By The Lighter Side | April 8, 2015 ET
30. Norman Powell (UCLA). Powell is one of a small handful of seniors with a legitimate shot to get into the first round. He's slightly undersized as an NBA 2 guard but has the explosiveness to make up for it. Powell grew into a team leader over the past two seasons. His shot has shown steady improvement, and although it seems to have a hitch at times, the touch on his shot is solid. He played well at the adidas Nations summer event in games, registering a 40-inch vertial in the athleticism testing. His defensive potential is another aspect of his game that gives him a lot of promise.
29. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona). Hollis-Jefferson is well liked by scouts for his defensive intensity and potential. He is an elite level athlete who brings a high level of intensity. Music to defensive minded coaches ears. His jump shot is a major weakness, and may always be so, although he shot a surprising 70 percent from the line.
28. RJ Hunter (Georgia State). Hunter struggled for much of the season with his three-point shot. He was billed by many scouts as the top shooter in college after such an impressive sophomore year and his shooting displays in practices. The issue holding him back appears to be getting quality looks, which may be attributed to a lack of strength and foot speed. While he also struggled in the tournament with his shot, he hit the shot that counted, knocking out Baylor. His heroics have elevated his stock to being a likely late first rounder. Playing alongside a quality point guard at the NBA level will make Hunter infinitely more effective.
27. Kris Dunn (Providence). Dunn finally lived up to all the promise he showed coming into Providence as their all-time highest rated recruit. He was one of the nation's leading assist men and also displayed intriguing defensive and scoring ability. He proved capable of creating offense both by getting to the rim and making shots from the perimeter. While his turnover numbers were glaring and there are still concerns about his decision making, he's proven himself as a passer, capable of setting teammates up for quality shots. He led his team to the tournament, however detractors point to the fact that he may have excelled in a Big East Conference without much talent at his position. His defensive potential as a long, standout athlete gives him added intrigue. There are still concerns about him, but for a team looking for an upside pick in the late first round, Dunn offers a solid option.
26. Christian Wood (UNLV). Wood has a tantalizing combination of length, athleticism and talent. He shows flashes with the ability to put the ball on the deck and get to the basket. He also has nice touch and a solid offensive skill level and even some shot blocking ability. He still needs to add more focus, toughness and overall consistency. He had some big performances this season, and shows a lot of potential. He strikes some as a player that may be drafted on potential, but always remain a tease. He lacks a real fiery personality, so gaining strength and aggressiveness will be key, but there's no denying his talent.
25. Chris McCullough (Syracuse). McCullough surprised many with his decision to enter the draft despite coming off an ACL tear that cost him most of his freshman season. He is a player that many scouts were very high on after his performance in New York at Madison Square Garden and his fast start. He came down to Earth considerably in subsequent games, struggling to score and impact games. He's considered an upside pick as he lacks an NBA ready frame and his skill set, while intriguing, remains unpolished. The fact that he won't be able to perform in workouts in front of scouts puts his stock in question. He's a first round, maybe even lottery level talent but a bubble first rounder coming off an ACL injury.
24. Terry Rozier (Louisville). Rozier is a dynamic athlete and scorer off the dribble who struggled some to display point guard skills, but some of that can be attributed to Louisville's helter skelter system. Rozier possesses excellent size at the lead guard position. He also has terrific leadership ability. He is intriguing defensively and thrives in making decisions in the the open floor. These are attributes that should all assist him at the NBA level.
23. Jarell Martin (Louisiana State). Martin is a versatile athlete who some believe can play either forward position. He's a long, fluid athlete who's very good in the open floor with tremendous speed. He has the ability to play with his back to the basket, or facing up and stands a good shot of grabbing a spot in the late first round area.
22. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma). Despite not having a breakout statistical season, Hield remains very high on scouts lists due to his all-around skill set and athleticism. Hield is small for a 2 but has a polished skill set. Hield is the team's unquestioned first scoring option, but also draws a lot of defensive attention. 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 offense off the dribble.
21. Delon Wright (Utah). Wright had a very solid junior season in which he led Utah to the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost to eventual champion Duke. He's a dynamic athlete with size at the point guard position. While he struggles shooting the ball, he has shown improvement and his all-around skill set and athleticism make him an intriguing option at this area of the draft. There are a lot of quality point guards potentially available in this range, so he will need to perform well in workouts. But his size and experience play into his hands.
20. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville). Harrell surprised many by returning for his junior year at Louisville. He showed improvement this season and has a shot to be a late lottery selection. His offensive game has steadily improved, showing more touch on the perimeter, while he continues to be an absolute beast on the boards. Harrell had a solid showing in the tournament and while he is a bit undersized at 6-foot-8, he's got excellent length to make up for it.
19. Jerian Grant (Notre Dame). Grant spearheaded Notre Dame's surprising season with his fearless and inspirational play. They came extremely close to knocking off Kentucky and reaching the Final Four in the Irish best season in years. He gained a lot more notoriety for his heroics, but the interesting thing is that his numbers actually dipped from his junior year. There is some debate about whether he is a true point guard, but his toughness, determination and go to ability make him a highly regarded prospect, with mid-first round potential.
18. Devin Booker (Kentucky). Booker had a solid freshman season and flashed a lot of upside with his long-range shooting and feel for the game. His shot went south late in the season and he's considered a prospect with better long term then immediate potential. He has some defensive and foot speed concerns, but he's an underrated leaper. He projects as a prototype shooting guard, and while comparing him to a player like Klay Thompson is probably being overly optimistic, there are some parallels between their games. If Booker shoots the lights out in front of teams in workouts, he could move back up into the late lottery range.
17. Tyus Jones (Duke). Quite possibly Duke's most valuable member of the "Fab 3". Jones was the catalyst to Duke's national title. He was awarded MOP of the Final Four, making a number of big plays down the stretch to help Blue Devils capture the championship. Now he's likely to be rewarded by being a high draft pick. He lacks great physical measurements and isn't a great athlete, but he's got tremendous intangibles and leadership at the point guard position. He shows maturity and composure beyond his years. Scouts complain about his ability to beat opponents off the dribble, but he is very crafty and it just means he will have to work harder to get open looks and make it as a starter in the league. His jump shot showed better range and consistency as the year progressed. Worst case scenario he probably ends up a high level backup. Jones is now considered by scouts as a possible late lottery to mid first round pick.
16. Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin). The National Player of the Year may not have standout physical attributes, but his size, skill level and determination should make him a solid pro. He's an excellent outside shooter and has become an extremely crafty and effective post player as well. His ability to run the floor has even received praise by scouts. He also shows the ability to beat bigs off the dribble, despite much explosiveness, and his ball handling has been a real bright spot. In the tournament he did a very solid job defensively against the Kentucky frontline and Jahlil Okafor, raising his stock some. He's a high-character kid with a lot of personality, which should endear him to teams in interviews. Leading Wisconsin all the way to the national championship game makes him a potential lottery pick with a likely 10-20 range for this year's draft.
15. Myles Turner (Texas). Turner had an up-and-down freshman season, though his final statistics were solid. The real enigma with Turner is just how his legs will turn out. He's got some real issues limiting his fluidity, whether it is shin splints related to growth, tendinitis or more permanent issues. Roy Hibbert had horrendous mobility until his junior year in college, and some bigs take time to grow into their bodies. Turner is excellent in the half court with the ability to knock down mid-range jump shots, make plays at the rim, and also be a force as a shot blocker. He's considered a possible late lottery to mid first round pick.
14. Kevon Looney (UCLA). Looney was one of the top freshmen in the country and while he has a long ways to go, he is considered a potential lottery pick. If effort is a skill, then it is Looney's top attribute. He has one of the most unorthodox games you will find. While he's got some great versatility to handle the ball and even pass it, he projects as a four for the NBA level. He has one of the best motors, giving consistent energy and effort in every game. While he doesn't have much of a post game, and needs to get a lot stronger, he is a tremendous rebounder.
13. Cameron Payne (Murray State). Payne will likely be competing with national championship MOP Tyus Jones to be the third point guard off the board after Emmanuel Mudiay and D'Angelo Russell. He's a late bloomer who after such a tremendous season entered the draft. He may lack the same exposure as most of the other prospects in the first round as he entered the 2015 draft picture very late and it's likely that less scouts and only a handful of GMs actually caught his games, live. Regardless, he became one of the hottest names by season's end having led Murray State to a perfect 16-0 conference record. They lost in their Conference Tournament and therefore played in the NIT where Payne was able to display his excellent open court speed, scoring, point guard skills and decision making. He's a kid that had a late growth spurt and now appears in the neighborhood of 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-4 and with good length. He's projected as a possible late lottery to early 20s pick.
12. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin). Nobody's stock took a more dramatic jump in the NCAA Tournament than Dekker's. He'd had a disappointing regular season statistically in relation to expectations. But through it all he remained a tremendous Robin to Frank Kaminsky's Batman, showing what an unselfish team player and teammate he is. In the NCAA tournament, Dekker jumped to the forefront with numerous late-game heroics to put away opponents, including both Wildcat teams, Arizona and Kentucky. He is a dynamic athlete with the ability to finish at the rim as well as create outside shots. His "big boy" play in the tournament certainly made a lot of believers out of NBA scouts, and his stock couldn't be higher after an impressive tournament run.
11. Kelly Oubre (Kansas). Oubre struggled coming out of the gates, but recovered nicely as the season progressed. He has an excellent frame (7-foot-2 wingspan) for a wing and shows above average athleticism and outside shooting ability. He still must become a more disciplined decision-maker and defender. He also should work on his ability to create shots and developing a mid-range game. His attitude gets criticized, and it remains to be seen if he really is a team player at heart. He does show some solid potential as a defender, but generally gets knocked for his lack of intensity and effort on the defensive end by scouts.
10. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky). WCS elevated his play as a junior and is now widely considered a probable lottery pick. His ability to be a difference maker on the defensive end, specifically defending the pick-and-roll, is what makes him so intriguing. He legitimately shows the foot speed to hang with guards on the perimeter. His feel for the game remains a work in progress, and detractors will point to the fact that many of his deficiencies, even defensively, were hidden within the Kentucky system. He's not afraid of contact having played wide receiver high school football. Lacking touch, his offensive ability will likely always be limited. Despite his limitations, he's in elite athletic company for a 7-footer and should find a role as a shot blocking, rebounding, alley-oop finishing, energy guy – even if his offensive game never fully develops.
9. Mario Hezonja (FC Barcelona, Spain). Has long been a highly coveted prospect in Europe due to his standout athleticism, but struggled to develop steady playing time and consistency over the past few seasons with injuries and off-court distractions. He finally gained consistent minutes this season and has produced. With a strong finish to the season, Hezonja could challenge Porzingis to be the first European off the board. He's the most athletic 2-guard out of Europe in over a decade and shows a knack for making highlight plays.
8. Stanley Johnson (Arizona). Stanley had a very solid freshman season, however his deficiencies were exposed to a degree as he struggled at season's end. He's not the most explosive athlete, though very good, and his offensive skill set shows a lot of promise, but remains unrefined. With such tremendous body strength, he has the makings of a standout defender at the NBA level. Despite a dip in output and Arizona falling short of the Final Four, Stanley is unlikely to slip too far in the draft. He shows the willpower and desire to continue to develop and polish his rough edges. He delivered four high school state titles and shows a winning mentality that should make him a valued role player at minimum.
7. Trey Lyles (Kentucky). Lyles is a very smooth big man with excellent mid-range shooting and great length (7-foot-2 wingspan). He came into Lexington in tremendous condition and had a very solid season in limited minutes. It's possible that he was hidden to some degree within Kentucky's talented roster. He struggled for minutes and at times got lost in the shuffle with the hype surrounding teammates Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein. We are in the minority with this opinion, but we feel his upside is greater than Cauley-Stein's and he'll ultimately surpass him by the time the draft rolls around. Lyles needs to get tougher and learn to handle contact better, but was considered one of the premiere recruits in his class. His versatility (foot speed) to defend wings on the perimeter, create off the dribble and play some SF in the league only adds to his intrigue. He may take some time to become an NBA contributor, but with his shooting touch and length, his upside is considerable.
6. 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 Andris Biedrins was a big hope but failed to live up to expectations after free-throw shooting derailed his confidence. Porzingis has a lot of proponents and has jumped to the front of this year's European crop. Look for him to grab a spot in the mid-lotto.
5. Justise Winslow (Duke). Winslow is one of the top athletes in this year's draft with an NBA body at 19 years of age plus great explosiveness and speed. He experienced ups and downs like most freshmen, but his level of consistency and skill level proved even better than advertised. He's got a solid shooting touch, granted his shot still needs work. He's got elite level defensive ability and a great NBA body. He's incredibly fast off the dribble and has really impressed with his ability to finish plays while operating at a high rate of speed in the open floor. Where the question marks still arise are his consistency and assertiveness. While he's probably the biggest risk of the top 5, due to having an unrefined skillset, he may have as much upside as anyone in this year's draft.
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Guangdong Southern Tigers, China). An elite level PG with the dynamic talent to be in the category of PGs such as Derrick Rose, John Wall and Damian Lillard. 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. His decision to bypass college and play in China, where very few scouts and GMs saw him, adds an unfamiliarity that will be tough to overcome. Teams have a much smaller sample size to work with, and that could ultimately make him slide (to 4 or 5) and become the steal of the draft. He stood out in the showcase events that scouts were allowed to attend at the end of his high school career and many viewed him, us included, as the top prospect in the class. Although he missed a good portion of the year in China due to an ankle injury, when he did play he was impressive. Some aspects of his skill set are nearly impossible to discern from his games there, including defense, but he has good defensive ability and potential. What makes him such an intriguing prospect is his fiery and competitive nature. Mudiay has great confidence, communicates well and loves to compete.
3. D'Angelo Russell (Ohio State). Russell was one of the most productive and exciting freshmen in the country. His feel for the game and readiness is extremely advanced. He generally doesn't blow by opponents off the dribble with sheer speed, though at times he did, but his craftiness to rock opponents off balance to create space is very good. He's proven to be an excellent three-point shooter, showing the ability to get shots off very quickly as well. While he's not an elite athlete, his excellent length and potential to play either guard position gives him a great deal of intrigue. He'll need to focus more attention on his defensive intensity. With Stephen Curry taking the world by strong in his MVP level season, players with less athleticism like Russell receive a boost.
2. Jahlil Okafor (Duke). Okafor was considered a strong favorite to be the top pick by scouts and pundits for much of the season. He struggled in the final month and in particular in the tournament. He's still considered a possibility to go first and the team that lands the top pick will have a real dilemma. While he's a below-the-rim player, his ability to use his strength to clear space for shots, a la Al Jefferson makes him a highly effective post player. His body control is outstanding and it makes him a very good athlete despite the lack of great leaping ability. His footwork and ability to use fakes and body control make him an offensive nightmare for opponents. He possesses an enormous (7-foot-5) wingspan that allows him to play bigger than his height and grab rebounds. While many feel he lacks the upside of Towns, his body of work and ability to contribute from Day One are favorable. He should end up a very good NBA center, with a chance to be a dominant one at the offensive end.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky). While Kentucky fell short of a national title, Towns grew up, taking over as the team's go-to scorer. He willed the team into the Final Four with his late-game heroics against Notre Dame. He is also very cerebral, showing a strong feel for the game along with leadership and a competitive streak when he gets challenged. With nice passing ability, he possesses a multidimensional skill set. Towns is especially 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 he is a stronger defender and outside shooter, making many consider him the superior long-term prospect. Towns finished the season strong with a number of impressive tournament performances. He needs to continue to add lower body strength, but his tremendous length and instincts give him potential as a rim protector. Late in the season, he surpassed Okafor on many team's boards, and now is the favorite to go first.