With the NBA Draft just one day away there are seemingly more questions than answers surrounding the class of 2016. It’s believed that the first eight players in the draft below are set, order to be determined, leaving the Raptors in a tough spot drafting at No.9.
The following doesn’t take into account potential trades, of which there are expected to be many.
So without further ado, let’s mock:
1. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Ben Simmons, SF/PF, LSU (via Australia): Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers have reportedly already informed the versatile, uber-athletic Simmons that he’s their man. Former GM Sam Hinkie may have been ousted, but his “Process” is paying off should Philly land the most promising prospect in the draft, a future star in the making.
2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke: Not a bad consolation prize at all, Ingram projects to be a go-to scorer at the NBA level, something the Lakers desperately need. There are rumours that Los Angeles is trying to trade for another pick in the top six (with D’Angelo Russell’s name floated as trade bait) in order select Buddy Hield as well, whom Kobe Bryant happens to be a big supporter of.
3. BOSTON CELTICS
Dragan Bender, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel, via Croatia): Here’s where things get interesting and the real draft begins. Providence’s Kris Dunn is believed to be the consensus No.3 ranked prospect on most teams’ draft boards, yet the Celtics already have a pair of point guards and Dunn is good enough to log solid minutes from day one. The Celts would prefer to trade their pick, but Bender, who can stretch the floor with the best of the bigs in this class, fits the mould of what coach Brad Stevens wants in a power forward. Washington’s Marquese Chriss is the other logical option here, though projects to be a longer-term project which may not suit Boston, who feel they’re close to contending in the East.
4. PHOENIX SUNS
Jaylen Brown, SF, California: Steadily rising up most draft boards over the last week or so, Brown has impressed in workouts and his defense and athleticism make it easy to picture him tearing it up on an NBA court in the near future. The knock is shooting, but it’s easier to turn a player into a passable shooter than to teach defensive instincts like Brown possesses.
5. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence: You’d have to imagine this would be a dream scenario for the Timberwolves, who land a natural successor to Ricky Rubio. Dunn is an NBA-ready lead guard who’ll find plenty of ways to be effective running the point on a team with weapons like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine at his disposal. Jamal Murray is tempting here, but there may be concerns with overlap/redundancies with both he and LaVine, who project to fill a similar role.
6. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky (via Canada): Brown would have been a nice fit here, but this’ll come down to which volume scorer the Pelicans like better: Murray or Hield. Both should be effective scorers (with Hield’s game slightly more translatable), but the Pelicans desperately need to add star power to their roster, and despite concerns over his ability to run the point, Murray could be something special if he lands in the right situation.
7. DENVER NUGGETS
Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington: Just about as far as I can see him dropping. Considered the most athletic player in the draft save for Simmons, Chriss is a total risk/reward pick that a team like the Nuggets, who are still stockpiling assets as part of their rebuild, will have the patience to develop. The emergence of Will Barton and Gary Harris last season is enough to pass on the other logical pick here, Hield.
8. SACRAMENTO KINGS
Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma: Call it a redo on the Nik Stauskas pick two seasons ago, the Kings finally land their 3-point threat at shooting guard with the hopes that DeMarcus Cousins’ presence down low will help open the court for Hield to let it fly— a scary notion for a player who managed to shot 46% from deep with teams double-teaming him in college.
9. TORONTO RAPTORS
Domantas Sabonis, PF/C, Gonzaga: Welcome to the draft’s third tier. There isn’t really a player on the board who can step in and help right away, and depending on how things shake out on draft night it could be difficult to move the pick for a more-coveted veteran.
The Raptors were impressed by Sabonis at his pre-draft workout in Toronto, and while other bigs remaining may have a higher upside, Sabonis’ high basketball IQ, passing skills, and tenaciousness on the glass make him an intriguing prospect. Don’t worry about how he’d fit alongside Valanciunas (ideally you’d want someone who stretches the floor and protects the paint a little better) because no matter who is selected here there won’t be expectations for the player to log heavy minutes with the Raptors’ starters anyways.
10. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah (via Austria): A poor showing at the NCAA Tournament (where he was truly dominated by Sabonis vs. Gonzaga) hurt his draft stock, but Poeltl has legit size and should develop an effective arsenal of low-post moves which should serve the Bucks well down the line. Milwaukee needs a point guard, but may feel it’s too big of a reach at this spot and could trade down as a result.
11. ORLANDO MAGIC
Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky: A total project, and his disappointing college season is certainly a red flag. But Labissiere has all the physical tools to be an effective two-way player, and his shot-blocking ability should be attractive to a defensive-minded coach like Frank Vogel.
12. ATLANTA HAWKS
Wade Baldwin, PG, Vanderbilt: This was who I had the Utah Jazz selecting when they owned this pick before trading it yesterday in a three-team deal for George Hill. The Hawks sent Jeff Teague to the Pacers as part of the deal, in an effort to both shed salary and promote Dennis Schroeder. But now they need a backup, and Baldwin is worth grooming. He has an insane wingspan and should be able to defend both guard positions at the next level. Baldwin most certainly won’t be on the board when the Hawks pick at 21, but there should still be plenty of intriguing big men.
13. PHOENIX SUNS
Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State: A big-time athlete and high-ceiling prospect, the Suns need help in their frontcourt, and while Davis will likely need to see some time in the D-League, you could do a lot worse this late into the lottery.
14. CHICAGO BULLS
Dejounte Murray, G, Washington: A very raw prospect, Murray showed off a versatile game in his lone college season, and has the size and speed to adapt to the next level. He won’t be ready to play right away, but for a team like the Bulls on the brink of blowing it all up, Murray could be a valuable asset down the line.
15. DENVER NUGGETS
Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette: You know somebody’s going to fall, and even though Denver is already loaded with young talent in their frontcourt they’d be thrilled if Ellenson dropped this far. He’s one of the harder players to project because on the one hand his shooting ability for a big man makes it easy to picture him stretching the floor at the next level, but concerns over his limited jumping ability and seeming inability to rebound in bulk are major red flags.
16. BOSTON CELTICS
Timothe Luwawu, G/F, Mega-Leks (Serbia, via France): Their second of eight picks in this draft, Luwawu has shown flashes of brilliance overseas and has good size for the NBA, where he should be able to develop into a decent scorer with some seasoning.
17. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State: Terrific shooter who will have the chance to earn minutes right away on a Grizzlies team at the crossroads and in serious need of perimeter scoring.
18. DETROIT PISTONS
Malachi Richardson, G/F, Syracuse: Always hard to project Syracuse players, but Richardson impressed at college, a spot scorer and good rebounder for his position.
19. DENVER NUGGETS
Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor: What you see is what you get: a defensive-minded wing who projects to find a comfortable role off the bench at the NBA level.
20. INDIANA PACERS
Juan Hernangomez, F, Estudiantes (Spain): One of the more interesting prospects, Hernangomez, 20, was excellent last season playing in Spain’s top pro league, which is extremely rare for a player his age. A natural face-up four, his game should translate nicely. He could be an absolute steal…or never play a game in the NBA. Yay, drafts.
21. ATLANTA HAWKS
Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt: He’s big, strong, fast, and has good touch down low. With Al Horford’s future in ATL up in the air and a lack of depth at centre, look for the Hawks to go big with this pick.
22. CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Furkan Kormaz, SG, Anadolu Efes (Turkey): Not so long ago considered a lottery pick, Kormaz is one of the better three-point shooters in the draft, an area in which the Hornets could certainly use a boost.
23. BOSTON CELTICS
Denzel Valentine, G/F, Michigan State: Valentine absolutely dominated in his senior year last season, but questions over his size and athleticism has led many to believe his game won’t translate to the NBA as well as most. At 22 overall, it’s as good a spot as any to roll the dice and find out.
24. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina: A proven winner who’s aggressiveness on the boards should help make him an effective player in the not-too-distant future.
25. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Patrick McCaw, SG, UNLV: Some of the buzz surrounding him earlier in the pre-draft process has worn off, but McCaw is worth a gamble for a team in need of help on the wing.
26. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Demetrious Jackson, PG, Notre Dame: In the game of stockpiling assets, Jackson is a promising piece, particularly this late in the draft (and on a team with no real future plan at the point).
27. TORONTO RAPTORS
Ivica Zubac, C, Mega Leks (France, via Bosnia): Just 19 and with terrific size (7’1”, 265-lbs), he’s pegged to go in the early-mid 20s on most mock drafts. A foot injury kept Zubac off the floor, making him one of the harder prospects to scout, but given that the Raps would be taking a flier on whomever they select here and stashing the pick in the D-League or overseas (…if it’s not traded) Masai Ujiri & Co. would be happy to see the big man fall to 27.
28. PHOENIX SUNS
Ante Zizic, C, Cibona Zagreb (Croatia): Another 7-foot 19-year old, we can’t really be sure if Zizic and Zubac aren’t in fact the same person.
29. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Guerschon Yabusele, PF, Rouen (France): A late-bloomer, Yabusele is a high-potential flier whom the Spurs can mould to fit their system.
30. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Diamond Stone, C, Maryland: Looked like a bona fide lottery pick at times during his freshman season, Stone provides instant depth to a team that was exposed at centre once Andrew Bogut went down in the Finals.