Sam Smith's 2015 NBA Mock Draft
Sam Smith previews the 2015 NBA Draft
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By Sam Smith | 5.20.2015 | 9:30 a.m.
So how do the Bulls get Frank Kaminsky? Or Jerian Grant? Or Tyus Jones?
We find out June 25 in the NBA draft.
But Tuesday just before the Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the NBA conducted its lottery drawing. The Minnesota Timberwolves with the greatest odds by having the poorest record landed the No. 1 pick. The Los Angeles Lakers moved up in the drawing to No. 2 while the New York Knicks sunk back to No. 4. New York had the second poorest record. The Philadelphia 76ers stayed at No. 3. Otherwise, the lottery order remained according to record.
It’s not likely the Bulls get too involved in this draft with the No. 22 pick in the first round. The Bulls second round pick goes to Orlando as part of the Doug McDermott deal last year to clear salary cap room by trading Anthony Randolph.
The Bulls probably will just end up using their No. 22 pick, which should produce a competent backup player. After all, the Bulls have been one of the best teams in the league for finding talent with late first round picks. Three of their current eight rotation players were drafted between Nos. 23 and 30 with Nikola Mirotic No. 23 in 2011, Taj Gibson No. 26 in 2009 and Jimmy Butler No. 30 in 2011.
Perhaps the bigger issue is the Bulls already have arguably too many young players. And a lottery pick in McDermott, who basically didn’t play this season. McDermott played just 321 minutes in 36 games. In the Bulls 12 playoff games, McDermott played in just three for a total of 9:33. The Bulls cashed in two first round draft picks last year to move up to No. 11 to select McDermott.
So McDermott will surely have a regular role this season. It’s basically unprecedented not to even give a lottery pick a chance for two years. Plus, Mirotic in his first playoffs had a tough time. After a brilliant March and finish of the season and making all-rookie and Rookie of the Year runnerup, Mirotic averaged 5.7 points in the playoffs. He shot 30.3 percent overall and 23.3 percent on threes. He obviously needs some regular playing time. And so does Tony Snell, who averaged just 3.9 points in the playoffs. Snell shot 34 percent overall averaging 12 minutes played. Mirotic averaged about 15 minutes per game.
The Bulls still have their veteran core in Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich. But the team has several inexperienced players to begin working into the rotation. So it would seem unlikely they’d make a big move to add another rookie, especially when McDermott will essentially be having his rookie season again.
The Bulls don’t have a history of moving up in the draft, especially using players to do so. They did last year because they had the two first round picks, their own at No. 19 and Charlotte’s from the Tyrus Thomas trade in the rare season, unfortunate for the Bulls, that the Hornets made the playoffs. The Bulls swapped Nos. 16 and 19 with Denver for the rights to No. 11 to take McDermott. Denver used the picks for Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris. It still looks like a good deal for the Bulls even if they misused, or failed to use, McDermott this past season.
The Bulls haven’t gotten lucky as they negotiated the right to swap draft picks with the Cavaliers this season from the Luol Deng trade. But then LeBron James returned to Cleveland and the Cavs predictably ended with a lower pick than the Bulls’. So they won’t pursue that. The Bulls from that same Deng trade also got a Sacramento first protected one through 10. The Bulls won’t get the pick this season as the Kings got the No. 6 pick. But the Bulls still have the rights to the Kings pick in 2016 and 2017 if it is not top 10. With George Karl in as coach, the chances are the Kings could move out of the bottom 10 in the league.
Still, that leaves the Bulls with basically just No. 22 for this season.
Would it be worth it to trade their pick and, say, someone like Gibson, to move up four or five or maybe eight spots to get someone like local star Kaminsky or teammate Sam Dekker? Gibson’s name has come up nationally in conjecture as perhaps the player, if not likely to be traded, then most speculated upon.
That’s likely to continue as the Bulls have a crowd up front and probably want to find a more regular role at shooting power forward for Mirotic. But any trade could prove risky since Noah has had knee problems and enters the final season of his contract in 2015-16. Plus, Gasol turns 35 this summer and has played about 40,000 minutes in his career. It would be a big risk to move Gibson for potential when there is little assurance about the futures of Noah and Gasol.
Mike Dunleavy and Aaron Brooks are unrestricted free agents. Their returns are uncertain given Brooks probably earned above the minimum deal he has with the Bulls and while the Bulls value Dunleavy they have McDermott and Snell in line at small forward waiting for playing time. The Bulls are expected to settle a contract or match any offer for Butler. He could sign a modest one-year qualifying offer and then become an unrestricted free agent able to choose his destination after next season. But it would seem an outsized risk to pass up tens of millions of dollars for a second consecutive season and risk injury. By all accounts, the Bulls want to make a deal. Kirk Hinrich has an option for next season he is expected to pick up to return. E’Twaun Moore likely will return as the Bulls have an option and Nazr Mohammed could try to play another season, though it would be unclear where. He also was underutilized this past season.
Here a first, early look at the first round up to and including the Bulls pick:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, 275. Most NBA executives seem to prefer Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns as the top pick and prospect because of his versatility. But the ‘wolves, who got the 2013 and 2014 No. 1 overall draft picks in the Kevin Love trade, have been rumored for awhile interested in the Chicago product for their anemic offense.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 7-0, 250. They’re not likely to break through to the playoffs quite yet, but they are the early draft winner. They faced losing their pick altogether by falling to six. Instead, they had the big jump and can get a big man to complement injured 2014 Kentucky rookie Julius Randle. It would be a big time start to a return to being the Lakers.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, 193. The losers again, which has been their habit, though this time they weren’t trying. They had an outside chance to get three lottery picks if the Lakers and Heat slipped. Instead, they end with one and basically get to replace Michael Carter-Williams. Russell’s a good addition with versatile skills.
4. New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay, Congo/China, 6-5, 200. OK, maybe they were bigger losers. The Knicks had to blow off the season after basically falling apart. Then the hope became getting a big man for Phil Jackson’s rebuilding project. OK, plan B. Mudiay is regarded by some executives as maybe the elite talent of the draft. But Jackson isn’t building for five years from now with Carmelo Anthony. The pick will be in play, but since Jackson needs a star from the draft he likely won’t be offered enough. Hey, Walt Frazier was young once and from Southern Illinois, which can like a foreign country.
5. Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow, Duke, 6-6, 222. They’re putting together a lot of young talent for some coach. There’s a lot of talk for this point in the draft about the two talented international players, Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja. But they’ve had enough adding talent. They have to start to make a move, and though you don’t do it much with rookies figure they go for the talented player who is closer to ready.
6. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-1, 242. You could make a joke out of this one as he’s kind of a flake, dying his hair for the interviews and changing his name. What a perfect team for him to join with DeMarcus Cousins, eh? But as an elite defender, especially for his size, he’s an ideal fit with Cousins. New GM Vlade Divac says the Kings need to have more fun. He should help.
7. Denver Nuggets: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 6-11, 220. They need talent just about everywhere and he’s supposedly the most available. This is how impressive Nikola Mirotic has been. He’s compared with Mirotic. He’s a deep shooting, albeit skinny, power forward. Mike D’Antoni is a possible coaching replacement and would fit his style of play. They’ll hope no one recalls the Nikoloz Tskitishvili pick.
8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6-6, 242. It’s probably time to move beyond Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince. He’s a strong guy, tough and with an all around solid game for a building team that has a shot at making the playoffs this season.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6-6 206. Shooting, shooting, shooting. Hey, did anyone mention shooting for them? It’s a hard working team that just can’t find anyone, or enough guys, to make shots. A good defender as well who should be a good fit.
10. Miami Heat: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-1, 231. The local product will be a nice addition with a smart team that executes offense. Chris Bosh will return, so he can team with him as both are versatile and can shoot. A mature guy ready to play, tall but short armed. But smart.
11. Indiana Pacers: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-4, 198. Good genes as Harvey’s son and Horace’s nephew and a big time playmaker. They most need a point guard. He’s got good size and also can make shots, a heck of an addition for a team getting Paul George back and ready to be back in contention for the Eastern title.
12. Utah Jazz: Cameron Payne, Murray State, 6-2, 183. They’ve pretty much got all their positions except point guard, though they’ve drafted a few with that title if not that game. They made a strong move at the end of last season and if they can get a point guard who is a playmaker they can knock on the playoff door.
13. Phoenix Suns: Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6-10, 242. It was tough to rate all those Kentucky guys with their two platoon system. But he’s a polished big man who can produce with good size and strength, both needed with the small ball Suns.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mario Hezonj, Croatia, 6-7, 200. He’s considered a big time small forward talent, though playing in Spain and perhaps he doesn’t even come to the NBA this season. Some executives see him as a top five talent. And with Kevin Durant returning they probably can wait more than others as they’ve been known for taking risks that work out.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Myles Turner, Texas, 6-11 239. Something you don’t hear much about top prospects is uncertainty about the way he runs and if he has to work on that. Everyone says it can be fixed. OK. He’s big and long and the Hawks don’t have much of that with this gift pick from the Nets. Also he has good shooting range to fit their style.
16. Boston Celtics: Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, 246. Big guy with a skilled game. And they probably won’t get Kevin Love this summer. Has NBA size and a solid face up game.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6-9, 219. Local favorite from the NCAA runs who is a shot maker and a good athlete to go with a developing young team with an emphasis on guys that size who can play multiple defensive positions.
18. Houston Rockets: Tyus Jones, Duke, 6-2 185. Selection from the Pelicans. The Rockets badly need a point guard and he’s a favorite of the pros and could move up from here given his aggressive play possibilities. Though not very big, the pros love his leadership abilities.
19. Washington Wizards: Kevon Looney, UCLA, 6-9, 222. Not necessarily because Gortat said so, but they need a front court guy who can stretch the floor. He’s probably the best there is this far down in the draft.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6-7, 203. An athlete who can defend and fit in at small forward. They haven’t quite found a role for Terrence Ross and perhaps they could look to move him for a big man with adding a small forward.
21. Dallas Mavericks: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State 6-6: 185. The best shooter left and we know how popular that is in the NBA these days. They’ll be all about free agency again, so who knows what the roster will look like. So shooting is good.
22. Bulls: Delon Wright, Utah, 6-6, 181. Fits the Bulls profile of a senior ready to contribute. Not because Derrick Rose’s health is an issue, but you always need insurance and you need a backup. He’s got good size, defends, is mature and projects as a solid rotation reserve.
There are other picks to be made, but we’ll be waiting for Gar at this point.