By Jared Peterman
Lifelong dreams will be fulfilled in a week as prospects will be selected in the NBA Draft by teams trying to accomplish their own dreams of turning around franchises to eventually win a title with their new building blocks. The 2016 draft class is highlighted by big name prospects at the top of the draft that teams have watched over their collegiate careers. I simply rank the top prospects, discuss their strengths while adding occasional concerns, and compare their style of play to a current NBA player in the league. The style of their play is different than a projection or comparison of the player they will become. I only cover prospects playing collegiate basketball and not overseas due to familiarity reasons. Let’s dig in.
- Ben Simmons
Simply put, the 6’10” Australian who played a collegiate season at LSU is the smartest player in the entire draft and just so happens to have the highest upside of any player in the entire draft. In college, Simmons produced numbers we haven’t seen at the level in quite some time, averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Simmons is a floor general with great ball handling for his size and is basically a “point forward,” rather than a traditional basketball position. His court vision is unprecedented, providing any and every type of pass with accuracy as seen throughout his season at LSU with entry passes down court to lob passes in the half-court set and everything in-between. The Aussie also rebounds extremely well and runs the floor by himself, instantly starting the offense. For Simmons, offensive scoring is strictly in the paint as he holds position well and has nice touch on his turn-around moves. Simmons faced tons of scrutiny at LSU for poor or lack of mid-range and perimeter shooting as well as not winning enough games to even make the NCAA tournament. NBA analysts and teams will be more concerned with the former, but the talent and tools that already exist are too high to pass on.
Style of Play: LeBron James
- Brandon Ingram
The frail, lengthy one-and-done small forward from Duke displays a perfect skill set for the new era NBA. Standing at 6’9”, Ingram has a great shooting stroke from the perimeter, shooting 41% from downtown in college, while also possessing a deadly post spin move coming off isolations. Throughout the college season it was noted that Coach K implemented some Team USA isolation situations for Ingram, becoming a successful part of Duke’s offense as Ingram excelled in them. Seeing him in person, his impact on the game was obvious as he was able to take over portions of games with his scoring. Though Ingram’s scoring ability won’t be a concern for NBA teams, neither should his passing ability as he showed throughout the year that he has solid court vision, dumping down to his big men in isolations at times. Ingram’s length helps him a ton on defense as he often jumped passing lanes in college and provided help-side defense with blocks. He may not be an elite defender, but should definitely provide at least average defense at the next level, the only concern being his 190 pound figure not being able to body bigger forwards.
Style of Play: Kevin Durant
- Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray first caught my attention when he played for Canada in the Pan Am Games in the summer leading up to his freshman season at Kentucky. Murray torched USA in the fourth quarter to lead his team to victory in overtime eventually in which he scored 22 points, all in the fourth quarter and OT. Murray proved that performance wasn’t a fluke during his collegiate career as he averaged 20 points per game as a 6’5” freshman. In my opinion, Murray is the best perimeter shooting prospect in this draft class and could eventually be the best scorer from this draft class years from now. He shot 40.8% from downtown in college, breaking Brandon Knight’s school record for three pointers made by a freshmen as well. Murray scored 20+ in 12 straight games during SEC play and the conference tournament, while only failing to score double digits once throughout the entire season, posting his season high 35 points vs Florida with eight 3 pointers. The sharpshooter can also bring the house down with thunderous slams, as he did multiple times at Kentucky, showing a true strength of driving on the left side of the court to the hoop. Murray will simply score day one entering the league, carving defenses for years to come.
Style of Play: Brad Beal
- Kris Dunn
The Providence guard jumped up draft boards after coming back for his redshirt junior year and repeating the production from 2015 in 2016. The athletic, 6’4” one-man fast break can make an immediate impact for teams during his rookie season. He possesses plus ball handling with a mean crossover that helps him get free in isolation and on fast breaks. Dunn’s isolation game is a strength as he has great body control when attacking the basket and finishing at the rim. The combination of his length and speed make him a great transition guard, which is spotlighted due to his defense. Dunn averaged 2.7 steals per game in 2015 and repeated it with 2.5 steals per game in 2016. The impact point guard also gets his teammates involved as he posted 6.2 assists per game in college, which should increase at the next level. Dunn’s one knock is concerns with shooting efficiently from the perimeter, but I don’t view it as a huge issue due to his tools and athleticism should be able to cover it up until he fully develops.
Style of Play: Jordan Clarkson
- Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown is one of the more interesting prospects in this year’s draft class. A top prospect coming out of high school with a 6’7” frame and uber athleticism, only stayed at Cal for one season before turning pro despite a frustrating season. Cal’s season failed expectations and Brown’s did in some ways too, but was able to flash some highlights that had NBA scouts drooling. Efficiency was an issue for Brown as he struggled shooting the ball, posting 43% from the field and 29% behind the arc. This is the main concern for Brown in the perimeter driven NBA, but he still possesses multiple tools to make him a successful NBA player early in his career. He can handle the ball well on the fast break for his size and punishes the rim at the point of attack. He finishes really well in traffic and even more importantly, can take contact first and still score for three point plays. Brown’s athleticism shines on defense, leading to his transition game where he can create a highlight in a hurry. The upside of Brown is very high, but due to the poor shooting displayed in college, some teams may shy away from him.
Style of Play: Dwayne Wade
- Marquese Chriss
Marquese Chriss simply played the entire college basketball season with most fans never hearing his name, being buried on a mediocre Washington Huskies team on the West coast with little TV exposure. When he declared for the draft, I have to admit, I was surprised. But now, it makes the most sense as he quickly darted up draft boards across the NBA after becoming more familiar with his game. Chriss is a human pogo stick that will probably play the center position in the NBA, a position that is dying. So why is Chriss moving up draft boards? Chriss simply is an athletic freak that shoots particularly well from the mid-range, as well as even stepping beyond the arc to make three pointers (21-60 on the season). The 18-year old, 6’10” prospect catches lobs and finishes put-back slams with the best of them while also rejecting shots on the other end of the floor. His athleticism should allow him to play in small ball lineups and protect the rim. Scouts are simply drooling over the potential Chriss holds and the already smooth jumper for a man of his size. He may have went unknown to most throughout his lone season at Washington, but he won’t be unknown inside war rooms surrounding teams in the top 10.
Style of Play: Kristaps Porzingis
- Buddy Hield
The 6’4” senior was the most exciting player in college basketball, leading his Oklahoma Sooners to the Final Four before losing to the eventual champion, Villanova Wildcats. Hield, unlike many others, used his senior year to improve his draft stock despite being a 22 year old prospect. He boosted his offensive stats from his junior year to senior year: points per game from 17.4 to 25, field goal percentage from 41.2% to 50.1%, and three point percentage from 35.9% to 45.7%. “Buddy Buckets” emerged as much watch TV as he unloaded a barrage of three pointers on opponents all year long while watching his draft stock soar. He made eight threes in a single game twice, one coming in the Elite Eight versus Oregon. Hield scored 30+ in 12 games during his senior season, including a season high 46 on the road versus Kansas in a triple overtime game. His scoring ability will absolutely translate to the NBA due to not only his three point shooting, but also his driving ability containing an array of hop-steps and euro-steps that hoax defenders. Hield has the perfect size for a guard, but doesn’t pass often and will need to be better defensively in order to become a true superstar. Regardless, teams drafting Hield will get an elite scorer.
Style of Play: James Harden
*All stats are from Sports Reference