By: Sean Sendall
There is a consensus among NBA personnel, scouts, and reporters alike: Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will be the top two picks in the 2016 NBA Draft Thursday night. Uncertainty will reign supreme from the third pick on. That pivotal pick, of course, currently belongs to the Boston Celtics.
Despite the flurry of trade rumors surrounding numerous lottery picks, let’s play the fun prediction game!
This is how I foresee the draft going, not who I would select in each position.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons (F) LSU – There was some debate whether Simmons or Brandon Ingram would go in the top overall pick. In the end, the potential of Simmons to be a premier and diverse player in the league will be all-too tantalizing to pass.
2. Los Angeles Lakes – Brandon Ingram (SF) Duke – Rumors have been floated out by people in LA saying they may not take Ingram, as they reportedly would have preferred Simmons. I’m not buying it. These are the clear-cut top-two choices in the draft. Ingram could be a great wing scorer with perennial All-Star potential on his horizon.
3. Boston Celtics – Kris Dunn (PG) Providence – Boston is determined to move this pick, whether it’s before or during the draft, and Kris Dunn seems to be the most coveted player, after Simmons and Ingram. With both Philly and Minnesota clamoring for a point guard to can play hard defense, see the floor, and score, this is the logical pick to drive a bidding war. Worst case scenario, the Celtics have their true point guard who can cover for the defensive deficiencies of Isaiah Thomas.
4. Phoenix Suns – Marquese Chriss (PF) Washington – Scouts see star potential in Chriss. What he lacks in maturity -he is one of the three youngest players in the draft- he makes up for in size and athleticism. It isn’t often you see a player who wasn’t top-fifty ranked coming out of high school, and didn’t play organized basketball until age 14, rise up draft boards as quickly as Chriss did in his one season at Washington. He has the size (6’10” 233lbs.), wingspan (7’0″), and athleticism (40″ vertical) to be a force in the NBA. He’s the quintessential high-risk, high-reward-type player that the one-and-done era is built around.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jamal Murray (G) Kentucky – It’s no secret that new Head Coach Tom Thibodeau wants a point guard who can defend on-ball with intensity. Thus, their desire for Kris Dunn to drop to fifth overall. However, Murray, while certainly not a defender, did play point in high school. Tyler Ulis was simply too talented in the college game to allow for Murray to run the point. Murray showed off his scoring ability in his one season at Kentucky. The trend in the league is to draft the most talented perimeter players and let them play together (think Golden State Warriors). With Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, and Ricky Rubio already in the backcourt, Murray will step into a situation where he doesn’t have to the the go-to player. He will be able to contribute as the shooter/scorer that he is.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – Buddy Hield (SG) Oklahoma – New Orleans has been trying to build shooters around Anthony Davis since he was drafted. Thus far, they’ve failed miserably. To keep defenses honest and away from double-teaming Davis, they need to surround him with talented perimeter shooters. In steps Hield, who is the most talented perimeter shooter in the draft.
7. Denver Nuggets – Dragan Bender (F) Israel – Bender will slide a little, after being projected as the third overall pick for the past few months. He’s got talent and can shoot the basketball, but scouts are beginning to see him more as just a long-range shooter than the inside-out game that Dirk Nowitzki or Kristaps Porzingas have. Bender could one day be Danilo Gallinari, but not much more.
8. Sacramento Kings – Jaylen Brown (SF) Cal – The Kings would like to see Dunn, Hield, or Bender fall to this spot, but it’s not going to happen. Brown is intriguing enough for the Celtics to consider him with the third pick, but he has too many questions marks. Without anyone standing out as a clear future star, the Kings will go with the guy who has the highest ceiling, still on the board. If Brown pulls it all together, his physical size could make him a future All-Star. He simply hasn’t shown that he has that drive in him.
9. Toronto Raptors – Deyonta Davis (PF) Michigan State – Toronto is likely to lose Bismack Biyombo to free agency. He was their rebounder, rim-protecter, and defensive presence in the post. In desperate need of a replacement, the Raptors will look to the one-and-done big man from MSU. Davis didn’t jump off the screen when you watched him play, but his defense and potential have him in the top ten.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – Henry Ellenson (PF) Marquette – Dejounte Murray will get a long hard look by the Bucks at this spot. Milwakuee has had a lot of trouble at the point guard position, but Head Coach Jason Kidd thinks that will all be behind them when he deploys the 6’11” Giannis Antetokounmpo as the full-time floor general next season. With needs in multiple positions, and a possible fill-in at point, the Bucks will take the local big man who is only 19 and can play with his back-to-the-basket and, some scouts, think he will eventually develop a longer-range game.
11. Orlando Magic – Skal Labissiere (F) Kentucky – At 6’11” Labissiere is as raw as they come in the NBA draft. He was not impressive in his one season with the Wildcats, but at one point, was recruited higher than Ben Simmons. This is all about potential and new Magic Head Coach, Frank Vogel, loves potential. If Skal reaches it, he could be a solid stretch forward in the league.
12. Utah Jazz – Jakob Poeltl (C) Utah – A classic low-block post-player, Poeltl will take some time to adjust and progress in the NBA. He is a true 7-footer who can play both ends of the floor and will help sure-up the defense to allow Rudy Gobert to really sag off of his player on defense to take advantage of his blocking prowess.
13. Phoenix Suns – Timothe Luwawu (SG/SF) Serbia – Luwawu can play two positions in the NBA, and will likely need to play Small Forward in this Suns line-up, but can also defend both positions.
14. Chicago Bulls – Dejounte Murray (PG) Washington – The Bulls continue to search for a backcourt mate/replacement for Derrick Rose (when he’s injured) and will capitalize on taking Murray a few picks later than he is projected. They will also give serious consideration to Wade Baldwin IV and Domantas Sabonis. Murray has NBA talent, but needs to play under control. He will need to put on some muscle and work on his outside shot, but he’s quick and can handle the basketball.
15. Denver Nuggets – Furkan Korkmaz (SG) Turkey – The Nuggets will continue their selections with International shooters, having taken Bender first at seventh. Korkmaz is a strong shooter and likes sharing the basketball. At 18 years old, there is also the possibility that he will continue to grow and bulk-up.
16. Boston Celtics – Domantas Sabonis (PF) Gonzaga – The big man proved he was a force to be reckoned with in the collegiate postseason. Professional basketball talent is in his bloodline. At this time point in the draft, Sabonis is a reliable future rotation player.
17. Memphis Grizzlies – Wade Baldwin IV (PG) Vanderbilt – It’s no secret that the Grizz may lose Mike Conley Jr. in free agency this summer. Baldwin is a bit of a loose cannon, but a dynamic guard. He has solid length on D and plays with the type of fire that you can’t teach.
18. Detroit Pistons – Denzel Valentine (G) Michigan State – Local product will be welcomed to stay in Michigan. There are certain leadership and intangible skills that cannot be taught, Valentine has all of them. He’s the type of player that will last in the NBA, whether his skills keep in there or not, because he will do everything at practice and behind-the-scenes to make sure his teammates improve.
19. Denver Nuggets – Ante Zizic (C) Croatia – I know, it’s hard to believe that the Nuggets would take three international players in the first-round, but when they’re believed to be the best options available it makes sense. Zizic is only 19 and could stay overseas for additional seasoning. He is a big rebounder who could continue to develop into an NBA player.
20. Indiana Pacers – Malachai Richardson (SG/SF) Syracuse – Larry Bird wants his team to get up and down the floor and score with more pace -there’s a corny pace/Pacers joke to be had here, but I won’t. Richardson is another boom-or-bust-type players in the draft. No one knows if he can play defense, since he only played in a zone at ‘Cuse, and he is really only capitalizing on the final third of the season or so. If the Pacers hit on Richardson, he could be quite the scoring threat next to Paul George.
21. Atlanta Hawks – Taurean Prince (SF) Baylor – Prince could go as high as the mid-teens, but will not fall much past the Hawks pick here. He will be the 3-and-D type player that the NBA loves so much right now. He’s got good strength and can knock down the jumper.
22. Charlotte Hornets – Brice Johnson (PF) UNC – Charlotte can’t seem to find the big man that they want/need. They will keep it local and draft the senior who can contribute on the glass immediately.
23. Boston Celtics – Ivica Zubac (C) Croatia – Boston simply cannot find roster spots for all of their draft picks. The Celtics will take the 19-year old big man and hope he blossoms overseas and joins the roster in a couple of years.
24. Philadelphia 76ers – Malik Beasley (G) Florida State – Some scouts have compared Beasley to a younger Buddy Hield. Without a stress fracture he may have been a top-10 pick. He can flat-out shoot the basketball. He may need to work on everything else, but the Sixers need all the help they can get from beyond-the-arc, and Beasley would be a perfect fit this late in the draft.
25. Los Angeles Clippers – DeAndre Bembry (SF) St. Joe’s – A senior with a big understanding of the game and how to play. Maybe a bit of a tweener in the NBA, but we’ve seen this type of player thrive in today’s game. Exactly the type of late-round selection a team that has Championship aspirations hopes to draft.
26. Philadelphia 76ers – Demetrius Jackson (PG) Notre Dame – Great speed, quickness, and ability to attack the rim. His quick first step allows him to create space and passing lanes. Philly needs all the help in can get and a point guard is near the top of the list.
27. Toronto Raptors – Thon Maker (F) Canada – Someone will take a chance on Maker in the late-first or second round. He will be a project, but he’s a true 7-footer who can shoot from the outside.
28. Phoenix Suns – Damian Jones (C) Vanderbilt – The Suns could go with another International prospect here, but provided they feel one of the prior three picks will stay overseas for at least one season, the will be safe not having too many rookie contracts. Jones has the size and athleticism, but lacks the offensive game and sometimes the drive to play.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Tyler Ulis (PG) Kentucky – Ulis will need some seasoning, but who better to do it under than Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich? This could be another great steal for the New England Patriots of the NBA.
30. Golden State Warriors – Diamond Stone (C) Maryland – To help diversify their game, when needed, the Warriors will target a big man who doesn’t need to contribute from day one. Stone has huge upside, but some character issues. He could be a force in the post, as we occasionally saw at Maryland last year. His ceiling could be as high as Zach Randolph’s, but he could also, just as easily, fade out of the league if he doesn’t get his head on straight.