2015 NBA draft first-round grades, analysis
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg gives the skinny on the first round-picks, starting with No. 1 selection Karl-Anthony Towns, who went to the Timberwolves. Meanwhile, Marc J. Spears grades each selection.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns (PF/C, Kentucky, Fr., 19, 7-0, 248): The Towns vs. Okafor debate faded recently as NBA personnel fell in love with the versatile ex-Kentucky big man. Towns shined in the paint for the Wildcats, protecting the rim with his ability to alter shots at one end and bullying big men for low-post baskets at the other. He will never be as brilliant a back-to-the-basket scorer as Okafor, but he runs the floor well, moves more fluidly defending the perimeter and is capable of knocking down mid-range jumpers. Marc J. Spears' grade: A+.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – D'Angelo RussellPG/SG, Ohio State, Fr., 19, 6-5, 193): Once considered a tick or two below some of the elite players in his class, Russell ascended draft boards this winter thanks to a brilliant freshman season. He has the quickness and vision to run the point in the NBA yet also possesses the shooting ability and scoring instincts to thrive off ball too. By going with Russell instead of Jahlil Okafor, the Lakers keep alive the possibility of adding a free-agent big man this summer in a year when a handful of frontcourt standouts will be available. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Jahlil Okafor(C, Duke, Fr., 19, 6-11, 272): How did Okafor enter the college basketball season as the consensus No. 1 overall pick, put up huge numbers in leading Duke to a national title and still slip from No. 1? Concerns about his pick-and-roll defense and free-throw shooting is the most obvious explanation. The 76ers already have former top-five picks Nerlens Noel and and Joel Embiid, but they couldn't resist adding Okafor too when he fell to them. Now they have to either find a trade partner or hope that Okafor's array of polished low-post moves outweigh his other flaws. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
4. New York Knicks – Kristaps Porzingis(PF, Sevilla/International, 19, 7-0, 230): Much to the chagrin of a jeering New York crowd, the Knicks got a 7-foot forward from Latvia who has played in Spain, speaks perfect English and has rocketed up draft boards the past few months. Porzingis is certainly a high-risk pick, yet his potential is tantalizing. The 19-year-old is long, athletic, graceful and equally adept at shooting threes, attacking the rim and blocking shots. Marc J. Spears' grade: B+.
5. Orlando Magic – Mario Hezonja (SG/SF, Barcelona/International, 20, 6-8, 200): He did not play much for European power Barcelona this past season, but the headstrong 20-year-old flashed immense offensive potential when he did get on the floor. He's athletic enough to blow by a defender off the dribble, yet a deadly enough shooter to force opponents to guard him out to the 3-point line. If the Magic are patient, this could be a high-value pick. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
6. Sacramento Kings – Willie Cauley-Stein (C, Kentucky, Jr., 21, 7-1, 242): If DeMarcus Cousins is truly on his way out of Sacramento, then the Kings may have turned to his alma mater to nab his replacement. Cauley-Stein won't be the polished scorer that Cousins is, but the 7-footer is a defensive menace. He has the size and strength to hold his position on the low block against centers, the timing and athleticism to alter shots in the paint and the quickness and footwork to stay in front of guards on the pick-and-roll. Marc J. Spears' grade: B.
7. Denver Nuggets – Emmanuel Mudiay (PG, Guangdong/International, 19, 6-5, 200): Either Denver intends to play two point guards whose strength is attacking off the dribble, or Ty Lawson may be on his way out. Mudiay is an elite point guard who originally signed with SMU but skipped college and played professionally in China last season. He is a big and strong but an erratic shooter. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
8. Detroit Pistons – Stanley Johnson (SF, Arizona, Fr., 18, 6-7, 242): He became a high school phenom and a college standout by overpowering smaller wings off the dribble and finishing with aplomb in transition. He will still be capable on defense and dangerous in transition in the NBA, but it will be interesting to see how he fares facing defenders of his size and strength. A knock-down jumper would certainly help, and perhaps with time Johnson will develop one. Marc J. Spears' grade: B.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Frank Kaminsky (PF, Wisconsin, Sr., 22, 7-1, 231): He ascended from unheralded recruit to national player of the year by transforming himself into college basketball's biggest matchup problem. If he faced a traditional center, he'd float to the perimeter and rain down jumpers. If he faced a smaller, quicker player, he'd back him down and score in the paint. Kaminsky may not be an elite defender or rebounder in the NBA, but he should remain a multidimensional scoring threat. Marc J. Spears' grade: B.
10. Miami Heat – Justise Winslow(SF, Duke, Fr., 19, 6-7, 222): While Winslow has drawn many comparisons to former ex-Kentucky standout Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the former Duke star has a more diverse set of skills. He's almost as multidimensional a defender as Kidd-Gilchrist, yet he also is a solid slasher, an improving shooter and dynamic in transition. The only concern is that much of Winslow's production at Duke came as an undersized power forward, so he'll have to prove he can take quicker wings off the dribble in the NBA.. Marc J. Spears' grade: A+
11. Indiana Pacers – Myles Turner (C, Texas, Fr., 19, 7-0, 239): He has already proven he can swat shots. Now he'll have to try to swat away questions about his durability and his potential to impact the game on offense. The 19-year-old center was considered one of the elite players in his class when he signed with Texas, but he made only a modest impact on offense for the Longhorns, often fading against top teams. The form on his outside shot is solid yet he made only 27 percent of his threes. Marc J. Spears grade: B.
12. Utah Jazz – Trey Lyles (PF, Kentucky, Fr., 19, 6-10, 241): Still somewhat of a mystery because the ex-Kentucky forward had to contort his game to fit the role UK needed him to play last season. The Wildcats had a glut of frontcourt talent, so Lyles became a 6-foot-10 small forward in a two-post offense. While he isn't a liability defending the perimeter, his more natural position in the NBA is probably power forward. The skilled, versatile rookie should add to the strength of an already formidable Utah frontcourt. Marc J. Spears' grade: A+.
13. Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker (SG, Kentucky, Fr., 18, 6-6, 206): The John Calipari infomercial continued Thursday night when Booker became the fourth Kentucky player selected in the lottery. Booker is an elite shooter with good size for his position. He has a chance to develop into a Klay Thompson-esque wing if his defense and ability to create off the dribble develop. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder – Cameron Payne (PG, Murray State, So., 20, 6-2, 183): From Damian Lillard, to C.J. McCollum, to Elfrid Payton, the past few drafts have featured mid-major guards who ascended from obscurity. The latest to join that group is Murray State's star, a combo guard who enjoyed a breakout sophomore season for the Racers. Payne soared up draft boards this spring because of his ability to pass or score. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
15. Washington Wizards (via trade from Hawks through Nets) – Kelly Oubre (SF, Kansas, Fr., 19, 6-7, 203): From his jewel-studded shoes, to his red suit, to his bold words, Oubre isn't lacking confidence. The former Kansas forward told ESPN Thursday night that "whoever gets me is getting a jewel" and "whatever team gets me is winning the championship." Those comments will only add to Oubre's reputation as an enigma. He was the rare top 10 prospect who scarcely saw any playing time his first two months at Kansas before blossoming into a contributor by midseason. Marc J. Spears' grade: C+.
16. Boston Celtics – Terry Rozier (PG, Louisville, So., 21, 6-2, 190): This was a surprising pick only because Rozier lacks an obvious NBA position. He doesn't have the pass-first mentality of a classic point guard, yet he's neither big enough, nor a consistent enough shooter to project as an elite wing. What Rozier does do well is get to the basket and defend. Perhaps that will be enough for him to carve a niche. Marc J. Spears' grade: C:
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Rashad Vaughn(SG, UNLV, Fr., 18, 6-5, 199): A Milwaukee team in need of instant offense may have found some here. The UNLV wing averaged 17.8 points per game as a freshman and showcased deep range and an ability to score off the dribble before suffering a season-ending injury in mid-February. This was a little higher than many expected Vaughn to go, yet he has the scoring punch to one day justify it. Marc J. Spears' grade: C.
18. Houston Rockets (from New Orleans Pelicans) – Sam Dekker (SF, Wisconsin, Jr., 21, 6-9, 219): There won't be 17 players in this draft better than Dekker. The former Wisconsin standout enjoyed a brilliant NCAA tournament, leading the Badgers all the way to the national title game. His jumper can be erratic and his defense is merely average, but Dekker will likely thrive in a more free-flowing NBA system after being kept on a tight leash at Wisconsin. Marc J. Spears' grade: B.
19. New York Knicks (traded from Hawks through Nets) – Jerian Grant(PG, Notre Dame, Sr., 22, 6-5, 198): While Grant's ability to create for himself or his teammates off the dribble makes him an excellent value for the Knicks, this could be a case of a good player landing in a system that doesn't fit him. Grant may have been the best PG in the draft exploiting screens. He landed with a team that favors Phil Jackson's triangle offense, a system that uses hardly any screens. Marc J. Spears' grade: B.
20. Toronto Raptors – Delon Wright (PG, Utah, Sr., 23, 6-6, 181): He may not be the best shooter or the most explosive athlete in this draft, but few prospects make better decisions with the ball in their hands. Wright displayed excellent court vision coming off screens, sometimes calling his own number but more often finding an open teammate. He also impacts a game with his defense. Marc J. Spears' grade: B.
21. Dallas Mavericks – Justin AndersonSF, Virginia, Jr., 21, 6-6, 231): The big question with Anderson: Was his improvement as a shooter a one-year mirage? He shot 48.5 percent on threes as a junior before getting hurt, a huge step up over his 30 percent from behind the arc as a sophomore. If Anderson remains a knock-down shooter, his size, strength and defensive prowess makes him a prototypical three and D guy in the NBA. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
22. Chicago Bulls – Bobby Portis(PF, Arkansas, So., 20, 6-11, 246): With Taj Gibson on the shelf for four months after ankle surgery, the Bulls landed some frontcourt insurance. They selected the reigning SEC player of the year. Portis won't wow anyone with his athleticism, but the big man handles the ball well and makes shots. He'll compete for playing time behind Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
23.Brooklyn Nets (traded by Trail Blazers) – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson(SF, Arizona, So., 20, 6-7, 211): For a guy with a nonexistant jumper, Hollis-Jefferson could still be a high-value pick this low in the draft. Not only is he an elite defender capable of locking down point guards and wings, he also passes and rebounds well for his position and finishes deftly at the rim. Hollis-Jefferson has a good chance to have a Tony Allen-like NBA career even if his outside shot never becomes a threat. Marc J. Spears' grade: A.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (traded from Cavaliers) – Tyus Jones (PG, Duke, Fr., 19, 6-2, 185): Three months after leading Duke to a national championship as a freshman, Tyus Jones' fairytale basketball career somehow got even better. The Minnesota native is coming home after being selected by his hometown Timberwolves. Jones is neither very big nor very athletic, but he makes up for it with savvy decisions and a knack for sinking huge shots at key moments. He'll struggle on defense, but with the game on the line, he seldom misses. Marc J. Spears' grade: C+.
25. Memphis Grizzlies – JarrellMartin (SF/PF, LSU, So., 20, 6-9, 239):Perhaps it's good that Martin is going to the Grind House because he could use some more grind. Martin is a talented face-up forward, but he didn't play much defense at LSU and he'd sometimes vanish for long stretches. Joining a Memphis team renowned for its effort and defensive prowess could be good for him. If he emulates his teammates in those areas, he can be an impact player. Marc J. Spears' grade: D.
26. San Antonio Spurs – Nikola Milutinov (C, Partizan/International, 20, 7-0, 220): To the surprise of nobody, San Antonio drafted a foreign prospect who will remain overseas for a couple years yet could pay off long-term. Milutinov runs the court well, has good footwork and scores capably in the paint. Taking him and stashing him in Europe will save salary cap room that the Spurs can devote to a free agent this summer. Marc J. Spears' grade: C.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Rockets) – Larry Nance Jr.(PF, Wyoming, Sr., 22, 6-9, 227): He was an unexpected pick, but there may be some method to the Lakers' madness. The son of the former Cavs star led Wyoming to the NCAA tournament this past season after recovering from an ACL tear the previous year. He is an NBA-caliber athlete versatile enough to do a little bit of everything, from defending multiple positions, to knocking down open mid-range shots, to finishing above the rim. Marc J. Spears' grade: D.
28. Boston Celtics (from Clippers) – R.J. Hunter(SG, Georgia State, Jr., 21, 6-6, 185): Boston already added a strong perimeter defender in Terry Rozier. It added a shooter to go with him. NCAA tournament darling R.J. Hunter didn't shoot a high percentage this past season, but some of that was a result of the Panthers' need for him to shoot early and often. While the wing isn't an elite athlete, he can be a weapon in the NBA as a spot-up shooter. Marc J. Spears grade: B.
29. Brooklyn Nets (from Hawks) – Chris McCullough(PF, Syracuse, Fr., 20, 6-9, 199): He has some upside because of his length and athleticism, but it may be a while before he is capable of contributing. Not only is he recovering from a torn ACL that cost him the second half of his freshman season, the forward sometimes looked lost on the floor even before his injury. He averaged 9.3 points and 6.9 rebounds before getting hurt. Marc J. Spears' grade: C.
30. Golden State Warriors – Kevon Looney(PF, UCLA, Fr., 19, 6-9, 222): Whether concern over a hip injury that could require surgery proves valid or not, Looney is outstanding value for the Warriors. The NBA champs are getting a mid-first-round value at No. 30 and they don't really need him to contribute next season anyway. Looney didn't create his own shot in the traditional sense very often as a freshman at UCLA, but he found ways to impact the game with his rebounding, defense and an increasingly reliable jump shot. Marc J. Spears' grade: C.
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