The combination of the regular season coming to an end and last week's posting of the Peachtree Hoops Draft Rankings has set up the debut of our 2015 NBA Mock Draft. Several college and international prospects have not yet decided on whether or not they will declare for the upcoming draft. All college players will have to make their decision by April 26 (players listed with an asterisk below have not made a declaration.)
With no special access to NBA front offices, this mock draft is based on what teams could or should do based on prospect evaluations and team needs. I am a firm believer in taking the best player available over reaching based upon positional need. The latter is not considered unless a group of players are similarly rated or a team has a particularly desperate need. These circumstances would be an apparent situation in which there might be a trade. With Atlanta having no specific needs, there are a lot of directions the team could take. About the only thing that would be a surprise is if the Hawks picked a college point guard given the current depth at the position. Without further delay, here is the 2015 Peachtree Hoops NBA Mock Draft:
LOTTERY SELECTIONS (with odds)
1 Wolves (25%) Karl Towns, Center, Kentucky
Towns is not a unanimous number 1 choice, but is close to being one due to his mixture of production and versatility on both ends of the floor. He is the ideal center in the modern game as he can protect the rim, space the floor, and play as a 4 or 5 on both ends of the floor. He would be an ideal replacement in Minnesota for the lost production of Kevin Love and would bring a stronger presence on the defensive end.
2 Knicks (19.9%) Jahlil Okafor, Center, Duke
Okafor remains a strong candidate for the top choice, but questions about his defensive skill and free-throw shooting have raised legitimate concerns about translating his game to the next level. He should have little trouble scoring in the post in the NBA but is likely to struggle for a while on the defensive end. The Knicks will be relieved to land either of the top 2 spots in order to have a legitimate post player to build around.
3 Sixers (15.6%) Justice Winslow, Forward, Duke
Winslow would seem a perfect fit with a Sixers team that desires defense and needs shooting. He was Duke's best player in their run to the NCAA Title and now appears as a lock to go in the top 5. More teams at the top of the draft need wings than any other position, so Winslow will not wait long on draft night. It is hard to believe that he was barely in the top 10 on most lists prior to March.
4 Lakers (11.9%) Emmanuel Mudiay, Guard, China
Mudiay is the mystery man for fans and amateur fans due to his playing the past season in China. He impressed scouts and his Chinese team with his maturity at a young age. The emergence of Jordan Clarkson makes him a less obvious choice for the Lakers than a couple of months ago, but he would be a #1 choice in some seasons so he would be a solid consolation prize to a team without a point guard.
5 Magic (8.8%) *Stanley Johnson, Forward, Arizona
Johnson has not officially declared for the draft, but he is expected to leave college early if he will go in the top 10. While his star has faded some among some scouts due to taking some plays off and maybe being a little less athletic than advertised, Johnson is a remarkable talent who shot the ball better than expected in his freshman year. D'Angelo Russell should go ahead of Johnson, but the Magic have no needs in the backcourt.
6 Kings (6.3%) D'Angelo Russell, Guard, Ohio State
If Russell falls to the Kings, Sacramento would be the luckiest team in the draft. Russell is a phenomenal offensive player with a capable jumper and elite vision. There are some questions about his defensive skills, but he is a talented guard who plays well off the ball and with it in his hands. Playing alongside Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins, Russell would be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year.
7 Nuggets (4.3%) Willie Cauley-Stein, Center, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein helped his draft stock by returning for his junior season and would give the Nuggets some much needed size. He is a strong rim protector and an underrated perimeter defender who moves extremely well laterally for his size. His skill set will likely translate to help a team as quickly as anyone in the draft. He could be an ideal partner to play alongside Kenneth Faried.
8 Pistons (2.8%) Jerian Grant, Guard, Notre Dame
Grant could become a starting point guard at the next level, but at the very least he should be a third guard on a good team. With several developmental players on the board, Van Gundy may be more inclined to go with the Notre Dame product who has two-way and two-position potential. He could be a solid bench guard sooner rather than later and lead the second unit next season as he prepares for a larger role.
9 Hornets (1.7%) Kelly Oubre, Guard, Kansas
Oubre is a project, but he should be able to shoot and defend as his raw potential is realized. The Hornets need shooting and are building around their defense. It would not be a big surprise if Oubre is the best player from this draft in five years. However, his lack of handle or passing could combine with his defensive immaturity to leave him in fundamental purgatory for longer than teams care to invest.
10 Heat (1.1%) Kristaps Porzingis, Forward, Latvia
Porzingis was recently won the "Rising Star Award" in Europe and has seen a huge rise from obscurity over the last 18 months. He may take the route of Dario Saric and stay in Europe for a season or two after being drafted. Pat Riley may go with a player ready to help sooner like Frank Kaminisky, but Porzingis has the most talent left on the board and is a potential star.
11 Pacers (0.8%) Frank Kaminsky, Forward, Wisconsin
Kaminsky is a talented offensive player who gives full effort on defense but lacks the length and athleticism to consistently defend any position at the next level. He is ideally suited to be a third big who stretches the floor. "Frank the Tank" will pair well with Roy Hibbert to the benefit of both players. With Indiana hoping to contend in the East should Paul George be healthy, Kaminsky most helps them do so among players remaining on the board.
12 Jazz (same as Pacers) Myles Turner, Center, Texas
Turner is a peculiar prospect due to being so ideal in some ways and utterly deficient in other. His production suggests that he will be able to protect the rim and stretch the floor at the next level. However, he is poor on the defensive glass, lacks strength in his legs, and has no real skill in the offensive post. The Jazz are peculiarly talented at multiple positions and Turner would be taken as the best player on the board.
13 Suns (0.6%) Mario Hezonja, Guard, Croatia
Hezonja is unlikely to fall out of the top 10 according to most projections, but I am more sour on him than most scouts. Phoenix needs wing defense or a legitimate two-way big and will hope that one falls as all of those players are off the board. In this scenario, they could reach a little for Bobby Portis, but Hezonja is too talented too pass on. If he lives up to his potential, he would be a steal. Unfortunately, he will not help the Suns need for defense.
14 Thunder (0.5%) Devin Booker, Guard, Kentucky
Booker is unlikely to help a team as soon as next season, but the Thunder desperately need a shooting guard. Devin is an offensive weapon who does not need the ball and handles it relatively well. He was surprisingly good defensively at Kentucky, but he is still young and has a long way to go. If Caris LeVert leaves Michigan early, this could be an ideal spot both for him and the Thunder.
REMAINING FIRST ROUND SELECTIONS
15 Hawks Caris LeVert, Guard, Michigan
LeVert seems legitimately stuck on the fence about what to do next season and his draft stock has dropped since suffering a foot injury. He is a borderline elite shooter with the potential to defend well on the perimeter and possesses solid skills with and without the basketball. He is not the type of player to build an offense around but thrives as an outstanding second or third option. With a bias toward upperclassmen, LeVert or Sam Dekker could be on the short list for Atlanta (along with Jerian Grant if he falls) now that their draft spot has fallen out of the lottery. This spot would be a little high for Justin Anderson, but he fits the Atlanta profile. If the Hawks should go outside the usual international/upperclassmen profile, Utah's Jakob Poetl would be the type of young player that may lead them to break from tradition. LeVert would be my choice, but expect to hear a lot of Dekker being linked to Atlanta in the months ahead.
The Atlanta Hawks will also have the 50th pick (via Toronto) and the 59th pick in the NBA Draft. With limited space on the roster, I would be surprised if the Hawks make picks at both those spots. I would expect one or both to be dealt in conjunction with a trade to move up in this draft or out of it to a future draft. A lot will still change in the months ahead, but the list of options narrows as Atlanta's slot has been set.