By Jared Peterman
As the NBA season ended with a parade in the Bay Area, the full focus turns to the 2015 NBA Draft. This year’s draft class provides great talent throughout the entire draft, but I’ll only be breaking down my top five prospects. I didn’t include the highly touted foreign prospects, Kristaps Porzingis or Mario Hezonja due to not watching them or being extremely familiar with them. Let’s dig in and see who I’m raving over.
- PF/C Karl-Anthony Towns (University of Kentucky)
Karl-Anthony Towns’ skill set perfectly fits what NBA teams are asking of their big men. He shoots exceptionally well from mid-range and can even step out and shoot threes if necessary while running the floor in transition. Defensively, he could struggle guarding stretch fours, but should provide above-average defense in the post as he averaged 2.3 blocks per game at the University of Kentucky. Towns noticeably progressed throughout the year and stood out while watching the star-studded UK team despite only averaging 21.1 minutes a game. The two-way post player with mobility provides in my opinion, an easy choice for the Minnesota Timberwolves at the first overall pick as he’s just scratching his potential.
Current NBA Comparison: LaMarcus Aldridge/Paul Millsap
- PG D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State University)
D’Angelo Russell often had viewers in disbelief during his college season at Ohio State as it looked unfair at times that he was playing college basketball. The point guard made a mediocre team competitive while averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Russell shoots the ball very well from the perimeter and excels in the pick and roll offense, which proves to be an essential asset in the NBA. What makes Russell so great in the pick and roll proves to be his passing ability as he has great vision for the whole court and not just the player rolling to the basket. The well-rounded guard will cause heated debates in the war room during Thursday night’s draft as Russell should hear his name called no later than the fourth overall pick.
Current NBA Comparison: Jeff Teague (With better shooting)
- SF Justise Winslow (Duke University)
Justise Winslow played his way into top five pick consideration after a glorious NCAA Tournament performance, but showed promise as a budding star throughout the season as a two-way wing player. Hidden behind college stars for the better half of the year, Winslow shined in the tournament as his defense stood out as a true strength. The classic, “3 and D” prototype prospect as Winslow shot 41.8% from behind the arc at Duke and looks to be just scratching the surface of his true potential. Wing players have become essential in today’s NBA for success and Winslow leads the new wave of talent. I seem a little higher on him than others, as he’s projected to get drafted in the 4-7 overall range.
Current NBA Comparison: Jimmy Butler/DeMar DeRozan (With Better Shooting)
- C Jahlil Okafor (Duke University)
If Jahlil Okafor would have entered the draft ten years ago, he’s without a doubt the number one overall pick. If the draft took place at the beginning of the collegiate season, Okafor would have been taken first overall as well, but now he faces a projection of being selected 2-4 overall. Not a bad drop off by any means, but the evolution of the NBA has devalued one of the most talented post scorers to enter the NBA in the last decade. Okafor’s glaring weaknesses include free throw shooting and defense at the rim, two things NBA centers must provide to stay on the court in the fourth quarter. With all this being said, Okafor demands a double team when in the low post while flashing a mid-range jump shot and can immediately score fifteen points a game in the NBA. Teams are starting to go smaller and play the hack-a-whoever in the NBA, which can force a coach to bench Okafor immediately. Improving his foul shooting will cement his offensive dominance in the association.
Current NBA Comparison: Brook Lopez
- C Willie Cauley-Stein (University of Kentucky)
While chasing a perfect season at Kentucky, Cauley-Stein’s finally flourished in his third season as a Wildcat creating real NBA draft stock. The 7’0” center provides length and defense that proves extremely valuable to NBA teams as he can guard every position on the floor. I’ve never witnessed a big man play on-ball defense better than Cauley-Stein did this past year at Kentucky while also being a true rim protector which is becoming a main focus for NBA teams to find. Defense alone gets him in the lottery selection. The weakness to WCS is obvious, as his offense lacks light years behind his defense where he likely won’t see too many plays drawn up for him besides lobs at the rim. He’s athletic enough to improve offensively, but it will take time. I can see teams trying to bulk Cauley-Stein up a little bit to improve positioning in the post and rebounding. Cauley-Stein could go anywhere from 4-16 overall.
Current NBA Comparison: DeAndre Jordan (Better Defensively)