I don't know, and you really don't know. When you go back and re-rack past drafts (pick a year), it's apparent that most NBA front offices don't know. When it comes to draft prognosticating, the only thing that we've come to know is that no one knows. Even the best NBA front offices have their missteps, and even the worst front offices get it right once in a while. One team's Wes Johnson becomes another team's DeMarcus Cousins, while one team's Thomas Robinson becomes another team's Damian Lillard.
As we close in on May 20 and the simultaneous drop of ping pong balls and our stomachs, we ponder what and who might and might not be. As of right now, visions of Karl-Anthony Towns (who wouldn't go for a little Karl on Karl action?) and Emmanual Mudiay (having trouble figuring out the pronunciation of his name? It's "Eee-Man-You-El") and D'Angelo Russell dance through our collective heads. Lines have been drawn as it pertains to Jahlil Okafor. These are the four guys that, according to the odds, we won't be talking about much come May 21.
If we wind up in the sixth spot (or drop to seventh as the daft odds and draft Gods would have it), the conversation will turn to the likes of Justise Winslow, Kristap Porzingis, Willie (Trill) Cauley-Stein, Stanley Johnson and Mario Hezonja. We don't know what we need to know about these players. All we know for sure is that the player that we universally lust for the most will be selected one pick before we choose. This is known as Joakim Noah Syndrome (newer Kings fans know it as a case of the Randles).
The Kings are entering their second year of DeMarcus Cousins' four year contract. They have Rudy Gay for 2-3 more seasons, and Darren Collison for two. The debate will certainly and appropriately rage on as to whether or not the Kings would be better served trading their pick (especially if it is in the 6-9 range) for talent that will contribute much more quickly than Ben McLemore or Nik Stauskas produced as rookies selected in a similar range. One would hate to see the Kings make a deal out of desperation, but the clock is running. It is a relatively safe bet that the Kings cannot suffer another season deep in the bowels of the lottery without DeMarcus Cousins ultimately wanting out. The Kings must be greatly improved in 2015-16 to (a) get a return on investment on the $30m that they have tied up in Cousins and Gay (plus the $3+m due to George Karl for the upcoming season), and (b) keep Cousins on an onward and upward path and wearing Kings laundry. But at the end of the day, trades are the exception and keeping your pick is the rule, so for the purposes of this post, let's go with us keeping the pick.
So who do I like? My list follows. Why do I like them? Who knows? Without further delay, I proudly, humbly, and dart-throwingly submit my initial draft board for 2015.
For today, let's review my alternatives if the Kings land in the top three (HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!! Stop it, section, you're killing me!):
Karl-Anthony Towns - 7', 250 lbs., PF/C
Jerryisms: "He threw it down, Towns." "Karl with the Wildcat Whammer!" "The monster from Metuchen."
On the offensive end, Town spent the bulk of his time at Kentucky in the low post. However, when given the opportunity he showed himself to be capable in the high post, and he certainly has the look of a player that could play high-low with Cousins (or low-high, as Cousins also possesses the ability to play in both posts) and execute in the high pick and roll. Towns was actually more of a perimeter shooter in high school than at Kentucky, and he could very well become a bit of a stretch four as well. He does have a tendency to gather himself when he is in the low post, which could lead to him getting his shot blocked early on in his career. There is nothing to lead one to believe that he won't make the adjustment to the quicker, longer NBA defenders.
The defensive end is where Towns could make a faster impact. While almost every rookie comes into the league needing to get stronger, Towns' 250 lb. frame puts gives him a better initial platform than that of past Kentucky prospects Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel. Towns could cover non-elite centers almost immediately, but he also possesses the length and mobility to cover the power forward position, which is where the Kings would really need him the most. He is a good shot blocker both on the ball and as weak side help.
Does he fit? Sure looks like it. Would he play right away? Almost certainly. Is he the right pick? Who knows?
D'Angelo Russell - 6'5", 175 lbs., SG/PG
Jerryisms: "It's Russell mania!" "D'Angelo with D'three!" "Buckeye Buckets!"
I probably have Russell higher on my list than most. And I have no tangible argument for why. I just like him, the same way that I liked Kawhi Leonard...and Thomas Robinson. I guess that I just see some similarities to Brandon Roy's game, and I loved, loved, loved me some Brandon Roy. Russell could eventually play the point, but I see him more as a two guard that can score and facilitate, something that George Karl has specifically called out as a need (or at least a major desire) for his squad. Russell has shown to be excellent as both a spot up and pick and roll shooter. He is not the explosive athlete that Ben McLemore is, for example, but he just seems to have a really good feel for the game. He appears to be a player that will work to improve his game, which is a good thing, as he could get roasted early and often on the defensive end. He does need to bulk up at least a little bit.
Does he fit? He sure looks like a guy that could play next to Collison or McLemore. Would he play right away? Unless Ray McCallum and Nik Stauskas come into camp as completely different players. Is he the right pick? Who knows?
Emmanuel Mudiay (Moo-dee-ay) - 6'5", 200 lbs., PG
Jerryisms: "(Insert opposing player's name here) needs to go back and read the Emmanuel." "Every day is Mudiay!" "The Congo Comet."
The phrase "Who knows" grows exponentially for international players, but those that have followed Mudiay think that he's the real deal. He is known as a "true" point guard, which for me is the definition of a guy that needs to work on his shot (Chris Paul exception noted). Comparisons have been made to John Wall. Mudiay has very good length and size for a point guard, plays well both in the open floor and in pick and roll sets, and is a pretty good finisher at the rim. If he can improve his shot (and let's remember that he does not turn 20 until next March), he could become an elite point guard.
Does he fit? If he delivers on his promise. Would he play right away? Good question. He certainly appears to be the most raw of the top prospects. It would seem that he would have a ways to go to unseat Collison as a starter, with less ground to cover to catch McCallum. Is he the right pick? Who knows?
Jahlil Okafor - 6'11", 272 lbs., C
Jerryisms: "Okafor for Okatwo." "There's always room for Jahlil." "Jahlil with the Oka-doke."
And sometimes a player comes along that you don't like for the same total lack of reasoning that makes you like D'Angelo Russell. Okafor is a very nice player. Heck, he could wind up being the best player in the draft. And if I'm picking from #4 on down, he's my guy. But for whatever reason (or no reason), he's fourth on my board. Okafor already possesses an NBA body with room to get stronger, a reported 7-5 wingspan, good/big hands, and he is not a plodder. He has the look of a guy that can thrive in the low post, perhaps a more athletic Zach Randolph on the offensive end. Like most Duke products, he's not afraid to pass the ball and he's not bad at it. As opposed to Towns, Okafor has the look of a guy that would do the bulk of his work down low.
The defensive end is where I have my concerns about Okafor. And this is purely subjective, but he just seemed far less engaged defensively than offensively. He did not seem to be a guy that either read or was enthused to jump out on the pick and roll. I don't see him as an elite rim protector, and certainly not a guy that can chase smaller power forwards around.
Does he fit? In the way that Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph fit, sure, I guess. But it's not a pristine fit with Cousins, as one of those two guy will have their hands full chasing around the Markieff Morrises of the world. On the other hand, Cousins/Okafor would be a handful for an opposing defense. Would he play right away? Yes. Is he the right pick? Who knows?
Recapping the section214 big board, v1.0, butt-pulled 100%.0, through the first four slots: Towns, Russell, Mudiay, Okafor.
Next chapter: My draft board, 6-9 pick focused.