NBA Mock Draft 2016: 1st-Round Predictions and Elite Prospects Breakdown

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistJune 8, 2016

California's Jaylen Brown (0) walks on the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Young Kwak/Associated Press

Even in a relatively shallow NBA draft class, several franchises have the opportunity to significantly improve their trajectories June 23. 

After the two elite talents at the top of the prospect pool—LSU's Ben Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram—there's a hodgepodge of future valuable role players and boom-or-bust types. Teams will not only have the unenviable task of deciding whether they want to be more or less risky, but they'll also need to figure out which players fit their rosters the best.

Let's predict the first round of the rapidly approaching draft and then break down the fits of the top five projected picks.

2016 1st-Round Mock Draft
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 KingsF Marquese Chriss, Washington
9Toronto Raptors (via Denver)PF/C Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
10Milwaukee BucksC Jakob Poeltl, Utah
11Orlando MagicSG Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey
12Utah JazzG/F Timothe Luwawu, France
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

Analyzing the Top Five Projected Picks

1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, F, LSU

Ben Simmons' playmaking ability on the Sixers would not only help him, but also his young frontcourt teammates.
Ben Simmons' playmaking ability on the Sixers would not only help him, but also his young frontcourt teammates.Samantha Baker/Associated Press/Associated Press

Philadelphia needs ball-handling and playmaking with a roster already heavy on big-man prospects, and the 6'10" Simmons just happens to thrive in those areas. With the highest ceiling in the draft, he also would immediately lift the spirits of a disillusioned Sixers fanbase.

While Simmons technically isn't a guard, he has the athleticism to play there in spurts and can give Philadelphia all sorts of lineup versatility as it looks to return to competitiveness under new general manager Bryan Colangelo.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke

The Lakers will probably just take whoever falls to them between Simmons and Ingram, but L.A. should be hoping that the Duke freshman stays on the board for it at No. 2. He doesn't have quite the MVP ceiling of Simmons, but that's OK—he has the sweet shooting stroke and defensive versatility that NBA teams are craving right now.

Don't be surprised if the Lakers become an above-average offensive team in Ingram's rookie year. With him, potentially all three of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle and a splashy free-agent signing, Los Angeles could immediately become a respectable squad. 

3. Boston Celtics: Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia

Admittedly, the Celtics would be rolling the dice here. Dragan Bender is a raw talent with relatively few accomplishments and modest production compared to most of his fellow lottery-bound prospects. Boston's management would be counting on its coaching staff to season the 18-year-old into a future star.

However, the Celtics are in good shape moving forward whether Bender fulfills his potential or is a complete bust. It's a worthwhile risk for them to take a big man with a rare blend of size (7'1", 225 lbs), mobility, shooting touch, passing ability and defensive versatility. He could end up being the superstar talent who eventually gets the squad over the top.

4. Phoenix Suns: Jaylen Brown, SF, California

With Simmons, Ingram and Bender off the board, the Suns will likely focus on the tier of four players directly behind them—California's Jaylen Brown, Kentucky's Jamal Murray, Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Providence's Kris Dunn.

Murray, Hield and Dunn are clear backcourt players, a positional group at which Phoenix is already set. Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker are currently the team's three most talented players, and they're all guards.

That leaves Brown, a hyperathletic 6'7", 223-pound small forward who's already a strong slasher and a great finisher in transition. Defensively, he has shown the potential to lock down his man on the ball. Also, Phoenix could use a blue-chip prospect at the 3 position, with T.J. Warren coming back from season-ending foot surgery and P.J. Tucker not being the long-term option there.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma

The Wolves already have their franchise cornerstones in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Buddy Hield would be perfect as Minnesota's No. 3 option.
The Wolves already have their franchise cornerstones in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Buddy Hield would be perfect as Minnesota's No. 3 option.Eric Gay/Associated Press

Minnesota should give Murray a long look here. He's an excellent shooter who can play off the ball, which is the type of player the team needs with Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins frequently handling the ball and Karl-Anthony Towns needing plenty of touches as well.

Hield is a better fit for the Wolves, though. While the 22-year-old has three years of seniority on Murray, he's an even better shooter and a steadier defender, which could help accelerate the Wolves' rebuild under new head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Minnesota's youngsters are ready to move forward on the road toward contention, and worrying about playing a younger, defensively challenged guy like Murray could delay that process.


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