We’re halfway through the 2015-16 college basketball season and about six months out from the NBA Draft. That means it’s time to update the CBS Sports Big Board for the 2016 draft.
This draft is shaping up to be the weakest since the 2013 draft, and is also trending to be considerably weaker than the 2017 iteration. The reason for that largely has to do with the lack of players who have truly stepped forward as elite prospects to this point.
Ben Simmons has been as good as advertised at LSU, but he’s far from a perfect prospect due to his lack of shooting ability and defense. Opinion is pretty split on whether or not he’s a future all-star or merely just what will be a very good player due to the fairly glaring current weaknesses in his game. Only recently has Duke’s Brandon Ingram put his name into the mix for the No. 1 overall spot after a few rough games to start his season. Dragan Bender is only playing 10 minutes per game in Israel, which isn’t bad at all on a Euroleague team for an 18-year-old but it also doesn’t give him a chance to really make a leap up draft boards. Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere has truly underwhelmed, driving his stock down from its preseason heights. Guys like Jamal Murray and Jaylen Brown have merely been fine.
Basically, no one has really stepped up and taken spots away from other players. That could change as we continue to push through the season. It’s also worth noting that this draft could end up having a particular amount of depth as players could declare in order to avoid the 2017 draft, which already looks to feature an elite high school class as well as an elite international class. But for now, the lack of starpower and high level upside in the lottery — especially beyond the top-three — makes this class one of the more underwhelming ones we’ve seen recently.
The best comparison at this point in regard to the draft’s strength might be to the 2011 draft. That draft had one player that most had at the top in Kyrie Irving, another player who was a minority opinion as best player in the draft in Derrick Williams, followed by a large group of players in the Nos. 3 through 11 spots who each had their fans. Now, players like Reggie Jackson, Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard later in the first round have stepped up to give that draft further depth over the last few years, but it’s hard to come away from that lottery thinking it was anything but underwhelming.
This one could be the same, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise. Here are some other notes:
- As usual with this board, it’s worth pointing out that I do not rank freshmen higher than No. 50 due to the fact that they are unlikely to declare. The players who would slot somewhere in the top 100 are Deyonta Davis, Caleb Swanigan, Jalen Brunson, Tyler Dorsey, Marquese Chriss, and Dedric Lawson. If they end up declaring at the end or move into the top 50, you’ll see them.
- As noted above, the battle for the top spot is heating up a bit. Simmons would likely be the first pick if the draft was held today, but Ingram is closing in fast. Scouts love Ingram’s length, feel for the game, defensive activity level, and ability to shoot at nearly 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan. It’s not a sure thing Simmons goes No. 1, and he’ll need to continue to play well to consolidate that ranking.
- One thing that could prop up this draft is the international class. I have 14 internationals ranked in my top 62 at the moment, led by Dragan Bender. Bender is a 7-1 forward prospect who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, and getting pretty genuine minutes for a team in the Euroleague. He’s a great lateral athlete who defends, has great basketball sense, and has also improved as a jump shooter in the last year. It would not surprise me if he ends up in the first overall discussion as long as his buyout situation is not particularly cumbersome (it may be, as he’s currently on what’s known as a 4+3 deal in Israel, with two years remaining after this one in the first portion. The figures to buy him out before then are not known).
- Some guys who have risen up the board since the preseason: Ivan Rabb (now No. 14), Denzel Valentine (No. 22), Malik Beasley (No. 37), and Patrick McCaw (No. 41). It’s also worth pointing out that both Pascal Siakam and Kahlil Felder have entered the mix from smaller schools.
- Guys who have fallen include Labissiere, Malik Newman, Malik Pope, and Diamond Stone. Labissiere only moves to No. 6 because, again, very few players have really stepped up and made it totally worthwhile to pass his upside.
- The toughest guy to peg right now: Dwayne Bacon of Florida State. Mostly, that’s because he has one of the most unique situations in the entire draft. On one hand, he’s averaging 17.8 points-per-game as a freshman and has clear NBA athleticism and size. On the other hand, he’s scored nearly half of his points in transition, was shooting 29.3 percent on jumpers before an explosion on Tuesday night against Florida, and will be 21-years-old before ever playing an NBA game if he declares this year. I’ve basically split the difference and put him at No. 38. My guess is that by the end of the year, Bacon will probably be seen as a first-round pick. But the shooting has to come around, and he has to continue to be as effective in the halfcourt as he was in the Seminoles’ rivalry game against the Gators.
So without further ado, here is your CBS Sports Big Board, featuring the top 150 players for the 2016 NBA Draft.