While it isn’t always heavily embraced by the top draft prospects, the NBA Draft Combine is beginning this coming week and it seems like a good time for some predictions on where the top prospects will actually end up at the beginning of the 15/16 NBA Season. This combine will prove a make or break situation for a lot of young athletes but the star-studded class of 2015 has a few notable players that chose not to take part in the proceedings. Top prospects Jahlil Okafor, Karl Towns, and D’Angelo Russell have decided to forgo the trials and focus on training individually and in tight training groups. All of these decisions lead up to one event, however – the draft. Regardless of their participation in the combine, these players will or won’t be drafted, and this list is just a quick speculation about what’s going on in the minds of NBA shot callers.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6’11”, PF/C, Freshman
This pick makes the most sense based on a slew of attributes possessed by Towns, most notably his defensive proficiency. His athleticism, size, defensive capability, and ability to stretch the floor make him a perfect fit for the wolves. Pairing Towns with reigning rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins, expect a fast, tough, and athletic style of play from the young duo. For some perspective on their age, together Wiggins and Towns are 36 days younger than Tim Duncan, and two years younger than Jason Kidd; that’s some real potential.
2. New York Knicks: Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6’11”, C, Freshman
Arguably the best prospect overall, Okafor brings a slow but extremely polished skill set to the disgustingly bad Knicks front court. In college he drew double teams, triple teams, and at one point had all five players guarding him and was still able to get a nice bucket or two. He finished the year with the most double-doubles in NCAA DI and second in AP player of the year voting and was the ACC Player of the Year. If the Knicks don’t take him here, the next team on the board will immediately jump on him.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6’5″, PG/SG, Freshman
Without a single half-way decent point guard around and most likely both of the elite level bigs taken off of the board at this point, the Sixers will be deciding between top tier ball handlers D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay. Although Russell took the college basketball world by storm this year as a freshman, throwing up big shots and fancy passes seemingly every game, don’t be surprised if the 76ers do pass on him. Having played in the pros in China for one year and a million dollars after decommitting from SMU, Mudiay can bring in toughness and pro readiness to a lacking offense. In the end, I would take Russell because he’s proven, he’s nasty, and he is the best point guard I’ve ever seen play basketball in person, but anything can happen in a draft as stacked as this one.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Emmanuel Mudiay, China, 6’5″, PG, 1996
Rather than picking up their two most coveted guards in Rondo and Goran Dragic, Showtime will end up taking the intriguing “international” prospect from China. Like I said before this kid is a grinder, who gets to the hoop and draws fouls on everything. He’s mimics James Harden, but worse. Ultimately, there are some attitude problems and clearly he needs to work on his jumper after shooting a China League worst 16.7 percent over five games played. However, he’s got a lot of potential to work with and is one of the better above-the-rim athletes in the draft and I would be content having my hometown team snag the young talent, after all, he’s only 18.
5. Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow, Duke, 6’6″, SF, Freshman
The Orlando Magic have been clearly building an identity over the past few drafts. Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Victor Oladipo are all the same type of player and adding another twin in Winslow makes sense. Their new athletic, above the rim style is sure to offer both a lot of future potential in great athletes as well as immediate revenue in tickets for the next log city. Winslow was by far my favorite player in college this year, coming out of a developmental power house in Duke and having freak athleticism as well as a great rebounding, shooting, and on-ball touch; this kid has a lot to like about him. Oh yeah, and he jumped over a guy to block him one time.
All of these next picks are need-based, not necessarily based on actual merit as I do have higher guys on my board. I also have a rule for never taking international prospects in the top ten so half this list really makes me a little agitated. The Kings, at pick six, need a frontcourt player to pair with Demarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, ‘nuff said. The Nuggets had success with an international prospect last year so although it is a gamble, I understand why they would choose to play the cards on Mario Hezonja. The hornets are not only filling a great need but also getting a great player. Having met Stanley Johnson at a high school tournament back in Cali, I love him. He’s athletic, energetic and an extremely hard worker; he can score all the way out to the three point line and put out dunks- just check out his mixtape bruh. This is just the top nine but other notable prospects are Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, and Georgia State’s own hometown hero R.J. Hunter. Expect all of them to be in consideration for at least the bottom five of these top ten.