2016 NBA Mock Draft: Full 1st-Round Predictions, Post-Trade Deadline
The 2016 NBA draft conversation has become infinitely more interesting over the past few weeks.
Duke's Brandon Ingram is suddenly making a strong case for No. 1 overall consideration, while LSU's Ben Simmons has seemingly plateaued.
Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray has also been on a tear, and teammate Skal Labissiere remains silent despite all of the hype that surrounded him coming into the season.
We've also added a new international prospect into the top 10, plus a rising senior at the back end of the first round.
Now that conference tournament play is just around the corner, it's time for scouts to start zooming in with their microscopes.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons (LSU, PF, Freshman)
Duke's Brandon Ingram is making a push and a decent case for No. 1 overall consideration. But I can't see the Philadelphia 76ers passing on Ben Simmons and the sure-thing vibes he gives off.
He offers a towering ceiling and ultimately a higher basement floor than Ingram, who's 6'9", 190 pounds.
The Sixers won't worry about fit or the questions three non-shooting bigs raise in the frountcourt. Chances are, management ends up viewing Simmons as the better prospect than both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
Simmons struggled from the line but just went for 20 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to Alabama after putting up 16 points, 11 boards and seven assists in a big win over Texas A&M.
He has his flaws, but an unproven jumper shouldn't trigger too much hesitation from the lottery winner.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram (Duke, SF, Freshman)
For the Los Angeles Lakers, Brandon Ingram's rise helps ease the pain of missing out on the first pick. It's becoming clearer by the week that there are two prizes in the 2016 draft field.
In two wins this week over top 10-ranked opponents, Ingram went off for 25 points against Virginia and 20 against North Carolina.
He continues to cook around the perimeter with three-point shooting and mid-range scoring, converting at a 40.9 percent clip from deep and a 43.4 percent mark on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com.
With a tight handle and quick first step, he's getting to the basket off drives and slashes.
Still just 18 years old, Ingram's offensive upside is enormous, assuming he can strengthen his frame over the next few years. He'd be a nice addition for a Lakers team that'll be looking for a new scoring wing.
3. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender (Croatia, PF/C, 1997)
With a drop-off in obvious talent behind Simmons and Ingram, this is a good spot to gamble on Dragan Bender, even if it means waiting for him to come over. Besides, there aren't many other NCAA names who look like instant-impact rookies.
At 18 years old, his minutes are limited with Maccabi Tel Aviv. But in the nine games he's played at least 15 minutes, he's averaged 10.6 points on 51.6 percent shooting. And he's shot 18-of-44 (40.9 percent) from three on the year, a number that highlights his stretch-big potential.
Though skinny (216 lbs) without great explosiveness, he's a fluid 7-footer who can handle the ball, pass and knock down jumpers. He also projects as a strong pick-and-roll defender and weak-side shot-blocker.
Unique versatility drives Bender's ceiling higher than any available prospect. For the Phoenix Suns, the Croatian is worth taking a home run swing on at No. 3.
4. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Jaylen Brown (California, SF, Freshman)
Just as general manager Danny Ainge did last year, when he drafted Terry Rozier in the first round, he'll take the top talent on his board regardless of fit or need.
Averaging 18.5 points during his last 11 games, Jaylen Brown's long-term potential has been easier to buy into the past month.
He's putting a ton of pressure on the basket and converting his drives with tough layups, runners and explosive slams. Using crossovers, hesitation dribbles and stutter steps, he's also shown he can get by his man and find the hoop, where he has the bounce to finish above the rim and strength to score through contact below it.
Brown leans heavily on attacking, averaging 10 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes, while his jumper remains the biggest question mark (31.5 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com, 28.6 percent from three). But when his feet are set, the results look encouraging.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
The Minnesota Timberwolves may be in the market for a new starting point guard, but with the team looking to make moves up the standings, letting a rookie ball-handler take over might not be the answer.
Though Buddy Hield doesn't project as an NBA volume scorer the way he is at Oklahoma, his shooting looks like the real deal and ultimately creates the perception he's one of the safer, more NBA-ready options.
The Timberwolves rank No. 29 in the league in three-point shooting, and Hield is still averaging a whopping 4.2 three-point makes per game and converting at a 48.8 percent clip.
He's improved his ball-handling and ability to get to the basket, whether it's off ball screens, isolation or fast breaks.
Without a mid-range game (24.1 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com) or great size (6'4", 214 lbs), expectations should be tempered, at least relative to the impact he's made in college. Still, Hield is poised to thrive in a role that calls for him to catch-and-shoot, attack in line drives and provide firepower in transition.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Jakob Poeltl (Utah, C, Sophomore)
Jakob Poeltl should be the first center off the board following a breakout sophomore season. His hands and footwork look much improved, and though he isn't much of a shooter, he's become a lot sharper with his back to the basket.
Poeltl is on a scoring rampage, averaging 22 points over Utah's last seven games. He's also created a number of highlights on dunks that came off drives from behind the arc.
His shot-blocking numbers are down, but teams should still value his foot speed defending the pick-and-roll and protecting the rim from the weak side.
The New Orleans Pelicans can use a better athlete at the center position next to Anthony Davis. Poeltl has the potential to become the player Omer Asik never did.
7. Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Jamal Murray looks like one of the safer bets in this year's field when you account for his 6'5" size, sneaky athleticism, credible shooting stroke and razor-sharp ball skills. He's also averaging 19.2 points a game.
Streak scoring should ultimately be his NBA calling card. He's a machine lately for Kentucky, having averaged 26.8 points over his last five games.
Though not asked to facilitate, the fact he has 65 turnovers to 57 assists suggests his playmaking instincts aren't there. And he doesn't quite project as a plus defender at either backcourt position.
Yet with an array of pull-ups and floaters to match deep range, he's proved he can knock down shots from everywhere, whether they're go-to looks in the repertoire or unorthodox ones off improvisation.
8. Milwaukee Bucks: Kris Dunn (Providence, PG, Junior)
Despite sticking in Milwaukee at the trade deadline, Michael Carter-Williams isn't a convincing starter. The Bucks might not want to pass on the opportunity to land his long-term replacement without having to trade for one.
Kris Dunn is widely viewed as the top point guard prospect in the country. At 6'4", 205 pounds, he's an exceptional playmaker ranked third the country in assist percentage. He's scoring at a better rate than last year, averaging 17.3 points (20.5 per 40 minutes).
Inefficiency might make him a scary pick in the top five. It's led to five losses over Providence's last seven games. His turnover rate (18.5 percent) is still sky-high, and despite improved three-point numbers, he's shooting below 70 percent from the line again.
However, disruptive defense, savvy passing and the ability to put heavy pressure on the rim suggest Dunn can still be a quality starting point guard.
9. Sacramento Kings: Timothe Luwawu (France, SG/SF, 1995)
Timothe Luwawu's breakout season continues in the Adriatic League, where he's averaging 17.7 points over his last seven games and 15.3 on the year.
But the biggest development with Luwawu is the jumper, which is now connecting on an average of 2.2 threes at a 38.1 percent clip. Last year, he knocked down just 27 triples in 42 games playing in LNB Pro B (France's second division).
At 6'7" with long arms and the ability to sky above the rim, he always looked the part of an NBA 2-guard or wing. The improvements he's made to his ball skills and shooting range have strengthened his case.
10. Toronto Raptors (via Knicks): Henry Ellenson (Marquette, PF, Freshman)
Henry Ellenson offers starting stretch-4 potential for a Toronto Raptors team that needs a power forward.
One of three freshmen in the country averaging a double-double, he just might be the top prospect on the board.
In three of Marquette's last five games, we've seen Ellenson go for 26 points and 16 boards in a win over Providence, 32 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in a win over Butler and 22 points in a loss to Xavier.
At 6'10", he's flashed polished skills, a handle, back-to-the-basket game and a good-looking shooting stroke out to the arc, though he'll need a few years to improve his range (43.3 percent on two-point jumpers, 27.7 percent from three).
Ellenson isn't explosive and doesn't project as a defensive asset, but his offensive versatility looks NBA-friendly.
11. Orlando Magic: Ivan Rabb (California, PF, Freshman)
Ivan Rabb's numbers have come down a bit, but his long-term potential remains intact. He's still productive on a per-40-minute basis, averaging 17.5 points and 12 rebounds.
At 6'11", 220 pounds, Rabb blends above-the-rim bounce with quickness, which translates to easy buckets around the basket. He's flashed a promising back-to-the-basket post game and face-up attack from the short corner, where he can put the ball on the floor or hit the mid-range jumper.
Rabb also has phenomenal hands and instincts under the boards. At the very least, he projects as a rebounding and finishing asset. Having just turned 19 years, he still has plenty of time to develop a more threatening offensive game.
12. Washington Wizards: Deyonta Davis (Michigan State, PF, Freshman)
Limited minutes haven't masked Deyonta Davis' NBA potential, which stems from his 6'10", 245-pound size, bounce, back-to-the-basket moves, mid-range touch and tremendous shot blocking (4.4 per 40 minutes) and rebounding (12.5 per 40 minutes) rates.
"I hope at the end of the year he's a lottery pick," Spartans coach Tom Izzo told Mlive.com's Kyle Austin in January.
The new rules and late deadline should benefit Davis, who'll have the chance to play with house money at the NBA combine by keeping his options open about a return to Michigan State.
Chances are, when placed on an equal playing field as other prospects whose in-season roles are greater, Davis will turn some heads. He's a first-round project worth taking in a weak draft.
13. Houston Rockets: Denzel Valentine (Michigan State, SG, Senior)
Denzel Valentine was ridiculous over Michigan State's last four games, averaging 24.5 points, 9.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds. On the year, he's making 3.5 threes a night at a 44.7 percent clip, while his 43.6 percent assist rate ranks No. 2 in the nation, per Sports-Reference.com.
Limited quickness and explosiveness for a guard create the perception Valentine lacks upside. That may be true, but his ball-handling, shooting and passing should still translate.
Valentine projects as a secondary playmaker and shot-maker, though a team such as the Houston Rockets could also use him as a backup point guard.
14. Detroit Pistons: Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey, SG/SF, 1997)
Furkan Korkmaz gives Anadolu Efes solid minutes at just 18 years old, shooting 47.7 percent from three in the BSL and 41.2 percent from deep in Euroleague.
He's dangerous around the perimeter, where Korkmaz can spot up behind the arc or knock down jumpers off pull-ups and escape dribbles.
At 6'7", Korkmaz has excellent size and the bounce that translates to easy open-floor buckets above the rim.
15. Denver Nuggets (via Blazers): Malik Beasley (Florida State, SG, Freshman)
Malik Beasley continues to fly under the national radar, though scouts have caught on. An explosive 2-guard averaging 16.7 points, Beasley shoots 54 percent inside the arc and 40.4 percent behind it.
He's a high-flyer in transition and can score from all three levels in the half court, where he's making 68.6 percent of his shots at the rim and 29.2 percent of his two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com.
Beasley's one-on-one ball skills need work, and chances are his three-point percentage will dip, but he's an NBA-caliber athlete consistently producing in the ACC.
16. Utah Jazz: Diamond Stone (Maryland, C, Freshman)
Diamond Stone has consistently given Maryland a punch up front. Only five times this year has he failed to finish with double figures in points.
A team such as the Utah Jazz should value Stone's ability to score around the low block. He's shown soft touch over the shoulder, and with that 255-pound frame, he punishes defenders and finishes through contact.
Stone also makes 77.9 percent of his free throws and looks comfortable shooting from the elbows. At 19 years old, he's shown enough to suggest there is starting-center potential for teams to develop.
17. Charlotte Hornets: Skal Labissiere (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)
Despite averaging 6.9 points and more fouls than rebounds, 6'11" size, bounce, mobility and touch still fuel first-round-caliber upside. Not every NBA star had monster freshman years in college.
Unfortunately, Labissiere hasn't done much to sell himself at Kentucky and continues to see limited minutes off the bench. He'll also be 20 years old in March.
Unless he shows something over the next month, it's tough to picture a team using a lottery pick on Labissiere, who's demonstrated poor feel for the game. The mid-to-late first round looks like a reasonable spot to chase his upside. He wouldn't be the first late bloomer.
18. Chicago Bulls: Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt, PG, Sophomore)
Vanderbilt is a disappointment, but Wade Baldwin IV has managed to stand out under the NBA lens.
He's found a groove lately as a facilitator, averaging eight assists over his last five games. Baldwin is a fine passer, but it's his physical tools and shooting stroke that fuel the excitement over his potential.
At 6'3", 194 pounds with a 6'10" wingspan, he brings size, length, strength and quickness to the point guard position. And he's making 44.3 percent of his threes after hitting 43.9 percent of them as a freshman.
Baldwin struggles scoring inside the arc, but in the mid-to-late first round, the Chicago Bulls could value his defense, shooting and upside.
19. Boston Celtics: (via Mavericks): Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
The big scoring numbers that initially looked fluky now seem legitimate. Grayson Allen is still averaging 20.7 points and shooting 41.7 percent from three midway through February.
He picked up a buzzer-beating bucket to sink Virginia on Saturday before going for 23 points in a win over North Carolina on Wednesday night.
In terms of his transition to the league, Allen should compensate for average size and length with explosiveness that leads to easier finishes and free throws. Meanwhile, he's sporting a 62.5 percent true shooting percentage, per Sports-Reference.com.
Allen could struggle to score in the mid-range and defend starting 2-guards. But his shooting, driving and transition game look capable of effectively translating to an energizer role off the bench.
On a side note, general manager Danny Ainge is bound to admire Allen's competitiveness.
20. Indiana Pacers: Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, PF/C, Sophomore)
Domantas Sabonis now has four 20-point, 10-rebound lines in Gonzaga's last five games.
His identity is clear: Sabonis projects as a rebounding specialist and high-energy presence in the paint, where he's improved his footwork, low-post moves and touch.
His 20.9 percent rebounding percentage, per Sports-Reference.com, would rank No. 1 among first-round prospects. And he's scoring in volume (17.7 points per game) while shooting a terrific 66.8 percent from the floor.
Sabonis is even making 80.8 percent of his free throws and has flashed a developing mid-range jumper.
He doesn't offer much rim protection (30 blocks in 65 career games), but it shouldn't affect his potential to carve out a role as an energizer.
21. Philadelphia 76ers: Taurean Prince (Baylor, SF, Senior)
The numbers don't show a breakout year for Taurean Prince, but they also don't tell the whole story.
At 6'7", 220 pounds, he has a convincing shooting stroke to match promising defensive tools for a wing. NBA coaches may even view Prince as a small-ball 4, given his ability to stretch the floor and compete physically with power forwards.
Prince has shown he can score in the post or pull up for a jumper inside the arc. And though not an explosive athlete, terrific body control and coordination lead to crafty buckets off drives and runners.
Averaging 15.3 points and having already totaled 21 more assists than he had last year, Prince's NBA body and versatility are worth first-round consideration.
22. Atlanta Hawks: Brice Johnson (North Carolina, PF, Senior)
Brice Johnson went off against Duke on Wednesday, totaling 29 points and 19 rebounds—the fourth time this season he's gone for at least 25 and 10.
Johnson consistently puts himself in position for easy-bucket opportunities off dump downs, offensive rebounds or transition. Between his energy and bounce, he's converting a ridiculous 91.8 percent of his shots at the rim, per Hoop-Math.com.
His role in the pros won't be any different from what it is at North Carolina. Johnson projects as a high-motor cleanup man who runs, jumps, finishes and rebounds. He's worth a look in the late first round.
23. Boston Celtics: Stephen Zimmerman Jr. (UNLV, C, Freshman)
Stephen Zimmerman Jr. is dealing with a knee injury, but in a weaker draft, teams should still be willing to chase his upside. He's a coordinated 7-footer with shooting touch who's putting up terrific rebounding (13.9 per 40 minutes) and shot-blocking (3.3 per 40 minutes) numbers.
In doses, we've seen Zimmerman score with his back to the basket or step outside and knock down jumpers.
He only takes 8.3 shots a game and is used in just 22.2 percent of UNLV's possessions. Zimmerman is a project, but with textbook measurements, good athleticism and inside-out skills, his long-term potential looks enticing.
24. Memphis Grizzlies: Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame, PG, Junior)
Demetrius Jackson is fresh off one of his biggest games of the year: a 27-point, five-assist line in a win over Louisville. He nailed six threes, and though he's not as accurate from deep this season, his freshman (41.7 percent) and sophomore (42.9 percent) numbers are convincing.
Jackson isn't the most dynamic playmaker, but he's a quality passer and decision-maker averaging five assists and two turnovers in 35.2 minutes a game.
An explosive 6'1" athlete with a strong, 198-pound frame, his physical tools and burst remind some of Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe. He's a clear-cut NBA talent; the question is how to value him.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Dwayne Bacon (Florida State, SG/SF, Freshman)
Dwayne Bacon has cooled off over the last few weeks, shooting just 31.1 percent during Florida State's last four games.
He's still averaging 15.5 points and has proved he can score from all three levels. Bacon needs a few years to improve his jumper, but he's flashed an encouraging pull-up game and three-point range.
At 6'7", 210 pounds, Bacon has textbook size for an NBA 2-guard or wing. He's not much of a defender, but between his freshman production and offensive upside, Bacon is bound to attract first-round attention.
26. Toronto Raptors: Caris LeVert (Michigan, SG, Senior)
Caris LeVert's draft range is all over the place.
His versatility appears tailor-made for the NBA, between his shooting (44.6 percent from three) and playmaking (4.9 assists). LeVert, a 6'7" 2-guard, can handle the ball, run pick-and-rolls, create for teammates and spread the floor.
That said, he's missed 12 games with a foot injury—a big concern for a player who's already undergone two foot surgeries. He's a lottery-caliber talent if you can ignore the health concerns, but you have to think teams will be hesitant.
LeVert is a risk but also a steal candidate outside the top 20.
27. Phoenix Suns: Gary Payton II (Oregon State, PG, Senior)
One of the more interesting prospects in this year's field, Gary Payton II is making a compelling first-round case.
He's improved as a facilitator, having raised his assist percentage to 34.9 percent from 22.3 percent, per Sports-Reference.com. He's also one of the top rebounding guards in the nation, averaging 7.7 a game.
An explosive athlete with solid 6'3" size for a point guard, Payton's jumper for a 23-year-old remains the biggest question mark. But between his playmaking at both ends of the floor (2.5 steals per game), he's an interesting option for late first-round teams.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder): Melo Trimble (Maryland, PG, Sophomore)
Melo Trimble had a nightmare 1-of-14 game in a loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. He followed with a 3-of-11 performance in a more embarrassing loss to Minnesota on Thursday.
His lack of athleticism and length tends to show up from time to time. Still, he's flashed the potential to become an effective backup ball-handler or bench spark, given his ability to attack, break down defenses and connect from outside.
This year, with more scorers around him, he's done a better job of facilitating, averaging over five assists, up from three per game a year ago.
Questions over his defensive tools and upside ultimately make Trimble more of a late first-round option. But for a team that lacks backcourt depth and firepower, he's an enticing gamble in the 20s.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State, PF/C, Sophomore)
Despite averaging 20.9 points and 11.6 rebounds as just a sophomore, Pascal Siakam continues to glide under the radar. New Mexico State's strength of schedule is poor but not enough to negate everything Siakam has shown.
At 6'9", 230 pounds, he's an animal around the basket. Siakam blends explosive hops with power, and though his shooting touch and mechanics need work, he's made 119 of 261 two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, he's one of 10 players in the country with 500 possessions averaging over a point per possession.
There is always one big surprise pick in the first round. We should be looking at a few this year, given the lack of standout options. Siakam could be one of them.
30. Golden State Warriors: Cheick Diallo (Kansas, PF/C, Freshman)
Cheick Diallo isn't playing much, and when he does, he averages 7.8 fouls per 40 minutes. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see him look to get out of Kansas while he can.
Chances are, a team would be inclined to gamble on Diallo, whose 6'9" size, 7'4" wingspan, athleticism and motor translate to easy buckets, blocks and rebounds.
He makes plays without needing them drawn up for him, which is essentially his calling card in the pros.
Diallo will spend next year seasoning in the NBA D-League, but this late, he's worth investing in for the long term.