2015 NBA Draft Big Board

Last update: Friday, Dec. 19, 2014.

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  1. Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke, Freshman
    Coming into the season, Okafor had plenty of hype as a polished post scorer, and thus far this season, he has shown he is worthy of the praise. Aside from one game where he struggled scoring the ball – in which he did a good job of not forcing his own shot and found teammates in a position to score -, he has put on a show, including in a victory against a notoriously tough Michigan State team.

    What has surprised me the most has been Okafor’s improved athleticism; scouts had pegged him as a below-the-rim player and even heavy legged, but he got into better shape physically, and it has helped on the floor getting above the rim and finishing with authority. I heard ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla compare him to a young Tim Duncan, and while Okafor obviously has a long, long way to go to live up to a comparison to one of the best players in the history of the NBA, he has the type of skills to one day be that kind of player.

  2. Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China, 18
    Mudiay’s situation with collegiate basketball has been well documented. He was likely to be declared ineligible at SMU because of amateurism concerns – with his high school Prime Prep in Texas playing a large role. Instead of going through the process of gaining his eligibility, Mudiay decided to go the way of Brandon Jennings and signed overseas with the Guangdong Tigers in China, and he has had great success early on. Mudiay posted a triple-double in early November with 22 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, and over his first nine games, he is averaging 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor.

    Mudiay is a big point guard at 6-5, and very athletic at that, but he is more than just an athlete; he is a true point guard with a very good understanding of the game along the lines of Rajon Rondo. Now much like Rondo, Mudiay will need to improve his jump shot, as he is shooting just 31 percent from three-point range thus far, as well as from the free-throw line – where he is shooting an abysmal 58 percent -, but his ability to get to the rim with his athleticism and size makes him dangerous on the offensive end along with his distributing ability.

    Mudiay will have some room to improve on the defensive end, but he is playing against professionals, and putting up very good numbers while doing so, at just 18 years of age. Mudiay will be among the top-3 picks in this upcoming draft without question.

  3. Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky, Freshman
    Towns may not have impressive stats thus far this season, averaging 9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.8 blocks per game; but with Kentucky’s platoon system, he is averaging just 18.8 minutes per contest. Extrapolate those numbers out across 40 minutes and you begin to see why Towns is this high in the rankings: 19.4 points, 14.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 blocks.

    At nearly seven-foot and astoundingly long-limbed, Towns moves incredibly fluidly up and the down floor with the ability to handle the ball. and though he has only made one out of his five three-point field goal attempts thus far this season, he is capable of stretching out to the collegiate three-point line and farther. Towns may not be an immediate impact player in the NBA; that is to say he may not walk in the door and be able to take over a team, but once he is a professional and truly able to focus on solely basketball, his talent will come through and before too long he will be a perennial All-Star in my opinion.

  4. Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona, Freshman
    The best wing prospect in this year’s class, Johnson is a tough, physical player who has no problem getting into his man defensively. He is almost impossible to get by for college opposition on the perimeter one on one with his combination of size, length, strength, quickness and just overall tenacity. That has shown in the statistics as he ranks third in total steals in the Pac-12, ninth in defensive rating and seventh in defensive win shares.

    Johnson came into this season seen as a mediocre shooter, but looking at the percentages, I would say he has been working on his offensive game as he’s shooting 50.9 percent from inside the arc and 38.5 from beyond the line. Johnson still has a ways to go when it comes to scoring the ball on a professional level, but this kind of two-way production is exactly what the team that selects him should expect with some experience. I could see him developing into a Dwyane Wade type of player once he figures out the game on the offensive end, which any organization would be ecstatic with.

  5. Myles Turner, F/C, Texas, Freshman
    The Longhorn’s frontcourt of Turner, Cameron Ridley and Jonathon Holmes is one of the most talented groups in the country outside of Lexington, Kentucky, but Turner has the most upside of any of his teammates. He is dangerous in either the pick-and-roll game – at 6-11 with a 7-3 wingspan – or the pick-and-pop thanks to his mid-range shooting ability, and though he has only hit four of his 14 three-point attempts through Texas’ first nine games, he is capable of knocking them down as well. Turner is also averaging 6.8 rebounds per game in 20 minutes per contest, 13.6 per 40 minutes, and he is a very good shot blocker averaging 2.8 per game. The combination of an ability to score the ball from the mid-range and beyond at his height and the rebounding and shot-blocking abilities he’s shown, will be too enticing for too many teams to say no to in the high lottery.

  6. Kevon Looney, F, UCLA, Freshman
    I hate it when analysts use this term, but Kevon Looney has one of the longest wingspans I have seen outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 6-9 Looney was measured to have a 7-1 wingspan, and he is putting that to use early on this season on the glass, averaging 11.2 rebounds per game through his team’s first 10 contests, which is good for first in the Pac-12 and sixth in the NCAA. Looney has pulled down the most total rebounds in the country, as well as the most offensive rebounds, which is where a lot of his offense comes from. The aggression he has shown on offense has been impressive as well, attempting 77 free throws, once again good for first in the Pac-12 and sixth in the country. If Looney can just find a jump shot to go along with his phenomenal rebounding ability and that aggressive nature he has shown so far, he will be a high lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

  7. Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia, 19
    At 7-1 and 220 pounds, Porzingis could be labeled as a four as I have here, but he prefers to play on the perimeter; a scary thought for the opposing small forwards trying to guard him. He is an excellent ball-handler with good coordination and body control, especially in the transition game, where he will obviously excel because of his height. In the half-court game, Porzingis is a solid shooter and has improved off the ball as well, but it is almost impossible to stop him when gets out on the fast break with the ball in his big hands. His fluidity and solid footwork also help him on defense in the pick-and-roll game due to an ability to switch out on guards and force them into tough shots trying to shoot over him, and to rotate over to get blocks.

    The biggest problem with Porzingis is his skinny build, as he cannot guard in the paint, and on the offensive end, he can’t get position in the post, but his potential is too much to ignore. Once Porzingis gets with a professional organization’s strength and conditioning program, he could still grow into his frame.

  8. Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville, Junior
    I knew as an Indiana fan it was going to be a tough matchup Tuesday night against Louisville because of the Hoosiers’ lack of size and just how relentless Montrezl Harrell is on the basketball floor. Louisville’s guards would penetrate Indiana’s zone to draw up whomever was in the center while Harrell would be waiting around the bucket, ready to catch a dump-off pass for an easy dunk time after time. He would finish with 21 points and 11 rebounds in the game, and Louisville would pull away late for a 20-point victory.

    With my lamenting a Hoosiers’ loss aside, Harrell will be an impact player on the next level because of what I saw in that game; his energy and athleticism. Sure just about everyone in the NBA is a superior athlete, but combine that with Harrell’s non-stop motor and effort, and it sets him apart. He still needs to find some kind of jump shot, and he has shown some flashes of this early on, hitting three three-pointers in 14 attempts, but Harrell to me is the next Kenneth Faried, and while he may not be the flashiest pick, he will help the team that selects him win ballgames.

  9. Justise Winslow, SF, Duke, Freshman
    Winslow has proven himself to be one of the best overall athletes in the country, with play after play that makes anyone watching the game say “wow;” from incredible blocks, jumping almost completely over another player, to catching and finishing alley-oops. He is more than just an athlete however, as he has shot the ball beyond many scout’s expectations at 38.5 percent for threes. Winslow also has the ability to drive to the bucket and finish with contact to offset the range on his jumper. Additionally, he is a defensive stopper on the perimeter at 6-6 with a 6-10 reach who has enough strength in his lower body as well as the foot speed to stay in front of his man when he puts the ball on the floor. If Winslow can keep up his outstanding play thus far, he could find himself in the Nos. 5-7 picks come the 2015 NBA Draft.

  10. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky, Junior
    I mentioned how Montrezl Harrell will help the team that drafts him win – and I will mention it with a few other players along the way -, but to me no one in the country defines helping their team win more than Willie Cauley-Stein. WCS – for short – is something to behold on the basketball floor. At seven-feet tall, he has incredible length that makes it almost impossible to get a shot over him whether it be a jump shot or something in the paint. If WCS is there to contest your shot, it’s best to just swing the ball and find a better look because you’re not going to score over him. Not only does he block shots, but he has the foot speed and hand-eye coordination to get steals, a rare skill for someone his size. So far this season, WCS has the third-most steals in the SEC and averaging 1.7 per game – good for ninth in the conference.

    While this has been played to death by now, as a former receiver in high school, WCS has excellent hands around the bucket, and with his size, guards can just put the ball up anywhere near him and he will catch and finish with authority. During the game between Kentucky and North Carolina, I heard CBS analyst Greg Anthony say that there are some players a team can win with and then there are others who you win because of. I tried to think of something better to sum up Willie Cauley-Stein, but I just couldn’t think of anything; he is a player who the NBA team that drafts him will want because of due to his defensive ability and just overall work ethic and hustle. No matter what my favorite team’s roster looks like, he is someone I would love to see them draft.

  11. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona, Junior
    Arizona is one of the best, if not the best, defensive teams in the country, and that is due in large part to both Stanley Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson on the perimeter. Hollis-Jefferson though cannot only guard the 1-3 positions, he can even go inside and defend a post player with his height, athleticism and length. There may not be another player in college basketball who can do that. Hollis-Jefferson’s jump shot may look even worse than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s, with a hitch at the top of the release that leads to inconsistency – to put it kindly -, but thanks to his great defense. he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to affect the game. Hollis-Jefferson will get into the passing lanes and take a steal back down the floor for an emphatic dunk, make a stop that forces a turnover, bad shot or jump ball, and simply put max effort into the game each and every night.

    Hollis-Jefferson is someone who will help the team that picks him win because of his work ethic, unselfishness and basketball IQ. Towards the end of the lottery, a player like him would be an excellent selection.

  12. Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville, Sophomore
    In that aforementioned game between Indiana and Louisville, outside of Harrell, the most impressive Cardinal on the floor was Terry Rozier. He scored a career-high 26 points while knocking down three pointers and putting pressure on Indiana’s guards defensively.

    I brought up Dwyane Wade’s name earlier concerning Stanley Johnson, but Rozier has mentioned how Wade is his favorite player and how he has tried to pattern his game after the former Marquette Golden Eagle; they are fairly similar players. Rozier is four inches shorter than Wade, but that doesn’t mean he is any less fearless when it comes to his play on the floor, as he can get to the rim and finish with contact. Rozier isn’t known as a great shooter, but this game showed he can step up and knock jumpers down when given the opportunity; he made five threes. Rozier is a very strong defender as well, averaging an ACC-leading two steals per game, and is third in the country in defensive rating with an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions, at 73. I, along with others, have compared Rozier to Eric Bledsoe, and I can see him developing into that type of player given some experience.

  13. Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas, Freshman
    This wasn’t the Kansas freshman I expected to be highest in these rankings during the preseason. Back then, I thought that Kelly Oubre could be in the running for the next pick after the first three selection in the 2015 NBA Draft if he played exceptionally well and the teams fell right with a need for a perimeter player. He’s kind of stunk up the joint early on, and in my opinion, Cliff Alexander is the better of the two at this moment in time.

    Alexander is physically mature for his age, though Joshua Smith of Georgetown did dwarf him when they played, but really who doesn’t Joshua Smith dwarf? Alexander is 6-8 and 240 pounds and can handle his own inside the paint defensively, except when facing the aforementioned Smith, who in all fairness is 350 pounds. Alexander is pulling down 6.4 rebounds per game in essentially 19 minutes per contest, which works out as 13.6 rebounds per 40 minutes. His athleticism helps him make up for his relative lack of height as a rim protector and has led to 1.2 blocks per game – good for ninth in the Big XII.

    That athleticism is also Alexander’s biggest weapon on the offensive end, allowing him to catch and finish just about anything thrown to him around the rim, and when it comes to pulling down offensive rebounds, he ranks ninth in the conference in as well. If Alexander can diversify his offensive game and add a jump shot to go along with his tenacity, ranking – you guessed it – ninth in free throws made and eighth in attempts, he could very well find himself in the mid-lottery.

  14. D’Angelo Russell, SG, Ohio State, Freshman
    With Ohio State losing so much coming into this season, it was hard to peg down just how good the Buckeyes would be. This freshman has been their saving grace – for lack of a better term – as he is having an outstanding start to his first year in Columbus. Russell was seen as more of scorer coming into the year, and he has not disappointed when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, averaging 17.7 points per game on 50 percent shooting from inside the three-point line and an impressive 43.5 percent from beyond the arc with 5.5 attempts per game. In fact, he has scored 60 points more than the next Buckeyes player, another impressive statistic for the 12th-ranked team in the country.

    Aside from his scoring ability, Russell has also shown the ability to distribute the ball as well, averaging 5.6 assists per game, and is tied for third on the team in rebounds, pulling down 4.7 a night, and has picked up 1.8 steals per game. The Buckeyes have had their fair share of one-and-done players, and if Russell can lead Ohio State through a nice run in the NCAA tournament and continue his play so far, the squad could have another player with just one season under Coach Thad Matta.

  15. Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan, Junior
    The Michigan Wolverines have been the butt of a few jokes this season thanks to two embarrassing home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, but the play of Caris LeVert has not been the reason for the Wolverines’ disappointing start to the season. He has taken over for players like Nik Stauskus and Trey Burke as the team’s best player, and is averaging 16.7 points per game this season to go along with 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals.

    At 6-7, LeVert has the ideal height to translate to the next level and has the combination of offensive ability, shooting 40.5 percent from inside the arc, 48.1 from beyond and 84.2 from the free throw line – as well as those 3.9 assists per game as a passer -, and the ability on the defensive end to stop his man one on one and also take the ball away to give his team extra possessions. It’s not his fault that Michigan doesn’t have a complement for his talents inside the paint – leading to poor floor spacing – and has shot poor from inside the three-point line. LeVert has steadily improved over his three seasons in Ann Arbor and will be a first-round pick come next year.


  17. Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin, Junior
    Dekker is known as the darling of the advanced statistics community, but he is more than just stats. Dekker is an incredible athlete at 6-9 on the wing – an attribute that obviously translates well to the NBA – who is a tough, hardnosed player, as just about everyone that has played for the Badgers under Bo Ryan has been, and is as versatile a player as there is. He has had some ineffective outings lately, especially in a big game against Duke when he went just 2-5 shooting and was locked down by Justise Winslow, but Dekker is the type of player who doesn’t let bad games get to his head. Just days later, he came back against an admittedly lesser opponent in Wisconsin-Milwaukee and scored 17 points. There is a lot of potential in Dekker, and he could be one of those players who is just better suited to play on the professional level in terms of his individual output.

  18. Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse, Freshman
    Syracuse has had a disappointing season, but that hasn’t been because of the play of McCullough, who is a very good rebounder and a long athlete at 6-10 and a lean 210 pounds. In the first eight games of the year, he is averaging 14.4 points on 56.3 percent shooting, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.9 steals and 1.4 assists per game in just over 34 minutes per contest. He does have a rather high turnover rate for someone who doesn’t really handle the ball all that much at 17.2 percent and is averaging 2.6 per game, but he is one of the better defenders in the ACC – with the Orange’s 2-3 zone surely helping his 79.0 defensive rating, good for sixth in the conference, somewhat making up for those turnovers.

    McCullough needs to work on his offensive game overall, as a vast majority of his offense comes from offensive rebounds, and though he does a good job getting to the free-throw line with the ninth-most attempts in the conference – averaging 5.5 per game -, he is shooting just 54 percent from the line. McCullough could easily return to Syracuse for another season to work on this part of his game, which I personally think he should, but it would be hard to say no to the money and the opportunity to be a first-round pick should he continue his impressive early play.

  19. Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas, Sophomore
    Despite a sizable loss to one of the better teams in the country in Iowa State, the Arkansas Razorbacks have had a good start to the season, and no one has played a larger role in this than Portis. He is averaging 15.8 points per game in 27 minutes, shooting 56.3 percent from inside the three-point line and has knocked down seven of his 11 three-point attempts. Adding that kind of range to his already explosive athleticism makes for a dangerous combination.

    Portis lacks the lateral foot speed to keep up with opposing players on the drive, which led to some foul trouble during his freshmen season as a Razorback, but he is a good rebounder thanks to his size and jumping ability, as he has averaged 6.8 per game over his career, as well as 1.5 blocks per game. Portis will excel in transition thanks to his athleticism and finishing ability, and with how much the NBA teams love to run, he should translate very well to the professional level.

  20. Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia, 19
    Hezonja is a big guard at 6-8 and has added weight recently, but he hasn’t lose any of his quickness or explosion. On offense, Hezonja has unlimited range as a shooter and has apparently matured when it comes to his shot selection, which was a major knock on him. Though he is a good ball handler as well, he tends to settle for a pull-up jumper – somewhat surprising with his size and athletic ability -, and this is the one knock I could find on him as a scorer. With the questionable shot selection seemingly better, the upside here is huge. On the ball defensively, Hezonja is tough to get by with his size and footwork causing problems with his opponents, but he needs to improve his weak-side positioning in the NBA as he can get lost ball watching at times. Every scouting report I have seen concerning Hezonja says he has a great work ethic, and with his superb talent and confidence, he has an extremely promising future in the NBA.

  21. Tyus Jones, PG, Duke, Freshman
    Jones may be just a freshman, but he plays beyond his years on the basketball floor. Jones controls the game with poise and rarely turns the ball over. He has an incredible 5.8 to one turnover ratio through the Blue Devils’ first eight games. Jones isn’t called upon to score very much, with his talented teammates taking on the majority of this role, but he can knock down a shot when needed, averaging 10.4 points per game. Duke’s defense has been something to watch so far this season, and Jones is also a tough player to score on for opposing guards. He has played the best as a point guard in college basketball this season, and though I may think a few other players have a higher upside than him, his floor is much better than some of those other prospects. If Jones was to land in the mid- to late first round, he would be a steal in my opinion based on how smart he is on the floor.


  23. Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin, Senior
    The traditional big man is slowly going the way of the buffalo in basketball, at least at the professional level. Outside of Okafor, there aren’t many traditional big men in my top-25 either, showing just how rare a true post player is. For big men nowadays, it’s all about being able to shoot outside jumpers and utilizing the pick-and-roll and or pick-and-pop game to score, and there aren’t many better in the collegiate game in this situation than Frank Kaminsky. When it comes to shooting the three, he has only improved from year to year, going from 28.6 percent during his freshman year when he only played 7 minutes per game, to 42.4 percent so far this season, shooting three per game. From inside the three-point line, Kaminsky is shooting incredibly well too, at 58.9 percent, leading to 16 points per game. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor when closed out on beyond the arc, making him a dangerous cover for any big man in the country. Kaminsky’s not a soft player by any means however, as he can rebound the ball, pulling down 7.6 boards a night, and is a good shot blocker with 1.9 a game. There may be some questions about his athleticism and his ability to guard NBA big men, but they will have to account for his ability on offense as well, something that not many will be able to do.

  24. Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah, Freshman
    Just a freshman, Poeltl has been one of the biggest surprises in the young college basketball season. A seven-footer with very good skill and touch around the basket, he is averaging 11.3 points per game on an incredible 72.3 percent shooting in just under six attempts per game. There is some room for improvement as Poeltl has taken the seventh-most free throws in the Pac-12 up to this point and is shooting a dreadful 44.9 percent, but with time, this could easily be corrected with the skill he has shown on offense. Poeltl isn’t just an offensive threat however, pulling down 9.3 rebounds per game and the second most offensive rebounds – 30 total – in the Pac-12. He can also block shots, averaging 2.9 swats a game so far and 4.7 per 40 minutes.

    Once Poeltl gets into conference play and eventually into the NCAA Tournament, we will be able to truly evaluate just how good he can be. If Poeltl continues his hot streak, he could easily be a lottery pick.

  25. Norman Powell, SG, UCLA, Senior
    Powell is one of the most athletic players in the country regardless of position at 6-4, 215 pounds, and so far this season, he has put that athleticism to work on the floor, racking up his best offensive production as a Bruin. Though just nine games have been played, he is averaging 17.4 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting overall and a career-best 44.7 percent from beyond the arc. Add to that offensive production his potential to become a Tony Allen-type defensive stopper – averaging 2.4 steals per game thus far -, and Powell is an intriguing prospect late in the first round.

  26. Terran Petteway, SF, Nebraska, Junior
    Playing basketball in Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t going to get you a ton of recognition, but Petteway is one of the best players in the nation. Ok, his Cornhuskers did have an embarrassing home loss to low Division I team Incarnate Word recently, but Petteway has been playing superbly this season, averaging 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, showing that he is one of the best two-way perimeter players in the nation. Petteway is also shooting a career-best 35.1 percent from three. He should be drafted in the late first round, and the team that selects him will have a solid role player from the day he steps in their gym; depending on the team, could easily grow into a long-term starter.

  27. Kelly Oubre, SG, Kansas, Freshman
    I bought the preseason hype on Oubre hook, line and sinker. He was supposed to be a can’t-miss prospect with incredible athleticism and an offensive game that could not be contained, even by the best perimeter defenders in the country. In his first seven games played for the Jayhawks though, Oubre has not done anything to warrant all of the buzz surrounding him, averaging just 2.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and .4 assists per game in just 7 minutes per contest. There is still an awful lot of basketball to played, and Oubre could soar in the rankings. He obviously did something to make scouts think he was a potential top 5-10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and he has played much better here recently against both Georgetown and Utah, but at this moment, I think he should return to Lawrence for at least another season to get his game, especially when it comes to the defensive end, right. Being a first-round pick could be too much to say no to however for the freshman.

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