By The Lighter Side | October 14, 2014 ET
30. Rodney Purvis (Connecticut). Purvis has received high praise from coach Kevin Ollie and should hit the ground running as a sophomore after a season at North Carolina State and a red-shirt year practicing with a national championship team. He’s more of a scorer than a lead guard, but he’s got the dynamic speed to blow by opponents off the dribble and score. He’ll need to develop his floater and mid-range game as finishing at the NBA level in the paint is much trickier than high school and college.
29. Jordan Mickey (LSU). Mickey will look to improve upon a productive freshman season in which he averaged 3.1 blocks per game. He is a tweener for the NBA and will be a bit of a project, but his defensive potential and length (7-foot-3 wingspan) makes him intriguing. He’s likely a PF for the NBA, but he’s got excellent lateral speed and could see time at both forward positions if his lateral speed and quickness remain at a high level.
28. Olivier Hanlan (Boston College). Hanlan is a crafty scorer with a quick release. He is not a freak athlete but does plenty of damage with his ISO skill level. He’s known for big scoring outbursts and should be one of the nation’s leading scorers once again this season, as a junior. He needs to add strength to his body to become better defensively and improve his ability to absorb contact on drives. If he can improve upon his shooting numbers and further develop his point guard skills, it would certainly help his cause.
27. Delon Wright (Utah). Brother of Dorell Wright, Delon is a combo guard who stood out last year and also impressed scouts with after his performance in July at the LeBron Skills Academy. He’s a late bloomer who went the JuCo route and has had a solid impact in the Pac 12 at Utah. If he performs to his abilities as a senior, he could land in the first round as he’s a versatile guard capable of defending, passing and scoring.
26. Chris Walker (Florida). Walker has Top 10 talent but scouts question his focus and ability to fulfill his potential. He took more than half of last season to become eligible, and once he did he did not have the impact one would expect from a top recruit. He lacks strength at the PF position and is not quick enough laterally to play the 3. He needs to continue to get stronger, but do so gradually and without limiting his elite athleticism.
25. Marcus Lee (Kentucky). With such a loaded frontcourt, Lee could get caught up in a numbers game once again at Kentucky and become frustrated due to lack of minutes. His decision to attend Kentucky instead of a local school , Cal for instance, gives him great practice competition, but limits his ability to showcase himself as a primary option. Lee has first-round talent, but needs to add strength and develop his skill set. A plausible scenario is that one of the smart teams such as OKC or San Antonio targets him, despite a lack of production, with a late first round selection to develop.
24. Egemen Guven (Pinar Karsiyaka, Turkey). Guven impressed us when we saw him live during the summer in Konya at the U18 European Championships, enough to put him in the first round in his first year eligible. He’s still got a ways to go and needs strength, but he shows the offensive finesse, with the use of both hands around the basket to eventually be a real threat at the NBA level. Sure, putting him in the first 20 is a big leap of faith. We don’t even know if he wants to enter the draft the first year that he’s eligible and his new contract doesn’t get in the way too. He’s our top rated European 1996 prospect, but a player that we’ve gone out on a limb rating this high for this year’s draft.
23. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma). Hield is small for a 2 but has a polished skill set and is highly regarded by NBA scouts. Hield no longer has graduated teammate Cam Clark battling for shots, and will be the team’s unquestioned first scoring option. He has a solid frame with athleticism and the competitive fire to take the team on his back. He can really fill it up from outside and also shows quality decision making and the ability to create off the dribble.
22. RJ Hunter (Georgia State). One of the lesser known players on this mock draft, Hunter may now hold the title of top shooter in all of college basketball. He acquitted himself nicely playing against top tier competition at the LeBron Skills Academy, with his outside shooting really standing out. His game is also more well-rounded than many realize as he can do a lot more than just shoot it. He has a strong basketball IQ with the ability to pass it and also create shots for himself. The area that he really needs to focus on is adding strength to his frame in order to finish off drives and defend.
21. Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina). An explosive two-guard, Thornwell had a solid freshman year and will look to break out on the national scene as a sophomore. He’s one of the premiere athletes at the wing position showing excellent ability to create with the ball in his hands. Granted, his shot selection and percentages could use some improvement. He possesses the talent. With a year under his belt, he’s got a great opportunity to take his game to the next level, literally.
20. Brice Johnson (North Carolina). Johnson has shown focus and determination, though he’s yet to completely break out into a star through two seasons at UNC. But his length, explosiveness plus demeanor are there to become a contributing NBA PF. He’s got good touch around the rim and will need to continue to expand his range and become more proficient using the dribble. The UNC team website now lists him at 228 pounds, which if true is a huge boost to his first-round draft hopes, as he’s been in the 200-210 range over his first two seasons. What he’s lacked so far is the strength to utilize all of his natural gifts and dominate. He cannot afford to be sub-225 and expect to be able to get rebounds and hold position and operate in the post in the NBA.
19. Isaiah Taylor (Texas). Taylor tore up the Big 12 with an excellent freshman season, making scouts take notice of his composure and spped. He’s got tremendous burst in the open floor and is an extremely difficult defensive assignment as he has a gear that most PGs just do not possess. He’s still painfully skinny and will need to continue to focus on getting stronger. His legs also will need to add strength in order not to get bullied by stronger point guards. He possesses a tear drop that many NBA PGs would be envious of, and it will be a great asset to him as he progresses.
18. Kevon Looney (UCLA). He flashed a lot of potential in high school as a long, versatile athlete. This is a kid that led the NBPA camp in rebounding in back-to-back years going into his junior and senior high school seasons. He even played some point guard for his high school team in Wisconsin, though that may be a little bit misleading as he’s currently more of a 4 than a 3. He missed adidas Nations with an injury and it remains a bit of a mystery how ready he is to contribute, but in a weak draft he’s a guy that could be drafted in the Top 20 on upside alone.
17. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin). With a great attitude and solid all-around skills, Dekker is a prospect that scouts are high on. ”I’ve learned to like him, but I don’t love him” as one scout put it. He’s got explosiveness and is an excellent teammate who really enjoys playing the game. His shot is streaky and with some slight mechanical issues lacks great consistency. He doesn’t have the quickest first step to make opponents pay for playing him tight. He looked every bit the 6-foot-9 that he’s listed at in Las Vegas during the LeBron Skills Academy. While it’s not certain how well his game translates to the next level, Dekker finds himself in a great position to have a Wally Szczerbiak type of breakout season and go much higher than initially expected in the ’15 draft.
16. AJ Hammons (Purdue). Hammons, similar to Cauley-Stein, is another big with a great deal of talent, but to this point has struggled to play to his abilities with bouts of inconsistency. He has the size, strength and mobility to ultimately be an NBA starter, but his feel for the game and ability to stay on the floor and log consistent minutes seems to continually hit snags. He has shown a nice back-to-the-basket game and a smooth stroke from the free thrown line, both promising signs that he can become a respectable scorer in the future. He’s also got the size, strength and mobility to be a factor defensively. This will be a big season for him to prove that he’s indeed up to the challenge and more than just a big, athletic body that shows flashes. A 16 and 10 season is within his reach.
15. Mario Hezonja (FC Barcelona, Spain). Hezonja has long been a highly coveted prospect in Europe due to his standout athleticism, but he has struggled mightily over the past few seasons with injuries and off-court distractions. If things fall into place, he could be primed for a breakout season and overtake Porzingis to be the first European off the board. He’s got the athleticism of a typical elite American guard and shows a flare for making highlight plays. He seems to struggle with consistency and plays too wild looking to make the spectacular play, instead of the sound, fundamental one. It’s time for him to cash in on all the talent and become a factor at the senior level in Europe.
14. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky). Easter Island, The Pyramids of Egypt, and Willie Cauley-Stein, one of Earth’s great enigmas, as Bill Walton might put it. Will this be the year that WCS finally puts things together and it’s his play and not his hair style which stands out? Probably only Cauley-Stein knows the answer to that question. His talent level should make him a Top 10 pick in any draft, yet he never seems focused or determined enough to convince scouts that he has the will to become an impact player. Despite a logjam in the post at UK, he should be given the opportunity to carry more of a scoring load and showcase his talent. Granted, if he doesn’t play with focus and intensity, there are plenty of hungry mouths to feed in the UK frontcourt and his teammates (Dakari, Lee) are sure to take his minutes if he doesn’t want them.
13. Norman Powell (UCLA). What Powell lacks in size at the two-guard position, he makes up for in toughness, desire and athleticism. He’s got the body of an NFL safety and a love for defense to match. With such tremendous toughness and determination on the defensive end, he could possibly develop into Tony Allen type of lock-down defender at the NBA level. He still has a hitch in his shot that he’s working through, which seems to be apparent most when he has too much time to think about his shot, instead of just going up in one fluid motion. In front of scouts from virtually every NBA team, no one helped himself more with his adidas Nations performance than Powell. He also measured a 40-inch vertical in the BAM testing. He was UCLA’s unsung hero least year and with three of his teammates off to the NBA (first round), Powell appears ready to get his shine.
12. Bobby Portis (Arkansas). Portis might be projected a little high, but after the top 4-5 prospects, there isn’t a great deal of talent in this year’s draft. Portis appears to be working hard on conditioning as his body continues to make progress. He showed very good hustle and court speed at LeBron Skills Academy, getting out on the break and beating opponents down the floor. He lacks great lateral quickness and start/stop speed and takes a little while to get his feet moving, but he has great size and a developing mid range jump shot.
11. Terry Rozier (Louisville). Rozier this high is a bit of a gamble, But he proved what an explosive athlete and talented scorer he is at both the LeBron James Skills Academy and adidas Nations camps during the summer. The jump from freshman to sophomore years is often a big one and after Mudiay, the PG field appears to be wide open. While he’s a better athlete and not quite the shooter of Utah Jazz PG Trey Burke, he possesses some of the same leadership and determination that helped Burke go from a borderline first rounder to a Top 10 pick during his sophomore year. Scouts would like to see his PG game mature, with better decision making and more control on offense. But there’s no denying, if given the opportunity to display his PG skills, the talent is there for him to break out as a sophomore and become a high pick.
10. Cliff Alexander (Kansas). Alexander has freakish length, toughness and a relentless motor. He picked up the game while in high school and has come a long way in a few short years and has the no-nonsense attitude that you love to see in a big man. His post skills and offensive game remain extremely raw and his feel for the game may never be his forte, but he gets a lot of baskets through sheer athleticism and determination. He will wow at times, with some impossible dunks as he has an uncanny ability to finish from a ways out without needing a great deal of momentum. Alexander may take his lumps initially and fall to the mid-first round on many boards but should have a stronger second half of his freshman season at KU and retake a position in the lottery for this year’s draft.
9. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville). Harrell surprised many by returning for his junior year at Louisville. Some immediately predicted it would ultimately prove to be a huge mistake as he was considered a surefire first rounder and could jeopardize that if he falters. Lucky for him, this is a much less talented draft, giving him some margin for error. His offensive game continues to take baby steps, showing some touch on perimeter shots but only in spurts, while he continues to be an absolute beast on the boards and in the paint. He led the NCAA by a wide margin in dunks last year, a sign that his strength, athleticism and aggression are too much to handle for most college opponents.
8. Kristaps Porzingis (Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain). Porzingis combines both great length and athleticism with a soft touch on his shot. What he’s missing right now is the body strength to handle NBA athletes. If he can fill out and become respectable strength wise, similar to a AK47, he can have a very solid career in the league. He’s got narrow shoulders, and there is concern among scouts that strength will always be his Achilles and keep him from realizing his potential. Also of note, no Latvian player has made it big in the NBA yet, as Top 10 pick Andris Biedrins was a big hope but failed to live up to expectations after free-throw shooting seemed to derail his confidence. The talent is there if he can add significant weight, strength and toughness. In a weak draft, being a lottery pick is within his grasp.
7. Wayne Selden (Kansas). Selden is one of the most talented returnees to college basketball and if his shot and ISO game show progress, he’s Top 10 pick material. The burly Jayhawk guard struggled some with his health as a freshman and is said to be moving a lot better and getting more lift after surgery in the offseason. He played some point guard in high school and is more skilled than he showed in his freshman season at Kansas. With so much talent leaving KU (Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins), he should have a big opportunity to take over a greater responsibility, possibly becoming KU’s go to scorer.
6. Caris LeVert (Michigan). LeVert looked like Michigan’s best prospect to some at certain points last year on a team with two first-rounders (Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary) and an early second (Glenn Robinson III). He’s a skilled player who never shies away in big moments and has a solid feel for the game. This may be high for LeVert, but anyone from this year’s class seems high in the 6 to 10 range. LeVert has shown tremendous growth in his body and game, as he has gained two inches since being in Ann Arbor. After a steady sophomore season, LeVert appears set to take over the scoring load from his aforementioned former teammates. NBA scouts all are very high on his competitiveness and intangibles.
5. Stanley Johnson (Arizona). The Southern California product is a proven winner and gives Arizona an X-factor to potentially win the national title this season. The Artest comparison is actually a very good one for Stanley, but he’ll need to work on becoming a lock-down defender. He must learn to play with more defensive intensity, but with such a tremendous body and incredible strength, he has the makings of a stand-out defender at the NBA level. He’s certainly not a finished product as his jump shot needs some tweaking: he currently shoots it too low. While he might be a reach to some as a Top 5 pick, it’s difficult to find five players to put above him at this point. He seems to be a solid bet to end up in the 5-8 range on draft night.
4. Kelly Oubre (Kansas). Oubre is a top shelf athlete who continues to add elements to his game. He’s becoming a dead eye shooter and the form on his three-point shot is becoming a strength. What he must add is overall maturity, a better ability to create shots and a mid-range game. He also needs to work on becoming a better team player and tougher. He has a tendency to disappear at times, like he did at the LeBron James Skills Academy. If he learns how to play with focus and consistency every moment on the floor, the sky is the limit with him.
3. Karl Towns (Kentucky). Towns is very intriguing considering the premium NBA teams put on bigs with the ability to knock down outside shots. He’s not as ready to contribute as Okafor, but his length and shooting gives him a greater long-term upside, and could overtake him. While his athleticism still has some rough edges, he shows a lot of upside as his body continues to fill out and develop. This is a 7-footer with the ability to dunk from the free-throw line. He is also very cerebral, showing a strong feel for the game along with leadership and a competitive streak when he gets challenged. With passing ability as well as a developing back-to-the-basket game, he possesses a multidimensional skill set. He needs to continue to add lower body strength, but has above-average athleticism and tremendous length giving him real potential as a rim protector. He has already put on a lot of weight since arriving at UK and unlike Okafor appears to have a lot of untapped potential.
2. Jahlil Okafor (Duke). Okafor is one of the most advanced post players ever at the high school level. The question is just how much upside he has left to develop and how well he will match up with bigs with similar strength and superior athleticism. His footwork and ability to use fakes and control his body allows him to overcome his lack of athleticism and be an offensive nightmare for opponents. But his lack of verticality will begin to cause him problems as he continues to play more advanced and experienced players. Help side defenders will not allow him to get shots off below the rim so easily and he’ll be forced to adjust his game to some degree. He’s got an enormous wingspan, which allows him to play bigger than his height and grab rebounds. He’s a tremendous kid with a strong work ethic and should end up a very good NBA center, even if he may not have the upside to be an absolute superstar due to his lack of athleticism. Worst case scenario: He’s Kevin Duckworth with a better physique. Best case: He becomes an Al Jefferson type with a face-up and back-to-the-basket arsenal.
1. Emmanuel Mudiay (Guangdong Southern Tigers, China). Mudiay rattled some cages with his groundbreaking decision to bypass NCAA ball in favor of a short and well paid 24-game stint playing in China. His skill set is actually further along than PG prospects such as John Wall and Derrick Rose’s were at the same stage. He has a terrific feel for the game, and will just need to learn to become more composed with his decision making and shot selection. It will be very interesting to see what kind of impact his decision has on the NCAA and future prospects, not to mention himself. Our hunch is he’s too talented for it to affect him too negatively and he ends up the No. 1 pick as he’s the most talented kid potentially eligible for the 2015 draft. Mudiay has joined one of the if not the premier team in China, so playing time is not a given. While his skill level may not have the same development as it would have with a year under Larry Brown, he’s definitely got a leg up on the rest of his classmates in the marketing department. Not to mention, he’s getting paid.