2015 SpreeGoogs NBA Mock Draft Part 1
“The time has come,” the Mocker said,
“To draft for many teams:
Of hoops–and ‘ships–and first-round picks–
And Sacramento Kings
And if the wings can pick and pop–
And whether bigs shoot threes.”
This is going to be long, so I’ll get right into the mock picks in a minute. But first, some general guidelines for this mock:
- There won’t be any mocked trades; it gets too difficult to juggle and isn’t realistic or rewarding for fans trying to see which players are actually in play for their team
- I’m mocking the first round only
- I try to avoid the “[player X] fits on [Team Y] because they need a [position Z] and he’s the best one” format; assume that all picks are made because the players will fit on the teams
- I will, instead, try to explain the actual drafting mindset of the teams, noting which players will be considered for a pick and how the team considers its long-term structure
- For each pick, I’ll try to play the role of the GM, considering existing contracts, past draft history and style of play; it also means that I’m picking long-term starters for most of the lottery teams and single-skill bench contributors for the playoff teams
- This is how I think the draft will happen, not necessarily how the draft should happen; there’s plenty of overlap between those two methods, but they don’t always match up 1:1
- Traditionally, basketball teams are built of five positions, but I like to think of teams as built of three positions (1 ballhandler, 2 wings, 2 bigs) so that affects who I pick
Here we go:
2015 SpreeGoogs NBA Mock Draft (Picks 1-14)
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, C (Kentucky)
This pick would seem to already be made. Like just about every NBA draft, we know how the first pick will shake out at least a month before the pick is made. Towns is a monster of a player and still seems to have plenty of room left to improve. He shoots, he rebounds, he defends the paint, he does everything pretty well already and will probably only get better.
In the long run, the ‘Wolves extended Ricky Rubio last year and have a talented group of young wings (Wiggins, Bennett, Shabazz), so the best place to add talent would be the big positions. Pekovic and Dieng are ok, but there are still plenty of minutes to go around. The pick ultimately comes down to Towns vs. Okafor, and it seems that the ‘Wolves prefer Towns. I don’t think you cold go wrong with either.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C (Duke)
Can you name anyone on the Lakers who actually played last year? Seriously, Kobe didn’t, and unless you’re a fan of Jordan Clarkson (I am), Ryan Kelly or Bob Sacre, you probably didn’t even notice the Lakers were in the Association in 2014. Unfortunately for LA fans, it seems like the right thing for the team to do is to grab one player who could be something and then just develop the young core until the salary cap expands next offseason (even more so for them because Kobe’s 25 million comes off the books) and they use their identity (they’re still the Lakers) to grab a big-name free agent for two. Or three.
The best players left would appear to be Okafor, Porzingis and a couple of ballhandlers. After seeing what Clarkson did last season in a starting job, I’d tend to think the Lakers are fine moving forward with him and will draft the last elite offensive post player. The Lakers are playing for next year’s offseason, and realistically, the only players under contract will be Julius Randle, Okafor and Nick Young. I’ll assume Clarkson extends too, leaving them with a solid (and cheap) core and a lot of money to throw at whatever free agent wings they want, so Kevin Durant come on down.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Kristaps Porzingis, PF (Latvia)
This is the pick where the draft gets interesting. The Sixers have been tanking and collecting early picks for a while, but it really hasn’t gotten them anything. Nerlens Noel is probably a firm part of the long-term plan, but Joel Embiid, the other big that they’ve been sitting on, just re-injured himself and who knows when he’ll actually be ready to play. As far as wings and ballhandlers go, the cupboard is bare. The Sixers need everything, and this seems like a classic BPA trap pick.
I say trap pick because I think the floor for both Russell and Mudiay is high. Philadelphia will see that Porzingis is a nice complement for Noel, and they’d be right, but it takes a good point guard to win in the NBA. From media reports leading up to the draft, it seems like the 76ers rate Porzingis too highly, and they might be right, but we’ve seen the foreign big who can shoot movie before. Unless you’re Dirk or maybe Nikola Mirotic, it doesn’t work out. If I’m picking for the 76ers, I’m taking Russell, but I’m not, and I think they’re taking Porzingis.
4. New York Knicks: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG (Ohio State)
Here’s an unsung benefit of drafting D’Angelo Russell: you save money on your PR and media training personnel. Not only is Russell an elite talent, he’s also absurdly good at the pre-draft interview session. Going into next year, the Knicks are in the same position as always: Carmelo is expensive and there’s no one else on the roster, unless you count Jose Calderon and/or Shane Larkin. Russell fills an awful lot of holes on the roster. He can start as the second-option wing and move into a more ball-dominant role with the second team.
I’m assuming that the Knicks are in a Lakers-like year of developing a handful of young guys for a year before binge spending next offseason and the versatility of Russell compared to Mudiay is attractive to them because he can shuffle around and still get plenty of minutes after they sign a veteran next year.
5. Orlando Magic: Willie Cauley-Stein, C (Kentucky)
This is going to be a bold statement, but the Magic really aren’t that far away from being a good team. They don’t really need anything. The backcourt (Payton/Oladipo) is very good/young/cheap. The wings (Harris, Gordon, Harkless) are super athletic but lack a true shooter. Vucevic will be back down low. The only skills not really represented are shot-blocking and maybe defensive rebounding, enter WCS.
Either way you look at it, this team is built to out-athlete people in a transition game. I think WCS is the pick here to try to improve size without sacrificing that athletic ability. The only other possible option would be Justise Winslow, who could give them a third wing (with Vecevic as the long big) who could guard opposing 4s and space the floor with his shooting, something Gordon can’t really do. It’s probably a coin-flip between WCS and Winslow. The good news for Orlando is that if the Knicks trade in front of them (decently likely) and one of those two isn’t available, they still have a great option.
6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG (China)
If the previous five picks are made, I’m betting the farm on the Kings taking Mudiay. I’m really not even sure who else is in the running for this pick. They’re building around Gay (wing) and Cousins (post), so they need a 1 and Mudiay is probably the last elite talent left. He’s a big, physical point guard who can score plenty without having plays run for him, which is great, because there won’t be plays run for him.
To win in today’s NBA, you have to have a dominant point guard, and Mudiay is the best pure 1 in this draft class. The Kings aren’t going anywhere immediately, but Cousins is something to build around and Mudiay is as good a building block as there is for him. Unlike a lot of these lottery teams, the Kings don’t really have a lot of cap room to play with, so they might be interested in a trade that unloads some of the bad contracts, but if they stay and pick, they couldn’t do better than Mudiay.
7. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow, SF (Duke)
This is a tough pick. Here’s the scenario: The Nuggets have plenty of players signed for next season, but after that, it’s basically just Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. The need shooting, they need defense, they basically just need the best wing they can get. In this case, I’m picking Winslow over Hezonja. Mostly because I have a bias against foreign players. I like Winslow’s size and his defensive versatility and people forget that he shot over 40% from the 3-point line last season. Dude can shoot and defend.
Winslow is the best pure wing in the class, and it’s strange that he’s still left after six picks, but that’s the way the draft works. Positional runs are everything. In terms of the big picture, the choice at 7 comes down to what the Nuggets are planning to do with their free agency room next year. The Nuggets don’t have a lot of cap room right now, but they do next year, and I think Winslow’s defense makes him stand out over Hezonja for Denver. No matter who they go after in free agency, every player still needs to defend, and Winslow is one of the best defenders around.
8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, SF (Arizona)
The big question for Detroit this offseason is what happens with Greg Monroe. At this point, it seems pretty unlikely that he’ll be back in the Motor City. What the Pistons are building post-Monroe with Ilyasova and Drummond looks like a pretty classic 4-out setup. They’ve already got the shooting big and the interior big they need, so the long-term goal is another wing to pair (or to prefer) with KCP.
Johnson can defend more positions better than KCP, and while I wouldn’t call him a floor-spacer, he shoots well enough to take the open looks the offense will get him. He seems like a high-end 3/D player in Detroit. The other option on the wing for the Pistons is Hezonja, but I really don’t get the excitement. He’s supposed to be this great shooter and scorer, but he’s only scoring 15 points per 40 and he shoots the same percentage from deep as Johnson. Hezonja is going to be the player who falls in my mock, but he’s definitely in the running for a few teams.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker, SG (Kentucky)
A third Wildcat in the lottery! The Hornets have made it pretty clear that they are looking for a shooter in the first round, so it’ll come down to Booker and Mario Hezonja. The pick has to be a wing and with the way that MKG (the other starter) plays, they’ll need shooting from somewhere. Booker is the best pure shooter in this class and not much else, but the Hornets are really only looking for that one skill, so it’s ok.
Again, Hezonja loses out, this time to a player almost everyone has rated lower than him, but hear me out. With Big Al, Zeller, and MKG not giving the Hornets any spacing at all, Charlotte gives the edge to the speedier player (Booker destroyed the lane agility test) with better range. Size doesn’t matter as much, neither does defense, since MKG will always guard the best wing on the opposing team. Booker is probably a better fit for a playoff team looking for a second-unit shooter than a lottery tea, looking for a starter, but if the Hornets are going to draft for one need, they might as well pick the player that actually takes care of that one need.
10. Miami Heat: Mario Hezonja, SG/SF (Croatia)
It finally happens, he has a team. At this point he’s the wing with the highest potential and he’s probably too much to pass up for Miami, a team with a bunch of huge question marks. Bosh will be there long-term and that’s all they know past this season. Dragic will probably extend with Miami for a while, but both Deng and Wade have player options for the the upcoming season. Miami might be drafting the first wing off the bench or they might be drafting the first starting wing option (assuming Dragic and Bosh are covered on some play).
Henzonja plays a position of need and seems like the BPA right now too. We’re getting into the Kaminsky/Turner range of the draft right now too, but Kaminsky’s game overlaps entirely with Bosh’s and there are too many unknowns with Turner to take him this high. Hezonja gives Miami another wing to play in a three-wing small lineup that puts Bosh at the 5 and he also provides some insurance against a possible Wade/Deng exodus. He’s the right pick here.
11. Indiana Pacers: Trey Lyles, SF/PF (Kentucky)
You’ll have to bear with me a little bit longer on this one because this is my team. For the only pick in the entire mock, I’ll be choosing who the team should pick, not who they will pick.
This offseason, Larry Bird has already made it known that he wants the Pacers to play smaller and faster in the future. This will be the last season with David West and Roy Hibbert, so it makes sense to get faster by subtraction when those two leave, but that means there will have to be some newer, faster bigs to take the minutes. Lyles is a perfect 4 for a smaller, faster offensive team. He has great mobility/wingspan, so with a year to learn post defense from the outgoing vets, he could grow into a worthy starter.
The popular Pacers mock pick this year is Murray State’s Cameron Payne, which doesn’t make any sense. The Pacers already have George Hill, Paul George, Solomon Hill and CJ Miles under contract and are probably going to re-sign Rodney Stuckey. They don’t need any more 1-3 players. They have to get mobile big men. You don’t make the team faster by adding more players at the fast positions, you have to replace the plodding bigs with mobile bigs, which are hard to find. I’d like to see them re-sign Lavoy Allen in free agency and pair him with Lyles for at least 10-15 minutes a game to see how that speedier lineup works.
Another option would be Frank Kaminsky, who definitely adds shooting that Lyles doesn’t have, but probably doesn’t have the body to defend NBA big men like Lyles can. If someone like WCS or StanJo falls on draft night, that’s the pick. Actually, if any of the players not named Devin Booker who are already taken in this mock fall, they’re the pick. We all know that waiting to see who falls isn’t the Larry Bird strategy, He likes to pick someone who he knows will be there at his pick and set his sights. For him in the real draft, that might mean Jerian Grant, but for me in my mock, it’s Lyles.
12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner, C (Texas)
The Jazz need a center. It’s almost like all they can afford to draft at 12 is a center. They have a ton of young, talented, contractually obligated players at 1-4. Seriously, for the next three seasons they have Hayward, Favors, Exum, Burks and Rodney Hood. Two more years for Trey Burke as well. The Jazz are in a good spot to go with their favorite flavor of big: inside (Turner) or outside (Kaminsky).
We’re running out of teams that have a lot of minutes available, but we’re also running out of players with multiple skills to offer a team. Turner is someone I looked into a lot, and I really don’t get. He kind of sucked at Texas for a year and all of a sudden he’s a lottery talent? Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to get drafted in the lottery because he’s young and has size, I just don’t think he has any skills. He is a good fit for the Jazz because he doesn’t need to do anything right away.
13. Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky, C (Wisconsin)
What? A big who can shoot 3s to the Suns? I hate to stereotype, but it’s almost too easy at this point. Kaminsky is the best player left too, but he seems like he fits what Hornacek is doing in Phoenix. Moving from college to the pros, Kaminsky’s big question mark is defense, so why not just put him on a team where defense doesn’t matter?
It would look like the future of this team is the Morris brothers, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, then whatever wings fill out the rest of the roster. However, Knight is a restricted free agent right now, and Cameron Payne might be a sneaky insurance play against matching some team desperate to overpay for Knight. We’re also starting to get into Bobby Portis territory, but Kaminsky seems like a way better fit for Phoenix.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, PG (Murray State)
It’s too bad the Thunder had to play without Durant for so long last year, because they’re not lottery bad at all when they’re healthy. Actually, they probably would have made the playoffs last season on Westbrook alone if he didn’t have to shoulder the load for months before the final playoff push. He ran out. Payne is a strong backup for OKC. Who knows how good a rested Russ could be at the end of the season.
The Thunder have to be looking ahead at who they can bring in that will be an advantage for keeping Kevin Durant next offseason, and a point guard with Payne’s elite vision/passing seems to be the right way to go. I don’t think there’s any actual threat that he’ll leave, but who knows how much of that Kobe money the Lakers will offer.
That’s it for today, come back tomorrow for Part 2.