Welcome back, Fidelity faithful!
That’s right, it’s my second annual Five-Minute NBA Draft Guide. * trumpets *
In what you hold in your hands (or read on your screen), you have the sharpest insight, the sleekest analytics, and the dopest commentary this side of, well, nothing. It’s going to be that good. We’ll take a look at this draft’s eight elite prospects, find out where they’ll land tonight, and how they’ll perform over the next five years.
Now a lot can change in a year—when writing this essay 12 months ago, the Cavs held the #1 pick; now they’re reeling from a Finals loss. But the one thing that doesn’t change year over year? The stunning accuracy of Fidelity Sports predictions. Last year, I predicted Wiggins to the Cavs (and a subsequent LeBron-related trade), Parker starting strong (unfortunately his rookie campaign was shortened by injury), Embiid to be a cosmic flop (even after 18 months, it sounds like his foot hasn’t healed—cue the Oden 2.0 theme song), Marcus Smart to get drafted by Boston and be sneaky good for Adam Stevens, Mizzou’s Jordan Clarkson to have a solid season (from the late first round, he was a first-team All-Rookie), and that Dante Exum was the future of the NBA. Well, at least I got the first five right.
On to the 2015 draft guide! * trumpets, dope beats, etc *
Group One: Elite Bigs
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
Fidelity Power Ranking: #2
Likely Position: #1 to Minnesota
5-Year Outcome: B+ (Solid starter, top 10 player at position)
Analysis: KAT will be a solid defense-first starter for 8-10 years once he adjusts to the NBA. He’ll likely be a second-team All-Defense player who shoots 50+ pct and keeps his teams in the game. That may not sound like much, but only 10-12 true big men in the league can say it. The T-Wolves will be happy with him, but he probably won’t be an All-Star starter.
Jahlill Okafor, C, Duke
Fidelity Power Ranking: #3
Likely Position: #2 to LA Lakers
5-Year Outcome: B (Solid starter, top 10 player at position)
Analysis: Okafor is a bit of a puzzle, because he looked so dominant for much of the season (after all, he was the #1 recruit coming out of high school while Towns was outside the top ten), but then struggled even as the Dukies won the title. His free throw shooting—the best early predictor of later shooting success—was atrocious. I like the guy a lot and think he’ll be another quality NBA starter. But if I were the Lakers, drafting #2 with the possibility of acquiring Aldridge or Kevin Love via free agency, I would take…
Group Two: Scoring Wings
D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio St.
Fidelity Power Ranking: #1
Likely Position: #4 to NY Knicks
5-Year Outcome: A+ (Rookie of the Year, perennial All-Star starter in prime)
Analysis: That’s right, if I were the Lakers, I’d take Russell at #2 overall. But instead, expect the very un-wise Lakers AND very stupid 76ers to both pass on the best player in the draft. But Russell to the Knicks isn’t so bad. Tell me you don’t want to see my boy D’Angelo lighting up Madison Square Garden every night for the next decade and a half! Best. Player. In. The. Draft. That’s a Fidelity Sports Guarantee.TM
Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Fidelity Power Ranking: #4
Likely Position: #7 to Denver
5-Year Outcome: A- (Solid starter, occasional All-Star)
Analysis: I think Winslow is a great player. He carred Okafor and the rest of the Dukies to the title, and the way the NBA is so dependent on wing scoring right now, I don’t think it would be stupid for him to be drafted in the top three. But questions about his athleticism exist, which is dumb, so he likely falls to Denver, where he’ll have a great four or five years before signing with a big market team for $20M on the annual.
Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
Fidelity Power Ranking: #5
Likely Position: #10 to Miami
5-Year Outcome: A (Solid starter, occasional All-Star)
Analysis: A rare 3-and-D wing who’s going to be an NBA star once he adjusts. Sure, I’m going high on scoring guards here with Russell, Winslow, and Booker all being listed above the next three guys. And one mock draft I say even dropped Booker all the way into the early 20’s! But look for Miami to snatch up the draft’s best pure shooter if Jordan and the Hornets pass on him at #9. My boy Booker has Mizzou connections (his dad Melvin was a STUD at ole Mizzou), so you know he’s the real deal.
Group Three: The Internationals
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
Fidelity Power Ranking: #6
Likely Position: #3 to Philly
5-Year Outcome: C- (Solid role player off the bench)
Analysis: I don’t think Porzingis is going to be a complete flop, but I think his talents are being overestimated. I’m saying this based on a few articles I’ve read and a 9-minute highlight video I started but didn’t finish. But have you heard these rumeors of Porzingis going #1 or #2 overall? Are you kidding me? It’s just such a risk in the top three to draft an unproven 7-foot-2 18-year old with no major college experience. With great players left on the board and with a huge need for scoring guards, who would make this great reach for an untested international big man? The Sixers, that’s who!
Emmanual Mudiay, PG, China
Fidelity Power Ranking: #7
Likely Position: #5 to Orlando
5-Year Outcome: D- (Bust)
Analysis: The Magic have no right picking Mudiay here, assuming he falls to them, because they already have good guards and need to add some bigs. They’ll likely give Frank the Tank Kaminsky and Willie-Cauley Stein a good look here, but panic and draft Mudiay anyway, claiming the old “best available player” bit. But I don’t know that he’s that great, it’s impossible to tell because he spent the year on the bench in China, and he just isn’t going to fit an immediate need in Orlando. If he goes to the Magic, bust.
Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
Fidelity Power Ranking: #8
Likely Position: #6 to the former KC Kings
5-Year Outcome: C (Role player off the bench)
Analysis: I don’t actually know anything about this guy. Just being honest.
Players from Louisville, Kentucky, or Missouri (wait…)
Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky: I bet he goes to the Pacers at #11 (but maybe as high as the Kings at #6) for a solid career of 4 points, 10 rebounds, 16 blocks per game.
Trey Lyles, SF, Kentucky: Could go between #11-17 (I predict 13-Suns), and he occasionally looked like a STUD for the Cats last year; but “occasionally” is the operative word there, because he played approx. four minutes a game.
Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville: Look for him to land around #19 (Wizards) to #26 (Spurs) for a quality playoff team (please not Toronto!) where he’ll shine as a hustle-and-grind DeMarre Carroll type starter.
Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville: Like Harrell, he’ll be in the #21-27 range, going to whoever needs a PG, and he could develop into a smart, hard-working mid-level guy.
Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky: Projected in the 31-45 range, but I bet someone at the end of the first round (maybe even G-State at #30) picks him up as an off-the-bench rim protector.
Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky: Projected in the 40-60 range, I’m guessing someone like the Nets at #41 pick him up for his college experience and leadership cred. Speaking of Harrisons…
Aaron Harrison, SG, Kentucky: Projected to fall out of the second round, but I bet someone takes a risk on him—and they should, the kid can shoot. He’ll probably land on the Sixers, since they have like a million second round picks somehow. By the way, this would give UK seven draft picks. Sheesh.
Wayne Blackshear, SG, Louisville: Probably not going to be drafted, but keep your eye on Blackshear. I bet we’ll see him in an NBA jersey by this time next year. The NBA always needs strong, physical scorers.
I am a big fan of the post-lottery and 2nd round of the draft. Picks 16-60 won’t get huge rookie deals and, most likely, will never become NBA starters or sign big sneaker deals. But one or two will become NBA superstars. Remember that Kobe Bryant was drafted #13, Tony Parker went #28, and Manu Ginobili was finally taken at #57. Just look at this past season’s All-Rookie team:
Elfrid Payton (Magic; #10)
Jordan Clarkson (Lakers; #46)
Nikola Mirotic (Bulls; #23)
Nerlens Noel (Sixers via Pelicans; #6 in 2013)
Andrew Wiggins (Wolves via Cavs; #1)
Here are the guys who will go late but have solid NBA careers.
Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame: He’s old but good—look for a quality NBA career for a good team just like Rozier.
Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia: Like Grant, he was a great college player and, though old by NBA draft standards, should land with a good team (think: Grizz or Spurs) at the end of the first round and put together a nice career.
Ziga Dimec, C, Slovenia: So, I’ve never heard of this guy and he might not even be drafted, but since there’s not an Antetekounmpo (Giannis or Thianasis) to be drafted this year, I like Ziga Dimec being the last player named in this article. Why not?
Enjoy the draft, y’all.