The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

2015 NBA Mock Draft: Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor should go Nos. 1 and 2

Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns is expected to be the top overall pick. (Chris Steppig/Associated Press, Pool)
Placeholder while article actions load

Rumors are swirling. Executives are being coy, sharing half-truths or no truths at all. Fans are getting anxious and going crazy over every leaked detail. Future NBA prospects are spinning and waiting for this process to finally end.

The NBA draft is Thursday night and it hardly ever goes as planned — with stunning trades and surprising picks often highlighting the day – but here’s how it could all play out. Well, maybe not … but let’s have some fun:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Needs: Interior defense, perimeter shooting
Choice: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
Flip Saunders has been high on Jahlil Okafor but the Timberwolves will instead add a complementary defensive anchor for Andrew Wiggins. Towns was held back offensively on a deep roster in college and could become the third No. 1 pick out of Kentucky in the past five years.

[Fancy Stats: Towns is the most complete big man in draft]

2. Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: Potential star
Choice: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
The Lakers are desperately in need of a star to build around as they prepare for a transitional period in Kobe Bryant’s last season. Okafor would appear to be an obvious choice given the franchise’s history of great big men (that is, if they don’t flip this pick for a proven NBA big man, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins). But unless Towns falls to them, the Lakers will also have to debate picking D’Angelo Russell.

3. Philadelphia 76ers
Needs: NBA-quality talent, playmaking guard
Choice: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
In a more perimeter-oriented game, teams need a talented point guard to be competitive. After giving up on Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline, the 76ers can snag a potential star in Russell, a smooth lefty with a sweet shooting stroke.

4. New York Knicks
Needs: Skilled big man, point guard
Choice: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
Phil Jackson stated that the Knicks are already set at small forward and lead guard, which would hint that the team is looking for size at this spot. Porzingis is a 7-footer who runs like a guard, can space the floor with a feathery jumper and has the potential to end a trend of lottery duds and become the next great European big.

5. Orlando Magic
Needs: Small forward, perimeter shooting
Choice: Justise Winslow, Duke
The Magic has a decent assortment of young talent but Winslow gives the team a fiery competitor who can defend multiple positions. With new Coach Scott Skiles around, Orlando could benefit from having a high-energy athlete who relies on skill and hustle.

6. Sacramento Kings
Needs: Point guard, athletic big man
Choice: Emmanuel Mudiay, China
Mudiay probably hurt his chances of being a top-five pick by electing to bypass college and then getting injured abroad. But he could help a dysfunctional organization solve at least one problem by landing a point guard who can make plays for scorers Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins — that is, unless one or both is dealt.

[On Mudiay, Larry Brown ponders what could have been]

7. Denver Nuggets
Needs: Perimeter shooting, rim-protecting big man
Choice: Mario Herzonja, Croatia
The Nuggets could use a player with personality, spunk, fearlessness and cockiness. A dead-eye shooter with superb athleticism, Herzonja has those qualities in mass quantities.

8. Detroit Pistons
Needs: Small forward, backup big man
Choice: Trey Lyles, Kentucky
Lyles wasn’t showcased as part of a big man platoon and often played out of position in college, but he is a versatile scorer with a soft shooting touch and could help the Pistons regroup should they lose Greg Monroe in free agency.

9. Charlotte Hornets
Needs: Perimeter shooting, ball-handling
Choice: Devin Booker, Kentucky
After trading Lance Stephenson, the Hornets will find a replacement at shooting guard in Booker, who is expected to make defenses honest and could spread the floor for Al Jefferson with his ability to slash and knock down three-pointers.

10. Miami Heat
Needs: Small forward, perimeter shooting
Choice: Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Even if both Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng decide to stick around, the Heat will feature two 30-somethings with injury histories on the perimeter. A tough, versatile, two-way player, Johnson could help Miami get young and much more athletic on the wing.

[Wade rumored to have interest in Lakers, linked to Cavs]

11. Indiana Pacers
Needs: Athletic big man, playmaking guard
Choice: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Though health concerns could cause Cauley-Stein to slide, Larry Bird would be elated if the athletic 7-1 big man is available for Indiana. With the Pacers looking to run and play a more uptempo style, Cauley-Stein is the perfect fit with his speed, quickness and high motor.

12. Utah Jazz
Needs: Perimeter shooting, solid point guard, front-court depth
Choice: Myles Turner, Texas
Though Turner doesn’t address the team’s greatest needs, Utah would have a difficult time passing on a talented big man who has the ability to shoot and provides a scoring dimension lacking from its current stash of young front-court players.

13. Phoenix Suns
Needs: Dynamic talent, front-court depth
Choice: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
A skilled big man with a refined low-post game, Kaminsky would give the Suns a much-needed interior presence on the offensive end. What Kaminsky lacks in lateral quickness, he makes up for with fundamentals and footwork.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder
Needs: Perimeter defender, quality wings
Choice: Cameron Payne, Murray State
The success of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Elfrid Payton has made it trendy to seek out unheralded point guards from mid-majors and Payne could be next in line. Oklahoma City could use another playmaker to relieve Russell Westbrook of his do-everything duties.

15. Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn Nets)
Needs: Rebounder, playmaker, perimeter shooting depth
Choice: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
An NBA-ready swingman, Dekker would provide some insurance in case DeMarre Carroll is too expensive to retain. A versatile forward who can guard multiple positions, Dekker came on strong during the NCAA tournament but still needs to develop a consistent jumper.

16. Boston Celtics
Needs: Perimeter shooting, interior defender
Choice: Kelly Oubre, Kansas
With his size and athleticism, Oubre has tremendous upside and potential as a two-way player. The southpaw needs to bulk up but has a decent jumper and excels in running the floor for transition buckets.

17. Milwaukee Bucks
Needs: Shooting guard, front-court depth
Choice: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
The Bucks cleared up enough cap space to sign Khris Middleton but could still use another shooter to open up the floor in Jason Kidd’s offense. Hunter has deep range, a quick release and solid mechanics on his jumper but he also has good passing skills and a steady feel for the game.

18. Houston Rockets (via New Orleans Pelicans)
Needs: Shot-creator, back-court depth
Choice: Tyus Jones, Duke
After leaning heavily on James Harden’s skills as facilitator, Houston could use a more traditional point guard. The Final Four’s most outstanding player makes excellent decisions with the ball, is very good at changing speeds and knows when he needs to set up teammates or create his own offense.

19. Washington Wizards
Needs: Stretch forward, playmaking guard
Choice: Bobby Portis, Arkansas
The Wizards would be ecstatic to find Portis still hanging around since he would give the team the young stretch-four they’ve been seeking. Portis can shoot and spread the floor but he isn’t afraid to scrap for position and is an active rebounder.

[What do the Wizards need in the draft?]

20. Toronto Raptors
Needs: Rim protector, perimeter defender
Choice: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Harrell could provide some of the tenacity that the Raptors lacked during their late-season slide. Though undersized, Harrell is an active offensive rebounder, quick leaper and ferocious dunker.

21. Dallas Mavericks
Needs: Point guard, wing defender
Choice: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
The Mavericks deal for Rajon Rondo bombed and J.J. Barea is a free agent, though they could rebound with Grant. At age 22, Grant is more mature than most guards in this draft. He has excellent size and a knack for stepping up in big moments.

22. Chicago Bulls
Needs: Backup point guard, perimeter depth
Choice: Delon Wright, Utah
With Derrick Rose’s annual health scares and Kirk Hinrich’s advancing age, the Bulls would benefit from having a big, pass-first point guard who can push the ball in transition and thrive in pick-and-roll situations. Wright is disciplined and has good defensive instincts.

23. Portland Trail Blazers
Needs: Interior and perimeter defenders, perimeter shooting
Choice: Kevin Looney, UCLA
The Blazers could be scrambling this offseason with most of their starting five hitting free agency, so they need to take the best player available. Looney probably won’t stick around this long but he is a solid athlete who is active on both ends and a threat to make mid-range jumpers.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Needs: Playmaking guard, wing defender
Choice: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
An explosive athlete who stays in attack mode, Hollis-Jefferson could give the Cavaliers a swingman who can run the floor on offense and provide some much-needed perimeter defense.

25. Memphis Grizzlies
Needs: Perimeter shooting, front-court depth
Choice: Rashad Vaughn, UNLV
A gifted scorer with a reputation as a tough-shot maker, Vaughn would give the Grizzlies some punch off the bench. Vaughn’s ball-handling has improved, which could help him fill in for both back-court spots.

26. San Antonio Spurs
Needs: Playmaking wing
Choice: Justin Anderson, Virginia
The Spurs usually find decent role players late in the draft. Anderson could quickly find his place in Coach Gregg Popovich’s system with his improvement as a three-point shooter and ability to guard multiple positions.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)
Needs: Small forward, interior defender
Choice: Anthony Brown, Stanford
If the Lakers find a low-post presence with their first pick, they could use someone to spread the floor. Brown excels in catch and shoot situations.

28. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers)
Needs: Perimeter shooting, interior defender
Choice: Jarell Martin, LSU
Martin isn’t fully polished offensively but he is strong, aggressive in the low block and has an ability to draw fouls inside. He would also give the Celtics’ front line some athleticism and toughness.

29. Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks)
Needs: Backup guard, rim protector
Choice: Cliff Alexander, Kansas
The Nets plan to keep Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young but it wouldn’t hurt to take a chance on a player who was once projected to be a lottery pick but slid after an NCAA investigation on illegal benefits.

30. Golden State Warriors
Needs: Back-court depth, skilled big man
Choice: Terry Rozier, Louisville
The Warriors could use a speedy combo guard to provide a change of pace for the laid-back Splash Brothers. Rozier is a volume shooter but treasures the basketball and has quick hands on defense.