Happy draft day, and welcome to Hoop76’s fourth annual mock. Last year we went an impressively terrible two out of 30 (thanks in large part to the Lakers selecting D’Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor). In 2014 we had the Sixers taking Dante Exum and only got three picks right. In 2013, back when Michael Carter-Williams was just a twinkle in our eyes, we had Nerlens Noel going first overall, so that didn’t go too well either.
So while we’re pretty confident what the start of the 2016 draft will look like, you’d be just as well off asking the drunk guy sitting next to you at the bar what’ll happen 3-30. Follow @Hoop_76 for draft coverage and ALSO, hit up our new site NBAassets.com (@NBAassets) to get updates on all 30 teams. Enjoy the mock.
1. Sixers: Ben Simmons
This seemed like a tough decision when the Sixers won the lottery five weeks ago, and literally nothing has changed since then.
Except for us.
Maybe it’s because we inflate the value of assets belonging to the Sixers. Maybe it’s Brandon Ingram’s unfavorable projection on Kevin Pelton’s draft rater. Maybe it’s that Simmons doesn’t actively despise the situation he’s heading into. Maybe it’s because he’s been endorsed by pretty much everybody (outside a couple DraftExpress folks), and that he’s a LeBron James approved 6-foot-10 point guard that kicks three-pointers as well as he can shoot them.
Bryan Colangelo has some difficult choices ahead as Sixers’ GM of the 76ers. This is not one of them.
-Eric Goldwein (@ericgoldwein)
2. Lakers: Brandon Ingram
It was always Brandon Ingram — despite whatever nonsense I was spewing only a few weeks ago. He fits the blueprint for a superstar in the NBA, and would be a fine option in this draft (and most others) if not for already-Sixer/Process-Truster/Joel-Embiid-best-bud Ben Simmons.
-Xylon Dimoff (@xylondimoff)
3. Celtics: Marquese Chriss
For the last few months this pick has been one of the most talked about trade chips, and as we approach Thursday night Danny Ainge still has it. We’ll assume that the Celtics do keep it and I think Marquese Chriss would be a likely pick for them. Both Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are restricted free agents so taking the athletic power forward that can stretch the floor would allow them to let either both or one of those go. Bender is certainly an option, but I wonder if his timeline to contribute coincides with Boston looking to win now.
-Rob Patterson (@Rahbee33)
4. Suns: Dragan Bender
The Suns could use a floor-stretching, mobile big man to pair with their talented guards. Bender fits the blueprint of what NBA teams are presently seeking at his position. He is the youngest player in the draft and the best player available next to Kris Dunn.
-Marc Nemcik (@marcnemcik)
5. Timberwolves: Buddy Hield
Both Dunn and Murray are probably higher-ceiling guard prospects, and ours is the rare mock that still has both of them available at this spot. So consider this the first minor upset of the night. The Wolves reportedly love Dunn, but don’t forget that old man Thibs is the new sheriff in town. He and his team are in win-now mode, and though Dunn claims he’s ready to start and lead immediately, Hield has the four years of college experience – as well as a proven jumper the Wolves so desperately need – to back it up.
-Drew Stone (@DrewSt1ne)
6. Pelicans: Kris Dunn
This pick came down to Dunn and Jamal Murray, and, quite frankly, I don’t like Jamal Murray, so Kris Dunn it is! But all (excellent) kidding aside, Dunn fits in quite nicely with the Pelicans. Jrue is on the last year of his contract and is often injured. Even when he’s not, Dunn is versatile enough to share the backcourt with him. Also, the Pelicans defense last year was a tragicomedy. Dunn brings in an elite defensive skill set that should help the team immediately. I’ll take my GM of the Year trophy now, thank you.
-Ben Smolen (@SpudsBen)
7. Nuggets: Jamal Murray
This choice came down to Murray or Jaylen Brown. Though the Nuggets have the forward depth to allow Brown to come into his own in his own time, Murray’s shooting ability was just too enticing to pass up, particularly given Emmanuel Mudiay’s shooting woes. A backcourt rotation of Mudiay, Murray and Gary Harris gives Denver a terrifying trio to build around.
-Bryan Toporek (@btoporek)
8. Kings: Jaylen Brown
I can tell you — based on scouting reports and podcasts — that he’ll be anything from Jimmy Butler to, umm, Quentin Richardson? The 6-6 swingman flashed a lot of athletic potential in his freshman season at Cal, and while he didn’t do so with any efficiency, he’s the type of risk worth taking at the No. 8 spot.
9. Raptors: Denzel Valentine
His recent “fairly significant knee issue” gives me a lot of pause here, but is there a more perfect fit considering where Toronto is at right now? Drafting Valentine gives the Raptors an immediate contributor to next season’s playoff run without mortgaging its future, as he should slot beautifully into a sixth man position — which may ultimately be his role in the NBA.
10. Bucks: Skal Labissiere
The Greg Monroe experience is still chugging along on Milwaukee for the time being, but Milwaukee may try to get back the defensive principles that led to an unexpected playoff run two years ago. He is still exceptionally raw and isn’t Nerlens Noel or Willie Cauley-Stein defensively, but he could be worth developing for a year or two behind Monroe in the hopes that he could become a piece to pair next to their young core of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
11. Magic: Deyonta Davis
The Magic turn to Deyonta Davis with Skal Labissiere off the board. Davis fills a desperate need for Orlando with his rim protection, despite lacking Labissiere’s shooting skills. He will continue developing on the offensive end, while providing stellar defense and astounding athleticism from the start.
12. Hawks: Wade Baldwin
The Jazz still owned this pick when I made it, and Baldwin would have added much needed depth in their backcourt (which George Hill’s addition addresses on its own just fine). Still, Baldwin is worth a look for Atlanta. Atlanta took Jeff Teague at #19, got an All-Star appearance and two deep playoff runs out of him, groomed a capable replacement, and managed to flip him for a No. 12 pick when all’s said and done. That’s good asset management, and grooming Baldwin behind newly encumbered Dennis Schroeder allows the process to start over anew. Plus, Baldwin’s flexibility would allow him to potentially play alongside Schroeder, giving the Hawks’ offense a needed change of pace as Kyle Korver’s body continues to absorb minutes.
13. Suns: Jakob Poeltl
His name makes me laugh, and, quite frankly, at this point in the 2016 draft, that’s kinda enough. Tyson Chandler has been an abject failure, and, while Len has shown some promise, I’m not sold. In Poeltl the Suns can find someone they hope will be able to anchor a defense. Also, his offense showed real signs of improvement last year, and he should be a nice fit alongside Bledsoe and Devin Booker. Please note that I did not mention Brandon Knight in this write-up until now. That’s because I forgot about him. Take that for what it’s worth.
14. Bulls: Domantas Sabonis
With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah both likely to depart as free agents this summer, the Bulls needed to add young frontcourt talent. Sabonis, who has drawn comparisons to Pau’s younger brother throughout the pre-draft process, would provide some much-needed rebounding, toughness and scoring ability in the post. With him on board, the Bulls would seek to trade Taj Gibson and continue retooling around Jimmy Butler and their younger players.
(Ed. note: Pick made prior to trade sending Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks.)
15. Nuggets: Timothe Luwawu
A 6-7 shooting guard with a 6-11 wingspan, elite athleticism, and a jump shot? Yes, please.
16. Celtics: Henry Ellenson
Ellenson fits neatly into the Jahlil Okafor All-Offense-No-Defense mold, which, while my thoughts against this type of player are well-documented, 16 seems an apt spot to gamble on the talent. At worst he’s another solid Celtics role player who provides an offensive kick off the bench, at best he’s a non-issue defensively (which isn’t impossible under Brad Stevens) and is another good-not-great player that will continue to fool the Celtics into thinking that Boston is actually a superstar destination.
17. Grizzlies: Dejounte Murray
Probably quicker than most people imagined the Grizzlies began their descent down the other side of the mountain last year. With backcourt players like 39 year old Vince Carter and Tony Allen getting huge minutes and Mike Conley potentially on the move snagging a big young guard like Murray could be the first step towards wherever it is that Memphis is headed.
18. Pistons: Tyler Ulis
Ulis’ outstanding basketball IQ and leadership offset his size and ordinary athleticism. His effort and understanding of the game will make him a quality player, even if he is not a star in the NBA. Ulis can grow behind Reggie Jackson and receive significant minutes from the start in the Pistons weak guard rotation.
19. Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz
The Nuggets would undoubtedly consider it a steal if Korkmaz was still here at 19. They’ll be sorting out the center position for the next few years, with talented young bigs Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne all competing for playing time. What they need immediately is shooting and athleticism. Korkmaz is a larger, lengthier defensive alternative to Gary Harris, and pairing him with Luwawu (Eric’s pick at 15) would give Denver’s offense an adrenaline shot they haven’t had since 2013, George Karl’s last season.
20. Pacers: Patrick McCaw
Sorry Sixers fans who were hoping McCaw would make it to 24, but I ruined all your fun. After yesterday’s trade, the Pacers have a ball-dominant point guard in Teague, a superstar in Paul George, and a promising big man in Myles Turner. McCaw, while a far from a finished product, projects to be a plus defender, passer, and shooter. He would be the ideal three-and-d man in that lineup.
21. Hawks: Taurean Prince
After filling Jeff Teague’s hole in the rotation with Wade Baldwin at No. 12, the Hawks sought to find a potential Kent Bazemore replacement in Taurean Prince. Even if Prince never becomes more than a three-and-D guy, Atlanta’s system under Mike Budenholzer will help him maximize his strengths while minimizing his limitations as a go-to offensive threat.
22. Hornets: Malachi Richardson
Behind every average NBA team are core players who showed off their Championship DNA during a Final Four run, and thus had their stocks rise in the months leading up to the draft. Richardson will fit nicely next to Kemba Walker, and Frank Kaminsky.
23. Celtics: Thon Maker
Danny Ainge seems to be learning to hard way that these middling first-rounders will never amount to a star because nobody actually cares about them. Thon’s years away from contributing in the NBA (much less becoming a star), but theoretically he may have top-five upside in this draft if he, like, learns to play basketball. Adding another role player after Ellenson and last year’s blah first-round would only be redundant, so why not swing for the fences here?
24. Sixers: Malik Beasley
I was really intrigued with stashing somebody like Ivica Zubac, but the buzz around Beasley and the potential fit was just too much to overlook. I’m not sure how likely it is that the Sixers take both 24 and 26, but Beasley shot nearly 39% from deep last year at FSU and was one of the most efficient players in college basketball. He may not be a big time play maker, but alongside Simmons he wouldn’t have to be. I would be pretty ecstatic with him being the Sixers pick here.
25. Clippers: Brice Johnson
The Clippers played Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Cole Aldrich behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan last season. They desperately need someone who is able to step into their rotation right away. Johnson was a productive college player and actually still has some room to grow.
26. Sixers: Demetrius Jackson
First off, I’m sorry for taking a Furkan with my previous pick. I know you’re restless for another Furkan. Secondly, the Sixers will happily settle for a point guard with rotation player potential at this point in the draft. He provides shooting, which is apparently something they’re in need of at the moment? 41 percent beyond the arc over two seasons at Notre Dame is nothing to scoff at, and even though he’ll need some time to develop… well, let’s just say he’s going to an okay franchise for that.
27. Raptors: Ante Zizic
The Raptors are a pretty good team who used their first pick (Valentine) to add depth to their backcourt. At 27, they can afford to play with house money a bit. Enter a 19 year old Croat! Zizic is big, can board, and could be a nice replacement as a backup center once Biyombo leaves. Also, Zizic has great draft-and-stash potential if the Raptors want to go that route.
28. Suns: DeAndre Bembry
The Suns reloaded their frontcourt with their two lottery picks (Bender and Poeltl), so they went into best-player-available mode here. While a draft-and-stash may be the more logical route, Bembry was too enticing to pass up at No. 28. He’ll help add depth behind P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren in the short term and could become the starting small forward in due time if Warren can’t dodge the injury bug.
29. Spurs: Juan Hernangomez
Trade bait for the Knicks (who have his brother Willy, and his Spanish League pal, Kristaps Porzingis). Except the Knicks don’t really have anything left to trade. The 6-9 stretch-4 could be a good player — he projects favorably in Pelton’s draft rater — and that’s about all you can expect from a 29th pick.
30. Warriors: Caris LeVert
Kevon Looney 2.0. LeVert’s collegiate health record is catastrophic, but luckily 73-win teams don’t need anything from rookies for a few years. Let him recover, hope Draymond doesn’t “accidentally” kick him in the nuts, and let this guy contribute when he’s good and ready.