By Rahul Lal
Each year we do put on our scouts hats and try to predict which player is going to with our favorite teams, who the best players will be and undoubtedly, like clockwork, we all fail miserably. The 2016 NBA draft was about as wild as can be including trades that shook up some of the best teams in the NBA as well as picks that were absolutely unexpected. Now it’s my turn to take a stab with pick-by-pick grades for each team.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: Ben Simmons, Forward, LSU
Analysis: The 76ers are ready to start developing and showing how “the process” is going. Hands down, Simmons is the best player in the draft and has the skill set to become one of the best players in the NBA if he can develop right. Get ready Philly, you got your guy.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Pick: Brandon Ingram, Forward, Duke
Analysis: Ingram is the right choice here. There was a lot of temptation to explore trade options but this is the best way to develop an already young and talented team. D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance and Ingram all 23 and under. The future is bright in Los Angeles and it’ll start with their youth movement.
3. Boston Celtics
Pick: Jaylen Brown, Forward, Cal
Analysis: This pick was an interesting one. While Jaylen Brown is a great player in his own right, there were other players that could’ve been selected in front of him. From a needs standpoint, he does fit a need for the deep Celtics and has the potential to turn into a top end two-way player in time. This is a team that made the playoffs, they didn’t get the instant help they needed in Brown to push them over the top.
4. Phoenix Suns
Pick: Dragan Bender, Forward, Croatia
Analysis: Personally, I think this is exactly the direction the Suns needed to go. I think that Bender has the potential to be special and has already been battle tested a bit. He’s going to a Phoenix Suns team that needs shooting as bad as flowers need water. Let’s see this marriage bloom.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
Pick: Kris Dunn, Guard, Providence
Analysis: This is the best value pick of the draft. A value pick at number 5? Yup. The sponsor, name-dropping machine himself is going into the best potential fit for him and is getting ready to help start a dynasty. A core of Dunn, Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and Gorgui Dieng with guys like Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic helping out is stacked. Add in a brilliant coach like Thibs and let him mold the young guys and you have a dangerous and hungry group for years.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
Pick: Buddy Hield, Guard, Oklahoma
Analysis: Buddy Hield has some serious scoring ability and fits a major need. Hield is going to be able to bring some much needed energy to this Pelicans team who are way too talented to draft in the lottery again. He’s a great replacement for Eric Gordon who will be a free agent this offseason. Bonus points for more JC Penny.
7. Denver Nuggets
Pick: Jamal Murray, Guard, Kentucky
Analysis: The more I analyze it, the more I love this pick. Denver needed a shooter who can develop into something great and now have two tall point guards who can each play combo guard. Emmanuel Mudiay is more of a bruiser while Murray is more finesse; one is a good player but lazy on defense, the other isn’t that great but tries extremely hard. We can now rename them Yin and Yang.
8. Sacramento Kings (Traded to Phoenix Suns)
Pick: Marquese Chriss, Forward, Washington
Analysis: The Suns had the best talent haul of the night though a bit perplexing to get two similar stretch 4’s. It’s funny, everybody compared the two to see who would go first…something tells me the Suns decided it’s best to have two starters at each position like they do at point guard and center. Any way, they’re setting themselves up quite nicely to have Chriss, who is a bit farther behind in his development, to turn into a star.
9. Toronto Raptors
Pick: Jakob Poeltl, Center, Utah
Analysis: Poeltl will do all the things you expect out of him which is great, but, I was looking more for the Raptors to grab a guy who gave you a bit more and had some more potential. Teams like the Raptors simply don’t stay at the top whether that’s because other competition get better or their players leave. Poeltl will assume the backup center role the minute Bismack Biyombo signs his new contract elsewhere.
10. Milwaukee Bucks
Pick: Thon Maker, Center, Australia
Analysis: I’m a fan of the player, not so much the pick. I think the Bucks are chasing an idea by taking chances on some of these relatively unknown guys. They swung for the fences a few years ago with the Greek Freak and this pick can pay off in time, but, there’s no point in reaching this far for Maker.
11. Orlando Magic (Traded to Oklahoma City Thunder)
Pick: Domantas Sabonis, Forward, Gonzaga
Analysis: This pick is part of something bigger, a trade that got Ersan Ilyasova and Victor Oladipo along with Sabonis over to the Thunder and sent Ibaka to the Magic. I think the Thunder took the Magic’s candy with this one and I don’t think anyone can argue otherwise. Sabonis will provide good depth as well being a monster in the low post with Steven Adams.
12. Utah Jazz (Traded to Atlanta Hawks)
Pick: Taurean Prince, Forward, Baylor
Analysis: They’ve been trying to fill the gaping hole that is Demarre Carroll with role players and players who aren’t developed enough yet. While they didn’t get a player who will be as good as Carroll, they got a similar player who can play a similar brand of basketball. The Hawks had a good draft but their next pick was the one that really got me excited.
Also, how can anyone forget about his extremely literal explanation of getting rebounds during the NCAA tournament? Here’s to many more years of meddling with the Atlanta media!
13. Phoenix Suns (Traded to Sacramento Kings)
Pick: Georgios Papagiannis, Center, Greece
Analysis: And they did it again! C’mon Kings. The Kings took Willie Cauley-Stein in the lottery last year and follow it up, with plenty of solid prospects who could fill a major need still there, with a player slated to go in the early second round. On top of that, you pissed off Boogie even more.
14. Chicago Bulls
Pick: Denzel Valentine, Guard, Michigan State
Analysis: I have my concerns. While I think Valentine is a great player and a good pick who can surprise some, I think (aside from Portland…and maybe Philly?) the Bulls are the last team to completely ignore knee and health issues. This is a temporary grade given his health issues, if he proves to be fully healthy like he says, it goes up by a full letter. He also wears socks of himself so there’s that.
15. Denver Nuggets
Pick: Juan Hernangomez, Forward, Spain
Analysis: European big man who is big, mobile and plays with a bit of attitude…book him a flight to Denver. I think Hernangomez will prove to be a good pick for this Nuggets team that now have young options at virtually every position and can cause some serious damage as part of their three-headed European front court. Also, at times, he outshined Kristaps Porzingis when the two played together in Spain. Also a good sign for the Nuggets, the big man is open to staying in Europe for a year while his game develops a bit more.
16: Boston Celtics
Pick: Guerschon Yabusele, Forward, France
Analysis: This pick is just…meh. It isn’t that Yabusele is a bad player – he’s not. He’s just not the number 16 pick especially considering that he’ll likely be stashed for a team that is trying to improve now. Just like Boston’s first pick in the draft, this one is a bit of a head scratcher as to his fit with the organization both short-term and long-term. Also, many lottery talents were still on the board at this time that could’ve contributed right away for the playoff Celtics.
17. Memphis Grizzlies
Pick: Wade Baldwin IV, Guard, Vanderbilt
Analysis: What is there not to like about this pick? Baldwin is a long, smart and talented point guard who was a lottery talent. Given the value of the pick at 17 and the current situation with Mike Conley set to be a free agent, this move gives them both insurance and a player who can take over for years to come and present a similar skill set as Conley did.
18. Detroit Pistons
Pick: Henry Ellenson, Forward, Marquette
Analysis: The Pistons, who already made the playoffs and are led by a young core just solidified their competitiveness for the next several years by filling one of their only holes. With a solid of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Andre Drummond; these Pistons can now slot in their stretch 4 in Henry Ellenson to line up as the perfect compliment to Andre Drummond. Luck is on your side Pistons fans.
19. Denver Nuggets
Pick: Malik Beasley, Guard, Florida State
Analysis: I think this pick could pay off dividends in the future. The Nuggets went out and made some big time moves picking up future starters at multiple positions. Beasley has unlimited range from three and is just about as athletic as anyone at his position. At 19, the Nuggets got a steal of a player who can cause damage for years to come playing alongside fellow young guards Mudiay and Murray.
20. Indiana Pacers (Traded to Brooklyn Nets)
Pick: Caris LeVert, Guard, Michigan
Analysis: I don’t think this makes that much sense. First of all, let’s remember the Nets were so desperate to get a pick in this year’s draft that they shipped away starter Thaddeus Young for a pick outside of the lottery, already a bad move. Second, LeVert is a great player but is the definition of injury prone. LeVert went through three surgeries in only 22 months with the most recent being on his foot – traditionally a red and bloody flag.
My problem isn’t with the player but rather with the situation. The Nets are in desperate need of a young player who they can develop and use as a building block for their franchise, LeVert has the potential but is also a huge risk for a franchise that has no momentum at this point. I hope it works out for this talented young man.
21. Atlanta Hawks
Pick: DeAndre Bembry, Forward, St. Joseph’s
Analysis: Remember how I was talking about liking the Hawks’ second player drafted better than their first? I was talking about Dr. J’s mini-me DeAndre Bembry. Bembry’s game actually resembles something of top pick Simmons’ without a bit of that athleticism. He’ll add in elite passing ability from the forward position and can guard up to four positions and be the glue guy teams desperately look for. He’ll look a bit similar to Shaun Livingston with the Warriors this past season.
22. Charlotte Hornets (Traded to Sacramento Kings)
Pick: Malachi Richardson, Forward, Syracuse
Analysis: I know, it feels like I’m just throwing out A’s right now. A lot of these players truly fell and you have to reward the teams that are able to play the value game and walk out with the best value you can find for a player. I guess the Kings didn’t botch the entire draft, right? I think they saw Boogie’s tweet and tried to find a way to make him happy by drafting the athletic small forward.
23. Boston Celtics
Pick: Ante Zizic, Center, Croatia
Analysis: Way. Too. Early. Zizc is a draft and stash player who actually doesn’t want to be stashed, rather, he has the idea of coming to the NBA next season to play for the Celtics in a league he isn’t ready for yet.
24. Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: Timothe Luwawu, Guard, France
Analysis: This pick is hard for me. I’m a big Luwawu fan because of his tremendous 3 and D and athletic ability and because his twitter bio is a quote from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but the 76ers just secured their franchise player 23 picks earlier at the same position so why take Luwawu? I think Luwawu will never get to show off his talent on this team just because he won’t have enough opportunity. Trust the process though, right?
25. Los Angeles Clippers
Pick: Brice Johnson, Forward, North Carolina
Analysis: Again, similar situation of liking the player and his talent but not liking the fit. Brice Johnson can be a fine player in the NBA and had many options where he could secure early playing time – the Clippers don’t seem to be one of those. But, at the end of the day, he’s a great value pick and can help as an experienced player to provide some depth for a team that was painfully thin all of a sudden when Blake Griffin got hurt. Also…get a better barber, you do play for the Clippers now. Not funny? Sorry.
26. Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: Furkan Korkmaz, Guard, Turkey
Analysis: Can I just put the same thing I put for Luwawu over again? Literally a player who also plays the same position as Ben Simmons with above average athleticism, passing and shooting. Three great players, one stacked position, only one starting spot which will be reserved for the next decade (or until Simmons’ contract expires and he signs with the Lakers). But Korkmaz did with the Turkish dunk contest as Darth Vader…so there’s that.
27. Toronto Raptors
Pick: Pascal Siakam, Forward, New Mexico State
Analysis: Well, the Raptors took Siakam about 20 picks too early. His playing style is most like Tristian Thompson as a tough, energy guy and great rebounder but doesn’t possess the talent or potential. This seems like a bit of an insurance pick, like the Poeltl pick, for Biyombo’s eventual departure.
28. Phoenix Suns (Traded to Sacramento Kings)
Pick: Skal Labissiere, Center, Kentucky
Analysis: Okay, back to bad mouthing the Kings. As alluded to earlier, they drafted a center at 13 who’s actually a worse overall player than Skal and they still have last year’s lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein on the books for a long time. How they manage to fit these guys in with Demarcus is a mystery, even with Skal’s impressive skill set but it’s safe to say that he’s going to spend some time in the D-League. Don’t sleep on him though, he has the potential to turn into a good player in time.
29. San Antonio Spurs
Pick: Dejounte Murray, Guard, Washington
Analysis: I don’t think there’s a pick here that the Spurs wouldn’t get an A for because you just know the Spurs can develop any prospect into a high level player but this pick definitely deserves an A. Aside from Deyonta Davis, Dejounte Murray’s draft slide is probably the worst of the day. Murray is a 6’5″ point guard with great handles, a dependable jump shot and amazing vision. He fell about 20 picks but wound up in the best possible situation to groom success.
30. Golden State Warriors
Pick: Damian Jones, Center, Vanderbilt
Analysis: This pick is pretty cut and dry. With Festus Ezeli heading into free agency, the Warriors pick up a solid talent who plays similarly. Both Ezeli and Jones were Vanderbilt Commodores and Jones can step in and pick up where Ezeli left off. He did recently get surgery and will be out for almost six months but this shouldn’t scare anyone. Like I said, pretty cut and dry…with a 7’4″ wingspan.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.