Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns remains the slight favorite to go first. Most draft experts and even NBA executives view Towns as the top prospect. The only thing that could keep him from going first is Minnesota GM and head coach Flip Saunders' infatuation with Duke center Jahlil Okafor.
The latest and greatest from Sports Illustrated is out, and Towns is still their pick for the top spot.
Flip Saunders told SI.com he was still undecided on the pick; he also said he would take the best player on the board, which many scouts still see as Towns. The good news: Saunders says Kevin Garnett is participating in the draft process. If Towns is the pick—and Minnesota's preference to play fast would seem to make him a more natural choice--a year spent working with Garnett would be invaluable. Okafor remains in play here, too.
It's no surprise that with Towns going No. 1, the L.A. Lakers are thrilled to scoop up Okafor with the No. 2 pick. Though there's been some speculation Okafor could fall as far as No. 4 to the Knicks, the Lakers would be extremely foolish to pass on such a talented center as Okafor, who fills a gaping hole on their roster.
The Lakers are going through the motions with other draft prospects—D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay have been in for workouts—but multiple league sources say L.A. is locked in on Okafor. Despite being overtaken by Towns, scouts still see Okafor as a franchise center—one with an enormous upside.
Making a surprise appearance in the top eight is Devin Booker going eighth overall to the Pistons.
Booker’s rise continues. At 18, Booker is the youngest player in the draft, but several execs say he has looked like a seasoned pro in workouts. Teams are enamored with his shooting, both for what he is now—a 41.1% shooter at UK—and what his clean shooting stroke will help him become. The Pistons don’t have a hole at two-guard, but Stan Van Gundy loves shooters; Booker could be hard to pass up.
By some miracle, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein falls all the way to No. 12 to the Jazz. I can't see that happening, and it would be an upset if he even fell past Sacramento at No. 6. They seem to have Willie firmly on their radar to pair with DeMarcus Cousins and form a front court to be reckoned with.
To round up the Kentucky connection, Trey Lyles goes No. 14 to the Thunder.