I am a supremely unqualified individual when it comes to analyzing college basketball, but it's that time of year where we hunker down and watch Youtube videos of all the prospects to decide who goes where.
There are people who analyze and parse every minute detail of these 19 and 20-year old kids and we have indeed compiled other mock drafts from various websites and publications here.
Where I may differ slightly is that I'm in the likely minority that the team should draft need over BPA (best player available). There are too many recent lottery picks whose careers have floundered toiling on the bench of teams that did not require their particular set of skills. Derrick Williams, Hasheem Thabeet, and every Sacramento King drafted not named DeMarcus Cousins are a few that come to mind (seriously it's a pretty gruesome list).
So with no further ado, here's my first ever mock draft:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns, C
An interesting time for Minnesota to land the number one overall pick as they actually do have talent at the center position in a draft that's headlined by two potentially elite centers in Towns and Jahlil Okafor. Gorgui Dieng produced gaudy numbers when filling in for the oft-injured Nikola Pekovic on a bad team and Minnesota believes he and Towns have enough skills to play the nominal four.
Towns is the more versatile of the two available bigs, with more shooting range and uncanny skills both on the perimeter and in the post and can defend multiple positions. In a league where more power forwards are evolving into perimeter hybrids, Minnesota may have a real shot to recreate something akin to what the Houston Rockets had with the Hakeem Olajuwon - Ralph Sampson duo of the late 1980s (though Dieng certainly isn't close to as heralded yet).
Minnesota was awful last season, in part, due to a bevy of injuries, and at full strength, fielded a more competitive team. Their future is bright, but Pekovic's contract now looks like an albatross. Oh, did I mention Kevin Garnett is there to be the 2013 Juwan Howard of their team? There isn't a better mentor for Towns in the league.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Jahlil Okafor, C
The number two overall pick has had a bad recent history with names like Evan Turner, Michael Beasley (sorry Mike!), Derrick Williams, and Hasheem Thabeet not lasting very long with the teams that drafted them, but Okafor would be a surefire number one pick in nearly any other draft. For a Lakers team that relied on the "dynamic" Robert Sacre - Carlos Boozer duo, getting a true low-post anchor is a boon for a team that's been in the doldrums.
Okafor has drawn many comparisons to Al Jefferson due to his low post mastery and some questions about his work on the defensive end, but a lot of his development will ultimately depend on how Kobe Bryant adapts to playing with a 19-year old who needs the ball. Getting Steve Nash and Dwight Howard did little to curb Kobe's alpha-dog tendencies, but a few devastating injuries could just cause him to change his approach this go-around.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - D'Angelo Russell, PG/SG
Another D'Angelo is going to work with a team from Philadelphia to create a classic. The 76ers have been much maligned for their recent tanking shenanigans, highlighted by trading Rookie-of-the-Year Michael-Carter Williams, but even though they missed out on a top pick, Russell is exactly what this guard-starved team needed. With Nerlens Noel looking like a completely different player in 2015, Joel Embiid set to debut after a season-long foot injury, and the 6-foot-5 Russell manning the point guard spot, Philadelphia's core suddenly looks very strong. They could make a legitimate case for drafting Russell even if they had a higher draft pick.
4. New York Knicks - Kristaps Porzingis, PF
Many have Emmanuel Mudiay going here, but that would make too much sense now wouldn't it? This is the Knicks we're talking about. While Philadelphia is still at a good spot at number three, the Knicks falling to the fourth pick could be potentially catastrophic down the road for a team that anticipated getting the next Patrick Ewing. Porzingis is a modern 2015 stretch four that would serve as a huge upgrade to what the Knicks trotted out last year, sort of a more athletic Raef LaFrentz who can be a unique player in fantasy (and real life) basketball, but this is a strange gut pick I'm making. Mudiay/Russell make far more sense for the Knicks, but they seem to have a fascination with international players (Mudiay is international too, I suppose).
5. Orlando Magic - Justice Winslow, SF
The Magic might be able to go BPA here as they already have a decent nucleus of young players, but Winslow also may fill a need for them down the road. This was a bad defensive team and Winslow can offer precisely what they need on the perimeter. Pairing him with Victor Oladipo is a scary thought and they could get creative with switches when looking at their potential 1-4 lineup (assuming Tobias Harris accepts his destiny as a stretch four). However, they could also use a center. Nikola Vucevic is a stat stuffer, but not the rim deterrent that a center of his caliber should be.
6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein, C
The third-best center in this draft will never be the offensive player that Okafor and Towns project to be, but he very well may be the best overall defender in the entire draft. The Kings have been playing DeMarcus Cousins at center the past few seasons with Jason Thompson and other journeymen manning the four, but Cauley-Stein would allow Cousins to move back to the PF position, where he is is just as, if not more adept. WC$ fills a glaring need, but as I mentioned earlier, the Kings just seem to be an NBA purgatory for mid-lottery talent.
7. Denver Nuggets - Mario Hezonja, SG/SF
What's most shocking about the Denver Nuggets is how quickly a 55-win team from two seasons ago got so unbelievably boring so quickly. Hezonja should help remedy some of that for a team that has needs all over the place. A high-flying, sweet-shooting Croatian, Hezonja should inject some personality onto a middling Nuggets squad and should form an interesting pairing with the rejuvenated Danilo Gallinari (did you know he scored 47 points in a game this season?). Still, this could change if the rumblings about Ty Lawson being traded ever build up to something meaningful.
8. Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson, SF
Stan drafting a Stan. Sorry Heat fans, my gut says we lose out on Johnson before we get a chance to draft him. Johnson is exactly the kind of player Stan Van Gundy loves, a hard working, NBA ready wing who plays within himself and has the tools to himself become a more athletic Luol Deng-esque third banana. They lack a need for a ball-dominant guard or center with the Reggie Jackson - Andre Drummond pairing being their nucleus for the foreseeable future.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Emmanuel Mudiay, PG/SG
I had this kid slip way more than he likely will in the draft, but he would be a steal for the Hornets. Mudiay is another big guard like Russell with great coast-to-coast skills and an ability to finish at the rim in a way that other Charlotte guards simply could not. His so-so shooting hurts his stock a tad, but his decision to play in China, rather than an American college has led to an air of intrigue about his skills. Scouts assure he is just as good, if not better, than the top prospects in this draft.
10. Miami Heat - Devin Booker, SG
Since the season ended, I drilled into my head that Miami needed a small forward to assist/supplant Luol Deng, but with the draft a month away, I'm not so sure. Drafting a Stanley Johnson or Kelly Oubre to back up Deng doesn't seem like maximizing value. Sure there's no guarantee that Deng stays (heck he could technically opt out now, in which case ignore everything I'm saying), but I'm probably higher than I should be on James Ennis. He looked radically improved from March onward and Booker is the best shooter in the draft and would be on a team that many of us can attest was many times woeful from beyond the arc this season.
A 6'6" two guard, Booker reminds me of JJ Redick (the Clippers edition of course) and defends well thanks to his size at the position. Him backing up Dwyane Wade would give Miami a more unique contrast from their two shooting guards, akin to the Ray Allen years, and he could work well in second units led by Goran Dragic. Being 6'6" and heady as a defender may also allow him to play some small forward if need be.
11. Indiana Pacers - Frank Kaminsky, C/PF
For the Pacers, it seems they are about ready to move on from the Roy Hibbert -David West frontcourt as West doesn't seem to have many years left and Hibbert has underwhelmed, if not outright frustrated, since his 2013 domination of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Kaminsky would be a good pairing with Hibbert as he has more range on his accurate jumper than David West and should be able to create shots offensively for what was punchless offense. A Paul George, Kaminsky, Hibbert frontcourt would have imposing length, but there are a few concerns with Kaminsky's underwhelming wingspan (though he was still a decent shot blocker in college).
12. Utah Jazz - Cameron Payne, PG
Utah has their frontcourt more-or-less set with the emergence of the Stifle Tower aka Rudy Gobert, a great value pick (27th) they traded for last season. They need to shore up their backcourt and Trey Burke and his sub .350 shooting percentages just seem to show he's better suited to be a backup. Payne isn't of the same caliber as the top guards of the draft, but he's a natural who can get others, in this case his young big men in Gobert and Derrick Favors, involved, but is also a good enough shooter to let point forward Gordon Hayward run the show at times while he spots up.
13. Phoenix Suns - Myles Turner, PF
For a team like Phoenix, Turner may have to play center more than power forward to garner any meaningful minutes due to the presence of the Morris twins, but he has the all-around skill set for it to not be a major hinderance. Turner has drawn some comparisons to Chris Bosh thanks to his shooting range (though he did shoot the three ball poorly in his one collegiate season) and was also one of the top shot blockers in the nation. If Alex Len underwhelms, Turner could become a happy medium between what Phoenix recently had in Channing Frye and what they long ago had in Larry Nance.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Kelly Oubre, SF/SG
The Thunder are in a unique spot being in the lottery despite getting two top-five players back next season at full health. They have a glaring hole at the two guard that can't really be filled unless they really reach so Oubre makes some sense here. While he certainly seems to be more of a forward (Kevin Durant happens to play that position), Oubre can offer what Andre Roberson did as a starter defensively without being a complete and utter drain on the offensive end and gives the team athleticism and length that it seems to have been losing in recent years.
Thoughts on how the Heat and other teams should draft? Feel free to comment below