It's almost a foregone conclusion that LSU's Ben Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram will be the top two selections of the 2016 NBA draft on June 23 in Brooklyn.
While the best talent goes to the worst teams in the league, contenders that are just a piece or two away from mounting a serious run at a championship could find a diamond in the rough toward the bottom of the board.
Here's a look at my latest mock draft while focusing on which players can help put a contending team over the top next year:
|2016 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft|
|1||Philadelphia 76ers||Ben Simmons||F||LSU|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||Brandon Ingram||SF||Duke|
|3||Boston Celtics||Dragan Bender||PF||Croatia|
|4||Phoenix Suns||Jaylen Brown||SF||California|
|5||Minnesota Timberwolves||Buddy Hield||SG||Oklahoma|
|6||New Orleans Pelicans||Kris Dunn||PG||Providence|
|7||Denver Nuggets||Jamal Murray||PG/SG||Kentucky|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Domantas Sabonis||PF/C||Gonzaga|
|9||Toronto Raptors||Jakob Poeltl||C||Utah|
|10||Milwaukee Bucks||Deyonta Davis||PF/C||Michigan State|
|11||Orlando Magic||Marquese Chriss||PF||Washington|
|12||Utah Jazz||Furkan Korkmaz||SG||Turkey|
|13||Phoenix Suns||Henry Ellenson||C||Marquette|
|14||Chicago Bulls||Denzel Valentine||SG||Michigan State|
|15||Denver Nuggets||Malik Beasley||SG||Florida State|
|16||Boston Celtics||Taurean Prince||SF||Baylor|
|17||Memphis Grizzlies||Skal Labissiere||PF/C||Kentucky|
|18||Detroit Pistons||Brice Johnson||PF||North Carolina|
|19||Denver Nuggets||Dejounte Murray||PG/SG||Washington|
|20||Indiana Pacers||Stephen Zimmerman||PF/C||UNLV|
|21||Atlanta Hawks||Diamond Stone||C||Maryland|
|22||Charlotte Hornets||Timothe Luwawu||SF||France|
|23||Boston Celtics||Damian Jones||C||Vanderbilt|
|24||Philadelphia 76ers||Tyler Ulis||PG||Kentucky|
|25||Los Angeles Clippers||Malachi Richardson||SG||Syracuse|
|26||Philadelphia 76ers||Wade Baldwin IV||G||Vanderbilt|
|27||Toronto Raptors||Ante Zizic||C||Croatia|
|28||Phoenix Suns||Ivica Zubac||C||Croatia|
|29||San Antonio Spurs||Petr Cornelie||PF||France|
|30||Golden State Warriors||Juan Hernangomez||PF||Spain|
Outlook for Possible Selections by Contenders
Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt
Where He'll Go: No. 23 Boston Celtics
With the No. 3 pick, the Boston Celtics could go with Dragan Bender, a 7-foot big man who plays a game similar to that of Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks. While he could one day stretch out the Celtics offense and frontcourt, he will likely need a few years to develop and won't address Boston's need of a true big man.
With Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, Boston's size wasn't necessarily imposing, as the team lacked success when it came to attacking the rim. Boston also allowed a ton of rebounds:
|Boston Celtics 2015-16 Key Stats|
|Stat||Number||League Rank||League Average|
|Offensive Rebounds Allowed||932||24th||854|
|Defensive Rebounds Allowed||2,838||22nd||2,734|
This is where Vanderbilt's Damian Jones can come in and provide a big lift to the Boston frontcourt. Pushing 7 feet tall, Jones can move well on the floor and is physical enough to go up and attack the basket on the offensive end of the floor:
He'll have to work on bringing that physicality to the defensive end of the floor, but for someone who averaged 10.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, a player of his promise would be a welcome addition to the Celtics' group of big men.
If he manages to improve his game to a more well-rounded level, it wouldn't be surprising if Jones earns some starting time if he does go to Boston.
Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
Where He'll Go: No. 27 Toronto Raptors
While the Toronto Raptors battled back to tie the Eastern Conference Finals after four games behind Bismack Biyombo in place of the injured Jonas Valanciunas in the frontcourt, they could use some more help around the rim.
After all, this was a team that went down 2-0 in embarrassing fashion while LeBron James simply drove to the hoop at will. ESPN's Tom Haberstroh showed the Cleveland Cavaliers star's shot chart from Game 1:
Ante Zizic is the kind of physical center who could be found near the bottom of the draft who can help fortify the Toronto defense.
On top of that, he can run the floor well and contribute to a Raptors offense that might not look so good if Demar Derozan leaves in free agency this summer:
Given that he is only 19 years old, the Raptors would be able to give Zizic time to fill out and mature by putting him behind Valanciunas. If he's able to show the versatility needed to play the 4, then Zizic could slot into the spot that Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson, among others, fill at the moment.
This would give the Raptors a larger lineup that wouldn't be as easy to score down low on while adding some athleticism.
Petr Cornelie, PF, France
Where He'll Go: No. 28 San Antonio Spurs
If there is one team that an international player could star in, it's the San Antonio Spurs, given their history with the likes of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili:
|San Antonio Spurs Notable Draft Selections|
Those two players have been the cornerstone of four titles, which are unrealistic expectations for a player such as Petr Cornelie.
But with the possible retirement of Tim Duncan looming, the Spurs could use another big body to help add to the frontcourt rotation.
Cornelie is another player who is pushing 7 feet tall who is athletic and defensively gifted enough to fit in well with the Spurs system:
And he would already have plenty of support upon his arrival in San Antonio. He has one of the best defensive players and budding stars in Kawhi Leonard at small forward to help work on his transition from defense to offense and LaMarcus Aldridge at the 4 to show him how a player of his size can succeed in the league.
Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.