To tank or not to tank? That is the question many teams will ask themselves throughout the season, and their answer will depend on the players on this list. Whether or not a struggling team trades their highly rated players for added draft picks is based on who they could draft with those picks. The players on this list shower bottom-feeders such as the 76ers, Nets, and Lakers with hope of a better future that includes playoff aspirations. This is why the NBA Draft is a crucial part to every franchises development. Here is an early list of the top 5 prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft.
1. Ben Simmons, F, LSU
Ben Simmons has drawn comparisons to LeBron James, and rightfully so. Like James, Simmons can do it all. Averaging 19.9 points per game, 14.9 rebounds per game, and 6.0 assists per game, Simmons is excelling in all facets of the game. What’s even more impressive is that he’s put up these scoring numbers with shooting only 2 threes all season, both of which came in the same game. Another stat that is very impressive is the minutes Simmons is playing this season. He is playing 35.6 minutes per game (college games are only 40 minutes), including a three game stretch where he played all 40 minutes.
In Simmons’ worst shooting performance of the season in which he scored only 4 points (1-6 from the field) in 40 minutes, he put up 14 rebounds and 10 assists. Last Wednesday, Simmons had a game for the ages, putting up 43 points (15-20 from the field), 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks. Simmons is the definition of a stat-sheet stuffer.
Teams in the top 3 of the draft (unless they received the pick in a trade) are looking for a lot out of their pick, and Simmons can do so many different things on the court to help whatever team drafts him. Right now, it would be a shock if Simmons does not go number one.
2. Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke
Brandon Ingram is one of the youngest players in the draft, turning 18 this past September, which means he has a lot to develop. But as a result, Ingram also has some of the highest upside in the draft, the kind of upside that rebuilding teams will be more than happy to wait for.
Ingram’s stats don’t jump off the charts like Simmons’ do, but Ingram has still put up solid numbers for Duke this season, averaging 13.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 26.9 minutes per game. Because of the development still needed for Ingram, he is going to have some up and downs this season, which is already evident in the 9 games that he has played. There was a three game stretch where Ingram failed to reach double-digit scoring numbers, but has scored over 20 points in each of his last two games, both on above 50% shooting.
Although Ingram is not as safe as Simmons, he screams potential, which is exactly what teams in position to draft him need. A team like the Sixers aren’t necessarily looking for a player to make an immediate impact, but a player that can dig them out of the cellar, and that is what Ingram is. Brandon Ingram looks good in any team’s future.
3. Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky
Like Ingram, Skal Labissiere is still a raw prospect. Labissiere is drawing comparisons to Amare Stoudemire because of their similarities physically, athletically, and because of their ability to shoot. Although Labissiere isn’t putting up jaw-dropping numbers, he is showing his potential as a defender, an athlete, and a scorer. Not only can the seven-footer finish at the rim, he can step out and hit mid-range jumpers.
Labissiere is averaging 12 points per game and only 3.9 rebounds which is low for a seven-footer. He has played some outstanding games this season however, including a 26 point (10-12 from the field and 6-6 from the line) 5 rebound performance and against NJIT.
Like many young players in the draft, Labissiere has not unleashed his full potential in his freshman season at Kentucky, but is easily the best big man in the 2016 draft class. A team in need of a big man would be elated to draft a player with the size and potential of Skal Labissiere.
4. Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
There are a lot of early mock drafts that have Kris Dunn near the bottom of the lottery, but I just don’t see how he falls that low. In fact, I don’t see how he can fall out of the top 5 (well… maybe because of his below-average jump shot). Kris Dunn can do it all. I have mentioned versatility when talking about the previous players, but Dunn is the most versatile player behind Ben Simmons in the entire draft. Kris Dunn is one of just a few players this season to record a triple-double, and is averaging 18.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists.
Kris Dunn has scored in double figures in every game this season and has at least 5 assists in all but one. Unlike some of the other prospects in this draft class, Dunn is a solidified player with little development. Obviously everyone has room for improvement, and Dunn’s jump shot leaves a lot to be desired, but Kris Dunn, who will be 22 in March, can come right into the NBA and be a solid point guard. At 6-4 and weighing 220 pounds, Dunn has great size to be an elite NBA point guard.
Like most players at the top of the draft, Dunn has a ton of upside. With a lot of similarities to Rajon Rondo, Dunn is quick, athletic, and a beast on both sides of the ball. I would be thrilled if Kris Dunn was the point guard of the future for my favorite NBA team.
5. Dragan Bender, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
To be honest, I do not know much about the 7-1 PF from Croatia and was going to put Jaylen Brown here, but after watching Dragan Bender’s scouting video on draftexpress.com, I understood why he has been climbing up draft boards. And with the success of Kristaps Porzingis in the NBA, general managers will feel better about drafting this young, lanky European big man.
The area of Bender’s game that jumps out most when watching his highlights is his ability to handle and pass the ball. When he dribbles in transition, he looks more like a 6-3 point guard than a 7-1 power forward. Bender can also score in the post, from outside, and on the drive. On the other side of the ball, Bender has the potential to be a potent defensive player. He is a solid shot blocker due to his large wingspan, his quickness enables him to defend players on the perimeter.
Just like last year with Porzingis, the more we see of Bender, the more his draft stock rises. NBA general managers may be cautious about drafting Bender, but he looks like the real deal from his footage.