Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The 2015 Daly Dose Of Hoops Mock Draft

Jahlil Okafor (left) may have national championship ring, but prevailing opinions see Karl-Anthony Towns (right) going to Timberwolves with first pick in Thursday's NBA Draft. (Photo courtesy of Adam Zagoria's ZagsBlog)

In the words of the late great John Lennon in his oft-overlooked holiday classic "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)," "so, this is Christmas."

Well, not quite from a Gregorian calendar perspective, but considering the NBA Draft will be held in just over 48 hours, a mere 20 minutes from Daly Dose headquarters inside Brooklyn's Barclays Center, it may as well be.

For the sixth consecutive year, we will try to make sense of the first of two rounds, with our mock draft serving as an appetizer for an event that has become one of our favorites in which to partake, the annual running diary of draft night. Until then, take a few bites out of our projections, and feel free to criticize the almost certain multitude of mistakes:

1) Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (F - Kentucky)
Draft night's second consecutive dilemma of who to select at the top spot is clearer than some may think. No slight to Jahlil Okafor, whose brute strength and Tim Duncan-esque post play helped Duke to a fifth national championship this past April, but the 19-year-old Towns is a much better defender, and all-around shot maker. By taking John Calipari's latest prodigy, Minnesota finally gets its replacement for Kevin Garnett after an eight-year period of soul searching, and Towns gets the services of Ricky Rubio to make him an even more imposing force in the Western Conference.

2) Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor (C - Duke)
With Towns off the board, Okafor lands in Los Angeles, and becomes the Lakers' latest interior presence. In an ironic twist of fate, he would join a Kentucky product on Byron Scott's front line in Julius Randle, whose broken leg cost him his entire rookie season save for one game. In Okafor, Laker fans will see one of their best rim protectors since Shaquille O'Neal grace the paint, a welcome sign as Kobe Bryant gears up for one last moment in the sun.

3) Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell (G - Ohio State)
This is where the draft will be thrown off course one way or another, as the Sixers have been rumored to covet international X-factor Kristaps Porzingis in this spot. Although Sam Hinkie has shown an affinity for big men with his selection of Joel Embiid and acquisition of Nerlens Noel on draft night two years ago, Russell fits Philadelphia's needs more logically in addition to being the best player available, giving the City of Brotherly Love its best floor general and passer since Allen Iverson.

4) New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis (F - Latvia)
Porzingis, who played professionally in Spain before intriguing scouts and executives stateside, could even slide to Orlando in the fifth spot if the Knicks decide to take Emmanuel Mudiay. The Latvian big man could even go to Philadelphia, leaving Russell to fall into Phil Jackson's lap. However, after downplaying his need for a guard in pre-draft interviews, Jackson seems to be thinking of going with a forward or trading the pick, another likely scenario where the Knicks could get a Willie Cauley-Stein or Frank Kaminsky if they move down in the order.

5) Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow (F - Duke)
Porzingis is the pick if he somehow gets past the Knicks, given Orlando's tendency to use first-round selections on international talent. With the European phenom off the board here, the Magic get perhaps the best player in the draft in Winslow, and one who fills a glaring need on the wing. The second option on Duke's national championship team behind Jahlil Okafor, Winslow has been criticized for not having a true NBA position in much the same vein that Tyler Hansbrough was after winning a national title of his own, but his defensive skill and floor awareness on both ends would position him well alongside Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, as well as Nikola Vucevic up front.

6) Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay (G - Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Both Winslow and Croatian wing Mario Hezonja have been rumored in this spot, but Mudiay; the combo guard who opted to play in China last season after eligibility problems arose at SMU, is simply too talented for Sacramento to pass up. George Karl has always had great point guards running his offense, from Gary Payton to Andre Miller to Ty Lawson, and Mudiay's potential is just as high as the skill sets of the three aforementioned names.

7) Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja (F - Croatia)
Another European who played professionally in Spain, Hezonja is a 6-8 wing whose three-point prowess will be an asset for a Nuggets team led by Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. Randy Foye is not getting any younger, and Danilo Gallinari is miscast to an extent, two more reasons why Hezonja would complement Denver better than anyone else available in this spot.

8) Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson (F - Arizona)
Johnson was among the most athletic players in the nation last season for Sean Miller as he helped lead the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. Several months later, he is in position to be Detroit's replacement for Josh Smith as the Pistons fill their biggest need.

9) Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker (G - Kentucky)
College basketball insider Jon Rothstein is at his best when it comes to predicting the landing spots of late lottery picks, and he has already declared that Booker will probably not get past Charlotte. Throw in the Hornets' recent trade of Lance Stephenson and Steve Clifford suddenly needs a guard to team up with Kemba Walker, and this Kentucky product plugs the hole well, not to mention he immediately addresses Charlotte's woes from three-point range.

10) Miami Heat: Myles Turner (C - Texas)
Pat Riley tends to select more experienced college players every year, but when a player with the talent and potential of Turner comes along, it is hard for any team to pass up on him. Miami would like to find a guard or small forward to help replace the aging Dwyane Wade, but no one who fits that mold is worthy of such a high selection, leaving the Heat to shore up their front line, a concern that is getting overlooked more than it should, even with a returning Chris Bosh.

11) Indiana Pacers: Willie Cauley-Stein (C - Kentucky)
The Pacers are in the market for interior help alongside Roy Hibbert, and Cauley-Stein not only gives Indiana a second seven-footer up front, his defensive game is the best of any player in the draft. Cauley-Stein's medical concerns have him potentially falling to the fringe of the lottery, but Larry Bird will be more than happy to scoop him up here if he is still available.

12) Utah Jazz: Frank Kaminsky (C - Wisconsin)
The run on big men continues with the selection of "Frank the Tank," who is projected to be off the board within the first ten picks if the experts' opinions hold to form. Kaminsky has his critics for various reasons, but is one of the more pro-ready prospects available after four years and two Final Fours alongside Bo Ryan in Madison, something Utah can ill afford to pass up even with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert on the roster.

13) Phoenix Suns: Bobby Portis (F - Arkansas)
Trey Lyles could be the fourth Kentucky player to go in the lottery, but Phoenix opts instead for experience in the form of Portis, the SEC Player of the Year last season, who should have a productive rookie season wherever he ends up.

14) Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne (G - Murray State)
Don't be too shocked if the Thunder trade this pick, but should they choose to keep it, Payne is a steal in this spot for his ability to score in bunches and play off the ball alongside Russell Westbrook if needed. The mid-major standout was already brought in for a workout by Oklahoma City, so he will be on their radar regardless of the decision they make with the pick.

15) Atlanta Hawks: Kelly Oubre (F - Kansas)
Oubre has been projected as high as eighth to Detroit, and as low as the late teens and early twenties. Whoever gets him gets one of the highest upsides in the draft, and Mike Budenholzer will certainly be able to tap into that early and often with Oubre going to Atlanta to learn from Al Horford and Paul Millsap.

16) Boston Celtics: Trey Lyles (F - Kentucky)
For some reason, Lyles just seems like a player that fits Brad Stevens' system. The Celtics could use an interior presence, but with all the true centers off the board in this spot, they instead take Lyles and his combination of size and offensive genius that belies his one year of collegiate experience.

17) Milwaukee Bucks: Kevon Looney (F - UCLA)
The Bucks can, and may very well, go for a guard at this stage, but after trading Ersan Ilyasova, Jason Kidd gets the services of Looney, the one-and-done whose rebounding talent is unmatched by most in this year's draft class.

18) Houston Rockets: Tyus Jones (G - Duke)
Houston has several options with this pick, acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans. Whomever they do select, it will most likely be a guard with a recovering Patrick Beverley recovering from injury and no younger options than Jason Terry in the backcourt. Jones, whose clutch shots and valiant NCAA Tournament stand were integral in Duke winning the national championship, is the perfect running mate for James Harden and Dwight Howard.

19) Washington Wizards: Montrezl Harrell (F - Louisville)
The Wizards' backcourt is set for the next few years with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Their front line, on the other hand, could use some improvement, and Harrell's physical, imposing style would take several prisoners in the Eastern Conference, and could be the piece Washington needs to get over the hump.

20) Toronto Raptors: Sam Dekker (F - Wisconsin)
Even though Toronto already has Demar DeRozan on the wing, Dekker is an absolute steal in this spot, and with so many other teams in front of the Raptors craving rim protectors, the pride of Wisconsin is able to take his talents north of the border.

21) Dallas Mavericks: Jerian Grant (G - Notre Dame)
Rajon Rondo is, for all intents and purposes, probably not coming back next year, which allows Dallas to take a point guard to develop while J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton hold down the fort. In Grant, a combo guard whose passing skills are vastly underrated due to his larger size compared to most others at the point, the Mavs get someone who can play three different positions, not to mention hit a few shots when they matter most.

22) Chicago Bulls: Justin Anderson (F - Virginia)
The conventional pick for the Bulls may be a point guard with Derrick Rose's health almost perennially in question, but a player the likes of Anderson is hard to ignore. The "glue guy" for a Virginia team that played much better than their early NCAA Tournament exit indicated, Anderson was the reason why the Cavaliers were a Top 5 program throughout the season, and had he not gone down with a broken finger late in the regular season, there is a very good chance that he could have led Virginia to an even better result.

23) Portland Trail Blazers: R.J. Hunter (G - Georgia State)
The darling of this year's NCAA Tournament now gets to hone his craft alongside one of the NBA's rising stars in Damian Lillard, giving the Blazers a pair of gifted guards who can create their own shot just as well as they can set up for their teammates.

24) Cleveland Cavaliers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (F - Arizona)
Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson may be on their way out of Cleveland this summer due to free agency, and with a returning Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova maintaining the status quo at the point guard spot, a shooting guard could be the option, but Hollis-Jefferson's athleticism on the wing and guard-like instincts could allow LeBron James to be an even more menacing presence up front for the Cavs as they defend their Eastern Conference crown.

25) Memphis Grizzlies: Jarell Martin (F - LSU)
The Grizz augment their front line with the selection of a potential steal in Martin, whom they reportedly worked out before the draft and perhaps promised they would select if he were still there. Either way, Martin makes it possible for Memphis to possibly find a suitor for Jeff Green, an impending free agent after next season.

26) San Antonio Spurs: Guillermo Hernangomez (C - Spain)
With Tim Duncan close to retirement, the Spurs decide to stash one of his potential replacements in Hernangomez, a 6-11, 250-pound Spaniard who is projected to be a walking double-double at the professional level.

27) Los Angeles Lakers: Delon Wright (G - Utah)
Wright spent most of last season as one of the best kept secrets in college basketball, helping lead Utah to the Sweet 16 in a resurgent season for the Utes. Wright's flexibility allows him to run the point alongside Kobe Bryant, or play off the ball with Nick Young moving to the small forward spot if need be.

28) Boston Celtics: Arturas Gudaitis (F - Lithuania)
We fully expect Danny Ainge to trade out of this spot, but if he cannot find any takers, stashing Gudaitis, a 6-10 Lithuanian with a developing outside shot, will be the next best thing.

29) Brooklyn Nets: Terry Rozier (G - Louisville)
Billy King goes with the Rick Pitino point guard, whose defensive prowess and knack for scoring when necessary will endear him to both Net fans and Deron Williams critics, and with Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez still in Brooklyn, his expectation to produce will not be as high in the early going.

30) Golden State Warriors: Chris McCullough (F - Syracuse)
McCullough was a can't-miss prospect even midway through his freshman season, a long shot blocker who wreaked havoc on the defensive end before tearing his ACL. The Bronx native fits in well for the reigning champions, who still have Andrew Bogut and David Lee down low to help show him the ropes.

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