NBA Mock Draft 2016: Projections for Where 1st-Round Prospects Will Land

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2016

Thon Maker helps headline the 2016 NBA draft class.
Thon Maker helps headline the 2016 NBA draft class.Gregory Payan/Associated Press

It's understandable if the NBA playoffs hog the spotlight and keep the 2016 NBA draft pushed aside—for now.

Even though the majority of teams watch the postseason from home, Stephen Curry's return, a strong performance by a hobbled Miami Heat team, Tim Duncan's potential retirement tour, Kevin Durant's possible farewell tour before leaving Oklahoma City and so much more demands attention.

For now. In the coming weeks, the majority will seize the spotlight back with the combine and lottery set to go down. Pair one of the most interesting classes in a long time with those events, and it's inevitable.

Before the combine gets underway on May 11, here's a look at an updated mock draft.

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.Toronto RaptorsPF Henry Ellenson, Marquette
10.Milwaukee BucksC Diamond Stone, Maryland
11.Orlando MagicPF/C Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
12.Utah JazzF Marquese Chriss, Washington
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 PacersPF Brice Johnson, North Carolina
21.Atlanta HawksC Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
22.Charlotte HornetsPF Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
23.Boston CelticsF Paul Zipser, Germany
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 Taurean Prince, Baylor
28.Phoenix Suns (via CLE)C Cheick Diallo, Kansas
29.San Antonio SpursPG Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
30.Golden State WarriorsC Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV
Author's projections

Best Landing Spots for Intriguing Names

3. Boston Celtics (via BKN): PF Dragan Bender, Croatia

Dragan Bender fits well with the budding Celtics.
Dragan Bender fits well with the budding Celtics.JACK GUEZ/Getty Images

A year removed from the Kristaps Porzingis hype train, it's not hard to see why Dragan Bender stands tall in helping to make this an interesting class.

Bender is a monster of a player at 7'1" and 216 pounds who can play any of the forward spots on the floor thanks to his ability to knock down shots from range. A lack of efficiency on the boards hurts, but an ESPN.com scouting write-up from November says a lot about upside:

With Kristaps Porzingis making the Lakers and Sixers second-guess passing on him in the draft and Nikola Mirotic moving into the starting lineup in Chicago, big Euros who can play multiple positions and stretch the floor are back in fashion. And some scouts believe that the athletic, versatile Bender could end up being better than Porzingis and Mirotic.

And upside is the name of the game with the 18-year-old star.

It's a game the Boston Celtics should want to play. General manager Danny Ainge has the franchise loaded with draft picks after a surprise playoff appearance and can afford to roll the dice a tad.

Boston's main area of concern lies underneath the basket, with Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley holding down the frontcourt. Bender isn't an immediate replacement for Amir Johnson or even Jared Sullinger, but he's a high-upside rotation guy who could develop into a starter for a long time, growing with the young core and building a contender in the Eastern Conference.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF Jaylen Brown, California

The hype meter has fallen a tad on California's Jaylen Brown in the wake of risers such as Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield, but he's still in the conversation for a top-five slot.

It's simple, really—the NBA loves its freak athletes.

Brown qualifies in every sense of the description. He's 6'7" and 221 pounds with a long game and relentless motor. He's a nag on the defensive end of the court and a force on offense thanks to his elite ability to slash to the rim.

“In terms of a prospect, Jaylen kind of is what he is at this point,” a Western Conference scout told Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s such a gifted athlete that you can kind of overlook some of his shortcomings."

The shortcomings are few, though, after Brown averaged 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds for Cal. It'd be nice to see a more consistent jump shot, but Brown lives at the rim and draws plenty of fouls.

A young, athletic team like the Minnesota Timberwolves wouldn't mind another player like Brown to round out a must-see lineup. Provided Ricky Rubio remains with the upstart team, Brown could slot in next to Andrew Wiggins and complement Karl-Anthony Towns down low.

In other words, Brown would give the Timberwolves one of the most dangerous teams with upside in the Association, which will prove one can contend by rebuilding through traditional means.

13. Phoenix Suns (via WAS): C Thon Maker, Orangeville Prep

Thon Maker's upside is impossible to ignore.
Thon Maker's upside is impossible to ignore.Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Thon Maker, of course, is the main reason this class is so interesting.

A monster at 7'0" who runs the court like a guard, Maker found a bit of gray area in the rulebook and enters the draft to a polarizing reception, as some believe he's a lottery pick, and others have a hard time with slapping him in the first round.

It's going to come down to the team. Maker is as raw as it gets—a prospect struggling with a feel for the game. And while he's tall, the physical skills needed to compete at the pro level just aren't there yet.

But it's about upside. Maker's got an unstoppable motor up and down the court with eye-popping speed. There's already a smooth offensive game in place, and he's continuing to develop a long game with a budding shot.

It's going to take a team like the Phoenix Suns to get Maker off the board early. Phoenix makes sense, too, considering the team has three picks in the opening round and in this scenario gets Devin Booker a complement with Hield at No. 4, which would allow Booker to slide to small forward.

Needing a better future under the basket, the Suns can take Maker and let him learn for a few years while he develops. Paired with Booker and other picks in this draft, it could prove quite the winning formula.

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

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