NBA championships are won through the draft. A few hits on prospects can reverse the fortunes of a franchise, and the 2016 NBA draft features a few players with serious potential to elevate a new team.
Duke Blue Devils star Brandon Ingram and LSU Tigers star Ben Simmons headline the draft, but there are other players who can become NBA stars in a deep pool of prospects. That should bode well for teams such as the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns, as each has three first-round picks.
While the draft order will likely change, this mock will stick to the current order because there are too many scenarios to accurately predict the lottery. The following projections take into account team needs and how each player fits into the team's style of play.
|2016 NBA Mock Draft|
|1||Philadelphia 76ers||Ben Simmons||LSU|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||Brandon Ingram||Duke|
|3||Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)||Dragan Bender||Maccabi Tel Aviv|
|4||Phoenix Suns||Jaylen Brown||California|
|5||Minnesota Timberwolves||Jakob Poeltl||Utah|
|6||New Orleans Pelicans||Jamal Murray||Kentucky|
|7||Denver Nuggets (from New York)||Henry Ellenson||Marquette|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Kris Dunn||Providence|
|9||Toronto Raptors (from Denver)||Buddy Hield||Oklahoma|
|10||Milwaukee Bucks||Demetrius Jackson||Notre Dame|
|11||Orlando Magic||Domantas Sabonis||Gonzaga|
|12||Utah Jazz||Denzel Valentine||Michigan State|
|13||Phoenix Suns (from Washington)||Deyonta Davis||Michigan State|
|14||Chicago Bulls||Furkan Korkmaz||Anadolu Efes|
|15||Denver Nuggets (from Houston)||Marquese Chriss||Washington|
|16||Boston Celtics (from Dallas)||Diamond Stone||Maryland|
|17||Memphis Grizzlies||Timothe Luwawu||Mega Leks|
|18||Detroit Pistons||Tyler Ulis||Kentucky|
|19||Denver Nuggets (from Portland)||Wade Baldwin IV||Vanderbilt|
|20||Indiana Pacers||Skal Labissiere||Kentucky|
|21||Atlanta Hawks||Malik Beasley||Florida State|
|22||Charlotte Hornets||Stephen Zimmerman||UNLV|
|23||Boston Celtics||Taurean Prince||Baylor|
|24||Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami)||DeAndre' Bembry||St. Joe's|
|25||Los Angeles Clippers||Melo Trimble||Maryland|
|26||Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City)||Patrick McCaw||UNLV|
|27||Toronto Raptors||Damian Jones||Vanderbilt|
|28||Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland)||Thon Maker||Orangeville School|
|29||San Antonio Spurs||Brice Johnson||North Carolina|
|30||Golden State Warriors||A.J. Hammons||Purdue|
Difficult Decision at No. 1
Ingram and Simmons are both top-notch talents, and each presents different strengths. Yet Simmons is the better overall prospect.
In a league where uptempo offenses are having the most success, a forward who can handle the ball and pass like a guard is a huge asset.
Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in 2015-16, which shows he has the ability to grab rebounds, push the ball up the floor and either dump it off to an open teammate or finish the play himself.
He is a Draymond Green-type player—more athletic but not as strong and less effective on defense. He is only 19 years old, so after a few years of maturation and time with professional strength coaches, he should be a dominant force in the NBA.
Ingram is a superior scorer and a better shooter, but Simmons is a rare talent and more dynamic. He can solidify Philadelphia's frontcourt and command help defenders to leave Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel near the rim to lead to easy drop-offs and buckets. If the Sixers can keep Ish Smith in the fold, they should finally start becoming relevant again in the near future.
Strong International Crop
International prospects are typically the greatest mysteries. With the exception of the New York Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis, most take years to develop overseas before even joining an NBA roster.
Athleticism and versatility seem to characterize this year's class. Dragan Bender is a raw prospect from Croatia, but he has skills that can turn him into a superstar. Take a look at his highlight reel:
Bender is an explosive athlete with an exquisite ability to pass and shoot for a 7-footer. He is not as tall or as rangy on defense as Porzingis, but he is quicker down the floor and slightly more agile. With Boston making two consecutive playoff appearances and eight in the last nine years, Bender can develop before joining a secure franchise that can maximize his talents.
Furkan Korkmaz of Turkey and Timothe Luwawu of France are similar players in that they are quick slashers who can jump out of the gym while being reliable shooters on the wings. Per DraftExpress, Korkmaz shot 42.3 percent from three-point range this year, while Luwawu hit 37.2 percent of his trifectas, so each can keep defenders honest on the perimeter while still being able to get to the rim.
Luwawu could also find himself in the Slam Dunk Contest one day if he continues to throw down jams like this, via basketball analyst Kevin O'Connor:
Chicago and Memphis have had success with international players—namely Nikola Mirotic and Marc Gasol, respectively—and both need players who can score on the wings. These players should fit well with their teams and become solid contributors within three years.
A pair of former Big Ten stars could prove to be steals at the end of the first round.
Maryland's Melo Trimble emerged as a star freshman in 2014-15 and was one of the nation's best players for the first half of last season before he ran into a rough shooting slump. He declared for the draft without an agent, so he could go back to school. However, he has the ability to fit in tremendously with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Per 247Sports' Jeff Ermann, Trimble is already set to work out for the team, which lacks a true backup for Chris Paul. The Clippers love to run the pick-and-roll with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, which Trimble excels at, as Maryland on BTN showed:
With Trimble, the Clippers can continue to run their sets with Paul on the bench, and the Terrapins star can develop his game to take on more minutes as the 31-year-old Paul starts to age. If Trimble can prove his 2016 shooting woes were a fluke, he will be a massive get late in the first round.
Purdue's A.J. Hammons would be an ideal fit for another NBA contender, the Golden State Warriors. The 7-footer is a dynamic center who can control the game inside while also stepping out and knocking down jumpers, as he hit six of his 11 threes (55 percent) a year ago.
The 2015-16 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year can protect the rim while also providing versatile scoring on offense. He is a similar player to Warriors reserve Marreese Speights, but he is a better defender.
This pick would go a long way toward establishing more frontcourt depth for the Warriors, who could use it with Andrew Bogut being an injury-prone starter.
All statistics are courtesy of DraftExpress.