How many one-and-done prospects will land in the lottery in 2016?
The college basketball season is just a few short months away.
NBA Summer League has come and gone, the moratorium broke twitter feeds across the country, and the NBA schedule release has left analysts predicting the playoff picture. Fans everywhere are itching for basketball-related content, so it is a great time to start previewing the 2016 NBA Draft.
LSU freshman phenom Ben Simmons leads the way, as his versatility is hard to match. If you found the midpoint between Kyle Anderson and LeBron James, you might find Ben Simmons. Next to the Australia forward are Skal Labissiere (Kentucky) and Jaylen Brown (California), both of which will be seen as potential No. 1 picks in the preseason and throughout the season.
Last year Jahlil Okafor entered this stage of the prospect as the clear favorite to be selected No. 1, but he fell to three on draft day as he was usurped by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. There are plenty of prospects that will rise to the occasion and stake their claim on a lottery pick. Who is up for the challenge? Read below for a brief analysis of this year’s top prospects entering the season.
2016 Preseason NBA Mock Draft:
- Ben Simmons | SF/PF | LSU | Freshman
Simmons enters the 2015-16 season as the top prospect in the draft class, but not by a great margin. Simmons is not quite on the same level as Okafor, Towns and Russell a year ago, but slots in nicely in the tier below to start the season. Perhaps the craftiest player in college basketball- as a freshman!- Simmons is a consistent triple-double threat, and could average 15-8-8 at LSU this season. The only true flaws to his game are his lack of elite athleticism and consistent 3-point shooting.
- Skal Labissiere | PF/C | Kentucky | Freshman
Labissiere plays the game similarly to Kentucky’s center from last season, Karl-Anthony Towns. Labissiere is similarly polished on the offensive end, and perhaps has more of an ability to step away and connect from mid-range and beyond the 3-point arc. Defensively, while Labissiere is no slouch, he does not quite compare to the instincts of his predecessor. Expect Skal to finish among the top-10 in scoring, rebounds and blocks in the SEC.
- Jaylen Brown | SF | California | Freshman
Jaylen Brown surprised many with his decision to play for Cuonzo Martin at Cal, but he has a tremendous opportunity to lead a deep Bears’ squad to a Pac-12 title and long NCAA Tournament run. Brown is one of the top athletes in the draft, and is at his best when slashing to the rim. A capable shooter, Brown needs to hone his scoring off the bounce to take the next step as a lethal scorer. He also has the tools to be very good defensively. In six months we could be talking about Brown as the number one pick.
- Jamal Murray | SG | Kentucky | Freshman
While Brown is a terrific scorer, Jamal Murray might be the top scorer in the NCAA, even as a freshman. Murray exploded for 30 points in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, and followed up his play by leading Canada to a second-place finish at the Pan American games. He will greatly benefit from playing next to pass-first point guard Tyler Ulis, and should fill up the box score from all areas. The big question: Can he defend?
- Furkan Korkmaz | SG | Anadolu Efes | 1997-born
I am absolutely enamored by Korkmaz, a 6-7 shooting guard from Turkey. Korkmaz played nearly 11 minutes per game for Anadolu Efes’ senior squad at the age of 17, and was terrific in this summer’s U-19 World Championships (13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists) and U-18 European Championships (16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists). Korkmaz is a lethal 3-point shooter and has terrific court vision offensively. He really needs to work on his thin frame, which could handle 15-20 pounds of muscle.
- Brandon Ingram | SF | Duke | Freshman
Ingram fills the role vacated by Justice Winslow in Mike Krzyzewski’s system. An uber-athletic, but very slender scorer, Ingram has the potential to be the number one pick with a big season. He may go through a bit of a learning curve when going up against more physical opponents, but his length and ability to put the ball in the basket should help him become an early contributor.
- Malik Newman | PG/SG | Mississippi State | Freshman
Newman is the Jamal Crawford of this draft class. Newman can play either guard position, though might be better suited long-term to play off the ball. Playing at Mississippi State, Newman will be the best player on the team from the moment he steps foot on campus, and should have the green light to shoot every time he touches the ball- which could help or hinder his draft stock.
- Dragan Bender | PF | Maccabi Tel Aviv | 1997-born
Bender, unfortunately, had to sit out the U-19 World Championships in Greece due to a contractual dispute between Adidas and Jordan Brand. A near seven-footer, Bender is a point forward that plays the game with incredible court vision. He still needs to work on his body, and his athleticism will never be elite, but his ability to do lots with the ball in his hands will help his draft stock.
- Jakob Poeltl | C | Utah | Sophomore
The big center from Poland could break out for the Utes this year. Perhaps the best center in the NCAA, Poeltl is one of the nation’s best shot blockers and rebounders, and is also an effective scorer around the basket. He could stand to improve his back-to-the-basket game, and his wingspan doesn’t jump off the page, but a sophomore campaign the builds reasonably on his freshman year will get him picked in the lottery.
- Kris Dunn | PG | Providence | Xavier
Dunn is a triple-double waiting to happen, and he enters the season as the top point guard in the draft- depending on how Malik Newman is classified. Dunn has an athletic build, and is a craft scorer, but his best trait is his ability to find the open man. Expect Dunn to lead the NCAA in assists per game, leading Providence to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
- Ivica Zubac | C | KK Cibona | 1997-born
Here comes the mystery man! Ivica Zubac was dominant at the U-19 World Championships and U-18 European Championships this summer, securely planting himself on all 30 teams’ radars. Zubac averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds at the U-19 event and 15.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks at the U-18 tournament. He has terrific hands and can score around the rim in a plethora of ways. Defensively, he could stand to get stronger, but he shows a good knack for being in the right position. Could he be the next Jonas Valanciunas?
- Henry Ellenson | PF | Marquette | Freshman
Ellenson is a versatile four-man that can score inside and from beyond the 3-point line. In terms of the modern NBA game, he is a perfect fit. For a rapidly improving Marquette team, Ellenson will be the best player; and, the big man should average close to a double-double per game. The big question: Will his lack of elite athleticism hold him back?
- Cheick Diallo | PF/C | Kansas | Freshman
Diallo played terrific basketball during the high school all-star game circuit, picking up MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic and McDonald’s All-American game. A do-it-all, defensive-first post, Diallo plays the game with a high motor that will benefit the Jayhawks immediately. He is highly reliant on his teammates to score, but in today’s NBA that might not work against him.
- Domantas Sabonis | PF/C | Gonzaga | Sophomore
Sabonis is in line to earn major minutes for the second-straight year at Gonzaga, potentially as the starting power forward (based on where Kyle Wiltjer plays). Sabonis is a tremendous scorer with range out to 18 feet, and is among the best rebounders in college basketball. Earlier this summer, playing in the U-20 European Championships, he tallied 18 points and 28 rebounds against Ukraine. He could be top-10 bound by June.
- Demetrius Jackson | PG | Notre Dame | Junior
Jackson played off the ball as an underclassman in South Bend, sharing ball-handling responsibilities with 2015 first rounder Jerian Grant. As the primary ball handler and best returning player, Jackson could break out as the top point guard in the country. He is one of the quickest guards in the country and he shoots a high percentage from downtown. There isn’t much not to like.
- Caris LeVert | SG | Michigan | Senior
LeVert was stuck as the only option on a middling team before he went down with a foot injury to end 2015. So why is he still ranked in the top-20? The Michigan guard is an elite shooter who fills all aspects of the box score. Now that Aubrey Dawkins has emerged as a capable secondary option, LeVert should reclaim the success he found when he played with Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Trey Burke.
- Giorgios Papagiannis | C | Panathinaikos | 1997-born
Giorgios Papagiannis spurned many high-major NCAA programs to sign a professional contract with Panathinaikos earlier this summer. One of the top young shot-blockers in the world, Papagiannis runs the floor well for a player his size, and rebounds at a high rate. Like Zubac above, Papagiannis dominated the interior at the U-19 World Championships (8.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game) and U-18 European Championships (12.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks).
- Ivan Rabb | PF | California | Freshman
Rabb is the second elite freshman on this list to revive college basketball in Berkeley. Likely lining up as the center for the Bears, Rabb offers an intriguing combination of size and length, though his skinny frame needs to add muscle. Rabb is capable of stretching the floor from the post position, and should block roughly two shots per game.
- Dwayne Bacon | SG | Florida State | Freshman
Bacon is a phenomenal scorer who should start right away for the Seminoles. Coming out of Oak Hill Academy, Bacon stands at 6-7, and can play either wing position. Skilled in creating his own shot, and a good set shooter too, it’s no stretch to predict Bacon to finish among the top-five in scoring among ACC players. His defense will be one to watch, but he has all of the tools to become a complete player.
- Diamond Stone | C | Maryland | Freshman
Stone is a traditional, back-to-the-basket center with a broad array of post moves. He should benefit strongly from playing with Melo Trimble and Jake Layman for a Maryland team that some have claimed should be ranked No. 1 in the country. Stone’s athleticism is a question mark when projecting him to the next level, but he should be a difficult force to handle in the Big Ten this year.
- Allonzo Trier | PG/SG | Arizona | Freshman
Trier is a terrific scorer that has no problem creating his own shot. Built like a point guard, but with the current game of an off-guard, Trier should get looks playing both positions for Sean Miller, who coached Trier at the U-19 World Championships. Trier averaged 8.7 points per game under Miller at the event, playing on a balanced and deep USA squad. Will the chemistry built on the FIBA circuit ease his transition?
- Justin Jackson | SF | North Carolina | Sophomore
Jackson really came on strong at the end of last season for Roy Williams and the Tar Heels, serving as a secondary ball-handler and, at times, go-to scorer. Jackson should see plenty of looks to score this year, especially when considering Marcus Paige returned for his senior season. He projects as an above-average defender, but needs to prove he can take on the opponent’s top option on a nightly basis.
- Tyrone Wallace | PG/SG | California | Senior
A third Cal player in the top-30? The Bears are a sleeper pick to make a run for the Final Four this year, and much of their success will be attributed to the point guard, Wallace. Left-handed with tremendous athleticism, Wallace’s assist numbers should go through the roof with other capable options in Brown, Rabb and Jabari Bird. He is a pest defensively, and a reliable 3-point shot away from cracking the late-lottery.
- Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk | SG | Kansas | Sophomore
Mykhailiuk was the youngest player in college basketball last year, coming to Lawrence from Ukraine at the age of 17. His minutes dwindled as the year progressed, but he showed flashes of becoming a terrific player. Now 18- the age of most incoming freshmen- Mykhailiuk should get more of a chance to be the primary scorer. Self should run him off of screens on every play to get him a 3-point look, as he is one of the top shooters in the country.
- Buddy Hield | SG | Oklahoma | Senior
Hield is a player that has improved each year of his college career. He continues to take on more responsibilities, and his draft stock has risen every year. A likely preseason All-America selection, Hield will take on more of a distribution role than in the past, and he could post a 20-5-5 stat line for Lon Kruger and the Sooners. Hield could eventually be the first senior drafted in 2016.
- Melo Trimble | PG | Maryland | Sophomore
Trimble leads what should be a dominant Maryland team in 2015-16, and his draft stock should remain comfortably in the first round if he succeeds. Slightly undersized at 6-2, Trimble’s calling card is his outside shot, which opens up the rest of his game. His assist numbers should rise as a sophomore as well. If Maryland truly establishes itself (led by Trimble) as a top-five team, we could be laughing in June about how low Trimble was ranked preseason.
- Amida Brimah | C | UConn | Junior
What is every team looking for in the draft, free agency and via trades in a center? Teams are searching for athletic, shot-blocking players that can run the floor well. Enter Brimah. Kevin Ollie’s center blocked 3.5 shots per game last year despite playing only 26 minutes per game. He gets most of his baskets around the rim, and is a more-than-capable free throw shooter. Brimah needs to rebound the ball at a higher rate to maintain this ranking.
- Nigel Hayes | SF/PF | Wisconsin | Junior
Hayes is a bit of an enigma in that he was stuck behind Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker on Wisconsin’s mouths-to-feed list in 2014-15. Now the top player on the team Hayes should be able to make more of an impact on the game as a scorer, rebounder and distributor. He’s stuck between the three and the four, but there is some Draymond Green to his game that is incredibly intriguing.
- Isaiah Taylor | PG | Texas | Junior
Taylor will benefit greatly from the hiring of Shaka Smart, who will release his high-pressure, trapping system on the Big-12. Taylor is a breakout candidate for the 2015-16 season, and should see statistical improvements across the board. Already one of the quickest players nationally, Taylor needs to improve his outside shot to remain a possibility for the first round.
- Isaia Cordinier | SG | Evreux | 1996-born
Readers, meet the French Zach LaVine. Cordinier is a blossoming prospect that would dunk everything if he could. He has an incredibly quick first step, which should help him on both ends of the floor. He has decent mechanics on his set shot, but takes erratic, contested shots far too often. Keep an eye out for Cordinier, he might just break out for Evreux this year.
Next five in: Jonathan Jeanne C/Le Mans, Grayson Allen SG/Duke, Thomas Bryant C/Indiana, Malik Pope SF/San Diego State, James Webb III SF/Boise State