While the majority of basketball fans are currently fixated on the 2016 NBA playoffs, some of us are all about multitasking. Sure, the game’s top players are duking it out for the all-important Larry O’Brien trophy, but in the not-too-distant future, basketball’s next crop of potential superstars will be poised to enter the league and attempt to make a name for themselves. And it all starts with the NBA draft.
Although we’re still in the midst of the first round of the postseason — not to mention the lottery hasn’t even been decided yet — it won’t stop us from speculating on how the 2016 draft will play out. Whether you focus on college basketball or the international game, one thing becomes abundantly clear: This year’s draft will feature plenty of talent. In the end, there are many ways this draft could go. However, at this moment, our pre-lottery 2016 NBA mock draft looks something like this.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, SF/PF, LSU
LSU’s Ben Simmons has the potential to be the franchise-altering, once-in-a-generation talent who the Philadelphia 76ers have desperately craved since the dawn of “The Process.” And while Sam Hinkie is no longer calling the shots in the City of Brotherly Love, we can’t envision the Colangelos passing on the best player in college basketball — even if he couldn’t lead the Tigers to the NCAA tournament.
The fact is, despite a nonexistent jumper, Simmons still managed to average 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game while earning First-Team All-American honors. He has the vision, the size (6-foot-10, 225 pounds), the basketball IQ, and the handle to be the NBA’s next great superstar. His ceiling is simply too high to ignore.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke
By following up a stellar freshman season with an impressive showing in the NCAA tournament, Duke’s Brandon Ingram put himself in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. In the end, however, he’ll probably end up going No. 2. That hardly makes him a consolation prize, though.
In his lone season with the Blue Devils, Ingram put up 17.3 points per game to go along with 6.8 rebounds a contest. He shot 44.2% from the field and knocked down 41% of his threes. More importantly, he never shied away from the big moments and always wanted the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
Ingram will need to put on weight (he only weighs 196 pounds) and work to get stronger, but at 6-foot-9, he has a remarkable 7-foot-3 wingspan, and that’s something you just can’t teach. Ingram has all the makings of a special player.
3. Boston Celtics: Jamal Murray, PG/SG, Kentucky
Despite getting off to a slow start, Kentucky guard Jamal Murray found his stride as the season went on, finishing his freshman season with averages of 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game. He can knock down the three, get to the basket, and is a natural scorer.
Also, at 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, Murray has the requisite size and strength to compete at the next level at either guard position. And while the Celtics have plenty of guards at their disposal, we think Murray would make an excellent addition to their already blossoming backcourt. He could easily became a Beantown favorite.
4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender, PF/C, Croatia
Dragan Bender is probably the best NBA prospect you’ve never heard of. Despite being just 18 years old, the Croatian power forward already knows what it’s like to be a professional, as he currently suits up for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Bender is a 7-footer who can handle the rock, run the floor, and, if he keeps improving his outside shot, has the makings of a top-tier NBA stretch four. While we’re not yet sure he has what it takes to crack one of the top three spots in the 2016 draft, his overall potential is undeniable.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
Buddy Hield is an absolute superstar. During this past season — his senior year — Oklahoma’s All-American averaged 25.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 50.1% from the field and knocking down 45.7% of his three-point attempts. He has a sensational work ethic, a knack for the theatrics, and legit range on his shot.
While his size (6-foot-4) is not ideal for the shooting guard position, if there’s anyone who can overcome this disadvantage, it’s “Buddy Buckets.” Hield is a true competitor and a bona fide winner. What more could an NBA team want?
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
7. Denver Nuggets: Jaylen Brown, SG/SF, California
8. Sacramento Kings: Henry Ellenson, PF/C, Marquette
9. Toronto Raptors: Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky
11. Orlando Magic: Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
12. Utah Jazz: Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State
13. Phoenix Suns: Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State
14. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky
15. Denver Nuggets: Deyonta Davis, PF/C, Michigan State
16. Boston Celtics: Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF, France
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga
18. Detroit Pistons: Diamond Stone, C, Maryland
19. Denver Nuggets: Marquese Chriss, SF/PF, Washington
20. Indiana Pacers: Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
21. Atlanta Hawks: Stephen Zimmerman, C, UNLV
22. Charlotte Hornets: Taurean Prince, SF, Baylor
23. Boston Celtics: Thon Maker, PF/C, Australia
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Wade Baldwin IV, SG, Vanderbilt
27. Toronto Raptors: Cheick Diallo, C, Kansas
28. Phoenix Suns: Caris LeVert, SG, Michigan
29. San Antonio Spurs: Anthony Barber, PG, North Carolina State
30. Golden State Warriors: Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt