NBA Draft 2016: Latest 1st-Round Projections and Top Prospects' Stock Watch

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2016

Kentucky's Jamal Murray is one prospect with soaring stock.
Kentucky's Jamal Murray is one prospect with soaring stock.John Bazemore/Associated Press

It's silly season in the NBA with the playoffs underway and the draft process charging ahead.

Seriously, look around. Kobe Bryant just went out on a 17-win team. Thon Maker just entered the pros via a loophole the size of, well, it's rather unprecedented. The Houston Rockets are in the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers won a game.

It goes on and on. When it comes to the draft, the majority of the order has been set thanks to standings and subsequent tiebreakers. In other words, it's time for a fresh mock draft with said order and an emphasis on team need and prospect stock—two factors which, of course, seem to change by the day.

2016 NBA Mock Draft

1.Philadelphia 76ersF Ben Simmons, LSU
2.Los Angeles LakersSF Brandon Ingram, Duke
3.Boston Celtics (via BKN)PF Dragan Bender, Croatia
4.Phoenix SunsSG Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
5.Minnesota TimberwolvesSF Jaylen Brown, California
6.New Orleans PelicansSG Jamal Murray, Kentucky
7.Denver Nuggets (via NYK)C Jakob Poeltl, Utah
8.Sacramento KingsPG Kris Dunn, Providence
9.DenverPF Henry Ellenson, Marquette
10.Milwaukee BucksC Diamond Stone, Maryland
11.Orlando MagicPF/C Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
12.Utah JazzPF Ivan Rabb, California
13.Phoenix Suns (via WAS)C Thon Maker, Orangeville Prep
14.Chicago BullsSG Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey
15.Denver Nuggets (via HOU)G Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
16.Boston Celtics (via DAL)SG Timothe Luwawu, France
17.Memphis GrizzliesG Caris LeVert, Michigan
18.Detroit PistonsSG Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
19.Denver Nuggets (via POR) PG Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
20.Indiana PacersF Marquese Chriss, Washington
21.Atlanta HawksC Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
22.Charlotte HornetsPF Brice Johnson, North Carolina
23.Boston CelticsPF Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
24.Philadelphia 76ers (via MIA)SG Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
25.Los Angeles ClippersC Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
26.Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC)F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
27.Toronto RaptorsF Paul Zipser, Germany
28.Phoenix Suns (via CLE)F Taurean Prince, Baylor
29.San Antonio SpursPG Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
30.Golden State WarriorsC Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV
Author's projections

Top Prospects' Stock Watch

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF Jaylen Brown, California

Jaylen Brown's upside has his stock remaining high.
Jaylen Brown's upside has his stock remaining high.Young Kwak/Associated Press

Hype continues to build around California's Jaylen Brown.

Arguably one of the guys with the highest upside in the class, Brown did nothing short of improve over the course of his freshman year with the Golden Bears, as he finished with averages of 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

The biggest allure to Brown, though, is his elite athleticism packed into a pro-perfect 6'7", 225-pound frame and the fact his biggest issue is a shaky jump shot—one of the most workable things around once a pro team gets its hands on him.

Though this ESPN.com scouting write-up came in November, it still rings true, especially in the comparison department:

Brown looks the part of a pro player already. He might be the most athletic prospect with the best NBA body of anyone at the top (though Simmons probably begs to differ). His ability to do things like this has scouts drooling. He'll be playing out of position at Cal this season, much as Justise Winslow did last season at Duke. Brown and Winslow are very similar players, in their strengths and their weaknesses.

There has been little reason for Brown's stock to shift, as a first-round exit in the NCAA tournament was a team collapse. 

With the way this board falls, one could see the Minnesota Timberwolves taking the dive in the top five. It's a rich-get-richer case, too, as the team finished the season on an encouraging tear.

Should this pan out, Minnesota gets Ricky Rubio at the point, Karl-Anthony Towns down low and a small-ball pairing of Andrew Wiggins and Brown to run the court.

6. New Orleans Pelicans: SG Jamal Murray, Kentucky

When it comes to the highest riser of all, the title might belong to Kentucky's Jamal Murray.

Murray was a great prospect before the tournament thanks to a 6'5", 207-pound frame and averages of 20.0 points, 5.2 boards and 2.2 assists per game.

But whereas Brown didn't need a big tournament to solidify his stock, Murray shined among other top Kentucky prospects and made a name for himself. He posted 19 points against Stony Brook and 16 versus Indiana, and he grabbed seven boards in each game.

Murray's riding so high, in fact, ESPN.com's Chad Ford just mocked him No. 3 overall above other notables such as Oklahoma's Buddy Hield: "While Hield's a better player now, Murray is three years younger and can play point guard. And the good news is that he's NBA-ready from the get-go."

In this scenario, Murray slots perfectly with the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis needs some serious help, as he's proved unable to carry the team on his own. Even worse, it's hard to tell if the Pelicans will look to bring back Eric Gordon.

Given the situation, Murray gives the Pelicans some flexibility because he can either play the point or run next to it. A Davis-Murray core isn't a bad foundation to build around in the coming years.

8. Sacramento Kings: PG Kris Dunn, Providence

Kris Dunn defied those who point to age this year and has soaring stock.
Kris Dunn defied those who point to age this year and has soaring stock.Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to guys who have broken down perceived barriers this year, Maker is first by a mile, but Providence's Kris Dunn ranks pretty high up the list, too. 

At first, it was easy to scoff at Dunn and suggest he isn't a lottery pick because of one all-important factor: age. Dunn decided to return to school last year—something people perceived as a bit of a negative.

Dunn managed to turn it into a positive, though, and used his junior year to show improvement in key areas while averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. As if to prove it wasn't a fluke, he scored 45 points in the Big Dance over his team's two games.

In fact, Dunn has risen so much that Tim Welsh of CSNNE.com said he'd take him over Hield, according to Toucher and Rich.

“He could really take your team to the next level. He’s a great kid and he just works and works and works,” Welsh said. “You have a guy that can score in transition like that; I think put him next to Isaiah Thomas, you got a pretty special backcourt.”

Given the wealth of teams high in the draft already looking good at point guard, Dunn should take a dive to No. 8. There, the Sacramento Kings likely have to find a Rajon Rondo replacement if he bolts this summer.

Call it the perfect fit. An experienced leader and strong defender who needs to better pick his shots, Dunn could slot right in as a starter and grow with a young core.

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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