By Kennington Smith and Khari Pressley
Optimsim will be at an all-time high this Thursday night when teams and potential draftees will be gathered at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015 NBA draft. Our experts Kennington Smith and Khari Pressley break down the need-to-know information heading into the draft.
Kennington- D’Angelo Russell (Fr., G, Ohio State, 6’5, 180 lbs.)
Take the elite scoring ability of James Harden and mix in the passing ability of a high-level point guard, and you have the freshman sensation from Ohio State. Though lacking in athleticism, his playmaking ability is off the charts and his smooth style of play allows for efficient scoring at all three levels of the floor.
NBA trainers will bulk him up, which will allow him to better finish through contact; on the defensive end, he has the size/length to translate into an above-average defender. He’s ready to step onto a NBA court and immediately contribute and will develop into an all-star caliber player in a few years.
Khari- Karl Towns (Fr., F/C, Kentucky, 7’0, 255 lbs.)
Many people say that D’Angelo Russell’s overall skill level makes him the best player in the draft, but I beg to differ. I believe that Karl Anthony Towns is the best prospect we’ve seen since Anthony Davis. Not only is he a legit 7-footer with excellent defensive and rebounding skills, many people forget it was his low-post game that carried UK many times this past season when they were struggling offensively.
I’m sure many of you have seen the videos of him drilling NBA threes and even facing up and attacking the rim off the dribble from the wing, his talent level is just downright scary. The fact that he’s already ready to contribute to and NBA team on both sides of the ball but hasn’t even reached his full potential is frightening. I believe KAT can be an All-Star center in 2-3 years depending on who gets him and how they decide to use him
Kennington- Kelly Oubre (Fr., F, Kansas, 6’7, 200 lbs.)
In today’s NBA, teams are searching high and low for players who can defend multiple positions on the court; that’s exactly what Oubre can provide. At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, Oubre has the length and athleticism to defend the 1-4 once his frame fills out. While at Kansas, he showed promise as a slasher and shooter shooting over 50% from the field and 36% from three-point range. His game still needs a good amount of polishing on both ends, especially decision making on offense.
To start, Oubre will be most effective guarding wings on the perimeter and making plays in transition offense. If his shooting becomes more consistent and ball handling more secure, he has the potential to turn into a two-way star in the league.
Khari- Christian Wood (Soph., F, UNLV, 6’11, 215 lbs.)
When I think of upside, I think of room to grow. A raw prospect who with some refining can become a star. Last year I would’ve picked Zach LaVine if that gives you any idea of what I’m talking about.. For those who haven’t seen him play, Wood just oozes potential. He’s one of the most versatile offensive players in the draft with the ability to face up, put the ball on the floor and shoot the three. He can handle the ball in transition or on the perimeter and has a knack for grabbing defensive boards and going coast to coast. He has just as much potential defensively as well.
He’s shown the ability to stay with guards on the perimeter, which bodes well for him in guarding pick and rolls at the next level. His length and explosive athleticism allow him to contest and alter shots in the paint and on the perimeter and finish extremely well offensively.
The knocks on him are his frame and his work ethic. He’ll have to add some size and get his mind right if he wants to reach his full potential, but if he can get up to about 235-240 and refine some of his offensive and defensive skills, the sky is the limit for him.
Kennington- Myles Turner (Fr., F/C, Texas, 6’11, 240 lbs.)
Coming out of high school, Turner showed signs of a big man who can do a little bit of everything and was a virtual top-5 lock. A year later, I’m just not convinced he’s ready for the NBA. In high school, he showed great promise as a perimeter shooter; however it didn’t translate to college as he only shot 28 percent from outside. In addition, Turner only had 20 assists all season, making him a liability in passing offense.
Part of the problem could be that he was out of position at Texas (playing mostly the 4) and didn’t receive major minutes due to a stacked frontcourt. Though an elite defensive presence, his overall lack of offensive polish makes him a big risk in the lottery.
Khari- Kristaps Porzingis (19 years old, F, Latvia , 7’1, 220 lbs.)
Porzingis here mainly because I’ve heard talk of him going top 5 and I’m not quite sold enough on him to take him that high. Porzingis is huge, 7’1’ without shoes is a pretty big deal, but I don’t really see him as much of a defender at the next level considering his slight frame. I don’t know if his athleticism is enough to make up for his lack of strength in the low post just yet.
He does, however, have a nice shooting stroke and is a very fluid athlete from what I’ve seen. I’ve heard the comparisons to Andrea Bargnani, but I think Porzingis is a much better athlete and smoother on the court. There’s a lot to like about Porzingis, but I think if you take him top 5, you’ll end up wishing you took someone else.
Kennington- Delon Wright (Sr., G, Utah, 6’5, 190 lbs.)
A consensus All-American, Wright was Mr. Everything for the Utes this past season. Offensively, he proved to be unstoppable in getting to the paint and converting those drives into points, free throws or open shots for teammates. At 6’5, he’s able to see over the top of defenses and make the plays that smaller guards cannot. Though a poor shooter, he’s shown he can get his points in transition or by drawing fouls. Defensively, he’s ready to contribute from day one. He guarded positions 1-3 in college, averaging over two steals per game. Another thing to consider, he’s coming out as a senior.
At age 23, he’s a polished product having already matured in college. He has great value in the late first round as a solid to potentially elite role player.
Khari- J.P. Tokoto (Jr., F, North Carolina, 6’6, 200 lbs.)
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge UNC basketball fan, that being said, I assure you that this sleeper pick is not biased in any way. I’m not saying that J.P. Tokoto is going to be a star, hell, he may not even start, but I’m almost positive he’ll be a key player on a good team before it’s all said and done. This is a guy that people discounted as soon as he put his name in for the draft, but I believe that his elite athleticism combined with an improved offensive game and refined defensive techniques can turn him into a quality role player for years to come.
He may spend some time in the D-League for his first couple of years, but I believe he’ll be ready to contribute on both sides of the ball by his 3rd year at the latest. He’s a freak athlete and does a little bit of everything. He’s a good ball handler for his position, an excellent rebounder and a very underrated passer. If he even had a remotely consistent jumpshot he’d be a first round pick. He reminds me a bit of Andre Iguodala, except maybe even more athletic than the Finals MVP.
The guy is really a jumpshot away from being a really good player, and even if he never gets that shot quite right, he’ll make a great Slam Dunk champion.
Teams to watch:
Kennington- Boston Celtics (2014-2015: 40-42, 7th seed in Eastern Conference)
This may come as a surprise, but don’t forget, Boston has an astronomical 19 draft picks over the next three years (eight in the first round) and 24 overall over the next five years. There is no doubt Boston will be looking to leverage these picks to move up, gain other lottery pick this year or pick up veteran players. Danny Ainge has pulled off draft night magic before and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him do it again Thursday night.
Khari- New York Knicks (2014-2015: 17-65, last in Eastern Conference)
Phil Jackson is under a lot of pressure to rebuild this franchise to its former glory and cannot afford to miss with their number 4 overall pick. The Knicks need a franchise cornerstone, or at least someone that can entice a free agent to give them a look. Right now, all they have is Melo, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway and Jose Calderon under contract. Aside from Melo, all of these guys are just rotation players. The Knicks need a big W here or they’ll be right back where they were last year. They have one shot, better not miss.