leaving and Manu Ginobili retiring.  With a frame of 6’6″ and 231 lbs., University of Virginia product Justin Anderson is the prototypical Spurs player, efficient offensively and more than active defensively.  Despite missing a large chunk of last season due to a hand injury, Justin Anderson’s improvements from the previous season were polar, as he was an intelligently effective three-point shooter and exercised his mental and physical toughness to out defend opposing guards and forwards.  His versatility easily makes him one of the most interesting players in the draft.

Although Tim Duncan continues to cheat father time, it will be interesting to see what San Antonio does to find his successor, as they have already reached out as one of many teams interested in signing LaMarcus Aldridge.  The Spurs might choose to get a guy for Duncan to mentor at this point in the draft, but guard/forward Justin Anderson just makes too much sense for this team.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (From Houston Rockets) – Terry Rozier; Guard, Louisville

With the number two overall pick, the Los Angeles Lakers will have already addressed their need for a center with great potential in Jahlil Okafor.  Now they need to address the point guard position because it does not seem like the “Linsanity” craze is returning any time soon to reignite Jeremy Lin’s ability to lead a team.

What the Lakers want in their next point guard is a player who can distribute the ball, but more importantly go out and score at a high rate to finally give Kobe Bryant some backcourt assistance.  This list of desires makes Louisville point guard Terry Rozier a very appealing candidate to take on the role.  If there is one thing that Terry Rozier knows how to do, it is getting a bucket.  Rozier achieves this task in a variety of ways, finishing in the paint through traffic and hitting the big shots from mid and long range at a high clip.  He can adequately size up opposing guards and has never been questioned as a defensive liability with the Louisville Cardinals.

Being able to add Terry Rozier and Jahlil Okafor in the first round is quite an adjustment of a lackluster Laker squad just one season removed from Kobe Bryant shaking his head at Nick Young’s oddball post-game interviews.  With his guidance, perhaps the Lakers may not be in nearly as much trouble as they were made out to be in.

28. Boston Celtics (From Los Angeles Clippers) – Robert Upshaw; Center, Washington

Rim protection.  Rim protection.  Rim protection.  Defense.  Rim Protection.  The Celtics shortlist for this pick seems relatively straightforward.  After drafting an exciting franchise swingman in Sam Dekker, the Boston Celtics will look to add a sense of nastiness to their front-court depth.

Even with the off-court baggage that he carries, Robert Upshaw is a strong contender for this pick in the draft.  Standing at roughly 7’0″ and weighing around 260 lbs., the University of Washington product has the size to finally give the Celtics a much-needed defensive presence in the paint.  Averaging nearly a double-double in his time with the Huskies and flaunting a 7’4″ wingspan, Robert Upshaw has exactly what the Celtics have been looking for since they dealt Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder several years ago – a tough big man with a defense-first mentality.  But Upshaw brings a little bit more of an offensive touch around the rim than what Perkins offered.  His ability to help out on the weak side defensively and protect the rim with his superb shot blocking ability would be quite the addition to a Celtics front-court in desperate need of some character.

Of course, Upshaw’s issues off the court are not to be dismissed and must be carefully examined by teams interested in him.  But it seems as if with the right coaching and guidance, Robert Upshaw has extraordinary potential to be a dominant center in the NBA, and if the Celtics are willing to take the gamble on him, his draft selection accompanied by Sam Dekker would be just what the doctor ordered to get the Celtics toward Eastern Conference contention.  This is especially true if Boston cannot land a coveted big man like LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMarcus Cousins via free agency or trade.

29. Brooklyn Nets (From Atlanta Hawks) – Chris McCullough; Forward, Syracuse

After mortgaging the future to the Boston Celtics for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry, the Brooklyn Nets have ended up with just combo forward Thaddeus Young after losing or trading each of the veterans they received.

To put it simply, the Brooklyn Nets are screwed.  Although they have Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson, the supporting cast is far from acceptable to be a winning team.  And if the Nets fail to secure Lopez long term (as he is the youngest out of the three best players), Brooklyn will be in an even deeper hole than they are now.

Even though it would be smart to add depth in the backcourt or backup plans behind Brook Lopez at center, the Brooklyn Nets need a player at power forward who can score the basketball in the paint, a speciality of forward Chris McCullough.  The Syracuse product will need to pack on some weight to match up better against opposing forwards, but he already has the tools to potentially succeed at the professional level.  Despite a medley of injuries and some questions surrounding his motivation to win, McCullough seems like a logical fit for a team destined toward a slow transition into a rebuilding period.

30. Golden State Warriors – J.P. Tokoto; Guard/Forward, North Carolina

Even though Mark Jackson did an admirable job reenergizing the Golden State Warriors, the team seemed to have too much of a defined ceiling, haltering their level of success in the Western Conference. And the head coaching transition to the Steve Kerr era has been nothing short of amazing, adding a variety of offensive and defensive flexibility that can help this team contend for an NBA title.  With the current MVP in Stephen Curry, and unmatchable contributions from Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, as well as much of the bench, the Warriors are more poised than ever before and will most likely use this draft choice to add depth at shooting guard to top off the first round.

With Leandro Barbosa and Justin Holliday set to hit free agency, general manager Bob Myers will try to supplement for their departure.  And with some interesting talent remaining on the board, the Golden State Warriors will be willing to take the risk-reward option on North Carolina guard Jean-Pierre Tokoto.  To call him a guard is something more of a size classification.  “Air-Pierre,” as his nickname would explain, seemingly jumps higher than any other player on the court, rebounding extremely well for his size.  J.P. Tokoto also flaunts an athleticism that helps him fight through traffic and get shots to fall around the rim.  Defensively, Tokoto can be great because of his length, but it is up to him to make sure he stays involved in every play.

Tokoto’s biggest weakness is his inefficient shot.  But if anyone could fix it, Steve Kerr would probably be up for the challenge, especially with great shooters already existing on the team to help out.  Likewise, J.P. Tokoto’s skill-set mirrors Andre Iguodala’s game more so than anyone else on the roster, giving him another key mentor in his transition to the NBA.


Written by Alex Floch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Alex Floch View All

I am currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Growing up in a sports family, I have formed a distinct love for the industry. I enjoy writing about sports in my free time and hope to one day be able to pursue it as a career.

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