2015 NBA Mock Draft: Mario Hezonja will be wearing blue
June 24, 2015
After a long season of covering Croatians around the NBA, it’s time for the long-awaited NBA draft. We haven’t seen a draft with this many talented prospects in almost a decade. To make matters more exciting, a Croatian player will likely be a top-ten pick at minimum. Mario Hezonja has been linked with several teams between picks four and eight. This is my full mock draft predicting on what will occur in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Karl Anthony Towns- Kentucky
After lengthy debates about which big man is a better fit, the superior all-around player will be taken. Anthony-Towns will bring much-needed interior defense to a team in dire need of it. They can also work around him rather than prioritize in making him a focal point within the offense. Jahlil Okafor needs touches to make his presence felt through games. Anthony-Towns can change games through his defense and rebounding. His post game continues to improve rapidly as well. Minnesota makes the wise pick here.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: C Jahlil Okafor- Duke
Despite his defensive deficiencies, Okafor’s upside surpasses any other player in this draft. You don’t see many big men that score on the low block with ease like him. It was concerning to see him make such silly mental mistakes during critical times of the NCAA tournament. Efficient coaching and proper tutelage can help him mature into a franchise player. Los Angeles can’t pass on such a terrific low-post scorer.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: SG D’Angelo Russell- Ohio State
Philadelphia has become the most difficult team to predict through the past three seasons. They never fail to put together the most bizarre draft classes. That’s why I’m concerned about picking them to make the most logical choice. Russell is built like a shooting guard, yet can dribble like a point guard. His ability to get into the lane consistently will be a difference-maker. With Michael Carter-Williams being traded to Milwaukee. Philadelphia needs a player that can take control of the offense. Russell is easily the most suitable choice.
4. New York Knicks: C/PF Kristaps Porzingis- Latvia
Comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki have generated rumors about the Lakers possibly being interested in him. In the end, he’ll be available for the most dysfunctional franchise to pounce on. The seven-footer brings a new look amongst the Knicks front-count. After being hindered by declining big men such as Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Knick fans have been coveting a true scoring big man. His ability to shoot from the perimeter should make it easier for Carmelo Anthony to operate offensively.
5. Orlando Magic: SF Justise Winslow- Orlando
Mario Hezonja could be an option here, although Orlando will likely prefer a more defensive-minded player. A trio of Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, and Winslow would be an outstanding trio for years to come. Winslow needs to work on his perimeter game, along with being more aggressive offensively. Other than that, he’s one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. Nobody boosted their draft stock in the NCAA tournament more than him.
6. Sacramento Kings: PG Emmanuel Mudiay- Congo
The influence of Vlade Divac as Vice President and Mudiay’s track record could change things easily. Sacramento could very well take Hezonja, as interest has been building there. Several rumors about George Karl wanting to reunite with Ty Lawson can change this pick as well. In the end, Mudiay is an athletic-up tempo point guard that can excel under Karl. Darren Collison isn’t the long-term solution at point guard.
7. Denver Nuggets: SG Mario Hezonja- Croatia
On a team lacking of a true number one scoring option, Denver should target the best natural scorer available. They need to upgrade their shooting from the wing as well. Hezonja provides the most upside to fulfill both needs. It’ll be interesting to see how his “confidence” adapts to the NBA. Nevertheless, Hezonja has too much upside for a team that needs a true scorer.
8. Detroit Pistons: SF Stanley Johnson- Arizona
After the Josh Smith experiment failed, Detroit should target an athletic forward that can play with Andre Drummond. Johnson showcased his defensive excellence and unselfish play at Arizona. While he tends to be a streaky shooter, his shot selection wasn’t an issue. Detroit can’t afford to take another high-risk, high-reward player. They need to start rebuilding by drafting players with a high-basketball IQ. In a weaker draft, Johnson would easily be a top five pick.
9. Charlotte Hornets: C Willie Cauley-Stein- Kentucky
It’s always difficult to predict the game-plan for Michael Jordan and his scouts. They either take high risks or reach on players that don’t have great upside. Cauley-Stein can fit in both categories. He’ll be a defensive enforcer immediately with his freakish athleticism and excellent vision. His offensive game is a major work in progress, as his ability to score in the post was non-existent throughout last season. With his athleticism and rebounding ability, Cauley-Stein will be groomed as the long-term replacement for Al Jefferson.
10. Miami Heat: SF Kelly Oubre- Kansas
Pat Riley knows that his team needs some type of spark. With Goran Dragic opting out of his contract and Dwayne Wade possibly leaving, an explosive versatile player is needed. Oubre was disappointing in his lone season at Kansas. That won’t bother Riley, who envisions Oubre, as an elite defender with major star potential. Don’t expect him to contribute immediately, especially with Luol Deng still capable of playing at a high-level.
11. Indiana Pacers: PG Cameron Payne- Murray State
Indiana can go in several directions with this pick. They will likely have “the best player available” mindset. Payne is a prolific scorer that can score in a variety of ways. With Indiana being one of the worst scoring teams last year, they should focus on selecting an offensive-savvy player. George Hill is coming off a solid season, but his upside is limited at this point. Payne’s explosiveness and high basketball IQ will make this a no-brainer for Larry Bird.
12. Utah Jazz: SG Devin Booker- Kentucky
Utah was in the bottom half of the league, when it came to three-point shooting. Booker is the second-best shooter in the draft behind Hezonja. On a team that seems to be in the right direction, a reliable three-point shooter will be needed. It may take time for Booker to adjust into a starting role, considering he didn’t endure many intense games at Kentucky.
13. Phoenix Suns: C Myles Turner- Texas
Turner was arguably the most disappointing freshman in the country last season. He failed to insert himself in several Big 12 conference games. It can’t be discounted that Turner is a seven-footer, who can shoot, block shots at an alarming rate, and run the floor like a small forward. Phoenix always likes to play fast-paced and will find ways to get him involved. The question is will he bring it consistently on a nightly basis? He seemed to lose interest playing for Texas, albeit a very dysfunctional team.
14. Oklahoma City: SG Jerian Grant- Notre Dame
Grant will be turning 23 years old going into next season, which will turn some teams off. Those teams will miss out on one of the best all-around players in the draft. Oklahoma City can use another guard that can come off the bench and shoot from the outside. Grant is fast enough to play point guard, yet tall enough to play efficient defense at shooting guard. He practically did it all for Notre Dame during their incredible season. A backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Grant could push Oklahoma City back into the upper echelon of the Western conference.
15. Atlanta Hawks: PF Bobby Portis- Arkansas
Paul Millsap looks to be headed towards free agency. That leaves a huge gap in Atlanta’s talented rotation. Portis is the most relentless rebounder in this draft. With so many talented big men in this draft, that says something. His relentless motor pushed Arkansas into the spotlight. On a team that can use major upgrades in their front-court, Portis would be an ideal fit.
16. Boston Celtics: PF Trey Lyles- Kentucky
On a team lacking of stars, Boston will likely have a “best player available” mentality. Lyles doesn’t fit that norm exactly, but his ability to shoot and bang inside will be greatly appreciated in Boston. The organization isn’t happy with Jared Sullinger’s development and could possibly trade him. Lyles is a capable outside shooter and will immediately become the best rebounder for a team lacking in that department.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: C Frank Kaminsky- Wisconsin
Milwaukee takes the hometown hero, who can probably be classified as America’s favorite college basketball player. The smooth center out of Wisconsin was the most proficient scoring big man in the country. His craftiness for a near seven-footer is almost unparalleled. On a team that desperately needs outside shooting, Kaminsky brings that dimension for the uprising Bucks. If he can play faster and be more active defensively, he can be one of the next great centers of this decade.
18. Houston Rockets: PG Tyus Jones- Duke
After not having a point guard throughout the playoffs, Houston will be targeting one immediately. They will be fortunate enough to have the most battle-tested point guard fall in their laps. Jones’ lack of size and athleticism are the only traits keeping him from being a top ten pick. His qualities of being able to take control of games, making big shots, and constantly playing fearless will have Kevin McHale buzzing. This pick can be considered as the steal of the draft.
19. Washington Wizards: PF Montrezl Harrell- Louisville
Harrell may be undersized at six-foot-eight, but his wingspan at 7’4 makes up for it. The explosive power forward from Louisville would be an ideal replacement for Nene. Washington desperately needs a big man that can shoot and stretch the floor. Harrell’s perimeter game drastically improved last year, which propelled him into being a first-round talent. No college player played with more emotion than him. He should be a great fit, alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal.
20. Toronto Raptors: PF Kevon Looney- UCLA
Looney stepped up in the NCAA tournament following an underwhelming regular season. Toronto has depth in their front-court, but none of the players have great upside. They need a resilient rebounder that can develop into a great post player. Looney will likely need a few years of development, before being able to play 30-35 minutes a game. He needs to get into better physical shape.
21. Dallas Mavericks: PG Deion Wright- Utah
With the Rajon Rondo experiment being a colossal disaster, a young point guard would be a nice addition. Similar to Grant, Wright will be 23 years old going into this season. His upside is somewhat limited, due to not being a great shooter or finisher at the basket. Dallas needs a capable defender that can also be a playmaker. Wright proved that by carrying Utah into the Sweet Sixteen. His defensive instincts will fit perfectly with Rick Carlisle’s style of play.
22. Chicago Bulls: PG Terry Rozier- Louisville
Chicago can’t afford to have Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich play significant minutes next season. They can’t be dependent of Derrick Rose playing 82 games either. Rozier is a capable point guard that can get into the lane consistently. Chicago can use another scorer off the bench as well. Rozier would be able to contribute immediately under any circumstance. He needs to become more passing-oriented to evolve into a true point guard.
23. Portland Trail Blazers: SG R.J Hunter- Georgia State
One of the NCAA Tournament’s memorable stars will finally be selected here. Aaron Afflalo isn’t expected back, while Wesley Matthews is coming off a torn Achilles. Portland desperately needs outside shooters following last season’s debacle. Hunter has great range for a shooter as well. With so many questions going into next season, it would be wise for Portland to take a player that can contribute immediately. His issues defensively keeps him from being a potential top-15 pick.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: SF Sam Dekker- Wisconsin
It seems odd that the NCAA Tournament’s best player would fall so far in the draft. Dekker’s versatility pushed him into being a surefire first-rounder. His issues defensively are what keeps him from ascending into a potential lottery pick. Dekker needs to stay at small forward, as power forwards took advantage of him last season. Cleveland will look to add a reliable shooter following JR Smith’s downfall in the NBA Finals.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: SF Justin Anderson- Virginia
No team needs outside shooting more than Memphis. That was evident through their struggles against Golden State. Anderson was the best shooter in the country, before a serious hand injury nearly ended his season. On a team that doesn’t have many holes, Anderson will be a welcoming addition. Memphis will also appreciate his defensive excellence coming from Virginia. This could be one of the bigger steals of this draft. If he played one more season in Virginia, Anderson could have been a lottery pick in 2016.
26. San Antonio Spurs: C Guillermo Hernangomez- Spain
San Antonio will always target international talent. If he can develop more physically, Hernangomez will be the ideal replacement for the disappointing Tiago Splitter.
27. Los Angeles Lakers: SG Norman Powell- UCLA
The second hometown pick of the draft features one of the most explosive prospects. Powell is an exceptional perimeter defender that can finish at the hoop consistently. He does tend to fade in big games and isn’t the most consistent shooter. If Laker fans can temper expectations and not expect him to fill Kobe Bryant’s shoes, Powell should be an immediate fan favorite. His reputation of being a human-highlight reel will become well-known across the league.
28. Boston Celtics: PF Christian Wood- UNLV
Size is greatly needed in Boston. Wood has proven to be one of the best rebounders in the draft. If he can bulk up and work on his shot selection, this could be a steal for Boston. The UNLV star can be classified as a true high-risk, high-reward pick.
29. Brooklyn Nets: SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson- Arizona
Not many teams need athleticism quite like Brooklyn. They have the most aging roster in the league and don’t have any great on-ball defenders. Hollis-Jefferson has all the makings of an elite on-ball defender. His length and athleticism will cause opposing teams’ nightmares. His jumper is a major work in progress, along with inserting himself more offensively. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him picked in the low twenties. Teams need to be patient with him offensively. The rewards of receiving a tremendous defender and strong finisher at the rim exceed his below average perimeter game.
30. Golden State Warriors: C Rakeem Christmas- Syracuse
The only legitimate need for Golden State would be front-court depth. Andrew Bogut will need certain games off, along with playing under a minute’s restriction throughout the regular season. Christmas was the most improved player in the country last year. On a struggling Syracuse team, he was a double-double machine and commanded the attention of every team. His athleticism and rebounding would be massive against the top teams in the Western conference. Golden State has been liable of getting bullied on the boards.