2016 NBA Mock Draft: Very Early Look at All 30 Projected 1st-Round Picks
The 2016 NBA draft is roughly seven months away, but that doesn't mean we can't attempt to project what it will look like.
Though the top of the mock board consists of one-and-done freshmen, as it usually does, a few upperclassmen should help strengthen the overall field this year.
At this stage, we seem to have a No. 1 overall favorite but no lock. Ultimately, three to four prospects should compete for the title of best in the country.
We used current NBA standings to create the draft order and accounted for previous trades that affect future picks.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, LSU, SF/PF, Freshman
With the Philadelphia 76ers desperately in need of better guard and wing play, Ben Simmons should give them a little bit of both.
He's already established himself as one of the more unique prospects we've come across.
In terms of versatility, Simmons has been as advertised—he's averaging a ludicrous 19.9 points, 14.9 rebounds, six assists, 2.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
He's been at his best handling the ball and calling the shots—both in transition, where he turns defensive rebounds into easy buckets, and the half court, where he whips around passes and sets the table with kick-outs off penetration.
He just went for a ridiculous 43 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists against a helpless North Florida team Wednesday night.
If you're a Sixers fan, the only reason to be hesitant about Simmons would be the fact that he's an unproven shooter. And that could be a problem in a frontcourt with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. But this is the type of detail general manager Sam Hinkie has generally ignored in the past.
Simmons looks like the top talent, and if Hinkie wins the lottery, that should be enough for him to pull the trigger.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, Duke, SF, Freshman
Future Trade: Philadelphia 76ers receive first-round pick (protected 1-3) from Los Angeles Lakers
At the rate they're going, the Los Angeles Lakers just might be lucky enough to keep their 2016 first-round pick. It goes to the Philadelphia 76ers if it lands outside the top three during the lottery.
The Lakers own the second-worst record in the league. With Kobe Bryant done after the year, the team's wing could use some firepower. Cue Brandon Ingram, who's oozing upside at a position in which Lakers lack both talent and depth.
He came to life Wednesday night with 24 points against Indiana, having flashed three-point range, mid-range scoring ability and an off-the-dribble attack game.
With his 6'9" height, smooth athleticism and massive 7'3" wingspan, we could be talking about a routine mismatch if he can eventually tie the offensive versatility all together.
He's more than a year younger than Kentucky's Skal Labissiere and roughly 10 months younger than Ben Simmons. We'll likely see some ups and down from the 190-pound Ingram, who's had trouble with shooting consistency and contact.
But he offers the type of long-term potential that general managers are typically willing to wait on.
3. New Orleans Pelicans: Skal Labissiere, Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman
It's been a rough start for the New Orleans Pelicans, though landing a top pick could mean adding a new key piece.
Skal Labissiere won't be a favorite for 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year. So far, we've seen him foul out in 13 minutes against Duke, finish 0-of-1 against Illinois State and get pushed around by UCLA's bigs during Kentucky's first loss of the year.
Still, there is obvious long-term potential tied to Labissiere's 6'11" size, bounce, advanced post skills and defensive upside.
While he's always good for easy buckets off dump passes, lobs and putbacks, Labissiere has the ability to create and make shots from the low block to the elbows. We've seen fallaway jumpers over his left shoulder, turnarounds over his right and jump hooks with both hands.
He's also a shot-blocking threat capable of switching onto quicker ball-handlers in pick-and-roll coverage.
Labissiere lacks both strength and defensive awareness. But if he can add some bulk and overall polish, he has the chance to develop into a go-to option and anchor.
4. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Dragan Bender, Croatia, PF, 1997
Future Trade: Boston Celtics receive first-round pick from Brooklyn Nets
This could be a tough one for Brooklyn Net fans to stomach—the team's first-round pick goes to the Boston Celtics without any protection at all.
And at No. 3, the Celtics should be able to make a significant upgrade to a fairly underwhelming frontcourt.
Dragan Bender isn't receiving much time with Maccabi Tel Aviv, but at this stage, scouts have seen enough to recognize the untapped two-way potential.
Bender, who just turned 18 years old, blends 7'1" size with three-point range, ball skills, passing intelligence and defensive versatility. He's a threat to take a defensive rebound coast to coast, spread the floor as a shooter, attack in line drives, set up teammates, switch in pick-and-rolls and protect the rim.
His draft stock should ultimately benefit from a projected 2016 field that lacks obvious star power. The success of New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis—another international face-up 7-footer—can't hurt Bender's case either.
5. Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman
Without any obvious answers on the board at No. 5, the Denver Nuggets could look to add some backcourt firepower, considering Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris combine to average fewer than 22 points per game.
Jamal Murray has unsurprisingly emerged as Kentucky's leading scorer through eight games. He's spent most of his minutes off the ball, shooting and attacking from the wings as one of Tyler Ulis' top options.
You can argue Murray projects more as a point guard in the pros, but with his 6'5" size and a dangerous three-point stroke, coach Michael Malone should be able to slide him alongside Mudiay at the 2.
6. Sacramento Kings: Kris Dunn, Providence, PG, Junior
Future Trade: Chicago Bulls receive first-round pick (protected 1-10) from Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings opted to pass on Emmanuel Mudiay in last year's draft and instead sign veteran Rajon Rondo.
But with Rondo's contract up after the year and Kris Dunn potentially available to them in next June's lottery, this time, I'd expect management to pull the trigger on a point guard.
You get the impression that Dunn, who'll be 22 years old in March, will be one of the few rookies who are prepared to immediately start.
The Kings should value his fantastic pressure defense, as well as Dunn's explosive playmaking and scoring ability.
He recently put Providence on his back and led the Friars to an upset win over Arizona, and though foul trouble limited him all game, he went for 21 points and seven assists in a tough loss to No. 3 Michigan State.
Dunn looks poised for a monster season as a possible National Player of the Year contender.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Jakob Poeltl, Utah, C, Sophomore
Future Trade: Denver Nuggets receive Portland Trail Blazers first-round pick (protected 1-14)
With one of the most underwhelming front lines in basketball, the Portland Trail Blazers should already be scouting Jakob Poeltl.
A potential 2015 lottery pick, Poeltl chose to bet on himself and return as a sophomore.
So far, it looks like a good move. He has erupted to start year No. 2, averaging 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds on 67.1 percent shooting.
He must have really sharpened his post moves over the offseason. Poeltl has emerged as Utah's top offensive option in the post, where we've seen hop steps into jump hooks, drop steps into layups and crafty up-and-unders.
He's even making 6.1 free throws per game at a 71.7 percent clip, a big difference from the 44.4 percent he shot last year.
Previously coveted for just rim protection and his overall interior presence—two strengths that remain strong—Poeltl's new-and-improved offensive skills have raised his draft ceiling to a higher tier.
8. Milwaukee Bucks: Jaylen Brown, California, SG/SF, Freshman
Jaylen Brown sure looks the part of an NBA wing with 6'7", 225-pound size and explosive athleticism.
At this point, he still relies on his strength and burst attacking the basket, though a low-to-the-ground handle allows him to navigate. Brown's perimeter game is a work in progress, however, as he's missed 19 of 23 two-point jumpers and 17 of 23 threes, per Hoop-Math.com.
Unless he makes significant progress as a shooter, those teams in the top five could potentially become reluctant to roll the dice. But the upside to Brown improving his stroke should be worth the gamble at No. 8 for the Milwaukee Bucks, given his physical tools, drive-and-slash ability, defensive versatility and competitive edge.
9. Phoenix Suns: Henry Ellenson, Marquette, PF, Freshman
Henry Ellenson figures to be one of the more productive freshmen all year. And he's off to quick start at Marquette, where he's practically averaging a double-double and flashing coveted offensive versatility.
Though he eventually fouled out, he did an admirable job at both ends against LSU's Ben Simmons (6-of-14), finishing with 16 points—10 of which came off jumpers—and 11 rebounds.
Ellenson appears highly skilled with shooting range, a handle and basic back-to-the-basket hook shots. And at 6'10", 245 pounds, he's looked willing to throw his body around under the boards.
Scouts will likely question Ellenson's defensive potential, but he actually showed better-than-expected lateral quickness covering Simmons around the perimeter.
10. Houston Rockets: Timothe Luwawu, France, SG/SF, 1995
Future Trade: Denver Nuggets receive first-round pick (protected 1-14) from Houston Rockets
Timothe Luwawu must not have received much assurance last season regarding his draft status, considering he opted to withdraw his name in June. But after a hot start this year in the Adriatic League (he played last year in France's second division), chances are there's going to be a whole lot more interest in 2016.
At 6'7", Luwawu has traditional wing size and length, as well as a jumper he's seemingly made significant progress on over the summer.
After hitting just 27 threes in 42 games in 2014-15, he's already made 34 through 12 games at a 42 percent clip. With ball-handling skills, passing instincts and textbook defensive tools, there is clearly a lot to like about Luwawu, especially given his new-and-improved shooting stroke.
11. Washington Wizards: Cheick Diallo, Kansas, PF/C, Freshman
Thankfully for both Kansas and NBA scouts, Cheick Diallo's ineligibility only lasted five games.
He lived up to his reputation during his debut against Loyola on Tuesday night, tallying 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks in just 16 minutes.
You're going to hear it all year—Diallo's motor is off the charts and translates to easy buckets and defensive plays on the ball. The fact that he's quick, bouncy and sports a massive 7'4" wingspan doesn't hurt either.
Diallo isn't much of a scorer at the point, but his ability to run the floor, crash the glass, protect the rim and finish around it will always hold value in an energizer role.
12. Toronto Raptors (via Nuggets from NY): Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV, C, Freshman
Future Trade: Per Real GM: "New York Knicks convey the less favorable of its first-round pick and Denver Nuggets' first-round pick to Toronto Raptors (via Denver's right to swap for New York)"
The NBA is sure to covet Stephen Zimmerman's versatility, which is fueled by 7'0" size, above-the-rim athleticism, footwork and shooting touch. And he has actually established himself as a stronger-than-expected presence around the basket.
Zimmerman has been highly active early on the interior, where he's pulling in a whopping 16.1 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots per 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, he's flashed back-to-the-basket moves and a good-looking jumper out to the arc.
Zimmerman won't present the Raptors with an immediate answer, but in the long term, his inside-out skill set appears NBA-friendly.
13. Detroit Pistons: Caris LeVert, Michigan, SG, Senior
Caris LeVert has looked both healthy and sharp following last year's season-ending foot injury in January.
He's picked up where he left off as a shooter, having made 15 of his first 29 threes. And he continues to flash coveted versatility with his 6'7" size and playmaking ability (4.4 assists per game).
LeVert appears ready to have that breakout campaign many thought he'd have in 2014-15. He's already shot 29 points against Xavier, 21 against UConn, 19 against Texas and 18 points, nine rebounds and seven dimes in a win over North Carolina State.
14. Charlotte Hornets: Ivan Rabb, California, PF/C, Freshman
Ivan Rabb's size, bounce and terrific hands have stood out early with California. He isn't the most polished offensive player yet, but Rabb has established himself as a high-percentage finishing target around the rim, as well as an active rebounder and shot-blocking threat.
In flashes, we've seen jump hooks and fallaways in the post—shots he'll eventually look to add to his everyday arsenal. The fact that he's made 21 of his first 27 free throws is also an encouraging sign regarding his mid-range touch.
He's averaging 12.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and two blocks on 63.5 percent shooting. Gradually adding to his game while maintaining efficiency and production under the boards should be the formula for generating lottery buzz.
15. Utah Jazz: Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey, SG, 1997
Strong performances during the summer's FIBA World Championships and European Championships have helped fuel Furkan Korkmaz's first-round projection.
He just turned 18 years old in July and therefore isn't playing big minutes with Anadolu Efes in Euroleague. But we've already started to see flashes, including a bunch that came during a recent 25-point outburst on November 22.
Korkmaz has now made 17 of his first 35 three-point attempts, which reflects his range and confident shot-making ability. He's also a smooth athlete and effortless leaper, traits that show up in transition and off cuts around the basket.
For a team that doesn't feel it can find immediate help in the draft, Korkmaz should be a solid option, either to stash or develop.
16. Boston Celtics (via Timberwolves): Damian Jones, Vanderbilt, C, Junior
Damian Jones' playing time has been limited early, but that hasn't prevented him from standing out.
Jones, now listed at 7'0", 245 pounds, sports NBA center size and above-average athleticism for the position. And when given the ball in the post, he's a threat, either to separate into fallaway jumpers or high-percentage hooks over the shoulder.
His rebounding has also been up (11.6 per 40 minutes), which is a good sign after questions were asked about his poor freshman (8.8 per 40) and sophomore (8.9 per 40) numbers.
Despite the loss to Kansas, Jones had a solid 17-point, 10-board showing in what was likely a heavily scouted game.
17. Los Angeles Clippers: Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame, PG, Junior
Demetrius Jackson has looked comfortable in a lead guard role with Jerian Grant now a New York Knick.
Jackson has taken his scoring to a new level without jeopardizing the Irish offensive flow. At this point, it's obvious his jumper is for real—he's shot at least 41 percent from three as a freshman and sophomore, and has started his junior season 13-of-30.
A fantastic athlete with a sound pull-up game, Jackson is even converting at a 58.6 percent clip inside the arc. Meanwhile, he continues to make good decisions with the ball (five assists, 1.9 turnovers per 40 minutes).
It's easy to think of Eric Bledsoe when scouting Jackson, who blends similar quickness, bounce and strength in a powerful 6'1" body.
18. Boston Celtics: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State, PG/SG, Senior
Denzel Valentine is sure to entice a general manager—likely for a competitor—who is uninterested in developing a three-year project. The fact that he will be a 23-year-old rookie could actually appeal to some teams that are looking for help right away.
On the surface, Valentine doesn't offer obvious upside, given his age and lack of standout athleticism, but it's become impossible to ignore what he's been doing.
With two triple-doubles already in the bag, he is averaging 20.5 points, 8.4 boards and 8.4 assists through eight games that include wins over Kansas, Providence and Louisville.
He's making 3.3 threes per game at a 41.9 percent clip while operating as the Spartans' primary playmaker and decision-maker.
Valentine projects as a sharpshooting passer and secondary ball-handler at the 2-guard position. Once all the flashy young names are off the board, Valentine could be right there in the mix.
19. Orlando Magic: Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky, PG, Freshman
Compared to Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe brings a different dimension of guard play to Kentucky's backcourt.
He's constantly putting pressure on the rim with aggressive righty and lefty drives, both in the half court and transition. Briscoe does a nice job of playing through contact or avoiding it entirely with nifty footwork and body control. Of his 31 made field goals, 24 have come at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Briscoe is an excellent ball-handler, which naturally translates to playmaking (3.3 assists per game). But he'll have to develop into a better overall decision-maker and facilitator. And at this point, his jumper appears unreliable (5-of-15 on two-point jumpers, 2-of-11 from three).
However, Briscoe's attacking and setup ability, as well as his defensive potential, make it easy to envision him as an NBA backup or bench weapon.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince, Baylor, SF, Senior
Taurean Prince has added something new in each of the past few years. Last season, it was a three-ball—he connected on 60 of them at a 39.6 percent clip.
Through six games as a senior, we've seen passing skills that seemingly never existed before. Prince is averaging four assists early on after dishing out just 1.3 of them per game as a junior.
So far, he's shot the ball relatively well (11-of-30 from three, 82.6 percent from the line), though he's struggled as a scorer inside the arc.
21. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks): Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, SG/SF, Freshman
Future Trade: Boston Celtics receive first-round pick (protected 1-7) from Dallas Mavericks (via Phoenix Suns)
Dwayne Bacon has gotten off to an eye-opening start at Florida State, having scored at least 19 points in four of his first six games.
He can really put the ball in the hole, whether it's in the mid-range off step-backs and pull-ups, behind the arc as a spot-up shooter, off drives or transition opportunities. And that's what will be his calling card in the pros.
Bacon has a natural outside stroke, as well as the 6'6" size and athleticism the NBA 2-guard position traditionally requires.
He'll cool off eventually, but Bacon looks the part.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Tyrone Wallace, California, PG, Senior
Future Trade: Denver Nuggets receive Memphis Grizzles first-round pick (via Cavaliers, protected top-five, 15-30)
The game has come a lot easier to Tyrone Wallace now that he has some talent to play off at California.
Early on, his assist rate is up to six per 40 minutes from 4.5 a year ago. And he continues to score in volume, only he's doing so much more efficiently than he did as a junior, when he shot 42.5 percent.
This season, he's averaging 18.4 points on 51.1 percent, and though his jumper still looks a bit shaky, he has hit eight threes through seven games.
NBA teams traditionally covet ball-handlers like Wallace, who has 6'6", mismatch size for a point guard. Unless he regresses further as a shooter and decision-maker, his facilitating, two-point scoring and defensive potential could be appealing enough to generate first-round interest.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder): Deyonta Davis, Michigan State, PF, Fr.
Future Trade: Philadelphia 76ers receive first-round pick from Oklahoma City Thunder (via Cleveland to Denver, protected 1-15)
With all the attention on Denzel Valentine at Michigan State, Deyonta Davis has quietly emerged as an interesting NBA prospect.
He immediately stands out with 6'10" size, 7'1½" length and bounce. And he's been consistently productive in a role off the bench, having put up early per-40-minute averages of 21.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.9 blocks on 66.7 percent shooting.
He's an easy-bucket machine around the rim off dump passes, lobs and putbacks. And we've seen the occasional jump hook and mid-range jumper.
Davis just turned 19 years old this past week (December 2). It's too early to say whether we're talking one-and-done, but in what could be a relatively underwhelming draft in terms of depth, Davis might look to capitalize and declare early.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (via Heat): Malik Newman, Mississippi State, PG/SG, Fr.
Future Trade: Philadelphia 76ers receive first-round pick (top-10 protected) from Miami Heat
A spectacular high school scorer, Malik Newman can put the ball in the hoop. But can he do so efficiently within the flow of the offense?
He's had some trouble early finding quality shots at Mississippi State, where he's shooting 38.1 percent and taking more threes than twos. And a ratio of 2.5 assists to 2.7 turnovers doesn't exactly highlight point guard potential.
At 6'3", he's undersized for a traditional 2-guard, which naturally lowers his ceiling. But NBA teams are still bound to value his shooting and ability to generate offense off the dribble.
It looks like he'll need some time to build rhythm, confidence and familiarity with regard to where his field-goal attempts will be coming from. But you could argue Newman's game might be better suited for the NBA's more free-flowing, uptempo pace.
25. Toronto Raptors: Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga, PF/C, Soph.
Domantas Sabonis has been more aggressive to start his sophomore year at Gonzaga. His game is predicated on heavy activity and high-percentage offense around the basket, where he displays soft hands and a good nose for the rim.
Sabonis, who shot 66.8 percent as a freshman, has quickly made 34 of his first 53 attempts (64.2 percent) as a sophomore, doing most of his damage either at the low post or facing up from the elbows.
And so far, his rebounding rate (15 per 40 minutes) and free-throw percentage (13-of-16 for 81.3 percent) are both up.
Sabonis doesn't offer much rim protection (0.3 blocks per game) or stretch-shooting potential, and that limits his perceived upside and draft ceiling. But for a team that is looking to add frontcourt energy, Sabonis is an obvious candidate outside the lottery.
26. Chicago Bulls: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, SG, Senior
Buddy Hield seems like a viable target for a playoff team that is looking to add an immediate shot-maker.
He's only played five games, but Hield has started off hot his senior year, having averaged 21.4 points and made 13 of his first 26 three-point field goals.
By now, teams should know what they're getting with the Oklahoma senior. He offers long-range shooting, firepower in transition and the ability to convert jumpers or layups within an offense off screens, curls, cuts and line drives.
Hield could potentially thrive in a system that allows him to play to his strengths as a complementary catch-and-scorer.
27. Indiana Pacers: Justin Jackson, North Carolina, SF, Sophomore
We're still waiting on consistent shooting from Justin Jackson, but with such a smooth stroke, you get the impression it's only a matter of time.
Otherwise, he recently hit the 20-point mark in three consecutive games. Jackson has done a nice job of capitalizing opportunistically with finishes, floaters and jumpers off cuts, curls and screens.
Still, as more of an off-ball scorer, he'll need to eventually establish the three-ball and convince scouts it's going to be a reliable weapon in the arsenal.
28. Phoenix Suns (via Cavaliers): Melo Trimble, Maryland, PG, Sophomore
Future Trade: Phoenix Suns receive first-round pick from Cleveland Cavaliers (via Boston, protected 1-10)
Melo Trimble looks to be on the right track in terms of improving his floor game and facilitating. He's managed to maintain his scoring rate (16 points per game) while raising his assist percentage to 31.8 percent from 21.2 percent, per Sports-Reference.com.
Trimble recently went nuts at North Carolina, where he finished with 23 points, 12 dimes, four threes and a second-half explosion. He isn't too big or athletic, but he is shifty off the bounce and dangerous shooting off the dribble.
A strong start should be a major relief for Trimble, who struggled over the summer during the Pan American Games in Toronto. So far, he's done a nice job of building up his image as a potential offensive lightning rod and change-of-pace ball-handler.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Grayson Allen, Duke, SG, Sophomore
Grayson Allen happened to struggle against Kentucky's size and length, but the one shaky performance shouldn't completely invalidate his 30 points against VCU, 32 against Georgetown and overall 21.8-point-per-game average.
He's been a scoring machine. And with 6'5" size, spectacular athleticism and a 47.2 percent three-point stroke, it's not crazy to think his offense could eventually work at the NBA level.
Continuing to develop his playmaking ability for others could go a long way toward raising his stock and value. But he's already a fairly solid ball-handler who can change speed and get by defenders.
30. Golden State Warriors: Zhou Qi, China, C, 1996
Zhou Qi is having another productive year in the CBA, averaging 17.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.8 blocks on 67.3 percent shooting. The numbers in China should be taken with a grain of salt, but unlike some of the other top young prospects overseas, Zhou is at least playing big minutes and producing.
Scouts should have already seen a decent amount of him during previous FIBA play and at the Nike Hoop Summit. At 7'2", he's ridiculously thin, but he moves well, can score around the basket, protect the rim (7'6½" wingspan) and occasionally knock down jumpers.
The Golden State Warriors aren't realistically finding help at No. 30 in the draft. Zhou could be a nice long-term project to develop and potentially a marketable player one day.