2016 NBA Draft Preseason Big Board: Labissiere, Simmons lead way

The NBA Draft cycle really has become a year-round phenomenon over the last decade, with the best prospects going overseas to play in worldwide tournaments and college teams working out earlier than ever with overseas trips.

So with the start of the college basketball season now 59 days away, it’s time for the 2016 NBA Draft season to tip off. Within this post, you will find the top 150 players that I’m looking forward to seeing this coming season.

At the top, you will find Skal Labissiere and Ben Simmons, the Nos. 1 and 2 players entering the college basketball season. These two players really are interchangeable at the top. Simmons is the more decorated of the two, known as the top player in his age group for the past few seasons due to his incredible skills and guard-like fluidity. He’s a terrific point forward for the college game, and it’s not tough to see a world where he goes on to be the No. 1 overall pick next June and then rocket himself into stardom as an NBA rookie. His ability to handle the ball and create plays for others is that strong, and really the only major question mark remaining about his game is the jumper.

On the other side of that is Labissiere, the 7-foot Haitian big man who will be headed to Kentucky this fall. He’s much more of a question at this point simply due to the fact that he hasn’t played a ton of organized basketball over the course of the last two years. However, this past April at the Nike Hoop Summit, Labissiere reminded NBA scouts why he was so highly rated to start. He dazzled all week in Portland, running perfect pick-and-rolls/pops with international point guards, showcasing incredible athletic fluidity for a 7-footer, and knocking down jumpers with tremendous lift and a high, nearly unblockable release point. I think it’s fair to say that he has more upside than anyone in this class, and that’s why he’s currently the No. 1 player on my board despite Simmons being more of a sure thing. The game just comes naturally to him, and it’ll be fun to watch him get more experience under his belt this year.

Ben Simmons figures to dominate college basketball this season. (USATSI)
Ben Simmons figures to dominate college basketball this season. (USATSI)

Beyond those two, it’s worth noting that things are really wide open for the taking. Guys like Jaylen Brown and Dragan Bender, Nos. 3 and 4 on this board, could easily rise up to that level with strong seasons and become the No. 1 overall guy. Same with players like Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray and Brandon Ingram. Unlike the last two years, where it seemed like in the preseason there was a pretty set battle at the top (Jahlil Okafor vs. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker), I wouldn’t necessarily count the guys below that top tier of two out.

It also speaks generally to the strength of this class. From speaking to people around the league and from having personally scouted this class pretty extensively, this class does seem to lack the star power of the last two drafts, and it certainly lacks the excitement of the 2017 draft class, one that already has scouts drooling. Many of last season’s collegiate stars have moved on to the NBA, and the 2015 high school class isn’t one that inspires the masses. For this draft to move up onto that tier of strength, some players are really going to need to develop beyond what they’ve shown already.

A quick breakdown of who is included on this board:

  • 13 freshmen, including 10 in the lottery (I only rank freshmen that would be included within the top 50 prospects. The player that affects most is Jalen Brunson, who would have been the No. 52 prospect).
  • 27 sophomores
  • 27 juniors
  • 45 seniors
  • 38 international players, including four in the top-30

Also, a quick breakdown of tiers. Any preseason draft board like this is going to look different than the final product before the draft. Especially a board of 150 players, where you’re really checking the margins for players who could become household names by the end of the year and for players that could eventually have lucrative European careers. Because of that, a tier system is often useful for grouping players that are relatively close in skill.

  • Tier 1: 1-4
  • Tier 2: 5-7
  • Tier 3: 8-14
  • Tier 4: 15-28
  • Tier 5: 29-56
  • Tier 6: 57-84
  • Tier 7: 85-125
  • Tier 8: 126-150

Without further ado, here are my top-150 guys to watch for the upcoming draft season:

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