NBA Picks: Early Look at Top of 2015 NBA Draft Based on Teams Current Records

Thursday, February 26, 2015 8:08 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 8:08 PM UTC

There's a little less than one-third of the NBA's regular season remaining, but we know for sure a handful of teams who will land in the May 19 lottery. Here's my projection of the top-five picks in the June 25 draft going by teams' current records.

<p><strong>1. New York Knicks (10-46): Duke's Jahlil Okafor</strong><br /> I guarantee you that team president Phil Jackson wasn't expecting the Knicks to get the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Jackson thought the Knicks would be a playoff team after re-signing Carmelo Anthony and trading for point guard Jose Calderon from Dallas in the offseason. Instead, the Knicks already have more losses than last season and are locks to suffer the most defeats in franchise history, which you should think about when looking at the <a href="" target="_blank" title="NBA Odds">NBA odds</a>. The previous record was 59, accomplished four times. The Knicks last got the No. 1 overall pick in 1985 -- some still say it was an NBA conspiracy to rig the first draft lottery -- and of course took Patrick Ewing. That worked out pretty well, although the Knicks never won a title. Okafor is just a freshman, so he's clearly not what Ewing was coming out of college. But Okafor is offensively ready now, although he'll need to bulk up. Defense is a bit of an issue. The 6-foot-11 Okafor is averaging 18.4 points and 9.4 rebounds for Duke and will win ACC Player of the Year and possibly national player of the year honors. He would be the fourth Duke player to go No. 1, following Kyrie Irving (2011), Elton Brand (1999) and Art Heyman (1963 -- to Knicks).</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>2. Philadelphia 76ers (12-45): Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell</strong><br /> This is interesting because <a href="" target="_blank" title="Should D'Angelo Russel Bet #1 Pick? Share Your Thoughts">the second-best player on the board is Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns</a>. However, the 76ers already have two big men with high ceilings in former Kentucky star Nerlens Noel, who has played pretty well this season after missing all of the 2013-14 campaign, and former Kansas star Joel Embiid, who is not expected to play at all this season as a rookie. The 76ers also have Dario Saric stashed in Europe. They need guards in a big way, especially after trading Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee at the deadline -- although you can't rule out GM San Hinkie trading Noel and/or Embiid. Russell, a freshman shooting guard, wasn't considered a lottery pick entering the season but could finish second to Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky for Big Ten Player of the Year honors and certainly will be a Freshman All-American. Russell is averaging 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists for the Buckeyes. Someone has to score from outside on Philly.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>3. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-43): Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns</strong><br /> It would be a dream scenario for Philly to pass on Towns at No. 2 in favor of Russell for Minnesota because the Wolves already have their shooting guard of the future in Andrew Wiggins. They need a power forward and Towns would be perfect. The freshman's stock is on the rise, too, with some believing he could compete for the No. 1 overall spot with Okafor. The 6-foot-11 Towns is already much better defensively but probably will never be the scorer that Okafor is. Towns is averaging just 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, but he only plays 20.3 minutes on the incredibly deep and unbeaten Wildcats. He has four double-doubles in his past six games. Wiggins, Towns, Ricky Rubio (assuming re-signs), Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves could be good soon, so don't sleep on them when placing your <a href="" target="_blank" title="NBA Picks">NBA picks</a>.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>4. Los Angeles Lakers (15-41): Former prep All-American Emmanuel Mudiay</strong><br /> Remember,<a href="" target="_blank" title="Bet Bottom 5 Finish for Lakers &amp; No Hopes for Playoffs in 2016"> if the Lakers don't get a Top-5 draft pick</a>, they have to ship it to Philadelphia (via Phoenix). So winning a few more games the rest of the way is definitely not the goal in Los Angeles. I believe there's a pretty solid drop-off after the top three of Okafor, Russell and Towns. The Lakers won't be drafting for a position of need as they have issues everywhere, and I'm including Kobe Bryant's shooting guard spot. Mudiay was supposed to play at SMU this season as a freshman but there were some academic issues. Mudiay went to China, got hurt early and is now working out on his own. So scouting him could be a challenge as he hasn't faced top-flight competition. Some call him a potential Derrick Rose-type. </p> <p> </p> <p><strong>5. Orlando Magic (19-40): Arizona's Stanley Johnson</strong><br /> Orlando has some nice young talent in rookie point guard Elfrid Payton, shooting guard Victor Oladipo, small forward Tobias Harris, rookie power forward Aaron Gordon (if he can stay healthy) and center Nikola Vucevic. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Magic perhaps trade this pick for a younger veteran type to lead this team. But if staying put, Orlando can take the best player available, although Harris will be a restricted free agent this summer. The 6-foot-7 Johnson is averaging 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds, could replace Harris and give Orlando and all-Pac-12 frontcourt along with Gordon (also from Arizona) and Vucevic (USC). European players Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja are possibilities as well.</p>
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