May 27, 2016, 12:24 pm
With the NBA Conference Finals holding the attention of NBA fans, the NBA Draft Lottery was more of a side note that provided non-playoff teams with something to look forward to. This also means ‘mock draft season’ is now in full swing as NBA readers will surely stumble across more than one mock draft while perusing various websites. I will be participating in mock draft season for the first time this season and will be expanding and modifying my mocks each week until draft night. This first mock will be focused on lottery picks only, with rationale in support of each pick. Come back to read future mocks that will include the rest of the first round and eventually add on the second round.
Something these mocks will not take in to account are pick trades (unless they become official prior to the draft). Several teams have a heavy number of picks this draft and it would not make sense for these teams to keep all these picks, just as it does not make sense for a few teams to sit out the draft completely with zero picks. I fully expect the Celtics to sell a pick or more as they hold eight picks this year. The Suns could make a move as well with one of their four picks. However, it is impossible to predict which picks these teams might move. So, without further ado, I present you with my first mock of the 2016 NBA Lottery.
Pick #1: 76ers
Ben Simmons, PF, LSU
Until news is released that would indicate otherwise, I will assume the 76ers will go with the top talent or potential available regardless of position. Yes, they do have three players drafted in the past three seasons that all play power forward or center. Yes, Ben Simmons might become another part of the logjam at power forward. However, Simmons has been titled the top pick in this class for quite some time and I do not foresee the 76ers passing on him unless something is revealed during predraft interviews.
Pick #2: Lakers
Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke
Ingram serves as the 1b to Simmons in this draft class. He offers length, athleticism and tons of potential. Quite frankly, the Lakers could use help at just about any position. This pick would fit nicely with their other long-term building blocks of Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. If the 76ers decide to grab Ingram first overall, the Lakers would be just as willing to switch this pick to Simmons.
Pick #3: Celtics
Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky
The Celtics are actually pretty solid at both guard positions. However, this pick would give the Celtics a player that many believe is the best player available at this spot. Murray could back up either position and should serve as a nice complement to Marcus Smart if he continues to come off the bench. The Celtics really need to fix their frontcourt rotation, but could also look to do this by trading a number of their picks for a veteran presence inside. Another option for the Celtics is grabbing Dragan Bender at this pick.
Pick #4: Suns
Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia
Bender is a riskier pick because he is relatively unknown in the U.S. but if he is still available at this spot, I fully expect the Suns to jump all over him. The Suns need help at power forward more than any other position with the loss of Markieff Morris in trade and the uncertain futures of Teletovic and Leuer via unrestricted free agency this summer.
Pick #5: Timberwolves
Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
The Timberwolves could be a very exciting team to watch next season and they look like a team ready to explode over the next 3-5 years. They feature several young studs and a new top-tier coach to lead them in the right direction. This team has a locked in starter at most positions, except for shooting guard. Andrew Wiggins has been playing some shooting guard but grabbing Hield here and keeping Wiggins at small forward would do wonders for this team. Hield is a two way player that can shoot lights out from deep. His presence could help open the floor for Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. I would expect Rubio to get all the assist opportunities he can dream of with this starting lineup.
Pick #6: Pelicans
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
I went with Dunn here because he is just too good to fall any further. The Pelicans are constantly injured with their guard trio and it may be time to move on. The only players locked in long term for this team are Anthony Davis and Omer Asik. Grabbing Dunn here and hitting reset on the current guard rotation may be the best choice for the Pelicans.
Pick #7: Nuggets
Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
Sabots did not attend the NBA Draft Combine, stirring up speculation that he may have received a draft promise already. The Nuggets could use help at power forward as Kenneth Faried, a player who is mentioned in trade deadline rumors on an annual basis, might be their only option at the position next season. Sabonis is said to have a high basketball IQ and can stretch the floor to some degree.
Pick #8: Kings
Jaylen Brown, SG/SF, California
With Rudy Gay able to play heavy minutes at power forward, Jaylen Brown would be a nice pick to solidify either wing position. The Kings will have several areas of uncertainty over the next couple seasons with free agency affecting Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison and Rudy Gay. However, Brown can offer immediate help and potentially develop in to a well-rounded player as this team goes through changes over the next couple years.
Pick #9: Raptors
Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington
Several mock drafts show the Raptors taking center Jakob Poeltl here, but that pick doesn’t make much sense to me with the dire need for power forward help. The Raptors have Valanciunas and Biyombo at center, so why add a third piece at center when there possess little upside at power forward. Chriss should serve as an upgrade in talent and potential over Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson and should be a far superior defender. Many writers are tagging Chriss as the sleeper pick of this draft class.
Pick #10: Bucks
Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
Jason Kidd really hasn’t shown any attachments to his current options at center. Poeltl offers two-way play and should be a sound defender in the NBA, something Greg Monroe seriously lacks. Monroe could be gone after next season and Kidd likes to put players with length and defensive abilities on the floor. This could be a great fit or Kidd could stunt Poeltl’s growth if he doesn’t like what he sees.
Pick #11: Magic
Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State
The Magic could go many different directions with this pick. However, I like this pick because the Magic are going through a coaching change that might affect minutes at the wing positions. Free agency could also impact their wing depth and a well-rounded player like Valentine could have at both shooting guard and small forward without demanding too many shots.
Pick #12: Jazz
Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State
A lot of mocks have the Jazz seeking to address the guard position here. Call me crazy, but I think Dante Exum, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks serve as a solid guard rotation looking towards the future. However, injuries to both starting big men this season showed the lack of depth the Jazz have inside. Davis would be a good backup big man as Trevor Booker will be a free agent this summer. That leaves the Jazz with a Gobert/Favors/Lyles/Davis rotation for the next few years. The Jazz could also opt to pick Skal Labissiere if they prefer someone that can play center.
Pick #13: Suns
Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky
The Suns will either trade out of this pick or simply grab the big man with the most upside here. They hold plenty of guard depth and talent, so adding Labissiere would be a good get for a franchise that has shown a lot of love to Kentucky players in recent years. Skal could serve a dual role of backup to project #4 pick Dragan Bender, as well as added depth to center with the current injury-prone centers the Suns currently roster inside.
Pick #14: Bulls
Henry Ellenson, PF/C, Marquette
There are several question marks regarding which direction the Bulls may head this offseason. Rumors of Jimmy Butler trades, the expected departure of Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah and the uncertainty of Derrick Rose’s health all lead to speculation that the Bulls might go in to rebuild mode. Regardless whether the Bulls make a change at either guard position, they seem to be losing a lot at the power forward and center position. Taj Gibson may be their only option at center unless they pick up another big man. Mirotic is already an undersized power forward, so a Bobby Portis and Henry Ellenson might be the Bulls’ best options for the near future.
Be sure to check back in over the next couple weeks to see more developed version of the mock draft!