2016 NBA Mock Draft: Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram off board first

NBA Mock Draft – 02/26/2016 Round 1 1. Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons, F, LSU: The 76ers are going to take the best player with the highest ceiling, not the best fit for the roster. And while I do think there’s a chance they believe Ingram to be that guy — after all, he is nearly 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan, can shoot the lights out, and is over a year younger than Simmons — I’m still of the opinion that Simmons is that guy. The 6-foot-10 LSU forward has preternatural basketball sense, terrific rebounding ability, he can finish around the rim, and he’s probably the best transition player to enter the draft since LeBron James. That doesn’t make him anywhere near the prospect LeBron is, but it does make him a guy who could grow into one of the better players in the NBA if he can improve his defensive effort and become a shooter. 2. Los Angeles Lakers Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke: This isn’t exactly a consolation prize, as Ingram is a terrific prospect in his own right for many of the aforementioned reasons. He’s big, long, can shoot, and will fit the modern NBA game perfectly once the rest of his frame fills out. He should be able to slide seamlessly between the 3 and 4, as he’s tough and embraces contact. He does need to improve his game off the dribble and just round out his skill-set, but this would be a pretty great fit for the Lakers, who are building around D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. 3. Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender, PF, Israel: Bender is this year’s European prospect who will have plenty of words spilled on his contract situation. Last year it was Kristaps Porzingis. The year before it was Dario Saric. The deal with Bender is that he’s on what’s referred to as a ‘4+3’ contract, where the final three years are an option. He’s in Year Two of that deal, meaning he’s still two years away from the break point of the deal. However, before he gets there the team that selects him will be able buy him out of that deal before the option. The buyout number is unknown at this point, but it should be negotiable between the three parties (Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team selecting him, and Bender’s camp). That’s a lot of uncertainty, which means some suitors could be turned off and some could be stonewalled by Bender’s camp. Having said all of this though, Bender is clearly in the top tier of prospects in this class, and would be an excellent addition to Phoenix if he decides to declare. 4. Boston Celtics Jaylen Brown, F, California: Brown has come on for Cal in the final two-thirds of the Pac-12 season, playing like one of the best players in the entire conference. He’s scoring 17 points and grabbing five rebounds per game during league play, plus he’s showing off a lot of skill in the way of defense and passing ability. Over the last few years, Boston has prioritized getting versatile players who can play multiple position, and Brown should be able to effortlessly move between the 2 and the 4. The key for his development will be with the jump shot. If he can become a threat from beyond the arc, he has all-star potential. 5. Minnesota Timberwolves Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky: Murray is another freshman who has really come on during conference season. His scoring ability is unmatched in college hoops, as he has the handle to get into the lane and shoot off the dribble as well as the knockdown shooting skill from deep off the catch. He’d be perfect in between Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins for that reason. He can space the floor for them, and also he can play a bit on ball as a point guard if the Wolves want to utilize Rubio’s IQ off ball, where he’s a terrific cutter without the basketball. I really like this fit for Minnesota. 6. Denver Nuggets Timothe Luwawu, SG, France: Look, this is undeniably a reach for Luwawu. But the reasons for it — without projecting a trade for the Nuggets — are justifiable. More than anything, the team needs help on the wing as they’re extremely thin. Only Gary Harris and Will Barton look likely to return next year. Luwawu is a high-upside combo wing who has great length and athleticism, along with solid ball-handling ability and an improving shot. At just 20 years old, he’s second in the Adriatic League (a place they’re familiar with having scouted Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic there) in scoring and fourth in steals. It’s a risk to take him this high, but he could end up really working out for the Nuggets. 7. Toronto Raptors (via New York Knicks) Henry Ellenson, PF-C, Marquette: Rumor had it at the deadline that the Raptors were looking to upgrade the power forward position. Ellenson fits perfectly there, and his skill set matches what they’d be looking for from the position. He can knock down shots from the outside, really pass the ball and make smart decisions, and post inside with strong ball-handling skill and a low center of gravity. Defensively he’s not nearly the player he needs to be yet, but he is a good rebounder and could contribute there early. 8. Sacramento Kings Kris Dunn, PG, Providence: This is a bit of a steal for the Kings, who would likely be thrilled to end up with a talent like Dunn at No. 8. The problem is just simply that none of the teams above them need a point guard. Minnesota has Rubio. Denver has Emmanuel Mudiay. Toronto has Kyle Lowry and just drafted Delon Wright. Boston has 100 guards. Phoenix has both Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. The Lakers have Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. Unless the 76ers get the Lakers’ pick if it falls below No. 3, it might be pretty tough for Dunn to find a home before this. No matter though, the Kings would be a nice fit for him with a terrific low-post scorer in DeMarcus Cousins and a great pick-and-roll/transition partner in Willie Cauley-Stein. 9. New Orleans Pelicans Jakob Poeltl, PF, Utah: The Pelicans have said for a while that they view Anthony Davis as a 4 and want to protect him from the pounding taken by centers. With Omer Asik basically looking like a sunk cost for the next three seasons, it would probably be smart for the Pelicans to invest in a center if they want to continue utilizing Davis away from the middle. Poeltl would work with Davis, as Davis is a terrific pick-and-roll 4 who can stretch the floor, and Poeltl is a great post big man. He?s also physical and athletic, and might be able to work well in an uptempo scheme. 10. Orlando Magic Ivan Rabb, PF, California: Orlando tends to like younger players with high upside, and also highly value character. Rabb ticks a lot of those boxes as one of the youngest players in the draft of those boxes, although his upside may not be as high as the typical freshman. He’s not the most athletic kid, but he’s a fluid athlete who is basically ambidextrous around the rim and can finish from a variety of places on the floor. He’s also an extremely smart player who doesn’t really every try to do too much. There’s some question as to whether or not his best position will be as a 4 or as a 5 (I lean toward 5 once he fills out his skinny frame), but he should be a pretty solid player in the NBA and the Magic could use another big man. 11. Milwaukee Bucks Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame: The Michael Carter-Williams deal hasn’t exactly worked out well for the Bucks, and they could be in the market for a point guard this offseason. Even if Carter-Williams stays, Jackson could be a nice fit as he brings a lot of the stuff Carter-Williams doesn’t. He can score from all three levels, he’s a terrific pick-and-roll guard, and does an excellent job of keeping the floor spaced on offense. There’s a lot to like about Jackson, and he would fit really well with the team Milwaukee is building. 12. Houston Rockets Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma: Hield could go in the top-10 by the time draft interviews and workouts are done, but for now No. 12 seems to be a nice spot for him. His ability to space the floor and knock down 3s could fit really well with a Rockets team that jacks up a ton of them. He’d also work pretty well in lineups with James Harden due to his ability to shoot and his potential on the defensive end. 13. Phoenix Suns Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State: Valentine has been coming on strong lately for Michigan State, making his case for national player of the year. It just feels right to have he and Hield right next to each other on a mock draft as well. The 6-foot-5 guard will have some athleticism questions, but he has long arms, cares defensively, can really shoot the basketball, and not only makes terrific decisions with the basketball, but he genuinely makes plays for teammates. A lot of the NBA now is the ability to be a playmaker and decision-maker, not just a shooter or scorer. Valentine has that going for him in spades, and Suns could use someone like that next to Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, neither of whom are true point guards. 14. Detroit Pistons Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky: Then below the two national player of the year candidates comes the most disappointing player in the country in Labissiere. The reason he continues to rate so highly largely has to do with the fact that no one else has truly stepped up to take this mantle away from him. He’d be a really strong fit in Detroit though, where his ability to play as a floor-spacing, rim-protecting 4 would fit perfectly with Andre Drummond at the 5 and with Stan Van Gundy in his system. If he could land here, maybe everything would be well for the Kentucky prospect. 15. Boston Celtics Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey: The Celtics have about a million picks in this draft, and are going to have to use some to stash players. Korkmaz is a pretty nice option to stash if he declares, as he’s a really nice, fluid athlete who has a high basketball IQ. He’s really skinny and needs to do some work on his body going forward, but at 6-foot-7 he’s really creative, he can shoot the ball, and he’s a strong passer. There aren’t many high-end wings in this draft, but Korkmaz could fit that bill. 16. Utah Jazz Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor: Prince is another wing that could fit well in a lot of places, and he could even see some time as a small-ball 4 due to his potential defensive versatility. At 6-8 with a near 7-foot wingspan and a near 8-11 standing reach, Prince is going have a lot of potential to help you out in a variety of ways. He’s also young for a senior and doesn’t turn 22 until August. He knocks down 3s, can score, and he has prototypical size for the NBA. He’s also shown some growth as a passer and playmaker this season at Baylor. These are the kind of guys whose value is skyrocketing in the NBA right now, and there just aren?t many like him in this draft. 17. Charlotte Hornets Wade Baldwin IV, SG, Vanderbilt: The Hornets could really use a true 2 guard to develop, but it’s tough to see them reaching for one like Grayson Allen or Malik Beasley here. So instead, they look to shore up the point guard spot while also getting a player who might be able to see some time in two-point guard lineups with Kemba Walker. Baldwin has a ton of defensive potential due to his 6-10 wingspan, and he’s also a strong athlete who can push the action in transition as well as shoot. He passes, scores, and has terrific defensive potential. That?s the kind of guy the Hornets could use. 18. Denver Nuggets Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain: It’s probably slightly unfair to just assume the Nuggets are going to go European, and I didn’t do this purposely. However, a combo forward like Hernangomez could really work for the Nuggets if they decide to make a move with Danilo Gallinari this offseason. For his part, Hernangomez is putting up great numbers in the ACB League in Spain this season at only 20 years old, averaging 10 points and six rebounds. His advanced numbers are also all terrific as he has a 59 true-shooting percentage and solid defensive rebounding rate of 24 percent. There aren’t many 20-year-olds who could up a 20.5 PER while playing nearly 25 minutes per game in that league, and he’s a very deserving first-round pick. 19. Atlanta Hawks Diamond Stone, C, Maryland: Stone could go much higher than this, but he also has a chance to be a bit of a faller by the time the draft actually comes around. The NBA simply doesn’t have as much use for players like him anymore. He’s a big-bodied post player who doesn’t have great post moves, doesn’t score much from outside of four feet, and can’t defend the pick-and-roll. Having said that, he does have terrific touch, and his ability to protect the rim has been solid for Maryland this season. Those are skills that still have value, and the Hawks might have use for another big man if Al Horford leaves this offseason. 20. Indiana Pacers Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga: The Pacers tend not to select European players, but given that Sabonis has been in college the last two seasons I think they can make an exception. Sabonis has an extremely polished game, and might be able to step in quickly and help a Pacers team that really needs help at both forward spots. He’s not a perfect prospect, as he doesn’t have terrific explosiveness and his wingspan isn’t great. But he’s one of the smartest players you’ll find and he can really rebound and move laterally. He should have a nice NBA career, and that’s the kind of player the Pacers could pair well with Myles Turner and Paul George, both of whom have tremendous length for their positions. 21. Philadelphia 76ers Grayson Allen, SG, Duke: Philadelphia needs guards who can create offense, and Allen fits that to a T. He has solid ball-handling ability, and can really shoot from distance. He has had some issues with length this season, but he’s a good athlete who is learning how to avoid those problems by embracing contact and getting to the line. Allen would be a nice pickup for a team that can use all the offensive efficiency it can get. 22. Memphis Grizzlies Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky: This might be higher than most people have Ulis. I get that. But this kid is just tough, and he’s one of the few rookies who could step into that Memphis locker room and command respect from Day One. That’s just the kind of player and leader he is. And with Mike Conley’s free agency on the docket — as well as backup Mario Chalmers’ as well — grabbing a point guard could really work here. He’s always going to work hard, he’s going to defend, and he’s one of the best players in the country at creating offense. He’s going to be an All-American, and that?s worth a first-rounder to me regardless of height. 23. Chicago Bulls Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State: It’s a speculative add for the Bulls who have some uncertainty in the frontcourt this offseason with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah’s impending free agency. Davis is player that a lot of people are excited about due to his touch around the rim and his strong rebounding ability. He has been only a role player in the truest sense of the word at Michigan State, but he has the kind of upside that teams will look for at 6-10 with a near 7-2 wingspan. His key will be developing any sort of offensive skill apart from just catching and finishing. 24. Boston Celtics Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State: Beasley was the less highly-touted freshman out of Florida State this season, but he does likely have better prospects than Dwayne Bacon due to his ability to score in the halfcourt and his basketball IQ. Beasley is really just a crafty scorer who knows how to get into the teeth of a defense and can also really shoot the ball. He’s also a pretty underrated athlete, and he can really rise up and dunk on a guy if he gets the chance. There?s a lot to like here as a developmental scorer. Even though Boston drafted one of those last year in R.J. Hunter, there?s going to be some overlap this year due to their sheer breadth of picks. 25. Los Angeles Clippers Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan: Based on pure talent, LeVert deserves to go higher than this, especially when taking into account the relative shooting weakness and relative wing weakness in this draft. However, the idea of LeVert has always been better than the player in actuality, as he’s never fully developed as a ball-handler or as a defensive player in the way you would hope. Also, his injury issues are going to arise significant scrutiny. Still though, he’s a terrific shooter with a 7-foot-plus wingspan, and that has value. 26. Toronto Raptors Paul Zipser, SF, Germany: Zipser would give the Raptors some shooting from the outside as well as some defensive versatility. He’s a strong athlete who can get out into transition and slash to the rim after attacking a closeout, and he’s performed well as a legitimate role player on Bayern in Europe. With the Raptors set to potentially lose DeMar DeRozan this offseason, it makes sense that they could look to shore up the wing position. Plus, the Raptors always scout well overseas. 27. Philadelphia 76ers Petr Cornelie, PF, France : My guess is the 76ers don’t take three American college players this season. That would mean taking essentially five rookies — the three picks, plus Dario Saric and Joel Embiid — onto their roster, and that’s not necessarily something most teams want to do. Cornelie would be an interesting stash, as he’s a tall, fluid shooter who would give the Sixers a spacing element from the 4 that none of their bigs currently bring if he ends up succeeding. 28. Phoenix Suns Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia: Another team with three first round picks, and another team that would seem relatively unlikely to want to bring in three first-round rookies this offseason along with potentially another former pick in Bogdan Bogdanovic. Zubac is an athletic 7-footer that has moved around quite a bit this season, playing for three different teams in the Adriatic League while trying to find the right home. But he’s a good athlete that really came on last summer at the U19 World Championships, averaging nearly 18 points and eight rebounds. 29. San Antonio Spurs Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Virginia: This would be something of a reach, but is there any more of a ‘Spurs player’ in this draft than Brogdon? He’s tough and smart, he might be the best wing defender in the country, and he’s terrific at moving without the ball. According to Synergy Sports, he’s currently one of the best players in the country at scoring off of screens, something that is essential in the Spurs’ offense for wings. It would be a match made in heaven if Brogdon ended up here. 30. Golden State Warriors Damian Jones, PF, Vanderbilt: The center position figures to be relatively unsettled for the Warriors this summer. Festus Ezeli is a free agent, and Andrew Bogut will likely be engulfed in trade rumors if the team decides to make an earnest run at Kevin Durant. Jones is an athletic kid with legitimate size for the center position that the Warriors could work to develop over the next few seasons, just like they did with Ezel.

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