The 2016 NBA Draft class is anything but weak. It makes up for its lack of star power with depth from the lottery to the middle of the second round.
There is no consensus outside of the top two prospects (Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons). The lists you see on major draft websites are merely an average of information gathered from NBA executives and agents. Each team values this set of prospects at drastically different levels. One team’s trash may be another team’s treasure.
It’s a draft littered with international prospects, high-upside freshman and pro-ready upperclassmen, so each team’s personal goals will play an integral role in the decisions they make on draft night. It’s not as easy as simply taking the best player available, like it might’ve been in past years.
All of that is to say it’s never been more difficult to put together a mock draft. The NBA Draft lottery is over and the order remained the same, but a lot can change between now and draft night on June 23.
You can order my 2016 NBA Draft Guide here for full scouting reports on each player and much more draft content. Here’s my first post-lottery mock draft:
1. Philadelphia 76ers – F Brandon Ingram, Duke
Ingram is the type of player that can switch on defense, but opponents will likely have a hard time switching against him on offense. He can shoot over the top of small defenders or drive by slower ones. On defense, he’s currently underdeveloped, but his tremendous length (7’3 wingspan) gives him a chance to defend multiple positions. For the Sixers, it’s not an easy pick, but the right one.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – F Ben Simmons, LSU
Simmons is a forward with the lighting-quick speed. He’s a flashy, spectacular passer and will undoubtedly enhance the Lakers’ watchability. But his lack of a jumper will likely limit him in the half court early in his career, so he still must make strides to be more than a player that needs the ball in his hands.
Why the Lakers kept their high draft pick
3. Boston Celtics – F Dragan Bender, Maccabi Tel Aviv
If you feel compelled to compare Bender to an international prospect, don’t choose Kristaps Porzingis or Darko Milicic. Andrei Kirilenko is a solid comp for Bender because of their defensive versatility, shooting and playmaking. Bender is taller, and not quite as long, but brings similar tools that give him high upside for the Celtics.
4. Phoenix Suns – F Jaylen Brown, California
Brown is a polarizing prospect because it’s so hard to get a read on him. He played in a less-than-ideal situation at California, where the lack of driving lanes hindered his ability to score efficiently. He has an underdeveloped jumper, but he’s a stout defender and has shown enough flashes on offense for the Suns to feel comfortable taking a shot at him.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – G Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Murray entered college touted as a combo guard, but the season showed he’s more of a two than a one because of his lack of foot speed and ideal vision. He has a flamethrower jumper, but he’ll need to make huge strides on defense before he earns minutes for the Wolves.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – C Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Poeltl might lack the upside of some other lottery prospects, but it’s safe to say he’ll have a long career in the NBA as a role player. There’s always a chance he develops beyond his expected potential, but he’ll need to develop a jumper to do that.
7. Denver Nuggets (from Knicks) – SG Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Hield went from a second rounder to a lottery pick as a senior at Oklahoma. His jumper will fill need for the Nuggets, but with his elite work ethic he could improve as a ball handler and defender.
8. Sacramento Kings – PG Kris Dunn, Providence
If Rajon Rondo isn’t the long-term answer at point guard, then Kris Dunn offers too much upside to pass up.
9. Toronto Raptors (from Nuggets) – C Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
With Bismack Biyombo entering free agency, Davis is a nice project to add since he could someday fill a similar role as a versatile rim protector.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – G Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
There aren’t many better fits for Valentine than the Bucks. His weaknesses on defense can be mitigated by Milwaukee’s strengths, and he’d be a tremendous playmaker and floor spacer playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.
11. Orlando Magic – F Marquese Chriss, Washington
Chriss is a high-risk, high-reward player that could take advantage of his opportunities on a young Magic roster.
12. Utah Jazz – G Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
The Jazz have Dante Exum, but there are no guarantees he develops as expected (especially coming off a torn ACL). Baldwin projects as a superior defender and his jumper might give him the edge in their equal-opportunity system.
13. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards) – SF Timothe Luwawu, Mega Leks
Luwawu is a potential steal for the Suns in the late lottery. He’s a dynamic scorer that could develop well beyond his realistic 3-and-D upside.
14. Chicago Bulls – PG Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
The Bulls could be ready to move on from Derrick Rose after the season, so drafting a point guard seems like a realistic possibility. Jackson is a spark plug scorer that can play both on- and off-ball, making him a good fit for their system.
15. Denver Nuggets (from Rockets) – SF DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s
Bembry does just about everything well except for shoot. But at the NBA Combine he described to SB Nation the revisions he’s making to his mechanics, which should have teams feeling confident in his ability to score at a high level.
16. Boston Celtics (from Mavs) – C Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
Labissiere needs a situation that can slowly develop him and the Celtics have the ingredients to make it work for the former elite prospect.
17. Memphis Grizzlies – PF Henry Ellenson, Marquette
Ellenson slips out of the lottery, but he lands in a situation that still plays a two-big offense. He’s actually a great fit next to Marc Gasol on offense, though he still needs to make strides on defense.
18. Detroit Pistons – PF Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
The Pistons traded for Donatas Motiejunas before the trade was reversed, and Sabonis offers many of the same tools so he makes sense as a target.
19. Denver Nuggets (from Blazers) – F Juan Hernangomez, Estudiantes
The Nuggets are loaded with talent on the roster, and Hernangomez would give them another International talent to develop. He’s a stretch shooting forward that projects as a high-end role player.
20. Indiana Pacers – C Brice Johnson, North Carolina
The Pacers were supposed to play more small ball last season, and if that’s still a priority then selecting a small ball center like Johnson makes sense.
21. Atlanta Hawks – F Taurean Prince, Baylor
The Hawks miss DeMarre Carroll. There isn’t a better replacement in this draft than Prince.
22. Charlotte Hornets – C Zhou Qi, Xinjiang
With a number of key upcoming free agents, Michael Jordan might look to replace the open roster spots with a high-upside big man like Qi.
23. Boston Celtics – G Furkan Korkmaz, Anadolu Efes
The Celtics should draft-and-stash a player with this pick if they’re unable to consolidate with trades. Korkmaz is years away from making an impact in the NBA, but he offers long-term upside as a playmaking wing.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (from Heat) – PG Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Ulis gets some hype as a lottery prospect, but he’s tiny and those players have a poor track record of success. But the Sixers could be a good spot for him, since they have so much length and athleticism on the roster to compensate for his primary weakness. Ulis would also infuse some much-needed leadership on and off the court.
25. Los Angeles Clippers – SF Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
The Clippers need to hit on their picks this year (they also have No. 33 from Brooklyn),since over the next few years they only have their 2018 first and 2019 second. Brogdon is a relatively safe pick as a senior, and in a winning situation he could offer an immediate impact as a glue guy.
26. Philadelphia 76ers (from Thunder) – C Ante Zizic, Cibona
The Sixers would be wise to consolidate some of their draft picks, but if they are forced to keep them, then draft-and-stashing a player is a solid alternative. Zizic projects as an energy big man, though with his high work ethic he could exceed expectations.
27. Toronto Raptors – SG Malachi Richardson, Syracuse
If the Raptors think they could lose DeMar DeRozan this summer – or don’t feel comfortable giving him the max – then they should invest in a wing. Richardson offers long-term upside as a scorer.
28. Phoenix Suns (from Cavs) – PF Petr Cornelie, Le Mans
With three first-round picks, the Suns will need to draft-and-stash someone. Cornelie is a long, athletic stretch big that could go higher in 2017 or 2018 if he withdraws this year.
29. San Antonio Spurs – G Gary Payton II, Oregon State
Payton’s primary weakness is his shooting and the Spurs have a strong history of improving jumper mechanics. Plus, Tony Parker won’t last forever and Payton could be groomed behind him over the next few seasons.
30. Golden State Warriors – C Thon Maker, Orangeville Prep
Why not? The Warriors have virtually everything you need, so they might feel compelled to take a risk on a project like Maker. He might be years away from making an impact, but the Warriors might feel confident they can mold him into a contributor.
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