2016 NBA Draft Recap: Ben Simmons Goes No. 1
Thursday night’s NBA Draft allowed your favorite pro basketball team to replenish its talent pool in hopes of making a run at the recently crowned world champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Here’s a recap of which players and teams grabbed the headlines at the 2016 NBA Draft.
Biggest Non-Surprises: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers and Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
There really wasn’t much doubt that former LSU forward Ben Simmons and former Duke star Brandon Ingram would be the first two picks of the 2016 NBA Draft. It was possible that Philly would continue to mine Durham, N.C. for its future, selecting Ingram a year after choosing Duke’s Jahlil Okafor as one of its seemingly perennial lottery picks, but the Sixers decided on the versatile Simmons instead. Both Simmons and Ingram should make significant contributions in 2016-17, but it would be a shock if either of their respective franchises contended for a playoff spot yet. In a few years, though… who knows?
Biggest Reach: Thon Maker, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t won an NBA title since 1971. They didn’t do much on Thursday night to provide hope for their long-suffering fan base. The Bucks reached for seven-foot, Sudanese-born Thon Maker at No. 10. While Maker has all the physical attributes of a dominant NBA big man, there was widespread concern that he was significantly older than the 19 years he listed on his NBA info. He’d better play closer in ability to a 23-year-old than a 33-year-old this fall.
Biggest Steal: Juan Hernangomez, Denver Nuggets
Unless you follow European basketball, you might not be familiar with Spanish baller Juan Hernangomez. The athletic forward can score and run the floor as well as the very top talent in the 2016 NBA Draft, yet he fell all the way to Denver with the No. 15 pick. The 20-year-old Hernangomez still needs to pick up his intensity on the defensive end, but that should come once he gets a sense of the NBA competition — and how tough it can be. Denver could have done much worse in the middle of the first round.
Best Draft: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired guard Victor Oladipo, forward Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to power forward Domantas Sabonis — the No. 11 pick in the draft — in exchange for forward Serge Ibaka in a trade on Thursday night. The deal gave the Thunder another wildly athletic slasher in Oladipo, while providing important depth — the kind that helps teams win NBA titles. OKC, which is facing the impending free agency of Kevin Durant on July 1, wasn’t that far off an NBA Finals appearance in 2016, losing in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to Golden State. The Thunder will miss Ibaka’s defense and physicality, but a lineup of KD, Oldaipo and Russell Westbrook — with Sabonis in the front court — seems difficult to keep away from the NBA Finals.
Worst Draft: Boston Celtics
Appearing on this list is becoming a habit for the Celtics. Boston was unable to land Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls or Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor from the Philadelphia 76ers, so the Celts reached for Jaylen Brown with the third-overall pick. Then, they stockpiled French forward Guerschon Yabusele at No. 16 and Croatian center Ante Zizic at No. 23, but neither player is likely to have an impact that will move the franchise past the first round of the NBA playoffs — if they can get there.
Player Who Rose: Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
California forward Jaylen Brown has all the physical tools to be a great pro, but the analytics suggest he could struggle in the NBA. The Celts have no time for your advanced math. They took the 19-year-old Brown at No. 3 and left stars like Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender on the board. If Brown can develop his shot and prove to be more than an NBA-ready body, Boston will prove it is smart, not just lucky.
Player Who Fell: Denzel Valentine, Chicago Bulls
Former Michigan State Spartan Denzel Valentine was arguably the best college basketball player in the country last year. Yet, Valentine managed to fall all the way to No. 14, where the Bulls snatched up the versatile wing. Valentine may not ever become a superstar, but he’s far too smart and capable a basketball player to be a bust in the NBA.