2016 NBA Mock Draft: Early 1st-Round Predictions and Surprises for Top Prospects

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistJune 29, 2015

Ben Simmons, soon to be an LSU freshman, is the favorite for the No. 1 pick in 2016.
Ben Simmons, soon to be an LSU freshman, is the favorite for the No. 1 pick in 2016.Associated Press

The 2015 NBA draft wrapped up last Thursday, and while we're still in draft mode, it wouldn't hurt to get an early look at next summer's class.

At first glance, the crop of players looks strong in the frontcourt. Eight of the top nine prospects in DraftExpress' 2016 mock draft are classified as either a small forward, power forward or center.

But all that could change as the winter basketball season comes. Certain prospects will disappoint while others will play themselves into a higher draft spot.

Let's look at a general idea of how the draft might play out next June, followed by brief explanations for some of the surprising picks.

Standings from 2014-15 will be used to determine draft order, and all trades will be taken into account, including protections.

2016 NBA Mock Draft
1Minnesota TimberwolvesBen Simmons, SF/PF, LSU
2Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)Jaylen Brown, SF, California
3Philadelphia 76ersBrandon Ingram, SF, Duke
4Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers)Malik Newman, SG, Mississippi State
5Orlando MagicSkal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky
6Sacramento KingsDaniel Hamilton, SG/SF, Connecticut
7Toronto Raptors (via Denver Nuggets)Cheick Diallo, PF, Texas
8Detroit PistonsHenry Ellenson, PF/C, Marquette
9Charlotte HornetsCaris LeVert, SG, Michigan
10Miami HeatDragan Bender, PF, Croatia
11Indiana PacersKris Dunn, PG, Providence
12Utah JazzFurkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
13Phoenix SunsDomantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
14Oklahoma City ThunderDevin Robinson, SF, Florida
15Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
16Boston CelticsMalik Pope, SF, San Diego State
17Milwaukee BucksDiamond Stone, C, Maryland
18New Orleans PelicansJustin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
19Washington WizardsSviatoslav Mykhailiuk, SG, Kansas
20Toronto RaptorsBuddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
21Dallas MavericksZhou Qi, C, China
22Chicago BullsDemetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
23Denver Nuggets (via Portland Trail Blazers)Antonio Blakeney, SG, LSU
24Phoenix Suns (via Cleveland Cavaliers)Troy Williams, SF, Indiana
25Memphis GrizzliesE.C. Matthews, PG/SG, Rhode Island
26San Antonio SpursBrice Johnson, PF, North Carolina
27Houston RocketsIsaiah Taylor, PG, Texas
28Los Angeles ClippersNigel Hayes, PF, Wisconsin
29Atlanta HawksDamian Jones, PF/C, Vanderbilt
30Golden State WarriorsGuerschon Yabusele, PF/C, France

Notable Surprises

The Sixers Finally Draft a Guard!

The Philadelphia 76ers have developed a reputation as of late for drafting only big men. They now have Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric in tow as potential franchise players.

But they won't make the mistake again in the 2016 draft lottery.

I have them selecting Malik Newman of Mississippi State. The 6'4" shooting guard enjoys creating his own shots from all areas of the court and can help bolster a terrible Philly offense.

Unfortunately, Newman isn't much of a playmaker and isn't overly athletic, which hinders his stock and is undoubtedly a reason NBADraft.net has him all the way down at No. 10 in its mock draft.

This class seems a bit lacking in terms of guard prospects, so the Sixers wouldn't necessarily feel good about reaching for one to just to fill a need.

But they'd have to do it.


The Draft-Day Fall of Kentucky PF/C Skal Labissiere

Skal Labissiere falling all the way to the Orlando Magic at the No. 5 pick may seem unlikely. After all, DraftExpress has him at No. 1 in its mock draft.

But considering the teams above the Magic in the draft (the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers) don't really have a need at center, maybe it shouldn't be that surprising.

The 7'0", 216-pound Kentucky recruit's game is pretty versatile, however.

He shoots the lights out and spaces the floor, but he also has an advanced post game and plays strong interior defense. Those qualities will help him play next to any type of second big man, whether it be a stretch 4, a back-to-the-basket scorer or a defender/dunker.

And do you want to know something scary? He's going to get better before the draft.

According to NBADraft.net's Evan Tomes, the Haitian Labissiere is a "student of the game," coachable and has a great attitude and work ethic.

If the team possessing the No. 1 pick has a need for a big man, Labissiere will be the best option.

Miami Drafts Bender at No. 10

The Miami Heat seem like one of the least likely teams to draft a power forward in the lottery. They have perennial All-Star Chris Bosh, who's locked up on a huge max contract through 2019, per Spotrac.

However, I have them going with Croatian 4-man Dragan Bender, a 7'1" 17-year-old who can be a project in Miami. Like many European big-man prospects, he possesses a feathery shooting stroke, the ball-handling abilities of a wing and all the potential in the world.

Bender probably wouldn't come stateside immediately, but Bosh could be a helpful mentor to the youngster, assuming he comes over while the veteran is still on the team.

All statistics and measurements are from DraftExpress and updated through June 29 unless otherwise indicated.

Follow @jaredtjohnson21.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.