The Atlanta Hawks enter the 2014-15 season as a team hoping to contend in the Eastern Conference playoffs and hoping the Brooklyn Nets collapse. The scenario considered in last year's slow start by Brooklyn becomes even more intriguing since the depth of the 2015 NBA Draft is not as strong as 2014. With the possibility this scenario our draft coverage this year will look at the draft from top to bottom in the event Atlanta has a shot at a ping-pong pick next summer.
Last year's draft was unique in its depth due to an unusually mature group of college freshmen and one of the strongest classes of international prospects in memory. Next year's freshman class and international selection appear to be a mostly average group. If not for several college prospects deciding to return to school for another season (Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, Louisville's Montrezl Harrell, and Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein among others), the 2015 NBA Draft would be labeled as weak. Fortunately, the return of these college prospects and international players like Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja should make the 2015 NBA Draft a more typical year after the extremes of the previous two seasons.
While this year's class is mostly average in talent, unusual depth at the center position brings intrigue to this year's class. Thirteen centers were selected in the first 38 picks of the 2006 NBA Draft and a similar or even higher number may be chosen in the 2015 NBA Draft. Hopefully, this year's class will perform much better than the 2006 group which dramatically underwhelmed and barely impacted the league. At least a handful of prospects from the 2015 class should make an impact on a position that has been slowly disappearing to milk carton status. It would not be a surprise to see centers make up half of the lottery selections. With Al Horford as the only center under contract for 2015-16 and a year from free agency, Atlanta GM Danny Ferry could target center as a position of need for the Hawks in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Every significant center prospect will be profiled extensively as the season progresses, but here is a list of 15 center prospects who could go in the top 40 of the draft and are worth following throughout the 2014-15 season:
Frank Kaminsky, Senior, Wisconsin
Willie Cauley-Stein, Junior, Kentucky
Montrezl Harrell, Junior, Louisville
Kaleb Tarczewski, Junior, Arizona
AJ Hammons, Junior, Purdue
Dakari Johnson, Sophomore, Kentucky
Amida Brimah, Sophomore, Connecticut
Jahlil Okafor, Freshman, Duke
Karl Towns, Freshman, Kentucky
Cliff Alexander, Freshman, Kansas
Myles Turner, Freshman, Texas
Ilimane Diop, Senegal
Mouhammadou Jaiteh, France
Nikola Milutinov, Serbia
Moussa Diagne, Senegal