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.
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Alex’s Notebook: This week, one of my big switches was having Skal Labissiere going No. 9 to the Toronto Raptors. Previously, I had Henry Ellenson in that spot, with Labissiere going No. 11 to the Orlando Magic. That could still happen – as the Magic do like Labissiere – but it just really seems like Skal is gaining momentum and could very seriously go top 10.
This weekend, Labissiere held his Relativity Sports Pro Day at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. While the workout was limited to one-on-zero, he displayed his skill set and raised eyebrows. Twenty-three teams sent representatives to the Pro Day, and nearly 60 NBA personnel people were in the building.
Labissiere made an effort to show off his NBA range, doing plenty of drills that had him shooting from the three-point line and even a bit behind it. He shot the ball well, and also showed off some nice moves like a step-back and turn-around.
His athleticism and length are off the charts. Quite frankly, this is the kind of setting where Labissiere thrives because there isn’t competition. There’s nobody to take advantage of his thin frame and he isn’t in game situations.
While it seems crazy to draft a guy top 10 based on just seeing him thrive in that environment, it happens all the time in the NBA and it’s because teams are in love with potential. Skal has a very, very high ceiling, which can erase a lot of concerns in draft rooms.
Here is video of Labissiere’s workout, so you can see for yourself how he looked (and listen to him explain his development, Kentucky experience, weight issues and more):
Joel’s Notebook: Fun fact: Steve Kyler loves to call me on the drive home from draft workouts to tell me how things are going. After covering back-to-back pro days in Florida this past week, he told me something interesting he kept hearing from people he’d speak to at these events: “After the top two players in the draft, the rest of the first round is a dart board.” There’s nothing crazy, for example, about Marquese Chriss going in the top five. There’s nothing crazy about Skal Labissiere landing in the top 10. There’s nothing crazy about anybody going anywhere, and I’ve already got a feeling that there will be five or more players selected in the first round that completely blow us out of the water, so I tried to include a few of those guys in this mock.
All that said, knowing that literally anything could happen in this draft, it shouldn’t surprise any of us when certain players rise and others drop for seemingly no reason. In this mock, I pushed Chriss up to No. 6 since so many other mocks seem to have him on the rise and there’s almost always that one guy every year who does exactly that. Labissiere got a jump this week, too, mostly because there will come a point when teams are judging ceiling over floor, and Labissiere still does boast one of the highest ceilings in this draft class.
On the other hand, there’s Jaylen Brown, who fell all the way to Milwaukee at No. 10, which could very well be a godsend for both parties involved. Jakob Poeltl has tumbled a bit for the second week in a row for me, which I can’t really explain, and Zhou Qi almost fell out of the first round completely this week.
It’s hard to say how this will play out, but we know enough at this point to know that the draft will be exciting and unpredictable – as it should be.
Moke’s Notebook: It’s funny how sometimes it seems that we are running around in circles. Based on some intel I’ve gotten over the past week, my top 10 looks radically different from last week.
I remember entering this season, Ben Simmons was the name that popped up most frequently when people mentioned prospects with “game-changing” abilities, and as the season progressed, Brandon Ingram seemed to close that gap to the point where some people expected him to supplant Simmons as the top pick (and some did have that for a while, actually). However, as the weeks have progressed, all indications are that the Sixers are leaning toward Simmons and will eventually select him – and it’s difficult to second-guess that decision.
Where this draft is really getting interesting, though, is at number three. Ingram and Simmons will go first and second, in some order, but what the Celtics do at number three will have a domino effect across the remainder of the first round. Over the past week, I’ve been getting conflicting information about Dragan Bender. If a team, such as the Celtics, takes Bender at number three, they are selecting him more because of what they believe he can be. Buddy Hield and Kris Dunn, on the other hand, are perceived as known quantities. And while neither may seem to be a fit in Boston due to their roster, remember: we once had the same thoughts of Stephen Curry, whom the Warriors selected despite having Monta Ellis and a few other guards on that roster. All that being said, most mocks have the Celtics taking a big man, but with Evan Turner expected to command a hefty payday this summer, I would not at all be surprised to see them opt for a wing. In that regard, Jaylen Brown makes a lot of sense, especially considering the dearth of small forwards in the draft. So I have Brown going to the Celtics at number three with that selection causing a ripple effect in my top 10. With a few of these placements, I put players where I thought they made the most sense.
For the Suns specifically, Bender might make some sense considering the young talents the roster already has. It may make sense to swing for a homerun, especially with Devin Booker and Alex Len having shown some signs last season. The remainder of my top 10 just seems to fit for a number of reasons.
In the lottery, there seems to be a consensus as to who the top 15 players selected will be, but there is nothing close to a consensus with the latter half of the draft. That is especially true as it relates to some of the international prospects. I believe that DeAndre Bembry, Demetrius Jackson, Juan Hernangomez and Diamond Stone will each provide incredible value taken in the latter half of the draft. Where this entire thing will blow up is an instance when a team that has one pick decides to take a flier on an international prospect. Imagine the outcome if the Pistons opted to select either Petr Cornelie or Thon Maker? Imagine.
The good news, though, is that we are nearing consensus in some key areas of the draft. And all I keep hearing from those in the know is that there is incredible depth here in the class of 2016.
Steve’s Notebook: Over the past weekend, two Pro Days were held in South Florida – one in Miami with Elite Skills Training and the other at IMG Academy with Relativity Sports. There were 20 NBA teams present for the first workout in Miami and 23 at the IMG workout.
While the lottery-level guys showed what you would expect, there were a few surprises and a lot of rumor mongering going on among the executives.
The biggest surprise was Juan Hernangomez. While he did not play against anyone, he did put his skills on display and he was impressive. His range all the way around the NBA three-point line was stellar. His aggressiveness around the basket in pad-contact drills was excellent. In talking with his agents, Hernangomez does not have a buyout in his contract so he’s free to come to a NBA team right away if that’s the best plan. Hernangomez also said he’d be fine staying in Europe another year or two if that’s the best plan. His skill and flexible attitude may make him hard to pass up in a fairly flat draft class. He has also been listed in various places as a small forward, which is not at all accurate. He’ll be a power forward in the NBA.
As for draft scuttle, there is a sense that Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin may already have a draft commitment. More than one team questioned the validity of the “concussion” that kept Baldwin out of his Pro Day in Chicago. At this point in the process, everything is over analyzed so take that for what it’s worth.
The L.A. Clippers have told a few agents that they are trying to move up in the first round and have been trying to get higher rated players in for workouts. It’s unclear exactly how the Clippers would move up or what they even have to offer, but as things sit today the Clippers are drafting at 25. The Nuggets have the No. 15 pick, while Boston has the No. 16 pick – both are second selections for those respective teams, so those are worth watching. The Clippers are believed to be looking for a small forward, but that’s the thinnest position in this draft class.
One name that took a beating this weekend was Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Dragan Bender. Long considered the third-best prospect in the draft, more and more teams said they would not consider him with their pick, pointing to all kinds of issues either with his style of play, his overall skill set or simply a lack of belief that Bender would be a special NBA talent. If there is one guy in the mix at the top of the board who could have a long draft night, it might be Bender. This could be a case of trying to lower the expectation bar or the typical driving down of draft value, but the sense from executives in both gyms was that Bender may not be the guy in the top five.
Here are six guys on the way up:
- Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins. Cousins had some strong workouts and could be firmly in the mix in the 35-45 range.
- Oregon’s Elgin Cook. He just had pins removed from a broken finger and is ready to start NBA workouts. He was impressive in his Pro Day and a few scouts said they thought he was viable in the 45-55 range and were eager to get him in their gym.
- Maryland’s Diamond Stone. Not only has he changed his body pretty aggressively, he has been doing well in workouts. Stone could be a sneaky play at the bottom of the first, but more than a few executives said he’s more likely to be among the next wave drafted in the second round in the 30s.
- Washington’s Marquese Chriss. There are some who say Chriss may be the highest upside guy on the board. The Celtics are said to be very high on Chriss and that’s creating some interest and buzz from others. Chriss could legitimately go as high as 3 to the Celtics.
- Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere. His Pro Day wasn’t much more than a glorified shooting drill, but NBA executives in the stands still admitted there was too much talent there for him not to get drafted really high. The question for Skal is where? The Orlando Magic met with Skal minutes after his workout ended and most pundits believe 11 to the Magic is his floor. The problem with that is Skal is scheduled to meet with virtually everyone from the second pick down to eight and is not likely to workout for anyone outside that range. There are two spots his camp sees as promising: Four to the Phoenix Suns (who are literally playing with house money because of what’s on their roster now) and seven to the Denver Nuggets (who were on hand for the Pro Day as well). In the end, 11 might be the most realistic spot for Skal, but for now his camp believes there is enough interest in the top eight that he makes this list.
- Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson. While he did not make my top 30, his name continues to generate a lot of positive buzz, so much so it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the first round going forward. The problem is no one seems to have a feel for where he lands. Some mock drafts have him going 15 to the Nuggets or to the Hawks at 24, while some have him sliding into the early second round. Richardson is clearly worth watching and his stock seems to be on the rise.
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