The 2015 NBA Draft is just around the corner and after the draft combine more than a few pundits have settled in on their predictions as to who the top picks might be. Off the top, it appears that Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns (in photo) and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor are the consensus 1-2 picks and no one else. The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the number one pick in the draft, and while coach Flip Saunders has expressed his admiration for Okafor, there is an impression that the T-Wolves are leaning towards picking Towns. Towns is a reliable NBA-ready big man who can easily fit in as Minnesota’s starting power forward.
The Los Angeles Lakers have the second pick. Their situation is not as straight cut as that of Minnesota’s. The Lakers have aggressively pursuing Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins as of late. They are reportedly offering the number two pick and last year’s seventh pick, Julius Randle, as a package for the dominant Cousins. If they fail to reach an agreement with Sacramento, the Lakers may opt to just move forward and keep Okafor. While Okafor is perceived to be the best available player at this spot, he does not fit the Lakers’ glaring need at the point guard position. Jeremy Lin is an unrestricted free agent, and with his poor performance in 2014/15, L.A. might just let him walk and either consider picking D’Angelo Russell. Russell could easily be the best point guard in the draft. That said, the Lakers may just decide to roll the dice and ride breakout player Jordan Clarkson and build around Okafor. Okafor has a well-rounded game, built on solid fundamentals and good defense. He can improve as a scorer and raise his numbers across the board as he gets a few years under his belt.
Speaking of Russell and point-guard needs, if he does fall to the third pick (as expected), there is no way to expect that the Philadelphia 76ers will pass him up. They traded away Michael Carter-Williams last season and are a ship without a rudder. D’Angelo can make an instant impact on a team sorely needing a playmaker.
The first 10 or so picks in the draft are expected to focus heavily on big men. Names such as Myles Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, have been floated as options for teams picking anywhere in the Top 10 to 20 range.
There are a few foreign players who have been garnering some much-deserved draft buzz as well. Latvian player Kristaps Porzingis is on the top of the list. He is expected to be scooped up anywhere from picks four to seven (no later). He is a big man whose upside has intrigued more than a few NBA scouts. Kristaps has a chance of being taken by either the New York Knicks with the fourth pick or the Orlando Magic at number five. Congolese guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who played the 2014/15 season in China was impressive with 18.0 ppg and 5.9 apg for the Guangdong Southern Tigers. He opted to skip a freshman year of college and went pro in China instead. Mudiay is an intriguing option for teams like Sacramento, Indiana, and Utah. Croatian Mario Hezonja has been on the radar of the Denver Nuggets and he fills their need of another scorer.
Like most NBA drafts, it’s safe to expect the unexpected. Several teams with high picks have been known to get creative on draft day and we could be in for some eye-opening surprises. Either way, the 2015 NBA Draft should one exciting event filled with promise and jubilation as a fresh batch of young blood is infused into the world’s top basketball league.