Re-Drafting the 2016 NBA Draft Class at the Midseason Mark
Halfway through the 2016-17 NBA season, it's time for some revisionist draft history.
Let's do the whole first round over.
First things first: If you're picking at the top of the lottery, you're almost never in a position to consider need. (What would have happened to the San Antonio Spurs over the last two decades if they'd looked at the 1997 draft class, seen Tim Duncan sitting there and said, "Nah, we're good. We've already got David Robinson!"?)
However, in extreme cases—like the one involving a Sacramento Kings team that already had DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein (as well as needs at every other position)—I will probably go in a direction other than adding two more project centers in the first round.
For the most part, though, this is about using the skill and potential we've seen since the draft to reset the order. It's vital to keep a big-picture perspective here. Upside is still the most important quality—particularly at the top of the lottery. A 19-year-old prospect's luster doesn't just wear off if he (predictably) underwhelms in the first three months of the season.
This isn't a rookie ranking. It's a redo of the first round with all the typical concerns teams had in June. Finally, don't expect to see Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Alex Abrines or any of the other rookies who weren't in the 2016 draft.
1. Philadelphia 76ers—Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons' suspect defense and damaging hesitancy to shoot from the perimeter have yet to negatively affect him in an NBA game. Because he hasn't played one.
In that sense, what we don't know about Simmons helps him retain the top spot. He's still the hottest prospect with the most intriguing skill set—the guy who profiles as a primary ball-handler with power forward size.
Before a broken foot shelved him, Simmons showed star-quality flashes in summer league play. Those snippets, combined with his physical gifts and collegiate production, make preserving the status quo at No. 1 easy. And when you consider no one else from the 2016 class looks like an emerging star just yet, it's even clearer that Simmons belongs here.
There's no telling how long we'll have to wait for him to prove his draft slot was the right one. According to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown says there's still no timetable for the rookie's return. But he is finally participating in 5-on-0 drills in practice.
At least at the very top, half a season of information hasn't changed anything. The Sixers would snag Simmons again in a heartbeat.
2. Los Angeles Lakers—Brandon Ingram
Mostly because of sheer playing-time volume, Brandon Ingram's counting numbers stack up well against the other members of his class. He's comfortably among the top five in points and rebounds and ranks first among non-point guards in assists.
The facilitation might be most encouraging, as Ingram has appeared capable of handling the ball (and even initiating the offense) in spot duty for the Los Angeles Lakers. Much like Simmons', Ingram's potential as a playmaker with size makes him intriguing.
The outside stroke remains a mystery, however. Ingram has been broke from the perimeter all season after shooting 41 percent from long range in college. That figure has to improve because he may never be physically strong enough to finish consistently at the rim.
You can see the IQ and multi-skilled offensive potential in Ingram. Combined with his pedigree as a shooter, plus size and physical tools, he'd still be a pretty easy choice at No. 2.
3. Boston Celtics—Jamal Murray
Jaylen Brown, whom the Boston Celtics actually selected with the No. 3 pick, has played only about 13 minutes per game this season. As the only high lottery selection fighting for rotation opportunities on a borderline contender, the playing-time crunch makes him hard to evaluate. He might be posting huge numbers on the Phoenix Suns, for example.
That makes moving him out of this spot difficult.
Still, Jamal Murray has shown glimpses of being exactly the kind of deadly-from-anywhere scorer every team craves. And that's why he moves up.
Murray is nowhere near their level now (and may never be), but the sheer versatility, creativity and confidence in his offensive game conjures comparisons to Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. You can run Murray off screens, spot him up or even give him the ball and trust him to run a pick-and-roll—or at least it looks like you'll be able to do that eventually.
Murray is 19, fought out of a brutal shooting slump at the start of the season and still doesn't have the field-goal percentages you'd like from a guy who must be terrifically efficient on offense to make up for suspect D.
But he's got the game everyone wants.
Even though the Celtics are loaded with guards, and even though Brown could develop into a terrific wing option, Murray is the new No. 3 pick.
4. Phoenix Suns—Dragan Bender
Dragan Bender going to the Phoenix Suns aligns three of the first four redo picks with what actually happened.
While it's noteworthy that Marquese Chriss, not Bender, is the rookie Phoenix shoved into a starting role first, that doesn't influence the order here. And despite limited chances, Bender still made history by posting 11 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a Dec. 26 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Tracy McGrady is the only guy to mark that line at a younger age.
At 7'1", this Suns rookie has skills that suggest he'll be a playmaking center with significant defensive versatility. He's shown flashes of fantastic lateral mobility on D, which should make him highly valuable in switch-heavy defensive schemes going forward. The Step Back's Cole Zwicker lays those skills out here.
Better still, he reads the floor exceptionally well for someone with his experience level. As a play-diagnoser on D, he's miles beyond Chriss and most other rookies—regardless of position.
Bender is also weak enough to be pushed around, lacks a post game and never gets to the foul line. But those are areas that you'd expect a 19-year-old to work on and improve. The things that are harder to teach—feel, smarts and mobility—are what give him such a high ceiling.
Phoenix isn't helping Bender by playing him as a wing so often, but at least it got this pick right.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves—Jaylen Brown
Kris Dunn's grit, competitiveness and defensive potential made him a reasonable pick at No. 5, which is where the Minnesota Timberwolves actually selected him. But halfway into his rookie season, Dunn looks like such an offensive zero that it's difficult to envision him as more than a second-unit energy player.
Think of it this way: If the Wolves hadn't invested a top-five pick in him, last year's point guard selection, Tyus Jones, taken at No. 24, would be ahead of him on the depth chart. And when you can't push this shaky version of Ricky Rubio for minutes, which Dunn hasn't so far, that's a sign of trouble.
So Brown doesn't fall too far.
This is a pick made with specific (hypothetical) instructions: Brown has to play power forward for Minnesota. It's the only way this makes sense, and, conveniently, it looks like that's the best use of his talents anyway.
Brown's handle and shot creation are unsteady, and he's nowhere near the knockdown shooter you'd want in a typical wing. But he's obscenely athletic and strong, and he projects as a good defender at four positions. If you trust him to defend 4s and bang a little on the glass—which his athleticism should allow him to do—his limited offensive game looks a lot more appealing as a 4.
And he sure seemed to like the position in preseason play, telling Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com: "I was able to guard a 4, and I was able to attack closeouts when they switched. I had mismatches, so it made the game a lot easier. And I touched the ball a lot as a 4. So it was really comfortable and really smooth."
Even better, Brown playing as an undersized 4 in spaced-out lineups allows Karl-Anthony Towns full-time minutes at center in a wide-open system.
6. New Orleans Pelicans—Marquese Chriss
Among the New Orleans Pelicans' many great failings during the Anthony Davis era, a reluctance to reach for stars in the draft stands out. Free agents of consequence don't sign in New Orleans, and what Davis needs more than anything else is a second star-level talent alongside him.
That's why Marquese Chriss, an immature, undeveloped, defensively spacey power forward with unlimited raw physical tools, makes the most sense here.
Yes, Buddy Hield shot 47.8 percent from long range in December and looks like the one-dimensional rotation specialist his college career suggested he'd be. But the Pelicans needed to stretch for more. They needed to gamble.
Chriss' upside isn't just higher than Hield's. It might be higher than anyone but Simmons' or Ingram's. He projects as a viable three-point shooter with enough quickness to punish closeouts by any big and even plenty of wings. He's also a highlight factory.
Can he be taught to actually try on the defensive glass? Can he cool off and avoid emotional outbursts that have produced seven technical fouls so far? Can he pay attention on D for two possessions in a row?
If there's an affirmative answer to, say, two of those three questions, Chriss could become a star.
7. Denver Nuggets—Buddy Hield
With so much invested in Emmanuel Mudiay, the Denver Nuggets were never going to take Kris Dunn—even if we've already mentioned how position-based drafting isn't the best idea.
That means Dunn waits in the green room a little longer and Hield winds up in Denver.
The fit makes some sense here, as Hield can come off the bench behind Gary Harris to prop up second units with his shooting. Alongside Mudiay, who might enjoy more space to drive, Hield also provides some gravity.
It may feel a little disappointing for the Nuggets to take Hield, as we just spent a slide talking about how the Pelicans should have passed on him because of his low ceiling. But the guy has hit more threes than any other rookie, and it feels like Denver's a little closer to present relevance, which makes snatching a help-now prospect a bit more excusable.
Besides, we're running out of high-upside fliers.
8. Sacramento Kings—Kris Dunn
The Sacramento Kings taking Dunn is the easiest move so far, and you'd have to think they wouldn't have traded the No. 8 pick in real life if Dunn had been on the board.
But this is the Kings we're talking about, so anything's in play. It's entirely possible Sacramento would have swapped the rights to Dunn for nine unprotected third-rounders, only to realize too late that the draft is over after two.
Dunn has yet to do anything on offense—he's hitting less than a third of his three-point attempts, has struggled mightily to finish at the rim and has cracked double figures in scoring just three times. But his defensive potential is All-NBA level.
Quick, strong, aggressive and boasting a 6'9.5" wingspan, Dunn is a prototypical shutdown point guard who also shouldn't have trouble wrangling all but the biggest shooting guards. At 22, he's older than you'd prefer for a lottery pick, but his four years at Providence also mean he's mature.
And the Kings could always use more maturity.
9. Toronto Raptors—Malcolm Brogdon
As the most productive member of the 2016 draft class so far, Malcolm Brogdon is a massive riser (27 picks higher than he went in the actual draft). Despite ranking second in his class in total points, first in assists and fourth in minutes, Brogdon's age (24) and seemingly low ceiling make him an exceptionally tough prospect to peg, however.
Because if you're using a top-10 pick, you're hoping for a franchise-altering talent—someone with big upside and the possibility of All-Star Games in his future. So while every glowing review of Brogdon's poise, maturity and NBA-ready game underscores how valuable he is right now, all of those same sentiments come with the concern that what he is in the present is all he'll ever be.
That's not a problem for a Toronto Raptors team designed to win now.
We're building in several layers of hindsight here, but the Raptors would absolutely take Brogdon at this spot if they could run the draft back. There's nothing wrong with Cory Joseph as a second-unit leader, but Brogdon's 6'5" size and smarts make him a point guard with real versatility. And if his skill set and position make him seem duplicative, keep in mind his presence would make it easier to move Norman Powell, Terrence Ross or any other non-starting wing in a trade for an impact power forward.
"He just knows how to play," Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. "There’s no panic in his game."
10. Milwaukee Bucks—Thon Maker
Devastated that Brogdon doesn't even fall to them in the first round of the re-draft after taking him in the second last June, the Bucks are stuck in a tough spot.
Do they stay bold and add megaproject Thon Maker at No. 10, which they did the first time around? Or do they try something different in light of a half-season of information?
It's a close call, but I think the Bucks roll the dice again—partly because no one left on the board has transcendent upside and partly because Maker has shown faint flashes suggesting he might.
He's 5-of-9 from long range on the season, and though he's played only 68 minutes, he's scored 35 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. The three-point shooting stands out, but simply getting on the floor and doing a handful of productive things make Maker noteworthy in a class that has roundly disappointed so far.
Plus, Kevin Garnett praised his appetite. That's good enough to stick at No. 10—especially for a Bucks team that had success fast-tracking the development of another raw prospect, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
11. Orlando Magic—Pascal Siakam
We're letting the Orlando Magic keep their misguided win-now priorities here, adding Pascal Siakam with the No. 11 pick and assuming the big trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder never happens.
Siakam has been good enough to start nearly every game for the contending Raptors, so he's an immediate positive. He moves up from No. 27 to No. 11 in this scenario.
Instead of giving up Victor Oladipo, this pick (used on Domantas Sabonis in real life) and Ersan Ilyasova in exchange for Serge Ibaka, the Magic keep their assets. Oladipo has outplayed Ibaka this season, which makes retaining him a sensible move for a team hoping to reach the playoffs.
Then, with Siakam assuming third big-man duties and approximating some of Ibaka's defensive value, the Magic don't lose much in the bargain. Plus, using Siakam in a more limited role allows Orlando to play Aaron Gordon at power forward more often—something every sane NBA observer has been clamoring for all season.
Ilyasova and a conditional pick fetched Jerami Grant for the real-life Thunder, so the Magic could still move the sharpshooting forward if they wanted to—that market clearly exists. Then again, a team trying to succeed in the short term could do worse than keeping Ilyasova, a floor-stretcher who ranks second in charges taken.
Siakam is not Ibaka, but unlike the free-agent-to-be, the Cameroonian rookie is cheap, under team control and can't walk away for nothing this summer.
We're doing the Magic a favor here, serving both long- and short-term needs better than their ill-advised trade ever could.
12. Utah Jazz—Taurean Prince
The Utah Jazz gave up this pick to acquire George Hill in a three-team trade involving the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. Given the phenomenal production from Hill—albeit during an injury-riddled half-season—the Jazz would make the deal again in a heartbeat.
Jeff Teague has been decent for the Pacers, and the Hawks, despite their recent comments about keeping Paul Millsap, look like a team that would still hand the keys to Dennis Schroder and take back a lottery pick.
So we're leaving the trade intact. The only question is: Would Atlanta still take Taurean Prince?
The 6'8" wing has spent most of the season in the D-League, so it's hard to judge his worth at the NBA level—not that it would have been easy with only a half-season of data anyway. Sabonis is intriguing as a potential understudy for Millsap, and his reliable stroke from long range would fit in a pick-and-pop set with Schroder.
Still, Prince has the size, length and defensive potential to fit the rangy, combo-forward mold of guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless and DeMarre Carroll (2014 version). That's enticing enough to make him the pick again.
13. Phoenix Suns—Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis is the best player on the board here, and the Suns used the actual draft to prove they didn't mind taking multiple frontcourt players.
In this scenario, they still have Bender at No. 4. But Chriss belongs to the Pelicans, so the forward glut isn't even that bad.
Sabonis has easily been the best shooting big man in this draft, hitting 37.5 percent of his threes and attempting more than all but Hield, Murray and Ingram. It's hard to know if he'd develop into such a specialist in another environment (OKC's role for him is specific), but the Suns don't seem to have a problem letting their bigs shoot.
If Bender develops into a center, he and Sabonis could provide lots of offensive space and versatility in a next-generation offense.
14. Chicago Bulls—Jakob Poeltl
This is a big enough drop for Jakob Poeltl, who went ninth to the Raptors in June. He's due to come off the board.
Poeltl hasn't found much time in the big show this season, logging 214 minutes spread across 20 games. It hasn't helped that Siakam, a better fit at the 4 in many of Toronto's lineups, has soaked up a lot of the available frontcourt time.
Nonetheless, the 7'0" center from Utah has shown enough intelligence and footwork on defense to make this an easy choice for the Chicago Bulls.
Denzel Valentine was the real-life pick here, and while he might have a future as a utility reserve, Poeltl looks like a player whose instincts will make him—at least—a good enough defender to be the first big man off the bench on a good team. If he can get stronger and rediscover the foul-drawing prowess that helped his offensive game in college, he's still a top-10 talent.
The Bulls could use a young center behind Robin Lopez, and Cristiano Felicio, already 24, is hardly a prospect.
15. Denver Nuggets—Juan Hernangomez
The Nuggets are probably still upset about not getting Jamal Murray in the re-draft, so they'll take Juan Hernangomez at No. 15—which they did in reality. Hopefully retaining the skilled Spaniard eases the sting of Murray rising too high for them.
Hernangomez is a 6'9" next-gen power forward who can stroke it from deep (40.7 percent in 25 games this season) and has just enough off-the-dribble creativity to punish off-balance defenders who rush him too hastily.
Though he's barely played over the last month as the Nuggets have tried to consolidate minutes on a crowded roster, Hernangomez at least has a pair of double-digit scoring games on his resume this season. Those flashes, a solid-but-brief showing in a D-League demotion and considerable offensive potential make him a midround pick that still has plenty of intrigue and upside.
16. Boston Celtics—Guerschon Yabusele
The Celtics are a tricky team for a re-draft because one of the key factors that informed their decisions hasn't changed.
They drafted and stashed two additional first-rounders after using their No. 3 pick (on Murray here and on Brown in reality) because they simply didn't have room on the roster to accommodate three rookies. RJ Hunter, you'll recall, was a waiver casualty in the preseason—one that reflected the personnel crunch.
So, with that constraint in mind, it seems like Guerschon Yabusele, Boston's actual No. 16 selection, still makes the most sense.
Yabusele's body is unusual for an NBA player—stocky and squat, yet oddly long-limbed and rangy at 6'7"—but he's put it to good use for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association. The Frenchman, limited to a reserve role because of the CBA's restrictive rules on playing foreigners big minutes, is still averaging 19.6 points per game.
For reference, that's good enough to rank right behind NBA veteran Josh Smith, who's at 19.8.
How that number and Yabusele's body will translate to the NBA when he comes over next year are anyone's guess, but he fits Boston's needs and hasn't done anything to shake the conviction he's the best stash option in this round.
17. Memphis Grizzlies—Patrick McCaw
I can tell you who the Memphis Grizzlies definitely aren't taking at No. 17: Wade Baldwin IV.
The Grizz tabbed the Vanderbilt point guard at that spot and watched him lose a rotation spot to 2015 Suns second-rounder Andrew Harrison—who is shooting a frigid 30.5 percent from the field in nearly 1,000 minutes this season. Baldwin has played just 304 minutes and hit 11 percent of his threes.
Harrison isn't an answer behind Mike Conley, but he was never supposed to be. Baldwin's flop has been a much bigger deal.
Enter Patrick McCaw, the steal of the draft, according to just about everyone who said so when the Bucks took him at No. 38 and the Warriors traded for him moments later. Nothing about his summer league excellence or late-game preseason takeovers shook that notion, either.
McCaw is currently stuck shuttling between the D-League and Oakland for the title-chasing Warriors, but he's got the combo-guard skills, phenomenal hands and innate on-court composure that suggest he's ready for significant minutes somewhere.
"The young kid Patrick McCaw, who's a second-round pick from Vegas, he's picked up everything so easy," head coach Steve Kerr said on KNBR's Tolbert and Lund in October. "He reminds me a lot of Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun Livingston, and not only with his build, but with his feel for the game."
So McCaw goes to Memphis, an organization that'll maximize his tremendous defensive potential and clearly needs an NBA-ready talent to back up both guard spots. In this scenario, he becomes a sneaky All-Rookie first-team contender.
18. Detroit Pistons—Malik Beasley
The Detroit Pistons have just been so listless this year. So uninspiring. So...blah.
They've also been bad, going 4-10 in December and looking in need of a pick-me-up.
So let's try Malik Beasley, the springy shooting guard from Florida State who went to the Denver Nuggets at No. 19 in June. Though Beasley remains almost entirely a mystery this season (he's seen action in only 10 games so far), he might offer a few things the Pistons need.
A stress fracture cost him the chance to show his offensive game in the summer league, but Beasley posted a 58.3 true shooting percentage in college, per Sports-Reference.com, and might enliven the Pistons with useful backcourt scoring behind Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
And lest this look like one of those inadvisable draft-for-need moves, note that DraftExpress had Beasley mocked as the No. 12 pick.
Nice value add, Pistons!
19. Denver Nuggets—Denzel Valentine
Put aside Denzel Valentine's total lack of production with the Chicago Bulls. Dismiss his ankle injuries. Ignore the fact he's already 23.
Instead, imagine how much fun it would be to watch the second-best passer in the 2016 draft (Simmons is first, of course) playing alongside ball-movement maestro Nikola Jokic.
This isn't just a gimmick, either.
Valentine's point-guard mentality could help the Nuggets make the most of a roster that doesn't get much good decision-making from starting 1 Emmanuel Mudiay. And though Valentine's athletic limitations wouldn't help the Nuggets' horrendous defense, maybe he could prop up second units as a small-forward facilitator and let Jameer Nelson become more of a spot-up threat.
As you can see, this draft's lack of depth forces some imaginative leaps.
20. Indiana Pacers—Henry Ellenson
An important note up front: We're assuming the Brooklyn Nets still swap Thaddeus Young for the Indiana Pacers' No. 20 overall pick, which means this is the Nets' selection.
The Nets proved they could take faint hints of three-point-shooting potential and turn them into high-volume weapons when they unleashed Brook Lopez from deep. So why not give them Henry Ellenson, whose long-range shooting as a freshman at Marquette also hinted at the upside for more (he hit a total of 30 triples at a 33 percent clip), and let him chuck the treys?
Ellenson has barely played for his real team, the Pistons, but he managed 23 points and 10 rebounds in a D-League assignment game last week, which almost makes him overqualified to play for Brooklyn.
The Nets will still happily take the 6'11" power forward and hope he matures in big minutes next to Lopez—helping form a super-spacing frontcourt combo.
21. Atlanta Hawks—Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
DeAndre' Bembry has played more for the Hawks this year than Taurean Prince, but that doesn't mean he's the better prospect. And with Atlanta struggling so mightily from long range (25th in the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage), adding Bembry, who can't shoot, still doesn't make any sense here or in reality.
While it's tempting to trust Atlanta's record of skill development and assume Bembry will eventually learn to knock down shots from the perimeter, it feels safer to take Luwawu-Cabarrot, who comes in with a three-point shot as part of the package.
We're not dealing with large samples, and TLC's 28.6 percent accuracy rate from deep isn't great (though he shot 37.0 percent during his final European season), but Bembry has yet to hit a triple in his career.
22. Charlotte Hornets—Caris LeVert
The Charlotte Hornets traded this pick to the Kings for Marco Belinelli, and we're going to let that deal stand because it's a lot more interesting to think about what the Kings would do with the selection after snagging Kris Dunn at No. 8 than it is to figure out how the more developed Hornets would roll.
And so: Caris LeVert goes to Sacramento.
Dunn is the Kings' point guard of the future, but do you know what almost every good modern offense has these days? A secondary creator who plays on the wing.
LeVert has shown terrific vision and a smooth handle for the Brooklyn Nets, and he posted a career-best 19 points and five assists in a 116-108 loss to the Cavaliers on Friday. His shooting efficiency has yet to come around, but the guy fits perfectly next to Dunn as a versatile 2-guard with playmaking skills.
If the foot injuries that cut short his college career and pushed back his NBA debut weren't concerns, LeVert would have gone much higher—both here and in the original draft.
23. Boston Celtics—Ante Zizic
Sorry to diminish the drama, but there's nothing new for the Celtics with this pick either.
The same roster constraints that made the Yabusele selection hold up means 6'11" 20-year-old Ante Zizic also sticks with Boston this time around.
Zizic has looked terrific for KK Cibona in Croatia and has since moved to Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul in Turkey, where he'll try to duplicate the 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds he averaged in his home country.
Keith Smith of CelticsBlog talked to a scout who was high on Zizic's performance so far: "Zizic is developing more rapidly than anyone expected," the scout said. "We thought he would be a two-year project at least, but he's probably ready to play now."
24. Philadelphia 76ers—DeAndre' Bembry
Bembry doesn't fall too far, as the Sixers snap up the St. Joseph's product three spots later than he went in June.
Though his poor shooting in college (and so far in the pros) remains a concern, Bembry lands in an environment that should help his progress. Philadelphia likes to fire up triples, and inaccuracy isn't a problem, as you can tell by Robert Covington's 28.2 conversion rate on 5.9 attempts per game.
Maybe more minutes and a bigger role will unlock some of Bembry's in-between scoring game and help add force to his (mostly) finesse-based approach. Either way, the Sixers have to make this pick to strike back at the Hawks for taking Luwawu-Cabarrot from them three picks ago.
You take our guy, we take yours.
25. Los Angeles Clippers—Skal Labissiere
Skal Labissiere went from being a projected high lottery pick before his lone collegiate season to barely sticking in the first round. And while he hasn't done much in the pros to suggest that precipitous value drop was an overreaction (four NBA games, ho-hum stats during a season spent mostly in the D-League), the tools and scouting reports justify a move up.
Here's DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony from last June:
The place where Labissiere's impressive skill-level shows up most vividly at the moment is from the perimeter. He has outstanding shooting mechanics, with terrific balance, footwork, touch and the ability to create separation like a guard elevating off the floor and knocking down jumpers with a high release point, even off the dribble.
A 6'11" center who plays above the rim, moves fluidly and projects as a plus shooter?
Everybody should want a shot to develop that package, and the Los Angeles Clippers, mostly concerned about the present, have the luxury of taking risks on projects.
Labissiere makes much more sense than the low-ceilinged Brice Johnson, L.A.'s actual pick.
26. Philadelphia 76ers—Dejounte Murray
We're going to do the Sixers a huge favor and keep this simple: They should take Dejounte Murray because that's what the Spurs did.
And if you're going to risk a mistake by reaching a few spots deeper for a prospect, you might as well trust in San Antonio's instincts and scouting track record, right?
It's true that San Antonio's culture and skill development are part of the reason it seems to hit so frequently on late draft selections. The Spurs don't just find guys; they build them. But Murray—an extremely raw point guard who has already logged triple-doubles and 30-point games in the D-League—also fills a need for Philadelphia.
Neither Sergio Rodriguez nor T.J. McConnell project as key pieces going forward, but Murray has enough upside to possibly become part of the Sixers' big plans. His versatility alongside Simmons, Joel Embiid and whomever Philly nabs in 2017's lottery makes for an intriguing combination.
27. Toronto Raptors—Dorian Finney-Smith
Toronto could always use another body to throw at LeBron James in a playoff series, and undrafted wing Dorian Finney-Smith seems like as good of an option as any.
Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM:
He's got a mind that's geared toward the technicality of defense. He loves the challenge. That's where he's ahead of the curve of some guys that have come in the league. … When it's all said and done, if he keeps developing the way he's going, we're gonna look back on this draft and say that he's a guy that should've been taken in the lottery somewhere.
Finney-Smith started all but one game for the Dallas Mavericks in December, and though first-unit duties with the banged-up Mavs are different than seeing playoff minutes for the Raps, at least we know the rookie is reliable.
28. Phoenix Suns—Malachi Richardson
Since we canceled the Phoenix-Sacramento trade, this selection stays with the Suns, who use it to take Syracuse's Malachi Richardson. The symmetry's a little odd, as Richardson went to the Kings with the No. 22 pick in June, but he is one of the most interesting options left.
A low-efficiency scorer in college who rode a hot tournament run into the first round, Richardson has scoring talent. It's just that nobody's quite sure if it'll translate at a higher level—especially one where efficiency matters so much.
It'd be nice if the 6'6" guard had more NBA reps to judge, but he's played only five games with the Kings so far. However, in 11 D-League contests, Richardson has averaged 21.3 points and shot 46.0 percent from deep, so at least the Suns have some positive signs.
29. San Antonio Spurs—Furkan Korkmaz
It's a requirement that the Spurs snag a young, undeveloped overseas prospect at the end of the first round. So this pick is basically out of my hands.
Furkan Korkmaz must go to San Antonio at No. 29.
The Spurs can happily keep the 19-year-old abroad until 2018 or so, then bring him over and mold him into a rotation-quality piece. It's just what they do.
30. Golden State Warriors—Damian Jones
The Warriors haven't seen enough from Damian Jones to change their minds, so they take him in the No. 30 spot. The prospect from Vanderbilt winds up where he belongs, with the team that drafted him for real.
Jones has logged a grand total of nine NBA minutes, picking up two personal fouls and committing two turnovers. Having missed months recovering from a torn pectoral two weeks before the draft, Jones gets a pass for being a bit behind.
He's been in the D-League for most of his rookie season, and even that has been tough.
"I get antsy sometimes," Jones told Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle in December. "I need to work on being relaxed, slowing down. Just trying to do the things that they ask me to do, defensive coverage and stuff like that."
He's still an athletic 7'0" center who could develop into Festus Ezeli 2.0—which is actually a compliment. If not for persistent knee injuries, Ezeli could have developed into a top-15 player at his position rather easily. Jones even went to the same school.