In a sport where a single franchise player can help a team dominate the league for years, this year’s NBA draft might shake up the power structure of the entire league. Although some experts are predicting the first few picks with unwavering confidence, only one thing is certain when it comes to the NBA Draft 2015: Anything is possible on Thursday, June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Unlike the actual picks, NBA draft salaries are fairly easier to predict thanks to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which predetermines rookie salaries. The first pick in the first round gets the most money, the second pick gets the second most, and so on. According to SB Nation, each player picked in the draft could make proportionately more in the following seasons of their rookie contract, anywhere from 80 percent to 120 percent of their scale amount.
Here are GOBankingRates’ predictions for the top prospects in the NBA Draft 2015 and the salaries these players are likely to earn in their first year as rookies in the 2015-2016 season.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky: $4,753,000
It’s difficult to argue with Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who said the Minnesota Timberwolves should — and most likely will — use its coveted first pick to draft his former player, Karl-Anthony Towns.
The 6-foot-11, 250-pound All-American forward helped the Wildcats win games during March Madness and make it to the Final Four. Towns shot an average of 56.6 percent from the field while on the team. It has been reported that the basketball player — who is already the heavily favored first pick — has been dazzling scouts, coaches and fans with his pre-draft workouts.
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: $4,252,600
Although the Lakers have repeatedly said they are auditioning as many as eight players, Jahlil Okafor and Towns are almost universally accepted as interchangeable first and second picks. If the Timberwolves scoop up Towns, the Lakers will be “stuck” with potentially one of the greatest franchise players in the team’s storied history.
The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center played just one season at Duke University, during which he averaged 17.3 points per game.
3. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State: $3,818,900
The New York Knicks would probably love nothing more than to get their hands on Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, but he will almost certainly be scooped up by the Philadelphia 76ers, as the Knicks watch helplessly from fourth position on the draft board.
Russell is arguably the most skilled player in this year’s draft, and the point guard showed incredible poise, court vision and ball-handling skills during his time with the Buckeyes. But in the event that Russell goes second in the draft, Philly is supposedly making contingency plans.
4. Justise Winslow, Duke: $3,443,100
The New York Knicks have a difficult spot in the draft. Most likely, the team will watch this year’s most sought-after players pass by. That leaves defensive powerhouse Justise Winslow, who is not an obvious pick because his offensive level of play is not yet fully developed.
But the 6-foot-6, 222-pound freshman proved with the Blue Devils that his speed, athleticism, vertical leap and court awareness could be valuable assets for the struggling Knicks. The NBA team was impressed enough with the Duke star’s versatility that they invited him in for a pre-draft workout. Sources reportedly told ESPN that New York gave Winslow strong, positive feedback.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: $3,117,900
Another former Kentucky player, Willie Cauley-Stein could be the perfect solution to Orlando’s frontcourt problems. The 7-foot center was a defensive standout at Kentucky, with SB Nation declaring him as “one of the best defensive prospects to come into the NBA draft in a long, long time.” There is wide speculation that he could develop offensively in the NBA as well.
Cauley-Stein is extremely swift for a big man, and his 7’2″ wingspan proved to be a major defensive weapon in his three years as a Wildcat.
6. Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong (China): $2,831,900
There is one thing for certain about the most mysterious man in the 2015 NBA draft: Emmanuel Mudiay is a top pick.
The big, hard-driving point guard skipped college after eligibility concerns, and instead signed a $1.2 million deal to play one year in China. Although it’s hard to say how his skills would translate in the NBA, there’s a consensus that he’ll go in the early spots, with the Sacramento Kings likely to pick him. At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, Mudiay is an imposing point guard with a great crossover.
7. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: $2,585,200
If Frank Kaminsky is picked seventh, it would be a great deal for the Denver Nuggets.
The 7-foot-1, 234-pound forward is a consistent shooter, which the Nuggets certainly could use. Known for his spin move, the former Wisconsin Badger is a highly fundamental player who uses his height on offense.
8. Stanley Johnson, Arizona: $2,368,300
The Detroit Pistons could use a shooter, and they probably would prefer a shooter who is also a multi-positional defender. Enter Stanley Johnson.
The 6-foot-7 small forward averaged 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing for the Arizona Wildcats. As a Wildcat, Johnson also earned third-team All-American.
9. Devin Booker, Kentucky: $2,177,100
In 2014, the Charlotte Hornets went with a power forward (Noah Vonleh) in the draft; they will likely resist the urge to go the same route this year and choose the shooter they truly need instead.
This positions Kentucky’s Devin Booker as a prime ninth pick. Landing 41 percent of his 3-point attempts with the Wildcats, Booker is arguably the best long-range shooter in the draft. He was also one of Kentucky’s leading scorers.
10. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: $2,068,100
The Miami Heat could use a small forward in Sam Dekker. Dekker performed well in the NCAA tournament, where he averaged 19.1 points and made 15 of 36 shots outside the 3-point line.
At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Dekker has all the size and then some needed for the position. As a jack of all trades, he could provide the versatility needed to support the Heat’s aging veterans, like Dwyane Wade.
11. Kelly Oubre, Kansas: $1,964,800
A former All-Big 12 honorable mention out of Kansas, Kelly Oubre could be just what the Indiana Pacers need this upcoming season.
The 6-foot-7 guard averaged 9.3 points and 5 rebounds per game in his freshman season as a Jayhawk. Oubre has also been applauded for his length and athleticism.
12. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: $1,866,500
R.J. Hunter proved to the Utah Jazz during pre-draft workouts that he is first-round material. He moves swiftly and effortlessly, putting himself in good positions across the court both with and without the ball.
The 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Georgia State — who averaged 19.7 points in the 2014-15 season — is also a decent rebounder, averaging 4.7 rebounds his last year in college. Hunter has the potential to be a solid scorer in the league.
13. Tyus Jones, Duke: $1,773,200
The Phoenix Suns need a solid point guard, and that is just what Tyus Jones brings to the table.
He is also a natural team leader who helped Duke win a national championship as a freshman. Some predict Jones will be picked somewhere near the 20s, but Bleacher Report believes “Jones could easily prove to be the breakout star of the draft” — especially since he averaged 11.8 points a game and 5.6 assists.