Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2016 NBA Draft. Included is an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts and information from the pre-draft process.
Alex’s Notebook: Former Utah center Jakob Poeltl has cracked the top 10 in three of our mock drafts this week, which isn’t very surprising considering he’s one of the best big men in this draft.
Last season, Poeltl averaged 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 blocks per game, while shooting 64.6 percent from the field (eighth-best in the nation). Poeltl’s 31.1 Player Efficiency Rating was the ninth-best in the nation and first among prospects who are projected to go in the 2016 first round. He was also ranked eighth in the country in Effective Field Goal Percentage (.646) and 15th in Win Shares (6.8).
He made huge strides as a sophomore, not only emerging as the Utes’ go-to player, but becoming one of the most productive players in college basketball – as his advanced analytics suggest. He led Utah in scoring (nearly doubling his freshman average), rebounding and shot-blocking and was a major reason Utah won 27 games (including a victory in the NCAA Tournament).
At the moment, Poeltl seems like a lock to be selected in the lottery. Steve Kyler has Poeltl projected the highest of all our writers, slotting him in as the No. 6 overall pick to the New Orleans Pelicans.
At the NBA Draft Combine, Poeltl measured in at 7’1 in shoes with a 7’2.75 wingspan. While he weighs just 239 lbs. and will need to put on weight in the NBA, his 5.8 percent body fat was very impressive. All of these measurements show that Poeltl has a build that’s very similar to that of Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (as our friends at DraftExpress noted).
Poeltl had plenty of dominant games throughout his sophomore campaign. Here were some of his most impressive performances:
- Against Temple, he had 32 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while hitting 10-12 shots from the field and 12-14 free throws.
- Against BYU, he had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks while hitting 11-16 shots from the field.
- Against #7 Duke, he had 19 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in just 28 minutes while hitting 8-11 shots from the field.
- Against USC, he had 29 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals while hitting 11-13 shots from the field.
- Against Fresno State, he had 16 points, 18 rebounds and four assists to help Utah advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Poeltl is a very intriguing prospect, so don’t be surprised to hear his name called sooner than later on draft night.
Joel’s Notebook: With four different teams owning three first-round picks (Boston, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Denver), I find myself struggling to figure out what, exactly, they’re going to do with all of those selections. As I’ve done these mocks, I’ve found myself using the third of those picks on a project or international player because it’s hard to imagine three rookies all making big influences on their new teams, but that led to me doing some really odd things this time around.
Denver, for whatever reason, got the oddest treatment this week. There’s no way they’re drafting Kris Dunn for themselves at No. 7 now that we know Emmanuel Mudiay is for real, but when Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield and Jaylen Brown all went right ahead of Denver’s pick at No. 7, I couldn’t justify passing on the most talented guy left on the board just because he didn’t fit a need. Dunn would absolutely not be happy playing behind Mudiay, and in fact he’d be wasted there, but I don’t see how else Denver could make the most of their pick at that point than to just pick Dunn. Ellenson, Davis, Labissiere and Poeltl represent a big drop-off for me.
Cheick Diallo at No. 19 is probably my biggest stretch this week, but it’s the third of Nuggets’ three picks and they can take a risk at that point. I’m of the belief that Diallo is actually really good and just couldn’t crack Bill Self’s vet-heavy rotation at Kansas after returning from his early-season suspension. Had he actually played this year, we’d probably be talking about him as a lottery pick, so him at #19 isn’t as crazy as it looks. He has a higher ceiling than Prince, Ulis and Johnson.
Ulis-Johnson-Beasley at 24, 25 and 26 would be amazing for the Sixers and Clippers, by the way. Any of those three could be the steal of the round if they drop that low.
Moke’s Notebook: Similar to last year, there still seems to be a bit of a split among the observers as to who will go first overall to the Sixers. Either way, at this point, we know who the top two selections will be in the draft – with most beginning to tab Dragan Bender as the consensus third pick. Where things get interesting, to me, is what transpires after that.
I have been a fan of Buddy Hield for quite some time and he is one of the players I have been mentioning as having the ability to crash the top five. The biggest wildcard in all of this, though, is what the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves do at four and five, respectively.
The Timberwolves seem to have a promising young core already, and I personally think Skal Labissiere would fit nicely next to Karl-Anthony Towns. Labissiere hasn’t been tabbed as a “top five” talent for quite some time, though, and drafting him over a player whose perceived value is higher (such as Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray) may be too risky of a proposition for Tom Thibodeau to co-sign with the exercise of his first pick as the head cheese in Minneapolis. Still, I wouldn’t discount the possibility of the Timberwolves reaching for Labissiere and completely destroying everyone’s first-round projections. The Pelicans are in a fairly decent position at number six and will likely take a wing player who can contribute in the areas where Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon have mostly failed.
Steve’s Notebook: Pro days are about to begin. This is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the NBA Draft process, just as it has become huge in the NFL. A pro day is agent-controlled access to draft eligible players and that starts with organized workout days where teams are invited to see those players work out in very controlled conditions. Those will get under way this week across the country.
To pull back the curtain on that a little, agents leverage team interest in upper-tier prospects to not only limit who gets access to those players, but also to showcase some of their other clients who may not be draft worthy or, in some cases, are current free agents.
The controlled nature of the workout is interesting because what agents are looking for is a stronger sense of who is genuinely interested, rather than sending their client on 15 or 20 individual workouts.
These controlled workouts are also a means for some agents to filter out undesirable situations. While agents play a big role in the process, there is still some selling even the agent has to do. Let’s say a team has a logjam at a position, but has expressed interest in the agent’s player. They can get face time with the player and explain to him how he’d fit in their situation. This becomes helpful for teams as they decide whether they would trade a player they already have to free up minutes for the prospect they want – if that player agrees to a workout and, more importantly, agrees to shut down his workouts with other teams in favor of a draft promise.
Which then bring us to the next part: the promise.
What most agents are seeking is a firm understanding of a player’s floor – the team that player will not get past on draft night. Knowing the lowest point a player could get drafted helps an agent shape a workout schedule so they can try to help that player’s stock.
Just because one team commits to drafting a player does not mean that player is guaranteed to go there, but it gives all involved a sense of things. More and more NBA teams are asking players and their agents to shut down workouts and access in exchange for the firm commitment.
Last year, the Thunder asked Cameron Payne to shut down workouts and, for the most part, he did. He only worked out for teams in the top 10 and did not meet with teams past the Thunder’s pick at 14.
Neither side is bound to a commitment; a team could change their mind if a particular player falls to them and there is always a chance a different team takes the player earlier than the promise. Players and their agents have to weigh if the fit is good enough to warrant shutting down workouts and meetings and if the situation is ideal enough to not try and move up.
The name of the game is to get drafted in the best situation possible, not only in terms of the rookie-scale deal, but in the long-term so the player can get a big pay day when it’s time for the first big contract.
While players want to be drafted as high as they can for a lot of reasons, finding the right fit has become more and more a part of the process even if that means they’re picked six or seven spots lower.
The gamesmanship of the draft is a big part of the process and, for many players, that will get underway seriously over the next few weeks.
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