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2015 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings: The Lottery

With the college basketball season over two weeks old, most college prospects have played enough to make some initial judgments on their readiness for the NBA. The rankings are sure to change as the season advances, but here is the debut of the Peachtree Hoops' prospect rankings.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks have a reasonable chance to find themselves among the lottery participants this season due to the ability to switch first round selections with the Brooklyn Nets. Last season, the Nets got things together after a poor start due to a deep, veteran team in a weak Eastern Conference. While the Nets still have a reasonable amount of talent and are again adjusting to a new coach, the odds are longer this season for Brooklyn to hold onto a playoff spot due to the slowly improving depth in the East. In a draft with much less depth than last season, Atlanta sneaking into the lottery would be a huge advantage in the probability of acquiring an NBA-caliber talent. Should the Hawks find themselves in the lottery, here is an early look at the lottery prospect rankings:

[Note: By watching just 3 games indicated by an asterisk below, you will be able to see 8 of the top 12 players listed. These games will also feature other prospects not listed here including Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, Duke's Tyus Jones, and just about everyone on the Kentucky roster.]

14. Kelly Oubre, Freshman, SF/sg, Kansas (6'6, 204)

Minutes have been limited for Oubre in the early part of the college season. Coach Bill Self has attributed it to immaturity off-the-court in addition to some early on-court struggles. If Oubre can get on the court and show maturity, he is an explosive two-way player with natural instincts for scoring and elite potential on the defensive end. He is considered a top-5 talent by many scouts, but he is limited to being an elite athlete without the necessary tools until he is able to stay on the court for more than 8 minutes per game.

Best Upcoming Game: Friday, December 5 versus Florida (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

13. Cliff Alexander, Freshman, C/pf, Kansas (6'9, 254)

Alexander is very good at dunking alley-oops behind inferior defenses which has been the majority of his offensive production early on. He is taggeed as an undersized center yet has a 7'3" reach and rare strength for his age. Many scouts view him as a power forward at the next level due to his height, but his skill set is more suited to being around the rim. He battles for position and gets off the floor quickly for his size. He already looks as good as Tarik Black who made the Rockets as a free agent after playing at Kansas last season. His status might be higher if not for being behind other prospects in this class who have shown more skill at this stage of development.

Best Upcoming Game: Friday, December 5 versus Florida (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

12. Frank Kaminsky, Senior, PF/c, Wisconsin (7'0, 242)

"The Tank" projects as a borderline starter, but is at least a rotation player at the next level. Kaminsky can make shots from anywhere on the floor. An elite shooting skill paired with above average ball skills should allow him to succeed as a pro if he can be an average defender and rebounder. I am not sure what position he can defend at the next level as he is overrated in the post, but a little underrated at closing out on the perimeter. Kaminsky is definitely a capable "stretch" big at the 4 or 5, but can he stretch the floor without being a liability on defense? Worst case, he is a match-up problem off of an NBA bench who can be matched defensively against second-tier bench players.

Best Upcoming Game: Wednesday, December 3 versus Duke (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)*

11. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sophomore, SF, Arizona (6'6, 212)

Hollis-Jefferson is the most likely player in the top 14 to fall out of the lottery. He is an elite defender with offensive limitations in half-court situations. It is too early in the season to assess how much improvement he has made, but he looks to have the same limitations as a sophomore--a broken perimeter shot and inferior handle. He plays hard and makes good decisions, but not being able to shoot and dribble at a high level is a lethal combination. With a freakish 7'1" wingspan, a willingness to play physically tough, and an ability to attack the rim on both ends, Rondae is the type of prospect that demands patience to see if his shot and handle can improve. At this point, I would still be on him developing these tools, but to what extent he does will be a significant impact on where he ends up being selected.

Best Upcoming Game: Saturday, December 13 versus Michigan (5:15 p.m., ESPN)*

10. Kevon Looney, Freshman, PF, UCLA (6'9, 220)

Looney has had an excellent beginning to his freshman season in averaging over 14 points and 11 rebounds through his first 7 college games. He is not an elite athlete or a player gifted with a high level of skill, but he plays as hard as anyone you will see. He handles the ball well for a big and has good vision yet otherwise lacks offensive polish. Looney does not do many things in a way that is fundamentally sound but naturally moves well in finding open space on offense and closing space on defense. Despite a lack of fundamentals, nothing in his game is reckless or careless. There are plenty of questions as to how his overall game will develop and translate to the next level, but he leaves a strong impression as a physically gifted athlete with the resilience to make himself into a basketball player.

Best Upcoming Game: Saturday, December 20 versus Kentucky (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

9. Bobby Portis, Sophomore, PF, Arkansas (6'10, 235)

Portis is tough to evaluate playing on a team that uses a lot of players in non-traditional NBA roles, but he is an efficient player who can make perimeter shots. He has not matched up with other NBA talent yet this season and has mostly overwhelmed the competition in leading Arkansas to a 6-0 start. It will be hard to know a lot about his progress this season until SEC play. Portis needs to establish himself as a player who gives more consistent effort on the defensive end to solidify a spot in the lottery. He plays with an on/off switch that too often leaves me wanting more despite his overall efficiency and unselfishness.

Best Upcoming Game: Thursday, December 4 at Iowa State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN 2)

8. Stanley Johnson, Freshman, SF, Arizona (6'8, 243)

Johnson is the player I most want to see play more. He flashes top-5 talent in special moments and then spends stretches of games where he is way too dependent on his physical talents. Johnson is a capable shooter who too easily settles for more difficult shots or drives himself into unnecessary positions on the floor. He is a great defender with elite potential defending the perimeter, yet seems more eager to make a great play then the correct one. He will have many opportunities to show a maturing game this season and should only grow defensively under Arizona coach Sean Miller. In a draft class weak on wing prospects, Johnson is a two-way wing player who could rise higher than his overall ability due to having a clear position as a small forward at the next level.

Best Upcoming Game: Saturday, December 13 versus Michigan (5:15 p.m., ESPN)*

7. Myles Turner, Freshman, PF/C, Texas (6'11, 242)

Turner is an intelligent, hard-working player that appears to be a bit soft. He definitely prefers the ball away from the post despite having skill to make an impact down low in the offensive post. Myles has the physical gifts to be a defensive anchor and a unique ability to play away from the basket, but he needs to be fully committed to developing as a post player to realize his potential. A failure to fully invest in improving his game around the rim most separates him from the top picks, but it is entirely reasonable that the conversation could be much different if his game evolves throughout the season.

Best Upcoming Game: Friday, December 5 at Kentucky (7::00 p.m. ET, ESPN)*

6. Caris LaVert, Junior, SG, Michigan (6'7, 200)

Does he get better in the offseason? That is my primary question about prospects because no player will survive the NBA simply with the skills they have upon arrival. More than any other player in this draft, LaVert has the longest and most consistent history of getting better every year. He is two-way shooting guard who does not need the ball to help on offense and plays excellent help defense while being capable of defending his position. Sporting a 2:1 assists-to-turnover ratio early in the season, LaVert is everything a team wants in a shooting guard at any level and his early play confirms him as the best returning prospect in college basketball this season.

Best Upcoming Game: Saturday, December 13 at Arizona (5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)*

5. Kristaps Porzingis, 19, PF, Latvia (7'0, 220)

Porzingis has atypical European athleticism blended with a classic "stretch" game. He does all of the traditional European skills well at a young age despite being new to the sport. He moves where he is supposed to move, passes the ball where it is supposed to go, and takes the shots he is supposed to take. Most importantly, he makes outside shots at an elite level for his size and does so while blocking shots both on and off the ball. He is still learning the game and I would not expect him to contribute to an NBA team immediately. However, he is not far away if he continues at his current rate of development and it would only be a small surprise if he turned out to be the best player in this class in five years.

Best Upcoming Game: Wednesday, December 10 at SLUC Nancy (Atlanta Hawks have rights to Nancy shooting guard Sergey Gladyr)

4. Emmanuel Mudiay, 19, PG, China (6'5, 200)

Some scouts believed Mudiay was the best prospect in this draft prior to his decision to play professional basketball in China instead of enrolling at SMU. Mudiay is an outstanding defender with a rare combination of quickness and length. He finishes well at the rim and has shown continual improvement in distributing the basketball. His perimeter shot does not have the same limitations as Tony Wroten or Elfrid Payton, but it is a huge concern. His offensive skill is not superior enough to overcome an inability to knock down perimeter shots. It will be interesting to see how teams interpret his play in the Chinese league but it is difficult to imagine him falling out of the top 5 unless he suffers a major injury.

Best Upcoming Game: Mudiay is currently out 2-4 weeks due to injury.

3. Justice Winslow, Freshman, SF, Duke (6'6, 221)

Winslow looks like he could best walk onto an NBA court and contribute immediately among the college freshmen prospect. He makes good decisions with the ball in his hands, defends his position, handles the basketball well, and has not shown expected liabilities at finishing shots. I am not sure he is elite in doing any of those things and lacks polish in playing in closed space. He is a dynamic player in transition but needs to grow his tools to make an impact when games slow down. I have him ahead of Mudiay because I think he has a better chance to be a star. He is the player I most could see leading a team to a championship during his career, yet his floor is lower that the players rated ahead of him. If the Sixers have the first pick of the draft, they may be more interested in Winslow than the bigs in this draft.

Best Upcoming Game: Wednesday, December 3 at Wisconsin (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)*

1b. Karl Towns, Freshman, PF/C, Kentucky (7'0, 248)

My gut says that Towns ends up at the top of the list before the season is over. I am not sure if he is more fit to play power forward or center but he has the athletic gifts to succeed at either position. He currently needs more physical toughness to battle in the paint on a consistent basis, but he already flashes as an elite shot blocker who can defend the perimeter. He has soft hands and a good touch on his outside shot. As a prospect, he projects somewhere between predecessors Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis. His biggest shortfall in comparison to them is that both of them were committed to primarily succeeding in the paint. Until Towns shows more intensity around the rim, he is just short of being the top prospect in this class.

Best Upcoming Game: Friday, December 5 versus Texas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)*

1a. Jahlil Okafor, Freshman, C,  Duke (6'11, 272)

The common refrain on Okafor is that he is the most polished freshman big man since Greg Oden but lacks elite athleticism. With a 7'6" wingspan, I am not sure how the latter is holding him back. Jahlil may not be physically elite, but he remains a great athlete--especially given his size--with no physical skills lacking to prevent him from succeeding at the next level. Any of the centers in the top 10 could end up as the best player in this class by the end of their rookie deals, but none will be better during it. Given the injury histories of Greg Oden and Joel Embiid, Okafor's seamless production early on at Duke sets him up as the safest big man selection in recent memory. While this class lacks depth in comparison to 2014, Okafor--along with Towns--is as good a prospect as any of last season's highly touted prospects.

Best Upcoming Game: Wednesday, December 3 at Wisconsin (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)*