By Ryan Eugene And Charlie Gibson
The draft is a great time of year. Teams that lost all season get some hope for the future. The draft is about potential, about the allure of the unknown. As a Wizards fan I know just how important that hope if—how much draft day means. While experts have an idea of who is going to be successful, no one really knows for sure. I don’t need to reel off failed number one picks to tell you the draft is a crapshoot. So Ryan and I decided to get in on the action and try to sort some things out.
It’s kind of ironic that the first year we run this blog and express the hope for the Wizards moving forward, the team doesn’t even have a pick in the entire draft, let alone the top 14. One of the easiest sells for teams in the NBA is hope. They roll out a red carpet for high draft picks, and sell season tickets based on the fact that this 19 or 20 year old will bring the team success in 3-4 years. If the current president can run a campaign focusing on hope, imagine what the marketing teams for an NBA team can do pushing the same logic to championship starved fanbases.
Making a mock draft is basically a series of educated guesses and we decided to alternate our guesses for the 2016 Lottery, starting with me at #1.
**Update** Things happen in the NBA quick, so 2 updates. One: The Jazz traded the #12 pick in a three-team deal, and it’s ended up in Atlanta. Two: Derrick Rose has in fact been traded. Charlie can in fact see into the future.
#1 Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons, Forward, LSU, Freshman
Some people say in a two man draft it’s a curse to have the number one pick. The team with the number two pick has no pressure. Instead, the team gets to choose the player of the consensus top two that doesn’t go number one. I’m not a GM, but I’ll take the number one pick 100 out of 100 times. The dumpster fire that is the Philadelphia 76ers need a lot of help in their rebuild. Therefore, with the #1 pick they take the player with the best superstar potential, and the player that can provide the help in the most areas. Simmons can come in and immediately be the lead ball-handler, taking away duties from the likes of TJ McConnell and Coach Brett Brown has even discussed the possibility of Simmons playing point guard at some point in the season. Brown already has a connection with the Simmons family from his time coaching Ben’s father David in Australia for 5 years.
Philadelphia is expecting forwards/big men Dario Saric and Joel Embiid to join the team, and with those two, and Noel and Okafor still in tow for now, the Sixers need someone who can get them the ball. No need to overthink this pick at all, with the number one pick you take the best player and prospect, and that is Ben Simmons. Although, LSU didn’t have the best season in Simmons’ one year, he did average 19.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, and 2 spg in his freshman year. Oh yea, he’s the only player to ever post those numbers in college basketball.
We went to the Oklahoma – LSU back in January, and even when Simmons wasn’t making, or even shooting jumpshots, watching him move around the floor on defense and offense, it was easy to tell that he will fit in well to the faster NBA system. He’s a player that truly will make his teammates better, and if Ish Smith can make his teammates better, only imagine what Simmons can do. Philly will probably still stink, but they will be fun. And all the talk of Simmons not working out for Philadelphia being a problem? He worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday. So…..
#2 Los Angeles Lakers – Brandon Ingram, Forward, Duke, Freshman
NBA’s glamor franchise has the #2 pick for the second consecutive year, again able to avoid sending the pick to the Sixers (what do you think of that Ayesha Curry?). I think Ingram immediately becomes the Lakers most valuable asset. His size, mobility, and shooting are a rare combination. He fits like a glove with D’Angelo Russell and the former #7 pick Julius Randle. The Lakers also have unlimited cap-space, they have Luke Walton, and they’re still a hot ticket. Things may be starting to look up after consecutive franchise-worst seasons. Now let’s see if they can stay relevant post-Kobe.
#3 Boston Celtics – Jamal Murray, Guard, Kentucky, Freshman
I know, I know, another guard for a team that had 8 guards on the roster at season’s end, plus 2015 second round pick and fellow William and Mary alum Marcus Thornton playing in Australia. However, with the third pick, and as a middle of the pack playoff team, the Celtics need to add the most talent possible, especially a team that really doesn’t have any star power (sorry Isaiah Thomas). See the thing about professional sports, that makes loading the roster with similar type players possible is the power of the trade, and the Celtics have 8 draft picks in 2016, so they should be able to add to the other areas of need later in the draft. Before Cleveland won the 2016 NBA Finals, there was constant speculation that Boston would trade a combination of players, including Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, to bring back a potential star in Kevin Love. Another trade possibility involves moving the #3 pick for Jahlil Okafor to bring some offensive stability to the frontcourt. And for Philly they would love to have a player like Murray, who can play both guard positions, join a young team also bringing in forwards Ben Simmons and Dario Saric, and center Joel Embiid. But back to the Celtics, even without a trade on the table, it’s hard to turn down a player like Murray who averaged 20 ppg and shot 40% from 3 at Kentucky. The 20 ppg was good for second highest in the country by a freshman, and the highest scoring output by a freshman at Kentucky since at least 1993.
#4 Phoenix Suns – Kris Dunn, Guard, Providence, Senior
Dunn probably doesn’t have the highest upside of the guys available, and he isn’t the best fit on a team with Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Devon Booker. But he is the safest bet to be a good player, and the Suns desperately need good players right now to ease the pain of a 23-59 season. They used a #5 pick on Alex Len in 2013, and despite some bright moments last season he hasn’t yet lived up to it. Admittedly I don’t like picking 22 year olds this high unless they are Damian Lillard, but Dunn is worth it. He brings defense and playmaking from day one. Above all else, we know Dunn will be a competitor.
#5 Timberwolves – Buddy Hield, Guard, Oklahoma, 22 Years Old, Senior
The Minnesota Timberwolves by all accounts have one of the most promising futures in the league, and it’s easy to see why. They only won 29 games last year, but shined at the end of the season beating Golden State in Oakland, among other impressive wins. With the team’s growth looking to begin this year they really would like a player who can come in right away and perform in the league. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns was unanimous ROY and proved he could be an anchor on defense and offense, both inside and outside. With Andrew Wiggins coming off a 20 PPG season, and the improvement of other players, most notably Zach Lavine, the Timberwolves have playmakers. What they don’t have though is a lot of outside shooting. Last season, Minnesota was second to last in the league in three pointers made at 5.5 per game, 0.1 ahead of the last place Bucks. As this is becoming a shooters league, the Timberwolves will look to draft the best shooter in the draft and the best shooter left on the board. Buddy Hield averaged 25 points per game last season and shot an absurd 45.7% from the college three point line. He’s outstanding at moving along the three point arc without the ball ala Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and at 6’5” he’s not as undersized as he’s been labeled in the past, while possessing a wingspan a quarter inch greater than Thompson. In addition, as the best player on his team, he ran the offense from time to time, showcasing his ability to create for himself and shoot off the dribble. A future starting lineup of LaVine, Hield, Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, and Towns could do a lot of damage on offense and defense. Oh and you don’t think Hield’s knock down shooting in college will translate?
#6 Pelicans – Dragan Bender, Forward, Croatia (Maccabi Tel Aviv), 18 Years Old
The Pelicans may not pick this high next year which makes this pick all the more important. They already have an all-time foundational piece in Anthony Davis, at this point they should be taking best player available, and in this mock it’s Bender. In real life I hope Kris Dunn falls to them, as they have an array of issues at guard. Kevin Pelton projects Bender as the second best prospect in the draft and Chad Ford describes him as more mobile but less powerful than Kristaps Porzingis. My thing, though, is are we (the collective we) really going to hit on two top-5 foreign big-men prospects in a row? Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Yao Ming, maybe Porzingis—these guys are rare. Milicic, Yi Jianlian, Tskitishvili, Vesely, Bargnani—these guys are common. But at 6 the Pelicans can take a risk on that up-side.
#7 Denver Nuggets – Marquese Chriss, Forward, Washington, Forward
The perpetually rebuilding Nuggets could really pick any position outside of point guard and center. With the way the league is transitioning, however, power forward should be the position of choice. Kenneth Faried has been up and down the last few years, and although his ability to offensive rebound and hustle has been nice, the Nuggets really need a power forward who can contribute on both sides of the floor, and potentially stretch the floor. Chriss is an outstanding athlete, and over the last few weeks, talk has been that he has one of the highest upsides in the draft. The Nuggets are in no rush, and should draft a big man that can run with point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks says that Marquese Chriss is the biggest gamble in the draft, and to take the next step each team has to take at least one gamble along the way. Chriss only started playing basketball 5 years ago, so he may take time to develop, but no one really knows what he can eventually accomplish. He is an athletic freak at 6’10”, who moves like a guard, and has a high motor, which never hurts at the next level. They say you can’t teach hustle, and that’ll be great for the Nuggets, because they will likely have to teach Chriss a lot along the way.
#8 Kings – Jaylen Brown, Forward, California, Freshman
It is a June tradition that Sacramento will finish around 8th in the lottery and whiff on their pick. Jimmer Fredette (via draft day trade), Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Willie Cauley-Stein. Those are the Kings lottery picks since DMC was drafted. The jury is still out on Cauley-Stein, but that is a lot of losing for nothing. This draft seems to have eight players a cut above the rest, and the Kings should just take whichever one falls to them. Chad Ford put Brown third in a recent mock, which to me says there is no consensus order among picks 3-8. Brown is high-risk/high-reward, but he has an NBA body and if he turns into a two-way wing he’ll be huge for the Kings.
#9 Raptors – Jakob Poetl, Center, Utah, Sophomore
The Toronto Raptors are coming off their best season in franchise history, having posted 56 wins during the regular season and winning 10 games in the playoffs before losing to the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. While the season was great and Toronto was clearly the second best team in the conference, there are still improvements to be made across the roster. Firstly, Toronto will need to fill in additional frontcourt depth. Bismack Biyombo played himself into a large contract this summer, and may not have the offer sheet matched by the Raptors, since he is the backup center. They also won 56 games this year despite starting Luis Scola at power forward most of the time. With all that said, Toronto looks for a big man this year, and takes the top rated center in Pietl. Pietl can do it all as a rebounder, shot blocker, and rim runner. He averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and will be able to learn a lot from the veteran players already on the roster. Lastly, Pietl will become the first Austrian born player to be drafted, helping to improve Toronto’s already great international appeal.
#10 Bucks – Skal Labissière, Forward, Kentucky, Freshman
Ryan stole my pick for the Bucks, and honestly I already regret going with Skal. I took him for his huge upside but he was so bad at Kentucky that it is amazing he’s a projected lottery pick. The hope is that Skal can follow Andre Drummonds trajectory as an elite high school prospect, disappointing college player, and elite NBA player. The Bucks are in a good position to take a gamble with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Kris Middleton already on the roster. A lot of mocks I’ve seen have the Bucks taking Dejounte Murray to help out (replace) the struggling Michael Carter Williams, but I think they go up-side.
#11 Henry Ellenson – Magic, Forward/Center, Marquette, Freshman
Another top big man on the board, Ellenson brought many great qualities to the floor in his one year at Marquette. Ellenson is believed to be a promising stretch four option, and the Magic are still looking for the most talent as possible. In his only season, Ellenson averaged around 17 points and 9.7 rebounds and showed a smooth shooting touch, and could become a real 6’11” stretch 4 in the league. Combining that with the superb skills of Nikola Vucevic, and Orlando could have a really formidable front court for years to come. Although Ellenson’s averages support a very fine tuned product, he still is rather raw, and Magic fans should expect some growing pains along the way, combined with potentially a log jam at the power forward/center position with Aaron Gordon, Ersan Ilyasova, Vucevic, and any additions in free agency. But because of Ellenson’s size and skill set he should work his way into the rotation similar to how Mario Hezonja did last season. He’s not especially adept on defense, or as athletic as you’d like, but he’s 19 and with hard work and additional experience he can definitely improve on those areas.
#12 Jazz (Traded to Atlanta) – Dejounte Murray, Guard, Washington, Freshman
Utah has an interesting squad of young players. They’ve been applauded for the way they’ve acquired young talent since trading Deron Williams, but they don’t have that one player who is going to take them to the next level. Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Gordon Hayward is a playoff caliber front line who are ready to compete now. Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Trey Lyles are young players still developing. And Alec Burks is around too. But the Jazz have been seeking a point guard for a couple years and Murray, a pure point guard, is worth taking a chance on at 12 if available.
#13 Suns – Domantas Sabonis, Forward, Gonzaga, Sophomore
Since the Suns already went point guard with the #4 pick it’s time for them to take the best power forward on the board, filling the shoes left by Markieff Morris in the trade that brought this pick from Washington. Lucky for Phoenix, Sabonis is the best player left on the board, and probably a steal at 13th. He fulfills needs by bringing strength, toughness, and the ability to play right away. The Suns are in a weird in between where they are young and not expecting to win now, but they still have experienced players in Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Tyson Chandler. Sabonis should be able to step right in and contribute, and this will be great for a team that started Jon Leuer at PF after the Morris trade.
#14 Bulls – Furkan Korkmaz, Shooting Guard, Turkey, 18 Years Old
The Bulls are in position for a major make-over this summer. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol will most likely be gone, and Derrick Rose could be too. Rose has too much baggage in Chicago, and this is Jimmy Butler’s team now. Doug McBuckets and Nikola Mirotic are both still around but that shouldn’t stop the Bulls from taking another shooter here. It will be interesting if they go for upside or a player more ready to contribute (Like McDermott in 2014). I think they need to go best player available. But I’m not going to try and analyse the 14th pick. Really the 14th pick is no more reliable than the 16th pick, and I’m certainly not going to sit here and analyze the 16th pick.
When: 8 p.m. ET, Thursday, June 23
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN, NBATV
Good luck to all the prospects and here’s to going a perfect 14 for 14 on the picks, and the Wizards trading into the draft.