The 2015 draft has the potential to be one of the best ever. The 2015 class features the most impressive group of bigs in a long time, possibly since Shaq and Alonzo in ’93. The PG and PF classes are also deep.
I have omitted all players who have announced plans to return to school for the 2016 season. Players are listed in order of how I would draft them, all other things being equal.
Karl Anthony Towns, C Kentucky: I like both top centers a lot, but Towns has the edge because he’s more of a total package thanks to his shot blocking and passing skills. He started his freshman year slowly on offense, but during the last two months he improved to the point where he was hitting over .600 on 2-pointers and scoring 20+ P40.
Jahlil Okafor, C Duke: There haven’t been too many centers in history, and none recently who have been this good offensively in their first NCAA season.
Justise Winslow, SF Duke: Winslow looked like a lot of freshmen his first 3 months. He started out OK, but then struggled a little in the conference schedule. The last two months through the championship he looked like Grant Hill with solid 3-point shot. If the last two months are the real Justise Winslow, he’s an NBA superstar and should be considered as the top overall pick.
Emmanual Mudiay, PG Guangdong
D’Angelo Russell, G Ohio State: Russell finished a great freshman season on a down note. He’s still way too impressive a prospect to let slip too far.
Myles Turner, C Texas
Jakob Poeltl, C Utah: Poeltl and Turner are like Russell. They’re all freshmen coming off impressive seasons, but all have some bust potential. Because Turner and Poeltl are bigs, any team drafting them is going to have to exercise some patience. Payoff could be huge.
Willie Cauley-Stein, C Kentucky: I prefer Cauley-Stein over Kaminsky based on a preference for defense over offense. Both are useful bigs in their own way, but there’s nothing like a big who can defend and Cauley -Stein looks like that type of player.
Frank Kaminsky, C Wisconsin: A Tournament run like the Tank had can do wonders for draft stock. Kaminsky put up a 20 and 11 against Kentucky’s bigs and followed that up by outplaying Jahlil Okafor in the championship loss to Duke. This confirms what his stats have suggested for the past couple of years. That he can play with the best and is a serious NBA prospect. I don’t want to go too overboard here though. He was a senior playing against younger, less experienced players. He’ll never be anything better than an adequate defender in the pros.
Stanley Johnson, SF Arizona: Johnson’s efficiency on offense declined enough in the last couple of months that he has to be brought down a few notches. He still checked in with a very impressive freshman year.
Zhou Qi, China: I’m not sure exactly what restrictions China has in place for their players entering the NBA. Qi is just 19 but still hit 60% of his 2-pointers and blocked over 4.0 shots per 40 minutes. If he’s draft eligible, he’ll just add to a loaded center class.
Christian Wood, C UNLV
Delon Wright, PG Utah
Cameron Payne, PG Murray State: Good to see this guy jump into the draft without getting grief for it. He is that good.
Kris Dunn, PG Providence: There are 3 good PG prospects here at the end of the lottery. Dunn remains an intriguing prospect. He probably has more upside than Payne or Wright, but also has a high potential for bust because he commits so many turnovers. I think he’ll eventually be a good one. One stat in Dunn’s favor is he topped 8.0 in both A40 and RSB40. Such players have a history of long NBA careers.
Shawn Long, PF Louisiana-Lafayette
Jordan Mickey, PF LSU
Montrezl Harrell, PF Louisville
Bobby Portis, PF Arkansas: I grouped 4 PFs here. I like all of them on some level with some reservations.
Denzel Livingston, SG Incarnate Word
Trey Lyles, PF Kentucky: The Kentucky situation makes evaluations difficult. Lyles is a year removed from being a top 10 HS prospect. He flashed a diverse set of skills, but has weak PF numbers. The unknown is how much his rebounding and defensive numbers were suppressed playing in such a crowded front court.
Nedim Buza, G-F OKK Spars Sarajevo: Buza has posted some impressive numbers, though I think they were at a level below the top Euro League. Still he’s just 19, has good size and numbers that project well at either SG or SF.
Tyus Jones, PG Duke: I don’t see Jones as anything other than a steady, borderline NBA starter. He’ll be good enough to forge a long career, but he isn’t a star.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF Arizona: The question about RHJ is whether he can develop a 3-pointer, or any sort of offense for that matter to go with the rest of his game. As a general rule I feel it is safer to bet on offense developing than defense.
Cliff Alexander, PF Kansas: Alexander could become something of a bargain. His numbers were solid for a freshman PF, but he still has some work to do. Leaving college under a scandal cloud is never a good thing for draft stock, but I don’t see how the allegations against him would reflect poorly on him as an NBA prospect.
Kevon Looney, PF UCLA: Looney is a tough one to figure out. I like his diverse skill set. I don’t like that his defense and offense both come up short for a PF prospect. He’s definitely a first rounder because of upside, but I don’t see much more than a good journeyman here.
Kelly Oubre, G-F Kansas: I like Oubre more than I probably should. The overall numbers aren’t great, but he has shown flashes of the potential that had him in the top 5 in early mocks.
Robert Upshaw, C Washington: No player comes with the upside/downside potential as Upshaw. Few players have his upside. But he may not have what it takes off the court to succeed in the NBA. In a weaker draft I’d say roll the dice around the mid-lottery on such a player. The 2015 draft is loaded however and drafting a player like Upshaw too soon will mean passing on a cheap, useful player.
TJ McConnell, PG Arizona: McConnell has become one of my favorite sleepers of 2015. He does everything well, except scoring frequency, and has for 4 seasons now.
Derrick Marks, SG Boise
AJ Hammons, C Purdue
Aleksander Vezenkov, SF Aris
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin : Vezenkov and Dekker look pretty similar. Both are SFs who should be pretty good scorers in the NBA, but poor defensive number project both as role players.
Fred Van Vleet, PG Wichita State
Egidijus Mockevicius, C Evansville
Seth Tuttle, F Northern Iowa: Tuttle is a good stretch 4 prospect. The passing skills he developed as a senior make him that much more valuable.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF Sevilla: He still reminds me of Bargnini. He’s the type of player with enough size and skill to be intriguing, but his poor rebounding makes him a tough fit at PF and poor passing skills do the same at SF.
Daniel Ochefu, C Villanova
Zikiteran Woodley, SG Northwestern State
Mario Hezonja, SG Barcelona: He’s similar to Vezenkov and Dekker in that his potential is as a scorer. He might even have a little more value because he can probably play some SG and SF. But his overall numbers suggest he’s a notch below the other two.
Gary Payton II, G Oregon State: His numbers are great except for the low P40. That did start to tick up as the year progressed, but is still nowhere near where it needs to be.
Jerian Grant, PG Notre Dame
RJ Hunter, SG Georgia State
Richuan Holmes, PF Bowling Green: Holmes is one of those small college players who rates as a good prospect in my system because he checks all the PF boxes. He can score, rebound and defend. He also has flashed enough 3-point skills to make him a good stretch 4 prospect.
Mamadou N’daiye, C UC-Irvine: At 7’6” and with some solid prospect numbers, N’Daiye shouldn’t be left on the board too long.
JJ Avila, SF Colorado State: Avila is in the same place as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. If he can start hitting the 3-pointer he’ll be a much better prospect. Avila is 23, so he best get going on that.
Caris LeVert, SG Michigan: Good 3/D prospect. Poor efficiency inside the arc is a red flag.
Corey Walden, G Eastern Kentucky
Isaac Haas, C Purdue: A freshman who started fast then fell apart. Still any freshman center who can put up 20.8 P40 and 11.2 R40 on .535 shooting is a decent prospect.
Devin Booker, SG Kentucky: Booker’s defensive numbers are so low that I can’t even use Kentucky’s loaded roster as an excuse. He is a good scorer though and that’s always useful.
Corey Hawkins, G UC-Davis
Kennedy Meeks, C North Carolina
Alan Williams, PF UC-Santa Barbara
Wesley Saunders, SG Harvard
Terry Rozier, G Louisville
Michael Holyfield, C Sam Houston: He has some eye-popping per minute numbers, but doesn’t play enough minutes that I would take them very seriously. He would seem to have some potential as an inside monster for short stretches.
Dakari Johnson, C Kentucky
Branden Dawson, F Michigan State: Add him to the “if he can start to hit the trey…” crowd.
Mouhammadou Jaiteh, Nanterre: Big young and raw with wingspan is never a bad gamble this late in the draft.
Quinn Cook, PG Duke: Cook is a good one to round this out with. He’s a solid 4 year senior who can play the point if needed but his main value will be as a smart, low-mistake gunner.