Tag Archives: Emmanuel Mudiay

BULLet Points: Bulls cough another one up in Denver

Some games have a rhythm that sways back and forth rather extremely, and they don’t allow one team or the other to ever really dominate or establish control of the game. This felt like the case between the Bulls and the Nuggets in Denver last night through at least the first half. Somehow, though, the Bulls entered the second half absolutely on fire and looked to make the game theirs. But, as games like last night’s tend to, momentum swung back in Denver’s favor in the fourth quarter and the Nuggets ultimately took advantage of the Bulls’ lackluster play in the waning minutes to seize back the victory after it looked as though Chicago would walk away with this one pretty easily. With the 115-110 loss, the Bulls move to 27-22 and slowly creep toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff grouping. As it stands now, they would be the sixth seed, but only by a slim margin over the Pistons and Pacers. With that said, a few notes on one of the more frustrating losses of what is proving to be a very weird season:

  • No Pau. After calling out his teammates and motivating them to a win over the Kings earlier this week, Pau Gasol had to sit out last night because of a left hand injury, but fear not, Mike Dunleavy is making his glorious return tonight against the Timberwolves. Dunleavy has not played at all this season, so this will be a breath of fresh air. Cameron Bairstow got the start in his place, but this aspect of the game became more about Bobby Portis, ultimately.
  • Jimmy Butler left the game with a knee injury. It was unclear during the game just how bad it was, as he was able to shoot his free throws before being wheeled off for the night. Trainers worked on him for a few minutes on the sideline, but it became clear after a while that he was not going to be in condition to return. Afterward, Fred Hoiberg said that he would have it checked today, but considering that Butler missed his first game of the season on Wednesday night because of this knee, his status is likely to be uncertain for a while.
  • Missing some guns. Really, with both Pau and Nikola Mirotic out for this game, the Bulls were not firing with their strongest weapons at the posts. When you have to start the game with Bairstow and give any minutes whatsoever to Cristiano Felicio, maybe the bar should be kept pretty low. Felicio has barely spent a quarter’s worth of minutes on the floor all season and has been in as many games in the D-league as he has on the court for the Bulls. This really is no excuse, however, as the Bulls were able to outscore the Nuggets by 20 points in the second and third quarters.
  • It was an abominable fourth quarter where they surrendered a whopping 42 to Denver that did them in. Something about shooting 9/24 in that quarter and giving up practically a half’s worth of points in one quarter just doesn’t translate to wins very often.
  • I can’t not mention that Derrick Rose scored 30 last night. It’s ultimately pretty meaningless in a loss like this, but it’s those flashes of brilliance that seem to draw me in. Even on two legs that have been decimated by injury, every so often he can still drive to the hoop and make a layup that flirts with defying the laws of physics and gravity. It’s the kind of shot that makes someone a fan, if they didn’t know any better. Rose also grabbed nine rebounds and had eight assists, so in fairness, he did just about all that he could to bring this win home. Even in the face of losing Butler for the night, Rose showed that he can still put this team on his shoulders, if just for a little while.
  • Danilo Gallinari went 18/18 from the free throw line. Denver’s forward might look just a little bit like he was born in the wrong decade and missed his calling to play the villain in every bad 1980s movie, but he roasted the Bulls for 33 points last night. Only Emmanuel Mudiay also had double digit free throw attempts for the Nuggets, but he didn’t come close to shooting as well from the line as Gallinari did.
  • What about the coaching? I have resisted the urge to be really critical of Hoiberg in his first year, but in a game like this one, I can’t help but wonder just for a bit about his role in pushing his team to maintain what was a very winnable game. It was in their hands. Some of it might be conditioning, some might be lack of adjustments as things go south, and some could just have been the shorthandedness of the roster last night. That can’t always be helped.
  • Coming up: It’s back to back nights on the road for the Bulls from here, as they will be in Minnesota against the Timberwolves, who should, should serve up a nice opportunity to recuperate with a win.
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2015 Final Mock Draft

The draft is tomorrow! Let’s dive in for one final mock of how it may play out. Long live Hinkie!

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky

The Wolves are rumored to have already notified Towns they are selecting him Thursday night. He’s the best player in the draft, I have zero reason to doubt this. Although draft rumors are usually false…

  1. Los Angeles Lakers/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke

Even though Russell may be tempting, it’s so rare to find big men as skilled as Okafor. The Lakers are willing to overlook his lack of a defensive presence and questionable rebounding and free throw shooting skill.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Guangdong

There’s so much noise about Russell and Porzinigis I find it hard to believe the Sixers are really that strongly interested given that Hinkie plays it so close to the cuff. I’ve flipped on this pick so much in the past few weeks, but I just feel like Mudiay is ultimately the type of talent Hinkie prefers even if Russell’s offensive game is more advanced.

  1. New York Knicks/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State

The Knicks definitely luck out that Russell drops to #4. He fits extremely well in the triangle offense. If the Sixers take Russell, I’m really clueless at what the Knicks would do.

  1. Orlando Magic/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Sevilla

Perfect stretch 4 to match with Vucevic. His ceiling as a Dirk/Pau mix with more athleticsim is scary for opponents to think about. But he obviously has a larger bust potential if he is unable to add to his lean frame and battle underneath with NBA bigs.

  1. Sacramento Kings/Justise Winslow/SF/Duke

Willie Cauley-Stein is in play but Winslow’s upside I feel is too good to pass up. Of course getting a rim protector would be nice, but WCS offers nothing on offense and Winslow has a skill set very similar to that of Kawhi Leonard’s. Kings front office wants an impact player, I don’t think they care about drafting for need either (an example would be Stauskas over Payton last year).

  1. Denver Nuggets/Mario Hezonja/SG/Barcelona

Best player left on the board and Hezonja has the skill to become a star. Lights out shooter and ultra-competitive. If he played college ball in the U.S., he would definitely be considered for a top 3 pick. Size for his position is another huge asset.

  1. Detroit Pistons/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona

Probably would’ve liked Winslow to slip to this spot. I also wouldn’t rule out them taking a power forward to replace Greg Monroe like Turner, Kaminsky, or Lyles. Stanely is arguably as good as Winslow and his draft value was likely suppressed by the system he played in at Arizona.

  1. Charlotte Hornets/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky

If this scenario happened it’s likely the Celtics would move up in a hurry and mortgage some picks to grab WCS. He’s still the best player available at this spot and with Al Jefferson on the last year of his deal as well as Biyombo likely leaving in free agency, the Hornets could use a rim protector to launch them into the postseason.

  1. Miami Heat/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky

I’m not a huge fan of Booker and I think he’s being overrated right now because of his shooting stroke. But this pick gives the Heat some options if in fact Wade doesn’t return. They’d potentially have an interesting and offensively gifted backcourt of Dragic and Booker.

  1. Indiana Pacers/Cameron Payne/PG/Murray State

Pacers could use another young big man like a Myles Turner, but getting an impact PG to lead them back to the postseason is key. The window might be closing for the Pacers with this current squad until they can re-tool again with new players around Paul George. If Cam Payne is as good as advertised a lineup still featuring George, West, and Hibbert could still possibly get back to conference finals.

  1. Utah Jazz/Myles Turner/C/Texas

Even after trading away Enes Kanter this pick still makes sense for the Jazz. They need depth now and Turner is versatile enough to play both the 4 and 5. Turner can stretch the floor which is something Favors nor Gobert can do at the moment.

  1. Phoenix Suns/Frank Kaminsky/PF/Wisconsin

Alex Len and Markieff Morris is a solid frontcourt but like the previous Jazz pick they lack depth. Kaminsky can play the 4 or 5 and stretch the floor creating even more interesting lineup possibilities for Hornacek and the Suns.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas

The Thunder aren’t likely to make it back to the lottery for a few years and they have to make this pick count. Oubre is extremely raw but has the most upside at this point in the draft. He has some time to mature under Durant and could possibly be needed to step in in 2016 if KD leaves OKC.

  1. Atlanta Hawks/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky

It’s unclear whether the Hawks will re-sign Paul Millsap, but if they don’t Lyles should be ready to fill that role for the Hawks. He’s a very gifted offensive talent who already has an NBA body.

  1. Boston Celtics/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas

Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and Tyler Zeller aren’t really inspiring the Celtics to not draft replacements. Portis is best big left on the board and is very coachable player who has a solid offensive game and motor that will run for 48 minutes.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State

Bucks could really use another big man to play minutes for them, but instead settle for one of the best shooters in the draft. They need more shooters to surround guys like MCW and Giannis who don’t have a jump shot. RJ will be a role player to start and is insurance if they don’t resign Middleton.

  1. Houston Rockets/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame

The Rockets started Jason Terry during the entire playoffs this year. I rest my case for Jerian Grant.

  1. Washington Wizards/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin

Paul Pierce might not return to the Wizards and I personally believe Otto Porter is overrated. Even if the Wiz believe in Porter, at least bring in some competition and bring out the best in of these guys to become your full time starting SF.

  1. Toronto Raptors/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona

So they got nothing out of Bruno Caboclo last season and now after getting trounced out of the first round of the playoffs this year they need to get some impact players. RHJ is going to immediately become one of the best perimeter defenders from day one and the Raptors will just have to hope his offensive game develops.

  1. Dallas Mavericks/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke

The Rajon Rondo experiment failed in dramatic fashion, and now there is a glaring hole at PG. Makes sense for Mark Cuban to bring in the reigning NCAA tournament MOP.

  1. Chicago Bulls/Delon Wright/PG/Utah

It’s unclear how Hoiberg and the front office is going to approach this draft, being that it’s their first together. But Hoiberg doesn’t have an allegiance to Derrick Rose and Delon Wright is an interesting PG talent standing at 6’5″. Even if Rose is healthy, the Bulls still need depth at that position.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers/Christain Wood/PF/UNLV

Wood is undeniably a boom or bust talent. He showed up out of shape at the combine and many execs doubt his commitment to the game. But his ceiling is high as a stretch 4 who can be a rim protector on the other end. Wood is a project, but if Aldridge leaves town he is a project worth taking on.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers/Terry Rozier/PG/Louisville

Kyrie is constantly hurt and if the Cavs are still relying on Delly to play backup PG next season they should be ashamed of themselves because he is awful. Rozier is one of the best pure scorers in the draft and could become one of the better sixth men in the league. He is great insurance policy if Kyrie gets hurts again (he will).

  1. Memphis Grizzlies/Justin Anderson/SG/Virginia

The Grizz could use some more frontcourt talent off the bench but Anderson is great value at #25 and could become a solid “3 and D” type player. He is a willing defender which suits the Memphis culture. He is also a decent shooter, and solid 3 point shooting is another Grizzlies weakness.

  1. San Antonio Spurs/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville

Harrell isn’t going to replace Tim Duncan but he can eat up minutes while Duncan takes games off during the regular season. He has arguably the best motor in the draft and is relentless on the boards. His offensive game is developing but he has a lot of room for growth under Popovich.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers/Rashad Vaughn/SG/UNLV

If you didn’t hear, Kobe Bryant is retiring after this season. Vaughn is a talented scorer who has some upside at this point in the draft. Although I wouldn’t envy him for having to replace Kobe in LA.

  1. Boston Celtics/Robert Upshaw/C/Washington

If Upshaw is healthy and stays out of trouble off the court he is arguably worthy of a lottery pick and is just as effective a rim protector as others in this draft like WCS or Myles Turner. At pick #28 he’s worth the risk for the Celtics.

  1. Brooklyn Nets/Jarell Martin/PF/LSU

Thaddeus Young opted out and the Nets are looking to deal Mason Plumlee, so they could be in desperate need of another big man soon. Martin is talented offensively and could provide some solid minutes for the Nets right away.

  1. Golden State Warriors/Chris McCullough/PF/Syracuse

Purely a speculative pick for the NBA Champs. If McCullough stayed healthy he could’ve been a lottery pick in 2016. Now David Lee and Andrew Bogut can play out their contracts and the Warriors can sit McCullough for the year and let him heal up and then join the nucleus of Steph, Klay, and Draymond the following year.

2015 Mock Draft 3.0

Welcome to my Mock Draft 3.0! Now that we’re post-lottery we know the order of the draft and there are some interesting changes. We still have a ways to go before June 25th and a lot will surely change before then. Here’s my take on how the first round might shake out if the NBA drafted today.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky

As much as we keep hearing that Flip Saunders and the T’Wolves may prefer Jahlil Okafor over Towns, I just can’t fathom them actually going that route. Minnesota was absolutely horrendous on defense last season, and by drafting Okafor that would only perpetuate this awfulness. Towns is a stud on both sides of the ball and has superstar potential to pair with Andrew Wiggins; hopefully Flip will do the right thing.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke

It’s not crazy to think the Lakers would take D’Angelo Russell in this spot if they fall in love with him in workouts. But Okafor is as much of a sure thing as you will get in this draft; and as terrible a defensive frontcourt as Okafor and Julius Randle will be together, they will assuredly be a very potent scoring frontcourt and one that will wreak havoc on opponents.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State

Taking Emmanuel Mudiay, Kristaps Porzingis, or Mario Hezonja sure seems like the Sam Hinkie thing to do here. But maybe for once the Sixers front office won’t think too hard and just take the best offensive prospect on the board who also fits a glaring need. The potential of the Russell/Embiid pick and roll is a tempting proposition.

  1. New York Knicks/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Congo

I would like to say I feel bad for the Knicks getting bounced out of the top two picks after enduring a very horrid season, but I don’t because I hate the Knicks so let’s just leave it at that. Phil Jackson would probably like to play this draft as conservative as possible, and Mudiay is the best player left on the board and also fits a need. He is a freak athlete and has a very high ceiling, although the John Wall comparisons are bit farfetched at this point.

  1. Orlando Magic/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Latvia

This pick wouldn’t necessarily be an indictment on Aaron Gordon, but maybe his inevitable role is energy guy off the bench; although the Magic probably weren’t thinking that last year taking him fourth overall. Porzingis is another huge unknown, but his ability to stretch the floor and pair with Nik Vucevic is what makes him the pick instead of taking a wing like Justise Winslow or Hezonja. If Porzingis is able to put on weight and develop an NBA body he could become a unique frontcourt talent.

  1. Sacramento Kings/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky

When you consider Vivek Ranadive’s complete incompetence as an owner, you can’t really rule out any guys for this spot. We also have no clue how new decision-maker Vlade Divac plans to attack this. The Kings are desperate to pair DeMarcus Cousins with another elite front court player and Cauley-Stein is the best rim protector in this draft class. Vivek could certainly outthink himself and force Sacramento to take someone we’re not expecting, but right now Cauley-Stein makes the most sense for the Kings.

  1. Denver Nuggets/Justise Winslow/SF/Duke

The Nuggets are searching for another wing to pair with Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Justise has an offensive game that will continue to blossom at the next level, but he is also the best wing defender in this draft; that’s something the Nuggets sorely need.

  1. Detroit Pistons/Mario Hezonja/SG/Croatia

I think Stan Van Gundy needs to swing for the fences with this pick, and taking Hezonja does just that. Mario Hezonja is a really exciting wing player who can shoot from anywhere, get to the rim, and is an explosive athlete. He has incredible upside and is matchup nightmare as a 6’8″ shooting guard.

  1. Charlotte Hornets/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona

The Hornets desperately need shooters, and although Stanley isn’t exactly lights out from deep he’s clearly the best player left on my board. Charlotte still isn’t in any position to draft for need over best player available. They should take Johnson and figure the rest out later.

  1. Miami Heat/Myles Turner/C/Texas

Turner is still very raw and in Miami he’ll have time to grow and mature as a player behind Bosh and Whiteside. But having these three in a rotation has a lot of potential. Turner is a great shot blocker and can shoot from outside; he also plays the 4 and 5 spots. The Heat could use another guard or wing player, but Turner at 10 is great value.

  1. Indiana Pacers/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky

The Pacers need to add to the frontcourt due to David West becoming a free agent next offseason. I think I’m a bit higher on Lyles than other power forwards but Trey has a legit face up game that is comparable to West and could easily step into the starter’s role once he leaves Indiana. I also like his overall potential compared to guys like Kaminsky, Portis, and Looney.

  1. Utah Jazz/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas

Oubre was a bit of a disappointment at Kansas, only showing flashes and never becoming a consistent scorer. But his potential is what still makes him a lottery talent. Jazz need to add more shooters and talent in general and Kelly can play the 2 and 3 spots behind Burks and/or Hayward while he develops.

  1. Phoenix Suns/Frank Kaminsky/C/Wisconsin

The Suns already have a decent young frontcourt with Markieff Morris and Alex Len, but there isn’t really any depth behind these guys. Phoenix wants to spread the floor and some GM’s believe Frank is the best shooter in the entire draft, a huge asset at the center position. The Suns could go developmental wing player here, but I think Kaminsky could excel from the start in Phoenix.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona

This pick may be a slight reach, but the Thunder need to win now and Hollis-Jefferson may be the best wing defender in the draft next to Justise Winslow. OKC was horrendous defensively last year and RHJ will help immediately. He is able to defend the both wing positions as well as point guards and he will give the Thunder a lot of versatility, and certainly isn’t averse to sitting back and letting Westbrook and Durant take shots.

  1. Atlanta Hawks/Kevon Looney/PF/UCLA

Atlanta will have to make a couple big decisions regarding impending free agents DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap, and as crazy as it sounds I think they should prioritize Carroll over Millsap. It’s so hard to find talented wing players in the NBA, especially ones who defend as prolifically as Carroll does. If Looney is on the board, he is a high upside pick whose game resembles Millsaps’ and could step in from day one and contribute.

  1. Boston Celtics/Robert Upshaw/C/Washington

This would definitely be a huge surprise and cause a stir if this happened on draft night, because Upshaw has a ton of negatives and is a risk considering his history off the court. But all of his past transgressions aside he has all the measurable to be an elite rim protector, and if he can stay out of trouble he could become a flat out steal for Boston. To me it’s worth the risk at pick #16, especially for the Celtics who are clamoring for a true rim protector and have been rumored to be interested in trading up for Cauley-Stein.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky

The Bucks could really use another versatile big man, but Booker is too good to pass up at this point. He may be the best shooter in this draft and has good size for his position. If they don’t want to overspend on keeping Khris Middleton this off-season, Booker would make a fine alternative and far cheaper.

  1. Houston Rockets/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame

Patrick Beverley’s future with the Rockets is up in the air, and regardless they need depth at that position. Grant gives them a versatile guard with great size for the position, who can play both spots, and is a great scorer. Outside of James Harden, the Rockets don’t have guard who can get their own shot and contribute offensively.

  1. Washington Wizards/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin

Dekker is a borderline lottery talent who slipped a little bit in this mock. The Wizards need some youth up front, but Dekker is really good value here. He also fits the new floor-spacing identity they appear to be embracing.

  1. Toronto Raptors/Christian Wood/PF/UNLV

The Raptors are always trying to swing for the fences (ex. Bruno Caboclo). Christian Wood has a ton of upside as an extremely athletic stretch four who also has the tools to be disruptive force on defense. He’s unpolished, but if he can put all that raw talent together, the Raptors will have something special.

  1. Dallas Mavericks/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas

Dallas will surely be hunting for a point guard to replace Rajon Rondo this off-season, and maybe they do draft one here. But Portis presents great value at 21. Dirk is on the cusp of retirement and the Mavs experimenting with Amare Stoudemire last season after losing Brandan Wright proves they need an infusion of young talent in the frontcourt. Portis has a great face-up game and is a decent rebounder; he could be a nice fit with the Mavs.

  1. Chicago Bulls/Cameron Payne/PG/Murray State

Regardless of Derrick Rose’s injury history the Bulls need to upgrade the backup point guard spot. Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich aren’t world beaters and they need another player to run the second unit and possibly take over if Rose goes down once again. Payne is a good distributor and decent offensive talent. Some scouts think he may be the best point guard prospect in this draft behind Russell and Mudiay.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville

The Blazers aren’t going to replace a player like LaMarcus Aldridge by adding a big man late in the first round, and they still have to draft assuming they’ll be able to keep him long term. Still, the rest of the Blazers frontcourt is lacking athleticism and has older players like Robin Lopez and Chris Kaman. Harrell is relentless on the boards and provides non-stop energy on both sides of the ball. He’s still developing his offensive game, but he’s good value at this point in the draft.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers/Justin Anderson/SF/Virginia

The Cavs could use another center here but Anderson is a really good value pick, considering he was a borderline lottery pick before his injuries this season. He is a great shooter and holds his own defensively. He can play the small forward spot and knock down jumpers when LeBron plays the four late in games.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State

The Grizzlies are desperate for outside shooting and this really inhibited them from making a deeper run in the playoffs this season. R.J. is a purely shooter. He has a slight frame and may be a liability on defense, but could become a spark off the bench for this team, before becoming a starter down the road if he develops.

  1. San Antonio Spurs/Jarell Martin/PF/LSU

I don’t think Tim Duncan is going to retire, and Martin isn’t necessarily a pick to try and replace him down the road (Editor’s note: I mean, who is??). But the Spurs lack a scoring presence from their other guys in their frontcourt. Martin is a very skilled big man and scorer, and could possibly contribute right away before eventually stepping in as a starter.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke

Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones could pair up again, this time in a Lakers gold and purple. Jordan Clarkson perhaps isn’t enough of a talent that the Lakers should forego drafting another floor general. Jones probably won’t slip this far, but wouldebe great value here. We already know he and Okafor have a ton of chemistry.

  1. Boston Celtics/Rashad Vaughn/SG/UNLV

Outside of Isaiah Thomas the Celtics don’t have any guards that really strike fear into an opponent offensively. Vaughn is a prolific scorer who is still developing other aspects of his game, and the Celtics could use as many shotmakers as they can get their hands on.

  1. Brooklyn Nets/Delon Wright/PG/Utah

Wright would certainly go a lot higher if he wasn’t already 23 years old. He is mighty talented and has elite size at the point guard position. The good thing is that he’s still younger than any PG the Nets have, and is a good replacement for Deron Williams once he exits Brooklyn.

  1. Golden State Warriors/Chris McCullough/PF/Syracuse

McCullough tore his ACL this season and before that was projected to possibly be a top ten pick in 2016. His talent still warrants him to be a first round pick. Golden State can afford to wait on him and get great value out of this pick. And by drafting him in the first round instead of the second, they lock him up for a few years.

 

 

2015 Mock Draft 2.0

I’ll hopefully be updating these occasionally leading up to the draft. Here’s the first one, from March 18th. Feel free to ask me any draft questions, or just tell me how wrong I am on Twitter @jeff_berest.

*Draft order is based on final standings/lottery odds

**Opinions on players are my own, and based on what I’ve observed thus far.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky

Towns will make the T’Wolves young roster even younger and give them a dominant low-post threat and rim protector on the other end. Wiggins and Towns could become a lethal force to be reckoned with in the West for years to come.

2. New York Knicks/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke

Mudiay and Russell are also in play, but the Knicks can’t afford to miss on this pick considering they don’t have a first rounder next year and Okafor has by far the highest floor. His defense is a concern but isn’t poor enough for another player to supplant him at this spot.

3. Philadelphia 76ers/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Congo

At this point it’s a battle between the “known” in Russell and the “unknown” in Mudiay. Mudiay exhibits elite athleticism and can get to the rim at will—an ability Russell has not shown in his game. Although Mudiay has an average to below-average jumpshot, the Sixers and Sam Hinkie will likely gamble on a two-way player and elite athlete with superstar potential over the possibly higher floor of Russell any day.

4. Los Angeles Lakers/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State

Jordan Clarkson did an admirable job in his rookie campaign but by no means does that shore up the point guard position for the Lakers’ future. They really need a rim protector as well, but this may be too rich of a spot for Willie Cauley-Stein. Russell is best player available at this point, and he creates a very formidable backcourt next year with Kobe Bryant returning. Assuming they don’t splurge on Rajon Rondo.

5. Orlando Magic/Justise Winslow/SF/Duke

Justise is probably the best wing defender in the draft and he improved his offensive game throughout his freshman season at Duke. He also provides the Magic some insurance if they do not retain Tobias Harris.

6. Sacramento Kings/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Latvia

Kings have been searching for another talented big man to play alongside Boogie Cousins for a while now. Porzingis can stretch the floor and has great athleticism for his size; although he needs to build upon his slight frame.

7. Denver Nuggets/Mario Hezonja/SG/Croatia

Nuggets need another wing player, and Hezonja is a good athlete and talented offensively. He can shoot from anywhere, can get to rim, and has good court vision. Like Porzingis, if Hezonja played college ball he might be considered one of the top 3 or 4 prospects in this draft.

8. Detroit Pistons/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona

I don’t know why people are down on Stanley since the tournament ended. He struggled offensively this season but that might have been because of Arizona’s system. He still has great size for an NBA forward and huge defensive potential. Down the road, Stanley Johnson going eighth might end up as one of the steals of this draft class. Detroit having a huge need at SF also helps his case for being taken at this spot.

9. Charlotte Hornets/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky

It wouldn’t shock me to see WCS go a few slots higher than this, and even though the Hornets are desperate for shooters, this is too good of a value to pass up. The Hornets would benefit from taking him here and at least entertaining offers. Al Jefferson isn’t getting any younger and their current rim protector Bismack Biyombo is a free agent and also doesn’t know how to play basketball.

10. Miami Heat/Myles Turner/C/Texas

Turner is still very raw and in Miami he’ll have time to grow and mature as a player behind Bosh and Whiteside. But having these three in a rotation has a lot of potential. Turner is a great shot blocker and can shoot from outside; he also plays the 4 and 5 spots. The Heat could use another guard or wing player, but Turner at 10 is great value.

11. Indiana Pacers/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky

The Pacers need to add to the frontcourt due to David West’s approaching free agency. There isn’t much that separates guys like Lyles, Looney, Portis, and Harrell except team preference, really. Lyles has a legit face up game that is comparable to West and could easily step into the starter’s role once he leaves Indiana.

12. Utah Jazz/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas

Oubre was a bit of a disappointment at Kansas and could never become a consistent scorer. But his potential is what still makes him a lottery talent. Jazz need to add more shooters and Kelly can play the 2 and 3 spot behind Burks and/or Hayward.

13. Phoenix Suns/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame

Who would’ve guessed another point guard for the Suns? This is a point in the draft where Grant is probably the best value and his ability to player either guard spot suits Phoenix too well to pass up. Also, who knows what happens with Brandon Knight this offseason.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky

OKC has struggled to fill the 2 spot since the James Harden departure. Booker underwhelmed in his freshman year, but like many of his teammates at Kentucky, there is plenty of untapped potential. He at least gives the Thunder a perimeter shooting threat right away.

15. Atlanta Hawks/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin

Dekker shot up draft boards during the tournament and I don’t think the Hawks are content with matching any huge offers a team will throw at DeMarre Carroll. So this leaves a gap at the SF position in Atlanta. Dekker is a decent enough athlete but has a good jumper and can get to the rim, as well as being a great rebounder for his size.

16. Boston Celtics/Kevon Looney/PF/UCLA

I’m not sure how Looney would fit in with the Celtics, but he is by far best player available at this spot, and was once thought of as a top 6 or 7 pick in this draft class. He has the ability to play both forward spots and is good offensive talent; also has good ball-handling skills for a player his size.

17. Milwaukee Bucks/Frank Kaminsky/C/Wisconsin

Frank the Tank proved himself against elite competition in the tournament this year and it wouldn’t be surprising if he goes much higher than this. He is solid in the post and creates mismatches with his ability to stretch the floor out to the three-point line. The Bucks need to add more bigs, and it will only be a short move for Kaminksy going from Madison to Milwaukee.

18. Houston Rockets/Cameron Payne/PG/Murray State

The Rockets don’t really have any depth behind Beverley at PG, and his injury history will force the Rockets to add another ball handler in this draft. Payne is more of distributor than most guys in this draft and he will certainly mesh in the backcourt with Harden.

19. Washington Wizards/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville

Both Gortat and Nene are getting up there in age and the Wizards frontcourt is lacking athleticism. Harrell isn’t gifted on the offensive side of the ball yet, but he plays with a ton of energy and attacks the basket on offense and defense. He will provide an instant spark to the Wizards’ bench right away and eventually edge his way into the starting lineup, probably sooner rather than later.

20. Toronto Raptors/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas

Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough are free agents this summer and Bobby Portis is a solid 4 with a good face-up game. He isn’t just a back-to-the-basket type of big, and is also a great value pick at 20 for the Raptors. Portis was SEC player of the year for a reason and seems like he could be a contributor in year one.

21. Dallas Mavericks/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke

Tyus Jones draft stock is soaring after the NCAA tournament and, needless to say, the Mavs are looking for a replacement for Rajon Rondo. Tyus Jones isn’t an elite athlete but is a good scorer and a decent distributor. There may be better point guards who are taken after him in this draft, but teams will want his clutch gene that he displayed in the NCAA Championship and throughout the tournament.

22. Chicago Bulls/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona

Rondae is another player that could go much higher if a team is comfortable just taking a defensive specialist. The Bulls could be looking for a point guard, but Hollis-Jefferson is too good to pass up here. Having Rondae and Jimmy Butler lock down opposing wing players every night is scary for other Eastern Conference teams. Rondae and McDermott combining their offense and defense at the SF spot is a good potential replacement for free agent Mike Dunleavy.

23. Portland Trail Blazers/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State

Regardless of whether LaMarcus Aldridge leaves Portland, the Blazers aren’t going to find his replacement at #23 in the draft. R.J. has a ton of upside and he and Damian Lilllard have the potential to be a poor man’s version of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Wes Matthews is obviously a question mark coming off of surgery and entering free agency. Portland is hoping for a steal here in grabbing R.J.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers/Justin Anderson/SG/Virginia

The Cavs could use a center here but Anderson is a really good value pick, considering he was borderline lottery before his injuries this season. He is a great shooter and holds his own defensively.

25. Memphis Grizzlies/Christian Wood/PF/UNLV

Memphis needs another rim protector and to add some athletes to its frontcourt. Wood could be an instant upgrade in both those departments to Kosta Koufos and Jon Leuer. Wood is raw but he’s a good project for the Grizzlies.

26. San Antonio Spurs/Jarell Martin/PF/LSU

I don’t think Tim Duncan is going to retire, and Martin isn’t necessarily a pick to try and replace him down the road. But the Spurs lack a scoring presence from their other guys in their frontcourt. Martin is a very skilled big man and scorer, and could possibly contribute right away.

27. Los Angeles Lakers/Robert Upshaw/C/Washington

Lakers are desperate for a rim protector and Upshaw provides just that. They were toasted night in and night out in the paint by opponents and Upshaw, who is still a bit raw, could find some minutes in this rotation from the start.

28. Boston Celtics/Cedi Osman/SF/Macedonia

This is purely a draft a stash pick for the Celtics, because I don’t think there is anyone at this point who could contribute to an NBA team right away. Typically these types of picks are at the beginning of the second round but Osman has a ton of potential as a point forward who is very gifted offensively. He may not come over for a few years but it may be worth it down the road; the Celts have a plethora of picks over the next few years and they can afford this type of move.

29. Brooklyn Nets/Delon Wright/PG/Utah

Wright would certainly go a lot higher if he wasn’t already 24 years old. He is mighty talented and has elite size at the point guard position. Good thing is he’s still younger than any PG the Nets have, and is a good replacement for Deron Williams once he exits Brooklyn.

30. Golden State Warriors/Chris McCullough/PF/Syracuse

McCullough tore his ACL this season and before that was projected to possibly be a top ten pick in 2016. His talent still warrants him to be a first round pick. Golden State can afford to wait on him and get great value out of this pick. And by drafting him in the first round instead of the second they lock him up for a few years.

2015 Mock Draft 1.0

March Madness is upon us and that means we’ll be witnessing a lot of potential NBA players give it their all for a chance to make it to the Final Four. Here’s my early take on what the first round of the draft may look like come June, and some of the players we’ll be watching for the next three weeks.

I’ll hopefully be updating these every few weeks leading up to the draft. Feel free to ask me any draft questions, or just tell me how wrong I am on Twitter @jeff_berest

*Draft order is based on standings as of 3/17/15

**Players cannot declare for draft yet; selections based on who I believe will come out this year.

***Opinions on players are of my own, and based on what I’ve observed thus far.

  1. New York Knicks/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky

Superstar potential on both sides of the ball. Can be an elite shot blocker, and his ability to extend the floor with his outside shot and a dominant post game is too much to pass on at #1.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke

Polished low post game, can almost score at will and already has an NBA body. Defensive presence and free throw shooting is a concern though.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Congo

Outstanding ball handler, tremendous size for position, incredible athleticism and dynamic speed, superstar potential. If he had a good jump shot, he’d be in contention for #1 pick.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State

Smooth offensive game, lights out shooter, incredible court vision and ball handling for a combo guard. Has the looks of James Harden-“lite”. Never seems to get rattled and likes taking big shots.

  1. Orlando Magic/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona

Defensively talented, can lock down other team’s best player. Can get to the rim, but lacks a true shooting stroke. Has great size for an NBA forward, doesn’t play outside of his ability.

  1. Sacramento Kings/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky

Elite rim protector and rebounder, can change game defensively. Below par offensive game, but has a decent enough touch around the rim, great hands for a big man and can run the floor.

  1. Detroit Pistons/Justice Winslow/SF/Duke

Bouncy wing player with elite athleticism, still growing as an offensive player and is inconsistent. Improving jump shot and can finish at the rim. Above average defender as well, tremendous upside potential as an NBA swingman.

  1. Denver Nuggets/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Latvia

One of the great unknowns in this year’s class. Elite size for a PF, still proving he can shoot outside with consistency. Explosive at the rim, long arms are a defensive asset, great athleticism despite being 7’1″. Very thin frame, needs to bulk and maintain an NBA body.

  1. Atlanta Hawks (via BKN)/Mario Hezonja/SG/Croatia

Tremendous size for a shooting guard, natural scorer. Has ability to spot up for three or take it to the basket. Also has great court vision and is a willing passer. Has a reputation for being immature.

  1. Charlotte Hornets/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas

Long rangy wing, has size to play forward in NBA. Can be a great shooter at times. Very inconsistent at college level, game goes in and out. Has shown potential to be a defensive talent, always seems to rack up steals due to long reach.

  1. Indiana Pacers/Kevon Looney/PF/UCLA

Gifted big man who can be a tough matchup because of his tweener position. Willing and aggressive rebounder, has ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot also gets to the free throw line. Has some ball handling skills despite size. Still a raw talent, isn’t quick enough to stay with 3’s, not big enough to guard 4’s.

  1. Utah Jazz/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky

Very gifted shooter and can score in bunches, also good size for a two guard. Defensive skills on the next level are a question mark, but does show good court vision and handles for a non-point guard.

  1. Phoenix Suns/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas

Big man with a great face-up game and can hit the mid-range jumper. He is also very active on the defensive end of the court, and is a solid rebounder. Very fundamentally sound, but won’t wow you with skill or athleticism.

  1. Houston Rockets (via NO)/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame

Excellent size for a point guard, can get to the rim and capitalize on free throws. Also a very good shooter, has a bit of a clutch gene. Length is an asset on defense, gets in passing lanes. Brother of current 76ers’ forward Jerami Grant; father and uncle also played in NBA (Harvey & Horace Grant).

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (via MIA)/Myles Turner/C/Texas

Enormous frame and length, terrific shot blocker. Also a gifted shooter and can extend out to three point line, great pick-n-roll game. Awkward moving at times, and is very slow on the break. Footwork needs help underneath the basket. Needs to bulk up frame, but star potential is there.

  1. Boston Celtics/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky

Talented big man with good footwork and can hit the mid-range jumper. Also a good rebounder and smart player. Willing passer that finds open shooters.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks/Frank Kaminsky/C/Wisconsin

Great all-around offensive player, solid on the post and has range out to three point line. Can be an effective stretch four in NBA; not sure if he has toughness and rebounding ability to play center.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder/Justin Anderson/SG/Virginia

Good shooter and can lock down opposing wing players, also has good size. Won’t wow you with athleticism but is a fundamentally sound player.

  1. Washington Wizards/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville

Doesn’t have a fluid offensive game yet, still developing post moves. Lack of skill is made up for by his athleticism and being a willing and effective rebounder. Explosive player who can run the floor and provides a ton of energy.

  1. Chicago Bulls/Kris Dunn/PG/Providence

Good size for a point guard, incredible athleticism. His quick first step allows him to easily get to the rim. Has history of injuries and is sometimes prone to excessive turnovers.

  1. Toronto Raptors/Christian Wood/PF/UNLV

Great size and athleticism, terrific rebounder and shot blocker. Extremely raw talent and still developing an offensive game. Upside is there.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin

Good shooter and willing rebounder, has a tremendous basketball IQ. Can spot up or take it to the rack, also doesn’t turn the ball over. Won’t blow you away with athletic prowess, but has great size.

  1. Boston Celtics (via LAC)/Caris LeVert/SG/Michigan

Great length and size for the two guard spot. Outstanding shooter, can fill it up from deep. Still very lean and needs to add some weight. Has tools to be good defender, but it remains to be seen.

  1. San Antonio Spurs/Delon Wright/PG/Utah

Combo guard. Good shooting stroke and can also get to the rack. Has great size for a point guard, but isn’t an elite defender. Average athleticism, but is a smart player. Brother of Portland Trail Blazer Dorell Wright.

  1. Dallas Mavericks/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke

Smart point guard with very high basketball IQ. Can play distributor as well as scorer. Doesn’t have great size, and has shown he isn’t afraid of spotlight. May not have elite upside, but is a solid and reliable guard. Has trouble contending against bigger point guards.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (via HOU)/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona

Very talented athlete and is a lockdown defender on college level. Not the greatest shooter, but his offensive game is still developing. Can get to rim and is a decent passer. Will probably be more of an asset on defense and won’t be relied on as a top three or four scoring option at next level.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers/Jakob Poetl/C/Utah

European transplant; good rebounder and rim protector. Not going to give you much on offense yet, but can defend the five. Still a raw talent, and needs to acquire a low post game.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State

Gifted scorer and elite shooter. Still has a very lean frame, and it’s still unknown whether he can play against better competition. Isn’t a great athlete either, defense is suspect.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks)/Cliff Alexander/PF/Kansas

Great rebounder, already has NBA body and is very strong. Won’t really score for you outside the paint, and doesn’t have a lot of post moves. Relies too much on physicality to beat you, which might not translate to NBA. Still has a lot of upside if he is able to score from 15 to 18 feet out.

  1. Golden State Warriors/Dakari Johnson/C/Kentucky

NBA body, has elite size and is solid defender and decent rim protector. Will be able to rebound effectively at NBA level. Won’t carry you on the offensive side of the ball, but has a surprisingly good touch around the rim.