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2016 NBA Mock Draft: Predictions and Prospects Who Can Help Contenders

Joe Pantorno@@JoePantornoFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2016

Vanderbilt center Damian Jones plays against Florida in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt  won 60-59. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

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
PickTeamPlayerPositionSchool
1Philadelphia 76ersBen SimmonsFLSU
2Los Angeles LakersBrandon IngramSFDuke
3Boston CelticsDragan BenderPFCroatia
4Phoenix SunsJaylen BrownSFCalifornia
5Minnesota TimberwolvesBuddy HieldSGOklahoma
6New Orleans PelicansKris DunnPGProvidence
7Denver NuggetsJamal MurrayPG/SGKentucky
8Sacramento KingsDomantas SabonisPF/CGonzaga
9Toronto RaptorsJakob PoeltlCUtah
10Milwaukee BucksDeyonta DavisPF/CMichigan State
11Orlando MagicMarquese ChrissPFWashington
12Utah JazzFurkan KorkmazSGTurkey
13Phoenix SunsHenry EllensonCMarquette
14Chicago BullsDenzel ValentineSGMichigan State
15Denver NuggetsMalik BeasleySGFlorida State
16Boston CelticsTaurean PrinceSFBaylor
17Memphis GrizzliesSkal LabissierePF/CKentucky
18Detroit PistonsBrice JohnsonPFNorth Carolina
19Denver NuggetsDejounte MurrayPG/SGWashington
20Indiana PacersStephen ZimmermanPF/CUNLV
21Atlanta HawksDiamond StoneCMaryland
22Charlotte HornetsTimothe LuwawuSFFrance
23Boston CelticsDamian JonesCVanderbilt
24Philadelphia 76ersTyler UlisPGKentucky
25Los Angeles ClippersMalachi RichardsonSGSyracuse
26Philadelphia 76ersWade Baldwin IVGVanderbilt
27Toronto RaptorsAnte ZizicCCroatia
28Phoenix SunsIvica ZubacCCroatia
29San Antonio SpursPetr CorneliePFFrance
30Golden State WarriorsJuan HernangomezPFSpain

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
StatNumberLeague RankLeague Average
Offensive Rebounds Allowed93224th854
Defensive Rebounds Allowed2,83822nd2,734
Blocks34822nd406
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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:

Tom Haberstroh @tomhaberstroh

This LeBron James shot chart from Game 1 is art. https://t.co/emy22NNzHo

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
PlayerCountryDraft YearRoundSelection
Manu GinobiliArgentina1999257
Tony ParkerFrance2001128

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.

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