With just over 48 hours to go before the NBA Draft, CBS Sports Radio gave Jon Rothstein the floor.
“Well, this is something that I want to bring up,” the CBS Sports college basketball insider said in-studio on Tiki and Tierney. “The Lakers have not decided 100 percent that they are going to take Jahlil Okafor at No. 2. D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State wowed the Lakers in a workout last week, and it is not 100 percent that they’re going to take Jahlil Okafor. Now, the Lakers are in a situation where they have a couple of assets to work with. They have a late-first-round pick, which has some value. One of the interesting things about this NBA Draft is you can get mileage with guys late in the first round. The mid-to-late part of the first round in this NBA Draft, I don’t think you’re going to get superstars, but you’re going to get players that can contribute and help an NBA team. There’s definitely franchise-type players at the top, but there’s definitely value in accumulating picks later on, too.”
While the Lakers are uncertain about No. 2, No. 1 is pretty much a done deal, as the Minnesota Timberwolves will almost certainly select Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
“No doubt about it,” Rothstein said. “I really have stood by this all season long: America and the world doesn’t know what they’re getting in Karl-Anthony Towns because he really was not in a position to showcase his talent this past year at Kentucky.”
Rothstein says Towns can post up, defend the rim and, yes, shoot the three. He called Towns’ college teammate, Willie Cauley-Stein, “far and away the best defensive player in the draft,” but Towns blocked 20 more shots than Cauley-Stein last season.
“This might be the most-skilled big man the NBA has seen out of college since Tim Duncan came out of Wake Forest in 1997,” Rothstein said. “If you flip-flopped Karl Towns and Jahlil Okafor, and Karl Towns was featured on Duke the way Okafor was for the Blue Devils, there would not be a debate at the top of this draft. But after Towns comes off the board, that’s where things get interesting.”
You don’t think so? Two words: Kristaps Porzingis.
“This is the one thing I will take really into this NBA Draft – and it’s critical,” Rothstein said. “From talking to scouts and general managers in the NBA, the consensus was that after Karl Towns, Kristaps Porzingis has the second-highest ceiling out of anybody in this NBA Draft. That is the consensus that I’ve gathered.”
Porzingis, 19, is from Latvia. The 7-1 big man is one of several international prospects who will likely go in the lottery.
“Out of the top six prospects in this draft, three were in college (last year): Towns, Okafor and D’Angelo Russell,” Rothstein said. “The other three did not play in college basketball last year: Emmanuel Mudiay, who was supposed to play for Larry Brown at SMU, Mario Hezonja from Croatia and Kristaps Porzingis. Kristaps Porzingis is somebody who could go as high as No. 3 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s not physically ready to compete at the NBA level, but from everything I’ve gathered, this is the guy that executives feel has the second-highest ceiling in the 2015 NBA draft behind Karl-Anthony Towns.”
Rothstein, it is worth noting, feels that Duke’s Justise Winslow is the most overrated player in the draft, while Kentucky’s Devin Booker is the most underrated.
The NBA Draft begins Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.