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NBA Mock Draft 2016: Projections for Prospects with Most Star Potential

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24: Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils in action against the Oregon Ducks during the West Regional Semifinal of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Honda Center on March 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

A lot of the NBA draft process is about teams trying to find the next superstar. Teams with superstars tend to contend for championships, while teams without elite talent usually have a difficult time becoming legitimate title threats.

Of course, a team needs more than just a single superstar to win, but having one is a great start toward building a strong squad. Players with high ceilings tend to go early in the draft, often ahead of more established prospects, and this year’s event should be no exception.

Let’s predict the first round for this year’s draft and then discuss three guys who have the best chance at NBA superstardom.

2016 1st-Round NBA Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayer
1Philadelphia 76ersF Ben Simmons, LSU
2Los Angeles LakersSF Brandon Ingram, Duke
3Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)PF Dragan Bender, Croatia
4Phoenix SunsSF Jaylen Brown, California
5Minnesota TimberwolvesSG Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
6New Orleans PelicansPG Kris Dunn, Providence
7Denver Nuggets (via New York)PG/SG Jamal Murray, Kentucky
8Sacramento KingsSG Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey
9Toronto Raptors (via Denver)PF/C Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
10Milwaukee BucksC Jakob Poeltl, Utah
11Orlando MagicG/F Timothe Luwawu, France
12Utah JazzF Marquese Chriss, Washington
13Phoenix Suns (via Washington)F/C Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
14Chicago BullsG Malik Beasley, Florida State
15Denver Nuggets (via Houston)F Henry Ellenson, Marquette
16Boston Celtics (via Dallas)SG/SF Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
17Memphis GrizzliesPG Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
18Detroit PistonsPG Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
19Denver Nuggets (via Portland)F Taurean Prince, Baylor
20Indiana PacersF Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
21Atlanta HawksC Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV
22Charlotte HornetsPF/C Thon Maker, Australia
23Boston CelticsG Caris Levert, Michigan
24Philadelphia 76ers (via Miami)PG Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
25Los Angeles ClippersPF Brice Johnson, North Carolina
26Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City)G Malachi Richardson, Syracuse
27Toronto RaptorsSG/SF DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph's
28Phoenix Suns (via Cleveland)G Dejounte Murray, Washington
29San Antonio SpursC Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
30Golden State WarriorsSG Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Mock draft predictions belong to author

Projections for Potential Future Stars

No. 1, Philadelphia 76ers: F Ben Simmons, LSU

Ben Simmons has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft, and it’s not debatable. 

Any player who possesses nearly every basketball skill you can imagine, aside from a good jump shot, should be held in high esteem. Find him a good shooting coach who can get him to work hard on that stroke, and we’re talking about a perennial MVP candidate. 

The Philadelphia 76ers could take a big step forward in 2016-17 if they hand the ball to Ben Simmons immediately.
The Philadelphia 76ers could take a big step forward in 2016-17 if they hand the ball to Ben Simmons immediately.Samantha Baker/Associated Press

Despite the fact that the 76ers need more NBA-caliber guards on the roster, Simmons is too good of a prospect to pass up. Besides, he possesses the lateral quickness, dribbling and passing ability of a backcourt player while being 6’10”, so it’s easy to see him bucking the small-ball trend and playing the 1 or 2 in certain lineups. His skill set is reminiscent of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo's but with a better feel for the game.

Philadelphia has big-man prospects coming out its ears in Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. As the future de facto point guard of the Sixers, Simmons will get them the ball in great positions to score.

No. 2, Los Angeles Lakers: SF Brandon Ingram, Duke

The cliche pro comparison for Brandon Ingram is Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. Obviously, that’s a best-case scenario, and no one should be disappointed if Ingram doesn’t win an MVP award or lead the NBA in scoring four times.

But the fact that the lanky 6’9” forward has the ball-handling, shooting and defensive chops to even get that comparison speaks well to his NBA future.

Brandon Ingram is all arms and legs, which makes him an intriguing defensive prospect.
Brandon Ingram is all arms and legs, which makes him an intriguing defensive prospect.Lance King/Getty Images

The Lakers will probably take whoever the Sixers don’t select between Simmons and Ingram, but Ingram is actually the best fit for them. The Lakers don’t need any more ball-dominant players clogging up their rotation (Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams were the top four minute-getters in Los Angeles last season), and Ingram is fine coming off screens, scoring in spot-up situations and filling lanes on fast breaks.

Ingram’s ability to score on plays where teammates create for him should help the Lakers improve on their league-worst 18 assists per game. He’ll also use his underrated passing ability to keep the ball moving, which should help Los Angeles play better.

No. 3, Boston Celtics: PF Dragan Bender, Croatia

There's a clear drop-off in talent after the top two prospects, but Boston can afford to roll the dice at the No. 3 slot on a big man with All-Star potential. The team is already one of the better squads in the league with a great head coach in Brad Stevens, but it’s missing elite talent who could help its title chances skyrocket.

Dragan Bender can be that guy if he fulfills his potential.

Dragan Bender's NBA future could depend heavily on how good of a rebounder he can develop into.
Dragan Bender's NBA future could depend heavily on how good of a rebounder he can develop into.THOMAS COEX/Getty Images

The Croatian 7-footer is just 18 years old and has excellent quickness and ball-handling ability for his size. He can also make plays for teammates, defend in space and knock down the occasional outside jumper. Although instant NBA stardom is not in his future, Boston can continue to build on its strong core as he develops.

Boston has a big-man rotation of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko, but Olynyk recently had shoulder surgery. Therefore, it makes sense for the Celtics to nab a potentially dominant player at one of the frontcourt positions rather than upgrade on the perimeter, where they already have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder.

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