This article is part of our NBA Mock Draft series.
Everybody loves hope. Hope keeps people going. That's why so many of us get excited for the NBA draft every summer, which is just around the corner. It offers hope to the 29 franchises that don't win the Larry O'Brien Trophy, that they are just one piece away, that the player they select will be the next Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or even a second-round gem like Chandler Parsons.
So, with that said, I decided it was time to partake in everyone's favorite exercise at this time of the year — a mock draft. But, this isn't just me spewing forth my ideas on which teams will take which player. No. Not even close.
Instead, I've enlisted the great minds that comprise my Twitter followers, offering virtual general manager positions to 27 basketball junkies, and what follows are the moves each of them would make if they were given the keys to a franchise on draft night. Unlike most other mock drafts, trades were allowed just to shake things up a bit.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky — Minnesota Timberwolves
There are other intriguing options here (Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell), but the Wolves have decided to select Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. We like his size and athleticism, and it's the latter that ultimately had us choose him over Jahlil Okafor. He may not be as polished as the Duke big man, but over time, we believe his upside is far greater and that his defensive presence will shine much brighter than Okafor's. Kentucky products have a much better track record in the NBA than Duke's do, especially with recent big men i.e. DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Nerlens Noel.
@SethDaSportsMan — Minnesota GM
Josh's take — This is exactly where I would've gone. There is slightly more risk than with Okafor, but Towns' ability to influence both sides of the ball gives him the nod. If he can develop a three-point shot, which we are seeing glimpses of, he could be revolutionary.
2. Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke — Los Angeles Lakers
Jahlil Okafor is the best player in this draft and the best fit for the Lakers. The combination of him and Julius Randle gives the Lakers a pair of high-impact big men going into the future, and with the Lakers holding a team option for Jordan Hill next season, Okafor probably won't have to stomach ridiculous minutes in year one. Okafor is a potential franchise cornerstone as a 20-10 guy with the potential for two blocks per game, and I'm ecstatic to get him for the Lakers at this spot.
@NicoITL — Los Angeles GM
Josh's take — It's pretty straight forward to me at this point, Okafor is the guy and fits in well with the Lakers' history of offensive big men. Okafor could easily develop into a dominant force, and if the Lakers deviate from this selection, they could rue the day.
3. Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia, via Sevilla — Philadelphia 76ers
The consensus No. 3 pick seems to be D'Angelo Russell from Ohio State. All the experts have this locked in. The Sixers, however, have shown that they care not about public opinion or winning; they simply draft the best talent. After Okafor and Towns, Kristaps is the best talent. He's long, athletic, and can shoot. It's difficult to imagine how Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Porzingis might work together, especially without a reliable backcourt, but that's probably not important. Philly has options. They could make a trade or wait and see which of these big men develops into what they want. Also, there's always next year's lottery. Or, I may just be crazy, who knows.
@Dagrz — Philadelphia GM
Josh's take — If I had to lean one way, I'd lean towards crazy, but it's not quite as out there as people may think. Porzingis is getting a lot of buzz, and people really like his talent, especially as a shooter. The Sixers are bereft of backcourt talent, but we know the Sixers' real general manager Sam Hinkie isn't scared off by European prospects, so this is not that far out of left field of an idea.
4. D'Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State — New York Knicks
The Knicks take D'Angelo Russell because he is exactly what we need - a young leader with exceptional court vision and a beautiful stroke from outside. We're confident he will be just as good as Frederic Weiss, Jordan Hill, Ronaldo Balkman, and Michael Sweetney.
@TheNBARightNow — New York GM
Josh's take — While I'm not sure his player comparisons are apt, I am sure he is being tongue-in-cheek. The Knicks nailed this pick. Russell is a top-class prospect, and with the Knicks having needs at literally every position, including possibly head coach and general manager, it's hard to go wrong when one of the best prospects falls into your lap. Russell can easily play alongside Langston Galloway and Jose Calderon and should be the best player of that trio by early November.
5. Justise Winslow, SF, Duke — Orlando Magic
We're delighted to add Justise Winslow, a 19-year-old small forward out of Duke with the fifth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Winslow is regarded as one of the premier defensive players in the draft with the ability to guard multiple positions. He also has the potential to be a very good player offensively, and we believe Justise will complement our core of young talented players as we strive to end our streak of missing the playoffs in the 2015-16 season.
@SmanSports — Orlando GM
Josh's take — I think RotoWire's own Matt Smith got this one exactly right, especially if Tobias Harris decides to take his talents elsewhere, or more accurately, if the Magic decide not to match any lucrative offer sheet Harris receives. Winslow, along with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton, would make a terrifying defensive trio for any team, while they all develop their offensive games together.
6. Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Guangdong, China — Sacramento Kings
The Kings have a solid roster but are a few players short. They have defensive needs in the frontcourt, so Willie Cauley-Stein is a consideration, but with two centers that can't shoot the three-pointer or space the floor already on the Kings' roster, Kristaps Porzingis would have been the best fit here. He was surprisingly already taken, though, so we just went with the best player available here and took Mudiay. This makes Darren Collison, the subject of previous trade rumors, expendable. Expect some offseason moves as coach George Karl turns over the roster to suit his style of play.
@SRJHogan — Sacramento GM
Josh's take — I agree with pretty much all that Scott said, in that I'd love Porzingis to fall to Sacramento, but if Mudiay fell, there is no way they can go past him. Collison was better than serviceable for the Kings last season, but he's not a point guard that can take a team deep into the playoffs, while Mudiay could be that guy.
7. Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia, via Barcelona — Denver Nuggets
We were looking to add a wing. Trading Arron Afflalo last season left a void at the two-guard spot. Hezonja is a long athletic wing player who can play the two and play it well. He's also a good shooter with great range. We were one of the worst three-point shooting teams last year. He'll help immediately.
@RS_Smoove — Denver GM
Josh's take — I can't argue with this pick either. Hezonja has true star potential. He believes he is the best player on the court whenever he steps foot on it, and Denver seems to be teetering on the brink of a full rebuild, of which Hezonja would be a major piece.
Boston sends Kelly Olynyk, pick 16, and pick 28 to Detroit in exchange for pick eight.
8. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky — Boston Celtics
The Celtics traded up to select WCS, giving up picks 16 and 28 while also sending Kelly Olynyk to the motor city. The Celtics have been targeting a defensive-minded big for years, and WCS has the attributes to be that guy. The playoffs showed that Jared Sullinger is the player to keep between him and Olynyk. WCS has the ability to guard multiple positions, switch on all pick and rolls, rebound the ball at a high rate, and protect the rim. He will fit in perfectly into the Celtics roster. The Celtics still have picks 33 and 45 in their pocket.
@BigChrisso — Boston GM
Josh's take — If I was Detroit, I'd be taking that trade every day of the week, but then again, I'm higher on Olynyk than most people. But, it's hard to fault the Celtics, getting a true rim protector and defensive game changer in WCS. Paired along with Sullinger, an offensive-minded big man, he could excel in this league.
9. Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona — Charlotte Hornets
Johnson can play several positions and sports a nice three-point shot, converting at 37 percent last season. He's only 19 years old but sports a great frame at 6-foot-6 and a chiseled 242 pounds. Johnson is a well-rounded player on both ends of the court, which is something the Hornets are dying for. Known for his competitiveness, Johnson's competitiveness, NBA-ready body, and versatility make him a great pick for Charlotte.
@BarryBaker8664 — Charlotte GM
Josh's take — The Hornets are dying for some scoring and shooting from deep, so I like Johnson here. Pairing him with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gives a nice balance, and Johnson's size allows him to compete from the get-go.
10. Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky — Miami Heat
The Heat at the shooting guard position are very much in limbo with the potential opt out of Dwyane Wade and the impending free agency of Goran Dragic. Either way, the Heat are in need of a lights-out shooter. They'll grab the best three-point marksman in the draft with the selection of Devin Booker.
@Fantasy_Schnerd — Miami GM
Josh's take — Despite the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, I think the Heat would've been slightly better suited grabbing a big man, but it's hard to fault the pick of a guard, particularly with the Wade situation in limbo. Booker may only be a specialist shooter, but he could be a successful one for a long time.
11. Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky — Indiana Pacers
Lyles is from Indiana, loves playing in his home state, won the 2014 Indiana state championship at Tech, and played his final college game inside the sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium during the NCAA semifinal.
@kjdw22 — Indiana GM
Josh's take — The Pacers are looking to go up tempo and change the way their big men play, so Lyles seems like a perfect fit. He can knock down shots from far outside the three-point line, but he also has some nice post moves, which would fit perfectly for Indiana who are used to running the offensively-challenged Roy Hibbert out for big minutes.
12. Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin — Utah Jazz
With the Jazz already having two rim protectors in Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, Kaminsky would bring much needed floor spacing when paired with either. After the Jazz's late-season surge, passing on the higher upsides of Kelly Oubre and Myles Turner is less of a risk, as Kaminsky fills a more urgent need for this playoff-hopeful team.
@KevinLappin — Utah GM
Josh's take — Kaminsky can step into the Enes Kanter role that has been vacant since the Jazz traded Kanter to the Thunder in February, and Kaminsky should come in ready to contribute right away. Beyond Favors and Gobert, the Jazz's frontcourt depth is questionable at best, and Kaminsky fills a lot of their holes.
13. Myles Turner, PF, Texas — Phoenix Suns
We are looking for some help down low. Alex Len will be our starter, but in a big man's conference, it is not enough. Myles is a 7-footer who has a beautiful shot and is a rim protector. With Alex and Myles, we will have a strong dominant frontcourt for years to come. We also believe his mobility issues are behind him. Also, who wouldn't want a 7-footer who shoots a three?
@Para1978 — Phoenix GM
Josh's take — I'd be shocked if Turner was still around here, but with the Morris twins' uncertain legal situation and Brandan Wright's impending free agency, big men are definitely needed in Phoenix. I think Turner has top 10 talent, if his health checks out.
14. Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas — Oklahoma City Thunder
It's no secret that Oklahoma needs some help on the wing, and after a few to many failed experiments, they're in need of a little more depth. That's where Oubre comes into play. Oubre has some of the highest upside in the draft. He has a huge wingspan and an NBA body, meaning he should have a smooth transition into the league. Oubre doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, other than some minor ball-handling and shooting issues, which should be easily ironed out. Considering how quickly he's developed on both ends over the last 12 months, some influence from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook might just see Oubre finish next season as one of the best two-way players of this draft class.
@MattLB_ -- Oklahoma City GM
Josh's take — Given the murky nature of Durant's foot problems and lingering after effects from a disastrous 2014-15 season, it would be best for the Thunder to grab an NBA-ready body at pick 14, which is exactly what Matt has done. There are rumors abound that the Thunder will take a point guard, but with D.J. Augustin still around, there isn't as pressing of a need.
15. Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas — Atlanta Hawks
I think signing DeMarre Carroll and taking a rebounding big man to add to the Al Horford/Paul Millsap frontcourt is key. Cameron Payne would be nice, but he doesn't help Atlanta as much as a competent frontcourt player would.
@PirateBro — Atlanta GM
Josh's take — The team with the second-best record in the league doesn't often pick so early in the first round, so Atlanta has a little bit of a luxury pick here. Millsap is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but I'd imagine Millsap will be back. Behind him, there really isn't much on the Hawks' roster, and Portis could be a nice reserve option, making the strong, stronger.
16. Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA — Detroit Pistons
The Pistons opted to take a shot on a potential stretch four of the future over a shooting wing. With the expectation that Greg Monroe is leaving, I chose to grab a guy in Kevon Looney who could be the perfect complement to Andre Drummond for several years to come. Looney is still developing and will likely come off the bench for the first year or two, but the long-term upside of a Looney/Drummond frontcourt was too much to pass up.
@Will_Overton — Detroit GM
Josh's take — Bearing in mind that this pick and the earlier trade were made before the Ersan Ilyasova real life deal, this pick makes a ton of sense. In fact, even with Ilyasova, it still makes sense. Only 6-foot-9, Looney could also fill a gap on the wing as well and should develop nicely under coach Stan Van Gundy.
17. Robert Upshaw, C, Washington — Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks need a good, quick center and believe that even though Upshaw is raw, he possesses the necessary talent. He's a big man that will help fill a spot in the rotation as a key bench piece.
@Jollyboat_Josh — Milwaukee GM
Josh's take — I don't love this pick as off-court concerns are a definite turn off when considering drafting Upshaw. He's big and a presence in the paint, and the Bucks don't have a settled center, but I think he would've been available for a while.
18. Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State — Houston Rockets
It's no secret that Houston needs offensive help at the point guard position with Jason Terry being a free agent and Patrick Beverley being injured and a defense-first player. I didn't think Payne would get to me, given his rise up draft boards, so I was focused on Jerian Grant, Tyus Jones, and Delon Wright to fill the point guard need. Payne was a no-brainer pick given his offensive efficiency and unselfishness. He can hit the three-ball and space the floor, which is a great fit with Harden. Obviously, the level of competition Payne faced in college is a concern, but (although Payne is a different type of player) scouts said the same about Damian Lillard and Elfrid Payton, chiding them for playing a smaller schools. General manager Daryl Morey would covet a guy like Payne, but I'd be shocked if he was there at 18 given the rumors out there.
@Jason_M_Elson — Houston GM
Josh's take — Despite my love of Beverley, I agree with Jason that Houston will want a point guard here, but I also agree that it's unlikely Payne makes it this far. If he does, it's a straight-forward pick in my opinion, with my major concern about Payne being his size.
19. Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin — Washington Wizards
The area the Wizards are weakest at are the forward positions, and Dekker is versatile and athletic enough to play both spots. He's adequate defensively, and with three years of college experience, he's developed enough to contribute right away in the NBA.
@Jam0710 — Washington GM
Josh's take — I'm a little shocked that Dekker was still here at this point, and while his hot shooting in the tournament is unlikely an indicator of his NBA career, Dekker can score and is a solid all-around player who could help a number of teams.
20. Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville — Toronto Raptors
Harrell may be a little short to play power forward, but he has the length to make up for it. He's a very good defender, who can rebound. Harrell has a high motor. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Tyus Jones were both tempting here, but ultimately, I went for a player with a higher floor than Hollis-Jefferson and a higher ceiling then Jones.
@TavesSoul — Toronto GM
Josh's take — I agree that the Raptors need help in the frontcourt, especially given the way they performed down the stretch, and while Harrell may never be a starter on a good team, he should help out significantly.
21. Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame — Dallas Mavericks
After the failed Rajon Rondo experiment, Dallas is in need of immediate help at the point. Jerian Grant's size and playmaking ability make him a great fit for coach Rick Carlisle's system. As one of the more experienced guards in the draft, Grant can also jump right into the starting lineup for the Mavs.
@FantasyTool — Dallas GM
Josh's take — This one feels fairly obvious with the Mavs' hole at point guard. Although, with Monta Ellis potentially leaving in free agency as well, any guard would fit the Mavs' needs. It's a toss-up between Grant and Tyus Jones here, but it's hard to argue the choice.
22. Christian Wood, PF, UNLV — Chicago Bulls
Wood has the size of a power forward with the skills of a guard. During the 2014-15 season, playing as a sophomore for UNLV, he averaged 15.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. At 19, he will have the time to develop behind an experienced trio of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson.
@sdsi1 — Chicago GM
Josh's take — On the surface, it seems the last thing the Bulls need is another big man, but with Gasol not getting any younger and both Gibson and Noah apparently on the trade block, the Bulls may need reinforcements sooner than we think. Personally, I would've grabbed someone like Delon Wright here, but Wood is an intriguing prospect.
23. Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia — Portland Trail Blazers
I hoped to get a center or power forward here, but none of the frontcourt players available were worthy, so I took a chance with Anderson, who has size and can play as a small-ball power forward. If I were Portland, I would try to get Gorgui Dieng from Minnesota. The Timberwolves don't realize how good Dieng is.
@VP90244 — Portland GM
24. Delon Wright, PG/SG, UNLV — Cleveland Cavaliers
You're probably saying, "Take Rondae Hollis-Jefferson." But Cleveland's frontcourt and defense is stronger than their backcourt and scoring options. Wright, a 2015 Second Team All-American, can be that scoring option from the backcourt, and he plays great defense. He's a 6-foot-6 guard with the ability to manufacture his own shot, just what the Cavs need, and Wright is big enough to defend both guard positions. He's 23 and has some junior college experience, giving Wright an advantage over some of the younger players from a maturity standpoint. His brother, Dorell, should also be able to help the young buck along as he begins his NBA career. The knock on Wright is his jumpshot and ability to score at the NBA level, but his size and defense will get him bench minutes on a team that will once again be competing for an Eastern Conference title! The kid has size and will be just as good of a role player as Hollis-Jefferson, just in the backcourt, where again, Cleveland needs more help
@Mike_Youngberg — Cleveland GM
Josh's take — I'm high on Wright, and despite Matthew Dellavedova's Finals heroics, the Cavs can use an upgrade on the bench behind the oft-injured Kyrie Irving. Also able to play the two, Wright has some nice flexibility and should make the Cavaliers even stronger.
25. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona — Memphis Grizzlies
With the Jeff Green trade a moderate failure at best, the Grizzlies still need help at small forward, and RHJ is a decent fit here. Also, picking this late in the draft, most teams draft upside and see how it develops, which is the kind of prospect Hollis-Jefferson is.
@redrock_bball — Memphis GM
Josh's take — Seeing as though I made the pick, there's little for me to argue with. I would've snapped up Wright had he fell, but it wasn't to be.
26. Aleksandar Vezenkov, SF, Bulgaria — San Antonio Spurs
Vezenkov put up numbers in a competitive Greek first division before turning 20. He's big, smart, and can shoot the rock, which would seem to fit the Spurs.
@AgentOakTree — San Antonio GM
Josh'a take - If a team was going to make a partial reach on a Euro, it would be San Antonio, but Vezenkov isn't really a reach. He's a stretch four who led the Greek league in scoring, and he should be able to find a role in the NBA.
Toronto sends Terrence Ross to the Lakers in exchange for the 27th pick.
Here's Los Angeles' GM @NicoITL's thoughts on the deal:
Trading the 27th pick for Ross was a no-brainer. This helps the Lakers build a young core with Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Okafor, as well as giving us a younger and more talented Wesley Johnson. Ross will be able to fill a bench role and is a high-upside player on offense who was playing out of position for the Raptors.
27. Tyus Jones, PG, Duke — Toronto Raptors
Jones is a perfect backup, and he brings leadership and accountability that the team needs more off. Both Montrezl Harrell and Jones are a change from the Lou Williams days, and he gives us more flexibility at the guard spot with traditional point guard play.
@TavesSoul — Toronto GM
Josh's take — I would have taken that deal in a heartbeat, as I think Ross is primed for a bit of a breakout after undergoing ankle surgery, and if Toronto is hell bent on getting Jones, it's not a bad move.
28. Anthony Brown, SF, Stanford — Detroit Pistons
The Pistons grab another important piece they were missing in Brown. They add a guy who won't be a star but who will be a role player for several years as a three-and-D wing. Brown is limited offensively but has great range and smart shot selection. He's also a guy capable of guarding multiple positions, in the mold of a poor man's Draymond Green.
@Will_Overton — Detroit GM
Josh's take — The Pistons would love for Brown to continue to hit three-pointers at over 40 percent as he did in college, and he fills a hole on the wing that the Pistons have had plaguing their offense since signing Josh Smith. It's unlikely he'll be a starter as a rookie, but Brown can give them 15-20 minutes of high-energy play per night.
29. Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville — Brooklyn Nets
The Nets' point guard spot is a discernible need. Deron Williams is on the trading block, and Jarret Jack isn't a starting NBA point guard. Rozier seems like he can become a solid backup point guard that could also play the two.
@RileyRola — Brooklyn GM
Josh's take — I agree completely about Jack not being a starting point guard, and the Nets have literally nothing behind him and Williams, so Rozier is a smart pick here. The Nets need to start their rebuild somewhere, and while I'm not sure Rozier is the guy to kick start it, he can't hurt.
30. Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV — Golden State Warriors
Vaughn is the best young talent with high upside left. It was either him or Cliff Alexander.
@AB3Buckets — Golden State GM
Josh's take — Leandro Barbosa has been exposed in the playoffs, so the Warriors need a nifty two guard to help out, and Vaughn could be just that. A solid selection.