Jim Brighters - NBA Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Call me crazy, but I've never been one for doing mock drafts without the order determined.
While I believe most teams subscribe to the theory of selecting talent over need, there's some truly obvious fits that make too much sense. Thus, the delay in the first mock draft.
This one will only be for the lottery teams, since that's freshest in our minds. There will be more to come as the draft draws nearer, but for now, this is what the teams you saw in envelopes on Tuesday might be looking at.
Put me in the camp that the No. 1 overall pick is far from settled between Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor. The differences are widely known - Okafor will have immediate impact because of his NBA-ready, low-post offensive game, but Towns is potentially more versatile on offense and already a much better defender and rim protector.
Minnesota poobah Flip Saunders could value Okafor's offense better alongside Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. However, Towns is more complete. He dominated Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, can probably expand his game to the perimeter, shoots free throws very well and is well ahead of Okafor defensively.
2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS - JHALIL OKAFOR, Duke
L.A. would rather have Towns, but Okafor is legitimately a threat to be a 20- points-per-game scorer in the NBA. He can do so many things on the low post, it's scary. He's a throwback in a sense because today's NBA doesn't feature that many legit low-post options anymore. Versatility is the prime target, but Okafor can dominate on the interior for a long time.
He's not a great fit alongside last year's first-rounder, Julius Randle, who missed the entire season basically with a leg fracture. They are both back-to- the-basket scorers, so that might clog things up, but value like Okafor at No. 2 doesn't come often every year. The Lakers should take Okafor and Randle, alongside All-Rookie first-teamer Jordan Clarkson, and build a rugged group.
That Kobe fella might help, too.
3. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - D'ANGELO RUSSELL, Ohio State
Rare is the occasion when need and value meets so perfectly as is the case for the Sixers. With Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, all frontline players, in the mix, the Sixers need guard help. However, if they'd have fallen into the top two, GM Sam Hinkie covets value over all else, so he would take one of the bigs.
But ... because the 76ers got the third pick, they might just get the player they always wanted. Russell is a great shooter, a massive need in Philadelphia. He's a gifted passer and facilitator, a massive need in Philadelphia. Russell's a combo guard and the Sixers have needs, especially scoring the basketball. Russell's shooting can open the floor for Embiid.
It also sounds like Russell wants to play in Philly, which is a plus.
4. NEW YORK KNICKS - EMMANUEL MUDIAY, China
Yes, it stinks for the Knicks that they fell out of the top three. Yes, Towns or Okafor would have given New York the possibly transcendent star the Knicks desperately need.
However, Mudiay is a pretty solid consolation gift.
We fear what we don't know. Mudiay spent the season in China, got hurt and missed a chunk of time. So, most people have seen Mudiay on YouTube, which is fine if he was a blooper reel or a kitten balancing a spoon on its nose.
Mudiay is an athletic, strong point guard. That sounds like the trend in the NBA. He can score via penetration and loves to defend. There's no downside ... except for one tiny problem - he can't shoot.
Mudiay has limited-to-no-deep range. At the point guard position, that's a problem. It's also the easiest thing to fix. Hear me out, with a summer of constant shooting, Mudiay will improve. He doesn't lack intangibles like defense, heart or athleticism.
Drafting Mudiay is not what Knicks fans wanted before Tuesday night, but it won't kill them.
5. ORLANDO MAGIC - KRISTAPS PORZINGIS, Latvia
This is a semi-high risk/high reward move. Look at the Magic roster and see a great young nucleus (Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris) in desperate need for a star. Porzingis is the closest thing to a possible star left in this draft.
Porzingis is a 6-foot-11 shooter with ability off the dribble. He could be like Dirk Nowitzki if everything pans out. Porzingis is a stretch four in his shooting prowess as well as his body. He'll need to bulk up, but if Orlando thinks Gordon is a small forward, then Porzingis could be the four they need to space the floor for everyone else.
The Magic could use a rim protector alongside Vucevic. I was tempted to tab Willie Cauley-Stein here, but Orlando needs a flashier star and Porzingis could be it.
Love him. Whoever drafts Cauley-Stein gets an NBA-ready defensive big man who can protect the rim and is athletic enough to chase people on the perimeter. He's behind offensively, but that's fine. I see a weaker DeAndre Jordan with more athletic ability.
Sacramento would love to bring in a big alongside DeMarcus Cousins. In this scenario, Cousins can focus on being a power forward and Cauley-Stein will be the defensive center and not take touches from Cousins.
What I really love about Cauley-Stein is his attitude. He's a leader. He's different, but too often different gets confused with indifferent. Cauley- Stein is interested in art and different avenues that NBA players aren't associated with traditionally. What I think an NBA team gets with Cauley- Stein is a smart, caring, athletic big man who will put team needs above all, while being an immediate impact guy in the locker room.
7. DENVER NUGGETS - JUSTISE WINSLOW, Duke
The Nuggets can use anything right now, including a coach. The mandate is to return to an up-tempo style, but the coaching hire better be the correct one for that.
Winslow is a high-motor guy. He'll defend right away, but his shooting needs work. Since he's a wing, Winslow will have to improve that jumper quickly.
What I really like about him is that he adapted to what Duke needed from him very quickly, playing something like a stretch four in the tournament. He improved throughout Duke's title run. Winslow is a very intriguing, athletic prospect.
8. DETROIT PISTONS - MARIO HEZONJA, Croatia
He's a 6-7 swingman who can shoot the lights out of the building. Detroit needs shooting and help at either wing spot, so this makes perfect sense. Hezonja also can get to the basket, but the Pistons might need help up front if Greg Monroe bolts via free agency. That might bring Kentucky's Trey Lyles into the mix.
9. CHARLOTTE HORNETS - DEVIN BOOKER, Kentucky
Any guesses which team finished last in 3-point percentage in the NBA last season? That would be these Charlotte Hornets, so why not take the best shooter in the draft?
Booker also measured well at the NBA draft combine, and that's certainly important in 2015.
10. MIAMI HEAT - STANLEY JOHNSON, Arizona
The Heat are a very interesting team heading into this draft. They have a few key guys who can opt out and become free agents, but my expectation is that Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng come back. If Chris Bosh is healthy and that trio returns, Miami has a pretty solid roster.
That means best available territory and Johnson is it. He's a big 6-6 small forward who is not a finished product offensively, but did shoot decently from long range at Arizona. Johnson is already a proven commodity defensively, so he'll be a candidate for minutes next season. Johnson is NBA-ready.
11. INDIANA PACERS - CAMERON PAYNE, Murray State
Never heard of him? Don't worry. He's a 6-2 point guard with scoring ability both through penetration and shooting. George Hill is dependable, but not spectacular. Payne isn't Damian Lillard coming out of Weber State. He could be a good backup point guard in the Association and if the Pacers are serious about hitting the gas pedal on the offensive side, Payne figures in nicely.
12. UTAH JAZZ - MYLES TURNER, Texas
The Jazz had one of the best second halves in the whole NBA. They have buckets of young talent in Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks, so they can draft best player available.
Turner is a mobile, athletic big man with range. Pairing him with Gobert would make for arguably the most formidable rim-protecting duo in the league. Defense can get Turner immediate minutes. One drawback is that Turner has a strange gait, so foot issues may be addressed.
He's a very tantalizing prospect.
13. PHOENIX SUNS - FRANK KAMINSKY, Wisconsin
Kaminsky can play in the NBA because he can shoot and handle a little bit outside the paint. That's gold for a big man in the current version of professional basketball.
The Suns have the Morris twins who can stretch the floor, but nothing behind center Alex Len, who ventures outside the paint only if he's walking off the floor.
Kaminsky will struggle with the physicality of NBA centers, but muscles grow.
14. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - R.J. HUNTER, Georgia State
And here's my stretch pick. I'm well aware I don't have Kentucky's Trey Lyles, a 6-10 power forward taken yet, but Hunter is my guy.
OKC needs a shooting guard, or a realistic backup for Russell Westbrook. The Thunder actually don't need much. I believe they have the best 1-15 roster in the NBA.
Hunter is famous for hitting the game-winning shot in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, knocking out Baylor. He's the coach's son.
He's also a very skilled shooting guard who didn't get to showcase his true stuff because he was constantly double-teamed with Georgia State. Hunter could be the steal of this draft.