2016 NBA Mock Draft: Early Predictions and Top Prospects to Watch

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2015

Montverde Academy's Ben Simmons #20 in action against Findlay Prep in the DICK'S Sporting Goods High School National Basketball Tournament on Friday, April  3, 2015 in Queens, NY.  (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

While the 2015 NBA draft only recently concluded, it's never too early to start thinking about how next year's class will fit in the league.  

After seeing players like Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis improve their stocks over the course of the past year in various ways, it's important to remember nothing is set in stone this early. That said, you can be certain NBA teams of all levels already have their sights on a few top-level prospects. 

Here is a look at the next set of possible stars ready to make an impact in the NBA, as soon as many of them first start their college careers. 

Note: Draft order based on predictions for upcoming season. Trades information courtesy of Pro Sports Transactions.

2016 NBA Mock Draft
1Philadelphia 76ersBen Simmons, SF, LSU
2Denver Nuggets (via Knicks)Skal Labissiere, C, Kentucky
3Orlando MagicJaylen Brown, SF, Cal
4Minnesota TimberwolvesBrandon Ingram, SF, Duke
5Toronto Raptors (via Nuggets)Dragan Bender, PF, Bosnia
6Sacramento KingsKris Dunn, PG, Providence
7Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers)Malik Newman, SG, Mississippi St.
8Detroit PistonsDiamond Stone, C, Maryland
9Charlotte HornetsJakob Poeltl, C, Utah
10Indiana PacersJamal Murray, PG, Kentucky
11Boston Celtics (via Nets)Nigel Hayes, SF, Wisconsin
12Utah JazzFurkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
13Phoenix SunsCaris LeVert, SF, Michigan
14Portland Trail BlazersZhou Qi, C, China
15Philadelphia 76ers (via Heat)Melo Trimble, PG, Maryland
16Boston CelticsCheick Diallo, PF, Kansas
17Milwaukee BucksDemetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
18Toronto RaptorsJustin Jackson, SG, North Carolina
19Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder)Troy Williams, SF, Indiana
20New Orleans PelicansHenry Ellenson, PF, Marquette
21Boston Celtics (via Mavericks)Dwayne Bacon, SG, Florida State
22Atlanta HawksDomantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
23Memphis GrizzliesIsaiah Briscoe, PG, Kentucky
24Chicago BullsRon Baker, SG, Wichita State
25Washington WizardsDamian Jones, PF, Vanderbilt
26Los Angeles ClippersMalik Pope, PF, UNLV
27San Antonio SpursBrice Johnson, PF, North Carolina
28Phoenix Suns (via Cavaliers)Jake Layman, SF, Maryland
29Houston RocketsA.J. Hammons, C, Purdue
30Golden State WarriorsAlex Poythress, SF, Kentucky

Top Prospects to Watch

Ben Simmons, SF, LSU

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Not only can Ben Simmons do a little bit of everything, but he does everything extremely well. The 6'10" forward can legitimately play any position on the floor and succeed both offensively and defensively wherever he suits up.

The future LSU player has better handle and passing ability than most point guards his age but also has the strength and athleticism to score in the post. ESPN's Jay Bilas discussed his versatility:

Jay Bilas @JayBilas

Watched LSU's Ben Simmons for 3 straight days at the Nike Basketball Academy. He's ridiculous. Simmons has versatile talent rarely seen.

Meanwhile, he is just as good defensively with the talent to defend some of the best players the NBA has to offer, as noted by Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore and Dinos Trigonis of Fullcourt Press:

CJ Moore @CJMooreHoops

Ben Simmons showing he can guard right now against Anthony Davis. Fun matchup. Two freaks.

Dinos Trigonis @trigonis30

Spirited, physical matchup between Ben Simmons & James Harden The Aussie & potential 2016 #1 pick more than holding his own vs MVP runnerup

The fact anyone can hold his own defensively against both James Harden and Anthony Davis is impressive. Considering he is doing it at just 18 years old is incredible.

With everyone looking for versatility in their big men nowadays, it doesn't get any better than Simmons.

Skal Labissiere, C, Kentucky

Many believe Skal Labissiere is the top player in the class, and he certainly has an argument. The 7'0" center has many of the same qualities that caused scouts to rave about Towns and Porzingis leading into this draft, and he still has room to improve.

Labissiere is raw, but he already knows how to use his athleticism to be an above-average shot-blocker at the next level. Offensively, he has the makings of a jump shot, though he still needs to refine his technique in the low post.

Still, he has all of the tools you look for in an elite center prospect.

Future Kentucky teammate Tyler Ulis thinks he will easily replace the departed Towns in Lexington:

Dan Bodner @DanBodnerKSC

Tyler Ulis on Skal Labissiere: "Skal is legit. He’s the real deal. I had the same feeling about Karl [Towns] when he came in."

He has the talent to put together a strong season for the Wildcats, which could allow him to follow in the footsteps of fellow center lottery picks DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Jaylen Brown, SF, California

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

With all due respect to Brandon Ingram, Malik Newman and others, Jaylen Brown is probably the best perimeter scorer in this class.

Even though he is not an elite shooter, he has an outstanding slashing ability that allows him to get into the lane against just about anyone and finish either at or above the rim. When opponents do give him space, however, he is perfectly fine knocking down a three-pointer.

Additionally, his new coach, Cuonzo Martin, has been impressed by the wing's dedication:

Cal Basketball @CalMBBall

.@CuonzoMartin on Jaylen Brown: "He's serious about his craft, works hard and competes at a high level."

Brown might be a bit undersized as an NBA wing at 6'6", but he has the tools to succeed either as a shooting guard or small forward. He certainly has the quickness and strength to defend either position, and scoring won't be an issue at any spot.

If he has a strong season at Cal, there is no question he should end up in the top three of the draft.

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