2016 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections and Predictions for Top Prospects

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2016

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 12:  Ben Simmons #25 of the LSU Tigers is watched by head coach Johnny Jones  during a game against 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 Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Need a break from the 2016 NBA playoffs?

Let's talk about the NBA draft.

After all, June 23 is creeping closer and closer. Before long, the NBA will crown a champion, and some college (or international) star will be shaking NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's hand as the No. 1 pick.

Plus, keep in mind the lottery will take place May 17—which is nearly two weeks away.

Below is what you need to know before then.

Mock draft

First-round projections
PickPlayerTeam
1Brandon Ingram (Duke)76ers
2Ben Simmons (LSU)Lakers
3Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)Celtics
4Dragan Bender (International)Suns
5Kris Dunn (Providence)Timberwolves
6Jamal Murray (Kentucky)Pelicans
7Jaylen Brown (Cal)Nuggets
8Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt)Kings
9Jakob Poeltl (Utah)Raptors
10Skal Labissiere (Kentucky)Bucks
11Henry Ellenson (Marquette)Magic
12Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame)Jazz
13Timothe Luwawu (International)Suns
14Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)Bulls
15Deyonta Davis (Michigan State)Nuggets
16Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga)Celtics
17Marquese Chriss (Washington)Grizzlies
18Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)Pistons
19Furkan Korkmaz (International)Nuggets
20Taurean Prince (Baylor)Pacers
21Damian Jones (Vanderbilt)Hawks
22Diamond Stone (Maryland)Hornets
23Ivica Zubac (International)Celtics
24Ante Zizic (International)76ers
25Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV)Clippers
26Malik Beasley (Florida State)76ers
27Zhou Qi (International)Raptors
28Juan Hernangomez (International)Suns
29Petr Cornelie (International)Spurs
30DeAndre' Bembry (Saint Joseph's)Warriors
Author's Picks

Predictions

Buddy Hield will crack the top five

Eric Gay/Associated Press

After watching what Oklahoma's Buddy Hield did in the NCAA tournament, how could he not go in the top five?

Think of the teams that are drafting there—they need stability. Potential is great, but how many swings and misses can the likes of the Phoenix Suns afford? Sure, the 22-year-old senior is older than most projected lottery picks, but that can also be a plus.

He's more mature. He knows how to carry a team. He's a winner.

As of Sunday, DraftExpress had Hield going seventh overall to the Denver Nuggets, but NBADraft.net had him going at No. 3 to the Boston Celtics.

While the Philadelphia 76ers are likely to land either the No. 1 or No. 2 pick and take Duke's Brandon Ingram or LSU's Ben Simmons, Tom Moore of Calkins Media touched on an interesting point:

Hield is a marksman, so a playoff team such as Boston could immediately plug him in and use his strengths while the rest of his game grows.

The postseason won't intimidate him:

This kid did all he could to launch up the boards, so expect to hear his name not long after the calling of Ingram and Simmons.

The Lakers will land Ben Simmons

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Ingram has surpassed Simmons as the top pick in many mock drafts, but if the Los Angeles Lakers strike gold in the lottery, that won't matter.

Of course, Simmons played high school ball with Los Angeles point guard D'Angelo Russell.

"We're real close friends," Russell told Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding. "[When we talk] it's obvious: 'Oh, man, I hope you come here.' It's obvious. But we talk about a lot of other things."

SPRINGFIELD, MA - JANUARY19: The Monteverde Academy varsity basketball players #22 Ben Simmons, #3 D'Angelo Russell and #15 Chris Egi pose for a portrait during the 2014 Spaulding Hoop Hall Classic on December 19, 2014 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Sp
Kelly Kline/Getty Images

Their chemistry would be instant. Plus, Simmons would be significantly more engaged than when he was down in Louisiana, where he often came across as disinterested at times.

There are few stages in the world that can match Los Angeles.

"He's going to be happy and appreciative of anywhere he goes," Liam Simmons, Ben's older brother, told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. "The Lakers franchise is a juggernaut. Along with that comes the responsibility of carrying the franchise's name and the legends before him. I think he'll enjoy that."

Per ESPN.com, the Lakers have a 19.9 percent chance of winning the lottery. Their pick is top-three protected, which means it will go to the 76ers if the pingpong balls are unkind to the Lakers.

Should luck be on Los Angeles' side, don't be surprised if the franchise passes on Ingram and takes Russell's buddy.

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