The NBA Draft is just a month away! Right about now, lottery teams are sizing up which prospects could significantly impact their franchise, while playoff teams are meticulously working to pluck a few Star UnderDOGS later on in the draft.
With the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers holding the top two picks, expect Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky) and Jahlil Okafor (Duke) to be the first players selected.
But after those two, the draft begins…Here’s an early look at how things may shake out on June 25th. And don’t forget to click on each prospect’s name for a full profile!
“The First 14”
1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman): The NBA Draft lottery worked out perfectly for the Wolves, who now choose between Towns and Jahlil Okafor for the top pick. We’re leaning towards Towns due to his defensive upside and overall fit next to Andrew Wiggins & Ricky Rubio.
NBA Comparison: Al Horford
2. Jahlil Okafor (Duke, C, Freshman): Did the Lakers just stumble upon their next dominant big man? Possibly…so don’t overthink it, Mitch Kupchack! Okafor gives them stability in the middle as a low-post threat and rebounder.
NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
3. Emmanuel Mudiay (Congo, PG, International): Philadelphia lacks a true lead guard on the roster. Though they could easily go with D’Angelo Russell, more of a hybrid PG/SG, Mudiay has the potential to be a dynamic playmaker alongside Nerlens Noel & Joel Embiid.
NBA Comparison: John Wall
4. D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State, PG/SG, Freshman): Falling to number 4 is not as damning as it seems for New York. Russell, much like Towns, Okafor and Mudiay, is a potential All-Star. And in a guard-driven league, you need a fearless scorer and shot creator leading the way.
NBA Comparison: Brandon Roy
5. Justise Winslow (Duke, SF, Freshman): Under GM Rob Henigan, Orlando has drafted athletic defenders in hopes of them developing offense down the road. Staying with that mindset, Winslow plugs in perfectly as a defensive-minded 3 man with an ever-growing offensive arsenal.
NBA Comparison: Jimmy Butler
6. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky, C, Junior): The Kings need both shooting and rim protection next to DeMarcus Cousins. Although they could go for a stretch four here (Frank Kaminsky, Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner), WCS is a mobile big who takes pressure off of Cousins defensively.
NBA Comparison: Tyson Chandler
7. Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia, PF/C, International): With a roster in flux, accumulating talent is the main priority. Porzingis has a unique game and is a fluid enough athlete to run with the likes of Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried.
NBA Comparison: Andrei Kirilenko (better upside)
8. Stanley Johnson (Arizona, SF, Freshman): Johnson is a powerful wing in the mold of a younger Ron Artest. With an NBA build and hard-working attitude, he could be a starter in Detroit from Day 1.
NBA Comparison: Ron Artest
9. Mario Hezonja (Croatia, SG/SF, International): Last year showed that Charlotte is very shaky on the wing. Hezonja plays with an edge, is athletic, and can shoot the long ball. He is a great building block next to Kemba Walker in the backcourt.
NBA Comparison: Rudy Fernandez
10. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin, SF, Junior): The Miami Heat are a very talented bunch. If they stay healthy and retain Hassan Whiteside, a 2016 playoff berth is almost a cinch. Adding Dekker gives them a versatile forward with upside on the perimeter.
NBA Comparison: Chandler Parsons/Caron Butler
11. Myles Turner (Texas, PF, Freshman): With Roy Hibbert on the downside, along with David West’s impending free agency, Turner seems like an excellent choice. Indiana desperately needs more shooting and overall talent on the interior.
NBA Comparison: Meyers Leonard/LaMarcus Aldridge (BEST CASE)
12. Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin, PF/C, Senior): Utah played excellent towards the end of the season as a defensive-minded, equal opportunity squad. Next to Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz could greatly benefit from a sweet-shooting big like Kaminsky to stretch the floor.
NBA Comparison: Kelly Olynyk
13. Devin Booker (Kentucky, SG, Freshman): Phoenix could go a number of ways here, including trading out of the first round. If they keep the pick, Booker presents them with a true shooting guard with the potential to grow into a two-way threat.
NBA Comparison: Klay Thompson
14. Cameron Payne (Murray State, PG, Sophomore): There’s a reason why OKC is a perennial contender when healthy: they draft extremely well. Payne is a nice change of pace guard who will be able to spell Russell Westbrook, or play next to him, in year 1.
NBA Comparison: George Hill
“Playoff Teams & Contenders (plus the Lakers)”
15. Kelly Oubre Jr. (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman): ATL needs more overall depth at both wing spots. DeMarre Carroll will get plenty of looks in free agency after his spectacular season, so drafting Oubre Jr. is a great insurance policy. If he can put it together, we’re looking at a future All-Star.
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gay
16. Trey Lyles (Kentucky, PF, Freshman): It would be an absolute steal if Lyles plummets to Boston at 16. With a nice touch around the rim and emerging faceup attack, he should have no trouble getting buckets in Brad Stevens’ offense.
NBA Comparison: Carlos Boozer/Noah Vonleh
17. RJ Hunter (Georgia State, SG, Junior): The Bucks have a surplus of athletes on the roster. Now, the onus is on finding more guys who can, you know, actually put the ball in the basket. Hunter is a big guard (6’6) who can stroke it from deep and fits nicely with Michael Carter-Williams (6’6), Jabari Parker (6’9), Giannis Antetokoumnpo (6’11) and, free-agent-to-be, Khris Middleton (6’8).
NBA Comparison: JJ Redick
18. Tyus Jones (Duke, PG, Freshman): Regardless if Houston pulls off a dramatic comeback over the Warriors in the Conference Finals, they need to shore up the lead guard position. Patrick Beverly is a defensive star who struggles making plays, Nick Johnson is a combo guard, and Jason Terry & Pablo Prigioni have a combined age of 75. Jones, the M.O.P. of the NCAA Tournament, lacks size but is a floor general with a knack for making clutch plays.
NBA Comparison: Trey Burke
19. Jerian Grant (Notre Dame, PG, Senior): It’s pretty safe to say Wizards fans would be content with Ramon Sessions never suiting up for them again. To make that “dream” a reality, former Irish star Jerian Grant is an excellent choice. He’s a big guard who is loaded with intangibles on both ends of the floor.
NBA Comparison: Greivis Vasquez (more athletic)
20. Bobby Portis (Arkansas, PF, Sophomore): The Raptors were the biggest disappointment of the 2015 Playoffs. They were exposed as a soft team with holes across the roster. Retaining Amir Johnson (UFA) is key but Portis gives them an offensive-minded big who can score down low and is a terror on the glass.
NBA Comparison: Terrence Jones
21. Kevon Looney (UCLA, SF/PF, Freshman): Looney figures to slide due to his lack of a true position and average athleticism. However, he is a skilled forward who reminds us of a young Lamar Odom. Dallas desperately needs youth (and upside) at nearly every position.
NBA Comparison: Lamar Odom
22. Justin Anderson (Virginia, SG/SF, Junior): The Bulls will go one of three ways here: draft a PG, draft a SF, or trade out. Despite having a logjam on the wing (Mike Dunleavy Jr: UFA, Jimmy Butler: RFA, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell), Chicago could use a physical presence on the perimeter who plays with toughness and energy at all times. Anderson just might be that guy…he is an improving shooter and could eventually replace Dunleavy Jr. as the starting small forward.
NBA Comparison: Jeff Taylor
23. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, PF, Junior): Though the Thomas Robinson experiment was a failure, Harrell gives Portland a different dimension off the bench with his physicality and winning approach. He is a great option as a P&R finisher with Damian Lillard.
NBA Comparison: Thomas Robinson
24. Christian Wood (UNLV, PF, Freshman): The Cavs are in the Finals…let that marinate for a sec. With all of their shortcomings, Cleveland has a chance to compete for a trophy while ADDING a first-rounder with tremendous upside in a few short weeks. Wood could excel in transition playing next to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
NBA Comparison: Brandan Wright (better upside)
25. Robert Upshaw (Washington, C, Sophomore): Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufos are both free agents this summer. Upshaw won’t be asked to duplicate their production if one (or both) of them decide to leave but he will impact games with his shot-blocking and activity from the jump.
NBA Comparison: DeAndre Jordan/Sean Williams
26. Timothe Luwawu (France, SG/SF, International): San Antonio does not hesitate to draft and stash guys who they feel can develop into contributors down the line. Though many of their main stars (Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green) are free agents, expect them all to stick around for at least one more season. In a few years, a more polished version of Luwawu can step in and play right away.
NBA Comparison: Iman Shumpert
27. Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse, PF, Senior): Los Angeles has eight potential free agents coming off the books this summer. After adding Okafor early on in the draft, Christmas, a late riser, is a nice complement with his “multiple effort” style and (now) consistent 15-footer.
NBA Comparison: Taj Gibson
28. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona, SF, Sophomore): Evan Turner is NOT the long-term solution for the C’s at the three. RHJ is offensively challenged but is a lockdown defender who can get out and run on the break.
NBA Comparison: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
29. Delon Wright (Utah, PG, Senior): Wright, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, might not even last this long. The long-armed, playmaker from Los Angeles can learn under Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack for a couple of seasons before assuming full-time duties.
NBA Comparison: Shaun Livingston
30. Rashad Vaughn (UNLV, SG, Freshman): Despite being on the cusp of the NBA Finals, Golden State could use another guard to take pressure off of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Vaughn is a natural-born scorer with nice size (6’6) and skill.
NBA Comparison: Jeremy Lamb/Ricky Ledo
NEXT Up (no particular order): Jarell Martin (LSU), Chris McCullough (Syracuse), Terry Rozier (Louisville), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington), Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), George de Paula (Brazil), Cedi Osman (Turkey), Norman Powell (UCLA), Mouhammadou Jaiteh (France), Joseph Young (Oregon), JP Tokoto (UNC), Andrew Harrison (Kentucky), Aleksandar Vezenkov (Bulgaria), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College)