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Top 5 Draft Prospects by Position

Sam Smith breaks down the potential future stars of the 2015 draft

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By Sam Smith | 6.22.2015 | 9:10 a.m. CT

Next act for the NBA is the future stars, and this 2015 draft on Thursday may have some.

There’s much anticipation and then often disappointment about recent NBA drafts because so many college freshman and teenagers, who dominate the top of these drafts, are not ready to step into a prime role in the NBA.

But this draft Thursday could prove an exception.

The general thinking for teams is they expect to get a starter in the top five, a top six to seven rotation player from five through 10 and then after that in the rest of the first round to hope for an upset. It’s not that unusual, as shown in Sunday’s Bulls.com draft story in a look back at the top drafts between 2003 and 2012.

Jimmy Butler, the No. 30 pick in 2011, is about to earn a maximum salary contract from the Bulls; however, players like Butler selected at the end of the first round are the exceptions.

But it is a potential star level top five in this draft with three big men and two point guards whom NBA executives say could be All-Stars within the next five years. There aren’t many drafts that boast that level of top talent.

The two top international players, center Kristaps Porzingis and wingman Mario Hezonja, are both regarded as can’t miss prospects despite traditional wariness about overhyped international players like Darko Milicic and Nikoloz Tskitishvili. There are players who supposedly can step in and help a good team, like Duke’s Justise Winslow and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. And there’ll be a run on point guards with teams like the Pacers, Thunder and Rockets in the market.

The Celtics and Lakers are the only teams with two first rounders, and most GMs expect the Celtics to be a big trade player this week in trying to move up and move players and one of the draft picks. The Celtics have multiple second rounders while the 76ers have five second rounders and certainly aren’t using all of them. And in an oddity, there are probably a half dozen left handed players who figure to be first round picks. Whatever that means.

Here’s a look at the best players by position:

Point Guard:

  1. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, 193. Generally regarded as the most ready point guard to help if not necessarily the best with long range possibilities. Considered an excellent passer and good shooter, if not a great athlete. The early belief after the lottery was the 76ers would jump on him or maybe even the Lakers, though it’s possible now he could fall to the Knicks at No. 4
  2. Emmanuel Mudiay, Congo/China, 6-5, 195. A big, physical, natural point guard in the Deron Williams mold given his size and feel for the game. His shot is a problem, though not considered fatally broken. Considered high character and perhaps able to one day emerge as the star of the draft. Probably won’t fall lower than the Kings at No. 6.
  3. Cameron Payne, Murray State, 6-2, 182. Another high character kid and natural point guard and leader. Another of the many left handers in the draft and given the size and style of play draws comparisons to Mike Conley. The Thunder at No. 14 are said anxious to get him and perhaps will have to move up to do so.
  4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-4, 198. Son of former NBA player Harvey Grant, nephew of former Bull Horace and brother of 76ers’ Jerami. Sat out a year at Notre Dame on an academic technicality, so he’s older at 23. His brother has the size and athletic ability and he is the more skilled. Combined they’d be amazing. Probably more a combo guard who can be an NBA point with his passing and also is a big shot maker.
  5. Tyus Jones, Duke, 6-2, 184. A more classic passing point guard and floor leader, though a bit small. Considered poised and a winner with his collegiate experience. Not considered a top athlete but smart and good in the pick and roll and decision making. Several teams in the teens like the Thunder, Rockets and into the 20s like the Bulls looking for point guard help.

Shooting Guard:

  1. Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6-6, 206. Talked about as maybe the best shooter in a weak shooting guard draft. No one is talking Ray Allen here. He’s young and not the great athlete or defender. But shooting is so vital these days and he may not get past awful shooting Charlotte.
  2. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV, 6-5, 200. Another young guy, second youngest to Booker. Had injury issues with a torn meniscus and basically a very good catch and shoot or spot up shooter.
  3. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, 6-6, 185. Got a big boost with big shooting in the NCAA tournament. Regarded as a high level shooter, but a bit wild in his shot selection and as a result his percentages dropped dramatically last season. But good size and you get the sense he’ll make plays.
  4. Norman Powell, UCLA, 6-4, 215. More an athlete than a shooter, which isn’t great for the definition of the position. So likely will fall to the second round. Good character, tough and a high level athlete.
  5. Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington, 6-4, 181. Big time scorer who played against most smaller time competition. Another of the many shooting lefties in this draft. Averaged 22 points and shot about 44 percent on threes, but some mock drafts don’t even have him listed in first two rounds. Other shooting guards who could be top five but are considered second rounders include Pat Connaughton, J.P. Tokoto and Josh Richardson.

Small Forward:

  1. Justise Winslow, Duke, 6-7, 222. Another of the southpaws. A big time athlete and considered one of the players most ready, which was why there were some rumors about Knicks interest. Very good all around player who a decent shot and physical strength. Certainly a top six or seven pick.
  2. Mario Hezonja, Croatia/Spain, 6-7, 200. He’s a wild card of sorts because he hasn’t played that much overseas, which draws concern. But great physical gifts, toughness, aggressive and excellent shooter. May actually be more of a shooting guard with his shot and probably doesn’t fall past a rebuilding Denver team.
  3. Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6-6, 242. Physical and strong player with great size. Somewhere between a Larry Johnson and Shawn Marion type. Terrific in transition with long arms and would make sense for a team like the Pistons needing a small forward.
  4. Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6-7, 203. Good athlete with size and long arms, though more a future pick given he didn’t play that much in his one season in college. But a player who’ll hustle and improving defender.
  5. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6-9, 220. Got a boost from the NCAA tournament run. Excellent size and a better athlete than he looks to be and a likely good role player. Decent spot up shooter who one scout likened to an Eric Piatkowski type and also could interest a team like the Pistons. Virginia’s Justin Anderson is a much improved shooter and big time athlete whom some scouts prefer over Dekker and Oubre and could move up.

Power Forward:

  1. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia/Spain, 7-1, 220. The mystery man of the draft as some say his talent is enough to make him the top overall pick. He won’t be, but in five years will he be? Huge with two-way ability in long distance shooting and shot blocking. Lately the buzz has been the 76ers even with all their picks of bigs will pass guards again and take him.
  2. Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6-10, 242. More the versatile type than the great athlete. Smart player and worker who has been good enough at times even with amazing length to play small forward.
  3. Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, 246. More of a face up big with legitimate NBA size and a high energy player. Good going to the offensive boards and considered a mentally tough player.
  4. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6-8, 253. Another of the prototype Louisville players, a great athlete not highly skilled who will work hard and attack the backboards and run the floor. Undersized, which makes it tough to find a sure NBA role.
  5. Kevon Looney, UCLA, 6-9, 222. Another of those considered more for the future. Great length and a decent shooter who needs to fill out. Top rebounder who gets to the offensive boards.

Center:

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 7-0, 250. Generally considered the consensus No. 1 pick given his all around ability with shooting from outside and the ability to defend. Long and athletic and lately the thinking has been Minnesota will take him, though Duke’s Okafor is the better post offensive player and also appealing to coach/gm Flip Saunders.
  2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, 275. The most talented offensive big man in the draft who is a high level low post threat who you can play off and huge wingspan. Moves well, though hasn’t shot free throws. Intriguing if Minnesota takes Towns as with Julius Randle, another low post scorer and limited defender like Okafor would the Lakers become that much a half court, slow team?
  3. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-0, 242. This year’s version of Joakim Noah. Hustling, defensive player who runs the floor with no post game and not much offensive game of any sort. Can probably guard all five positions and a quirky guy who likes to change his name and dye his hair and could also be a Defensive Player of the Year. Would be interesting with DeMarcus Cousins, but coach George Karl likes offense.
  4. Myles Turner, Texas, 7-0, 240. A face up big guy who can step right into a pick and pop game. AS he comes from Texas, the comparisons are simple and sound like when LaMarcus Aldridge was coming out. Maybe not tough enough, more an outside jump shooter and he’s probably longer than Aldridge. Still needs to fill out. Young big men take longer to develop.
  5. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-1, 231. Popular Chicago kid who is an intriguing prospect with his size and ability to shoot outside. Questions abound as whether he can defend. More of a Channing Frye type floor spacer ready to play and tough and there’s the Suns right there at No. 13 needing to replace Frye.

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