As everyone is surely aware by now, the 2015 NBA Draft takes place this Thursday evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. TV coverage begins at 7:00 EST on ESPN. This year, the blue-and-white presence will be more pervasive than ever, with seven alums eligible to be selected, four of whom have been invited to the Green Room. The previous record for UK entrants was six, in 2012, of course.
As UK fan interest in the NBA has blossomed since Coach John Calipari's arrival, due the the number of players he has sent to the league, a few members of the ASoB staff decided it would be a fun and informative exercise to run through a mock of the first round of this year's Draft. A random order was chosen to give the process a more authentic feel, and the picks were made over the course of last weekend. The results are below.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves (James) - Karl-Anthony Towns, C, 6'11''/250, Kentucky
Towns is the type of talent that Minnesota needs right now. His body and skill set are NBA-ready and he fits into a team with burgeoning star Andrew Wiggins. This team is building for a promising future.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (Jon) - Jahlil Okafor, C, 6'11''/275, Duke
I think this one is pretty obvious, but Okafor is a quality big who should be able to share the ball with Kobe (if he's ever healthy again).
3. Philadelphia 76ers (Will) - D'Angelo Russell, PG, 6'5''/193, Ohio State
Russell is the best available and he fits perfectly with the 76ers' backcourt needs.
4. New York Knicks (Brad) - Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, 6'5''/196, China
Plug-and-play PG who suited up in 10 games for the perennial best team in China last season. The Knicks need everything, and Mudiay, though young and sometimes reckless with his decision making, is an attacking floor general who is adept at everything but shooting. But Carmelo is going to take 1,500 shots, so that's okay. Right?
5. Orlando Magic (Jason) - Kristaps Porzingis, PF, 6'11''/220, Latvia
The Magic already have plenty of forwards, but they don't have a skilled big man who can protect the rim and score effectively. He can also step out and hit the mid-range jumper with ease. He almost reminds me of Karl Towns with a little more height and length, but not as good of a post-up scorer. There's been talk that Porzi could go as high as number two to the Lakers, assuming Towns is the first pick. He'd be a steal at this point for Orlando.
6. Sacramento Kings (James) - Willie Trill Cauley-Stein, C, 7'1''/242, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein gives DeMarcus Cousins some help down low as he can defend and rebound. He's a unique talent in the fact that he's devastating on defense and can guard every position on the floor. His offensive game needs work but that can only get better working with Cousins on a daily basis.
7. Denver Nuggets (Jon) - Devin Booker, SG, 6'6''/206, Kentucky
Maybe a reach, but Booker is the best shooter in the Draft and an efficient offensive player overall. He also flashed some defensive ability in college which seems like an uncommon skill for most SGs.
8. Detroit Pistons (Will) - Justise Winslow, SF, 6'6''/222, Duke
They need a SF since they appear set everywhere else through recent acquisitions. Winslow is probably the best SF in this draft.
9. Charlotte Hornets (Brad) - Mario Hezonja, SF, 6'7''/200, Croatia
Hezonja is a steal for Charlotte here, a team that desperately needs offensive help. He can score from just about everywhere and in a variety of ways -- he's as dangerous from the perimeter as he is driving to the basket to throw down a hyper-athletic dunk. Also, Hezonja is also just scratching the surface of his potential over in Spain's ACB.
10. Miami Heat (Jason) - Stanley Johnson, SF, 6'6''/242, Arizona
The Heat need more depth and youth on the wing with Luol Deng aging and James Ennis not giving them much. That's where Stanley Johnson comes in. He's a dynamic scorer who can take it to the rim or step outside and hit the three consistently. He also has kind of size and quickness you need to defend elite wings like LeBron James while also guarding SGs like Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan and Bradley Beal in the East.
11. Indiana Pacers (Brad) - Myles Turner, PF, 6'11''/239, Texas
Though Indiana probably hoped for an offensive-minded SG, or at least a combo guard, the top tier of those are gone, and it's too early to reach for the leaders in the next flight (UNLV's Rashad Vaughn and Georgia State's R.J. Hunter among them). Instead, they get a massive-upside big man who can take the pressure off current C Roy Hibbert and maybe eventually replace him.
12. Utah Jazz (Jon) - Frank Kaminsky, C, 7'1''/231, Wisconsin
Kaminsky can go inside or outside, is a good rebounder and an offensive force.
13. Phoenix Suns (Will) - Bobby Portis, PF, 6'11''/246, Arkansas
The Suns are probably targeting a PF with a ton of potential with their first pick. Portis is just that. He can spread the floor with his jump shot and plays solid defense. Trey Lyles is also a possibility here, which would essentially turn Phoenix into Lexington West.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (Brad) - Sam Dekker, SF, 6'9''/219, Wisconsin
The rich get richer. They still need a James Harden replacement at SG, and while Dekker's natural position is at SF, he can slide into the SG spot. Either way, he has the shooting and scoring ability to make up for Harden's sorely missed offense. His above-average passing and rebounding abilities for a SF are also a plus. I guarantee you this is the only time Bo Ryan will ever have two of his guys drafted in the same year. Ever.
15. Atlanta Hawks (Jason) - Trey Lyles, PF, 6'10''/242, Kentucky
The Hawks could get hit hard on their front line this offseason with Elton Brand, Pero Antic, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll all being free agents. They need to get a big body with this pick, and Trey Lyles is the best on the board. Lyles is perfect for today's NBA. He'll be able to play the 3, 4 and even 5 spots with his combination of size, speed and athleticism. He'll mostly play the 4 though, which is what Atlanta needs. He's still raw as a scorer, but can do plenty of damage off of lobs and offensive rebounds to make an impact early on his NBA career.
16. Boston Celtics (James) - Kelly Oubre, SF, 6'7''/203, Kansas
Oubre gives Boston an elite athlete with some growing to do. His shot needs work, but his slashing ability fits in with what guards Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart like to do.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (Jon) - Cameron Payne, PG, 6'2''/183, Murray State
There aren't any really good big men to pick here, so I would guess this might be part of a trade since the Bucks are already set at PG.
18. Houston Rockets (Will) - Jerian Grant, PG, 6'4''/198, Notre Dame
The Rockets have previously stated a desire to draft a PG, and Grant gives more length and shooting than Tyus Jones.
19. Washington Wizards (Brad) - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, 6'7''/220, Arizona
Paul Pierce is returning for another season, but whether he returns to Washington is a question mark. While showing flashes, Otto Porter, Jr.'s only consistency is his inconsistency. Hollis-Jefferson is a supremely talented hustle defender who can keep an eye on several positions and is a natural above the rim.
20. Toronto Raptors (Jason) - Kevon Looney, PF, 6'9''/222, UCLA
The Raptors need frontcourt depth with Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and Kentucky's own Chuck Hayes set to hit free agency. Kevon Looney is easily the best big man and overall player left on the board. Looney is an elite rebounder that could easily replicate what Johnson has been in Toronto. He's very raw offensively, but will get some easy buckets off offensive boards.
21. Dallas Mavericks (James) - Terry Rozier, PG, 6'1''/190, Louisville
Rozier gives Dallas a young ball handler and a pure scorer. He's perfect for an aging Mavs roster.
22. Chicago Bulls (Jon) - Montrezl Harrell, PF, 6'8''/240, Louisville
The question is whether Chicago wants PG insurance for Rose or not. I think there are enough solid PG options in the Draft that one should be available in the second round, so Harrell gives the Bulls a quality, athletic frontcourt player with room to grow offensively.
23. Portland Trailblazers (Will) - Justin Anderson, SF, 6'6''/228, Virginia
Anderson can guard three positions, and was a three-point threat last season. From a physical standpoint, he's ready to contribute in his rookie season.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (Brad) - R.J. Hunter, SG, 6'6''/190, Georgia State
Iman Shumpert is an offensive liability and J.R. Smith...is J.R. Smith. The Cavs need a consistent shooter at SG, and R.J. Hunter is by far the best available. There is also a chance that neither Shumpert (restricted free agent) or Smith (player option) returns, so it may be a position of great need, as well. Hunter is a perimeter threat and his measurables might allow him to play the 2 and 3 in the NBA depending on matchups.
25. Memphis Grizzlies (Jason) - Jarell Martin, PF, 6'10''/235, LSU
Versatile forwards that can do a little bit of everything are all the rage in the NBA. Jarell Martin is the latest. He doesn't blow you away with any one attribute, but can do just about everything well. He reminds me of Terrence Jones with a little more height and is a better scorer. He's not as strong defensively as Jones, but he's someone that will have a long NBA career if he works hard and lands with the right team, which Memphis is.
26. San Antonio Spurs (Jason) - Tyus Jones, PG, 6'1''/190, Duke
The Spurs once again sit back in the late twenties and let a prospect with a high projection fall into their laps. This year, it's Tyus Jones, who was one of the best players in college basketball by the time the NCAA Tournament came. He's the reason why Duke won the title (with the help of some "friendly" whistles, as well). He became nearly unguardable on the offensive end, and improved his defense significantly over the course of the season. As for the Spurs, Tony Parker is wearing down and I don't believe Patty Mills is a starting-caliber point guard for a championship contender. Jones may not be either, but I like his upside more than that of Mills, given a few years to develop under Gregg Popovich.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Jon) - Jordan Mickey, PF, 6'8''/235, LSU
Mickey is more defense-oriented than Okafor but is an excellent offensive rebounder, making him a good complement to Okafor on both ends of the floor. Also, marketing possibilities with Disneyland.
28. Boston Celtics (Will) - Dakari Johnson, C, 7'/255, Kentucky
Speculation far and wide assumes Boston will trade this pick for salary cap purposes, so humor me here. Boston has multiple frontcourt needs, and at this spot Johnson gives value for what NBA teams are contractually obligated to pay. He'll never be the most athletic guy on the court, but in the late first round he's a pick who will contribute early and can work his way into the starting rotation in the next few seasons. His ceiling is more than adequate to be a late-first round pick.
29. Brooklyn Nets (Brad) - Guillermo Hernangomez, C, 6'11''/255, Spain
Everything we know about flashy owner Mikhail Prokhorov suggests he'll probably give up too much to move up from this spot. After all, his team is picking 29th due to the disastrous 2012 Joe Johnson trade (Brooklyn would have owned the 15th pick, but Atlanta owns the slot for trading Johnson to Brooklyn). Assuming Brooklyn does select at this spot, they go best big(est) man available because of the great number of front court roster holes. Also, no one knows if current C Brook Lopez will exercise his player option this summer.
30. Golden State Warriors (Jason) - Rakeem Christmas, PF, 6'9''/250, Syracuse
The Warriors won't really need help anywhere in 2015, but big men Marreese Speights and Festus Ezeli become free agents in 2016. There's also talk David Lee is getting moved this offseason. Having a big like Rakeem Christmas waiting in the wings would be a smart play by the Warriors, and that's why they grab Rakeem Christmas here. He's a force in the paint offensive and defensively and nearly averaged a double-double his senior year. He also averaged a ridiculous 3.5 blocks per game over his final 10 games and is arguably the best shot-blocker in this draft (I'm sure Willie would dispute this thought).
If things go as we expect them to, eight players who went to school in the state of Kentucky will be drafted in the first round, but only five of them went to UK. What else did we learn? That Jon is the funny one of the group and I have a thing for Euros this year.
Do you like who we project to go to your favorite team? What about the former 'Cats' destinations? Let us know in the comments. We mostly did this for fun, so let's discuss and debate.