Downtown’s 2016 NBA Mock Draft 1.0


Representatives got dressed up, brought their lucky charms with them (literally in one case) and then prayed to the lottery gods that the balls would fall their way on Tuesday night US time in the NBA draft lottery. Yet, for the second straight year and only the fifth time since the lottery era began, the team with the worst record was rewarded.

Anti-tankers everywhere revolted like the Sons of the Harpy, but in the end it was the Sixers who walked out of the flames unscathed. Somewhere, Sam Hinkie sits and smiles.

Not a single team moved up in this year’s draft lottery and that was great for the Lakers, who not only kept their pick, but will likely get a franchise-changer to accelerate their post-Kobe rebuild.

The Sixers will now get to add this year’s first overall pick to Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and hopefully Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. There may be movement with some of those names to stop a logjam in their frontcourt, but that’s a good problem to have and maybe there was some small vindication of Hinkie’s process on this night. Their fans sure thought so as it seems basketball is back in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Sixers’ hopes of coming away with picks one and four vanished once the Lakers remained safely in the top three, but they will now get the Lakers’ first-rounder (unprotected) next year. So Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss can exhale some for now and focus on who the Sixers leave for them at pick two, while the Celtics can add a top-three pick to their upstart playoff roster.

Who is likely to go where? How deep is the draft? And how will your team look to retool on June 23?

Wait no longer as here is Downtown’s first NBA mock draft for 2016.

Pick 1 – Philadelphia 76ers (Needs: PG, SG, SF, talent)

Selection: Ben Simmons, SF/PF, LSU

Despite plenty of criticism about his shooting ability and motivation, Simmons still sits atop nearly every mock draft and most front office draft boards, and for good reason. His all-around skillset is unique. He is effectively a point-power forward and I urge you to name me another in today’s NBA not named LeBron James, Draymond Green or maybe Blake Griffin. Despite Jahlil Okafor’s strong rookie campaign, the likely arrival of Dario Saric, the possible debut of Joel Embiid and the encouraging development Brett Brown has gotten out of Nerlens Noel, you just don’t pass up the best player available with the number one pick. The last time the Sixers had the first overall pick, they drafted a player who turned out to be an 11-time All-Star, MVP and Hall of Famer in Allen Iverson, who led them to the NBA Finals. Here’s hoping Simmons can do the same.

Pick 2 – Los Angeles Lakers (Needs: SF, C)

Selection: Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke

What do you do when you lose one of the greatest offensive talents the league has ever seen? You draft a replacement. Ingram may not be the best pure scorer in the draft, he may not have the best all-around skillset and he is certainly not the most NBA-ready player who’s declared. However, he has the ability to become the best player in this draft class and many think he will. His comparison is to Kevin Durant and while he’s not as tall as KD, Ingram is long and wiry and scores in similar ways. He is going either first or second so Mitch Kupchak will make this pick faster than Derek Fisher beat the Spurs.

Pick 3 – Boston Celtics (Needs: SG, PF, C)

Selection: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma

The Celtics are already on the rise, so adding a top-three pick (courtesy of Billy King’s legacy in Brooklyn) is a nice bonus. But that’s all it is. There is a big drop-off after the first two picks in this draft. The next tier is still talented and has All-Star potential, I’m just not sure there’s a franchise-changer amongst them. Danny Ainge can go a few different ways here, depending on how he sees their needs. If he keeps the pick—trading it is a real possibility—and wants a stretch big, then Dragan Bender could be in play. If he’s looking for some point guard help, then Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray could get a look. But I think Ainge will look to address their offence, where they ranked well but weren’t elite, with someone who can help now rather than in two or three years. Hield, a senior, is a natural scorer who has the size and maturity to contribute right away, which is exactly what the Celtics need to continue that rise.

Pick 4 – Phoenix Suns (Needs: SF, PF)

Selection: Dragan Bender, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv/Bosnia and Herzegovina

With Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and talented rookie Devin Booker on the books, the Suns will likely look up front for help and the best remaining big-man prospect is possibly also the biggest gamble. The Dragon, Dragan Bender is a stretch-four who compares somewhat to Kristaps Porzingis. Many have had him at number three on draft boards given the upside. He’s not as good a shot-blocker or shooter as Porzingis is at this stage, but he has better ball-handling, a tremendous basketball IQ and rebounds well. He can float between the three, four or five positions and will be a great complement to the pieces Ryan McDonough has already assembled.

Pick 5 – Minnesota Timberwolves (Needs: PG, SF, PF)

Selection: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

I like Jaylen Brown here for the Timberwolves and see him as Tom Thibodeau’s kind of player given his Ron Artest-like game, but Dunn will be too good to pass up. Yes, they have Ricky Rubio, but he has his shortcomings and in Dunn, they get an elite defender who is a better athlete and a much better scorer. He’s not an elite shooter, but he is a big and long guard (6-foot-10 wingspan) who, like Zach LaVine, could play both backcourt positions. A junior, Dunn is further along than other prospects and is actually older than both Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, so they could grow together.

Pick 6 – New Orleans Pelicans (Needs: SG, PF, C)

Selection: Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky

Murray was one of the big risers this season and for good reason. His game is efficient and very effective. He is a great shooter, an excellent passer and can score inside and out. He’s a prototypical combo guard and that would give the Pelicans options. He could be insurance for Jrue Holiday, another ball handler and creator to help Tyreke Evans, and a replacement for the out-of-contract Eric Gordon. If nothing else, he will help the Pelicans offensively, where they ranked in the bottom half in offensive rating, three-point attempt rate, effective field goal percentage and assists. Murray might go as high as third, so if he’s available, I can’t see him slipping any further.

Pick 7 – Denver Nuggets (Needs: SG, SF)

Selection: Jaylen Brown, SF, California

The Nuggets could use help at multiple positions and Brown may be able to contribute at multiple positions. He’s a tough small forward in the mould of a Ron Artest but with a different offensive mindset. Terrific at attacking the paint and getting to the line, he’d be able to run with Kenneth Faried, Emmanuel Mudiay and Will Barton, while complementing the shooting of Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic. Brown has an elite motor, is a good defender with an NBA-ready body and could be their Wilson Chandler replacement and give the Nuggets some of the grunt they’ve been missing.

Pick 8 – Sacramento Kings (Needs: SG, PF)

Selection: Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington

We’ve said it before and more than once, but it looks like it’s a new era in Sacramento. With Dave Joerger at the helm, they have a younger coach who’s in touch with the modern game and will truly look to build this squad around DeMarcus Cousins. What they don’t have is young talent around Cuz. Ben McLemore hasn’t really worked out, Willie Cauley-Stein is a work-in-progress and the Kings were very reliant on Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo to generate offence last season. But defence is where they really need help. The Kings ranked dead last in points allowed and 22nd in defensive rating. Chriss is still raw but gives them elite shot-blocking, length, rebounding and can also stretch the floor and hit the three-ball, especially from the corner. He’d be ranked higher if not for concerns over his maturity, so pairing him with Cousins could be a gamble, but if Joerger can get through to Cousins, then Chriss can follow suit. Chad Ford thinks he could have the most upside after the top two, and the Kings really need to find a game-changer. Will they take the risk?

Pick 9 – Toronto Raptors (Needs: SG, PF)

Selection: Henry Ellenson, PF/C, Marquette

The power forward spot has been the Raps’ weakest all season with Luis Scola succumbing to Father Time and Patrick Patterson just not starter-quality. So being able to address that with this pick courtesy of the legacy of Andrea Bargnani (thank you, New York Knicks) is a nice bonus. If DeMar DeRozan leaves in free agency, this pick could be used as trade bait given the lack of shooting guard prospects in this range, but otherwise a power forward is in play. Ellenson is going to get the white stiff label, but he’s a modern-day NBA stretch four with above-average athleticism, a polished low-post game and, at seven-feet tall, can play some backup five if needed. A smart, safe pick to add to a contending team.

Pick 10 – Milwaukee Bucks (Needs: PG, SG, C)

Selection: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah

I’m not sure if we should put it down to a bad season or if the Bucks really need to make some changes, but seeing Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe fall out of favour with Jason Kidd makes me think point guard and centre are two apparent needs. With Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, their wing/forward rotation is set, so grabbing a two-way talent at the five spot would be a good play. Poeltl, the best centre on the board, compared himself to Pau Gasol, but he’s not the first to do that and his combination of rim protection and rebounding as well as great hands around the basket may make Monroe a trade chip. We’re already seeing an Australian invasion, so why not start an Austrian one?

Pick 11 – Orlando Magic (Needs: PG, PF)

Selection: Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky

It’s hard to predict what the Magic will do here until they hire a head coach. Scott Skiles walked after just a year with this young roster, which is now going to get younger. Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are the core going forward and while many believe Elfrid Payton is not the answer and could be on the move, there are no better point guard prospects at this point in the draft. Labissiere was a top-two prospect to start the season, and though he struggled with Kentucky, his strengths (not his strength) would be a great complement next to Vucevic. His shot-blocking and ability to stretch the floor would be welcomed by any coach and while he’s probably going to take some time to develop at this level, the upside is huge.


Pick 12 – Utah Jazz (Needs: PG, PF, C)

Selection: Furkan Korkmaz, SG/SF, Anadolu Efes/Turkey

It’s tough to really say what the Jazz need. They barely missed the postseason, are due to get Dante Exum and Alec Burks back to go along with Gordon Hayward and now Rodney Hood on the wings and have one of the best young front courts in the league with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. They may look to give them some support with Deyonta Davis, but could also use some more shooting and athleticism to help their sub-par offence and abysmal pace. Korkmaz is a bit of a project in a Mario Hezonja kind of way and may not even come over to the NBA immediately, which might be a blessing. It would allow them to see what they have with Exum and Burks back before making any other moves.

Pick 13 – Phoenix Suns (Needs: SF, PF)

Selection: Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State

If they nab Bender at four, the Suns could be in the market for a small forward, in which case Denzel Valentine could be in play. His teammate, however, would give them some depth up front, which they’ve been lacking in recent years. Davis is a great athlete and shot-blocker and has some range on his jump shot, so as a backup, he’d be a good fit behind Len and now Bender. Plus, he’d work well with Bledsoe and Knight both in transition and in pick and roll sets. Trading this pick for some wing help could also be in play, although Davis’ length may be too tempting to pass on.

Pick 14 – Chicago Bulls (Needs: PG, C)

Selection: Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State

Raise your hand if you expected the Bulls to be in the lottery this year. No one? Me either. But here they are, and they have a chance to add some talent to a roster with a lot of questions surrounding it. Will Jimmy Butler stay? Is Derrick Rose capable of ever being elite again? Will Pau Gasol be in San Antonio next season? Who should play more out of Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson? What about Joakim Noah? Will Mike Dunleavy retire so Doug McDermott can develop? I can’t answer those questions, but I can see a need for some wing support behind Butler so we don’t need to continue the E’Twaun Moore experiment. Valentine, if available, would be the best player on the board, so at least the Bulls brass won’t need to find an answer if asked who they should take.

Next Best: Domantas Sabonis (F, Gonzaga), Tyler Ulis (PG, Kentucky), Wade Baldwin IV (PG, Vanderbilt), Ante Zizic (C, Croatia), Dejounte Murray (PG/SG, Washington), Demetrius Jackson (PG, Notre Dame), Malachi Richardson (SG, Syracuse), Timothe Luwawu (SG/SF, France), Diamond Stone (C, Maryland), Damian Jones (C, Vanderbilt), Malik Beasley (SG, Florida State)

We still have several coaches to be appointed and an NBA champion to be anointed before anyone’s name gets called on draft night, so expect some changes to come. The combine has given front offices something to ponder, but team workouts, interviews and the potential for trades or other news will all factor into each GM’s final draft board.

For now, at least the order is settled and some storied franchises have some hope again. It’s a process after all…trust it!
Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz

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Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball