Jahlil Okafor is one of the key figures in the NBA draft.
Lance King/Getty Images Sport
By Vincent Frank
With the 2015 NBA draft coming up quickly, rumors are starting to heat up big time. Will DeMarcus Cousins actually be traded? Whom will the Los Angeles Lakers pick at No. 2 overall should they actually keep that pick? Are we prepared for the massive amount of trades that will undoubtedly occur come Thursday night?
There is so much to cover here, but we did our readers a solid by focusing on five of the top stories to look at during the upcoming NBA draft.
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1. DeMarcus Cousins
Report on top of report has indicated that the Kings are seriously considering moving Cousins during the upcoming draft. Continual public denials from the organization won’t change the belief that there seems to be a fire connected to the smoke. Why the Kings would consider trading Cousins is beyond me. He’s only the best young center in the game with Hall of Fame upside. But that’s a story for another time.
If the Kings do trade Cousins, they better get a few franchise building blocks and a top pick in return. That’s where a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, who can’t continue to be patient with the Clippers succeeding in their market and the Golden State Warriors winning the title up north. If the Lakers are intent on building a contender in short order, Cousins would be the way to get there. Whether that means the team would be willing to yield the second overall pick and 2014 first-rounder Julius Randle for Cousins remains to be seen, but that’s the bare minimum Sacramento should ask for in a potential deal.
If the Knicks do end up picking at four, former Southern Methodist recruit turned pro basketball player Emmanuel Mudiay is someone to keep an eye on. While he’s probably a year or two away from contributing on a consistent basis, the 6-foot-5 point guard boasts one of the highest upsides in the draft. Though, New York is also said to be interested in reigning National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky. All indications are that selecting the Wisconsin center would be a major reach.
In any event, it will be interesting to see what Phil Jackson and company do. With the fourth pick, the team has an opportunity to find a huge building block for the future. It can’t afford to drop the ball here.
3. Trades, Plenty of Trades
Don't be surprised if there are a number of draft-day deals. I keep hearing that many teams are seriously considering moving up or down.
We covered Cousins and Bledsoe above, but there are multiple veterans who appear to be on the trade market. David Lee (Warriors), Rudy Gay (Kings) and Ty Lawson (Nuggets) are among some of the names said to be available. As Thursday approaches, there promises to be a lot of talk about player-for-player trades, but don’t be too surprised if veterans are used as assets for teams to move up in the first round.
In the case of Lawson, the Denver Nuggets may end up flipping him for another pick in the top half of the initial around, at which point the team could package both of its pick to move further up in the top 10 to select the aforementioned Mudiay. The likes of Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried have also been mentioned as trade possibilities for the Nuggets.
As we mentioned in an article on Tuesday, the Warriors are intent on moving David Lee. However, they are going to have a hard time packaging his salary without throwing in at least one first-round pick. That’s magnified even further if the defending champs are looking for a complete salary dump here. If not, a player-player swap with Golden State moving up a tad in the first round could be in the cards. Pure conjecture here, but the Milwaukee Bucks might be a team to watch.
While we listed only a handful of players above, plenty more will be on the chopping block when Thursday comes calling. And as has been reported, it could lead to a ton of action.
4. Where Undervalued Wing Players End Up
From Justise Winslow (Duke) and Stanley Johnson (Arizona) as potential lottery picks to Justin Anderson (Virginia) and Rashad Vaughn (UNLV) as potential late first-round picks, it doesn’t seem like teams are valuing wing players in this draft.
This bodes well for contending teams in the bottom of the first round who are looking to add perimeter options. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors could all benefit from wing players dipping below what their actual values are.
5. Is Jahlil Okafor a Lock for the Los Angelers Lakers at No. 2?
It would be an absolute shock if the Lakers passed up on this former Duke big man for another lesser option. Along with Karl-Anthony Towns, Okafor is one of two potential building blocks from the interior in the entire draft. The Lakers simply cannot pass up on that type of potential, even if it comes with some issues on defense.
While it should be a foregone conclusion that the Lakers take Okafor second overall, the team has also been linked to former Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, as well as Okafor’s college teammate, Justise Winslow.
Then you have the possibility that the Lakers package the second pick for a veteran, which would pretty much turn the draft on its head. Considering the Sacramento Kings and George Karl are looking to add a point guard, there’s no guarantee the team would pick Okafor at two should it trade Cousins for that pick. Instead, both Russell and Mudiay come into play there. The trickle-down effect in this scenario would be real with the Philadelphia 76ers in position to add a third big man in the top five for the third consecutive season.