Chad Ford NBA Mock Draft 2016: Notable Picks from ESPN Guru's 8th Mock

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2016

Nov 19, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies forward Marquese Chriss (0) dribbles the ball against the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Huskies won 100-67. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons and Duke Blue Devils swingman Brandon Ingram are the presumptive top two picks in the 2016 NBA draft. But with less than three weeks to go until the Philadelphia 76ers are on the clock at No. 1 overall, uncertainty reigns supreme behind the standout freshmen.

In Chad Ford's latest mock draft entry for ESPN.com, that much is clear, as significant shake-ups in the early stages of the lottery have muddied the picture quite a bit.

Here's a look at Ford's most recent projections:

Chad Ford's NBA Mock Draft 8.0
1Philadelphia 76ersBen Simmons, F, LSU
2Los Angeles LakersBrandon Ingram, F, Duke
3Boston CelticsKris Dunn, G, Providence
4Phoenix SunsMarquese Chriss, F, Washington
5Minnesota TimberwolvesJamal Murray, G, Kentucky
6New Orleans PelicansDragan Bender, F/C, Croatia
7Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)Jaylen Brown, F, California
8Sacramento KingsBuddy Hield, G, Oklahoma
9Toronto Raptors (via Denver Nuggets)Henry Ellenson, F, Marquette
10Milwaukee BucksDejounte Murray, G, Washington
11Orlando MagicSkal Labissiere, F/C, Kentucky
12Utah JazzJakob Poeltl, C, Utah
13Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards)Wade Baldwin IV, G, Vanderbilt
14Chicago BullsDeyonta Davis, F, Michigan State
15Denver Nuggets (via Houston Rockets)Furkan Korkmaz, G, Turkey
16Boston Celtics (via Dallas Mavericks)Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
17Memphis GrizzliesIvica Zubac, C, Bosnia
18Detroit PistonsDenzel Valentine, G/F, Michigan State
19Denver Nuggets (via Portland Trail Blazers)Thon Maker, F, Australia
20Indiana PacersDomantas Sabonis, F/C, Gonzaga
21Atlanta HawksMalachi Richardson, G, Syracuse
22Charlotte HornetsMalik Beasley, G, Florida State
23Boston CelticsCheick Diallo, F, Kansas
24Philadelphia 76ers (via Miami Heat)Tyler Ulis, G, Kentucky
25Los Angeles ClippersDeAndre Bembry, F, Saint Joseph's
26Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City Thunder)Patrick McCaw, G, UNLV
27Toronto RaptorsGuerschon Yabusele, F, France
28Phoenix Suns (via Cleveland Cavaliers)Juan Hernangomez, F, Spain
29San Antonio SpursDemetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame
30Golden State WarriorsDamian Jones, C, Vanderbilt
Source: ESPN.com

3. Celtics Select Kris Dunn

The Boston Celtics backcourt is already stocked with plenty of top-tier talent in the form of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. However, Ford doesn't see that depth standing in the way of the Celtics drafting Providence Friars point guard Kris Dunn.

Although Ford wrote, "Trading the pick seems like the most probable route if they can fetch a young veteran in return," he noted, "Dunn seems like less of a fit until you realize that he would be the best pure point guard on the roster—right away."

While that's quite a lofty statement since Thomas was one of eight players—along with Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, James Harden, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard and Eric Bledsoe—to average at least 20 points and six assists during the 2015-16 season, the prospect of adding Dunn is a compelling one.

Dunn is a tenacious on-ball defender and could immediately give Boston the league's most dominant defensive backcourt, as Bradley is already a first-team All-Defense contributor and Smart is among the league's brightest up-and-coming lockdown presences.

"He's so disruptive to someone's offense," Providence head coach Ed Cooley said, according to the Providence Journal's Kevin McNamara. "How he rebounds and how he defends, his deflections. I think he's a dominant defensive guard, as disruptive as anyone I've ever seen."

The Celtics may have more pressing needs in the frontcourt, but if they deem Dunn head-and-shoulders above the likes of Dragan Bender and Washington big man Marquese Chriss, Boston will soon boast one of the most intimidating backcourts in the league.

4. Suns Snag Marquese Chriss

Speaking of Chriss, the bouncy, upside-packed prospect out of the Pacific Northwest has emerged as the biggest riser in mock drafts over the past week.

Not only does Ford have him up five spots from his last mock daft, but DraftExpress currently has Chriss slotted in at No. 3 overall to the Celtics.

According to Ford, the reason for Chriss' vault up draft boards has everything to do with potential:

The Suns need a stretch-4 in the worst way and there are three legitimate options in this range: Chriss, [Dragan] Bender and Henry Ellenson. Don't be surprised if they choose Chriss. While Bender and Ellenson may bring a little more to the table right away, Chriss is a much better athlete and has an even higher ceiling.

The Suns have solid bigs like Alex Len and Tyson Chandler in the rotation already, but they're currently without a reliable stretch 4 since Mirza Teletovic is slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Adding Chriss to the mix would be a wise move. Although he's still raw in a number of areas, he made the most of his minutes during his lone season at Washington. In just under 25 minutes per game, Chriss poured in an average of 13.8 points, grabbed 5.4 rebounds and swatted 1.6 shots.

Chriss also converted 53 percent of his total field-goal attempts and 35 percent of his threes in a 60-shot sample from beyond the arc. And according to Hoop-Math.com, Chriss knocked down 43.9 percent of his two-point jumpers.

Considering Chriss is just 18 years old, those sort of skills are worth salivating over as draft day nears.

18. Denzel Valentine Stays in Michigan

Ford projected Michigan State Spartans standout Denzel Valentine to be selected in the lottery just three weeks ago, but his latest mock effort has the 2015-16 Associated Press Player of the Year dropping to the Detroit Pistons at No. 18 overall.

In terms of value, it doesn't get much better than that for the Motor City ballers.

Although Valentine has often been stigmatized as a safer pick who doesn't offer much upside since he maxed out his college experience and played four years with the Spartans, he can offer Detroit playmaking in a variety of facets.

Not only can he operate as a primary or secondary ball-handler, but he's capable of thriving off the ball and serving as a catch-and-shoot threat from beyond the arc.

To put his versatility in perspective, Valentine is the only player in Sports-Reference.com's database (which dates back to 1993) who has averaged at least 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists over the course of a single college season.

With the Pistons, Valentine would be a natural fit. The Eastern Conference playoff qualifiers took a major step forward during the 2015-16 season, but they still lack reliable secondary and tertiary playmakers behind point guard Reggie Jackson.

Golden State Warriors and former Spartans forward Draymond Green said Valentine reminds him of a smaller version of himself, per USA Today's Michael Singer:

He's the guard version of me. Is he a 1 or a 2? He's a basketball player. Put him at the 1, 2, or 3, he's going to get it done. He's going to make plays. He's going to score the basketball. He can defend. He works his ass off.