NBA Mock Draft 2016: Opening-Round Predictions and Rising Prospects to Watch

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2016

Feb 3, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies forward Marquese Chriss (0) dunks against Arizona State Sun Devils forward Obinna Oleka (5) during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of Cleveland and the Bay Area, basketball fans have started turning their full attention to the 2016 NBA draft.

The draft, held on June 23 in Brooklyn, New York, is just over two weeks away, and teams are starting to schedule their final workouts with prospects to piece together their draft boards.

The most dramatic shifting of prospects occurred back in May at the NBA Draft Combine, but there are still some late risers climbing up the boards.

Here's a look at an updated mock draft, followed by a closer view of three prospects on the rise: 

NBA Mock Draft
1.Philadelphia 76ersBen SimmonsFLSU
2.Los Angeles LakersBrandon IngramFDuke
3.Boston Celtics (via BKN)Marquese ChrissFWashington
4.Phoenix SunsDragan BenderF/CCroatia
5.Minnesota TimberwolvesJaylen BrownFCalifornia
6.New Orleans PelicansKris DunnPGProvidence
7.Denver Nuggets (via NYK)Jamal MurrayGKentucky
8.Sacramento KingsBuddy HieldGOklahoma
9.Toronto Raptors (via DEN)Jakob PoeltlCUtah
10.Milwaukee BucksHenry EllensonF/CMarquette
11.Orlando MagicDeyonta DavisF/CMichigan State
12.Utah JazzFurkan KorkmazG/FTurkey
13.Phoenix Suns (via WAS)Skal LabissiereF/CKentucky
14.Chicago BullsWade Baldwin IVGVanderbilt
15.Denver Nuggets (via HOU)Timothe LuwawuG/FFrance
16.Boston Celtics (via DAL)Taurean PrinceG/FBaylor
17.Memphis GrizzliesDemetrius JacksonGNotre Dame
18.Detroit PistonsDenzel ValentineG/FMichigan State
19.Denver Nuggets (via POR)Ivica ZubacCCroatia
20.Indiana PacersDomantas SabonisFGonzaga
21.Atlanta HawksDamian JonesCVanderbilt
22.Charlotte HornetsBrice JohnsonFNorth Carolina
23.Boston CelticsMalachi RichardsonGSyracuse
24.Philadelphia 76ers (via MIA)Tyler UlisPGKentucky
25.Los Angeles ClippersAnte ZizicCCroatia
26.Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC)Petr CornelieF/CFrance
27.Toronto RaptorsMalik BeasleyGFlorida State
28.Phoenix Suns (via CLE)Thon MakerCAustralia
29.San Antonio SpursJuan HernangomezFSpain
30.Golden State WarriorsBen BentilPFProvidence

Marquese Chriss, F, Washington

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: Marquese Chriss #0 of the Washington Huskies handles the ball against Elgin Cook #23 of the Oregon Ducks during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

NBA teams have become increasingly interested in putting the best athletes on the floor rather than strictly defining positions, and this strategy is benefiting prospects such as Washington's Marquese Chriss. 

Chriss, who played just one season at Washington, is raw, but his athleticism and size (6'10") give him the versatility teams covet.

Sports Illustrated's Andrew Sharp recently described Chriss as "likely the best athlete in the draft, with shooting touch out to three-point range."

Chriss has been a late riser in the draft process but now appears to be a top-10 lock and could potentially go higher. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders recently reported the Boston Celtics, who own the No. 3 overall selection, have Chriss among the top players on their board.

With Duke's Brandon Ingram and LSU's Ben Simmons locked in as the presumed top two selections, No. 3 could be the best-case scenario for Chriss.

Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia

Croatia's Ivica Zubac is a traditional center and one of the better post players in this year's draft class. 

In this era of the NBA, there are teams that won't be interested in Zubac, who appears to be a Timofey Mozgov type of athlete. But the teams that are interested in employing that type of post player have few options to choose from, which could boost Zubac's stock.

As a 19-year-old playing overseas, Zubac also has the option to stay with his team in Europe for a year before joining the NBA. 

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress described Zubac as a "late bloomer who is somewhat unpolished," which could entice a team to draft him with the intent to stash him. 

Zubac could be an ideal fit for the Denver Nuggets, who own three first-round picks and may have a hard time structuring their roster to accommodate three rookies for the 2016-17 season. 

Brice Johnson, F/C, North Carolina

Apr 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) grabs a rebound against Syracuse Orange forward Tyler Roberson (21) during the second half in the 2016 NCAA Men's Division I Championship semi-final game at NRG Stadium. Ma
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing a starring role for a national power, North Carolina's Brice Johnson hasn't attracted many headlines during the predraft process. That could start to change in the final weeks, as multiple teams appear to be interested in his services, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:

UNC's Brice Johnson is working out for the Phoenix Suns on June 8. Then, he'll be working out for the Denver Nuggets on June 9.

— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 3, 2016

One of the main criticisms of Johnson is his lack of bulk, especially considering the 6'10 ½", 209-pounder is best suited to play in the post. However, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports compared Johnson's body to Ed Davis, another former Tar Heels star who has developed into one of the most efficient rebounders in the league with the Portland Trail Blazers.

As a four-year prospect who improved steadily during his time at North Carolina, Johnson could interest a team such as the Charlotte Hornets, who will be looking to add a bench player who is capable of contributing immediately to help them make another playoff run.