Good morning, draftniks. This is the day we've all been waiting for. The 2015 NBA Draft kicks off on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. when the Minnesota Timberwolves will likely select Karl-Anthony Towns. But the rest of the night is unpredictable, what with so many trade rumors swirling around.
This year's draft resembles the class of 2012, in many respects. The group is very deep and there is talent sprinkled throughout the first round and the early second round. Meanwhile, the lottery features prospects that bring elite skills that give them a high probability of carving out long careers in the league. Whether it's no-conscience sharpshooter Mario Hezonja, playmaking forward Frank Kaminsky or pick-and-roll maestro Cameron Payne, teams will be able to find talent throughout the lottery.
The 20-40 range is also ripe with talent. Teams drafting in those positions have a possibility of drafting the next Khris Middleton or Draymond Green, if they did their research (and a little luck doesn't hurt, either).
If you're looking for more information on every player available Thursday night, please check out my draft guide.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, PF, Kentucky
This is a no-brainer selection. Towns has the potential to be an NBA All-Star and he even has an outside chance of becoming a transcendent player. He's long, athletic and scores in a myriad of different ways on the offensive end. He has a great handle for a big man and will likely develop into a knockdown shooter. Yet he'll make his most immediate impact on defense, particularly as a shot blocker.
Towns also has the most leadership qualities out of these elite prospects, making him a perfect fit alongside a player like Andrew Wiggins. The Timberwolves will be set up for many successful years with their new core.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
This is an interesting slot for the Lakers because Okafor isn't the best fit alongside Julius Randle. Neither player has shown the ability to hit jumpers or defend, but both are fantastic inside scorers. They could trade this pick for DeMarcus Cousins, but there is no reason for the Kings to rush to make a deal. They can play hardball and make the Lakers (and every other team pounding at the door) wait until later in the summer just like the Wolves did for Kevin Love last year. Or, they could just keep Cousins.
But if the Lakers stay here, Okafor will be too tough to pass up. Okafor might be the best post scorer to enter the draft in years and shows advanced moves that 10-year veterans can only dream of making. Sometimes, talent is all you need, and Okafor is about as safe a pick as there is in the draft.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
Positional versatility is valued in the modern NBA and Russell can provide plenty of that with his ability to play both guard spots. Russell is a nifty ball handler with amazing vision thanks to his 6'5 frame, but he also possesses a knockdown jumper, which will make him a threat shooting off the catch. Russell will give the 76ers the type of point guard they need, and his weaknesses on defense will be mitigated since so many athletic players surround him.
One must wonder, though, if the 76ers would be willing to trade down and select Emmanuel Mudiay or even Mario Hezonja. Though they already have a plethora of draft picks, but adding to the stockpile never hurts if those two players are equally appealing options to them.
4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
The Knicks are in a tough spot. If they believe that Trey Lyles or Frank Kaminsky is the best fit for the Triangle offense, then they would be wise to trade down into the 7-10 range. I'd go as far to say that there's a strong possibility of that, whether it's with a team like Denver or a massive three-way trade with Boston moving up to No. 4 and Detroit moving down to No. 16.
But if the Knicks do stay here, Winslow is a strong possibility because he is such a strong fit for the system. If he is consistent from three, it'll open up more driving lanes for him to be a playmaker. He is capable of running secondary pick-and-rolls, making him uniquely valuable for a wing. And with his bulky frame and strength, he's capable of defending multiple positions like Draymond Green can for the Warriors. As a bonus, there is no player with more leadership qualities than Winslow, making him the vocal leader alongside Carmelo Anthony.
5. Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Sevilla
Porzingis and Nikola Vucevic would make for a lethal frontcourt combination if Porzingis is able to reach his potential. Porzingis will at least be able to drain threes from all over the court, yet is capable of so much more. He played on one of the worst perimeter defensive teams in Spain's ACB the past two years, but would now be blessed with the likes of Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton on the perimeter, which will lead to a lot of shot-blocking opportunities. Look for them to try and move up to assure themselves of getting Porzingis, because there's always a chance the Knicks choose him instead.
6. Sacramento Kings: Mario Hezonja, SF, F.C. Barcelona
Vlade Divac has said he will look to draft the next Peja Stojakovic for the Kings. Maybe that player is Hezonja, a potential go-to scorer who has perfect mechanics on his jumper and the ability to drive to the cup and dunk over anyone.
We also believe the Kings will ultimately stay in this spot. There is no reason for them to rush into a Cousins trade unless they are completely blown away by an offer. Teams won't stop calling and the offers will only increase as the weeks pass, just like they did last year for Love.
7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Guandong
Mudiay is an excellent pick-and-roll playmaker, though he must improve on his shooting. He also has wonderful potential as a defender due to his strength and lateral quickness. If the Nuggets are able to draft Mudiay and parlay Ty Lawson for a second lottery pick, their future will look extremely bright.
8. Detroit Pistons: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
After trading for Ersan Ilyasova, the Pistons could look to trade this pick. If they keep it, the sharp-shooting Booker can come in and play right away. But it might be better to trade down and take the best available target, whether that's Sam Dekker, Kelly Oubre or Stanley Johnson. One player isn't going to get them to the promised land, so accumulating assets would be a wise move.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Al Jefferson is now 30 years old and will be a free agent next summer, so the Hornets need to start planning ahead in the frontcourt. The trade of Noah Vonleh to Portland and the departure of Bismack Biyombo as a free agent opens space for a center of the future. Cody Zeller remains (for now), but he doesn't have Cauley-Stein's defensive upside. Since the front office has the pressure to win now, they could always trade this pick away entirely for an established player.
10. Miami Heat: Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin
Kaminsky is ready to contribute in Year 1 as a playmaking big man. He could become an important player going forward with such an uncertain future for the franchise. But the Heat would be wise to try and trade down from this pick and target Kaminsky's teammate Sam Dekker. The Rockets, at No. 18, are a potential trade partner because they need a point guard and Murray State's Cameron Payne is sitting there.
11. Indiana Pacers: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
Larry Bird has said the Pacers want to play faster. David West is likely to depart in free agency and Lyles is a younger version of him. There's a possibility that we didn't get to see what Lyles can really do in college. He's incredibly smooth for his size and it's hard to see him failing in the NBA.
12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner, PF, Texas
The Jazz will hope that Frank Kaminsky falls to this pick since he's easier to pair next to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, but Turner might have higher long-term potential. He's a true 7-footer that can shoot threes and protect the rim, giving them a talented threesome of big men.
13. Phoenix Suns: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
P.J. Tucker is aging and Johnson brings many of the same skills. Johnson is a gritty defensive player that plays solid all-around offense. He has improved as a shooter and is very good in the pick-and-roll, at least for a wing at his age.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
Payne's draft stock has bounced around the lottery, but it's beginning to look like he could slide to the Thunder, one of the first teams that showed interest in the small-school point guard. Payne could come in and push Russell Westbrook off the ball for portions of games, which would add diversity to a hard-to-stop offense. In the real draft, don't be surprised if OKC or another team tries to move up to assure that they get Payne.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Paul Millsap is a free agent and the Hawks need to have a backup plan in case he leaves, though they could use front court depth anyway. Portis is versatile enough to switch on some matchups on defense, and he's a solid all-around scorer who needs to extend his range to maximize his potential.
16. Boston Celtics: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
The Celtics will do everything in their power to move up in the draft, possibly in a three-way trade into the top five or into the back of the lottery. There are a number of players they could target, including Willie Cauley-Stein and Cameron Payne.
But if they aren't able to move, they may have to settle for the best player available. That player could be Dekker, a stretch forward with versatility valued by the franchise.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Looney is from Milwaukee and would add even more length to an already stretchy roster. Looney can step out and hit threes, but also has the potential to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts.
18. Houston Rockets: Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas
With Patrick Beverley set the hit the market, the Rockets will be geared to try and move up for Cameron Payne. But if they're unable to make that jump, then it's hard to see them passing on Oubre, who seems like a strong candidate to slide depending on the way the board falls. Corey Brewer is a free agent and Oubre is arguably the player with the highest upside at this point in the draft.
The Rockets may also trade out of this pick to inch closer to generating enough cap space to make a bigger move in free agency.
19. Washington Wizards: Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame
Drafting for need can be a mistake at times, but the Wizards desperately need a backup guard behind John Wall and Bradley Beal and Grant can play both guard positions.
20. Toronto Raptors: R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
The Raptors may be looking to trade DeMar DeRozan, and if so, they'll look to add a better shooter at the wing position. If Hunter slips to No. 20, he makes sense as one of the premier shooters of this class.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
With Rajon Rondo walking the plank of free agency, the Mavericks should look for a point guard on draft night. Rozier seems like a fine possibility. He brings the tenacity they wanted from Rondo on the defensive end and is developing into a very solid distributor, who can penetrate at will on offense. Playing on a loaded roster could also teach him how to play with discipline, an important factor in his development.
22. Chicago Bulls: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
The Bulls need support in the event of another Derrick Rose injury and Jones is the type of player who can play right away in the NBA. He's a high IQ player, who knows how to run offense and make the right play. Plus, he can play off-ball and shoot spot up threes, which will be of great value in Fred Hoiberg's offense.
23. Portland Trail Blazers: Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia
Wesley Matthews will likely see his three-point percentages dip in 2015 after his Achilles injury, and he might depart to another team anyway. Anderson is cut from the same cloth -- he has developed into a knockdown shooter, plays with unrivaled intensity on defense and is a high-character player in the locker room. If the Blazers are actually preparing for the post-LaMarcus Aldridge world, then Anderson is a high character player to build around.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
The Cavaliers could use a specialist of any kind, and Hollis-Jefferson is the best specialist available at this point. David Blatt could assign RHJ to one of the opponent's top scorers, making for a lockdown tandem alongside Iman Shumpert.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Montrezl Harrell, C, Louisville
You have to assume the Grizzlies are in "win now or never" mode, so Harrell makes a lot of sense as a serviceable defensive-oriented center who can come in and immediately back up Marc Gasol, if he re-signs.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia
Milutinov is the best International big man outside of the lottery players because of his combination of size, feel for the game and athleticism. With the Spurs looking to make a splash this summer, they can draft-and-stash him and bring him over years from now to make an impact.
27. Los Angeles Lakers: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
Vaughn was a top recruit that may be viewed in a different light had he not been subject to a toxic situation at UNLV. He's a talented scorer that could come off the bench and get buckets for a rebuilding Lakers squad as he adjusts to the NBA.
28. Boston Celtics: Anthony Brown, SF, Stanford
If Brown develops as a defender, he could be this year's Khris Middleton, because he's already one of the best spot up shooters in the class. The Celtics were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the last season and his presence could help immediately.
29. Brooklyn Nets: Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse
It's not a good feeling when you look in your wallet and only see loose change. That's how the Nets feel when they look at their future draft picks. McCullough might not be ready, but he has high upside and could've been a top 20 pick had he not torn his ACL. It's possible the hometown kid will give the Nets a greater return on their investment as a boom-or-bust pick.
30. Golden State Warriors: Jarell Martin, SF, LSU
Martin has only been playing organized basketball since his junior year of high school, yet he was a top recruit and played two successful seasons at LSU, despite his lack of experience. The Warriors are the best situation for him to develop and maximize his potential. He's already a good ball handler for his position and is capable of hitting spot-up threes. Though his decision-making needs a lot of improvements and he lacks experience, he could develop and grow into Golden State's system.