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: For the first time in these mock drafts, I put Ben Simmons first overall to the Philadelphia 76ers and Brandon Ingram second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers.
My thinking for quite some time was that Philadelphia already had a logjam of bigs, so Simmons may not have fit in there. Yes, I know, Simmons is a point forward who does most of his damage on the perimeter. But most people around the NBA still believe he’ll play the four and make plays from there.
I also believe that Simmons is at his best when he’s surrounded by offensive weapons so he can facilitate. Simmons is not a go-to scorer at this point, and I felt that’s what Philadelphia needed with this pick, which is why I had Ingram going to them. Ingram could give them an inside-outside scoring threat, while Simmons cannot (without drastically improving his jump shot).
I also thought this scenario worked out nicely for Simmons, who would then fall to the Lakers, where he’d be a star in an enormous media market surrounded by scorers like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Julius Randle, etc. Falling to two and being the potential face of the Lakers – which comes with a ton of exposure, endorsements, etc. – isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So, that explains my previous thinking. However, now we’re hearing more and more that the Sixers are leaning toward Simmons over Ingram – and may even trade one of their other big men (Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid or Dario Saric) to make room for him. For now, I’m slotting Simmons to Philly, but a lot can still change between now and draft night.
Joel’s Notebook: Of the four mock drafts that we’ve done so far, this is the one that has vibed the best to me. Something about the way this lays out just seems to work, and while we all know how horrible I am at predicting things (see “50 NBA Predictions Revisited”), I can’t help but feel that there are a lot of picks here that make sense.
Buddy Hield to Boston would be a slam dunk, not only because he’d be an awesome fit in Boston but because if they do trade the pick he seems like exactly the player teams would trade up to grab. Seniors don’t usually go this high, but Hield is such a known commodity in a league that values three-pointers so much. It just fits here. Bender slips to five in this mock, and really he makes a lot of sense for Minnesota, who don’t have any gaping holes anywhere in their lineup. This is a place where that gamble makes sense for the player and the team.
Skal Labissiere to Milwaukee fits what they’re doing these days, too, with that long body and all that athleticism. They need help in the frontcourt, and at No. 10 there aren’t a lot of guys that boast the star potential Skal has, even if he is a massive risk. Jakob Poeltl, meanwhile, absolutely could slip all the way to Chicago at No. 14, and considering they could lose both of their centers this offseason, that would be a bit of a godsend.
I’d love Luwawu in Phoenix, Jackson in Memphis, Prince in Detroit, Baldwin in Indiana, Diallo in Boston, and the Beasley/Johnson combo to pair with Ben Simmons in Philly.
These guys can’t all be stars, but there’s a lot of players who can help make teams better in this draft. This particular mock helps out so many teams in a lot of obvious ways.
Moke’s Notebook: The more homework I do on the prospects entering the league this year, the more I realize that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding a number of players. Thon Maker, DeAndre Bembry and Tyler Ulis are each prime examples. If you go around and take a look at some mock drafts, you’ll see quite the disparity from one to the next. What it tells us, to be quite frank, is that correctly nailing a draft pick is incredibly difficult.
The biggest thing for me, as I’ve said, is to determine how the rising cap is going to impact some of these picks. Case in point: Skal Labissierre. Most people would think that the Toronto Raptors are set at the big man slot with the rise of Bismack Biyombo, but if the Raptors feel that they don’t want to break the bank for Biyombo (expect him to command $15 million per year), they may opt to draft the young Haitian from Kentucky.
One of the hottest players out there is Marquese Chriss, and though I see him cracking the top five elsewhere, I don’t see him supplanting any of my top six players. I think that Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield simply have too much perceived value to fall outside of the top seven, though I wouldn’t surprised to see them swap order.
The thing that may blow up everyone’s mock draft, however, is the fact that the Pelicans, from what I have heard, are intent on taking the best player available. That may or may not be a guard, depending on how the rest of the draft shakes out. For a while, I was sure they would seek a replacement for Eric Gordon, but that may not be the case.
The Knicks have been busy working out some prospects while some guys I expect to go undrafted are working out with a few clubs that have late first-round picks. Things are getting interesting, especially with just a few weeks to go before the draft.
Are you not entertained?
Steve’s Notebook: There are a few names in the 2016 NBA draft that are carrying a bit of negative luggage with them as they undergo the draft workout process. While NBA teams are very mindful about character and history, especially for first-round picks, teams do understand there are circumstances to understand and a number of guys are hoping to show teams they are more than they may have appeared to be in college and are trying to shake labels that may or may not fit.
Tim Quarterman’s season at LSU was as up and down as they come. Some of it was on him, he fell into the same trap some of the other LSU players fell into when their season came unglued. He watched as likely top overall pick Ben Simmons devolved into a me-first guy and Quarterman followed suit. Since leaving LSU, Quarterman has been training in Cleveland and Miami and has started to work out for teams.
League sources rave about Quarterman as a player, but struggle to understand Quarterman as a person. There are some that are approaching his draft status with an open mind, understanding that things went pretty bad at LSU internally and that everyone gets tainted with a season like they had.
Quarterman enters the process as a likely second-round pick, but teams at the bottom of the draft – specifically the Philadelphia 76ers – have expressed more than a passing interest. The Sixers recently had Quarterman in for workouts, where he did better than some expected, especially in a three-on-three setting.
Quarterman will take part in a Pro Day in South Florida this weekend, with the hope of gaining some traction on his draft stock, but more importantly try and shake the character issue label some teams have put on him.
Like Quarterman, Skal Labissiere’s season at Kentucky was not very good. Labissiere was heralded as one of the top overall talents coming into the college basketball season, but underwhelming games at Kentucky have many pundits doubting his viability as a high-level draft pick.
Sources close to the situation point to an almost toxic environment at UK this year, where things went from bad to worse for many guys as the team never came together and did not bond as well as previous Kentucky All-Star squads.
Labissiere in many ways became the poster child for Kentucky’s shortcomings and is routinely crushed in the court of public opinion.
Labissiere is also taking part in a Pro Day this weekend at the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton and is expected to draw a big crowd as NBA teams try to get a grasp on not only Labissiere the player, but understand what went so terribly wrong at Kentucky.
Labissiere put on a show in Chicago in a private workout, showcasing his amazing array of skills. His camp believes a strong showing this weekend combined with some positive and open meetings with teams can not only lock Labissiere into the top 10 of the class, but boost him into the top six to eight range.
Like both Quarterman and Labissiere, Diamond Stone’s season at Maryland left him with more questions surrounding him than answers.
Sources close to the process say Stone has been a sponge while training at IMG, taking to not only the skill and conditioning work, but getting himself on a balanced nutrition plan for the first time in his life.
Stone could end up being one of those sneaky picks toward the bottom of the first round and teams holding multiple picks have expressed more than a passing interest. Stone does not have a bad label, but a number of teams are struggling with where he fits in the draft class. Some say he is a 20 to 40 guy, others say he’s a second-rounder at best.
Stone has worked hard on his body and even more so on his game. Those around him say once his guard comes down, he’s an extremely smart guy with a real passion for basketball and getting better. The problem is Stone was underwhelming at Maryland and will have to overcome those labels in workouts and meetings.
No single player in the 2016 NBA Draft class is more of a mystery than Thon Maker. It’s not because NBA teams have not seen him, because he has been part of a number of high school showcase teams and his name has been floated around for a while. The mystery comes from most teams not knowing he was going to declare for this year’s draft. The plan for Maker was that he was going to do a college season and teams could really drill in on his game and make some decisions on what Maker really is.
There are two big issues with Maker. He’s been on the radar for a while and has not really improved as many would have liked. One scout said he’s basically the same player he was two years ago, leading many to doubt there is another level to his game. The other part is he is still rail thin physically.
Maker’s proponents point to the lack of real challenge over the last year leading to stagnation. The other comment some make is that he was in desperate need of serious pro training to break through, all of which could be true.
Maker has an intriguing mix of skills that’s one part Kevin Durant with a long and rangy three-point game, and another part Kevin Garnett with his long arms and length around the basket. While Maker has never exhibited either player’s fire and tenacity, there is an intriguing tool set that has teams curious.
Maker is one of those guys that could go in the teens or he could slide into the 40s; there’s just not a real consensus on him yet although he has been in to see a number of teams already and the feedback is still very mixed.
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