NBA draft could change direction in a hurry

Duke star Jahlil Okafor works out for the Lakers in El Segundo on June 9. He is expected to go No. 2 overall to the Lakers in this week's NBA draft.

Duke star Jahlil Okafor works out for the Lakers in El Segundo on June 9. He is expected to go No. 2 overall to the Lakers in this week’s NBA draft.

(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The sense is that the first two players taken in Thursday’s NBA draft will be big men, even during a time when teams are playing more small ball than ever.

There are two guards in the draft, however, that fit the mold of today’s point guard-centric league, guards with the size and skills that have become commonplace at that position.

Not to be left out of the draft conversations are European players who have been impressing scouts, coaches and general managers, leaving them all dreaming of getting the next Dirk Nowitzki.


This 2015 draft class is considered one of the more talented and athletic groups of recent years.

Of course, there remain the typical rumors, speculations, so-called draft “promises” to players and talk of jockeying for draft position.

With the Minnesota Timberwolves drafting first and the Lakers picking second, there appears to be a consensus on how the draft will start.

But after they make their decisions, things could get dicey.

The Timberwolves are expected to take Karl-Anthony Towns, the 7-foot center from Kentucky, first overall in the draft.

The Lakers haven’t been able to get Towns in for a predraft workout, leaving many around the league to assume Towns has been guaranteed to be the top pick by the Timberwolves. Thus, the feeling is, Towns and his people don’t see the need for him to work out for the Lakers.

But the Lakers wouldn’t end up with a bad consolation prize if they use their No. 2 pick on Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center who led Duke to the NCAA championship. He’s considered the most NBA-ready big man in the draft because of his strong low-post talents.


After that it gets interesting, because Philadelphia is picking third, and no one in the NBA knows what the 76ers are doing and have been doing in recent years under secretive General Manager Sam Hinkie.

After trading point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 2014 rookie of the year, to Milwaukee this past season, it would appear that the 76ers need a point guard.

But the buzz around the NBA is that D’Angelo Russell, a 6-5 point guard from Ohio State whom many see as a lesser Stephen Curry-type, doesn’t want to play for the unpredictable 76ers. Russell did work out for the 76ers last week.

So that’s where European talent Kristaps Porzingis comes into the picture. Porzingis, a 7-foot power forward who has been compared to Nowitzki, is expected to go third to Philadelphia.

That could benefit the New York Knicks and President Phil Jackson.

Most scouts believe Russell, if taken fourth by the Knicks, is the right fit for the triangle offense.

But the Knicks could also opt to take Emmanuel Mudiay, a 6-5 point guard who played in China last season.

Or the Knicks could change course and take Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-1 center from Kentucky who many view as having the ability to defend multiple positions in today’s NBA.

Whatever happens Thursday night, the draft promises to provide some intrigue.

Twitter: @BA_Turner