March Madness is upon us and that means we’ll be witnessing a lot of potential NBA players give it their all for a chance to make it to the Final Four. Here’s my early take on what the first round of the draft may look like come June, and some of the players we’ll be watching for the next three weeks.
I’ll hopefully be updating these every few weeks leading up to the draft. Feel free to ask me any draft questions, or just tell me how wrong I am on Twitter @jeff_berest
*Draft order is based on standings as of 3/17/15
**Players cannot declare for draft yet; selections based on who I believe will come out this year.
***Opinions on players are of my own, and based on what I’ve observed thus far.
- New York Knicks/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky
Superstar potential on both sides of the ball. Can be an elite shot blocker, and his ability to extend the floor with his outside shot and a dominant post game is too much to pass on at #1.
- Minnesota Timberwolves/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke
Polished low post game, can almost score at will and already has an NBA body. Defensive presence and free throw shooting is a concern though.
- Philadelphia 76ers/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Congo
Outstanding ball handler, tremendous size for position, incredible athleticism and dynamic speed, superstar potential. If he had a good jump shot, he’d be in contention for #1 pick.
- Los Angeles Lakers/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State
Smooth offensive game, lights out shooter, incredible court vision and ball handling for a combo guard. Has the looks of James Harden-“lite”. Never seems to get rattled and likes taking big shots.
- Orlando Magic/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona
Defensively talented, can lock down other team’s best player. Can get to the rim, but lacks a true shooting stroke. Has great size for an NBA forward, doesn’t play outside of his ability.
- Sacramento Kings/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky
Elite rim protector and rebounder, can change game defensively. Below par offensive game, but has a decent enough touch around the rim, great hands for a big man and can run the floor.
- Detroit Pistons/Justice Winslow/SF/Duke
Bouncy wing player with elite athleticism, still growing as an offensive player and is inconsistent. Improving jump shot and can finish at the rim. Above average defender as well, tremendous upside potential as an NBA swingman.
- Denver Nuggets/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Latvia
One of the great unknowns in this year’s class. Elite size for a PF, still proving he can shoot outside with consistency. Explosive at the rim, long arms are a defensive asset, great athleticism despite being 7’1″. Very thin frame, needs to bulk and maintain an NBA body.
- Atlanta Hawks (via BKN)/Mario Hezonja/SG/Croatia
Tremendous size for a shooting guard, natural scorer. Has ability to spot up for three or take it to the basket. Also has great court vision and is a willing passer. Has a reputation for being immature.
- Charlotte Hornets/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas
Long rangy wing, has size to play forward in NBA. Can be a great shooter at times. Very inconsistent at college level, game goes in and out. Has shown potential to be a defensive talent, always seems to rack up steals due to long reach.
- Indiana Pacers/Kevon Looney/PF/UCLA
Gifted big man who can be a tough matchup because of his tweener position. Willing and aggressive rebounder, has ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot also gets to the free throw line. Has some ball handling skills despite size. Still a raw talent, isn’t quick enough to stay with 3’s, not big enough to guard 4’s.
- Utah Jazz/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky
Very gifted shooter and can score in bunches, also good size for a two guard. Defensive skills on the next level are a question mark, but does show good court vision and handles for a non-point guard.
- Phoenix Suns/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas
Big man with a great face-up game and can hit the mid-range jumper. He is also very active on the defensive end of the court, and is a solid rebounder. Very fundamentally sound, but won’t wow you with skill or athleticism.
- Houston Rockets (via NO)/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame
Excellent size for a point guard, can get to the rim and capitalize on free throws. Also a very good shooter, has a bit of a clutch gene. Length is an asset on defense, gets in passing lanes. Brother of current 76ers’ forward Jerami Grant; father and uncle also played in NBA (Harvey & Horace Grant).
- Philadelphia 76ers (via MIA)/Myles Turner/C/Texas
Enormous frame and length, terrific shot blocker. Also a gifted shooter and can extend out to three point line, great pick-n-roll game. Awkward moving at times, and is very slow on the break. Footwork needs help underneath the basket. Needs to bulk up frame, but star potential is there.
- Boston Celtics/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky
Talented big man with good footwork and can hit the mid-range jumper. Also a good rebounder and smart player. Willing passer that finds open shooters.
- Milwaukee Bucks/Frank Kaminsky/C/Wisconsin
Great all-around offensive player, solid on the post and has range out to three point line. Can be an effective stretch four in NBA; not sure if he has toughness and rebounding ability to play center.
- Oklahoma City Thunder/Justin Anderson/SG/Virginia
Good shooter and can lock down opposing wing players, also has good size. Won’t wow you with athleticism but is a fundamentally sound player.
- Washington Wizards/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville
Doesn’t have a fluid offensive game yet, still developing post moves. Lack of skill is made up for by his athleticism and being a willing and effective rebounder. Explosive player who can run the floor and provides a ton of energy.
- Chicago Bulls/Kris Dunn/PG/Providence
Good size for a point guard, incredible athleticism. His quick first step allows him to easily get to the rim. Has history of injuries and is sometimes prone to excessive turnovers.
- Toronto Raptors/Christian Wood/PF/UNLV
Great size and athleticism, terrific rebounder and shot blocker. Extremely raw talent and still developing an offensive game. Upside is there.
- Cleveland Cavaliers/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin
Good shooter and willing rebounder, has a tremendous basketball IQ. Can spot up or take it to the rack, also doesn’t turn the ball over. Won’t blow you away with athletic prowess, but has great size.
- Boston Celtics (via LAC)/Caris LeVert/SG/Michigan
Great length and size for the two guard spot. Outstanding shooter, can fill it up from deep. Still very lean and needs to add some weight. Has tools to be good defender, but it remains to be seen.
- San Antonio Spurs/Delon Wright/PG/Utah
Combo guard. Good shooting stroke and can also get to the rack. Has great size for a point guard, but isn’t an elite defender. Average athleticism, but is a smart player. Brother of Portland Trail Blazer Dorell Wright.
- Dallas Mavericks/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke
Smart point guard with very high basketball IQ. Can play distributor as well as scorer. Doesn’t have great size, and has shown he isn’t afraid of spotlight. May not have elite upside, but is a solid and reliable guard. Has trouble contending against bigger point guards.
- Los Angeles Lakers (via HOU)/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona
Very talented athlete and is a lockdown defender on college level. Not the greatest shooter, but his offensive game is still developing. Can get to rim and is a decent passer. Will probably be more of an asset on defense and won’t be relied on as a top three or four scoring option at next level.
- Portland Trail Blazers/Jakob Poetl/C/Utah
European transplant; good rebounder and rim protector. Not going to give you much on offense yet, but can defend the five. Still a raw talent, and needs to acquire a low post game.
- Memphis Grizzlies/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State
Gifted scorer and elite shooter. Still has a very lean frame, and it’s still unknown whether he can play against better competition. Isn’t a great athlete either, defense is suspect.
- Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks)/Cliff Alexander/PF/Kansas
Great rebounder, already has NBA body and is very strong. Won’t really score for you outside the paint, and doesn’t have a lot of post moves. Relies too much on physicality to beat you, which might not translate to NBA. Still has a lot of upside if he is able to score from 15 to 18 feet out.
- Golden State Warriors/Dakari Johnson/C/Kentucky
NBA body, has elite size and is solid defender and decent rim protector. Will be able to rebound effectively at NBA level. Won’t carry you on the offensive side of the ball, but has a surprisingly good touch around the rim.