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Draft part of overall NBA proving ground for prospects

POSTED: Jun 22, 2015 12:55 PM ET

By Craig Sager

BY Craig Sager

NBA on TNT Reporter


Jahlil Okafor and other top prospects have more work to do regardless of where they're picked in the 2015 Draft.

A cloud of secrecy hovers over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who hold the No. 1 overall pick in the June 25 NBA Draft. The decision will be made by Flip Saunders, the team's part-owner, president of basketball operations and coach. They are all one in the same and the sole entity for the Wolves' checks-and-balances is tight-lipped over which direction he is leaning.

GameTime: Karl-Anthony Towns

Get a inside look at the Kentucky Wildcats top draft prospect Karl-Anthony Towns.

Although the Draft consists of two rounds, only the 30 selected in the first round receive guaranteed contracts. According to Blue Ribbon College Yearbook's Chris Dortch, there are 87 viable players who could be drafted, but Minnesota's top choice appears to be among a trio of potential game changers.

Karl-Anthony Towns, a face-up shooter out of Kentucky who can dominate the defensive end as a rebounder and shot blocker. Jahlil Okafor, whose rebounding and variety of offensive skills led Duke to the 2014-15 NCAA title. And lastly, D'Angelo Russell, a good 3-point shooter, passer and emerging defender out of Ohio State. The name of Minnesota's top choice likely will be withheld by Saunders until the night of the 25th.

NBA Rooks: Jahlil Okafor

Just a few months after winning an NCAA Championship at Duke, top prospect Jahlil Okafor is drawing on that experience to propel him forward toward his new career.

The Los Angeles Lakers have the second pick and are looking at the same nucleus of players as Minnesota, but with additional picks at No. 27 and No. 34, the Lakers have widened their scope. Most teams tend to bring in 10-15 players for extensive pre-Draft interviews and individual work-outs, but the Lakers may have set a turnstile record with 83 official player visits. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak admits it may have been a case of overload, but after a 21-61 finish -- the team's worst since moving to L.A. in 1960 -- help is needed at virtually every position.

There is not a direct correlation between where a player is drafted and immediate success in the NBA. Hall of Fame analyst and former NBA coach Hubie Brown says team and opportunity can be as important to a rookie as talent and desire -- with minutes and field goal attempts opening up specialties and chances to be showcased.

NBA Rooks: D'Angelo Russell

After being named a consensus first-team All-American as a freshman at Ohio State, D'Angelo Russell is working hard to succeed at the next level.

Only once in the past 15 years has a player been the consensus No. 1 Draft pick and the unanimous choice as Rookie of the Year (Blake Griffin, 2010-11). The last rookie to receive 100 percent of the first-place votes was Damian Lillard in 2012-13, but five players had been selected before him in the 2012 Draft: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, and Thomas Robinson.

In his rookie season, Kevin Durant (the second pick of the 2007 Draft) averaged 20.3 points a game and immediately established himself as a franchise player. Greg Oden, who went No. 1 overall to the Portland Trail Blazers, never made an impact in the NBA.

The 2014 Draft was touted as one of the greatest in NBA history, yet at the end of the season, Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins was the only one of the top five picks to make the All-Rookie Team.

The Draft is by no means foolproof and on the night of June 25 there will be plenty of time to debate and dispute who was drafted and when. Statistics are no substitute for judgment and in the words of late NBA Director of Scouting Marty Blake: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Craig Sager is an analyst and sideline reporter for TNT.