2016 NBA Mock Draft: September Projections for All 30 1st Round Picks
It's never too early for NBA draft projections, and given all the showcase events, tournaments and camps that take place during the summer, prospects actually have an opportunity to improve their stocks in the offseason.
We've already seen a number of players make jumps up our board with strong performances from June to August.
In terms of the strength of the 2016 field, there seems to be star power at the top but a lack of depth outside the lottery.
That could all change once January hits. Last year's class was viewed as a weak one before new names started popping up and old ones began to rise.
Without too many high-profile prospects having returned to college, NBA teams will be relying on the incoming freshmen to sell their potential. In this particular mock-draft edition, we expect a whopping 13 players to pursue the one-and-done route.
The following mock draft's order (and its future trades) uses last year's final NBA standings.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ben Simmons, LSU, 6'9", SF/PF, Freshman
It's tough not to salivate over the versatility that a Ben Simmons-Andrew-Wiggins-Karl-Anthony Towns trio could potentially offer.
Even in August, Simmons has found a way to build his case for the No. 1 pick. He averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and 5.7 assists (three games) against international competition during LSU's recent tour to Australia.
You just don't see any 6'9", 229-pound above-the-rim athletes with this type of handle, vision and passing instincts.
He's a mismatch at the point or on the wing, where he can operate over the defense, set the table for teammates or score off drives and floaters. Simmons is also a nightmare in transition, given his ability to take defensive boards coast to coast and slice through traffic on the way.
Arguing about his future position is ultimately a waste of time, especially with the way today's NBA has evolved.
Learning to play without the ball could be a challenge, but Simmons is just too skilled and smart to bet against.
We'd have him pegged as the No. 1 pick, regardless of who's projected to make it.
2. Denver Nuggets (via Knicks): Skal Labissiere, Kentucky, 6'11", PF/C, Freshman
Athletic and skilled with near 7'0" size, Skal Labissiere's ceiling is as high as anyone's in the projected 2016 field. And at Kentucky, he should soak up all of the touches that previously went to Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson.
Labissiere has flashed touch and shot-making ability from the elbows, where he can face up and shoot or turn around into fallaways over the shoulder. Meanwhile, his bounce and coordination translate to easy buckets around the rim off dumps, lobs and low-post opportunities.
Labissiere's defensive upside is also tremendous, given his foot speed and shot-blocking instincts.
Unless he really struggles with contact (225 pounds) or gets exposed on the interior, Labissiere should remain in the top-three conversation from day one until late June.
And the Nuggets won't be picky at No. 2. They'll take the top overall talent, no matter what shape it comes in.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Brandon Ingram, Duke, 6'8", SF, Freshman
He'll need to put some meat on his bones, but Brandon Ingram's perimeter ball skills and overall fluidity are just too pretty.
At 6'8" with a handle, shooting range and the ability to create and make shots off the dribble, Ingram's offensive game screams mismatch once his body eventually fills out.
Though he projects as an NBA wing, Ingram will likely work as Duke's power forward, where his shake-and-bake face-up attack should be tough for heavier-footed bigs to contain.
We'll likely hear questions about strength all season, but at 18 years old, they won't stop the draft buzz. Ingram is loaded with upside and potential that traditionally has enticed the Philadelphia 76ers.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers) : Jaylen Brown, Cal., 6'7", SG/SF, Freshman
Jaylen Brown is already off to a good start after averaging 17.8 points during California's four-game trip to Australia.
With textbook physical tools consisting of 6'7" size, a 222-pound frame and 7'0½" wingspan, Brown puts pressure on the defense in a variety of ways.
He plays through contact attacking the rim and blows right by it in transition. And though not yet known as a shooter, Brown remains capable of knocking down threes and improving his accuracy over time.
A strong defender who guards multiple positions, Brown projects as a two-way wing with Jimmy Butler-type potential.
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie continues to show he doesn't care about drafting by position. Despite the team's need at guard, we'll assume Hinkie goes best player available and favors Brown over Kentucky's Jamal Murray.
5. Orlando Magic: Dragan Bender, Croatia, 7'1", PF, 1997
The hype surrounding Dragan Bender got stronger following June's Eurocamp, where he measured in over 7'0" and was "sensational at times" during Day 1's evening session game, according to DraftExpress' Mike Schmitz.
Bender possesses the versatility the NBA has recently eaten up. With center size, he's a comfortable three-point shooter who can put the ball on the floor or thread the needle as a passer.
He doesn't jump out of the gym, but he's mobile and fluid and possesses a quick second jump.
Bender's foot speed, size and length also translate to pick-and-roll defense, rim protection and rebounds.
Having signed a seven-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv, chances are Bender might be a stash play on draft night. But for a team like the Orlando Magic, who are already developing prospects at positions 1 through 5, they can wait. It's also worth mentioning the Magic just drafted fellow Croatian Mario Hezonja.
6. Sacramento Kings: Jamal Murray, Kentucky, 6'5", PG, Freshman
Jamal Murray's rise won't stop at Kentucky. MVP of April's Nike Hoop Summit and a standout performer during July's Pan American Games, Murray should thrive under John Calipari and continue building his image.
He's a scoring point guard with 6'5" size and deceptive athleticism, as well as razor-sharp offensive skills and basketball IQ.
Murray ultimately offers the versatility to play on or off the ball, given his height, handle, playmaking and shooting stroke. He's not a freak athlete, but his ability to set the table for teammates or take over with pull-ups, floaters or drives can look mighty convincing.
He'll start the year as the No. 1 guard prospect on our board. Murray could be on the Philadelphia 76ers' radar, considering they have two top-five picks and a hole in the backcourt. But if the Sixers draft for upside, which they typically do, Murray could fall to the Kings, who need a long-term lead guard.
7. Toronto Raptors (via Denver): Henry Ellenson, Marquette, 6'10", PF, Freshman
Though quiet during spring and early summer after breaking his hand in March, Henry Ellenson recently made some noise in Italy, where he averaged 21 points and 7.5 rebounds through four exhibition games against international competition.
He looked terrific, having showcased versatility that highlighted both stretch 4 and go-to scoring potential.
Ellenson opened eyes with coast-to-coast takes, step-backs in the mid-range, low-post moves and three-point shooting.
He might not offer much rim protection, but Ellenson's polished inside-out skill set suggests significant offensive potential. He'd be a nice upgrade at the power forward position in Toronto.
8. Detroit Pistons: Malik Newman, Mississippi State, 6'4", PG/SG, Freshman
Malik Newman offers backcourt versatility and firepower—a combo guard who can handle the ball, create and score at will.
Balancing scoring with distributing will ultimately become Newman's short- and long-term challenge, but he's loaded with talent fueled by strength, athleticism and spectacular offensive skills.
Newman is likely to spend time this year playing both guard positions at Mississippi State. He's lightning in transition, dangerous one-on-one and a threat to knock down threes as a catch-and-shooter.
Unless he scares scouts off with alarming shot selection and inefficiency, Newman should draw lottery interest from teams looking for additional playmaking. A Newman-Reggie Jackson duo in Detroit could be potent.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Cheick Diallo, Kansas, 6'9", PF/C, Freshman
Cheick Diallo remains ineligible, and it's unclear when and if that will change. But scouts have had a good opportunity to catch him in action over the past year.
He took home MVP of both the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic (co-MVP of the JBC).
Diallo has made a name for himself with his motor. Though not a one-on-one scorer or long-range shooter, his athleticism, nose for the ball and energy consistently translate to highlight tip-ins, transition buckets, rebounds and blocked shots.
He excels in areas of the game you just can't teach. Convincing scouts he's capable of improving his touch and post game, whether it's at Kansas or in workouts, could certainly lead to top-10 consideration.
10. Miami Heat: Kris Dunn, Providence, 6'4", PG, Junior
The Miami Heat send this pick to Philadelphia if it lands outside the top 10. Here, they'll keep it and look to draft a potential point guard of the future.
Kris Dunn erupted last year after suffering back-to-back season-ending shoulder injuries. At 6'4", 205 pounds with long arms, blazing quickness and smooth athleticism, Dunn aces the NBA eye test. But he also has the production to back it up, having averaged 15.6 points, led the country in assist percentage and finished No. 5 overall in steals per game, according to sports-reference.com.
He's a playmaking machine off ball screens, a weapon in transition and pressure perimeter defender. Cutting down on turnovers and improving his shooting range are priorities, but neither issue seems permanent.
Dunn is our top-ranked returning prospect and No. 2 point guard behind Jamal Murray.
11. Indiana Pacers: Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame, 6'1", PG, Junior
Demetrius Jackson looks poised for a monster breakout in a lead-guard role now that Jerian Grant is gone.
Though just 6'1", Jackson compensates for height with a strong 198-pound frame and explosive athleticism. Physically, he resembles Eric Bledsoe.
But he's also a skilled playmaker and an even better shooter, having made at least 40 percent of his threes in back-to-back seasons.
Selling scouts on his ability to run an offense could ultimately catapult him up draft boards.
12. Utah Jazz: Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey, 6'6", SG, 1997
Furkan Korkmaz has had a fairly busy summer playing with Turkey in the Under-19 World Championships and Under-18 European Championships. And though he looked a lot sharper over his first seven games than he did over his final nine, Korkmaz remained productive while flashing athleticism and a dangerous offensive attack.
He handles the ball and creates shots off the dribble, whether they're off drives, pull-ups or step-backs. Korkmaz also has plenty of shooting range and the bounce to play above the rim.
He even shows up on defense, where he brings relentless energy and length. Korkmaz averaged at least 2.1 steals per game in each of these last two tournaments.
Minutes could be tough to come by for Korkmaz (once again) with Anadolu Efes, but scouts have had plenty of FIBA film to study over the past few years. His burst, offensive versatility, shot-making skills and defense together could hold lottery value.
13. Phoenix Suns: Damian Jones, Vanderbilt, 7'0", C, Junior
Damian Jones measured 7'0" this summer at the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy—two inches taller than what Vanderbilt had listed him.
It suggests Jones can now safely sell himself as a center—a significant development for a player who lacks perimeter ball skills.
He's a beast around the basket, where he finishes above the rim and at more difficult angles below it.
Jones has also flashed post moves and mid-range touch, though scouts will need to see a lot more of both in 2015-16.
By draft night, teams are still likely to view Jones as a project, given his raw offensive game for a junior. And it could keep him outside the top 10.
But with standout physical tools and room for developmental growth, the upside may be worth a late-lottery gamble.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Taurean Prince, Baylor, 6'7", SF, Senior
Taurean Prince strengthened his NBA draft case this summer after flashing promise last year as a junior.
He "stood out" in July at the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy, wrote DraftExpress' Mike Schmitz. Prince was also rock solid throughout the Pan American Games, where he averaged 10.8 points on 46.3 percent shooing in 18.5 minutes.
At 6'7", 220 pounds, Prince is a decent athlete with the body of an NBA wing and a shooting stroke that's gradually improved. He nailed 60 triples at a 39.5 percent clip as a junior, enhancing his image as a potential three-and-D forward at the next level.
Having just turned 21 years old, Prince is even young for a senior. We're betting on him to continue rising throughout the next year.
If the Oklahoma City Thunder pick lands outside the top 15, it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers.
15. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Caris LeVert, Michigan, 6'7", SG, Senior
The NBA values Caris LeVert's offensive versatility, which stems from 6'7" size, ball-handling, facilitating and shooting skills.
Before hurting his foot last January, LeVert had been averaging 3.7 assists to go with his 14.1 points and 40.5 percent three-point mark—the second consecutive year he's shot at least 40 percent from deep.
A big guard who can create and pass off screens or spread the floor as a spot-up threat, LeVert just needs to stay healthy. He's now had two foot surgeries in as many years—and another setback might set off alarms.
However, assuming last year's injury was just bad luck and not a sign, we're betting on LeVert to draw first-round attention in 2016.
16. Boston Celtics: Jakob Poeltl, Utah, 7'0", C, Sophomore
Even if Jakob Poeltl fails to make any real strides offensively, his physical tools, athleticism and interior presence could still hold first-round value.
He anchors the defense and cleans the glass with 7'0" size and foot speed. Poeltl registered a strong 18.6 percent rebounding percentage (sports-reference.com) and blocked 3.2 shots per 40 minutes for the No. 6 defense in the country, per Kenpom.com.
Zero shooting touch (44.4 percent from the line) and limited post skills might cause lottery teams to hesitate, but those seeking rim protection—potentially the Boston Celtics—could target Poeltl in the mid-first round.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV, 7'0", PF/C, Freshman
Stephen Zimmerman's NBA potential is tough to miss. The big question is whether he'll need more than a year at UNLV, but something tells me scouts will ultimately recognize his upside and declare him first-round worthy in 2016.
At 7'0", he's a fluid run-and-jump athlete with impressive touch and perimeter ball skills. Zimmerman has three-point shooting range, as well as the ability to face up and attack or score over the shoulder in the post.
After sending Ersan Ilyasova to Detroit, the Milwaukee Bucks may be looking for a stretch big to back up Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe. Zimmerman doesn't offer much rim protection, but his offensive versatility could hold enough value at No. 17 overall.
18: New Orleans Pelicans: Justin Jackson, North Carolina, 6'7", SF, Sophomore
After a few on-and-off months as a freshman, it started to click for Justin Jackson during March. And we're going to buy it as a sign of more to come.
Jackson compensates for a skinny frame with excellent size, promising touch and impressive body control. His jumper looks promising, even if his three-point percentage says otherwise. And though not a dynamic one-on-one scorer, Jackson can put the ball on the floor and loft in floaters and runners on the move.
Assuming he can make a jump as a shooter, Jackson's shot-making and finishing instincts fuel intriguing complementary offensive potential. He has a little Tayshaun Prince in his game.
19. Washington Wizards: Tyler Dorsey, Oregon, 6'4", SG, Freshman
Tyler Dorsey will be one of the more interesting names to follow early on, given the lack of NBA buzz that followed him out of high school and his eye-opening performance at the Under-19 World Championships.
He's a bit undersized at 6'4", but Dorsey is highly active and athletic, and he possesses an intriguing blend of ball-handling, scoring and shooting skills.
Dorsey shot 11-of-21 from three for Greece this past June and July. He also made a number of highlight defensive plays that he turned into fast-break points the other way.
To buy into Dorsey, you'd have to throw out the rulebook on tweeners, but we're betting his versatility and motor power him up draft boards in 2016.
20. Toronto Raptors: Diamond Stone, Maryland, 6'10", C, Freshman
Diamond Stone's 6'11", 255-pound frame won't be tough to miss this year. He takes up a ton of space in the paint, where he can score over the shoulder and put pressure on the offensive glass.
Stone has even flashed some mid-range touch in the post to go with an overpowering back-to-the-basket game.
Still, there is a decent gap between his physical tools and skills.
"I haven't seen a high-level stud there yet. I've seen a lot of sizzle, but not a lot of steak yet," one NBA executive told ESPN's Jeff Goodman. "To me, he has a lot to prove this year—but he certainly has an NBA body."
Upside should keep him in the first-round discussion, but we're going to wait to declare Stone lottery bound for now.
21. Boston Celtics (via Mavs): Malik Pope, San Diego State, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
Malik Pope only played 14.8 minutes per game as a freshman, but if any of the potential he flashed comes to life in 2015-16, the mid-first round should be a real possibility.
Now listed at 6'10", Pope's size and athleticism for a wing stand out under the NBA lens. And he possesses the face-up skills to go with them.
Pope hit 20-of-49 threes (40.8 percent) and looked comfortable scoring and shooting in the mid-range. We also saw the bounce that led to easy buckets above the rim.
He'll have to tie more of it together in year No. 2, but with exceptional physical tools and enormous room for growth offensively, Pope offers significant long-term upside. It just might take a little while to approach.
22. Chicago Bulls: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, 6'4", SG, Senior
By now, NBA teams should know precisely what they're getting with Buddy Hield: shot-making, passing and energy.
Hield has three-point range, a strong basketball IQ and a live motor—qualities that play to his role-player potential. He projects as a complementary scorer capable and willing to create for teammates.
Improving his shooting percentages might make it easier to convince general managers he's worth drafting in the first round. But assuming Hield doesn't take any significant steps backward, we expect him to generate interest from playoff teams looking for offense at the off-guard position.
23. Denver Nuggets (via Blazers): Dwayne Bacon, Florida St., 6'6", SG, Freshman
Dwayne Bacon needs some fine-tuning, but the tools and talent are there. At 6'6", he's an athletic off-guard or wing with a handle, one-on-one game and promising shooting stroke.
Bacon can get to the rack or separate into pull-ups and step-backs in the mid-range.
Consistency, tight shot selection and efficiency may be tough to achieve right away, but these correctable weaknesses shouldn't keep Bacon from earning first-round consideration—especially given the lack of projected depth in next year's field.
24. Phoenix Suns (via Cavaliers): Derryck Thornton, Duke, 6'2", PG, Freshman
Derryck Thornton should generate buzz with his ball skills and poise for an 18-year-old starter.
He's an intelligent facilitator capable of taking over stretches as a scorer. Thornton's pull-up and floater games are sharp. Using a tight handle and hesitation dribble, he's a constant threat off ball screens, where he can stop and pop in space, sink a runner before traffic or find the open man.
Thornton doesn't quite ace the NBA eye test, given his 6'2" frame and lack of explosiveness. But it's his ability to break down the defense and make plays within it that drive his appeal at the point.
If he declares, he'll likely be one of the youngest prospects in the field.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga, 6'10", PF/C, Sophomore
Domantas Sabonis stood out last year due to his motor and finishing instincts around the basket. This summer, he averaged a double-double in the Under-20 European Championships.
But he only shot 43.1 percent in July, showing a lack of offensive versatility. And considering he doesn't offer much rim protection—Sabonis blocked just 12 shots in 38 games for Gonzaga—his limited defensive potential, shooting and scoring ability might prevent teams from reaching too high.
Still, between his interior activity, nose for the ball and passing skills, it's not difficult to envision Sabonis providing energy and support off an NBA bench.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin, 6'8", SF/PF, Junior
No more Sam Dekker or Frank Kaminsky should mean a much bigger role for Nigel Hayes, who expanded his game as a sophomore and consequently found the NBA radar.
Hayes hit 40 threes after not attempting one the year before. He now offers the versatility to stretch the floor as a shooter, as well as face up and attack or score with his back to the rim.
He doesn't quite project as a go-to offensive player—it wouldn't be overly shocking if Hayes' 51 percent field-goal clip takes a hit.
The appeal to Hayes ultimately stems from his role-player potential. He rarely turns it over (1.3 times per 33 minutes), knocks down open shots and outworks opponents in the paint.
27. Houston Rockets: Tyrone Wallace, California, 6'5", PG, Senior
Now that he has some supporting talent to play off, Tyrone Wallace should be poised for a more efficient senior season.
He already has the talent in the form of 6'5" size, 6'9½ length and smooth athleticism. Wallace has mismatch physical tools for a ball-handler, as well as dangerous playmaking ability as a scorer (17.1 points per game) and setup man (four assists per game).
Though he's struggled with shot selection in the past, Wallace should be looking at a lot more open looks this year alongside Jaylen Brown, Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews and Ivan Rabb. And even if he doesn't turn shooting into a strength, he'll have a good chance to improve on his 31.8 percent three-point clip from a year ago. His first-round chances may ultimately depend on it.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jake Layman, Maryland, 6'9", SF/PF, Senior
Jake Layman's stretch forward potential could generate interest toward the late-first round. At 6'9", he shot 37.8 percent from three last year but also improved dramatically inside the arc, where he shot 53 percent, up from 44.1 percent the season before.
Layman does most of his work off the ball as either a spot-up shooter, cutter or line driver. He doesn't offer much in terms of one-on-one offense or playmaking, but Layman's athleticism and jumper could work well in a supporting role at multiple positions.
Becoming a consistent force for a Final Four contender sure wouldn't hurt Layman's draft outlook.
29. Atlanta Hawks: Ivan Rabb, California, 6'11", PF, Freshman
Ivan Rabb's body has really improved over the past few years. And according to assistant coach Yanni Hufnagel, Rabb added 11 more pounds over a 44-day stretch this summer.
Quick and athletic with terrific hands, Rabb is a frontcourt weapon around the key, where he can face up, rip through and attack or finish dumps, lobs and tip-ins.
He's also a strong rebounder and a good bet to double-double on any given night.
On the downside, Rabb is visibly raw on offense, where he isn't a sharp shot creator. But if he can flash enough mid-range tough without getting exposed as weak down low, Rabb should find his way into the late-first round (assuming he chooses to declare).
30. Golden State Warriors: Aleksandar Vezenkov, Bulgaria, 6'9", PF, 1995
Aleksandar Vezenkov may have had a shot at the 2015 first round had he not withdrawn from the draft. In what looks like a more shallow 2016 field, he'll really have a chance.
He'll play with Barcelona this year after winning MVP of the Greek Basketball League last season.
Vezenkov is a sharp-shooting big, having made 38.7 percent of his threes and 78.2 percent of his free throws. He shows terrific scoring and rebounding instincts, which helps make up for limited athleticism and strength.
Vezenkov doesn't offer much defensively, but as a stretch forward and shot-maker, there should be a role for him in today's NBA.