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2016 NBA Mock Draft: Will Thon Maker Make Cut in Latest 1st-Round Projections?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 5, 2016

Oklahoma's Buddy Hield reacts to a three point basket during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game against Villanova, Saturday, April 2, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The NCAA tournament is complete, and our 2016 NBA mock draft board continues to change. 

Prospects have already started announcing their plans. Arguably the biggest name looking to go pro doesn't even play college hoops. A fifth-year high school standout, Thon Maker still needs to be ruled eligible, but if it happens, he'll have a real shot at stealing a first-round slot from somebody.

Otherwise, the draft conversation continues to drive good debate over the No. 1 pick, the stock of Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and the fall of Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere.

The draft order is based on current NBA standings and accounts for all previously made trades. Players are projected based on their college/international production, proven skill set, future potential and how they might fit with specific teams. For now, I've left Michigan State's Deyonta Davis off, as he has yet to indicate he's definitely ready to bolt. 

1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons (LSU, PF, Freshman)

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 12:  Ben Simmons #25 of the LSU Tigers plays against Jalen Jones #12 of the Texas A&M Aggies in an SEC Basketball Tournament Semifinals game at Bridgestone Arena on March 12, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Until I hear otherwise, I'm sticking with Simmons to the Philadelphia 76ers. They'll give Duke's Brandon Ingram a serious look, but given his 190-pound frame and the team's desperate need for a sure thing, Simmons' physical tools and versatility may suggest less risk and just as much upside.

Whether he's the NBA's next big superstar is still up for debate. But Simmons' athleticism, playmaking, attacking, transition game and rebounding seem like good bets to translate.

Depending on what the roster looks like by opening night, it wouldn't even be crazy to think the Sixers could use Simmons at point the way the Milwaukee Bucks have with Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram (Duke, SF, Freshman)

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24: Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils puts up a shot against Tyler Dorsey #5 of the Oregon Ducks during the West Regional Semifinal of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Honda Center on March 24, 2016 in Anaheim, Cal
Lance King/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers shouldn't have much to think about. They'll consider Croatia's Dragan Bender, but most likely, they'll take either Simmons or Ingram, the latter of whom just closed the season strong with three 20-plus-point performances in the NCAA tournament. 

Ingram finished the year averaging 17.3 points and shooting 41 percent from three. At 6'9" with extraordinary length, his ability to shoot, create shots in the mid-range and handle the ball screams NBA mismatch. The only questions are his skinny arms and legs. He wasn't great finishing around the rim (58.8 percent, per Hoop-Math.com) this season. 

Considering he's still just 18 years old, it's not a good enough reason to justify passing. Ingram seems like a fine fit between Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle for a Laker team that ranks last in three-point shooting. 

3. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender (Croatia, PF, 1997)

Dragan Bender, a professional Croatian basketball player currently playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Basketball Super League attends a training session at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv on March 16, 2016.
Bender's name is not yet well kn
JACK GUEZ/Getty Images

Buddy Hield may be enticing, but not as much as Bender's versatility. In 30 games for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the 7'1" big man shot 39.3 percent from three. Meanwhile, his mobility, basketball IQ and ball-handling have earned scouts' attention since 2014. 

David Pick reported Phoenix Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly recently met with Maccabi. Sportando reported earlier Bender has an NBA out each summer. The fact Phoenix can bring him over sooner makes him even more attractive. 

There are safer plays out there, including Hield, Kentucky's Jamal Murray or Providence's Kris Dunn. But the Suns need to make a splash. I'm not sold he's the next Kristaps Porzingis, but I also don't believe his floor is as low as past international lottery busts.

4. Boston Celtics: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02:  Buddy Hield #24 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Image
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Hield's ridiculous season ended with a beating from Villanova. "You can't let this one game define you," he told Sports Illustrated's Dan Greene. "This team's been fun. This was a tough loss tonight. But life goes on."

At this stage, he'd already done enough (positive) damage, having finished his senior year averaging 25 points, making 147 threes (in 37 games) and shooting 45.7 percent from deep. It's not just the 66.5 true shooting percentage, per Sports-Reference.com, or his incredible shot-making ability. NBA scouts and coaches are bound to value the work ethic it took to get to where he is. 

The Boston Celtics rank No. 10 in three-pointers attempted but No. 27 in three-point percentage. Hield fills a need for a team that offers a setting for him to develop and flourish. 

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jamal Murray (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17: Jamal Murray #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats attempts a 3-point basket against the Stony Brook Seawolves in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 17, 2016
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves rank No. 29 in three-point percentage and could use another backcourt weapon. Having made 113 threes (3.1 per game) and 40.8 percent from deep, Murray fills an obvious need. 

Murray's ability to score without dominating the ball may be his most appealing strength; he averaged 20 points with Tyler Ulis doing most of the ball-handling, gets himself free and knocks down jumpers off screens and movement.

Murray relies on hitting tough shots, and he doesn't project as a plus defender. But the Wolves grab him at No. 5 for the offensive firepower he adds to their lineup. 

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn (Providence, PG, Junior)

With Eric Gordon entering free agency and Jrue Holiday difficult to rely on full time, Dunn makes sense for the New Orleans Pelicans. You could even argue he'd fit well with Holiday in the backcourt. 

A terrific ball-screen playmaker, Dunn also seems like an ideal pick-and-roll setup man for Anthony Davis. We could eventually be talking about a top-15 point guard if he cleans up his jumper and turnovers. 

7. Denver Nuggets: Ivan Rabb (California, PF, Freshman)

Rabb was solid all year. He wasn't featured in California's offense (20 percent usage rate, per Sports-Reference.com) but still managed to stay consistent (61.5 percent field-goal clip) and productive (17.5 points, 11.9 rebounds per 40 minutes). 

Having just turned 19 years old, he's still on the skinny side, but Rabb's blend of size (6'11", 220 pounds), quickness and coordination looks awfully convincing. He has terrific hands and a nose for the ball around the basket. Away from it, around the elbows or short corners, he's a threat to face up and attack or shoot the mid-range jumper. And in doses, we saw promising back-to-the-basket post moves. 

At the very least, you get the sense he'll develop into a Tristan Thompson-like interior big man. But given his athleticism and skill set, his ceiling may be closer to Chris Bosh

8. Sacramento Kings: Marquese Chriss (Washington, PF, Freshman)

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Chriss lacks polish and volume production, but he'll benefit from a relatively weak 2016 field. He's one of the few prospects with a ceiling worth reaching on. Arguably the top big-man athlete in the draft, Chriss packs incredible bounce that translates to highlight plays above the rim. 

He found a convincing rhythm down the stretch for Washington, having scored at least 17 points in 10 of the Huskies' last 14 games. He averaged 20.8 points over the team's last four during a stretch in which he showcased the full inside-out arsenal: a smooth, mechanically sound shooting stroke as well as the ability to hit hooks and fallaways out of the post. 

If you're the Sacramento Kings, you're not passing on any can't-miss options by taking Chriss at No. 8. He's an enticing risk-reward play.

9. Toronto Raptors: Henry Ellenson (Marquette, PF, Freshman)

The Toronto Raptors need a power forward, and arguably the draft's most skilled 4 is still available. Ellenson averaged 17 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists his freshman year, having showcased inside-out versatility seemingly designed for today's NBA.

He projects as a stretch big who can pick-and-pop or bang down low. But Ellenson can also handle the ball, initiate the break or score one-on-one in the half court. At 6'10", he knocked down 30 threes and shot 42.7 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com, while racking up the boards. 

Without much explosiveness or great quickness, I'm not sure he'll ever become a defensive asset. But he's no doubt polished offensively and has the physical tools to support the skills.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jaylen Brown (California, SF, Freshman) 

When you consider his 6'7", 220-pound size, length and explosive athleticism, Brown offers both upside and a sense of safety.

But a 51.8 true shooting percentage highlights the fact he's still a ways away. He converted 29.4 percent of his threes and 65.4 percent of his free throws, and given his struggles as a shot-creator and playmaker (68 assists, 105 turnovers), being able to make jumpers is crucial. 

On the other hand, he managed to average 14.6 points (21.2 per 40 minutes) without much polish. Brown puts heavy pressure on the rim (9.2 free throws per 40 minutes), both in transition and the half-court drive-and-slash game. 

11. Orlando Magic: Jakob Poeltl (Utah, C, Sophomore)

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

It wouldn't be surprising to see other prospects rise above Poeltl on draft boards over the next few months. Without great length, athleticism or shooting touch, the combine and workouts aren't likely to help him. He was also badly outplayed by Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis in the NCAA tournament. 

But he still put together a monster sophomore year, having raised his averages to 17.2 points and 9.1 rebounds from 9.1 and 6.8, respectively. Poeltl improved his post game dramatically, from his footwork to his touch. And though not a big-time shot-blocker, he's shown some toughness around the hoop and the versatility to switch in pick-and-roll coverage. 

Orlando needs another big man and won't pass on the top center in this year's field.

12. Phoenix Suns (via Wizards): Timothe Luwawu (France, SG/SF, 1997)

Phoenix should be all over Luwawu given his three-and-D potential and the team's lack of exciting wing options. Quick and athletic with 6'7" size, he makes 2.1 triples per game (37.2 percent) and defends 2-guards or small forwards. Luwawu also averages 2.8 assists, and though it's not a big number, it does highlight improving ball-handling and passing. 

Shot selection and efficiency can be an issue, but his physical tools, bounce and jumper seem tailor-made for the NBA. 

13. Houston Rockets: Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)

Sabonis may have helped himself in the NCAA tournament with three games of at least 19 points. His offensive repertoire has made serious strides, which showed up in the low post as well as at the line, where he sunk 76.9 percent of his free throws. 

He even knocked down five threes this year, and though not considered a stretch big man, you get the impression his jumper could eventually become a weapon. 

Otherwise, he's arguably the top rebounding prospect in the draft with a tremendous motor, competitive edge and nose for the ball. He might not pack All-Star upside, but Sabonis seems like a good bet to carve out a long NBA career. 

14. Chicago Bulls: Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame, PG, Junior)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 27:  Demetrius Jackson #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a three pointer in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional Final at Wells Fargo Cent
Elsa/Getty Images

After guiding the Fighting Irish to three NCAA tournament wins, Jackson put up 26 points in an Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

There is a lot to like: from his strength and explosiveness to his jumper, IQ and defense. The question is whether there is anything to loveJackson had an off year shooting-wise (33.1 percent from three) and averaged just 4.7 assists in 36 minutes.

Still, between his athleticism and sharp skills (ball-handling, passing, jumper, decision-making), he seems like a good bet to fit and stick. The Chicago Bulls could use another ball-handler, and Jackson may even offer some sneaky Eric Bledsoe-like upside. 

15. Utah Jazz: Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey, SG, 1997)

Korkmaz's minutes are down with Anadolu Efes, but over the years, he's built up a strong enough resume. In 151 games dating back to 2013, the bouncy, 6'7" wing has shot 39.3 percent from three. This season, between Turkish League and Euroleague, he's shooting 46.8 percent.

Korkmaz needs to bulk up, but at just 18 years old, he's a high-flying athlete with a proven long-range stroke. 

16. Boston Celtics (via Mavericks): Taurean Prince (Baylor, SF/PF, Senior)

Prince gives the Boston Celtics some wing depth and a potentially valuable three-and-D forward. At 6'7", 220 pounds with the ability to score out of the post, Boston may even convert Prince to a small-ball 4. 

"I'm looking forward to showing teams that I'm extremely versatile and will do whatever is asked of me to help the team that drafts me win games," Prince wrote, via Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler.

He finished his career at Baylor having shot at least 36 percent from three in each of his last three seasons. He also totaled 35 more assists in 2015-16 than he did the previous year. He's improved as a passer, which, along with encouraging defensive tools and a credible jumper, strengthens Prince's image as a future NBA role player. 

17. Denver Nuggets (via Blazers): Denzel Valentine (Michigan State, SG, Senior)

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 18:  Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans in action during the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Scottrade Center on March 18, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It didn't end well, but Valentine's breakout senior year should still result in mid-first-round interest. 

While his 19.2 points per game are obviously attractive, it's his 101 threes (44.4 percent) and 45.8 assist percentage (No. 2 in the nation, per Sports-Reference.com) that bode well for his NBA outlook. His shooting and passing seem likely to translate from Day 1 and last until year No. 10. 

Valentine won't win any awards at the NBA combine, but a lack of bounce and speed won't kill his role-player potential. 

18. Memphis Grizzlies: Dejounte Murray (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

Though still a little rough around the edges, Murray's upside is easy to detect. At 6'5", he's an electric combo guard with scoring (16.1 points) and playmaking (4.4 assists) ability. 

Crafty and shifty off the dribble, Murray puts pressure on the rim and generates a ton of offense off layups, floaters and runners. He packs blazing end-to-end speed, which led to a whopping 84 field goals in transition, per Hoop-Math.com, but also 3.9 turnovers per 40 minutes. 

His jumper (28.8 percent from three) and decision-making need plenty of work, but the Memphis Grizzlies backcourt needs a spark. 

  

19. Detroit Pistons: Tyler Ulis (Kentucky, PG, Sophomore)

Ulis just got too good over the course of his sophomore year at Kentucky. Questions over his 5'9" size no longer seem so alarming.

Aside from his ball skills, it's Ulis' decision-making, basketball IQ and toughness NBA coaches will value; he averaged 17.3 points with a 7-2 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has an unteachable feel for pushing the right buttons and running an offense, while his competitiveness is undeniable. 

Ulis' poise and facilitating instincts would complement Reggie Jackson's explosive scoring and playmaking with the Detroit Pistons. 

20. Indiana Pacers: Malik Beasley (Florida State, SG, Freshman)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 08:  Malik Beasley #5 of the Florida State Seminoles dribbles the ball during the first round game of the ACC Tournament against the Boston College Eagles at the Verizon Center on March 8, 2016 in Washington, DC.  The Wolfpack won 8
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Beasley quietly had a strong year despite Florida State's absence from the NCAA tournament. His explosiveness, 15.6 points per game and 38.7 percent three-point stroke ultimately stood out under the NBA lens. 

Though not a dangerous one-on-one scorer, he picked up buckets off fast breaks, line drives and spot-up jumpers. And in doses, we saw some in-between game with the stop-and-pop pull-up and floater. 

At 6'5", he also looked quick enough to guard both backcourt positions. There may be a little Wesley Matthews in Beasley's NBA outlook. 

21. Charlotte Hornets: Skal Labissiere (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

I'm anticipating a decent fall for Labissiere, who just turned 20 years old and is coming off one unproductive season.

A lack of toughness and feel for the game were both exposed. But Labissiere's potential is still likely to trigger a first-round bite. He's a 7-footer with post moves, shooting touch and bounce around the basket. And he hasn't had too many reps over the past couple of years. 

Labissiere ultimately becomes a buy-low value pick to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 21 overall. He should play heavy minutes next year in the NBA Development League to repair his confidence and overall game. 

22. Philadelphia 76ers (via Heat): Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt, PG, Sophomore)

The Sixers need to hit on a guard, and at No. 22 with their second of three first-round picks, Baldwin is worth the gamble. 

Baldwin aces the eye test with 6'3", 194-pound size, enormous 6'10" length and the ability to throw down above the rim. He also shot at least 40 percent from three for the second straight year. He was up and down this year, though his game may be better suited for the pros. He'll have a lot more freedom and transition opportunities in Philadelphia than he did at Vanderbilt. 

His team was a major disappointment, but I wouldn't assign much blame to Baldwin. Between his physical tools, burst, passing, shooting and defensive potential, there could be some sneaky upside for the Sixers' coaching staff to tap into.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Stephen Zimmerman Jr. (UNLV, C, Freshman)

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 30:  Stephen Zimmerman Jr. #33 of the UNLV Rebels is fouled as he drives to the basket by Torren Jones #24 of the Fresno State Bulldogs during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center on December 30, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Pho
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There is some steal potential attached to Zimmerman, who played in just 26 games and was used during 21.9 percent of UNLV's possessions when on the floor. At 7'0", he's athletic with shooting touch and smooth footwork in the post, plus he averaged 13.4 rebounds and three blocks per 40 minutes. 

Zimmerman will likely play his rookie season in the D-League to build up his confidence, reps and body. But long term, his size, mobility, jumper and interior activity could make him an NBA starter.

   

24. Boston Celtics: Ante Zizic (Croatia, PF/C, 1997)

Zizic's production has generated some buzz from overseas, where he's averaging 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds (Adriatic League and FIBA Europe Cup combined). At 6'11", 230 pounds, he's mobile with a knack for picking up easy buckets, whether it's by running the floor, timing a cut or boxing out for an offensive rebound. 

He projects as an energizer capable of making plays without needing them run for him. 

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Isaia Cordinier (Denain, SG, 1996)

Cordinier will be one of the biggest names to watch this week at the Nike Hoop Summit, where there will be tons of NBA scouts and executives. He's spent the season producing in LNB Pro B (France's second division) and will now have the chance to make an impression against some of the premier 2017 draft-eligible American prospects. 

An explosive athlete shooting 47.1 percent from three, Cordinier's 6'4" size, athleticism and jumper fuel intriguing potential. He's a candidate to rise up draft boards over the next few months. 

26. Toronto Raptors: Thon Maker (Athlete Institute, PF, 1997)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Maker shook the draft conversation on Sunday by announcing he'll be looking to enter in 2016. A fifth-year high school student in Canada, it was originally thought he'd be going to college next season. 

There are questions as to whether the NBA will deem him eligible, but I'm operating under the belief they'll let him declare. The rule states a player must be 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school. Maker is 19 and will be one year removed from his fourth year in high school by June.

Maker's appeal stems from his 7'0" size, athleticism, inside-out skill set and motor. He competes, runs hard and has enough touch to make jumpers with range.  

Unfortunately, questions have risen over his NBA position and ability to capitalize as a mismatch. Though Maker has improved his body, he still lacks bulk to bang down low and isn't quite sharp or fluid enough to face up and score from the perimeter. I got a chance to watch him closely in February at Basketball Without Borders, where his energy translated to easy buckets around the rim. But he also struggled to make shots or finish after contact.

He projects more as a high-activity energizer than a scorer. Maker will surely spend next year getting reps in the D-League, but he'll draw some first-round looks if the NBA rules him eligible. 

"When I found out I had the opportunity to enter this year's draft, it was a no-brainer to me," Maker told DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony. "I've always had the dream of playing in the NBA, and I feel that I am ready."

27. Philadelphia 76ers (via Thunder): Juan Hernangomez (Spain, SF/PF, 1995)

The Sixers will draft-and-stash here with their third first-round selection.

He's slowed down over the last month, but Hernangomez has still 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 9.5 points and six boards in 23.8 minutes. 

With 6'9" size and adequate athleticism, Hernangomez projects as a face-up 4 or 3 who can hit from behind the arc (22-of-66). He'll have the chance to carve out an NBA role as an energizer after another year seasoning abroad. 

28. Phoenix Suns (via Cavaliers): Ivica Zubac (Croatia, C, 1997)

Zubac entered the season as a prospect to watch following productive showings at the European Championships (15.8 points, 12.9 rebounds) and World Championships (17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds). Since then, he's left Cibona to sign with BC Mega Leks, though he won't be eligible for the Serbian League until April, per Givony.

At 7'0", 240 pounds, he's still more physical tools and mobility than skills and polish. Zubac ultimately projects as a rotational big. It's believed he'll be looking to come to the NBA right away. 

29. San Antonio Spurs: DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph's, SG/SF, Junior)

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20:  DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks reacts in the first half against the Oregon Ducks during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane,
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Bembry turned it on over the past few weeks, having scored 30 points against VCU in the Atlantic 10 tournament final and 23 in an NCAA tournament win over Cincinnati. 

A high-flier, he blends athleticism with scoring and unique passing versatility. He averaged 4.5 assists to go with his 17.4 points per game, often acting as a point-wing for the Hawks. Scouts have also spoken highly of his leadership qualities. 

Bembry becomes a steal if he starts consistently making open jumpers. He's a career 31.2 percent shooter from three.

30. Golden State Warriors: Brice Johnson (North Carolina, PF, Senior)

Johnson was a constant force for the Tar Heels throughout the team's run to the championship game. He averaged 19 points and 9.3 boards through six NCAA tournament contests. Nobody was able to box him out or contain his bounce around the basket; his role in the pros won't be any different.

Johnson gives the Warriors a high-percentage finishing target as well as an active rebounder at both ends of the floor. He'd go higher if it wasn't for the fact he doesn't offer rim protection or shooting.

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