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Mock Draft 1.0: Wolves with top pick should select Towns over Okafor

POSTED: May 20, 2015 12:09 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


2015 NBA Draft Lottery: Glen Taylor Interview

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor talks about winning the number one overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

The big Timberwolves win is now followed by the big Timberwolves decision.

Pick Jahlil Okafor at No. 1, after winning the lottery in New York on Tuesday night? Okafor is the safer pick as Minnesota almost surely chooses between the two big men who have been at the top of Draft boards most of the season, but the Duke center is a pound-it-in low-post threat who does not fit the mold of the Timberwolves who a year ago started to build a foundation around the elite athleticism of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Which may be why Flip Saunders, as head of basketball operations as well as coach, sees Okafor as the right decision, as a counter who would provide a varied offense.

Take Karl-Anthony Towns, after the Timberwolves won the lottery for the first time ever? Front offices see him as having more upside than Okafor, but also with farther to go, making Towns the bigger risk. The Kentucky center-power forward fits more places, though, with the expectation of being able to score from different place and become a better defender.

For now, it's the win that matters. The Timberwolves would have had a future no matter what, with Wiggins coming off his Rookie of the Year, LaVine as second-team All-Rookie and Adreian Payne a late contributor, and now comes another giant step forward. It's just a matter of with which giant.

The updated top 30, after conversations with many front offices and now with team need factored in for the first time:
> Complete coverage of 2015 NBA Draft

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns | Kentucky | C-PF | 7-0 | 250

Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns is at the top of the board because most teams give him the edge, over Okafor and the entire field. The Timberwolves offered no hint in the immediate aftermath of the lottery win, though. There is no reason they should have, either. Bring three or four guys in, get a look at their medical information, get a better feel for their personality, and zero in on the pick with more than enough time before June 25 to build the relationship. It's one of the advantages of picking first.

2. L.A. Lakers

Jahlil Okafor | Duke | C | 6-11 | 270

GameTime: Jahlil Okafor

Jared Greenberg speaks with NBA prospect Jahlil Okafor at the NBA Draft Lottery in New York City.

Julius Randle, if his recovery from a broken leg injury is going well as the Lakers report, and Okafor, is a very good foundation for the future, a power forward and a center who could light up a scoreboard. But it also puts pressure on one of them to develop a mid-range game, probably Randle. Okafor, teams say, will have a long career as a post scorer, but mostly only from the post. He has NBA size, even as a freshman who will continue to get stronger, footwork that surpasses a lot of players with more experience and now a season of handling the bright lights.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

D'Angelo Russell | Ohio State | SG | 6-5 | 175

Draft Combine: D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell talks about how hard it was to leave Ohio State and preparing for the Draft Combine in Chicago.

Never has finishing third felt so good. Leaving the lottery in position to draft one of the two top point guards is a good outcome for a team that already has Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid inside. Russell projects as a player who will score and also distribute as a secondary ball handler at worst and possibly a full-time point guard. He did not look like a freshman, and not just because he quickly established himself as one of the top players in the country. Russell is smooth with an uncommon composure. The NBA loves to see prospects with poise and how it projects to the next level when the pressure increases.

4. New York Knicks

Emmanuel Mudiay | China | PG | 6-5 | 190

A big point guard for Phil Jackson. Perfect. Mudiay has size, athleticism, passing ability and ball handling as a true point guard, adding up to obvious star power. Mudiay was born in the Republic of Congo, was living in Texas and planned to attend SMU, then signed a pro contract in China amid claims (that his family denied) the move was to escape NCAA heat on academic issues. While an ankle injury cost him most of the season in Guangdong, a healthy Mudiay will pop at the select few individual workouts he performs.

5. Orlando Magic

Kristaps Porzingis | Latvia | PF | 7-0 | 220

There is an increasing belief around the league he could break into the top three, with one general manager insisting last week that Porzingis might be the second-best prospect in the draft, after Towns. "He's that good," the GM said. "Nobody says anything bad about him." Porzingis was tracking to the lottery in 2014, before opting for another season in Europe, and his stock has only increased. At 19 years old, he needs to add bulk, but Porzingis can play in transition, shoot and handle.

6. Sacramento Kings

Willie Cauley-Stein | Kentucky | C | 7-0 | 245

Draft Combine: Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein speaks about going through the process at the Draft Combine.

He is an ideal fit next to DeMarcus Cousins as a big who will win games without needing shots. Questions about his passion for the game will not go away, to the point that WCS himself is mentioning the criticism without being asked, but the special level of defense and athleticism could also push him into the top five. "I actually think that Cauley-Stein is a little underrated," one executive said. "I think people have focused so much on his lack of offensive skill that they're not looking at just how good a defender he is." He will head into the draft with preparation unmatched from the college game: three seasons of experience in pressure situations, three seasons against top competition and, best of all, three seasons of Kentucky practices filled with future NBA players.

7. Denver Nuggets

Justise Winslow | Duke | SF | 6-7 | 230

Winslow just turned 19 -- his birthday was March 26 -- so the inconsistent play while stepping into a major program is not much of a surprise. But he strung together better offensive showings later into the season, followed by impressive moments in the tournament, and front offices know he can score in a variety of ways and impact on defense. Oh, and he is just a little bit athletic.

8. Detroit Pistons

Mario Hezonja | Croatia | SG | 6-8 | 215

A welcome addition for a team that needs help on the perimeter. Hezonja, after years of being tracked by the NBA as a top prospect, turned 20 in February and remains as promising as ever. He can score in a variety of ways, including with range, has excellent size for the backcourt or good size for a potential move to small forward, athleticism, and experience against good competition.

9. Charlotte Hornets

Stanley Johnson | Arizona | SF | 6-7 | 245

Don't rule out Devin Booker jumping into the to 10 -- Charlotte is that anxious for a shooter. Johnson provides some of that, at 37.1 percent from behind the arc last season, and the defense as a physical presence with power, speed and the body of a prototype small forward who may be capable of defending as a rookie. He might be physical enough right away to check some power forwards in a small lineup. The tipping-point question: Do the Hornets feel good enough about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's progress as a perimeter threat to move him to shooting guard? Because no one will be drafted to play ahead of MKG.

10. Miami Heat

Myles Turner | Texas | PF-C | 6-11 | 240

He has NBA size as a freshman. He also has a game. Turner can play inside on offense or defense, with the potential to become an impact shot blocker, and a shooting touch on a jumper with range. NBA teams would like to see more explosiveness. If they get so much as a hint of it, it's easy to envision Turner inching up the board.

11. Indiana Pacers

Devin Booker | Kentucky | SG | 6-6 | 205

It would have been difficult, if not impossible, to imagine before the season Booker challenging for the team lead in scoring, before finishing one point off the pace of Aaron Harrison. But his perimeter game was that good, at 47 percent overall and 41.1 behind the arc while adding 82.8 percent from the line. He had one of the biggest climbs up the board in 2014-15 with the kind of shooting the NBA loves to see and good size for his position.

12. Utah Jazz

Frank Kaminsky | Wisconsin | PF | 6-11 | 245

Draft Combine: Frank Kaminsky

Frank Kaminsky joins the show to talk about his experience at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

First, the experience: Kaminsky had four years of facing good competition and a lot of pressure situations in the tournament, including as the best player on the team that came within minutes of a national championship. That will be attractive to a front office looking for an immediate contribution over a prospect who needs more time to develop. The college Player of the Year lacks strength, so defense could be a challenge, but he should be a good complementary player who can shoot, pass and put the ball on the floor.

13. Phoenix Suns

Trey Lyles | Kentucky | PF | 6-10 | 250

Draft Combine: Trey Lyles

Kentucky star Trey Lyles talks with the guys at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

Lyles has advanced skills for a freshman, with range on his jumper, a soft touch, and the kind of footwork others that size would hope to have after two or three years in college. Some big men have to grow into their body. Lyles looks as though he is already there at 19 years old. He played out of position a lot at Kentucky, at small forward to get on the court while the Wildcats also used big men Towns and Cauley-Stein, which was not ideal but did show he has a good feel for the game.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

Cameron Payne | Murray State | PG | 6-2 | 180

Like his predecessor at Murray State, Isaiah Canaan, Payne has a very good feel for the game, a trait always particularly welcome in a point guard. Turning 21 before training camp opens may be a hit to his potential, but teams also see the maturity of someone with a chance to play backup minutes right away. Proving he can handle the pros without ideal strength is one of the keys to his career longevity.

15. Atlanta Hawks

Kelly Oubre | Kansas | SF | 6-6 | 205

Draft Combine: Kelly Oubre

Kansas star Kelly Oubre talks with the guys at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

Oubre has the look of an NBA wing -- the height (though needing to fill out and get stronger), the athleticism, the ability to play in transition and above the rim. His shooting dropped off the second half of the season, all the way to becoming a non-factor in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. He needed a good postseason and didn't get one.

16. Boston Celtics

Sam Dekker | Wisconsin | SF | 6-9 |230

He was one of the stars of the tournament, even with the no-show on both sides of the ball in the championship game, but that was also after failing to show dependable three-point range most all regular season. NBA teams will want to see good shooting results at pre-draft workouts to know for sure which was the aberration. With his size at small forward and the ability to put the ball on the floor, Dekker projects as a versatile offensive threat.

17. Milwaukee Bucks

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | Arizona | SF | 6-7 | 215

Hollis-Jefferson rebounded and blocked shots at a high rate for a wing, a good sign as part of his decision to return to Tucson for a sophomore season despite a very good 2014 tournament. He has always played with that kind of energy. The key will be convincing front offices he has a consistent jump shot, but teams, including Milwaukee, will love the defense.

18. Houston Rockets

Montrezl Harrell | Louisville | PF | 6-8 | 230

Harrell continues to project to somewhere around the middle of the first round, about where he was headed in 2014 before returning to school. Other things have stayed the same as well. He remains a combination of athleticism and effort/energy NBA teams love, a Kenneth Faried-type, down to the position, who will generate wins with his work on the offensive boards and hustle everywhere.

19. Washington Wizards

Jerian Grant | Notre Dame | PG | 6-5 | 205

Draft Combine: Jerian Grant

Notre Dame star Jerian Grant chats with the guys at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

The return to the Fighting Irish after academic issues limited him to 12 games last season was a success. The fifth-year senior -- son of Harvey Grant, nephew of Horace, brother of 76er rookie Jerami -- generates offense, for teammates as a true point guard and for himself while continuing to improve as a shooter. Becoming a consistent three-point threat would be an important next step. No matter what, he is the example of when staying in school can help a prospect's stock.

20. Toronto Raptors

Kevon Looney | UCLA | PF-SF | 6-9 | 220

The concern among front offices is that he is a tweener. Looney turned 19 in February, so there is time to bulk up, and he is already very productive on the boards, gathering 9.2 rebounds in 30.9 minutes. He can handle power forward in that regard. Showing a hint of three-point range with limited opportunities is a nice look on the resumè. Looney, naturally, insists he can be successful at either position.

21. Dallas Mavericks

Tyus Jones | Duke | PG | 6-1 | 185

The lack of physical gifts teams prefer -- athleticism, size -- is a hit to the draft stock. But what a gifted distributor. Jones has great instincts, especially for a freshman, sees the court, plays at different speeds, and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.16-1 through Jan. 21. This is from the Tyler Ennis-Kendall Marshall book of playing with control, not flash. The starring role in the championship game was just a chance for more people to see it. The other reason Dallas would like Jones: He's not Rajon Rondo.

22. Chicago Bulls

Bobby Portis | Arkansas | PF | 6-11| 230

Portis can fit in the stretch-four mold, someone who can make a shot with range (though not yet out to the three-point line) and pass. That's good, and also a potential problem. Is he simply a tweener?

23. Portland Trail Blazers

Delon Wright | Utah | PG | 6-5 | 190

Wright has size, can deliver the ball to the right place at the right time and defends, plus has the added value of being more NBA-ready than a lot of the players who will be picked before him. The two seasons in a major conference and two at a junior college will be a selling point to some front offices. The brother of Trail Blazer Dorell Wright was sixth in the Pacific 12 in blocks last season as a junior despite playing in the backcourt.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

Justin Anderson | Virginia | SF-SG | 6-6 | 225

Draft Combine: Justin Anderson Interview

Virginia star Justin Anderson talks about his experience at the Draft Combine.

This is the Justin Anderson the NBA had waited to see. It took until his junior season, but Anderson added a three-point game to become a scoring threat, shooting 45.2 percent from behind the arc. That and his work on the other side of the ball makes him a 3D prospect -- three-pointers and defense, a good combination for a wing.

25. Memphis Grizzlies

R.J. Hunter | Georgia State | SG | 6-5 | 185

Hunter shot to public prominence in the NCAA tournament after helping Georgia State upset third-seeded Baylor in the first round, but front offices knew of him long before. That means they're also aware of the big drop on three-point percentage, from 39.5 in 2013-14 to 30.5 last season, and overall, from 44.4 to 39.5. Hunter said it's because defenses put so much energy into stopping him. The Grizzlies need to become more of a threat from behind the arc.

26. San Antonio Spurs

Jarell Martin | LSU | PF | 6-10 | 242

He has good strength and plays hard, with the ability to out-run slower power forwards. The pros generally regard rebounding as a skill the mostly translates to the NBA, and Martin recorded 9.2 boards in 35.1 minutes an outing while also leading the Tigers in scoring. Adding to the appeal on offense, he has played more on the perimeter facing the basket (when LSU had Johnny O'Bryant last season) and inside (this season).

27. L.A. Lakers

Christian Wood | UNLV | PF | 6-11 | 220

While the lack of muscle is an immediate concern, with the possibility he will add bulk in time, the NBA sees a lot of upside on offense in particular. Wood has range on his shot or can put the ball on the floor to get to the basket, part of the development of going from a small role as a freshman to a breakout 2014-15. He can handle well enough, in fact, that Wood is selling the potential of becoming a point forward in the Giannis Antetokounmpo mold.

28. Boston Celtics

Chris McCullough | Syracuse | PF | 6-10 | 220

While he needs to bulk up at power forward after one college season, McCullough can build on the very promising foundation of mobility for the position and the ability to play above the rim. That chance to impact in transition and play inside despite the lack of muscle, especially in rebounding, is a unique package that has turned him into a possibility for the first round.

29. Brooklyn Nets

Cliff Alexander | Kansas | PF | 6-9 | 255

The NBA doesn't care that he has not played since Feb. 23 as the NCAA investigates the potential of extra benefits, unless there is a hint of a pattern of problems. On the court, Alexander is a tough, athletic big man with the potential to become an inside force while needing to develop a game beyond the restricted area. This is when limited experience, having only seriously played basketball since high school, works in his favor. Alexander can sell how far he has come in a relatively brief time and that his obvious passion on the court is a sign of his determination to get better.

30. Golden State Warriors

Rashad Vaughn | UNLV | SG | 6-5 | 200

Golden State can use a shooter for the second unit and Vaughn has a perimeter game with decent three-point range. There will be many big-man options for the Warriors' bench as well, including talented but troubled Robert Upshaw as the most intriguing of the options and also Dakari Johnson and Jordan Mickey.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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