NBA Mock Draft 2016

Marquese Chriss – a former borderline top-60 prospect in his high school class who played only one so-so season at Washington before entering this draft – really is going to be selected in the top 10 this month. Yes, he could go third overall to Boston, in theory, like some are projecting. But multiple sources have told me somewhere outside of the top five, but inside of the top 10, seems more realistic.

Either way, the point’s the same: Chriss is going to be a lottery pick.

NBA Mock Draft

1. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Ben Simmons, SF, LSU: Reports that indicate the Sixers are interested in moving either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel before the draft suggest they’re trying to adjust their roster to better fit Simmons. So it appears Philadelphia is leaning toward selecting the one-and-done talent from LSU. Are there question marks with Simmons? Of course. His reluctance to shoot jumpers at LSU and the pile of SEC losses are two. But Simmons still probably has the highest ceiling of anyone available. And that makes him a sensible option for a franchise that’s spent the past several years taking big swings whenever possible.
2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke: Los Angeles would prefer Simmons, I’m told. But getting Ingram is still a great outcome for the post-Kobe Lakers. He’s a long athlete who shot 41 percent from 3-point range in one season at Duke. I can’t promise he’s the next Kevin Durant. But when you watch him, it’s easy to see why those comparisons exist. Ingram would fit perfectly with the Lakers young core. He could be the player who returns the franchise to respectability.
3. BOSTON CELTICS
Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky: Murray made 79 of 100 3-point attempts during his workout with the Celtics this week in a performance that suggests there’s nothing fluky about the 40.8 percent he shot from 3-point range during his one season at Kentucky. Meantime, Boston really needs shooting. And I just can’t imagine a scenario where Murray isn’t a good NBA scorer. So the Celtics going this direction makes a lot of sense on multiple levels, I think.
4. PHOENIX SUNS
Dragan Bender, PF, Israel: Bender is widely regarded as the top draft-eligible prospect who didn’t play college basketball this season, and there’s little doubt he’ll be selected in the top five. He’s an 18-year-old forward who should develop into a nice stretch-four at the NBA level. To be clear, Boston has scouted him extensively and could take him third overall. But if the Celtics pass, the Suns probably won’t.
5. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma: Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau accurately believes the Timberwolves are ready to break through and make the NBA Playoffs soon. So drafting someone who can contribute immediately makes sense, and Hield is undeniably ready to play as a rookie. The reigning CBS Sports National Player of the Year is probably the best shooter in this draft, meaning he’d be a great addition to a Minnesota team that ranked 25th in 3-point shooting this season while finishing 29-53.
6. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence: Anthony Davis has played four seasons in New Orleans. He’s missed the playoffs three times. He’s still never won a postseason game. So the Pelicans need to use this pick to get him somebody who can contribute immediately, and Dunn is that somebody. The point guard might be the best plug-and-play prospect in this draft. He could start on opening night if the Pelicans need him to start on opening night.
7. DENVER NUGGETS
Jaylen Brown, SF, California: Brown is a top-shelf athlete and possible top-five pick. But he’s the one guy in this range that everybody seems intrigued by but few love. Why didn’t he close more strongly at Cal? Is he coachable or a young guy who thinks he already has all the answers? These are questions scouts are asking, I’m told. But, at some point in the top 10, somebody will take Brown simply because he’s a big wing who can play the four in a small-ball lineup, and big wings who can play the four in small-ball lineups are more valuable than ever in the NBA.
8. SACRAMENTO KINGS
Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington: Chriss’ rise up draft boards is historic in the sense that he could, and likely will, become the first one-and-done prospect to be selected in the top 10 after not being ranked in the top 50 of his high school class. He’s not yet as polished as some other prospects because he hasn’t been playing organized basketball as long as most others. But Chriss has a higher ceiling than almost anyone in this draft. That seems to be a consensus opinion.
9. TORONTO RAPTORS
Henry Ellenson, PF-C, Marquette: Toronto has a need at power forward, which makes Ellenson an option. The one-and-done prospect is only 19. And though he didn’t shoot a good percentage from beyond the arc at Marquette, he has the tools to be a stretch-four. Combine that with his polished low-post game, and Ellenson has one of the highest ceilings in this draft.
10. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Jakob Poeltl, PF, Utah: The Bucks would like to see Ellenson fall, which would allow them to draft a potential stretch-five who played college ball in Milwaukee. But if he’s off the board, Poeltl is a good fit. He’s a big who plays big. And the 7-foot-1 center would help Milwaukee shore up an interior defense by adding a rim protector who is a good-enough athlete.
11. ORLANDO MAGIC
Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky: Frank Vogel’s ability to develop young talent should be instrumental in a predicted turn for the better in Orlando. And if I’m the Magic, I’m taking one of the many young forwards with lots of potential and asking Vogel to do for them what he just did for Myles Turner with the Pacers. Labissiere, if available, would be among the interesting options. Once considered a possible top overall selection, he mostly struggled in his one season at Kentucky. But the potential for greatness is still there and intriguing. So he’s worth a gamble somewhere in the lottery of a weak draft.
12. UTAH JAZZ
Timothe Luwawu, SG, France: Luwawu is a wing who has good size and is an above-average athlete and defender. Those things alone would get him selected, probably. But the fact that he also shoots about 40 percent from 3-point range makes him a possible lottery pick and nice option for the Jazz even with Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward on the roster.
13. PHOENIX SUNS
Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State: The Suns have three first-round picks. So they can afford a big swing here. And Davis qualifies as such. He declined to test athletically at the combine and will likely need to perform well in private workouts to ensure a place in the lottery. But the 6-11 forward showed himself as a high-level rebounder in limited minutes during his one season at Michigan State, and he was also one of the nation’s best shot-blockers. So, at worst, Davis should be a difference-maker on the defensive end at the NBA level.
14. CHICAGO BULLS
Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga: A report that Joakim Noah is leaving Chicago via free agency suggests the Bulls could focus on frontcourt prospects — and Sabonis would be one who could play right away. He skipped the combine completely, which has caused some to suggest Sabonis might’ve received a promise somewhere in the top 20. Whether that’s true or not remains unclear. But he would make sense for Chicago – especially if Noah is leaving.
15. DENVER NUGGETS
Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State: Valentine is one of the best dribble-pass-shoot guys in this draft, and his versatility on the offensive end, and his four-year college career, should make him a quick contributor at the NBA level. In other words, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year probably doesn’t have the ceiling that some picked ahead of him possess. But there aren’t 10 players in this draft who will have better rookie seasons than the former Michigan State star.
16. BOSTON CELTICS
Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey: The Celtics have three first-round picks and will likely select at least one, and perhaps two, draft-and-stash prospects. If they don’t take Bender third overall, they could definitely go with an international player here. And Korkmaz – a terrific shooter with ideal size for his position – makes as much sense as anybody else.
17. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Wade Baldwin IV, SG, Vanderbilt: The Grizzlies need help at point guard — preferably in the form of somebody who A) is big enough to sometimes play next to Mike Conley, and B) can shoot from the perimeter. Baldwin checks both boxes. And the fact that he measured and tested well at the combine basically guarantees some franchise will take him in the first round.
18. DETROIT PISTONS
Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky: The Pistons need help at the point guard position and could grab Baldwin if he slips. If not, Ulis is a sensible option here because he is, though small, a point guard through and through. And, I’m told, he outperformed Demetrius Jackson in a recent workout at which both competed. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Ulis ends up higher than Jackson on Detroit’s draft board.
19. DENVER NUGGETS
Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia: The Nuggets have three first-round picks but do not need three rookies on their roster. So a draft-and-stash seems likely. And Zubac is a terrific candidate for such given that he’s only 19 years old and maybe willing to stay in Serbia for another year. He’s averaging double-figures in Europe for a team that could have multiple draft picks.
20. INDIANA PACERS
Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina: Johnson was a monster while averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds and leading North Carolina to the national championship game. The quick leaper improved his stock enough to where going in the top 20 of this draft isn’t out of the question. And for the Pacers, he would provide needed frontcourt depth.
21. ATLANTA HAWKS
Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor: This 6-8 wing has the athleticism and wingspan to guard his position, and even multiple positions, at the NBA level. It’s also worth noting he’s an 82 percent free-throw shooter. And Prince is an above-average rebounder for his position, too. So he can contribute in a lot of different ways.
22. CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Cheick Diallo, C, Kansas: Diallo measured and tested well at the combine — then played well in the five-on-five games. He was active. He rebounded. He guarded. Simply put, the 6-9 forward genuinely helped himself by reminding scouts why he was once a projected lottery pick. And now it looks like that subpar season at Kansas won’t cost Diallo too much money.
23. BOSTON CELTICS
Ante Zizic, C, Croatia: Again, the Celtics have so many picks that they’re going to need to either package them for a player or select multiple international prospects that can theoretically be stashed. So, for all the reasons previously stated, a prospect like Zizic – who has been impressive this season while leading the Adriatic League in rebounding – is a real possibility.
24. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse: Richardson has parlayed a nice performance in the NCAA Tournament into a likely guaranteed contract, which is something few saw coming in, say, February. The 6-6 guard is a good athlete who measured and tested well at the combine. Not everybody likes him. But he has enough fans in franchises to secure a spot in the first round.
25. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame: Jackson tested and interviewed well at the combine and will be the second straight Notre Dame guard to go in the first round. His ability to flourish in the pick-and-roll while being a respectable shooter — he shot better than 41 percent form 3-point range in his freshman and sophomore years — should allow him to become an NBA starter. But he’ll begin his career as a back-up PG, which is something the Clippers could use.
26. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Thon Maker, C, Australia: Maker is still mostly an unknown in the sense that he’s never played basketball consistently against high-level competition. But he measured, tested and interviewed well at the combine, where he gained fans. And now it seems more likely than not that Maker will go in the first round based on little more than the idea that his ceiling is higher than most prospects’ ceilings.
27. TORONTO RAPTORS
Diamond Stone, C, Maryland: Stone has not helped himself in interviews, I’m told. And there are background issues that concern some franchises. Still, he’s just so much more talented than most other prospects in this range. And that’s why the Raptors might be willing to take a swing late in the first and hope the talent develops and the other concerns disappear with time.
28. PHOENIX SUNS
Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain: The Suns do not need three players on rookie contracts. So they could go with a draft-and-stash prospect here. Hernangomez qualifies as a great option. He’s a 6-9 stretch-4 who is shooting roughly 40 percent from 3-point range in Spain.
29. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
DeAndre’ Bembry, SF, Saint Joseph’s: Bembry was, by all accounts, terrific at the combine. He tested well and played magnificently in the five-on-five games. His ability to guard multiple positions at the NBA level should prove useful, and the way Bembry sees the floor and passes could allow him to, at times, play the role of point-forward.
30. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Ben Bentil, PF, Providence: Bentil is a long and athletic forward who can score from multiple spots — around the rim and all the way out to the 3-point line. He was terrific this season at Providence, and he played well in the five-on-five games at the combine. Given how much Golden State asks players to be versatile — and how much Steve Kerr likes his team to shoot from the perimeter from four positions — Bentil would make a lot of sense in a Warriors uniform.

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