The Ultimate Undead 2016 NBA Mock Draft – Part 1: The Lottery

As noted by our witty tagline (potentially copyright infringed, but nobody reads us! We’re like Dickinson or Nietzsche, just without credibility or originality!), we’re certainly not heroes at Sports Spangled Banter. Not close. One kid donated bone marrow once, which was pretty cool, but he has offset that goodwill since with multiple unjustified transgressions. God, he should probably be in prison. Homeless Fight Club in residential areas is definitely not just a zoning issue.

HOWEVER, in this Internet age with computers and such, that line from The Sandlot – “heroes get remembered, but legends never die” – receives a revamped and most certainly unwelcome interpretation by yours truly. Unlike legends, we have no legacy, achievements of note, or even parody Twitter accounts, but LIKE legends, we have somehow continued to exist, whether through memory or still functional domain names (I remembered my admin info!!). By strict definition of that corny line from that awful film (FIGHT ME!), we have achieved the coveted status of “Undead.” This site will always threaten to continue to exist among the thousands of other neglected blogs, cat videos, and the ethereal (Crying Jordan). Consider it among the cockroaches of the nuclear wasteland of pre-Trump internet.

From our early (and frankly, only) days as a site, the quality of analytical writing in sports and matters of our particular interests has improved and blossomed, regularly surpassing that which we could hope to realistically provide (even post-Grantland). It is an awesome development, but it greatly lessened the vacuum for what had existed not long before we started out (the Internet moves quickly). As someone who has lost almost all interest in the NFL and is in awe of the statistical revolution in MLB and NBA writing, there doesn’t often appear to be much to write about that is not or has not already been covered in an in-depth and profound manner. Sad!

…But I do occasionally notice a dearth of writing that delves into the nonsensical, irrelevant, or unrealistic, whether it concern trades, player comparisons, uncomfortable anecdotes, etc. Fortunately for the world, that’s my f*cking wheelhouse (like an inside Dan Haren fastball to David Ortiz).

And lo, drafts are the apex of this fantasy. Analysts can suggest nonsense like “with a little coaching up and extra shooting work with Detlef Schrempf, Skal Labissiere can become the Yo-Yo-Ma of stretch-4’s” and get PAID to say it while Ernie Johnson internally screams.

I say this endearingly.

I hate the NFL, yet I still can’t help but tune in during the end of April and think “Wes Schweitzer! He’s depth! That will push the Falcons’ offensive line to new heights!” It’s all garbage – I’ve never heard of Wes in my life! As a matter of fact, I don’t know any of these people! – but the draft represents one of the few times in sports when we can have imagination and not have it all be crippling self-delusion.

We’re never going to think “Yeah, Charlie Villanueva was a money-grabbing bust for his whole career, but THIS IS HIS YEAR!” No, that’s stupid. Please don’t think like that. But Henry Ellenson? He can become like Kevin Love, except also block shots, run in transition, play center without being mercilessly targeted by opposing teams, run the offense, drive the team to away games, AND finish his sociology degree while still playing in preparation for that non-existent job market after his playing days are over.

With a short time to go until the happiest of occasions – the NBA draft – I am imparting upon you, lucky reader, the ultimate NBA mock draft by us, the ultimate undead sports blog. If you have had no idea what I have been talking about up until this point, you are in good company as we descend down this happy spiral of assumptive tomfoolery. Enjoy the ride and be confident that I know what I’m talking about, even if I’m not!

This mock portrait, to clarify, is not what I think will happen so much as what I think SHOULD happen, based on how I assess your beloved team. There will be alternative scenarios considered all along the way and I will make every effort to provide a contemplative reflection upon each team.*

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I will likely fail as soon as I have to talk about the Magic, the undead sports blog of NBA teams. Or the Nets, when I may just start uncontrollably typ-DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!

Apologies.

But it will be the best damn undead NBA mock draft that you will read this year, and will be subject to updates, mainly when Danny Ainge says “to hell with it all!” and tries to parlay his bounty of draft picks for Boogie Cousins, Trill Cauley-Stein, and the naming rights to the Kings’ future arena.

Why will it be the best? Two reasons. The first is that mock drafts that I have seen to this point have an overly empirical approach. Can’t have that – emotions need to prevail; no room for logic here! The other is that the authors of said mock drafts clearly lack a feeling of desperation that I constantly feel and thus gives me the insight of a perspiring Rob Hennigan as he eye-gropes the timer when it’s the Magic’s turn to pick and realizes he has no idea what he’s doing. Competitive advantage!

So here we go. Are you ready? Neither am I. Let’s do this.


 

With the 1st pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers will select…

          Brandon Ingram

The Hinkie era prematurely ended earlier this year, which means his strategy of asset maximization – probably the most uninterrupted and measured management approach in league history – has also gone quiet into the night. Bryan Colangelo, the ruling party following the CIA-like coup (orchestrated by his own father, Jerry!) to oust Hinkie from power, has all eyes on him as the Sixers fan base looks for instant justification for his sketchy ascension to power. *looks under rock* Nope, no nepotism here!

If it were Hinkie still in control, the pick would be Simmons. No question. Times a thousand. And it still might be. But God, this roster is screwed up, and Colangelo certainly knows it. Like the rich kid who has the keys to his dad’s Ferrari (you know, when the dad relinquishes all control of said Ferrari after ruthlessly taking it from the previous owner), Colangelo also views it dispassionately, and less as future value for leverage. The Hinkie-era Sixers had drafted three straight top picks (Noel was technially acquired from draft-day trade, but same thing, basically) who can only play center at a high level.

At least one of these guys is gone this summer, with Joel Embiid (another center who’s been injured for his entire first two years in the league) and Darko Saric (a combo forward coming from Europe) joining the roster and clogging up the frontcourt even more.

Ok, we’ll name names. Jalil Okafor is almost definitely gone and Noel is probably at 1:4 or 1:5 odds of being gone by this time next season. If Embiid stays healthy, it would not be surprising if he’s the only one of the Okafor-Noel-Embiid trio still in Philadelphia by this time next year. He could be the next Hakeem Olajuwon and it would be a tragedy if health deprives the world of this potential outcome.

But wait, this is all relevant. The fates of the current big men on the Sixers’ roster is one of two central decisions that will likely orient the franchise’s future. The other is this draft pick (No pressure, Bryan!). The Sixers suffered from awful defense and severe scoring issues last year, which is detrimental to giving up fewer points and scoring more points on a consistent basis that your opponent. While the former is the result of having an incredibly young roster and Noel and Embiid struggling severely to play together, the Sixers also sorely lack good shooting to stretch the floor. When you play two centers together, as they have been, there will already be poor spacing, but surrounding them with Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson, and Christian Wood is a mocking attempt at a solution.

So why Ingram? Without making it so a case of why not Ben Simmons, here’s the case for Ingram: he’s the closest thing to Kevin Durant since Durant was drafted in 2007. He will immediately be an outside shooting threat, particularly when he has yet to develop a post game, and can potentially become one of the league’s best two-way players in a few years time.

Even with Okafor likely gone, the team will still be skewed toward bigs. Simmons would exacerbate an already existing problem (spacing) and make for a significant overlap in strengths (rebounding, inside scoring) while failing to contribute in the ways that will better enable players to co-exist and account for current roster shortcomings. The 76ers will need to have a major overhaul in order to best accommodate Simmons as the centerpiece of the franchise (he won’t be at his best when surrounded by forwards and centers); based on roster composition and the woeful recent history, it’s hard to imagine that significant turbulence after taking Simmons will be what finally sets Philadelphia on course for long-term stability and success.

Consistently putting Philadelphia’s young players in positions to succeed (especially once Embiid and Saric enter the mix) will be crucial to their development, especially when taking into account the shortcomings the 76ers have had in doing so up to this point. Ingram is not the point forward extraordinaire that Simmons is, but he doesn’t need to be for the 76ers to make the best move for their franchise, especially with the likes of Saric (a Euro point/stretch forward) coming over. Ingram is the prototypical wing player who already can shoot and defend at a relatively high level. With upgrades at the guard positions (likely achieved by trade), Ingram would slingshot this team forward in its development. Colangelo is probably already thinking about offering Mike Conley $20 million a year.

Drafting the best player available is almost always the way to go over the best fit, but when skill set meshes better with the current roster by such a considerable margin and when the “best player available” argument is as close as it is, you need to go with Ingram.

Best case: Kevin Durant

Worst case: Tim Thomas

Alternative Pick: Ben Simmons


 

With the 2nd pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Lakers will select…

          Ben Simmons

The most talented player in this draft. Gaze upon this stat line from his one season at LSU! Gaze! I’ve seen LeBron James comparisons galore. Maybe in terms of skill set versatility, but nah. If he develops at least league-average 3-point range, all bets are off, but he took three 3-point shots for his entire season at LSU. For now, he’s simply going to be a 6-10 point forward behemoth who can ignite the offense, play positions 1-5, rebound like a monster, and create his own shot like few others currently in the league. Not bad! But if anything, he’s more like Lamar Odom. “Whoa whoa whoa,” you might be thinking. “Lamar Odom?” Yes, but not like that. Odom was really, really good in his first couple years in the league and probably hurt his development with drug suspensions and injury troubles in his third and fourth seasons, respectively.

And Simmons will be better than Odom. Both have/had great vision, size, and playmaking ability, but Simmons lacks the off-court concerns that plagued Odom, is a better athlete, and takes Odom’s versatility (i.e. ability to guard opposing big men on one end and run the offense on the other) to a whole notha level.

The Lakers will be a pretty good fit for Simmons; it will be a process to see what kind of players will best complement someone as unique as Simmons, but the likes of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson (assuming the Lakers match any offer he gets as a RFA, which is very likely), and DeAngelo Russell can provide spacing on Simmons’ drives and get out in transition with him. Without Byron Scott accidentally sabotaging the Lakers every step of the way, they will be fun to watch next year.

Best case: Less explosive LeBron James (not saying much)

Worst case: Lamar Odom (Clippers/Lakers version)

Alternative Pick: Brandon Ingram (if 76ers pick Simmons)


 

With the 3rd pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics will select…

          Dragen Bender

First thing’s first, Bender is not Kristaps Porzingis. Both players have competed in top European leagues from a young age and have great scoring versatility, but their skill sets diverge from there: while Porzingis is rangier and will probably play as a floor-stretching center for the majority of his career, Bender grew up playing as a guard and – by that measure – may actually be more versatile than Porzingis on both ends. Porzingis passed the grueling defensive litmus test for a rookie big man, contesting shots and getting boards with a veracity that few anticipated from the Latvian.

Bender is almost as tall as Porzingis, but is also more agile and experienced in dealing with perimeter opponents; with the NBA’s current obsession with line-up versatility, being able to routinely switch on defenders without getting embarrassed (Hi Enes Kanter!) is crucial. I’m not sure that Bender will actually end up being as good of a player as Porzingis, simply because KP is already so good at what he projects to be: a rim-protecting center who can dominate inside and out on offense. Bender, however, can become a lot of what the Celtics need: secondary playmaking, outside shooting, and rim protection.

Boston should bet big here and see what wunderkind coach Brad Stevens can do with Bender.

Best case: Toni Kukoc/Pau Gasol hybrid.

Worst case: Nikola Mirotic

Alternative Pick: Pick gets traded in package for star or Jaylen Brown


 

With the 4th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns will select…

          Jaylen Brown

Bender would be cool for Phoenix if he falls here, but I really like Brown with this team. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are locked down for the next several seasons, Devin Booker could be a top shooting guard in three years, and they have a couple of other good young players who are worth keeping around after their rookie deals in Alex Len and T.J. Warren. A lockdown wing defender is a characteristic on every team with championship aspirations; Brown was not that at Cali, but he’s an elite NBA athlete who will more than likely become a very good defender at the next level by virtue of his physical traits (long wingspan, great agility, quick feet).

At this point, I’d like to comment that this is a weird draft because here’s a guy who will be a liability on offense most nights apart of getting out on the fast break, yet here is he getting his name called by imaginary NBA commissioner Adam Silver 4th overall. What gives?

Well, for one, there is a lack of elite prospects this year. It’s the Simmons/Ingram party, then maybe Bender depending on how you rate him, then all the other warm bodies. F’real, there are a couple of other guys expected by most people to be drafted in the top 10 for sure; from that point, the jury’s out.

For two, this year, there’s 1) a mix of guys who underachieved in college ball, but have enough athletic upside that they’re worth taking a flyer on due to lack of great alternative options (Brown, Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis, Cheick Diallo), 2) guys who did better than expected and therefore got a major boost in this weak draft (Buddy Hield, Marquese Chriss, Henry Ellenson), and then 3) a significant crop of international players, many of whom are big men and thus are on the wrong side of a trend that is shifting away from large line-ups. These categories will be referenced for convenience going forward, so take note.

It all makes for an underwhelming group of players, but frankly that’s part of the fun. This year, more than any than I can immediately recall, you can say “I think [Player] should go [4-45]” and the draft experts will not bat an eye. Players that might get torn to shreds under the microscope in years past are currently being assessed in a lens akin to “well, he played 14 minutes all year, but since he’s JUST 18 when the next NBA season starts, has a 7’6″ wingspan, has only played organized sports for three years, and reportedly hit a 3-pointer once in practice, he might sneak into the 1st round!” Relativity is everything and has made this current draft season so enthralling.

And if all this provides me with greater liberty to spew nonsense from here on out, that works too.

Best case: Eddie Jones, but plays positions 2-4 and has Jason Richardson’s athleticism.

Worst case: Iman Shumpert

Alternative: Bender if he’s there. If he’s not, hard to see that this isn’t the move. A very recent development is that apparently Chriss might be considered here now? That’s dumb, especially since the value for versatile defensive perimeter guys is at an all-time high. Chriss is a better scorer and they are two of the best athletes in this draft, but if you’re betting overwhelmingly on their upside either way, it would stand to reason to take the guy with greater positional value. On second thought, however, since it’s Phoenix, they could actually do this.


 

With the 5th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves will select…

          Jamal Murray

This guy could be really good. He probably will be. He’ll definitely be able to score at a considerable rate; what will likely determine how good he becomes is his ability to set up teammates and work within Coach Thibodeau’s defensive system. He won’t be a beastly two-way player ever, but he scored 20 points per game as a freshman for Kentucky and is just big enough to get by at shooting guard. This alone would work for a Wolves team that would greatly benefit from another good shooter and wing depth to push Zach LaVine for the starting spot.

Hield may be the choice either, since he similarly fit the criteria of good shooter and rotational wing player, but Murray is three years younger and probably has a bit more scoring versatility in terms of finishing at the rim than Hield. A power forward would ideally be an option here as well, but it’s difficult to see any of the most likely choices at that position fit the mold as Thibodeau’s kind of guy. Ivan Rabb likely would have been the only one who fits that description, and he’s heading back to Cali for his second year.

Best case: C.J. McCollum

Worst case: Ben/Eric Gordon

Alternatives: Buddy Hield. Wolves may also trade down. The top of the draft is weak, especially compared to last year, but there will actually be enough good players in the 2nd round that it may be worth trying to acquire a 2nd round pick, which they don’t have this year. They also may not have their 1st round pick next year, so there’s a sneaky amount of urgency with what Minnesota chooses to do here. My sleeper here is Henry Ellenson. The guy is a very, very skilled offensive player, but was brutal on defense. Thibodeau is one of the best at coaxing defensive potential, so taking Ellenson would really show that he’s betting on himself.

Other note: if Minnesota drafts Kris Dunn here, I will put my foot through my television. Kris Dunn will hardly top out as a defensive upgrade to Ricky Rubio, who is certainly a top-5 defensive point guard, arguably top-3. Dunn will also never be the passing wizard that Rubio is. The Spaniard is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, largely due to the Timberwolves’ status as perennial small-market losers. If Dunn was a knockdown 3-point shooter, I still would not be convinced, but there would at least be an argument for drafting him here. In no uncertain terms, it would be the franchise’s dumbest move since the David Kahn era, yet I’ve seen it in multiple projections. It blows my mind that this is a possibility.

 


 

With the 6th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the New Orleans Pelicans will select…

          Buddy Hield

Hield was the poster boy of the NCAA tournament this year. Then his Oklahoma Sooners got slaughtered by Villanova in the Final Four. His numerous excellent shooting exhibitions prior to the annihilation, however, gave him a boost and solidified his status as a top 10 draft pick. As the case with fellow historical college marksmen, Stephen Curry and Doug McDermott, shooting will be Hield’s calling card at the NBA level. Unless he tremendously improves in his ability to provide open looks for teammates (he had a poor assist rate in college) or to drive and finish at the rim, he will not be an All-Star caliber player.

That’s fine. The Pelicans need help of any kind for superstar Anthony Davis, and Hield’s sharpshooting will fill a huge need for New Orleans, especially since Ryan Anderson will likely leave for greener pastures in free agency. As long as Hield can be a 39%+ 3-point shooter, he should be an improvement over Eric Gordon in a couple of years. The Pelicans are certainly hoping that he can be at least that.

Best case: A better defending and rebounding J.J. Reddick

Worst case: Jodie Meeks

Alternatives: If Alvin Gentry wants to play Davis more as a center going forward, maybe Marquese Chriss will be considered? Going in the opposite direction tactically, New Orleans has been suggested as a possible landing spot for Jalil Okafor if/when he’s traded, which would almost definitely require this draft pick to happen. While well aware of Okafor’s flaws, I would be intrigued. If anyone can help cover for the former Blue Devil’s defensive shortcomings, it’s Davis. Doesn’t Okafor deserve this after spending his first year in the league as a top selection constantly losing and knowing that he’s likely surplus to requirements from day one? And wouldn’t anything be better for the Pelicans than letting Omer Asik ever touch the court again? Now I want this trade to happen. *folds hands, waits*


 

With the 7th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Denver Nuggets will select…

          Marquese Chriss

The Nuggets are in pretty good shape despite being a pretty bad team. This year, they have a couple of first round picks to boost an already enviable squadron of young players, particularly Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and last year’s 1st round pick, Emmanuel Mundiay. They have some depth already at center and have a few particularly fun players in Will Barton, Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried. Based on who is currently available and how the roster is currently looking, it makes sense to go big – in both senses – on this pick. Marquese Chriss is a category 2 guy who turned more than a few heads with his play for Washington as a freshman this past season despite being a relatively unheralded prospect.

Like a few of the category 1 prospects I mentioned earlier, Chriss would be effectively thrown to the wolves if he plays significant minutes early on as a rookie. It would be violent. With a guy like Faried locked down for a few more seasons at the power forward position, there is little pressure for Chriss to come good early. He fits the mold of being an effective stretch-4 (a power forward who effectively can play around the perimeter on offense) in the NBA; he’s a very good athlete to boot. He can’t rebound to save himself and lacks any sort of traditional big man post game, but he showed real scoring chops and has the complementary physical tools to suggest a lot of potential in store if he improves as a rebounder, matures, and hits the weight room.

Best case: Chris Bosh, but he’s at least a year away from where Bosh was as a rookie

Worst case: Andrea Bargnani

Alternative: Denzel Valentine: perhaps a bit early for him, but since I think a lot of teams are quietly keen on him, it would not surprise me to see him go here. One of the international wing players (Luwawu/ Korkmanz) is a dark horse pick, but I think they stay on the board just a bit longer.


 

With the 8th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Sacramento Kings will select…

          Kris Dunn

The loser of the annual contest within a contest, which is basically whoever gets drafted by the Kings. If I had the chance to grow six inches, have incredible dunking ability, and hit 3-pointers like a Stephen Curry/Becky Hammon love child…but I had to play my entire career in Sacramento, I would turn it down. Specifically, I would curse the genie for giving me such an unfortunately specific ultimatum, spurn the condition, then grow inconsolably bitter for rejecting (by necessity!) my chance to play in the NBA. I would probably retire to the mountains, learn to embrace folk music, and read a ton of Karl Marx (“We need to destroy capitalism! This guy who spent much of his adult life cynically viewing cities where he lived in poverty totally got it!”).

It’s ok to be cautiously optimistic if you’re a Kings fan. Dave Joerger is a very good, well-respected coach and this would mark two straight smart draft picks! If Ben McLemore can become more than a young Wes Johnson and Rajon Rondo does not get re-signed, then things would really be looking up. Kris Dunn is pretty much John Wall lite; in other words, he’s a few years older than Wall when the Wizards’ point guard came into the league, he has similar weaknesses (turnover prone and broken jump shot), and he is not quite the athlete that John Wall is (few are). All things considered, without cracking 37% on 3-point attempts, he probably won’t become better than a middle-of-the-pack starting point guard, considering how many great point guards there already are in the league. It would still be an important step forward for the Kings, especially if Dunn is able to become close to the playmaker that Wall is. He’ll almost certainly be a very good defender, which will certainly be a big upgrade from the likes of Rondo and Darren Collison. Drafting Dunn should make DeMarcus Cousins happy for five minutes.

Best case: John Wall

Worst case: Devin Harris

Alternative: Malik Beasley or Taurean Prince, maybe? Either of them would also fit a need. I can’t put it past this franchise to do something stupid, so it would totally be like the Kings to draft someone who they still could have drafted had they traded down. Since they drafted big last year, however, I don’t think they will again. Dunn here makes too much sense.


 

With the 9th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors will select…

          Skal Labissiere

The 7’1″ Haitian arrived in Lexington as one of the top high school recruits in the country. Despite his status as one of demon wizard John Calipari’s prize signings, he averaged fewer than 7 points and 3 rebounds a game for Kentucky, and consistently underachieved against fellow college players. But it turns out it doesn’t even really matter, because he’ll probably be a lottery pick anyway!

That’s the kind of draft this is. “He struggled against inferior college athletes, but maybe he’ll really turn it on against the best players in the world once he gets owned by them enough!” Supposedly he impressed front office guys a few weeks ago when taking uncontested jump shots at a private workout. Ah yes, the true test of an NBA player: hitting shots when no one’s defending.

With all that said, I could see Toronto GM Masai Ujiri making this call. He has bet on upside with his last couple of draft selections (not done without a fair share of criticism) and seeing as he is benefiting from past Knicks stupidity (the Bargnani trade: never forget) in the form of this high pick, he may feel at leisure to gamble again.

The Raptors’ position of need has been power forward. Patrick Patterson is a valuable rotation player, but he’s hardly a starter. Luis Scola – the 36-year old Argentinian who can’t jump higher than you or I can – started for this team against the Cavs, which expresses the severity of the situation.

Toronto may not re-sign DeRozan (he will command serious money this summer in free agency), but that wouldn’t necessarily spell doom if he leaves. The bigger issue is that Toronto has aspirations on staying competitive in the East while Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll are in their prime, and they desperately need another top talent to contend with the Cavs. Jonas Valenciunas has not turned into a primary scoring option, although that is at least partially the fault of how the team has used him, considering his skill level and good efficiency. Terrence Ross has plateaued in his development and struggled in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavs.

So maybe Labissiere is the right move here. Bruno Caboclo (skip ahead to 2 minutes in to behold the befuddlement by everyone, including the commissioner), Ujiri’s super-ambitious pick from two years ago, has reportedly made some big strides and may be on schedule to crack the rotation next season. I think Chriss or Labissiere will be the selection here. Since Chriss is en route to Denver in this fantasy world, Skal gets to be the next Raptor referenced in a Drake song.

Best case: Uh, let’s go with the Suns-present iteration of Channing Frye.

Worst case: Byron Mullens (don’t squint too hard, or you will see ALL OF THE PARALLELS)

Alternatives: I think Jakob Poeltl could be in play if Ujiri thinks that re-signing Bismack Biyombo is not realistic (he made himself a LOT of money with a couple of huge performances in the Eastern Conference Finals, particularly because the salary cap is jumping by approximately $22 million next season. This summer will feature a lot of excessive foolish spending and some of that will go to Biyombo), but swinging for the fences at a potential starter in Labissiere, rather than a back-up for Valenciunas (which is what Poeltl would be), is much more of Ujiri’s style. Malik Beasley is my dark horse here.


 

With the 10th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks will select…

          Jakob Poeltl

This is one of the trickier picks. On one hand, the team drafted Rashad Vaughan, a shooting guard, last year. He was one of the youngest players in a strong draft, so he should have some leeway when considering how poor he was as a rookie. He was really bad, but he has a lot of room for growth.

On the other, Greg Monroe, the team’s most expensive free agent signing in history, was an abject failure. Sure, he was productive on offense, but his struggles on defense thwarted what had been a hugely successful defensive scheme the season prior.

The team had surprisingly made the playoffs in the prior season (2014-15), in large part due to their excellent swarming team defense that utilized the roster’s length and athleticism in switching and trapping quickly. Greg Monroe was expected to be a step forward as a scoring focal point; his slow feet and stout frame would be hidden by the rest of the roster’s strong play.

It didn’t work. His offensive impact didn’t offset the step back on defense that the team took with him on the court. The team’s lack of spacing, due to inefficient outside shooting, also worked against him.

This roster is highly versatile – their point guard for the upcoming season will be 6’11” Giannis Antetekounmpo! – and it’s questionable at best whether it should ever employ two traditional bags at one time, given the brutal spacing issues that plagued the team throughout the season.

While there are a couple of other issues that the team needs to address, chalking the Monroe experiment up as a learning experience in building a roster and trying to move on is probably the best thing to do for both parties. Perhaps the team is able to trade him or he just hangs around as a rotation player before opting out of his contract next summer; either way, the team needs to look ahead.

Keeping all this in mind, it makes sense to draft Poeltl here. Maybe you take a guard here with O.J. Mayo and Grievis Vasquez possibly gone as free agents, but Vaughn’s assumed development and Giannis’s employment at point guard will reduce the need for more guard depth. Poeltl has superior foot speed and length to Monroe. At Utah, he was capable at switching onto smaller opponents and also moves very well in the open court.

Coming out of Utah, Andrew Bogut had a similarly energetic game, even though he was more adept as a low-post scorer and shot-blocker (Interestingly, at this point in his career, Bogut has become almost exclusively focused on the defensive side of the ball and shows reluctance to shoot). Like Bogut, Poeltl also gets drafted by Milwaukee. He will be a defensive upgrade and his playing style will mesh on this young Bucks team.

Best case: Andrew Bogut/Tyson Chandler

Worst case: Tyler Zeller

Alternatives: Timothe Luwawu. Another great athlete for Milwaukee? Why not! Furkan Korkmaz is my dark horse here. Plays kind of like Evan Fournier, but is being described like Mario Hezonja in his aggressiveness. A player like that could definitely have a role with Milwaukee, particularly late in games. Which reminds me…


 

With the 11th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Orlando Magic will select…

          Deyonta Davis

Here we go. Orlando Magic’s pick. God, how can a team with so many athletic top draft picks be so boring? I understand that Scott Skiles is to blame for that this past season (the NBA is better off when the likes of him or Bryon Scott are unemployed. They’re miserable people who should monopolize all grumpy father-in-law roles that Hollywood has to fill for the next decade), but it’s inexcusable when there’s barely a thrill factor with a team that has Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, and Aaron Gordon. Heck, the Kings are trash, but at least Cousins, his volatile relationships with the revolving door of coaches, and the unadulterated idiocy of the franchise’s owners/upper management have steadily combined to make for reality-TV entertainment.

The Tobias Harris trade seemed pretty dumb on Orlando’s part (Skiles, in desperation to get a couple of his kind of players, probably bartered one of Hennigan’s children to get the deal done), but it makes sense in freeing up cap space and giving Gordon more playing time. I can’t stand Scott Skiles, in case I haven’t made this clear.

Now Orlando’s focus in free agency is reportedly for veterans. Terrific. The front office must understand that to get to “Unwatchable” mode, the roster needs to get older. Well at least the coaching change is a monster step in the right direction. Frank Vogel won’t make this team a must-watch spectacle, but at least he’ll move the needle from the Skiles era. Sure. It’ll probably be a nice change for the players, going from verbal hailstorms on a regular basis to development-focused optimism with Vogel. From a selfish point of view, Mike D’Antoni would have been a cool hire for this team, but Vogel was definitely the smarter long-term option. Way to accidentally fall into a big coaching upgrade, Orlando!

The team needs better shooting and improvements on defense. With Evan Fournier all but certainly back (Orlando can’t afford to lose out on their only proven 3-point shooting threat), Mario Hezonja likely due for a larger role next season, and Oladipo aiming to add an increasingly effective outside shot to his repertoire, they should make at least marginal strides in the first department.

On the defensive side of the ball, for all of Frank Vogel’s optimism, it will be tough for Nikola Vucevic to become anything more than an average defensive center. If he’s their defensive anchor, as Vogel says, then their ship may struggle to stay afloat (Nautical metaphors!).

So what to do, what to do. Hmmm.

Hmmm.

I know! Draft a defensive big! Guys like Jason Smith and Dewayne Dedmon have a spot on the roster, but Deyonta Davis could form a ferocious platoon with Vucevic and Gordon. He has the athletic ability to play more up-tempo AND can defend power forwards and centers. As someone who averaged just under 4 blocks per 36 minutes in his one season at Michigan State, it will surprise me if he doesn’t become a very good shot blocker in the NBA.

For the first couple of years, he will not need a major role, which would suit perfectly as, by that time, Orlando will also know what it has in Gordon and the rest of its young core. This would be a smart investment by Hennigan.

Best case: Erick Dampier

Worst case: Ed Davis

Alternatives: I think the other option here would be Luwawu or Prince. Basically a guy who can defend at a high level on the perimeter, rather than down low.


 

With the 12th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Utah Jazz will select…

          Denzel Valentine

The Jazz are in a good spot. Not geographically of course – they are in Utah, after all – but as a franchise. It has a young core and lacks glaring weaknesses in its starting 5, particularly due to Rodney Hood’s emergence. If point guard Dante Exum comes back from the ACL injury that claimed his entire 2nd season and makes strides in his decision-making and outside shooting, the Jazz will be in a great position.

Exum’s absence, Alec Burks’ banged-up status for much of the year, and Rudy Gobert’s knee injury in the 1st half of the season really damaged their playoff aspirations. With a smart pick here, Trey Lyles’ improvement, and better health fortune, the Jazz should expect to make the playoffs next season.

So what would be a smart pick? Denzel Valentine. The team lacks depth on the wings and could benefit from a playmaker off the bench seeing as Trey Burke was a bust. Burks and Valentine have complementary skill sets. Burks is adept at creating his own shot and getting to the rim; while Valentine was the primary ball handler for Michigan State, his strengths at the NBA level will be passing and outside shooting.

As someone who shot 44% from 3, averaged over 7 assists and 7 rebounds a game, and was the main guy for one of the best college teams in the country,  Valentine is one of my favorites in this draft. He will probably never be a very good defender, but he’s getting sold short in terms of how good he’ll be on that end.

For a lanky, well-defending team like the Jazz, he’ll be fine on defense; he’ll certainly contribute as a pick’n’roll facilitator and spot-up shooter. If he’s here, the Jazz should take him. The time is now for the Jazz to take a step forward in the Western Conference; no room for project players anymore.

Best case: Jim Jackson/(a less athletic) Evan Turner with a good jump shot

Worst case: Jared Dudley

Alternative: I think Shelvin Mack/Raul Neto did enough to justify remaining as the Jazz’s back-up point guards for next season. I think it will one of the top international wings – Luwawu or Korkmaz – here if it’s not Valentine.

 

With the 13th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns will select…

          Henry Ellenson

We’re back to Phoenix! What to get for a team with two point guards, a top young shooter in Booker, Brown, and a young center in Len (who would probably benefit from an unhappy Tyson Chandler getting out of town)? It’s like trying to buy a birthday present for a rich kid! I know! How about a power forward?

Henry Ellenson is a guy who probably will work a lot on developing his outside shot in hopes of becoming an effective stretch-4, which would definitely fill a need for Phoenix. He’s also going to be a big power forward – he measured 6’10” without shoes and has a 7’2″ wingspan. For comparison’s sake, Kevin Love is just under 6’10” with shoes. He’ll be harder to target on defense (not saying much) long-term, even if he really would benefit from the tutelage of the likes of Tom Thibodeau, Dave Joerger, or Frank Vogel. His defense was pretty atrocious in college and likely prevents him from rising further up in this draft.

…Sure, I can keep going. He seems comfortable playing at a fast pace, despite his supposed lack of excellent quickness or athleticism, and will pretty good at cleaning the boards at the next level as well, thanks to his large frame and long arms. He comfortably brought the ball up the court and even led fastbreaks throughout the season. *swoons* He and Len theoretically form a pretty good combination and he could even play as a small-ball center, with Booker/Brown as the forwards and Knight/Bledsoe as the guards. Man, that would be fun to watch. Let’s make this happen, Phoenix! Don’t screw this up! (You totally will, won’t you?)

Best case: Kevin Love mixed with Keith Van Horn

Worst case: Sean May? Sean May.


 

With the 14th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls will select…

          Wade Baldwin

Maybe? This roster’s a damn mess. There are approximately 14 guys who can play at the forward positions, no centers, and no guards under contract for next season besides someone named Justin Holiday. No wonder this team didn’t make the playoffs. Burn everything to the ground.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit rash, but there are serious changes in store for this team over the next few seasons. I think any combination of Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, and Tony Snell may be traded for guard help or a center in the near future. They’re all useful players who can help teams win, but they’re simply accentuating the deformity of this roster through their co-existence. BURN IT ALL!

The Derrick Rose/Jimmy Butler duo is not doing this team any favors. As crushing as it is to all the poor, poor Bulls fans (this is a joke: you had Jordan. Your complaints will duly be ignored by the sports world for the next decade, at least. If the Cubs win the World Series, maybe forever), Rose is probably gone after next season. Or at least back on a reduced deal, even with a much-inflated salary cap.

Neither Rose nor Butler are particularly good outside shooters. Butler is better than a 31% percent 3-point shooter, so expect that to improve next year, but Rose will likely never be even average from deep. This immediately leads to defenses sagging off the perimeter and crowding the paint, which makes driving harder and pisses Pau Gasol off (definitely leaving town this summer).

Wade Baldwin is an intriguing player who could go from around here to the 2nd round in this draft, but I’m betting he goes closer to this range, due to the ever-importance of good shooting (he shot 40% from 3 for Vanderbilt this past season) and the fact that he has a 6’11” wingspan even though he’s only 6’4″. By this revelation, he may actually be a condor simply masquerading as a human being, but further investigating is needed.

Best case: a bigger David Wesley

Worst case: Willie Warren

Alternatives: Damian Jones, the other top Vanderbilt prospect, will likely be the pick if the Bulls decide to go for a center to replace the departing Joakim Noah (probably) and Gasol (again, definitely). This would make sense in the context of the Fred Hoiberg era, which is supposedly trying to pivot toward a more up-tempo system. Jones is a very good athlete who runs the floor well. I think adding a good shooter like Baldwin who seemed to know his role and contribute in multiple ways is slightly more of a priority for Chicago here.

 

References: NBAdraft.net, ESPN.com, and DraftExpress.com, as well as YouTube compilation videos and the television.

 

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