The Chronicle's 2015 NBA Mock Draft



With the NBA draft hours away, five of The Chronicle's current and former editors in the sports department give their final predictions for tonight's draft, including the landing spots of the four former Duke players, their predicted lottery picks and their take on who will be the draft's biggest potential bust, biggest steal and Rookie of the Year.

Ryan Hoerger

V. 111 Sports Editor and V. 110 Sports Managing Editor

Duke Picks

Jahlil Okafor: 2nd, Los Angeles Lakers. If Karl-Anthony Towns goes first overall to Minnesota, Okafor is the logical pick for a Lakers team that desperately needs a scoring big man. With the opportunity to go to a winning franchise, glean some insights from Kobe Bryant and avoid the harsh Minnesota winters, going No. 2 might suit Okafor just fine.

Justise Winslow: 5th, Orlando Magic. Winslow has an NBA frame at a built 6-foot-6 and a relentless will to attack the basket, two skills that will take him a long way in the pros. The Magic have a young nucleus with Victor Oladipio, Elfrid Payton, a presumably-healthy Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic—Winslow could fit in nicely as the small forward there.

Tyus Jones: 18th, Houston Rockets. When Patrick Beverley went down with a season-ending wrist injury in March, the Rockets were left with limited options in the backcourt with James Harden. They made it to the Western Conference Finals with the aging Jason Terry, but Jones would provide them with a savvy facilitator who won't shy away from the big moment.

Quinn Cook: 59th, Atlanta Hawks. Cook is a grinder, and at his size he'll have to do that even more in the NBA. The Hawks built their 60-win season in 2014-15 around grinders, doing the little things well to be successful as a unit. With the leadership and selflessness he showed as a senior in Durham, Cook fits that mold perfectly. It's also very possible that he'll have to find a way to summer ball as an undrafted free agent.

Lottery Order:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D'Angelo Russell

4. New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay

5. Orlando Magic: Justise Winslow

6. Sacramento Kings: Kristaps Porzingis

7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

9. Charlotte Hornets: Trey Lyles

10. Miami Heat: Willie Cauley-Stein

11. Indiana Pacers: Sam Dekker

12. Utah Jazz: Devin Booker

13. Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevon Looney

Biggest bust potential: Devin Booker. The former Kentucky sharp-shooter spent the year in John Calipari's platoon system, averaging 10.0 points in 21.5 minutes per game. He's been touted as the best shooter in the draft by ESPN's Jay Bilas, and that probably is true—Booker shot 41.1 percent from downtown as a freshman. He's got size at 6-foot-6, so he could end up being a great pro. But with the limited sample size as a one-and-done in a platoon system, I'm wary.

Biggest steal: Russell and Mudiay are touted for their size as point guards and both will likely go in the top 10. But whoever nabs Notre Dame's Jerian Grant is going to get a tall, crafty point guard who can create his own shot from anywhere on the floor. After watching him drain a 3-pointer from inside the shamrock at Purcell Pavilion in person back in January, I can testify to that.

Rookie of the Year: Okafor. He comes in as the most polished player in the draft, and that should make an immediate impact for a Lakers team that finished 21-61 last season. He likely won't see the strong double-teams he saw at Duke, and his footwork at 6-foot-11 could produce a nightly double-double right off the bat.

Brian Pollack

V. 111 Sports Managing Editor

Duke Picks:

Jahlil Okafor: No. 2, Los Angeles Lakers. There’s been speculation recently about Okafor falling further down the board, but he’s still the most polished offensive player in the draft. Drafting Okafor gives the Lakers another weapon to aid Kobe Bryant as he gears up for one last run, but also allows them to start building a solid foundation for life after Kobe.

Justise Winslow: No. 7, Denver Nuggets. He’s going to look tempting for the Knicks at No. 4, but ultimately I think Phil Jackson opts for the Latvian Kristaps Porzingis, who fits well as a big in Jackson’s famous triangle offense. This leaves Winslow there for the Nuggets to scoop up at No. 7, where he adds another asset to a lineup that already boasts a wide array of scoring options.

Tyus Jones: No. 21, Dallas Mavericks. The Rajon Rondo experiment has been rocky, to say the least, for Mark Cuban, and Jones is the type of reliable ball-handler who can bring some stability to the situation.

Quinn Cook: Late second round. Cook helped himself tremendously by reinventing himself the summer before his senior year, both on the court and as a leader in the locker room. The hard work paid off as he led Duke to a national title, and now Cook projects as a nice role player for a team looking to add depth.

Lottery order:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell

4. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis

5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja

6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay

7. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow

8. Detroit Pistons: Devin Booker

9. Charlotte Hornets: Willie Cauley-Stein

10. Miami Heat: Sam Dekker

11. Indiana Pacers: Stanley Johnson

12. Utah Jazz: Trey Lyles

13. Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne

  • Biggest bust potential: Kristaps Porzingis. The 6-foot-11 Latvian has seen his stock skyrocket leading up to the draft, but I’m not quite sure why. European-born lottery picks have fared miserably in the past decade or so, and Porzingis seems like the next in line of a growing list of highly-touted, underachieving prospects. His wiry frame is far from NBA material, and even those who believe in his potential admit he will need at least two years before he can be a major contributor. There are just too many question marks to merit the lofty draft status.
  • Biggest steal: Stanley Johnson. He came up small in Arizona’s Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin and hasn’t been talked about a ton in the pre-draft analysis, but Johnson was one of the top freshmen in the country last year. His 6-foot-7 frame will make the physical transition to the NBA easier, and the all-around game he displayed in college will play well with a gritty Pacers squad.
  • Rookie of the Year: Okafor. The Chicago native’s weaknesses have been heavily scrutinized since he declared for the draft in April, making it easy to overlook the thing he does so well—score the basketball. He won’t dominate NBA defenses the way he did against ACC foes, but Okafor’s offensive game is so refined that he will be a consistent double-digit scorer right away.

Amrith Ramkumar

V. 111 Editor-in-Chief and V. 110 Blue Zone Editor

Duke Picks:

Jahlil Okafor: No. 2, Los Angeles Lakers. The Okafor-Towns debate has dominated much of the pre-draft coverage to this point, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the two big men don’t go 1-2. I think Towns’ jump shot and stellar defense last year at Kentucky make him the option for the Timberwolves at No. 1, leaving Okafor for the rebuilding Lakers at the second spot. The Chicago native has all of the physical tools to be successful quickly at the next level, and could even surprise some people on the defensive end if he can play more aggressively on that end of the court.

Justise Winslow: No. 7, Denver Nuggets. The swingman could easily go in the top five, but I think concerns about Winslow’s height for a small forward, outside shooting and ability to score with his off hand cause him to drop to the Nuggets at No. 7. Denver needs defense, and the Houston native’s tenacity and intangibles make him an ideal fit for new head coach Mike Malone.

Tyus Jones: No. 18, Houston Rockets. The Rockets are looking for help at the point guard position to add depth in the backcourt, and although aging veterans Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry performed well in the playoffs, Jones has the pedigree head coach Kevin McHale could be looking for with this pick.

Quinn Cook: Late second round. Cook had great workouts and impressed at the combine when playing five on five, so it seems likely that the 6-foot-2 guard will get picked before the draft is over. Cook’s ability to play both backcourt positions and the leadership he showed in leading the Blue Devils to the national title seem like too much for a team with a late pick to pass up.

Lottery order:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell

4. New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay

5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja

6. Sacramento Kings: Kristaps Porzingis

7. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker

10. Miami Heat: Myles Turner

11. Indiana Pacers: Willie Cauley-Stein

12. Utah Jazz: Cameron Payne

13. Phoenix Suns: Sam Dekker

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Frank Kaminsky

  • Biggest bust: Myles Turner. People often forget that Turner was tabbed as the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014, right behind Okafor and just ahead of Towns, but the versatile big man struggled against elite competition in his only season at Texas and settled for his jump shot far too often. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound center also likely will need to fill out his frame more before he is ready to play big minutes at the next level.
  • Biggest steal: Jerian Grant. The combo guard nearly led Notre Dame to the Final Four with his explosiveness at the point guard spot, and he seems like a great late first-round choice for a team that needs some scoring punch off the bench. Grant had to do it all for the Fighting Irish last year, and should be able to capitalize on the increased room to operate in the NBA.
  • Rookie of the Year: Okafor. The 6-foot-11 center is the most NBA-ready prospect in this class, and his experience dealing with different defenses as a passer and scorer make him capable of being a double-double guy right away. As long as the Chicago native can prove himself on the defensive end in an NBA scheme, Okafor should be the frontrunner to take home Rookie of the Year honors.

Nick Martin

V. 110 Sports Editor and Towerview Editor

Duke Picks:

Jahlil Okafor: No. 2, Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers love franchise centers and Okafor is as polished as any other 19-year old center we’ve seen in my lifetime. The team worked him out twice and are in desperate need of a consistent scoring threat. As long as no crazy trades happen between now and then, this one should be a no-brainer.

Justise Winslow: No. 4, New York Knicks. Although this means Winslow would have to slide to the off-guard spot to play with Carmelo Anthony, Winslow said Wednesday he was expecting to play at either the 2 or 3, so the move would seem to be inconsequential to him. Winslow would be the best defender on the team by default.

Tyus Jones: No. 18, Houston Rockets. With 37-year old Jason Terry and 38-year old Pablo Prigioni as Houston’s current backup point guards, the Rockets can bring in a proven winner and consistent ball-handler with Jones.

Quinn Cook: Late second round. Cook will be there for any team looking to pick up a 3-point shooter and solid ball handler. His stock has gone up considerably after a season in which he was Duke’s second-leading scorer, so look for him to have his name called, albeit at the tail-end of the draft.

Lottery order:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell

4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow

5. Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis

6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay

7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker

10. Miami Heat: Sam Dekker

11. Indiana Pacers: Willie Cauley-Stein

12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner

13. Phoenix Suns: Trey Lyles

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne

  • Biggest bust: Bobby Portis. Admittedly, I have only watched five full Arkansas games from this past season and a slew of highlight tapes, but Portis just doesn’t strike me as a top-20 pick. He has an insane motor and put up 17.5 points per game for the Razorbacks this past season, but I don’t believe he has the size or game to muscle with the bigs at the next level. Maybe I’m wrong, but Portis’ game leads me to believe he will be someone who will put up less than 10 points a game and scrap under the basket for some solid second-chance points, which is fine. It’s just not what you’d consider a franchise building block. Note: I was very close to putting Myles Turner here, because I was not impressed with his year at Texas, so he’s another one to keep an eye on.
  • Biggest steal: Jerian Grant. I’ve been a fan of Grant's since he single-handedly pushed a game to OT by scoring 12 points in 23 seconds in 2013, so this is an easy pick. After a year off due to some academic issues, Grant was the most exciting player in the ACC this year—look at this dunk! Grant is a savvy, athletic guard who can drain threes from anywhere and has elite-level vision and handles—think a slightly bigger Jamal Crawford. If he ends up in a solid system, Grant will be breaking ankles and could be a player teams kick themselves for passing on in the coming years.
  • Rookie of the Year: Okafor. This is almost certainly a biased selection, but after watching the big man dominate ACC centers for a full season, it’s hard to bet against him. Does Towns have a higher ceiling? Maybe. But on day one, Okafor will make an instant impact on the offensive end and though he may not dominate the NBA’s centers, he’ll put up enough points to take the award.

Sameer Pandhare

V.111 Blue Zone Editor

Duke Picks:

Jahlil Okafor: No. 2, Los Angeles Lakers. The Chicago native appears set to join the Lakers' storied list of centers and accelerate the franchise's rebuilding process. Okafor is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in recent memory and there's no doubt that his vision and footwork in the post will translate well to the next level. With the Lakers sporting arguably the worst defense in the league, expect there to be bumps and bruises as Okafor becomes acclimated to defending big man in the NBA. The center will have one year alongside five-time champion Kobe Bryant, before becoming the face of the franchise in 2016.

Justise Winslow: No. 4, New York Knicks. The options for Winslow seem to be narrowed down the the Knicks at No. 4 and the Magic at No. 5—with the outside possibility of a trade up by the Nuggets at No. 7. Of the possibilities, playing in the bright lights of the Big Apple alongside Carmelo Anthony would seem to be the most appealing for the Houston native. But problems may soon arise with Anthony and Winslow essentially both small forwards in Phil Jackson's triangle scheme. Personally, I believe joining the Magic's young and athletic nucleus of Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic would be the best fit for Winslow.

Tyus Jones: No.18, Houston Rockets. The Rockets have been connected to Jones from the moment he declared for the draft and for a good reason. Simply put, trotting out 37-year old Jason Terry and 38-year old Pablo Prigioni as backup point guards will not get it done in the guard-heavy Western Conference. Look for the Rockets to draft Jones as a steady floor general to help improve their second unit

Quinn Cook: Late second round. The latter round of the NBA draft can be quite the toss-up with hidden gems such as Draymond Green mixed in with international players we may never hear from again. Whether Cook is able to find substantial playing time in the NBA remains to be seen, but there are multiple teams that would covet the guard's leadership and intangibles.

Lottery order:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor

3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell

4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow

5. Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis

6. Sacramento Kings: Mario Hezonja

7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker

10. Miami Heat: Frank Kaminsky

11. Indiana Pacers: Willie Cauley-Stein

12. Utah Jazz: Trey Lyles

13. Phoenix Suns: Myles Turner

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne

  • Biggest bust potential: An international prospect. Every year, analysts struggle to compare the college prospects we watch compete for the national title with relative unknowns we see shooting uncontested jumpers in YouTube videos. Although Mudiay passed up an offer from Southern Methodist and Hezonja spurned an offer from Kentucky, their level of development in China and Barcelona respectively still remains to be seen. As for Porzingis, star potential clearly exists, but waiting at least two or three years for body development and adjustment to NBA physicality would scare me as a GM.
  • Biggest steal: Willie Cauley-Stein. Considering that the Kentucky product was once believed to be a top-four selection, seeing Cauley-Stein's name down at No. 11 catches my eye. The ability to guard smaller perimeter players is one of the skills teams covet in big men. Cauley-Stein may not contribute more than an occasional dunk or two on offense, but his defense could be game-changing for a team near the end of the lottery. Note: If Justise Winslow were to fall out of the top five, he immediately becomes my pick for biggest draft steal.
  • Rookie of the Year: Russell. Although Okafor may have the biggest impact on his new team, the Rookie of the Year award has become more and more numbers-based in recent years. Unlike Okafor playing with Kobe or Towns playing with last year's top-pick Andrew Wiggins, Russell has the benefit of playing for a team squarely in the rebuilding process. Since the 76ers are nearly devoid of offensive weapons, expect Russell to come in and light up the scoreboard from day one.

Nick Martin will be in Brooklyn to cover the NBA Draft tonight. Stay tuned @dukebasketball for updates


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