1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Kentucky
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, there wasn’t much consensus on who the number one player in the draft would be, much less who was the most talented. After the draft, it was clear that Karl-Anthony Towns, the big man from Kentucky, was not only the most NBA-ready player, but also had the most upside. He’s a terror on offense, especially for his 6’11, 250 frame. How many seven-footers with his strength that shoot above 40% from three-point range and make over 80% of their free throws? His defense is good-not-great, but something tells me that won’t be an issue with future Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Garnett to teach him. Throw in a great personality and a true drive to win, and Towns is virtually bust-proof.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
This pick shocked a lot of people expecting the Lakers to go with the “best on the board” in Jahlil Okafor, but Russell is the smart pick. Kobe Bryant is likely to retire at the end of the season, and Russell is seen as a natural successor. A 6’5” combo guard with a sweet shooting stroke and a desire to have the ball in his hands, Russell will make a perfect pair with the Lakers’ diamond in the rough, point guard Jordan Clarkson. The two are very athletic, with very nice all-around games, and are both still very young. It’s not going to be “Showtime” like in the days of old, but the Lakers backcourt is going to entertain with their up-tempo backcourt.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor, PF, Duke
Despite Okafor being regarded as the best overall player in the draft by ESPN guru Jay Bilas, he slipped to the Sixers at number three, which is unfortunate because he really doesn’t have much of a fit there. Two of Philly’s top prospects, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, are both big men who are looking to have breakout seasons this year. Each of the three men do something different: Embiid can stretch the floor very well for a player of his size, and has shown incredible offensive talent. Okafor is similar, but does all of his work in the paint, where he’s automatic, but he’s a huge liability on defense. As for Noel, he’s a defensive wrecking ball and has great movement, but can’t give much on offense. How these three will operate while working from the same pool of minutes is a mystery to me, but don’t be surprised if we saw Embiid or Noel traded before Summer League starts.
4. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis, F, Latvia
The New York fans in the Barclays Center may have booed this pick, but “Zinger” is a great pick, and could be a great fit if used correctly. He’s a 7’2” three-point-shooting shot blocker with a 7’6” wingspan. There simply isn’t a player that exists with those traits, and if he works on his passing, he could be a true terror from both inside and outside the paint. So much of the Triangle Offense that the Knicks run is based on ball movement, one hopes that the Knicks will know when to let this guy hang onto the ball and just get buckets.
5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja, G/F, Croatia
"Magic Mario", as I shall now call him, is known to be a bit of a headcase, and someone who certainly loves his own game. That’s not likely to change in Orlando, where his shot-making ability will be heavily relied-upon by the defensively-minded Magic. Hezonja was rated as the best three-point shooter in the entire draft, so he’ll be sure to get his wherever and whenever he wants to this season. The good news is he also played for Barcelona overseas this past year, so he’s not completely uncivilized when it comes to working with teammates.
6. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C, Kentucky
A baffling pick. On the one hand, I can see the appeal defensively of having both DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein wreaking havoc in the paint. On every other hand that I have, Cauley-Stein can’t do anything BUT play defense. I’ve never read so many draft analysts write multiple paragraphs about a players deficiencies but still grade him a top-ten pick. It speaks a lot to his defensive abilities and his incredible athleticism, but if it puts you at a 4-on-5 disadvantage when you’re on offense, what the hell is the point?
7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Congo
Mudiay, the number one point guard prospect last year, made headlines by decommitting from Ole Miss to play for Guangdong in China (and get paaaaaid). His performance in China wasn’t stellar, but he proved his great talent as a pure point guard. Mudiay loves playing with the ball in his hands and dishing out passes to his teammates, but his shooting stroke leaves a lot to be desired, making him a liability if he plays off-ball. He’s a good athletic fit for the Nuggets, though, and with starting point guard Ty Lawson likely to be on the move, Mudiay could have a chance to get a team built around his strengths.
8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
Johnson is a terrific all-around player, and it would be a little surprising if his average athleticism and 6’6” frame weren’t a part of the package. The scouts may have blew it big time, though, as Johnson’s 7-foot wingspan can disrupt any player defensively, and his shot selection is only going to improve in the NBA. Johnson claimed to be the best player in the draft, which can be a red flag when it’s clearly not the case, but you can certainly say that Johnson is a winner. His 34-4 record last year at Arizona proves it, and that winning pedigree is something the Pistons desperately need.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin
Kaminsky was one of the most intriguing players throughout the college basketball season, and it’s not hard to see why. While Frank the Tank is just so-so on defense, his offensive playmaking ability is pro-grade, and it gives Charlotte a very different look. Kaminsky has no problem being the man who makes it happen or the guy who feeds it to his teammates, but just how much time he’ll get this season and how involved he’ll actually be in the offense is still a question mark. Definitely going to be an interesting player to watch.
10. Miami Heat: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
A 19-year old with leadership qualities who plays balls-out every single night? That’s a rare breed indeed, but Winslow is the genuine artifact. He plays with a ton of passion, particularly on the defensive end, and can guard virtually anybody, despite his 6’7” size. He’s average offensively, but as the Heat slowly develop into the run-and-gun offense that they seem to be poised to accept, Winslow could become a key cog in the process.