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Mark Schanowski's 2015 NBA mock draft

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Mark Schanowski's 2015 NBA mock draft

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky: The guess here is Towns will win out over Chicago native Jahlil Okafor because of his superior athleticism and ability to play the power forward spot as well as center.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke: The Lakers are desperate for size and inside scoring, and Okafor should be able to provide both. Fits in perfectly with the classic Lakers’ formula of building around a low post scorer.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State: Adding a dynamic playmaker with good size like Russell should help jump-start the rebuilding program. Could go with Porzingis because of Joel Embiid’s ongoing foot issues.

4. New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia: The draft’s ultimate mystery man showed great agility and shooting ability during a recent workout for NBA executives in Las Vegas. Said to be a great fit for triangle offense.

[MORE: Bulls Talk - 2015 NBA first round mock draft]

5. Orlando Magic

Justise Winslow, SF, Duke: Winslow would be a good fit at the small forward spot, especially if Tobias Harris leaves in free agency. The Magic have already drafted or traded for impressive young talents like Victor Oladipo, NIk Vucevic, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon.

6. Sacramento Kings

Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China: Played last season professionally in China after backing out on a commitment to Larry Brown at SMU. Tremendous physical talent, but is he mature enough to be a starting NBA point guard right away?

7. Denver Nuggets

Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein is a free spirit who might raise a few red flags with NBA general managers during the interview process, but his defensive skills are off the charts.

8. Detroit Pistons

Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona: Johnson only played one season at Arizona, but he's one of the players in this draft with real star potential, so Stan Van Gundy might swing for the fences here.

9. Charlotte Hornets

Mario Hezonja, SG, Spain: OK, I've never seen the guy play, but scouts seem to love him and Charlotte is one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA.

10. Miami Heat

Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky: Make it three Kentucky players in the top-10. Booker didn't get a chance to fully showcase his talents with John Calipari playing 10 guys on a regular basis, but could be the best catch-and-shoot player in the draft.

11. Indiana Pacers

Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky: Lyles might have been the most underutilized talent on that Kentucky roster last season, but scouts love his inside-outside potential.

12. Utah Jazz

Myles Turner, C-PF, Texas: Another player who's been impressive in pre-draft workouts after one less-than-sensational year in college. Most scouts project the 6-foot-11 Turner as an NBA power forward.

13. Phoenix Suns

Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin: Phoenix loves to shoot the 3 and Kaminsky will fit right in, assuming he can make the transition from college center to NBA power forward.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State: The 6-foot-2 Murray State star has been the talk of the pre-draft workout circuit and may go even higher than this spot for another team looking to trade up.

15. Atlanta Hawks

Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin: One of the stars of the Badgers run to the NCAA championship game. Dekker would be a good fit for the Hawks with both DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap heading into free agency.

[MORE: Player profiles - Get ready for the 2015 NBA Draft]

16. Boston Celtics

Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas: Portis has been telling the media he's the best power forward in the draft. Probably not accurate, but you have to appreciate his self-confidence.

17. Milwaukee Bucks

Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame: Sure, the Bucks just traded for their point guard of the future in Michael Carter-Williams, but I'm guessing Jason Kidd wouldn't mind having another big, versatile guard on his roster.

18. Houston Rockets

Tyus Jones, PG, Duke: Houston really missed injured point guard Patrick Beverley during the playoffs, and would be well-advised to add a young prospect like Jones.

19. Washington Wizards

Justin Anderson, SF, Virginia: Solid two-way player who excelled under a defense-first system at Virginia. Has the versatility to play either wing position, and Wizards aren’t sure if Paul Pierce will be back.

20. Toronto Raptors

Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA: Toronto has been unhappy with the production at the power forward spot from Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough. Looney played just one season at UCLA, but he's a very athletic big who could grab some minutes right away.

21. Dallas Mavericks

Delon Wright, PG, Utah: After the failed Rajon Rondo experiment, Dallas could be looking for a young point guard to develop behind the unimpressive trio of Devin Harris, J.J. Barea and Ray Felton.

22. Chicago Bulls

R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State: I think the Bulls would love to grab a young point guard like Grant, Jones or Wright to develop behind Derrick Rose, but with all three off the board they might reach for a big-time shooter like Hunter, who was one of the stars of last spring's NCAA tournament. Fred Hoiberg wants to play a fast-paced, quick-strike offense, and fill the court with shooters, which would make Hunter a nice addition.

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23. Portland Trail Blazers

Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville: Harrell was a preseason All-American a year ago, but kind of got lost on a dysfunctional Louisville team. A little undersized for an NBA power forward, but has a high motor like current Golden State overachiever Draymond Green.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kelly Oubre, SF, Kansas: Only played one uninspired season at Kansas and hasn't looked all that good in team workouts. Still, scouts loved him coming out of high school.

25. Memphis Grizzlies

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona: Probably would have benefited from another year in college to work on his offensive game. Still, Hollis-Jefferson is an excellent perimeter defender who should fit in well with the Grizzlies culture.

26. San Antonio Spurs

Guillermo Hernangomez, 6-11, PF-C: Look for the Spurs to go with a Euro-stash player who won’t come over for a couple years so they can maximize cap room for a possible run at LaMarcus Aldridge or Marc Gasol in free agency.

27. Los Angeles Lakers

Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV: Averaged nearly 18 points per game for the Runnin' Rebels. Can learn how to shoot without a conscience from the master, Kobe Bryant.

28. Boston Celtics

Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse: Painfully thin at 6-foot-9 and 200 pounds. Has been linked to Celtics during workout process, but Danny Ainge is hoping to package multiple picks to move up higher in the first round.

29. Brooklyn Nets

Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville: More of a scorer than a playmaker, but Brooklyn is looking for some youth at the position behind Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack.

30. Golden State Warriors

Jarell Martin, PF, LSU: Golden State is having great success with Draymond Green playing the power forward position at 6-foot-7, so why not add a similar multiple effort kind of player like the 6-foot-9 Martin?

Scottie Pippen's injury history sheds light on what could be ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

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USA TODAY

Scottie Pippen's injury history sheds light on what could be ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

By now you probably know the story of Michael Porter Jr.'s back. Right as his college basketball career was starting—two minutes in to be exact—he had to sit out with back pain, which eventually developed into Porter undergoing a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs. The general consensus has been simple: if Porter's medicals are clean then he is a potential top-five pick, but if there is a lack of medical information or any indication that lingering issues persist, he will be available at picks six through the late lottery. Regardless of how his medical records look, what we do know is that Porter was the top-ranked player in his high school class before the eventual re-classification of Marvin Bagley. With this in mind, any team in need of serious star power—hello Bulls!—should have no problems spending a high pick on Porter, and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen is a big reason why.

In July of 1988, Pippen has disc surgery following a rookie season that was plagued by constant back pain. During that rookie season Pippen played just over 20 minutes a night and played in a total of 79 games.

While the late 80's didn't have the help of NBA Twitter to breathe doubt into fans, there was still a running sentiment that Pippen may not be effective as he was during his initial NBA season. But in his sophomore NBA year, he almost doubled his scoring total while raising his free throw percentage from 57.6 percent to 66.8 percent. On top of this, Pippen also increased his workload by playing 33.1 minutes per game. Altogether he increased his field goal and free throw percentage each of his first four seasons in the league, all following his rookie year back surgery.

This however, should not come as a shock. In an interview with SB Nation, Dr. Charla Fischer, a spine surgeon at NYU Langone Health, stated: "Most patients tell me they feel at least 50 to 80 percent better immediately after the surgery." 

Players typically take two seasons to return to form following herniated disc surgery, and that is right in line with Pippen's first All-Star appearance in 1990, about one and a half seasons following his procedure. When you relate this back to Porter, a clearer picture of what to expect forms. Because Porter has already missed an entire season of basketball (at Missouri), it figures to take about a year for him to totally regain the explosivness that he showcased at the high school level. 

Pippen averaged 14.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, along with a combined 1.9 stl/blks per game in the season following his back procedure. Now it would be unreasonable to expect Porter to come into the NBA performing at that level, but more so because of his lack of all-around polish more than anything else. And that is what makes Porter such a conundrum. He is a player whose game—as of now—is totally based on scoring, and his scoring is directly tied to how close he is to 100 percent. So again, developing the rest of his game in terms of passing and defense will take on everlasting importance, regardless of if he ends up with Chicago or another team. 

And while it is true that Pippen's injury history eventually caught up with him, leading to another back surgery in 1998, this was six NBA championships later. Pip went on to play six more seasons following his 1998 procedure. This included four seasons with Portland where the team routinely won around 50 games, and had a legendary battle with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

So no matter what, Porter's first year should be looked at as one very, very long training camp. He will be in the best position to succeed if he is selected by a team willing to look at him as a long-term piece, rather than a 6-foot, 11-inch savior.

 

NBA Buzz: Draft night is almost here

NBA Buzz: Draft night is almost here

With a number of national writers and broadcasters forecasting an active trade market in the hours leading up to Thursday's NBA Draft, the whole idea of a mock draft might just be an exercise in futility at this point. Still, we have learned quite a bit about which players are coveted by teams drafting in the top five after sorting through the smokescreens of the individual workouts.

So, with that in mind, here's my final stab at how Thursday's lottery  picks could play out.

1. Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona.  An absolute no-brainer here. Ayton combines the size and power of an old school center with the athleticism and shooting touch of a new-age "stretch five".

2. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke.  Vlade Divac shouldn't risk his good fortune at moving up to the No. 2 slot by taking a risk on Michael Porter Jr.'s health. Remember the Kings already have a rehabbing teenager in one of their first round picks from last season, Duke F Harry Giles. Bagley should be a 20-10 guy in the NBA for the next decade.

3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF-C, Michigan St.  This will be the first spot to look for a possible trade. The Hawks reportedly like Trae Young and might consider offers to move down and draft him later in the top 10. If they stay at No. 3, Jackson offers the rim protection and 3-point shooting ability Atlanta desperately needs.

4. Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, G-SF, Slovenia.  The Grizzlies should run to the podium if Doncic is still on the board at No. 4. The 19-year old wunderkind gives Memphis a secondary shot creator to go along with Mike Conley.

5. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri.  Mark Cuban is looking for his next big star with Dirk Nowitzki entering what is most likely his final season. The Mavs reportedly are also high on Mo Bamba, but Porter's potential as a 20 ppg scorer will probably win the discussion in the war room.

6. Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma.  Good chance of another trade at this spot involving a team that really likes Bamba. Orlando could move down a few spots and still get one of the three top-rated PG's, Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If the Magic stay at No. 6, Young's quick-strike scoring and box office potential are likely to win the day.

7. BULLS: Mo Bamba, C, Texas.  Yes, John Paxson said the Bulls’ biggest need is a defensive-minded wing, but Bamba's ability to dominate at that end of the court is too great to pass up. Bamba is incredibly raw offensively, but he's been working on his low post skills and shooting form since the college season ended. The Bulls were not a good defensive team last season, and adding a shot-blocking threat like Bamba should improve them immediately.

8. Cavs: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky.  Knox is one of the big risers after the individual workout season, impressing teams with his combination of athleticism and shooting ability. Knox can play both forward spots and could develop into a big-time scorer, replacing you-know-who as the Cavs start to build for an uncertain future.

9. Knicks: Wendell Carter Jr., PF-C, Duke.  The Knicks will be thrilled to add a versatile big like Carter, especially considering Kristaps Porzingis could miss most or all of next season rehabbing an ACL tear. Eventually, Porzingis and Carter could form a nice inside-outside tandem as the Knicks try to build toward playoff contention.

10. 76ers: Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova.  Another perfect fit for a team on the rise. Bridges' defense-first mentality and improving offensive game should blend in well on a Sixers team that's looking to take the next step after losing to Boston in the conference semi-finals. And, his mom already works for the franchise in the human relations department!

11. Hornets: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan St.  Charlotte whiffed on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the 2nd overall pick a few years ago, and Nic Batum has battled injuries since coming over from Portland. Miles Bridges is another combo forward who should thrive in the pro game with his ability to run the court and finish with authority at the rim.

12. Clippers: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama.  The Clippers will be thrilled if Sexton falls this far, giving them a dynamic young option at point guard to go along with veterans Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic. Sexton could go as high as No. 6 to Orlando or No. 8 to the Cavs. He'll be one of the interesting names to watch on draft night.

13. Clippers: Robert Williams, PF-C, Texas A&M.  The Clippers are still waiting to see if DeAndre Jordan exercises his player option for next season, but if he decides to test the free agent market, Williams would be a perfect replacement. The athletic 6-foot 10-inch big man is a classic rim runner who should be able to finish off alley-oop passes just like Jordan.

14. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky.  Don't be surprised if Gilgeous-Alexander goes even higher than this after a strong finish to his freshman season. Scouts love his 6-foot 6-inch frame and ability to get to the basket. In Denver, he could come off the bench initially behind young guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.

22. BULLS: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise St.  So, the Bulls may or may not have made a "promise" to select Hutchison with the No. 22 pick they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. Either way, if the Bulls get Bamba at No. 7, Hutchison would be a great addition as the "3-and-D" small forward Paxson talked about in his end of the season news conference. The 6-foot 7-inch swingman improved his 3-point shooting during his senior season at Boise St., and is considered to be an excellent wing defender. Personally, I'd love to see to Bulls draft NCAA tournament hero Donte DiVincenzo of Villanova if he's still on the board at No. 22. 

Around the Association:

While we wait for the draft drama to unfold, NBA Twitter has already been taken over by speculation over where the next super team will be formed. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have been plotting for over a year on how to restore the Lakers' franchise to its past glory, and it looks like they'll be swinging for the fences this summer.

If the Lakers are able to find a taker for Luol Deng's contract or renounce the rights to restricted free agent Julius Randle, they should be able to create two max contract slots once the free agent market opens for business on July 1st. The obvious targets are LeBron James and Paul George, but Magic doesn't plan on stopping there. He's hoping to find a way to convince the Spurs to trade unhappy All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers as well, giving L.A. a super-team that will rival what James put together in Miami.

The Lakers have the assets to get a Leonard trade done with draft picks and young players on rookie contracts (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart), but would Gregg Popovich actually make a deal with one of his long-time rivals? 

You can bet Pop will do everything he can to convince Leonard to accept a five-year, $219 million super max contract extension this summer and spend his prime years in San Antonio. But if that face-to-face meeting goes sour, Pop will make the deal that's best for the Spurs, preferably to an Eastern conference team he'll only have to face twice a season.

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Initial reports out of Houston indicate that free agent point guard Chris Paul plans to re-sign with the Rockets and will do everything in his power to recruit good friend LeBron James. Problem is, Houston has no cap space, so they would have to get the Cavaliers to agree to a trade. And in order to make the money work, the Rockets would want to include high-salaried players like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, neither of which would hold much interest for Cleveland with the team in rebuild mode.

Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey is one of the league's most creative executives, but trying to find a way to fit James into his bloated payroll will be the biggest challenge he's ever faced. Morey also has to deal with the restricted free agency of breakout center Clint Capela, who could draw a big offer sheet from another team.

Chris Paul and LeBron might be good friends, but the logistics could make it next to impossible to join forces in Houston.