2016 NBA Mock Draft: Ivan Rabb’s return to Cal bumps up prospects

NBA Mock Draft – 04/25/2016 Round 1 1. Philadelphia 76ers Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke: Ingram didn’t enter college with the same level of hype as Ben Simmons. But he averaged 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds while helping a limited roster win 25 games and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. As I’ve written before, I could argue for Ingram or Simmons. I like them both. And both are reasonable options to go first overall. But I personally prefer Ingram, who would fit nicely next to Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel in Philadelphia. 2. Los Angeles Lakers Ben Simmons, SF, LSU: A reader recently pointed out on Twitter that my main issues with Simmons — i.e., that he lost a lot at LSU and didn’t seem too bothered by it — wouldn’t be issues if he’d just signed with Duke or North Carolina because he would’ve rarely lost and thus nobody would even know how he reacts to losing. Frankly, I thought that was a fair point. So, like I said, I could go either way on this Simmons-Ingram debate. But, either way, Ingram and Simmons should be the first two players on any board. 3. Boston Celtics Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky: I might be the only person who has Murray this high. But I just can’t envision a scenario where he’s not a terrific scorer at the NBA level. The only issue with Boston taking him is that the Celtics are pretty guard-heavy. But none of their guards shot better than 36.1 percent from 3-point range this regular season. So perhaps a dynamic combo guard who can shoot — Murray shot 40.8 percent from beyond the arc in one season at Kentucky — wouldn’t be the worst thing for a team that doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter. 4. Phoenix Suns Jaylen Brown, SG, California: Ivan Rabb’s decision to return to Cal for his sophomore season means the Bears will only have one player picked in the first round. But they’ll still definitely have one player picked in the first round. And it’ll be Brown, a 6-7 wing who should go in the top half of the lottery thanks to a diverse game rooted in unique athleticism. He’ll be great in transition and could be spectacular on the defensive end thanks to an ability to guard multiple positions. 5. Minnesota Timberwolves Dragan Bender, PF, Israel: Bender is widely regarded as the top draft-eligible prospect who didn’t play college basketball this season, and there’s little doubt he’ll be selected in the lottery. He’s an 18-year-old forward who would fit nicely between Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. And, man, how good is Minnesota going to be in a few years? 6. New Orleans Pelicans Kris Dunn, PG, Providence: I’m a big believer in taking the best player available in the lottery regardless of need, and Dunn, at this point, is that. He might actually be the top plug-and-play prospect in the entire class, somebody who could theoretically start, and look comfortable doing it, on opening night. If he’s the Rookie of the Year, I won’t be surprised. 7. Denver Nuggets Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma: Any team that finishes 25th in 3-point shooting could use a 3-point shooter, and there’s no better one in this draft than Hield. The CBS Sports National Player of the Year shot 46.4 percent from 3-point range during his senior season while leading OU to the Final Four. Simply put, I’ll be surprised if Hield isn’t a really good NBA player — because he can create and shoot, and because he has a great work ethic and no red flags. 8. Sacramento Kings Denzel Valentine, SG, Michigan State: What Valentine lacks in athleticism he makes up for with a high basketball IQ that allows him to make great decisions on the court and create opportunities for himself and his teammates. Simply put, he’s a playmaker. And playmakers who can dribble, pass and shoot have tremendous value in today’s NBA. 9. Toronto Raptors Henry Ellenson, PF-C, Marquette: Toronto has a need at power forward, which makes Ellenson an obvious option. The talented one-and-done prospect is only 19. And though he didn’t shoot a good percentage from beyond the arc at Marquette, he has the tools to be a stretch four. Combine that with his polished low-post game, and Ellenson has one of the highest ceilings in this draft. 10. Milwaukee Bucks Jakob Poeltl, PF, Utah: One of the many reasons Poeltl returned to Utah for his sophomore season was to improve as a player and prospect, and he undeniably benefitted from it. He’s better in every way after taking Utah to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. Last year, he would’ve likely gone in the 20s. Now he’ll go in the lottery, and perhaps the top half of the lottery. 11. Orlando Magic Skal Labissiere, PF, Kentucky: Labissiere struggled most of this season and looked like somebody who barely played real and organized basketball during his final two years of high school, which actually was the case. Regardless, at some point, his potential is worth gambling on, and I still think that point is in the lottery. He’ll likely start his career in the D-League, sure. But 7-footers with Labissiere’s shooting ability aren’t easy to find. 12. Utah Jazz Timothe Luwawu, SG, France: Luwawu is a wing with good size who is an above-average athlete and defender. Those things alone would get him selected, probably. But the fact that he also shoots about 40 percent from 3-point range makes him a possible lottery pick. 13. Phoenix Suns Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State: Davis is among the frontcourt prospects who could benefit from Rabb’s decision to remain at Cal. The 6-10 forward is raw, for sure. But his potential could land him in the lottery because’s a nice athlete who could play either frontcourt position and cause problems on the defensive end. 14. Chicago Bulls Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky: The Bulls need to start preparing for Life After Derrick Rose, which makes taking a point guard in the lottery sensible. And I’ve come around on Ulis. Yes, he’s small. And that’s not ideal. But I no longer struggle to see him becoming a starting point in the NBA because he’s so exceptional at lots of the things that tend to matter. 15. Denver Nuggets Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga: The Zags operating mostly off of the national radar this season prevented Sabonis from getting a lot of attention. But he had a tremendous sophomore year. He averaged 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 61.7 percent from the field. He’s just tenacious around the basket in a way that should allow him to contribute as a rookie. 16. Boston Celtics Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington: Chriss is the rare prospect who was ranked outside of the top-50 of his high school class but is a projected first-round pick after only one year of college. He’s a long and athletic forward with as much upside as almost anybody in this draft. 17. Memphis Grizzlies Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey: Korkmaz is a 6-7 wing who shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range. He’s only 18. And he’s thin. So it might take him a year or two to make an impact. But the Grizzlies are an old team that can’t shoot. So it makes sense to add a young wing who can shoot. 18. Detroit Pistons Diamond Stone, C, Maryland: The direction the NBA seems to be going isn’t necessarily good for traditional centers like Stone, but he’s still an intriguing prospect who shouldn’t fall out of the first round. The 7-footer improved almost as much as anybody in college basketball from November to March. And that’s a good sign for scouts, the way he contributed regularly for a nationally ranked team with an otherwise experienced roster. 19. Denver Nuggets Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame: Jackson progressed from a role player to a star in three years of college. He’ll be the second straight Notre Dame guard to go in the first round, and his ability to flourish in the pick-and-roll while being a respectable shooter — he shot better than 41 percent form 3-point range in his freshman and sophomore years — should allow him to be an NBA starter. 20. Indiana Pacers Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina: Johnson was a monster this season while averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds and leading the Tar Heels to the national championship game. The quick-leaper improved his stock enough to where going in the teens of this draft isn’t out of the question. And, for the Pacers, he would provide needed depth in the frontcourt. 21. Atlanta Hawks Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor: Prince is a 6-8 wing who can make 3-pointers, and his wingspan and athleticism are such that guarding his position, and even multiple positions, at the NBA level should not be an issue. It’s also worth noting that he’s an 82 percent free-throw shooter. And Prince is an above-average rebounder for his position, too. So he can do a lot of different things to contribute while on the court. 22. Charlotte Hornets Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State: Beasley is a guard with decent size who is a tremendous athlete and good-enough shooter — evidence being that he made 37.8 percent of his 3-point attempts at FSU. He’s a reasonable option for a Charlotte franchise that could use a playmaker beside Kemba Walker. 23. Boston Celtics Damian Jones, PF, Vanderbilt: Jones was the main reason Vanderbilt went from being called the nation’s most disappointing team to a team that made the NCAA Tournament. The 7-footer averaged 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in February. And he’s not just a center. He’s an athletic center. And athletic 7-footers tend to find and keep jobs in the NBA. 24. Philadelphia 76ers Wade Baldwin IV, SG, Vanderbilt: The Sixers undeniably need backcourt help, and Baldwin can provide it. The 6-3 guard developed into a legitimate NBA prospect while in school at Vanderbilt. He shot 41.4 percent from 3-point range this season. 25. Los Angeles Clippers Stephen Zimmerman Jr., C, UNLV: Zimmerman’s freshman season was limited by injury. But he still nearly averaged a double-double in the MWC, and he remains a skilled 7-footer who was a consensus top-10 high school recruit. So, late in the first round, he’s worth selecting. 26. Philadelphia 76ers Patrick McCaw, SG, UNLV: That UNLV finished below .500 in the Mountain West despite having two possible first-round picks on its roster still remains baffling. Zimmerman is the better prospect. But McCaw was actually UNLV’s leading scorer this season. The 6-7 guard averaged 14.5 points and 5.1 rebounds. And he’s now in this position despite being just a three-star prospect coming out of high school. 27. Toronto Raptors Melo Trimble, PG, Maryland: Trimble is a proven difference-maker at the college level, and there’s just no way he can’t be at least a backup point guard in the NBA. The 6-3 sophomore is great at creating scoring opportunities. His ability to draw fouls and make free throws is almost unmatched in college basketball. Plus, he’s a winner, and that has to count for something. 28. Phoenix Suns Cheick Diallo, C, Kansas: Diallo was merely a role player for Kansas. But that won’t stop somebody from drafting him on potential alone. Remember, he joined the Jayhawks late, and that was always going to affect his freshman season. But he’s still all of the things scouts liked when they saw him throughout his high school years. 29. San Antonio Spurs Jarrod Uthoff, SF, Iowa: A skilled forward who can shoot from the perimeter and rebound sounds like something the Spurs might be interested in, and Uthoff is exactly that. He averaged 18.9 points and 6.3 boards while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range this season. The more scouts see him, the more they tend to like him. His so-called upside might not be the same as some younger prospects. But Uthoff definitely has the tools to play in the NBA. 30. Golden State Warriors Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan: LeVert is a guard with size who has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in each of the past three seasons. He’s a talent worthy of the lottery. But injuries have provided question marks that will cause him to slip. Needless to say, if there are real medical red flags, the Warriors should pass. But, if not, it would be wise to scoop LeVert up and add another shooter to a team full of them.

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