The story of the 2015 draft will be the centers. The 2015 draft is deep with quality bigs. This has the potential to become one of the great center classes ever. Right now I have 7 in the lottery and 4 more in the first round. There are several other freshmen centers of moderate promise out there and a few seniors who would be great 2nd round picks. This is welcome news for an NBA that currently has a lot of talent but is lacking in quality bigs.
The way this top 60 played out I have the first round thick with bigs and freshmen. The second round is mostly guards. I see the draft eventually playing out that way, as bigs are the more valuable commodity and the 2015 draft is thick with good ones. Players are listed in order of how I would draft then all other factors being equal.
1. Karl Anthony Towns, C Kentucky: I have been waffling between Towns, Okafor and Russell in the top 3. Towns has the most upside thanks to his being a center and his defensive ability, so he’s number one for now. He could be starting on a streak that renders this debate moot. His offense has been catching up with his defense in February.
2. Jahlil Okafor, C Duke: I would like Okafor a lot better if he blocked shots more frequently. If he were over 4.0 B40 like Towns and Turner are instead of around 2.0 I could safely declare him the NBA’s next great big man and quickly move on to ranking players from 2-60. He’s been a force on offense, but dominant centers have been much better shot blockers than Okafor as freshmen. The thing is few, if any, have been better offensive players as freshmen. That and his stellar rebounding make Okafor one of the top prospects regardless of his defensive shortcomings.
3. D’Angelo Russell, SG Ohio State: Russell might be the closest thing to a surefire star as there is in the 2015 draft. But he’s a SG and centers are just more valuable. I mean what could possibly go wrong drafting a Kentucky center ahead of the top SG available? While all the centers have some question marks, Russell looks very solid. He should excel at either backcourt position or as a hybrid playmaker/wing like Kobe or Wade.
4. Myles Turner, C Texas: Turner is back on the upswing following a difficult January. He’s not on the level of Towns or Okafor yet, but he’s a young freshman with great length, shot-blocking ability and a nice touch from the outside.
5. Stanley Johnson, SF Arizona: Johnson joined a team that had a couple of similar players in place in Ashley and Hollis-Jefferson. That he became the top player on that team is very impressive. He has star potential.
6. Jakob Poeltl, C Utah: Poeltl’s game is back on the uptick. Like Turner he had his struggles after a fast start. The numbers have steadied in recent games and he fixed his turnover problem. Poeltl is in the same boat as the other 3 freshmen bigs. He certainly isn’t perfect and has some bust potential. But the upside is a very tough thing to pass on.
7. Emmanual Mudiay, PG Guangdong: This year’s Dante Exum. I don’t know enough about him that I can rank him with a lot of confidence. I have seen numbers from his 300 minutes in China and they’re pretty impressive.
8. Delon Wright, PG Utah: Wright has been doing all the great PG prospect things better than any guard in the nation well into his second season now. The main thing he needed to do, hit the 3-pointer more efficiently, is still a work in progress. He has improved, hovering around .300 for most of the year.
9. Willie Cauley-Stein, C Kentucky: A team that might not want to wait on a center project will find Cauley-Stein enticing. He’s probably the best defender in the nation and defense is a huge thing for bigs. He’s not much on offense, but is a smart, low-mistake player who should fit in well anywhere.
10. Christian Wood, C UNLV: Another solid big prospect. Wood has improved his game a lot following an unimpressive freshman year. He’s a young sophomore, who won’t turn 20 until September. I don’t see that he has the upside of the 4 freshmen, but he’s still a solid pick.
11. Jordan Mickey, PF LSU: An excellent defender and solid rebounder who still comes up short as a scorer. I do like his potential enough to list him as the top PF.
12. Montrezl Harrell, PF Louisville: Harrell’s blocks are down some this year. That might be due more minutes going to bigger players like Onuaku and Mathiang. The rest of his game and his entire career are strong enough that he’s a solid lottery pick.
13. Frank Kaminsky, C Wisconsin: Like Cauley-Stein, Kaminsky is a center who can probably step right in and help a team on some level. He’s a great shooter, but has the potential to be a lot more than a stretch 5.
14. Shawn Long, PF Louisiana-Lafayette: Long has improved noticeably every year and is a legit late lottery pick. He scores often with good efficiency from inside and out. He’s one of the best rebounders in the nation. His defense has ranged from so-so to good during his career.
15. Bobby Portis, PF Arkansas: Portis remains a good prospect, but still has some work to do particularly on defense. If nothing else he’ll be a useful stretch 4, but he has a higher ceiling than that.
16. Chris McCullough, PF Syracuse: McCullough tore his ACL in January and is out for the year. The injury ended what had been a very promising freshman year. He posted dominant defensive numbers in his 450 minutes and looked like a good bet to eventually be drafted in round one, possibly in the lottery.
17. Kris Dunn, PG Providence: Highly skilled, but erratic. Dunn is a high risk/reward prospect. He continued his great season into the conference games and looks like a certain first rounder. The one problem with his game, high turnovers, is still a problem but is improving.
18. Denzel Livingston, SG Incarnate Word: Everything Livingston has accomplished in his 1500+ minutes at Incarnate Word over the past couple of seasons suggest he can become a solid NBA SG. His RSB40 has hovered around 10, he scores well over 20 P40 and his percentages are well over .500 and .300.
19. AJ Hammons, C Purdue: Early this season it looked like Hammons might get pushed aside by freshman Isaac Haas. The junior responded by coming alive during the Big 10 schedule and now looks like a first rounder. If Hammons can continue at this level he’ll be in the lottery by the end of the year.
20. Tyus Jones, PG Duke: Jones has been scoring a lot more in recent games and that helps his status a lot. He still brings ordinary defensive numbers and that keeps him out of the lottery. He’s probably a safer pick than Dunn, but lacks the upside.
21. Cliff Alexander, PF Kansas: Alexander has been quiet for a top 5 overall player coming in, but has shown solid traditional PF skills while playing limited minutes. Considering he’s done this as a freshman, that makes him a pretty good prospect.
22. Kevon Looney, PF UCLA: Looney’s 2PP is below .500 at .486 and that’s a huge red flag. Everything else looks solid. In addition to excellent rebounding he’s a decent defender, can hit a 3-pointer and is a good passer for a big man. Diverse skills are great, but he needs to score more efficiently inside before I’ll rank him much higher than this.
23. Kelly Oubre, G-F Kansas: The sum total doesn’t look too impressive, but I like what I have seen from Oubre so far. He’s a good rebounder for a player his size. In January his efficiency fell off, but his passing and defense improved dramatically. It’s like he’s slowly putting it together as a player and could be scary good once he figures it all out.
24. Aleksander Vezenkov, SF XXXXXXX: I’m not overly impressed with the foreign players this year. Vezenkov looks like the best one. He’s a SF with good potential as a scorer.
25. Egidijus Mockevicius, C Evansville: Mockevicius is a center whose strong year will likely get lost a little in the tsunami of great center prospects. He’s a strong prospect though.
26. Cameron Payne, PG Murray State: Soph PG who is the leader of a very good Racers team. The improvement over his freshman year has held and it is time to take him seriously as a prospect.
27. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF Arizona: Hollis-Jefferson is a prospect I like a lot more subjectively than what the stats say about him. The problem is he just can’t seem to get his offense to where it needs to be.
28. Robert Upshaw, C Washington: I was prepared to usher Upshaw into the top 10, possibly top 5, before he was dismissed from the team for a rules violation. Upshaw clearly has issues. This is the second time in two places that he’s been dismissed from a team. That’s not a good sign. I’m not aware of what exactly his infractions were, but programs just don’t kick talented 7-footers to the curb for reasons that are inconsequential. Going strictly by the numbers, he remains a very impressive prospect. The obvious comp, Hassan Whiteside, is tearing up the NBA right now after a few years in the basketball wilderness. Upshaw can be such a player if he gets it together.
29. Rakeem Christmas, PF Syracuse: Christmas had posted decent numbers in a part-time role for his first 3 seasons. His strength was defense. He’s scoring a lot more his senior year and is posting his best rebounding numbers of his career. He’s 23 and players who bloom late in college aren’t always a good bet.
30. Justise Winslowe, SF Duke
31. Daniel Ochefu, C Villanova: Another center who has stepped up his game this year. Ochefu looks like he could become a useful part of an inside rotation.
32. Zikiteran Woodley, SG Northwestern State: Or Zeek as he’s called in some places. Woodley is a great scorer. He’s hit over .600 on 2-pointers during his year-and-a-half in a Demon uniform. He has hit .391 on 87 3-pointers. The only issue is his low (0.7) A40. That’s almost unheard of for a guard. His turnovers are relatively low too and his defensive numbers are good enough.
33. Mario Hezonja, SG Barcelona: He’s similar to Vezenkov in that his potential is as a scorer. His overall numbers aren’t as impressive though.
34. Domantas Sabonis, PF Gonzaga
35. Chinanu Onuaku, C Louisvile
36. Dakari Johnson, C Kentucky
37. Isaac Haas, C Purdue
38. Trey Lyles, PF Kentucky
39. Amida Brimah, C Connecticut: I bunched some young bigs together near the top of round 2. These 6 players are in similar situations. All have a lot of upside, but none have established themselves as great prospects just yet. All have youth and the upside that comes with it going for them. All would be high risk/reward at this point.
40. Kristaps Porzingis, PF Sevilla: His numbers remind me of Andrea Bargnini. Good offense and decent defense combined with terrible rebounding. I think he fits best with the NCAA freshman bigs, because he has a similar high risk/reward look about him at this point.
41. Corey Hawkins, G UC-Davis: I like Hawkins the best of the 3 emerging senior combo guards from mid-majors, the other 2 being Mike Caffey from Long Beach State and Corey Walden from Eastern Kentucky. They all have their strong and weak points, but Hawkins is the only one over 25 P40 and scoring a lot of points has been important for guards from smaller colleges.
42. TJ McConnell, PG Arizona: After a down year last year, McConnell is looking more like the player he was at Duquense in 2011-12. He still doesn’t score much and that will keep him out of the first round. He does everything else well. His 3-pointer isn’t falling as well this year, but he has seasons of .432, .402 and .360 on his resume, so this isn’t an issue.
43. Fred Van Vleet, PG Wichita State: He found his efficiency in January, which makes his place in the top 60 a lot more solid.
44. Jerian Grant, PG Notre Dame: His RSB40 has been below 6.0 his entire career, which is a bad sign. But everything else about his game is pretty impressive, including the fact that he came back and improved as a senior after being ruled academically ineligible midway through last year. I could see Grant having a long career as a backup/spot starter.
45. Kennedy Meeks, C North Carolina
46. Derrick Marks, SG Boise State: Marks is really tearing it up as a senior. He’s been carrying the Broncos since his running mate on the wing, Drmic, went down for the season. Good prospect.
47. Alan Williams, PF UCSB: He’s dealing with an injury now, so it seems unlikely he’ll ever get his offense to the point his defense and rebounding are at. He’s still a good round 2 value as a banger.
48. Buddy Hield, SG Oklahoma
49. Terry Rozier, SG Louisville: His 2PP slipped recently. It wasn’t a huge dip, but enough to remind me that he was at .422 last year as a freshman in a part time role. The other numbers remain strong, but he’s a much better prospect if he can get the efficiency right. It will be interesting to see how the departure of PG Jones will affect his play.
50. Brice Johnson, PF North Carolina: I really like his per minute numbers, but he still doesn’t play a lot of minutes and needed to add 40 lbs to get his weight up to 228.
51. Norman Powell, SG UCLA: Powell has been ordinary for 3 years. He started to break out as a prospect in January and should get himself drafted if he keeps this pace going.
52. Tyrone Wallace, G California: He had a nice start to the season, but his scoring efficiency regressed back to the low levels of his first 2 seasons. He remains a player to watch. He’s a first rounder if he can get the efficiency right.
53. Craig Bradshaw, SG Belmont: Bradshaw got his TOs down some in January, which was pretty important. This offsets the slight decline everywhere else.
54. Gary Payton II, SG Oregon State: He’s starting to get more aggressive on offense. That’s good, because his P40 remains way too low for him to be considered much of a prospect, despite sterling numbers in all the other stats.
55. Gabriel Olaseni, C Iowa
56. Aaron White, F Iowa
57. RJ Hunter, SG Georgia State
58. Wesley Saunders, SG Harvard: he’s been a decent player for 4 years now. He doesn’t score enough for a NBA SG prospect, but he has hit the 3-pointer efficiently for the first time this year. He’s a longshot, but he also has a nice diverse game. Key will be whether he can continue hitting the outside shot.
59. Amir Williams, C Ohio State: Williams has some drawbacks, but he is a big with good per minute defensive and rebounding numbers. Those are always nice skills to bring.
60. Briante Weber, PG VCU: I wanted to give Weber a mention here as he has been one of my favorites for 3 seasons now. Weber posted some of the most impressive steals numbers ever for a college guard. He was also a low turnover player, but he never got his offense going. It looks like he has played his final college game after tearing the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee. It sounds like a devastating injury, but my hope is he can rebound and eventually get a shot at the NBA.