by Matt Luppino
The NBA Draft goes live tonight at 7 pm. Here are my predictions for how the first round goes:
- Minnesota Karl-Anthony Towns, F/C, Kentucky
Best player with most upside and fewest flaws. A sure pick for the Wolves.
- L.A. Lakers Jahlil Okafor, F/C, Duke
The Lakers need a big guy more than they need another guard. Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, and Nick Young are all still there, so grab the polished Okafor and have at it on offense.
- Philadelphia Mario Hezonja, G/F, Croatia
A classic “why the $*&%?” moment out of Sam Hinkie, but there is a method to the madness here. Apparently, he can shoot the lights out, which will help a hapless offense in Philly.
- New York D’Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State
Finally, someone on the Knicks that can shoot! Russell can run the offense and put up points too, perfectly fitting into Phil Jackon’s arsenal.
- Orlando Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Latvia
If he’s here at 5, Orlando is ecstatic. 7’1” with a jump shot.
- Sacramento Emmanuel Mudiay, G, China
Kings need a guard to feed Cousins and hopefully make him happy enough to stay in Northern California.
- Denver Justise Winslow, F, Duke
Winslow is a strong defender and an athletic slasher, but he shot over 40% from 3 as well at Duke. With those numbers, he could be a beast.
- Detroit Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Kentucky
So what if Greg Monroe leaves in free agency? Cauley-Stein will be cheap and probably better by the end of the day.
- Charlotte Devon Booker, G, Kentucky
Another great shooter, he can step in alongside Kemba Walker to take the spot of the since-traded Lance Stephenson.
- Miami Stanley Johnson, F, Arizona
Johnson is another athlete, who can bring some life to the Heat, who are still reeling from the loss of LeBron James, and maybe now Dwayne Wade too.
- Indiana Cameron Payne, G, Murray State
Paul George is healthy, and the front court in Indiana is still pretty strong. A point guard will put it all together for them.
- Utah Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconson
Utah became a defensive stronghold last season, but lacked scoring. Frank the Tank will not only slot right into the defense, but the big guy can shoot with the best of them.
- Phoenix Trey Lyles, F/C, Kentucky
He, like Okafor, is a skilled offensive big man, who could slot in alongside the big, lumbering Alex Len.
- Oklahoma City Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia
The Thunder are only here because of injuries. But in Anderson, they get a good outside shooter and a great perimeter defender – the last piece they might need to finally win a title.
- Atlanta Myles Turner, F/C, Texas
Fits in alongside the punishing defender in Al Horford and the skilled shooter in Paul Millsap. Can fill in for either one off of the bench.
- Boston Sam Dekker, F, Wisconson
A good shooter and an above average defender, he boosts the Celtics immediately.
- PHILADELPHIA (Tony Wroten, 2 2nd rounders (35 and 37)) Tyus Jones, G, Duke
THAT’S WHAT HINKIE IS DOING WITH ALL THOSE PICKS!!! In a shocker, and Milwaukee not seeing many players they need here, they take the back up point guard and more picks in a solid group of second round talent. Meanwhile, the Sixers get the point guard they desperately need.
- Houston Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas
Portis is a big bruiser who went toe-to-toe with Kentucky a few times. The dude can play.
- Washington Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona
With Paul Pierce and Trevor Ariza not getting any younger, a fresh infusion of defensive prowess and energy is a great fit here late in the first round.
- Toronto Kelly Oubre, F, Kansas
Oubre has a ton of potential, who will have the time to develop with the young, talented nucleus above the border.
- Dallas Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame
Arguably one of the best scorers in the draft, Grant can play alongside either Rajon Rondo as the scorer, or Monta Ellis as the facilitator.
- Chicago Terry Rozier, G, Louisville
When Derrick Rose is off the court, the Bulls take a serious step back. Here, they get their much needed asset at the point.
- Portland Montrell Harrell, F/C, Louisville
Now that Lamarcus Aldridge plans on leaving Portland, Harrell, skilled at both ends and the centerpiece behind another strong Louisville team, can begin his role as the successor.
- Cleveland Delon Wright, G, Utah
With how frail Kyrie Irving is and how inefficient the Cavs were without a true point guard this postseason, a ball handler has to be at the top of the list for them.
- Memphis Anthony Brown, G, Stanford
A 3 and D player, Brown fits in perfectly with the tough defense in Memphis, and Mike Conley will get him the ball.
- San Antonio Pat Connaughton, G/F, Notre Dame
Another great shooter and a really high energy guy on defense. He is an excellent role player for Gregg Popovich.
- L.A. Lakers RJ Hunter, G, Georgia St.
Not just the star of the Cinderella Bulldogs, Hunter is a skilled scorer and ball handler, capable of stepping up for the now ancient Kobe.
- Boston Kevon Looney, F, UCLA
He might be really, really good at the stretch 4, so the Celtics can take that risk with Jared Sullinger proven in front of him.
- Brooklyn Michael Frazier, G, Florida
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are getting up there in age, so this begins the new wave of Brooklyn talent.
- Golden State Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia
Scouting report: “Potential pick-and-roll monster that can protect the rim.” Sounds like the champs to you? He will be a bigger Draymond Green, alongside Draymond Green.