21 May 2016

2016 NBA Mock Draft: 1st Edition

(USATSI)
Now they we have the NBA Draft order, and since we are only one month until the draft commences in Crooklyn, I say it's time for my first mock. So here we go.

1. 76ers - Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
Philadelphia 76ers (2015 - Pres)
The Sixers are going to have a long, hard discussion about whether to take Ingram or whether to take Simmons. I think you could go either way but right now, I lean towards them taking Ingram simply because their wing play is atrocious and they desperately need scoring. Ingram needs to get bigger and stronger but he is a terrific shooter and he has got the size and the length to be a very good defender. The fact that he got better over the course of his sole season in Durham certainly helps.

2. Lakers - Ben Simmons, F, LSU
Los Angeles Lakers (2002 - Pres)Los Angeles is extraordinarily happy to keep their pick and thus they will have their choice of whichever player Philadelphia does not take. Whether or not the questions about his competitiveness and his attitude and his drive are overblown, his unique skill-set for a player of his size is very intriguing and are why many project him to be a star at the next level. He may not be the best shooter in the world but he more than makes up it with the awareness and the playmaking ability of a point guard and some impressive awareness.

3. Celtics (from Nets) - Dragan Bender, F, Israel
Boston Celtics (1999 - Pres)
Here is where this draft will get interesting because there is a drop-off from the top two and also because Boston could very well deal this pick in order to acquire somebody who can put them over the top. But should they decide to stay put, I think that Danny Ainge will be poised to swing for the fences and take a chance on Bender. Jared Sullinger may not be the long-term answer at the four and while Bender is not ready to play right away, his perimeter shooting and his defensive versatility make him a good fit for the modern NBA.

4. Suns - Jaylen Brown, F, California
Phoenix Suns (2014 - Pres)The Suns like what they have seen from young Devin Booker but he needs a complement on the wing where the team has a nice hole at small forward. He is really fun to watch in the open court thanks to his combination of speed and athleticism and he has got a better jump shot than some think. Brown also should be a solid rebounder and a pretty solid defender in the NBA as well. The concern with him was with his sole season at California, one in which his level of play fluctuated from time to time.

5. Timberwolves - Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma
Minnesota Timberwolves (2009 - Pres)Even as the team has high hopes after a strong rookie season from Karl-Anthony Towns, the continuing rise of Andrew Wiggins and the hiring of coach Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves still lost over 50 games and have plenty of holes still to fill. One of them is perimeter shooting and thus one could see them taking one of the best shooters in this draft in Hield. Hield may never be much of a defender and he is already 22 years old but his scoring abilities should make him an instant contributor.

6. Pelicans - Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky
New Orleans Pelicans (2014 - Pres)The Pelicans have a big need both for depth in the backcourt, particularly as New Orleans had durability issues there last year, as well as for perimeter shooting and Murray should be able to help in both regards. He didn't get a ton of time at the point this past season but he showed some impressive scoring abilities thanks, in part, to a very nice stroke from beyond the arc. One thing he does have to improve upon is taking care of the orange.

7. Nuggets (from Knicks) - Henry Ellenson, F/C, Marquette
Denver Nuggets (1977 - 1981)Ellenson may not have the highest upside considering he is not particularly athletic and may not be that much of a defender in the NBA but he could be a useful player for the Nuggets as Kenneth Faried continues to be inconsistent. Ellenson would be the stretch four that would be really helpful alongside young point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who isn't much of a shooter, and centers Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic.

8. Kings - Kris Dunn, G, Providence
Sacramento Kings (2017 - Pres)Rajon Rondo had himself a very nice bounce-back campaign and Darren Collison has always been a nice player but with Rondo being a free agent this offseason and Collison next offseason, the Kings could use more of a long-term option at the position. Dunn should be a solid fit for new Kings head coach Dave Joerger thanks to his skill and effort defensively and he should be able to contribute right away.

9. Raptors (from Nuggets via Knicks) - Skal Labissiere, F/C, Kentucky
Toronto Raptors (2016 - Pres)Amid high expectations for his rookie season after being one of the most highly touted recruits, it is pretty safe to say that Labissiere's time in Lexington was a disappointment. He never seemed to get fully comfortable until late in the season and while there is no question that he is a highly skilled player, he needs to build his confidence. Coming off their best season ever, being able to pick in the top ten is a luxury for a veteran club so I think that the Raptors will be willing to roll the dice.

10. Bucks - Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
Milwaukee Bucks (1979 - 1993)After a surprising 2014-15, the Bucks were certainly disappointing this past season as they fell to 12th in the Eastern Conference and one of the more disappointing players was Greg Monroe, who was an expensive addition last offseason. Considering that Monroe could end up on the trading block, I think that a guy like Poeltl could be in the mix at the tenth selection. He should be able to contribute right away defensively, the area where Monroe struggles the most, because he is not afraid of contact down low. He is still raw on the offensive end, however.

11. Magic - Marquese Chriss, F, Washington
Orlando Magic (2001 - 2010)Even though Chriss could have been helped by returning to Seattle for at least another year, he has found himself soaring up draft boards after coming out of nowhere with a very nice freshman campaign. He still is very raw, will probably need some seasoning in the D-League and had trouble staying out of foul trouble but he is a terrific athlete and showed some potential for a jumper with range out to the perimeter. For a team still trying to piece their frontcourt together, Chriss could be worth a shot.

12. Jazz - Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State
Utah Jazz (2017 - Pres)The Jazz have themselves a pretty young team so they could probably use a player that they could plug right in and see him contribute. Valentine may not have the highest ceiling considering he is already 22 but he showed during his days at Michigan State a versatile game despite the fact that he isn't particularly big or athletic. He is a pretty good passer thanks to plus vision and he can knock it down from outside. Valentine is the kind of guy you love to have on playoff teams.

13. Suns (from Wizards) - Deyonta Davis, F/C, Michigan State
Phoenix Suns (2014 - Pres)Even as this past season was a fiasco for the Suns, they do have some pieces in the mix. What they do lack is a power forward after Markieff Morris got dealt to the Wizards and I could see them targeting that position early in this draft, perhaps even a project like Davis. You don't see too many one-and-done guys in East Lansing but that's what we got here. Davis had his moments with the Spartans but they weren't strung together. He has got the tools to be a quality rim protector while also having a nice offensive game but he needs polish.

14. Bulls - Timothe Luwawu, G/F, France
Chicago Bulls (1967 - Pres)After a disappointing first year under Fred Hoiberg, who knows what to expect from the Bulls this offseason and in this draft. What we do know that they do need is more help on the wing as much of their perimeter players were mediocre this offseason. This Frenchman is not ready to contribute right away considering he lacks experience against quality competition but he is an intriguing three-and-D player with his plus size and athleticism.

15. Nuggets (from Rockets) - Furkan Korkmaz, G, Turkey
Denver Nuggets (1977 - 1981)If they keep all of their picks, looks for the Nuggets to take at least one guy they can stash overseas considering how young their roster is. Korkmaz would certainly apply as he is only 18 years old and not ready to step onto an NBA court this fall. He has got himself a nice offensive game with one of the top perimeter shots in this draft, something that will always come in handy on an NBA roster.

16. Celtics (from Mavericks) - Taurean Prince, F, Baylor
Boston Celtics (1999 - Pres)Prince reminds me of a couple of guys that have played key roles for this Boston team over the past couple of seasons, Evan Turner and Jae Crowder. Considering that Turner is a free agent this offseason, bringing in a similar player to help fill that void would make sense. Prince played out his four years in Waco so the ceiling isn't that high but he is a very good defender that can guard multiple positions. He also can knock down a three or two.

17. Grizzlies - Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame
Memphis Grizzlies (2005 - Pres)I fully expect the Grizzlies to take a point guard this pick as Mike Conley will be hitting the open market (and at least a backup if he returns), but it just depends on which point guard that will be available at this juncture. Jackson has the ideal size for an NBA point guard and he has the desired athleticism for the position as well, but he can also knock down an open jumper so you could feasibly play him off the ball.

18. Pistons - Domatas Sabonis, F/C, Gonzaga
Detroit Pistons (2002 - 2005)The Pistons spent a good chunk of last season trying to find an upgrade at power forward while also improving their depth at the five behind Andre Drummond and with this selection, they could kill both birds with one stone. I have heard multiple comparisons of Sabonis with Luis Scola and he is a tough, physical competitor, the likes of which Stan Van Gundy loves. His offensive game is a question mark, however.

19. Nuggets (from Trail Blazers) - Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina
Denver Nuggets (1977 - 1981)He may not fill a big need for the Nuggets, especially considering their first pick of this mock was also a power forward, but Johnson may be too good for them to pass up on. After all, can you really have too many bigs? Johnson is a four-year guy so he should be able to play right away after finishing his UNC career with a brilliant senior campaign. He showed some scoring ability and some better-than-advertised ability on the glass and he should be able to dig out a nice NBA career.

20. Pacers - Tyler Ulis, PG, North Carolina
Indiana Pacers (1977 - 1990)George Hill is a solid NBA point guard and presumably a nice man (don't quote me on that) but for a team that openly wants to push the action more offensively, you can do better than him. Ulis may be too small to regularly start at the next level (dude is only 5-9) but he does a great job of taking care of the basketball and is seemingly never afraid to push the ball up the court. Even in spot duty off the bench at first, he should make a difference for this Indiana club.

21. Hawks - Stephen Zimmerman, C, UNLV
Atlanta Hawks (2016 - Pres)Given that Al Horford's future in Atlanta is in question thanks to his impending free agency, as well as concerns about the ability of Tiago Splitter to stay healthy, look for this selection to be a big. Zimmerman may not be the toughest big man but you can get away with that in Mike Budenholzer's system, especially when Splitter is in the mix. His ability to both play in transition and hit jumpers will be appreciated but can he stay health and bang down in the paint?

22. Hornets - Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt
Charlotte Hornets (2015 - Pres)The Hornets bounced back in a big way this season as they returned to the playoffs and a big reason why was much-improved shooting from the perimeter. That they were able to do with Al Jefferson suffering from injuries for a good chunk of the season was even more impressive but with Jefferson being a free agent, the team could look to get some insurance at the five. Jones could have and should have been better at Vandy and his offensive game needs some work but he has an NBA-ready frame and should be a quality defensive player down low.

23. Celtics - Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
Boston Celtics (1999 - Pres)This should be a draft-and-stash selection for Danny Ainge considering how many picks they have in this draft (unless they do some wheeling and dealing). Zizic is only 19 and thus there is no need to bring him over right away. The potential for him is there considering he is tough, has good hands, is athletic and can run the floor pretty well. He does play hard and with some time, he could turn into a useful NBA player.

Philadelphia 76ers (2015 - Pres)24. 76ers (from Heat via Bobcats) - Malik Beasley, G, Florida State
As noted in why I had them taking Ingram over Simmons with the first pick, the 76ers desperately need to boost their wingplay and they could really use better shooting from outside. Beasley's biggest strength is his outside jumper as he has nice form and showed he could hit some big shots right away with the Seminoles. He is a little thin but he does put in effort on the defensive end and that is always nice.

25. Clippers - Zhou Qi, C, China
Los Angeles Clippers (2016 - Pres)Hey, who doesn't love China? Given that they are clearly trying to win now, right now in fact, the Clippers could afford to stash a guy overseas while he develops. Qi is not at all ready for the NBA considering he is rather frail for somebody that is north of seven feet but he has an enormous wingspan, he can block some shots by the rim and he can step outside and hit that threeball. All the guy needs is a little love and tenderness and in theory, don't we all?

26. 76ers (from Thunder via Cavaliers & Thunder) - Juan Hernangomez, F, Spain
Philadelphia 76ers (2015 - Pres)
Considering the state of their roster, the Sixers can basically do whatever the hell they want with this pick so why not take a shot on a guy and swing some for the fences. Now he does play a similar position as Dario Saric and Philadelphia really doesn't need more big guys but hey, when in Rome. Hernangomez could probably step right in and get some burn considering he played very well in a tough Spanish league and he's got the ability to be a face-up four.

27. Raptors - Chieck Diallo, F, Kansas
Toronto Raptors (2016 - Pres)The Raptors don't have a ton of needs and have an experienced roster so they could take a flier on some higher-upside guys, Diallo included. Diallo wasn't able to get a whole lot of playing time for a solid Kansas team but he has got nice size, a terrific wingspan, and he has the potential to make a big impact on defense and on the boards. He likely will have to hit up the D-League but this late in the first round, that's fine.

Phoenix Suns (2014 - Pres)28. Suns (from Cavaliers via Celtics) - Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia
Phoenix already has one Eastern European center in the mix in Alex Len so why not take another with the 28th selection. Zubac is only 19 years old and another season over in Europe would not hurt for his development but he has got the size and mobility to do some good things in the paint and in transition. He also has got the skill to make some plays down low on the offensive end of the court.

29. Spurs - Melo Trimble, G, Maryland
San Antonio Spurs (2003 - Pres)Point guard is not the biggest need for the Spurs but when you have a team go 67-15 in a season, you probably don't have that many needs to begin with. Also, Trimble seems like the guy of productive collegian that may not go that highly but can find a role on this San Antonio club. Trimble isn't the most athletic point guard out there but he has improved at taking care of the basketball and he can also hit the three.

30. Warriors - Thon Maker, F, Sudan
Golden State Warriors (2011 - Pres)The Warriors just set a record for wins in a season and they're in the mix to repeat as NBA champions to conclude one of the top seasons in league history. And with how deep of a roster they have, they can afford to take a chance on a guy like Maker whose stock has been all over the place. His mixtapes are certainly fun but he is tremendously raw and definitely a few years away. Maker has got the athleticism and the skills to make it look like he can be an NBA player but who really knows?

For more mocks, check out the NBA mock database at WalterFootball.com.

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