NBA Draft 2016: Full 1st-Round Mock Draft, Most Surprising Potential Picks

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2016

Washington guard Dejounte Murray drives down the court against Stanford during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

After the first two picks, predicting the 2016 NBA draft becomes a difficult task. 

Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram appear destined to be the first two off the board, respectively. But what happens when the Boston Celtics are on the clock?

The options are an eclectic mix.

There are the experienced studs. Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield both dominated college basketball last season, but did so as fourth-year players.

Then there are the high-ceiling freshmen. Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray and Marquese Chriss could all be in play despite only showing flashes of brilliance in college.

Then there's the overseas option. Dragan Bender plays the part of the risky European pick with tremendous upside this year.

It's a draft where it feels like teams will have to make a decision between guys who could be key role players or swinging for the fences on a potential All-Star. There isn't a whole lot of middle ground.

Here's a look at my projections for the entire first round and a closer look at some potentially surprising picks in a draft that should be full of them. 

2016 NBA Mock Draft
1.Philadelphia 76ersBen SimmonsFLSU
2.Los Angeles LakersBrandon IngramFDuke
3.Boston Celtics (via BKN)Buddy HieldGOklahoma
4.Phoenix SunsDragan BenderF/CCroatia
5.Minnesota TimberwolvesKris DunnPGProvidence
6.New Orleans PelicansJaylen BrownSFCalifornia
7.Denver Nuggets (via NYK)Jamal MurrayGKentucky
8.Sacramento KingsMarquese ChrissFWashington
9.Toronto Raptors (via DEN)Deyonta DavisPFMichigan State
10.Milwaukee BucksDejounte MurrayGWashington
11.Orlando MagicJakob PoeltlF/CIowa
12.Utah JazzSkal LabissiereF/CKentucky
13.Phoenix Suns (via WAS)Henry EllensonF/CMarquette
14.Chicago BullsWade BaldwinPGVanderbilt
15.Denver Nuggets (via HOU)Domantas SabonisPFGonzaga
16.Boston Celtics (via DAL)Timothe LuwawuG/FFrance
17.Memphis GrizzliesDemetrious JacksonPGNotre Dame
18.Detroit PistonsThon MakerFAustralia
19.Denver Nuggets (via POR)Furkan KorkmazG/FTurkey
20.Indiana PacersDamian JonesF/CVanderbilt
21.Atlanta HawksIvica ZubacCCroatia
22.Charlotte HornetsDenzel ValentineG/FMichigan State
23.Boston CelticsBrice JohnsonF/CNorth Carolina
24.Philadelphia 76ers (via MIA)Tyler UlisPGKentucky
25.Los Angeles ClippersTaurean PrinceSFBaylor
26.Philadelphia 76ers (via OKC)Ante ZizicCCroatia
27.Toronto RaptorsMalachi RichardsonGSyracuse
28.Phoenix Suns (via CLE)DeAndre' BembrySFSt. Joseph's
29.San Antonio SpursCheick DialloF/CKansas
30.Golden State WarriorsMalik BeasleyGFlorida State

Potential Surprise Picks

Buddy Hield to Boston at No. 3

Apr 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) handles the ball against Villanova Wildcats forward Daniel Ochefu (23) during the second half in the 2016 NCAA Men's Division I Championship semi-final game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory C
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

NBA teams tend to draft based on what a player could be in the best case scenario rather than what they are right now. That's why seeing college seniors go in the top 10 is a rarity. Last year there were only four seniors taken in the entire first round. 

So seeing a senior like Buddy Hield going in the top three would be a surprise. 

However, the Celtics might go against the conventional wisdom and spring the first surprise of the draft by taking Hield. 

As a team, Boston loves taking threes (11th in attempts in 2015-16). Right now, that's a problem because they simply don't have many guys who can make them (28th in three-point percentage). 

That's where Hield comes in. He was the best three-point shooter in the country last season and compares favorably with the top shooters in the league coming out of college. Here's a look at how his stats from his final season at Oklahoma match up with the top five three-point shooters by percentage in their final year at college:

Sharpshooters' Final College Season
Buddy HieldOklahoma45.714725.0
J.J. RedickDuke42.113926.8
Stephen CurryDavidson38.713028.6
Kawhi LeonardSan Diego State29.12515.5
Jerryd BaylessArizona40.75919.7
Klay ThompsonWashington State39.89821.6

The Celtics are in an interesting position because they are a playoff team picking in the top 3. A trade for someone who is ready to play right away is definitely an option, but their status as contenders might push them to take someone who is NBA-ready right now. 

Hield might not be a superstar. He's more likely to be J.J. Redick than Steph Curry, but the Celtics could really use a player of Redick's caliber to take them to the next level. 

Don't be shocked if the Celtics opt for one of the more proven commodities in the draft early in Hield and use some of their seven remaining picks to take a swing on high-upside guys later. 

Dejounte Murray to Milwaukee at No. 10

Few players in the draft have a more fluid draft stock than Dejounte Murray. Plenty of talk has centered on Murray's teammate at Washington, Marquese Chriss, rising into the lottery, but the real surprise would be Murray also getting into the top 10.

Looking at mock drafts across the web, you can find Murray as high as No. 10. Chad Ford of ESPN also projects that the Bucks will take a shot at the guard. Then you can find him as low as the second round. DraftExpress has him pegged as Boston's selection at No. 35.

That's a huge range.

In a draft characterized by mystery prospects, that's to be expected. However, Ford, who is usually well-connected, feels his range is actually 10-20 as one of the point guards with the highest upside in the draft:

Chad Ford @chadfordinsider

.@DejounteMurray most upside of any PG in draft. Think he goes between 10-20. Bucks, Jazz, Grizz, Pacers like him. https://t.co/20k5ZlhaVr

If a team is going to take a gamble on Murray early, it should be the Bucks. Milwaukee continues to experiment with Giannis Antetokounmpo running the point, but it would be wise to pair him with a combo guard who can take over point guard duties should the experiment not turn out well. 

That's Murray. At 6'5" with a 6'9.5" wingspan, he has the skills to play off the ball on the offensive end and the length to match up with point guards and shooting guards on the defensive end. 

There are still concerns for Murray. He's only 170 pounds and will need to add bulk and strength to keep up with the rigors of NBA life, but the Bucks have taken risks on skinny players before. That's how they got Antetokounmpo in the first place. 

Thon Maker to Detroit at No. 18

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Murray's draft stock might fluctuate quite a bit, but no one is a bigger mystery than Thon Maker in this draft. 

Having graduated from high school in 2015, the NBA ruled that the 7'1" forward was eligible to declare for the draft despite not playing any college basketball. That makes his stock hard to gauge since he's essentially coming straight out of high school to the NBA. 

That used to be commonplace, but Maker's case is now a unique one. 

Watch any one of Maker's numerous YouTube mixtapes and you'll see a prospect with athleticism, handles and fluidity that few seven-footers have. Read what scouts are saying about him and his decision to forgo the opportunity to play college basketball and you'll get a mixed bag. 

One Eastern Conference scout feels that Maker shouldn't be in the first-round discussion, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com:

There is no way this kid should be in this year’s draft. He’s nowhere close to being ready to play or make any kind of impact that will help a team anytime soon. He’s one of those two years away from being two years away kind of players. If you take him near the end of the second round, he’s worth it. But a first-rounder? I just don’t see it.

Then there are those who believe he could be a lottery pick. Gery Woelful of the Racine Journal Times reports that a Western Conference scouting executive believes that Maker's range is the "lottery to No. 19." 

Ultimately, potential and upside tend to win out in the draft. Maker is far from a finished product, but the potential is easy to see. He's the kind of player who can expect to test well athletically and can convince a team that he's worth the investment early. 

That team could be the Detroit Pistons. They still need a stretch 4 that can pair with Andre Drummond to give them a formidable frontcourt. The team tried to acquire Donatas Motiejunas last season, but backed out due to health concerns. 

Maker is the kind of skilled big that could develop into what Motiejunas is and beyond. 

In a draft that is full of gambles, the Pistons might just be inclined to take one of the biggest gambles in the draft right after the lottery. 


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