2016 NBA Mock Draft: Projecting All 30 First-Round Picks in Early March
With only a few weeks left to make impressions during competitive five-on-five play, March will be huge for dozens of NBA prospects.
Kentucky's Jamal Murray appears to be blowing up at just the right time. One of the hottest players in the country, Murray's February breakout has been the recent talk of the draft conversation.
I've also moved a rising senior into the lottery for the first time all season. And there is a new international name for draft fans to start getting familiar with.
On the other hand, Kentucky's Skal Labissiere continues his monthly slide down the board. And, unfortunately, Caris LeVert has followed after Michigan announced its star player will miss the rest of the season.
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, PF, Freshman)
Missing the NCAA tournament won't be the greatest look, but it shouldn't cost Ben Simmons the No. 1 spot on draft boards.
From a risk-versus-reward standpoint, Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram both offer what's perceived as All-Star potential. But you get the sense teams will view Simmons—6'10", 240 pounds—as the safer option to Ingram, who's 6'9", 190 pounds and hangs his hat on just scoring—not versatility.
Even if Simmons' jumper never comes around, his attacking, finishing and playmaking ability should still hold tremendous value. If he can improve his shooting, we could eventually be talking about one of the most unique weapons in the game.
At this point, the Sixers shouldn't care too much about Simmons' fit with what's already in place. Management will likely view him as a more valuable asset than Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram (Duke, SF, Freshman)
The gap between Brandon Ingram and the No. 3 prospect in the country looks too wide for anyone to close. And I wouldn't bet on the Los Angeles Lakers being willing to stash an international prospect (Croatia's Dragan Bender) with a No. 2 pick.
Meanwhile, Ingram, a 6'9" scoring wing, would fill a need in L.A. between D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.
And he has plenty of production to show for his potential, including 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on 40.6 percent shooting on threes. He's been consistently accurate from behind the arc and capable of creating his own shot inside it, whether it's off a turnaround jumper, pull-up, runner or hard drive.
He'll have to bulk up, but Ingram doesn't turn 19 years old until after the draft. He's developed into an exciting consolation prize for the lottery's runner-up.
3. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender (Croatia, PF, 1997)
With Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram off the board, there isn't an obvious answer for the Phoenix Suns at No. 3. This looks like the spot to gamble on Dragan Bender, whose size and skills suggest minimal risk and plenty of upside.
At 7'1", he's making 40 percent of his threes. And he can handle the ball and pass. Defensively, he's flashed the mobility to quickly rotate down for rim protection, switch in pick-and-roll coverage and close out on shooters.
Bender hasn't played all that much in 2015-16, but when given the chance, he's been productive, averaging 9.6 points during the 10 games he's played at least 15 minutes.
Most recently, Bender went for 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes against Hapoel Eilat on February 28.
4. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Jakob Poeltl (Utah, C, Sophomore)
The Boston Celtics can upgrade at center with Jakob Poeltl, who's made a bigger second-year jump than anyone could have hoped for.
He's already hit the 20-point mark 10 times after doing so just once in 2014-15. Poeltl's scoring average has risen to 17.6 from 9.1, thanks to much-improved hands and footwork around the basket.
The Austrian big man has emerged as a high-percentage (shoots 66.7 percent), go-to option in the post, where he's scoring over both shoulders. Meanwhile, fluid athleticism and coordination naturally translate to easy buckets off drive-and-dishes, offensive rebounds, line drives and flashes through the lane.
Poeltl isn't blocking too many shots, but his 7'0" size and mobility show up in pick-and-roll coverage and weak-side rim protection.
He's one of the safer options in the field and a clear-cut fit in Boston's lineup.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jamal Murray (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Jamal Murray's recent scoring tear is a good reminder of what fueled all the hype surrounding him last summer.
He's now finished with at least 20 points in nine straight games. Murray has a knack for getting buckets, whether he's spotting up, shooting off screens, tossing in floaters or improvising in the lane.
Converting at a 41.9 percent clip from deep and sinking 3.2 threes a night, he's been lethal from outside.
Considering the Minnesota Timberwolves waived Kevin Martin and rank No. 28 in three-point percentage, Murray could be high on the team's wish list.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Jaylen Brown (California, SF, Freshman)
Jaylen Brown has consistently produced without reliable help from his jumper.
He'll be an awfully tough cover if it ever starts working more regularly. Despite shooting just 31.9 percent from three, 30.5 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com, and 64.4 percent from the line, he's still averaging 15.5 points in 27.6 minutes. And he's hit the 15-point mark in 15 of California's last 19 games.
At 6'7", 220 pounds, Brown has the physical profile for a two-way NBA wing. He's explosive in the open floor and a threat to find the rim off change-of-direction, line drives and transition. And he embraces contact around the hoop (9.5 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes).
There isn't anything terribly wrong with Brown's outside shot. He's looked capable of spotting up (29 threes in 30 games) and a threat to stop and pop.
With a few more years of seasoning, we could be talking about a complete scorer and tough perimeter defender. It wouldn't be surprising if he ended up seeing time at three different positions (2, 3, small-ball 4) throughout his career.
7. Denver Nuggets: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
Without too many perceived sure things available at No. 7, it's tough to picture the Denver Nuggets passing on Buddy Hield.
They could use another shot-maker in the backcourt to play alongside Emmanuel Mudiay, who shoots 27.9 percent from three.
I wouldn't bank on Hield's 25.3 points per game translating, given his 6'4" size and limited mid-range scoring repertoire. But he's having one of the best shooting seasons (4.2 threes per game, 47.6 percent) in recent memory, and he's improved his ball-handling and driving ability.
Hield doesn't jump out as a future All-Star, but it's easy to envision him knocking down jumpers from day one to year 10.
8. Toronto Raptors (via Knicks): Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, Freshman)
It came in a gut-wrenching loss, but Ivan Rabb put on a strong show (15 point, 13 rebounds) for scouts at Arizona Thursday night. At one point, he picked up six second-chance points on three putbacks in a span of two minutes.
Rabb flashed his quickness in face-up situations and even nailed a three-pointer.
He clearly has the physical tools, specifically 6'11" size, 7'2" length and bounce. And the inside-out skill set is in place. Rabb just needs seasoning and polish.
As a rookie, he'd bring the Toronto Raptors energy and interior activity in the form of easy buckets and rebounds. That's his floor. But with some shooting touch and post moves in what's an underdeveloped repertoire, we could eventually be looking at a real scorer around the key.
9. Sacramento Kings: Kris Dunn (Providence, PG, Junior)
Point guards are always candidates to slide, given the fact most teams already have a starter—and the ones that don't may hesitate at the thought of handing a rookie the keys.
Kris Dunn still turns the ball over 4.3 times per 40 minutes. And considering he'll be 22 years old by the draft, it's concerning he's shooting below 70 percent from the line—again.
But he's clearly an NBA-caliber point guard and potential long-term cornerstone at the position. Exciting playmaking and pressure defense will represent Dunn's moneymakers. He's a terrific setup man, thanks to blazing quickness off the bounce. And with long arms and lightning foot speed, he's a pest defending the ball and passing lanes.
There isn't a point to overpay for Rajon Rondo, who just turned 30, when the team is coming off another losing season. If he's available, you draft Dunn and offer Rondo's money elsewhere.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt, PG, Sophomore)
If Wade Baldwin's skills and feel for the game catch up to his physical tools and natural ability, the Milwaukee Bucks land their point guard of the future.
And given the strides he's made over the years, having gone from mid-level recruit to averaging 14.4 points, five assists and four rebounds as a sophomore, there is good reason to believe the improvement will continue.
He's shooting over 40 percent from deep for the second straight season, and though he'll need to fine-tune his decision-making, Baldwin is averaging seven assists over his last nine games.
Even if his offensive development slows down, his defensive potential remains attractive. At 6'3" and 194 pounds with an enormous 6'10" wingspan, Baldwin's length, strength and quickness should translate to pressure and forced turnovers.
He'll have the chance to really rise up boards during the NCAA tournament and pre-draft workouts.
11. Orlando Magic: Timothe Luwawu (France, SG/SF, 1995)
The Adriatic League's second leading scorer, Timothe Luwawu has emerged as one of the more exciting 2016 wild cards.
At 6'7" with long arms and above-the-rim bounce, he aces the NBA eye test for a wing. And he's really sharpened his shooting accuracy, having made 53 threes (37.9 percent) through 25 games after averaging 0.64 threes last year in France.
It's really strengthened his image as a three-and-D, 2-guard or small forward. But we've also seen flashes of driving and passing that suggest more versatility and greater upside.
Marquette's Henry Ellenson could be enticing here, but I'm guessing the Orlando Magic value Luwawu's defensive potential and jumper.
12. Utah Jazz: Taurean Prince (Baylor, SF, Senior)
Taurean Prince has quietly developed into a complete two-way player with versatility the NBA values.
At 6'8", 220 pounds, he's presented himself as a wing coaches could also move to small-ball 4, given his ability to stretch the floor as a shooter (104 made threes over the last 63 games), score around the post and physically compete against power forwards.
Having entered the year as merely a three-and-D option, Prince has improved his handle, shot creativity and passing (already has 26 more assists than he had all last year).
And though you don't typically see many seniors find the lottery, at 21 years old, which he'll be for another five months, Prince is closer in age to most juniors.
13. Phoenix Suns (via Wizards): Henry Ellenson (Marquette, PF, Freshman)
Henry Ellenson projects as your prototypical stretch 4.
He's hit 27 threes in 30 games and shot 43.6 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com. Ellenson has a promising shooting stroke, whether it's off spot-ups or pick-and-pops.
And he can score with his back to the basket, as well as clean the glass, given his 9.9 rebounds per game.
The concern with Ellenson is over poor explosiveness around the basket and limited quickness away from it. Will he be able to separate or finish at the rim? And can he defend hybrid, small-ball 4s?
He's making just 48.8 percent of his two-point attempts and 28.1 percent of his threes.
14. Chicago Bulls: Denzel Valentine (Michigan State, PG/SG, Senior)
At No. 14, Denzel Valentine gives the Chicago Bulls a shooter and passer from either backcourt position. They could use some depth behind Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, anyway.
Though it's unlikely Valentine's 19.3 points per game carry over, his 44.2 percent three-point stroke and playmaking instincts should translate.
The only college player since 1995 to average at least 17 points, seven boards and seven assists, per Sports-Reference.com, Valentine's versatility and skills should help compensate for limited quickness and explosiveness.
Even if Valentine struggles as a scorer, his ability to make jumpers, handle the ball and move it should still hold value in a supporting role.
15. Denver Nuggets (via Rockets): Deyonta Davis (Michigan State, PF, Freshman)
Averages of just 18.5 minutes and 5.6 field-goal attempts haven't masked Deyonta Davis' potential. He'll spend next year in the D-League or watching from the bench, but with 6'10", 245-pound size, bounce, quickness and a good feel offensively around the key, Davis sports the look of a future rotational power forward.
He's been productive when given the opportunity. Davis grabs 12.3 boards and blocks 4.2 shots per 40 minutes. And he's looked comfortable scoring with his back to the basket or facing up for one-dribble drives within 10 feet.
It's tough to envision overwhelming upside, but as a defensive-minded reserve that rebounds and finishes at high rates, Davis will do just fine for a mid-round selection in a weak 2016 field.
16. Detroit Pistons: Stephen Zimmerman Jr. (UNLV, PF/C, Freshman)
Stephen Zimmerman Jr. played 36 minutes in his return from a knee injury that kept him out the previous five games. And he looked comfortable and loose, going for 12 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Zimmerman had one play against Wyoming that likely had scouts salivating—a one-dribble drive into a dunk that started from behind the arc.
He's an excellent athlete for a 7-footer with shooting touch that highlights stretch-5 potential.
It's also nice to see he's averaging 13.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes.
Zimmerman needs to build his body and hasn't seen many NBA-caliber opponents. But general managers should be willing to wait on his development, given the upside tied to bigs that can stretch the floor, block shots and jump.
17. Indiana Pacers: Malik Beasley (Florida State, SG, Freshman)
Malik Beasley has hit the wall, but it doesn't erase the potential that comes with his explosive athleticism and shooting.
He can fly, which translates to easy open-floor buckets, whether it's in transition or off line drives. And though his jumper has cooled off, he's still hitting 1.6 threes (37.6 percent) a game and 82.6 percent of his free throws.
He's a work in progress as a shot-creator or playmaker, but we have seen Beasley work the stop-and-pop game in the mid-range.
Unless he fails to snap out of his current slump (18-of-64 over last six games), expect there to be mid-to-late first-round interest.
18. Denver Nuggets (via Blazers): Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey, SG/SF, 1997)
With potentially three picks in this year's first round, expect the Denver Nuggets to draft-and-stash with at least one of them.
Just 18 years old, Furkan Korkmaz already sees time for Anadolu Efes. And that time should increase next year once Dario Saric and Cedi Osman leave for the NBA.
Korkmaz, a bouncy, 6'7" wing with a handle, has shot 47.9 percent from three in 18 Turkish League games and 42.1 percent in 13 Euroleague contests.
He's not physically ready to compete at the NBA level, but between his athleticism and shooting, it's easy to understand the interest in his long-term potential.
19. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks): Juan Hernangomez (Spain, SF/PF, 1995)
With three first-round picks, this is a good spot for the Boston Celtics to grab an international project.
Juan Hernangomez has emerged as one of the breakout surprises in the Spanish ACB. At 20 years old, playing in one of the top leagues overseas, he's averaging 10.3 points and 6.2 boards in 23.8 minutes. His 20.1 Player Efficiency Rating ranks No. 2 in the ACB, per RealGM.com.
At 6'9", Hernangomez projects as a face-up 4 or three, given his size, athleticism and ability to hit the three (18-of-55).
But a general manager like Danny Ainge is also bound to value his competitiveness and energy, which, along with his versatility, should fuel his future NBA identity.
20. Charlotte Hornets: Damian Jones (Vanderbilt, C, Junior)
Damion Jones has turned his season around after a quiet start. And it should reflect favorably toward his draft stock.
He's always had the attractive NBA physical tools—7'0" size, a 7'2" wingspan, 245 pounds. But lately, his post game has started coming together.
Jones is averaging 18.2 points over Vanderbilt's last five games. He still lacks shooting touch, both in the mid-range and from the line (54.9 percent). But he's shown he can score with his back to the basket in a variety of ways, from fadeaway jumpers and hooks to baseline spins.
Overall inconsistency and three years of poor shooting make it difficult to buy Jones as a lottery pick. But if he continues to sell his post game as reliable, he might not be here at No. 20.
21. Atlanta Hawks: Diamond Stone (Maryland, C, Freshman)
He's still a bit raw without advanced post moves or consistent shooting touch, but at 6'11", 255 pounds, Diamond Stone's size, strength, agility and hands should work in the NBA paint.
At the very least, teams should value his physical presence. Stone pulls down 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. And he's shown he can play through contact and draw fouls.
At this point, he does most of his work as a finisher or back-to-the-basket scorer. But it's worth noting he's converting at a strong 78.2 percent clip from the line.
Unfortunately, Stone isn't a natural rim protector and doesn't stretch the floor—two things the NBA covets from its bigs. He seems more like a mid-to-late first-round option than a lottery pick.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Heat): Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame, PG, Junior)
The Philadelphia 76ers could sure use some backcourt depth and firepower. Demetrius Jackson recently struggled (3-of-13) in a loss to Miami, but it's tough to dock him too much. He's consistently demonstrated sound decision-making, as well as the explosive athleticism and strength that compensate for 6'1" size.
Scouts also shouldn't be too concerned over his 33.8 percent three-point clip, considering he shot over 40 percent from deep in each of his first two seasons. Jackson has range and the ability to shoot off the dribble.
He isn't the flashiest playmaker in the half court (just 4.9 assists in 35.6 minutes), but he's a smart passer and rarely turns the ball over (twice a game).
Jackson is more likely to carve out a role as an energizer off the bench, as opposed to a long-term starting point guard. Still, he offers solid value anywhere outside this year's lottery.
23. Boston Celtics: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
Dirty or not, Grayson Allen can score. He's averaging 21.2 points after going for 30 against Wake Forest on Monday.
And the NBA values athleticism and shooting, especially when they come together.
Allen has average 6'5" size and short arms, but his ability to spot up from three and explode through driving lanes should still translate to complementary offense.
He's gotten himself into trouble lately with a pair of tripping incidents. But it's not crazy to think a general manager—like Danny Ainge—could admire Allen's chippiness and competitive edge.
24. Memphis Grizzlies: Brice Johnson (North Carolina, PF/C, Senior)
There isn't a superstar-level ceiling attached to Brice Johnson, but there is a role waiting for his bouncy athleticism and motor.
This late in the first round, whether you think he'll develop a jumper is irrelevant. It's Johnson's ability to rack up easy buckets and rebounds that a mid-to-late first-round team like the Memphis Grizzlies should be coveting.
He projects as an energizer whose job is to run, jump and make plays above the rim.
Per 40 minutes, Johnson averages 24.6 points and 15.3 rebounds. This type of production and athleticism is worth gambling on at No. 24.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State, PF, Sophomore)
Pascal Siakam continues to fly below the radar, despite being one of the most productive players in the country.
He's averaging 20.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, thanks to some spectacular physical tools and explosiveness.
At 6'9", 230 pounds with long arms and bounce, he's active around the basket, where he finishes above the rim or at tougher angles below it. And though still raw, he's looked capable in the mid-range and decent as a passer (1.7 assists per game).
Siakam also offers intriguing defensive potential, between his shot-blocking prowess and quickness away from the hoop.
Whether his scoring can carry over is unimportant this late in Round 1. He'll draw looks for the interior activity his size, length and athleticism can potentially generate.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Skal Labissiere (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)
It's going to take a huge postseason for Skal Labissiere to make up for the first three months. At this point, only a few high school showcase games and some flashes of potential are keeping his stock afloat.
He's coming off his first productive outing since January, having gone for 11 points and eight rebounds in just 15 minutes at Florida Tuesday night.
As ineffective as he's been, it's still easy to see what was behind all the initial hype. Standing 7'0", Labissiere has mid-range touch, post moves and bounce around the rim.
He's just not strong or savvy enough at either end of the floor. He gets pushed around and scored on too easily, while very little contact can throw off his shot.
27. Toronto Raptors: Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, 6'11", PF/C)
Arguably the top rebounder in the draft, Domantas Sabonis' NBA role seems clear. He projects as a cleanup man inside with great hands and an unteachable nose for the ball.
Sabonis, who's pulling down a whopping 21.1 percent of available boards, has also flashed over-the-shoulder touch and the ability to knock down short-to-mid-range jumpers.
His 34 steals and 33 blocks in 68 career games are somewhat alarming. Sabonis isn't explosive or long. But his ability to put pressure on the glass and inject energy to a frontcourt could carry him to a long career as a specialist.
28. Phoenix Suns (via Cavs): Dwayne Bacon (Florida State, SG/SF, Freshman)
Every time it looks as if Dwayne Bacon has hit the wall, he rebounds. After rough games against Georgia Tech and Miami, he's gone for at least 20 points in two of his last three games.
Most recently, he went for 21 points on 11 shots in a blowout win against Notre Dame on Saturday.
Bacon has his weaknesses. He's been erratic from three and shaky on defense. But he can score from all three levels, and with 6'7", 210-pound size for a 2-guard or small forward, he already the looks the part.
With a few years of seasoning and NBA coaching, Bacon could be a quality offensive player.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Caris LeVert (Michigan, SG, Senior)
With news that Caris LeVert's season is over following a foot injury, the opportunity for late-first-round teams to buy low may be there.
At full strength, LeVert looks like a lottery pick. Standing 6'7", he's a ball-handling 2-guard that can shoot (44.6 percent from three) and pass (4.9 assists).
Snagging him at No. 29 would be a sneaky move for the San Antonio Spurs, who won't be expecting an immediate contributor anyway. They get a steal here if LeVert can recover and hold up physically down the road.
30. Golden State Warriors: Melo Trimble (Maryland, PG, Sophomore)
Melo Trimble wasn't great over the past month. Overall, he's having an off shooting year from deep (33.6 percent) and trouble scoring in the mid-range (28.8 percent two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com).
Still, Trimble has appeal as a potential backup ball-handler or scoring spark off the bench. He's quick, shifty and can break down defenses off the dribble. And despite the poor three-point percentage, there is no questioning his range or shot-making ability.
However, there are questions about his lack of length and athleticism. He's likely to struggle defending NBA guards and finishing against NBA rim protection.
Trimble should ultimately enter the draft as a fringe first-round option.