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2015 NBA Draft Analysis

June 25, 2015


This year’s draft really intrigues me with 3 legit All-Star caliber players in it with Okafor, Towns and Russell and three other players with incredibly high upsides but with noticeable flaws in Caulie-Stein, Porzingis and Mudiay. After those six the draft condenses quickly upon itself as the difference between the #7 player and the #15 player isn’t very high. I didn’t have time to scout and rank every player but I got the majority of the Top 10 talent (not a huge fan of Stanley Johnson whom I meant to scout-reminds me a little of Ron Artest with a better jump shot but at times also makes me think he’s just a rich man’s Jae Crowder as a bulky SF who lacks the height to play his more natural position of PF). I picked 14 players that intrigued me and wrote their bios below. Okafor to me is the clear best player in this draft so it will be interesting to see how he compares to Towns who most rank as the superior player. Both look like future All-Star centers but they go about it in very different ways. After the first 3 guys go the story of the early part of the draft will be on Porzingis who is an incredible physical specimen but seems very dicey. I could see him go in the Top 3 or drop out of the Top 10 as it again is becoming uncool to take foreigners. It always seems to ebb and flow with recent busts hurting Porzingis. He has a lot of bust potential but I’m in on him as his upside is far higher than previous Top 5 picks like Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas. I just hope he goes to the right team and isn’t hidden on some team’s bench for the next few years as he has legit All-Star potential. That’s all I have for now. I didn’t prepare for this like I do the NFL Draft but after reading a few profiles I had to write and rank some key players, if only for my own enjoyment.

  1. Jahlil Okafor 6’11 272 C Duke 19 years old: The consensus has Karl Towns as the best player in this draft. Well here are my thoughts: Jahlil Okafor is the best prospect to come out of college since MVP candidate Anthony Davis in 2012 and is one of the 5 best prospects to come out of college in the past decade. He has traits that remind me of Tim Duncan and traits that remind me of Anthony Davis. Towns has superior touch and agility to Okafor but to me Okafor looks like the sure thing as a yearly All-Star whom you can build an offense around. It will need to be a slower paced offense but get an All-Star perimeter player around him along with a rangy PF and a few three point shooters and he can take that team to the playoffs as a rookie. He has great length, good skill, good touch and just an impressive understanding of the game which is rare for a 19 year old. Everyone disagrees with me but to me Okafor is a slam dunk as the best prospect in this draft. Future All-Star and #1 Overall Player in the 2015 Draft 6/24/15.
  2. Karl Towns 7’0 248 C Kentucky 19 years old: Karl is a rich man’s Eddy Curry with his rare combination of height, weight, skill and body type. Unlike Curry who was a constant underachiever, Towns puts in the work and should become one of the pre-eminent interior scorers in the NBA. Only Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and Antawn Jamison come to mind as interior players with superior touch to Towns as NBA Draft prospects and he’s 4 inches taller than Randolph and Jamison and 2 inches taller than Curry. In most years he would be the #1 Overall Prospect in the draft and most consider him the best this year but I think Okafor’s size, strength and defensive abilities are superior to Towns. One caveat in that is Okafor is a traditional center and Towns is more lithe and could play in any system. Okafor has to have a system built around him to be successful, Towns does not. Future All-Star and #2 Overall Player in the 2015 Draft 6/24/15.
  3. D’Angelo Russell 6’5 193 PG Ohio State 19 years old: Russell is a rare point guard at 6’5, with length on top of that which allows him to play even bigger and with a silky smooth shooting stroke which is ready for primetime (75.6% FT/41.4% 3 pt). His stroke reminds me of Michael Redd in how extreme of a body angle he takes but that shouldn’t worry GMs as Redd had a decent span as one of the best shooters in the league. His handle reminds me a bit of Mike Conley with the start and stops, elongated dribble and prevalence of underhanded scoops around the basket. Put those two All-Stars together and you have a truly special player, especially considering Redd was an All-Star despite not driving too much and Conley is an All-Star despite not having a great shot. I also really like that he shot 41% from 3 despite being the best player on his team and shooting it from that range consistently (6.6 attempts per game). The opposition knew he was going to shoot it and he did it anyway at a very high level. We’ll call that the Steph Curry factor. I have two issues with him though. One is that I’m not completely sure he’s a point guard. As a PG he has incredible size but as a SG, which I think might fit his skill set better, he is a little undersized. My second issue is that he isn’t a great athlete and when you are talking about taking a guy in the Top 5 you almost have to draft an elite athlete. His profile of a big combo guard with great skills but average athleticism out of Ohio State is eerily similar to recent draft bust Evan Turner. Now Russell is a much much better shooter than Turner as well as a superior ball handler but still when you look at guys who were draft busts in the Top 10 it almost inevitably is an uber athlete with no skills (Jan Veseley, Hasheem Thabeet, Joe Alexander) or a guy with good skills who was just swallowed whole when he had to move up a level in competition (Johnny Flynn, Adam Morrison, DJ Augustin). Russell could arguably fit that second group though other elite skill set/mediocre athletes like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, etc. all worked out. In the end I like Russell’s jump shot, handle and basketball IQ too much to pass up. I’m unsure if he’ll be an All-Star and even unsure if he’ll stay at PG but I feel pretty confident he’ll be at worst a Bradley Beal level talent within a few years. Top 5 6/24/15.
  4. Willie Cauley-Stein 7’1 242 C Kentucky 21 years old: It has been awhile since I’ve seen a comparison more apt than Cauley-Stein and Tyson Chandler. They are nearly identical in size, style, temperament and body type. Some will discount Willie because of his ineptness as a scorer and I understand the dilemma. I go by the theory that you should only have 1 non-scorer on the court at a time, otherwise the offense stalls. To spend a Top 5 pick on a player who will then be that non-scorer on your team the next decade is a tough pill to swallow. That being said you accept it with Cauley-Stein as he’s arguably the best defensive player to come out of the NBA Draft since Anthony Davis in 2012. He is long and strong enough to defend in the post against almost any big man and is one of the most versatile bigs I’ve ever seen with his quickness and agility. He will immediately be one of the best big man defenders against the pick and roll in the NBA and has NBA Defensive Player of the Year capabilities. He likely will be a 10-10-2 type guy with no offensive contributions except put backs and dunks off penetration but his defense alone makes him worthy of a Top 5 pick. Top 5 talent 6/24/15.
  5. Kristaps Porzingis 7’0 230 PF International 19 years old: Porzingis probably has the 3rd highest ceiling in this draft but also is one of the biggest risks of any player in the Top 10. His skill set is unique to say the least as he’s sort of a combination of Andrei Kirilenko and Andrea Bargnani with Kirilenko’s athleticism (not nearly as agile or tough though) and Bargnani’s rare shooting stroke. He looks like a potential All-Star stretch 4 with elite dunking ability around the basket and good defense as well. The negatives though are obvious as he is rail thin, lacks toughness, is a poor passer, has no back the basket game and is young with limited experience. I could see him being the biggest bust in the draft or one of the 20 best players in the NBA in a few years. Neither would shock me so he’s the ultimate roll of the dice. I would roll it though as it is rare to see such a smooth shooting stroke combined with such rare athleticism. He could win the NBA Dunk Contest while also being a 38% shooter from downtown as a power forward. Name me another player with that skill set? It is rare and therefore he is worth the roll of the dice.
  6. Emmanuel Mudiay 6’5 200 PG International 19 years old: Emmanuel played last year in China deciding for a nice payday over the chance to take SMU deep in the NCAA tournament. He reminds me a little of John Wall with his size, athleticism and absolutely terrible jump shot. He has elite height at 6’5, is very solidly built and can finish with the best of them after contact. He isn’t quite as explosive as John Wall but he shows impressive athleticism and has a great handle so I have no doubts that he’s a true PG, unlike Russell. Unfortunately his jump shot is just atrocious (58% FT last year!) and it could really hamper his game. Wall struggled his first few years until he got any semblance of a shot and Mudiay seems to be on a similar level as his mechanics are terrible and his shots go everywhere. If a coach can break him down and rebuild him entirely into a good shooter then he could be an All-Star but I doubt he ever overcomes this obvious weakness. He likely settles in as a rich man’s Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons) who will be a solid all around player but not the type of player you can build a team around. Top 10 6/25/2015.
  7. Myles Turner 7’0 239 C Texas 19 years old: Myles is an all arms and legs type player with mediocre strength and mediocre athleticism. His three best attributes are his height, length and shooting ability and it is a rare combination as he projects to be a solid mid range shooter while also averaging 1.0-1.5 blocks per game as a starting center. You don’t usually find that combination of rim protection on defense and spacing on offense and it would make him extremely valuable as a pairing with below the rim, bruising type PFs like Zach Randolph, Al Jefferson, etc. The problem is he is very much a one trick pony on offense and defense. On offense he has no back to the basket game and struggles creating his won offense in any way. On defense he is a limited athlete and isn’t that strong so he can be exploited by athletic big men and physical big men. I like Turner now but I think I will really like Turner in 3 years once he adds weight and gets any semblance of an interior game. Top 10 6/24/15.
  8. Christian Wood 6’11 216 PF UNLV 19 years old: Wood currently projects as a 2nd rounder which makes my upcoming profile of him look rather silly. My defense is simply that I watch players and read profiles and then make my own rankings. Sometimes they correlate with the consensus and sometimes they do not. Wood is the biggest sleeper in the draft in my opinion as he has everything you want in a project “stretch four.” He has elite height and length, solid shooting numbers that could easily be worked with and turned into a weapon, very good rebounding numbers and impressive above the rim athleticism that will make him an alley oop machine. He is rail thin and very raw offensively but in the NBA he will be a role player anyway and in that role of a space making big man with impressive rebounding, shot blocking and alley oop dunking he already is a rare specimen. If Wood played for Kentucky he’d be a 1st round lock, instead he plays for UNLV where he’s a 2nd round name but I fully expect Wood to develop and become a solid NBA starter down the road. Top 15 and biggest sleeper in this draft 6/24/15.
  9. Trey Lyles 6’10 241 PF Kentucky 19 years old: Lyles is a long, versatile PF who played out of position at SF all last year due to Kentucky having Caulie-Stein and Towns to man the other spots. He’s a smart, skilled player who is surprisingly a bit of an unknown due to his freshman year as his minutes were limited, his shot attempts were rare and again he played out of position. I like Lyles basketball IQ, length and skill set but he isn’t a stud athlete and doesn’t appear to have the shooting touch to make up for that limited athleticism. He projects in the same vein as Bobby Portis, but in a superior fashion, as a mediocre starter/high end reserve who falls in the mid 1st round 6/24/15.
  10. Bobby Portis 6’11 246 PF Arkansas 20 years old: Named as SEC Player of the Year which is impressive considering Kentucky’s roster. Portis is one of the hardest working players in this draft and projects as a swiss army knife type PF who will grab rebounds, D up the best forward on the opposing team, play a little point forward, post up as well as hit the outside jumper. Unfortunately his ceiling is limited due to his mediocre athleticism and lack of dominance in any one area. Against elite athletes it was obvious to me that he just couldn’t score consistently which makes me doubt he’ll ever average more than 8-12 points a game in the NBA. He projects as a mediocre starter or high end 3/4 forward off the bench and I think the latter makes the most sense due to his infectious energy he brings. Top 20 6/24/15.
  11. Frank Kaminsky 7’1 231 C Wisconsin 22 years old: Frank is an NBA player on offense but isn’t an NBA player on defense. That will be the issue teams have with him as his versatility in the post, as a passer and as a spot up shooter make him an intriguing prospect but the question always will be: Who can he guard? For a team with a versatile interior defender he could be a great fit and could provide tremendous value on offense but I’m sure some teams have him off their draft board entirely due to his poor athleticism and questionable fit on defense. I like him but consider him more of a 6th man type that can start depending on the matchup. As such I do not agree with those who have him as a lottery pick. Top 20 6/24/15.
  12. Kevon Looney 6’9 222 PF UCLA 19 years old: Looney is an extremely interesting prospect as he’s a long armed, versatile player with the broad shoulders and big hands that you would associate with a 7 footer. He has a unique all around game as he shows solid passing skills and ball handling skills to go along with good shot blocking and great rebounding. What excites me the most is his erratic jump shot (62% FT but 41% 3 pt?) which, if mastered, could make him a deadly combination with his underrated handle and good length. He doesn’t look like a future star but he has enough skill to be more than your generic rebounder/shot blocker/defender type at the 4. I like him and see him as one of the more underrated prospects in this draft. Barely outside Top 20 6/24/15.
  13. Motrezl Harrell 6’8 253 PF Louisville 21 years old: Harrell is a physical, emotional whirlwind of a player who excels as an offensive rebounder. He’s listed at 6’8, which is undersized already, but really is in the 6’6-6’7 range and has limited skills as a shooter (59% free throws) or driver. Some like him more than this but to me he looks like a high energy banger type off the bench and a late 1st rounder at best 6/24/15.
  14. Robert Upshaw 7’0 258 C UConn 21 years old: Upshaw is your classic big, dumb center. He made a big splash at the Combine with a 9’5 standing reach which is one of the 25 longest in history and averaged a shocking 4.5 blocks per game. On the downside though he shot 43% from the free throw line and had non-existent assist and steal totals so basically he’s a massive and long man with almost no skill. He could turn into DeAndre Jordan but just as easily could turn into Hasheem Thabeet. What is even worse is that he was dismissed from the UConn team mid-season this year and it is the second time a team has dismissed him mid-season! The kid has elite size and length but with such limited skills and with such a horrible background I just don’t see him being taken until the 2nd round, non-guaranteed contracts, begin. 2nd round roll of the dice type 6/24/15.

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