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2015 NBA Draft grades: Timberwolves, Lakers, Mavericks earn highest marks

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Most teams did well in the first round, but these three teams came away with particularly strong selections.

The first round of the 2015 NBA Draft was supposed to be loaded with trades, but for the most part, the order stood pat. There was some movement, but many players went where they were expected to go, including Karl-Anthony Towns to the Timberwolves. The Lakers opted to go with D'Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor, but that could end up being a good long-term decision.

Many prospects actually landed in situations that are, on paper, good for them. We're doing our draft grades a little differently than normal. Instead of giving grades based on the player's value, we're going to focus on their fit and opportunity with the team that drafted them. Often times, the situation is what plays a significant role in player's success, and "fit" in year one is something that can be analyzed more accurately than anything else.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

Towns has All-Star potential and a chance to develop into a transcendent player with his vast skills on the offensive end of the floor. Imagine the Wolves rolling with a "small" lineup of Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Towns. There would be so much spacing that a Rubio-Towns pick-and-roll could be devastatingly potent. Not only can Towns roll down the lane and dunk over the top of his defense, but he can also pop and drain threes with his soft touch.

Towns also is a very good defensive player. He won't make a large impact from day one, since his discipline needs to improve, but long-term he projects to be highly effective with his long wingspan and lateral quickness. He'll have Kevin Garnett as a mentor, which is worth the price of Thaddeus Young for the Wolves. With a strong personality, Towns could also develop as a leader, which is a huge bonus for the Wolves, especially if KG makes an impression on him. He should be able to start immediately, giving him a significant opportunity to develop into the system with his peers.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: D'Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

This might be a surprise to many casual fans, but the Lakers made the right choice. Russell is a versatile guard who will be able to play both point and two-guard for them. This doesn't mean that the Jordan Clarkson era is over, because they can co-exist. Russell has very good vision in the pick-and-roll, probes and delivers accurate passes. He's capable of pulling up and shooting as well, making him a playmaker in multiple ways. He's also capable of playing off-ball with the ability to spot up or shoot off screens, which makes him such a weapon. No matter what role he's playing, he's a threat on the floor.

The Lakers were wise to pass on Jahlil Okafor because he wasn't a good fit alongside Julius Randle. Neither player can shoot, and neither can protect the rim. That would've been a difficult frontcourt combination for them to build around. Now they can go forward with Russell, unless of course they deal him later this summer for DeMarcus Cousins.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke

Fit: B | Opportunity: A

Okafor is a rare talent with his ability to score on the low post with a plethora of moves. Few veteran big men even come close to Okafor in terms of low-post scoring. The 76ers will be able to toss the ball down to Okafor on the low post and tell him to get a bucket. If the opponent double-teams him, he's a terrific passer who can deliver accurate kick out passes to open shooters.

The 76ers are in a precarious position due to the uncertainy surrounding Joel Embiid, so Okafor gives them a second option as a low post scoring big man. Still, it could be difficult to pair Okafor with Embiid. Okafor might be fleet of foot on the offensive end, but defensively he moves like he has velcro stuck to his shoes. Despite having a massive wingspan, he struggles to effectively contest shots. Noel is a sensational defender, but unlike Embiid, he's not capable of stretching the floor. The 76ers will need to load up on three-point shooters at the wing and guard positions to make this work.

4. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

I thought the Porzingis hype train reached an all-time high this past week after his impressive Vegas workout, but the hysteria was a little late to the party. The level is about to get turned up to 11 after being drafted by the Knicks. Porzingis has flashed his potential as a floor-stretching 7'2 big man playing in Spain's ACB League. There, he drained threes and in the past year and made improvements on the high post. He added a turnaround jumper, a hook shot and a bank shot, giving him more of a well-rounded offensive skill-set. He is a good fit for the Triangle offense, but he'll need to improve as a passer.

Porzingis has a massive 7'6 wingspan and could develop into a rim protector. His basketball IQ must improve and he certainly must add strength, but he has the makings of being a stretch-shooting-shot-blocking 7'2 big. Those guys aren't supposed to exist.

5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia


Fit: A | Opportunity: B

Hezonja is the best shooter in the draft, with the ability to hit threes from all over the court, off screens, off the catch and off the dribble. Few players have the level of confidence that Hezonja possesses, and Hezonja uses it to his advantage. As he develops as a ball handler, he may develop into a go-to scorer at end of games.

This is crucially important for the Magic because they are a defensive-oriented team, with players like Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon on the roster. Now, Hezonja can infuse some offense on a team starving for it. But being on a defense-first team will help push him to try more consistently at that end, which could render some of his defensive lapses somewhat moot. Due to their deep roster, he might not be able to play heavy minutes, but that depends greatly on what they do with Tobias Harris.

6. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky


Fit: C | Opportunity: B

There isn't a better athlete in this draft than Cauley-Stein. He has lightning-quick speed paired with incredible length. Cauley-Stein can defend most positions on the floor, giving the Kings a versatile defensive anchor to pair with DeMarcus Cousins, if they keep him.

The issue with the fit is that Cauley-Stein's mental makeup likely requires him to be surrounded by a team with a defensive identity. He needs to be around players that push him to thrive, like he did as a junior at Kentucky. If the Kings continue on the same path as they have for the last few years, it's possible he'll suffer more lapses like he did as an underclassman.

Despite that, an early opportunity will help him, especially on offense. Cauley-Stein could develop into a very good pick-and-roll finisher once he improves as a screener.

7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, DR Congo

Fit: B | Opportunity: B

The Nuggets acquire a pure point guard in Mudiay, which opens the door for them to deal Ty Lawson for a handsome trade package. At 6'5, Mudiay will be able to outmuscle many Western Conference point guards. Like Lawson, he is a speed demon in the pick-and-roll with intelligence. He is advanced at probing and finding the open man or driving and finishing at the rim. Mudiay needs to overhaul his jump shot mechanics, which will create problems for him if he plays off-ball.

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

It might be somewhat surprising that the Pistons selected Johnson over Winslow, but it makes sense considering their need for a shooter, as Johnson is far more advanced in that category. Even though he has a low release, he'll complement an interior player like Andre Drummond and penetrator like Reggie Jackson. If the Pistons want to play small ball, there's no better player to play multiple spots and roles than Johnson.

Johnson is also a good defensive player when he's engaged, and he couldn't have found a better situation. Stan Van Gundy's strict personality will shut the lid on his poor shot selection and the system will also likely maximize his intensity on defense.

9. Charlotte Hornets: Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin

Fit: C | Opportunity: B

Kaminsky will add a new dimension to Charlotte's offense as a playmaking forward with an ability to drain threes off the pick-and-pop, or spotting up and driving against closeouts. Though they already have Spencer Hawes and Marvin Williams on the roster, both of them lack Kaminsky's playmaking ability.

There's little doubt Frank the Tank will be an effective offensive threat, but he's only average on defense. If the Hornets lose Bismack Biyombo in the restricted free agent market, they'll lack a rim protector. They will likely need to pair a defensive-oriented center with Kaminsky.

Since the Hornets are a young team with plenty of movable pieces, he'll receive an early opportunity. Not enough can be said about the need for a rim protector though.

10. Miami Heat: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

Miami gets a massive steal with the 10th pick. Winslow is safe because of his tenaciousness on the defensive end of the floor. Though he's only 6'7 in shoes, he has a strong frame that allows him to defend multiple positions just like Draymond Green. He plays balls-to-the-wall and will likely inspire his new teammates with his drive and will to win. At only 19 years old, he has natural leadership qualities. As he matures, he could develop into a captain of the Heat.

Their future is cloudy with Dwyane Wade and possibly Luol Deng as free agents, so Winslow's opportunity could be largely dependent on what happens there.

11. Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner, C, Texas

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

This is the perfect situation for Turner to grow into his role in a system looking to play faster. Turner is raw, but was a top recruit out of high school and may have more potential than what he showed at Texas. He can stretch the floor with his three, though he needs to improve as a screener before he can be an elite pick-and-pop threat. There are legitimate concerns about his running form, but it remains to be seen if that problem will sustain.

Turner has a long 7'4 wingspan and could develop into a rim protector. With David West and possibly Roy Hibbert hitting the market, Turner should receive early minutes.

12. Utah Jazz: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

Lyles will fit nicely with both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, provided he's able to extend his range. He has good shooting form and the Jazz have a good history of developing shooters, so that shouldn't be a problem. Lyles is an average defensive player, but that issue could be mitigated while playing with Gobert or Favors. Most impressive of all is his elite feel for the game playing off-ball. He rarely turns the ball over and can drive closeouts turning into a playmaker.

13. Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky

Fit: B | Opportunity: B

Booker will likely receive an opportunity with an exodus of free agents in Phoenix. He's a true sharpshooter, but this is also likely a case of "best player available," since the Suns could use some help in the frontcourt.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

This is a fascinating fit for Payne, since the Thunder will be able to push Russell Westbrook off the ball. They'll have a more diverse offense that'll allow them to play with some creative lineups, since Payne is such a versatile player. Though he excels as a pick-and-roll playmaker with his ability to pull up and shoot or finish with a Mike Conley-like floater, he's equally as effective off-ball. In fact, he might even be better getting open off screens than some true shooting guards.

15. Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas

Fit: B | Opportunity: B

Oubre is extremely raw, but has high potential as a 3-and-D wing. With a long 7'2 wingspan and excellent lateral quickness, he has the tools you look for in a lockdown defender. However, he lacks consistently and often suffers lapses, especially playing off-ball. He's a poor ball handler and struggles to hit shots off the dribble.

But he'll have time to develop, as he'll likely spend a lot of time shooting off the catch with John Wall handling the ball so often. This works to his advantage. For now, he'll compete for minutes with Otto Porter.

16. Boston Celtics: Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville

Fit: A | Opportunity: C

Celtics fans tossed their arms up in the air when this pick was made because Boston already has Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, but Rozier is cut from the same cloth as Smart and he'll grow on the fanbase. He's a tenacious defender with a non-stop motor, and he's lightning quick as a ball handler, though he is only average finishing at the rim. His success was largely dependent on situation, and he'll be fortunate to play under Brad Stevens, who will teach him to play under control. Early opportunity isn't there, but it didn't need to be for him.

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV

Fit: B | Opportunity: C

Vaughn is an intriguing pick. He was highly recruited out of high school, but he underachieved at UNLV. O.J. Mayo is a free agent after the 2015-16 season, which will open up an opportunity for him to replace him as their sparkplug scorer. Vaughn is an underwhelming defender, but that issue is less concerning due to the amount of length that will surround him on the floor.

18. Houston Rockets: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

Dekker should be ecstatic he fell to the Rockets, since he lands on a team that excels at developing shooters. He has good size and can play both forward spots, bringing versatility that Houston values on both ends of the floor. With the Rockets looking to move Terrence Jones, Dekker could likely receive heavy reps as a rookie.

19. New York Knicks: Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame

Fit: C  | Opportunity: A

Grant has excellent feel for the game and has the size to play both guard positions. But he's a subpar off-ball shooter, which is an important part of his fit in the triangle. Being able to hit threes off-ball will be crucial for his success.

The Knicks likely feel that they'll be able to develop him in this area. Fortunately, he'll receive plenty of opportunity, since the Knicks don't have a lot of point guard depth on the roster.

20. Toronto Raptors: Delon Wright, PG, Utah

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

The Raptors could lose Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams to free agency this summer, opening up a hole at backup point guard. Wright isn't a very good shooter, but neither is Kyle Lowry, and he excels in their penetration-based system. Wright isn't a bulldog like Lowry, but he does get to the cup by using change of pace ball-handling. Like Lowry, Wright's a terrific defensive player with the length to defend both guard spots. This is a good situation for him to come in and learn without the pressure of being a high draft pick

21. Dallas Mavericks: Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

Anderson could be the steal of the draft. He is a very good defender with the size to defend multiple positions, and he could grow into an elite stopper once his fundamentals improve. His motor is incredible, but his work ethic is even better. That's why he improved significantly as a three-point shooter this past season at Virginia by revising his mechanics. This bodes well for his ability to develop as a ball handler, his prominent weakness.

22. Chicago Bulls: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas

Fit: B | Opportunity: C

It's somewhat surprising that Portis fell so far in the draft, making this a potential steal for the Bulls because of his two-way potential. Portis' idol is Kevin Garnett, and it shows when he plays intense defense by clapping his hands manically. He's also a very solid all-around offensive player, with the ability to hit mid-range jumpers. With his form he may have trouble extending his range to three, but corner threes are not out of the question.

Early opportunity won't be there for Portis, but that isn't much of a problem since he'll be on a winning team.

23. Portland Trail Blazers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona

Fit: B | Opportunity: B

The Blazers could lose LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, which could free up minutes for young players. Enter Hollis-Jefferson, one of the draft's premier defenders. He has excellent lateral quickness and length, and plays with heart. He is an extremely poor shooter, but is a solid ball handler and his interior passing ability makes him somewhat unique for his size.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

Ricky Rubio might not have a future with the Timberwolves, which makes Jones a terrific long-term pick. He'll be surrounded by talent with athletes like Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine, which minimizes his weaknesses on defense. Jones is a pure point who should be a nice fit.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarell Martin, SF, LSU

Fit: B | Opportunity: B

Martin is a late bloomer who didn't start playing organized basketball until his junior season of high school, but he had two strong seasons at LSU. He's a terrific athlete, can shoot threes and is a great ball handler for his size. The issue is that he's a poor decision-maker and needs extensive tutoring.

He can get that in Memphis, which has a strong player development system. He can learn behind someone like Zach Randolph.

26. San Antonio Spurs: Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia

Fit: A | Opportunity: A

This was an obvious pick. At 7'0, Milutinov has excellent feel for game, sets strong screens, is a great passer for his age and has good fundamentals as a pick-and-roll defender. If that doesn't sound like a Spurs big man, then what does? His shooting mechanics are raw, but he has very solid touch and the Spurs excel at developing shooters. It won't be too surprising if he's a rotation big for the Spurs in a few years from now.

27. Los Angeles Lakers: Larry Nance, PF, Wyoming

Fit: B | Opportunity: C

Nance is an interesting choice for the Lakers considering they desperately need outside shooting and that's one of his weaknesses. He's also being selected far ahead of projections, making this quite a reach. They probably could've selected him with their next pick in the second round.

But Nance is a terrific athlete and may have untapped potential. It's just hard to see why they'd reach for him now.

28. Boston Celtics: R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

Hunter falling to this selection could be a major steal for the Celtics. They need a player who can drain threes off screens and off the catch. He can essentially fill the same play types used by Avery Bradley this past season, but extend them out to above the break. Hunter is a high-character player who can compete for minutes right away.

29. Brooklyn Nets; Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse

Fit: A | Opportunity: B

The Nets draft the hometown kid in McCullough, making this a perfect fit for him. He recently became a father and is closely tied to his roots, so this will probably be a comfortable situation for him. He's coming off a torn ACL, but is a terrific athlete who is capable of excelling in the pick-and-roll. He's raw overall, but should receive some opportunity to develop depending on how Brooklyn constructs their roster.

30. Golden State Warriors: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA

Fit: A | Opportunity: C

Looney slipped in the draft due to hip injury, but the Warriors can afford to take the risk. They just won the title and can afford to wait for Looney to get healthy.

He is extremely long, with the length to defend multiple positions. He plays somewhat passively, but being surrounded by their culture might turn on the light. Offensively, he can stretch the floor and hit spot-up threes, making him a valuable off-ball weapon. He could "redshirt" his rookie year, but with his raw tools, he will benefit from avoiding the limelight.