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: It’s no secret that Marquese Chriss is one of my favorite prospects in this draft class, as I wrote a glowing profile of him shortly after the NBA Draft Combine and talked up his star potential. Last month, the highest that any credible mock draft had Chriss was No. 9 to the Toronto Raptors – and that seemed somewhat optimistic at the time. At that point, our good friends at DraftExpress had him slotted at No. 11 to the Orlando Magic.
Well, to give you an idea of how much Chriss’ stock has soared over the last few weeks, consider the fact that DraftExpress now has Chriss going No. 3 overall to the Boston Celtics. Third!
That’s a big leap for the 18-year-old, but it makes a lot of sense given the success he had in college coupled with his seemingly unlimited potential. The 6’10 power forward averaged an efficient 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and .9 steals in just 24.9 minutes per game as a freshman at Washington, while shooting 53 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. Chriss scored in double figures 24 times last season and had multiple blocks in 15 contests.
That’s terrific production for so few minutes. His per-100-possession averages would be 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 1.9 steals.
At the NBA Draft Combine, he measured in at 6’10, with a 7’0.25 wingspan and 8’9 standing reach. He also recorded a 38.5-inch max vertical (which was ninth among all players at the Combine) and impressive agility time (11.93 seconds, eighth among all players at the Combine). He also came across as incredibly mature and intelligent for his age.
So let’s sum this up: One of the youngest players in the draft posted terrific stats when given the chance to play, displayed his ridiculous athleticism at the Combine, and impressed in meetings and interviews. If you were trying to create the perfect formula for a prospect to move up draft boards, that would likely be it.
Chriss has everything executives drool over – Potential! Production! Professionalism! – and it’s no surprise he’s now as high as No. 4 on my mock draft (as well as Steve’s).
Joel’s Notebook: It seems to me as though the international prospects are starting to get a lot more buzz than some of the middling American talents, which makes sense considering the rise we saw from Kristaps Porzingis around this time last year and how much damaging injury information seems to be leaking for a lot of these first-round bubble guys from the NCAA.
Dragan Bender, ironically, isn’t the guy generating all of the positive buzz, as he seems to be dropping in mocks more often than rising, but Ivica Zubac, Ante Zizic, Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu and Juan Hernangomez all look like they could be middle-of-the-first-round guys, with one or two of them even knocking on the door of the lottery. In a year where there’s so much parity and very little established hierarchy after the top two picks, it makes sense that teams would roll the dice on some of the international kids with potentially higher ceilings.
Chicago’s interest in Kris Dunn just won’t go away despite the fact that they won’t come anywhere close to drafting him if they stay where they are. Wade Baldwin and Demetrius Jackson make sense for them if they’re dying to draft a point guard, but there could be other talented guys worth taking there outside of that position. Jakob Poeltl or Henry Ellenson dropping to No. 14, for example, would be a no-brainer for shoring up their frontcourt. Skal Labissiere would be a fascinating flier. Or, if they really want Dunn, they can always trade Jimmy Butler and move up to #3 or #5, though that doesn’t seem all that likely.
This year’s meteoric riser could be Marquese Chriss, who looked like a late lottery guy a few weeks ago and now suddenly is among the guys in consideration for the No. 3 overall pick. Teams love his athleticism, which is elite in this class, and once again, everything else being equal teams are going to reach for ceiling once Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are off the board. The mocks you see here are educated guesses, but chances are more likely that these picks are all over the place, and five guys who aren’t on any of our mocks ended up going in the first round.
In short, this is going to be a crazy (and crazy entertaining) draft to watch. There’s nothing but question marks so far outside of the top two picks.
Moke’s Notebook: My mock is mostly unchanged from last week. There continues to be mixed reviews on Dragan Bender, but the prevailing sentiment is that the Phoenix Suns will not let him slip by them at number four. If the Suns do opt to take a “safer” pick, the domino effect would far-reaching and would probably blow up my lottery selections.
From what I hear, the two prospects who seem to have helped their stock the most during this process are Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere. At this point, there are some who project each of these two in the top six. I don’t think that either goes that high, but the possibility of either dropping out of the top 10, at this point, is slight.
In terms of second rounders, Malachi Richardson’s name continues to be mentioned, which echoes comments made by Steve a tad earlier. I don’t have him in my first round, but I see him as potentially being another “round busting” pick.
I would also mention George Mason’s Shevon Thompson. Thompson is currently considered a second-round prospect, but has been in to work out with several teams over the past 10 days. Known as being a ferocious rebounder, scouts are impressed with his timing and rebounding instincts, despite the fact that he only began playing basketball during his junior year in high school.
At this point, most teams have already conducted their own mock drafts and have their own depth charts. Between now and the draft, we will see some high-picking teams call a player or two back for a secret workout here and there, so there will certainly be at least some drama before draft night. Until then, everyone is going to be trying to figure out what the Boston Celtics will do with their third pick and whether or not the Denver Nuggets will move either their 15th or 19th pick, as those moves can have sweeping ramifications.
Steve’s Notebook: Every year, there are picks that could be had, especially when you get this close to the NBA draft (which is just eight days away).
This year, there are some notable picks at the top of the draft as well as several picks in the middle of the first round that could change hands on draft day.
The belief around the NBA is that Boston would rather trade the third overall pick for a proven veteran rather than add one more 19-20-year-old to the roster. If the Celtics cannot find a deal, which at this point they do not seem to have, the Celtics are believed to be narrowing in on three guys: Kentucky’s Jamal Murray, Cal’s Jaylen Brown and Washington’s Marquese Chriss – and it’s believed to be in that order.
Typically once a team get down to this kind of list, there is internal debate before reaching a decision and that’s where things seem to stand with Boston.
The Celtics also hold the 16 and 23 picks in the first round and it’s believed one of those picks could be had in trade as well. If the Celtics cannot find a home for at least one of them, they are team pegged as having interest in a draft-and-stash situation. Watch for Croatian big man Ante Zizic with one of those picks, maybe even as high as 16.
The New Orleans Pelicans are also said to be willing to move the No. 6 pick in the draft. The Pels have been all over looking at players and there is a sense that New Orleans could be where Buddy Hield lands if the Pels can’t find a trade for a better player. The Pelicans are also the dark-horse team to grab Skal Labissiere, but may not keep him if they do; there is a sense that New Orleans could be the team that drafts the guy that falls to them and trades them later in the draft for other players and veterans.
The Utah Jazz are said to have the 12th pick on the trade market and may have a trade partner in the San Antonio Spurs if the right players start to fall into that range. When you factor in the friendly nature of the Spurs fraternity and the Jazz’s desire to add veterans, doing a deal with San Antonio becomes interesting – especially if it yields a decent roster player. The Jazz have worked out a few players, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they keep the pick if the Spurs’ wish list does not materialize. The 12 spot is believed to be Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis’ floor and could be the ceiling for Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin, although the Sacramento Kings just got Baldwin in for a workout so that could change.
In all, it’s believed that the 3, 6, 12, 15, 16, 19, 23, 24 and 26 picks could all be moved – with at least half of those picks being more than likely moved at some point during the draft.
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