Welcome to the Raptors HQ Mock Draft (first round only). A few things to keep in mind before scrolling down and getting angry at these first round picks:
Firstly, this mock has been put together without any inside information whatsoever. It's merely a fun exercise for which I'm trying to match a player to each team based on that team's current roster make-up, the skill-level of the draftees, and what the scuttlebutt around the league has been suggesting in recent weeks.
Secondly, no trade scenarios have been considered. It's impossible to predict if any of the million rumours swirling around this week are legitimate. Not to mention, most draft trades come out of nowhere and are often exceedingly complex, so it's easier to make these picks without the spectre of the trades that will surely render this mock draft irrelevant in mind.
#1 - Minnesota: Karl Anthony Towns, F/C, Kentucky
It looked early on like Flip Saunders was enamoured with Jahlil Okafor. But workouts and further scouting have reportedly swayed Minnesota's front office in favour of Towns in recent weeks. It seems like a no-brainer. Take Towns, pair him with Andrew Wiggins, and watch this team blossom into a defensive terror in a few years.
#2 - LA Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
A lot could change if the reports of a potential Lakers-Kings trade involving DeMarcus Cousins are true, but Okafor paired with Julius Randle would shore up the Lakers front court for a long time. Okafor's footwork in the post and awesome passing ability should make him an offensive monster pretty quickly.
#3 - Philadelphia: Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Latvia
Porzingis' official measurements were released Monday night:
D'Angelo Russell has been the pick here on most mock drafts, but this nugget might be enough to sway Sam Hinkie. His lust for the best player available, regardless of position or need, is unmatched.
#4 - New York: D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
Phil Jackson would be ecstatic if Russell falls past the top-three. Russell said earlier this week that he think he can thrive in the Knicks' Triangle offense. Given that he is surely the most talented guard in the draft, the Knicks should nab him given the opportunity regardless of if he ends up fitting Jackson's grand vision. Reports also indicate that if Russell is gone, this could be the spot where trading action really picks up.
#5 - Orlando: Justise Winslow, F, Duke
I'm torn here. As an outside observer, I'd love to see the Magic take Willie Cauley-Stein, pair his stopping ability next to the defensively inept Nikola Vucevic and watch Scott Skiles' coach the team into a Top-10 defense. Recent concerns over Cauley-Stein's long-term health might scare Orlando though, in which case, Winslow will be a fine choice. Next to Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo on the perimeter, no one would even be able to get to the rim to challenge Vooch.
#6 - Sacramento: Emmanuel Mudiay, G, Congo
This might be me projecting my disdain for Rajon Rondo (and the ludicrous idea of the Kings trading DeMarcus Cousins for Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried), but this seems like the smartest way for the Kings to land the point guard of the future. It would sure beat giving up a Top-15 talent or signing a Top-15 headcase.
#7 - Denver: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
As much as I want to see the marauding pair of trash-talking internationals Mario Hezonja and Jusuf Nurkic crush the confidence of every Nuggets opponent, the fit with Cauley-Stein is just too perfect with the defensive-minded Michael Malone taking over behind the bench.
#8 - Detroit: Mario Hezonja, F, Croatia
Detroit needs a small forward badly, and Hezonja has the toolbox to turn into a star at the position. In Stan Van Gundy's system, Hezonja's 38 percent three-point shooting with Barcelona this year will be highly coveted. Also, as I alluded to above, he's awesome:
Things Mario Hezonja’s claimed: • He’s the best player in this draft • He’s better than Lionel Messi • LaVine’s dunk contest dunks were meh— Max Rappaport (@MaxRappaport) June 21, 2015
#9 - Charlotte: Devin Booker, G, Kentucky
The Hornets were dead last in three-point shooting percentage last year (31.8 percent), and while Booker might not have the ceiling-busting upside of a Hezonja, he fills a positional need and should help erase the memory of the Lance Stephenson experiment.
#10 - Miami: Stanley Johnson, F, Arizona
Luol Deng will be a free-agent after the 2015-16 season. Who better to replace him than a guy who profiles to be a tremendous wing defender with the potential to be an excellent third offensive opti--hey wait this guy sounds exactly like a young Luol Deng.
#11 - Indiana: Cameron Payne, G, Murray State
Myles Turner is a definite possibility here, especially since it seems like Roy Hibbert might choose to opt out of his contract and pursue a fresh start. Offense has been such a struggle in Indiana lately, and Payne might help solve those woes - first as a bench spark-plug and eventually as George Hill's replacement. Larry Bird has also hinted at liking Payne's game.
#12 - Utah: Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconsin
Rudy Gobert burst on the scene this year as a potential Defensive Player of the Decade. Derrick Favors is a fantastic scorer around the basket. Kaminsky would inject a dose of perimeter shooting that would give the Jazz one the most exciting and versatile front courts in basketball.
#13 - Phoenix: Myles Turner, F/C, Texas
Alex Len is the only traditional big man on the roster, and while he's shown promise, he's also struggled with injuries in his first two seasons. Some extra front court insurance wouldn't hurt, and Turner can offer a more advanced offensive game than Len. There's no chance GM Ryan McDonough goes for a point guard ... I think.
#14 - Oklahoma City: Trey Lyles, F, Kentucky
With Enes Kanter, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams in house already, Lyles might not get a chance to contribute right away. But for a guy lacking a stand-out skill, it might not hurt to observe a shot-blocking titan/three-point marksman like Ibaka for a year. Payne would also make sense as a back-up to Russell Westbrook, and he might have a promise from the team if he's on the board at 14.
#15 - Atlanta: Kelly Oubre Jr., F, Kansas
Atlanta might lose DeMarre Carroll to free-agency, and in time, Oubre could be a more talented version of the Hawks "Three-and-D" glue guy. It also might be really fun to watch Oubre and Dennis Schröder battle to be the most outrageously confident player on the Hawks.
#16 - Boston: R.J. Hunter, G, Georgia State
Boston could use a big man, but none of the guys available in this range address the Celtics' need for a stalwart rim-protector. Because Celts were dreadful from deep last season (32.7% - 27th), and outside of Avery Bradley, none of their guards have a reliable stroke, Hunter is the logical solution. His percentages were ugly last year, but that came against defenses that sold out completely to stop Georgia State's best player.
#17 - Milwaukee: Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas
With Ersan Ilyasova out the door, and the duo of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo without defined positions, a spot in the Bucks' big rotation should be up for grabs. Portis seems like a Jason Kidd kind of player: he can shoot, is mobile defensively and is incredibly passionate. The Bucks are going to be really good, really soon.
#18 - Houston: Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame
I've seen Tyus Jones land in this spot a lot, but I prefer Grant for the Rockets. He's 22 with four full college seasons under his belt, meaning he's well-developed and should be able to contribute on both ends in a back-up role right away; key for a team with championship aspirations. In reality, Grant just needs to be better than Pablo Prigioni to be successful in year one.
#19 - Washington: Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville
Nene only has one year remaining on his deal, Drew Gooden and Kevin Seraphin are free-agents, and the perimeter trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter has taken shape nicely. It makes sense to fill the hole at the four with a rabid defender and rebounder like Harrell - who would also be a new toy for John Wall to play with when running the floor.
#20 - Toronto: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona
I've discussed Hollis-Jefferson's strengths and weaknesses ad nauseum leading up to the draft, and while his shooting concerns me greatly, his supreme physical gifts and potential to be a world-class defender at the three and against small-ball fours make him the guy for me. Fit might be an issue initially with James Johnson in the fold for one more season - but drafting isn't about filling needs for a year. He probably is already a better defender than Johnson, and could help solidify what was one of the shakiest defenses around last year. Down the road, if Hollis-Jefferson ever figures out his shot - which is admittedly a long shot given his wonky technique - he could turn into a brilliant two-way player. Going for upside is never a terrible way to go this late in the first round.
#21 - Dallas: Tyus Jones, G, Duke
The point-guard spot has been an issue for this team for a while now. It makes sense for the Mavs to bring in a young, malleable guard that can be formed into a player Rick Carisle will trust to run his system - something that was clearly a point of contention with Rondo this year.
#22 - Chicago: Delon Wright, G, Utah
Derrick Rose's fragility has been well-documented. Kirk Hinrich will probably opt-in to the final year of his contract - but that doesn't make him a viable back-up anymore. Wright makes a ton of sense as a guy that can manage the offense while Rose rests. Like Grant, he's huge (6'6), will be a solid defender, and doesn't have to do much to be better than his predecessors Hinrich and Aaron Brooks.
#23 - Portland: Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia
Wesley Matthews is reportedly seeking $15 million per season in free agency. If that's too rich for Blazers GM Neil Olshey, Anderson could be the optimal choice to help fill the void left by the league's preeminent "three-and-D" player.
#24 - Cleveland: Sam Dekker, F, Wisconsin
I went with Dekker here mainly because I'm not entirely sure what Dekker will be at the next level - he could figure out his inconsistent stroke, but maybe not. He could use his athleticism to be a stellar defender, but it's hard to say for sure. Learning the small forward position from LeBron James wouldn't hurt. (Note - this is a pick that has been rumoured to be on the move as the Cavs look to load up for next year)
#25 - Memphis: Kevon Looney, F, UCLA
Memphis has a fixed rotation and owes multiple first-round picks in future drafts. With the current core aging, and nothing much to speak of in terms of promising young talent (sorry, Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes), it would be wise for Memphis to draft a high-risk/high-reward player like Looney. With some luck, they'll watch him develop into a legitimate piece to have ready for when the "Grit-and-Grind" era comes to and end.
#26 - San Antonio: Michael Frazier, G, Florida
With both Danny Green and Marco Bellinelli potentially on their way out as San Antonio chases bigger free-agent fish, Frazier could step in as a three-point specialist very quickly. He shot 43.2 percent from distance in three years at Florida. Rashad Vaughn from UNLV could be in play here as well, but at just 18, he may not be ready to contribute to the title-chasing Spurs right away.
#27 - LA Lakers: Christian Wood, F, UNLV
Wood was an enigmatic player this year, showing bursts of brilliance while displaying some monumental moments of poor basketball sense. He's a project, but he's worth a flier for the talent-bereft Lakers.
#28 - Boston: Jordan Mickey, F/C, LSU
The Celtics get the rim protection they sorely need with Mickey. He's undersized - just 6'8 - but a lot like Harrell, his wingspan makes up for what he lacks vertically. He averaged the 4th-most blocks per 40 minutes among Draft Express' Top-100 prospects, and might make Kelly Olynyk or Jared Sullinger expendable in a trade.
#29 - Brooklyn: Anthony Brown, F, Stanford
I spoke with Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game on a podcast this week, and he suggested the Nets might be looking for a player at 29 who can provide a contribution immediately - rather than taking a gamble on a talented project like Wood. That's a tall-order for someone selected this late, but Brown should be able to supply some excellent spot-up shooting next year, at the very least.
#30 - Golden State: Rashad Vaughn, G, UNLV
The Warriors love shooters. As an 18-year-old, Vaughn shot a bit better than 38 percent from three at UNLV. This seems like a logical fit.