Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Mock Draft 2.0 (Post-Lottery)

1 - Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl Towns - F/C - Kentucky, Fr.
The Wolves won the top pick after finishing with the league's worst record, something that hasn't happened since the Magic did it in 2004.  Orlando celebrated by grabbing Dwight Howard; what will the Wolves do to mark their top selection?  The talk is that Flip Saunders is a big fan of Jahlil Okafor, but I don't buy that.  The Wolves can't pass up the upside of Karl Towns and Andrew Wiggins terrorizing teams at both ends of the floor.  With Kevin Garnett willing to stick around and usher in the new era, Minnesota should capitalize on the opportunity to make his new disciple a player with a similar frame and skill-set.

2 - Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor - C - Duke, Fr.
The Lakers should be glad to just take whichever of the two big men is left on the board.  In this case, it's Okafor, who is a more natural fit for LA's void at the C position.  Julius Randle could very well develop a mid-range game, which would allow the block-oriented Okafor to thrive in the paint.  If the Lakers do go a different direction, D'Angelo Russell would be a good long-term fit at either guard spot.

3 - Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell - G - Ohio State, Fr.
The Sixers shipped out Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline because his inability to develop an outside shot made him a poor fit in a modern backcourt.  Russell's biggest strength is his outside shot, but he's not far behind at all as a playmaker.  Philadelphia doesn't have a long-term answer at either guard spot, and Russell would give them flexibility going forward that Emmanuel Mudiay wouldn't.

4 - New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay - PG - D.R. Congo, 1996
The Knicks should be fine taking whichever of the top four prospects falls into their lap at #4, because their roster is just Carmelo Anthony surrounded by nothingness.  Mudiay is a game-changer due to his size for the PG spot and great athleticism.  If things go as projected in the top three, this should be a simple choice.  It's the Knicks we're talking about though, so all bets are off.  If a pick in the top five is going to be traded, this is the safe bet.

5 - Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow - SF - Duke, Fr.
The Magic are set in the backcourt for the future, with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton.  They're good to go at C with Nik Vucevic, and Aaron Gordon and/or Tobias Harris should be the plan at PF.  There isn't such an answer at SF, where Moe Harkless appears to have fallen out of favor and Tobias Harris isn't the ideal fit.  Winslow would give Orlando yet another destructive wing defender to pair with Oladipo and Payton, setting the building blocks for a tough defense for years to come.

6 - Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein - C - Kentucky, Jr.
The Kings could really use a PF who can slot in alongside Demarcus Cousins for the long run.  In this case, I don't know if I see Porzingis being their guy, so they go with WCS, who would move Boogie to PF and give Sacramento a legitimate defensive presence at C.

7 - Denver Nuggets: Kristaps Porzingis - PF - Latvia, 1995
The Nuggets are sure to embark on a full-fledged rebuild sometime in the next year, with Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari likely to be duilt and Kenneth Faried certainly on the table.  That could leave an opening at PF; if that opening isn't going to be there right away, why not take the player on the board with the highest upside?

8 - Detroit Pistons: Mario Hezonja - G/F - Croatia, 1995
The Pistons are another team rumored to be willing to move their pick.  If they do stay at 8, there is going to be a wide variety of options.  The logical choices are wings like Stanley Johnson and Mario Hezonja, or a stretch four like Kristaps Porzingis.  There's even been some talk that Stan Van Gundy is intrigued by C Willie Cauley-Stein.  The Pistons need depth throughout the roster, but I don't think they can afford to pass up filling a major need at SF.  Here, they go with Hezonja instead of Johnson, because he has the higher upside and his outside shot would fit nicely in the Pistons' offense.

9 - Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker - SG - Kentucky, Fr.
The Lance Stephenson experiment went about as poorly as possible for the Hornets, so don't be shocked if they look for a new answer at SG.  Charlotte can struggle with spacing when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is on the floor, so drafting the best shooter in the draft would make some sense.  Booker's upside may not be through the roof, but there's little chance he turns into a bad shooter overnight.  He could start from day one if he can defend on the wings.

10 - Miami Heat: Stanley Johnson - SF - Arizona, Fr.
The biggest need for the Heat this summer is to get younger.  They can do that with any position, so they take the bets player on the board.  Miami desperately needs depth too, so whether or not Luol Deng is back in 2015, there's a need for Johnson and his defensive abilities on the wing.

11 - Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner - F/C - Texas, Fr.
The Pacers are in the process of shoving Roy Hibbert out the door, one way or another.  They'll be looking for a replacement who allows the team to play at a faster pace, something that they could do with Turner.  Turner is one of the better shot blockers in the draft, and also offers the potential to stretch the floor from both the PF and C spot.  There are some warning signs in his game (unconventional running style being the top one), but if he pays off, he could be one of the better players in the class.

12 - Utah Jazz: Frank Kaminsky - C - Wisconsin, Sr.
The Jazz moved on from Enes Kanter because he didn't offer the defensive upside of Rudy Gobert, the all-around game of Derrick Favors and couldn't shoot like Quin Snyder likes his big men to do.  Kaminsky could fit the role that Utah asked Kanter to play perfectly, assuming his skill-set translates to the next level.  Kaminsky may not pay off big like some of the other prospects in the lottery, but he should, if nothing else, shoot the ball well.

13 - Phoenix Suns: Kelly Oubre - G/F - Kansas, Fr.
The Suns could go in multiple directions this year, with no major holes, but also no definite answers on the roster outside of Eric Bledsoe.  Brandon Knight should be back too, but that's no certainty.  They should have the flexibility to draft the best player available, which is Oubre in this case.  If they're truly worried about the Morris' twins legal troubles, Trey Lyles could be in play here.

14 - Oklahoma City Thunder: Sam Dekker - SF - Wisconsin, Jr.
Unless you really like Josh Huestis, the Thunder should be looking for a long-term backup to Kevin Durant.  They could also use his replacement should Durant leave in free agency in the summer of 2016.  Dekker is far, far away from being on Durant's level, but OKC could do worse.  Dekker's size could also see him play alongside Durant in small-ball lineups, assuming Dekker puts on some weight.

15 - Atlanta Hawks (via BKN): Bobby Portis - PF - Arkansas, So.
Whether or not the Hawks lose Paul Millsap in free agency, they could use some youth in their frontcourt after dealing away Adreian Payne mid-season.  Portis' ability to guard all the way out to the perimeter and score in a variety of ways should make him attractive.  If he had better measurable athleticism, Portis would almost certainly be a top-10 pick.

16 - Boston Celtics: Trey Lyles - PF - Kentucky, Fr.
I'm having a hard time putting my finger on just where Lyles will get drafted.  You could make a case for him going as high as 8 to Detroit, or for him falling all the way to here or further.  He would be a decent fit in Boston's frontcourt thanks to his versatile offensive game.  Boston just has too many guys who are good pieces but can't be "the guy"; this pick is another candidate to be packaged for a bigger piece.

17 - Milwaukee Bucks: Jerian Grant - PG - Notre Dame, Sr.
The Bucks may have Tyler Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams already as young options at PG, but Grant is big enough to play off the ball as well, where there are fewer solutions.  The Bucks would probably much rather have a C with this pick, but there's no value to take one here.  If Kaminsky falls, he probably won't make it past Milwaukee.

18 - Houston Rockets (via NOP): Cameron Payne - PG - Murray State, So.
Even if Patrick Beverley returns to Houston in free agency, the Rockets need to add to the quality of their point guard rotation.  Steph Curry is in the process of roasting Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry in the Western Conference Finals as I write this.  Payne and Beverley would make for a dynamic duo, with Payne providing the offensive punch to Beverley's toughness on defense.

19 - Washington Wizards: Kevon Looney - F - UCLA, Fr.
I'll admit I don't care for Looney's game; my opinion of him may very well affect where I place him in these mocks.  If he is still on the board here, Washington should have serious interest.  Marcin Gortat and Nene aren't getting any younger up front, and Kevin Seraphin and Kris Humphries can only give you so much.

20 - Toronto Raptors: Christian Wood - PF - UNLV, So.
Wood has a very high skill level and the Raptors don't really have a dynamic option at PF going forward.  If they do bring back Amir Johnson to hold down the rotation with Patrick Patterson, it would afford Wood the necessary time to polish his game and put on the requisite weight.

21 - Dallas Mavericks: RJ Hunter - SG - Georgia State, Jr.
Hunter shouldered a huge load for Georgia State this year and his efficiency took a hit because of it.  He should fit nicely in the NBA as a role player and would offer the Mavs some additional scoring punch off the bench.  If things really work out right, he could be the long-term replacement for Monta Ellis, but Dallas would be fine just finding a contributor here.

22 - Chicago Bulls: Justin Anderson - SF - Virginia, Jr.
Even if Tom Thibodeau is on his way out of town, Anderson seems like the Bulls' kind of player.  With questionable depth behind Jimmy Butler at the SF spot after a shaky rookie year from Doug McDermott, there's room for Anderson on the roster.  Other options here include Tyus Jones and Montrezl Harrell.

23 - Portland TrailBlazers: Jarell Martin - PF - LSU, So.
I like Martin's upside thanks to a versatile offensive game that should make him a good fit on any team's bench.  The Blazers grab him here as insurance against LaMarcus Aldridge leaving town (not that Martin would instantly be the new starter) and depth if he returns.

24 - Cleveland Cavaliers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - SF - Arizona, So.
Hollis-Jefferson may not seem like the ideal fit to play around LeBron James because he can't shoot, but he could help lighten LeBron's defensive burdens as he ages.  RHJ might be the top perimeter defender in this draft class.

25 - Memphis Grizzlies: Montrezl Harrell - PF - Louisville, Jr.
Harrell's toughness, tenacity and energy would fit excellently in the Grizzlies' frontcourt.  With Jarnell Stokes already in tow, Memphis could start to add some youth to a post rotation that features Marc Gasol and the aging Zach Randolph.

26 - San Antonio Spurs: Cliff Alexander - PF - Kansas, Fr.
Alexander's disappointing freshman season at Kansas ended with him being suspended due to an eligibility investigation.  He's not the elite prospect that the recruiting sites billed him as, but he has the physical tools to be a contributor as a pro.  Who would be better to help him get there than Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich?

27 - Los Angeles Lakers (via HOU): Rashad Vaughn - SG - UNLV, Fr.
The Lakers have a good young PG in Jeremy Clarkson, a good prospect at PF in Julius Randle, and nabbed Jahlil Okafor earlier in this mock.  That leaves a need for young talent at SG and SF.  There aren't really any value options at SF, so they grab the top SG left on the board.

28 - Boston Celtics (via LAC): Robert Upshaw - C - Washington, So.
While the Celtics currently have depth up front, they don't have a single guy who's a constant threat to challenge/block shots.  Their leading shot blocker this past season was Jared Sullinger at 0.7 per game.  Upshaw's specialty is protecting the rim, so if he can keep his nose clean, he can bring a lot to the table for Boston.

29 - Brooklyn Nets (via ATL): Tyus Jones - PG - Duke, Fr.
I like Jones a lot more than this, but it's hard to find a fit for him if Cameron Payne doesn't go in the lottery.  Chicago could grab him as an insurance policy on Derrick Rose's faulty legs or maybe the Mavericks take a chance on him.  No chance he makes it out of the first round though.

30 - Golden State Warriors: Delon Wright - PG - Utah, Sr.
The Warriors are already two-deep with quality NBA talent at every position.  They grab the best prospect available here.

31 - Minnesota Timberwolves: Norman Powell - SG - UCLA, Sr.

32 - Houston Rockets (via NYK): Chris McCullough - F - Syracuse, Fr.

33 - Boston Celtics (via PHI): Timothe Luwawu - G/F - France, 1995

34 - Los Angeles Lakers: Dakari Johnson - C - Kentucky, So.

35 - Philadelphia 76ers (via ORL): Rakeem Christmas - F/C - Syracuse, Sr.

36 - Minnesota Timberwolves (via SAC): George Lucas - PG - Brazil, 1996

37 - Philadelphia 76ers (via DEN): Jordan Mickey - PF - LSU, So.

38 - Detroit Pistons: Aleksandar Vezenkov - F - Ukraine, 1995
The Pistons have been out to scout Vezenkov, sending a scout to watch him play in the Greek League.  Vezenkov is one of the better outside shooters in this draft and has a versatile offensive game that should play at either forward spot.  His body needs some work, but he's not even 20 years old yet; he has some time to work on the physical part of his game.

39 - Charlotte Hornets: Mam Jaiteh - C - France, 1994

40 - Miami Heat: Michael Frazier - SG - Florida, Jr.

41 - Brooklyn Nets: Tyler Harvey - SG - Eastern Washington, Jr.

42 - Utah Jazz: Michael Qualls - SG - Arkansas, Jr.

43 - Indiana Pacers: Marc Garcia - SG - Spain, 1995

44 - Phoenix Suns: Richaun Holmes - PF - Bowling Green, Sr.

45 - Boston Celtics: Terry Rozier - G - Louisville, So.

46 - Milwaukee Bucks: Anthony Brown - SF - Stanford, Sr.

47 - Philadelphia 76ers (via NOP): Cedi Osman - SF - Turkey, 1994

48 - Oklahoma City Thunder: Alpha Kaba - PF - France, 1995

49 - Washington Wizards: Olivier Hanlan - PG - Boston College, Jr.

50 - Atlanta Hawks (via TOR): JP Tokoto - G/F - North Carolina, Jr.

51 - Orlando Magic (via CHI): Aaron White - F - Iowa, Sr.

52 - Dallas Mavericks: Chris Walker - PF - Florida, So.

53 - Cleveland Cavaliers (via POR): Brandon Ashley - PF - Arizona, Jr.

54 - Utah Jazz (via CLE): Nedim Buza - SF - Bosnia & Herzegovina, 1995

55 - San Antonio Spurs: Guillermo Hernangomez - C - Spain, 1994

56 - New Orleans Pelicans (via MEM): Vince Hunter - PF - UTEP, So.

57 - Denver Nuggets (via LAC): Darrun Hilliard - SF - Villanova, Sr.

58 - Philadelphia 76ers (via HOU): Satnam Singh - C - India, 1995

59 - Atlanta Hawks: Moussa Diagne - C - Senegal, 1994

60 - Philadelphia 76ers (via GSW): Mateusz Ponitka - SG - Finland, 1994

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Free Agent Profile: Al-Farouq Aminu

Al-Farouq Aminu - SF - 6'9, 220
FA Ranking: 10

Free agency doesn't always have to be about locking down the biggest name.  Hawks fans can tell you better than anybody how well it can work when you make moves that go completely under the radar.  In my opinion, Al-Farouq Aminu is one guy who is going to go under the radar this summer and make some front office look very, very smart.  While Aminu hasn't lived up to his billing as one of the top high school recruits in the class of 2008, or as the 8th pick in the 2010 draft, he's slowly developed his game in stints with the LA Clippers, New Orleans and Dallas.  He enters unrestricted free agency this year for the second straight summer, assuming he turns down a $1.1M player option.  That's a safe assumption after Aminu proved himself to be one of the few reliable players on one of the league's worst defenses.  The Pistons would do themselves well to line up for Aminu's services, as his ability to defend both forward positions would fit wonderfully within the Pistons' long-term plans.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What the 8th Pick Really Means

Past returns can never guarantee future performance, but they can always provide an idea of what to expect.  With the Pistons slotted to pick 8th in the 2015 draft, barring any trades, what kind of player will the team be adding to its core this year?  Below is a list of the 8th picks in the last 20 drafts, sorted by year:

Year
Pick
Team

Best Player taken after
2014
Nik Stauskas
SAC

Too early to tell (E. Payton?)
2013
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
DET

Giannis Antetokounmpo (15)
2012
Terrence Ross
TOR

Andre Drummond (9)
2011
Brandon Knight
DET

Kawhi Leonard (15)
2010
Al-Farouq Aminu
LAC

Paul George (10)
2009
Jordan Hill
LAL

Ty Lawson (18)
2008
Joe Alexander
MIL

DeAndre Jordan (35)
2007
Brandan Wright
GSW

Marc Gasol (48)
2006
Rudy Gay
MEM

Rondo (21)/Millsap (47)/Lowry (24)
2005
Channing Frye
NYK

David Lee (30)
2004
Rafael Araujo
TOR

Andre Iguodala (9)
2003
T.J. Ford
MIL

David West (18)
2002
Chris Wilcox
LAC

Amar’e Stoudemire (9)
2001
DeSagana Diop
CLE

Tony Parker (28)
2000
Jamal Crawford
CHI

Michael Redd (43)
1999
Andre Miller
CLE

S. Marion (9)/Ginobili (57)
1998
Larry Hughes
PHI

Nowitzki (9)/Pierce (10)
1997
Adonal Foyle
GSW

Tracy McGrady (9)
1996
Kerry Kittles
NJN

Kobe Bryant (13)
1995
Shawn Respert
MIL

Michael Finley (21)

There's a pretty wide variety of returns there, ranging from major flops like Rafael Araujo and Joe Alexander to guys like Andre Miller and Channing Frye who had solid careers, and even a couple borderline All-Stars, such as Rudy Gay, Jamal Crawford and...Brandon Knight.  Obviously drafting has more to do with how you scout and prepare and isn't just a matter of raw luck, but by my count, based on the guys above, the Pistons have about a 13/20 (65%) chance of getting a guy who can definitely contribute in the rotation during their career.  The guys I didn't include in that count (Nik Stauskas, Joe Alexander, Rafael Araujo, Chris Wilcox, DeSagana Diop, Adonal Foyle, Shawn Respert) you can mostly attribute to poor scouting.  If you look at the best players who went after those guys in their respective drafts, there was just an issue of taking the wrong guy, with the exception of Stauskas who can't be judged yet.  Think the Warriors regret taking Adonal Foyle over Tracy McGrady?  My point is, that there are going to be opportunities to get a good/great player at #8 or later and that not moving up in the lottery isn't a deal breaker for this off-season.  This isn't the 2013 draft; the Pistons are going to have a great shot at getting a difference-maker.

If you remove the second round picks in the far right column, and average out the draft position of the best player taken after the 8th slot, you get 15.4.  Since it's impossible to pick 15.4th, we'll just round up and say that on average, the best player after the 8th pick went 16th.  You could argue that the Pistons wouldn't be doing themselves a huge disservice by trading down in this year's draft, and the table above and the average slot of the next-best pick support that.  The draft isn't always about having the best pick; it's about having the best scouting and knowing how to recognize value.  It can also be about having more chances to guess right on a guy you think has a high ceiling.  That's the reasoning behind trading down when you don't think you're going to be getting an impact player in the middle of the lottery.

Only one team has two first round picks that slot in behind the 8th pick this year, and that's the Boston Celtics, who own the 16th and 28th picks.  Using my pre-lottery mock draft as a reference, the 16th and 28th picks might yield Bobby Portis and Dakari Johnson, with Stanley Johnson going to the Pistons at 8th.  While Stanley Johnson is a lottery pick for a reason, would you feel that much worse about the Pistons' chances at getting a starter if they traded down and grabbed two solid prospects instead of the one with the higher ceiling?  I'm not sure if I would make that deal straight up, but it's certainly something to think about.

The good news is, the Pistons actually have their pick this year, which gives them plenty of options.  There's a full month between now and the draft for Stan Van Gundy and his front office crew to decide the best course of action.  Unlike past years, I feel confident that the organization will make the best choice going forward as far as how to utilize one of their best assets.