2016 NBA Draft: Ranking the Top Prospects at Each Position
The 2016 NBA Draft is rapidly approaching, with just over a month left before we know where all of the top college basketball prospects will be going.
But who are the top prospects? Before we can really dive into too many mock drafts, we should probably give our readers a good idea as to which players are the top options at each position.
If your favorite team needs help at a specific position, chances are they’ll hope to land one of the top five guys at the main positions. Let’s take a look and see who they are:
- Kris Dunn (Providence)
- Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame)
- Gary Payton II (Oregon State)
- Isaiah Taylor (Texas)
- Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)
It is highly debatable who the top point guard in this class is, especially since the conversation has to begin with what actually defines a point guard. Jamal Murray could vie for the top spot, but since he lacks polish or experience at the position, he’s probably best suited for the two spot at the next level.
Because of that, Dunn looks like the most NBA-ready point guard prospect at the position right now. He is currently viewed as a top-10 pick and the first point guard atop draft boards due to quality size, versatility and top notch athleticism. He might be a more true combo guard, but he seems to have all the tools to be the answer for someone in this draft.
Jackson is not far behind him, although he does not have great size and at this point is more of a scoring point guard. He will need to get a little stronger for the next level, but has top flight quickness and athleticism and has defensive ability.
Payton II is the son of Gary Payton, so we know the pedigree is there, and at least fundamentally, so is the talent. Payton is an exceptional defensive point guard who brings solid size and elite athletic ability to the table. He rebounds at an elite rate for a guard, can create offense and even can score on his own. However, his efficiency is poor, as he lacks a reliable outside jumper and doesn’t convert free throws as consistently as you’d like.
Taylor and Ulis round out the top five, probably just coming in front of combo guys like Isaiah Cousins and Wade Baldwin. Taylor lacks a reliable outside jumper, but he’s improved offensively and looks like a true point guard. He can lead a defense and while he lacks great size, he is lightning quick and is fairly seasoned as a lead guard.
Ulis would be a first round lock if not for his small stature, as he’s lacking in height, length and physicality. That could be a serious problem, but good luck containing this kid. He really broke out last year (17 points and 7 dimes per game), showing he can score and run an elite offense at a high level on a regular basis. Given guys like Isaiah Thomas have thrived lately, he may creep up draft boards slowly.
- Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)
- Jamal Murray (Kentucky)
- Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
- Dejounte Murray (Washington)
- Furkan Korkmaz (International)
Hield is far and away the top shooting guard prospect, but he has some solid competition with Kentucky’s Jamal Murray giving him a push. Still, Hield is your prototypical scoring two guard, as he gives his new NBA team size, elite shooting and scoring ability, as well as a willing defender. Hield showed he could ball at the next level by going nuts during March Madness and leading the Sooners to the Final Four.
Murray lacks the same polish and may be more geared toward the point guard position, but he may take longer to figure out at the next level. Murray’s rawness refers to his lack of experience or polish at the point, but right now he gives you decent size and shooting at the two, and also offers above average athleticism.
Not far behind the top two shooting guards is Spartans beast, Denzel Valentine. He has the size and length to play the two or three, but this kid is a pure gamer who has shown up big time and time again on a huge stage. He does lack top shelf athleticism, but he’s a classic jack of all trades player who brings sound fundamentals, maximum effort, versatility and an elite outside stroke to the table.
The other Murray to consider at the two spot, Dejounte has the size and athleticism to excel at either guard spot. He certainly is not the biggest guy and lacks strength or physicality, but he’s a one-man wrecking crew as a scorer and can also do a decent job on the boards and with creating for others. He needs to refine his game a bit and add some muscle, but he’s a tantalizing prospect and an even more interesting point guard talent if teams buy him at that position.
Shifting to an overseas talent, scouts may agree Korkmaz belongs fifth on our shooting guard list. Korkmaz is another guy who is not big or strong, but he is a natural, fluid scorer who has awesome height and length for the two or three spot. He does not defend well at all, but offensively he can do it all and carries serious upside as a scorer.
- Ben Simmons (LSU)
- Brandon Ingram (Duke)
- Jaylen Brown (California)
- Timothe Luwawu (International)
- Taurean Prince (Baylor)
Some will say Simmons is too big, strong and skilled to not play down low at the four, but the people on the correct side will say the latter and make him a wing player. He is too good of a passer and runs the court too well to be restricted inside the paint. His outside shot needs work, but he has very few holes in his game and projects as a poor man’s LeBron James. Hopefully whoever draftes him sees him for what he is and let’s him stay at the three.
Many will argue that Duke’s Ingram is the superior prospect and should go #1 overall, and it’s tough to deny that conversation when you look at his size, length and natural scoring ability. Ingram is very slight of frame and hasn’t been able to showcase his passing skills much, but he’s an exceptional shooter and scorer that is destined for stardom. The stronger he gets, the better he’ll be, as well.
Brown is a fine athlete with a knack for finding the bucket. He’s also a versatile player who can effectively play the two or three, although he’s the shortest small forward of the top three. He needs to work on the consistency for his outside shot, but while he finds that he should be able to chip in right away as a plus defender out on the wing.
Luwawu is another combo wing player who could work as a two or three pretty easily, but regardless of what position he plays, he’ll want to add some muscle to his frame. He’s pretty light right now and that doesn’t help him when driving the lane. Even worse is his shaky free throw numbers, which add insult to injury even when he does get to the line. Luckily he’s still a tantalizing prospect due to great length and athleticism. He also carries a fairly versatile skill-set, allowing him to score and also get others involved as a passer.
Prince is or last small forward, but some could debate he belongs higher on this list, just because he has better size than some of the other prospects and seems like a more natural NBA small forward. He has the size, length and athleticism to be an awesome defender and scorer at the next level, but right now does not have a great handle or reliable mid-range jumper. If he works to improve in those areas, he could be a heck of a find.
- Dragan Bender (International)
- Deyonta Davis (Michigan State)
- Henry Ellenson (Marquette)
- Marquese Chriss (Washington)
- Domantis Sabonis (Gonzaga)
Everyone is talking about Simmons and Ingram, but Bender might be the guy to watch. Much like Kristaps Porzingis seemingly came out of nowhere last year, the 7-foot Bender could to the same in 2016. Bender is held back some by average athleticism and explosiveness, but fundamentally he’s probably one of the more skilled players in the entire draft and still possesses considerable upside. He can play up to three positions depending on the situation, possessing solid handles, a great floor IQ, exceptional passing ability and of course a great jumper. He’s got it all, and need + hype may be the issue for him at the top of the draft – not ability.
Davis comes in at number two, although he is tough to gauge because it’s unclear which position he’d be best for. Power forward is probably the best guess, as he has the size and physicality to really bang around down low. He can do it all for you down inside the paint, too, showing elite rim protection ability and he can even provide some offense within 15-20 feet. He’s best served as a defensive presence initially, but could grow into a complete player down the road. He’s just raw and will need time to develop.
Far below Bender and Davis is our next power forward in Ellenson, who is still a very good prospect, but probably doesn’t touch Bender’s skill-set or upside. That being said, Ellenson is a first round lock due to excellent size, strength and the ability to play both the four and the five. He is not an amazing athlete and will likely struggle to defender, but his offensive polish and versatile skill-set make him a very interesting option.
Chriss comes in at number four just because he doesn’t have the same defensive potential and isn’t overly well-rounded. He can certainly score the ball well and can hit shots from outside, but he doesn’t rebound well for his size and currently lacks the strength and toughness to get the job done consistently inside on either end. He has serious offensive potential, but will probably never be an elite rebounder or defender.
Sabonis brings a pro basketball pedigree to the table and is also just a flat out solid two-way player that can do just about everything at a moderate level. The size is there and the strength and physicality isn’t far behind, but Sabonis is really known for his crafty offensive play and willingness to rebound and defense. He isn’t an elite athlete and won’t wow you at first glance, but he should be a stable, reliable two-way post presence within a few years.
- Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
- Skal Labissiere (Kentucky)
- Brice Johnson (North Carolina)
- A.J. Hammons (Purdue)
- Ivica Zubac (International)
Center is not exactly the strongest position in this draft when it comes to any one prospect that combines upside and polish. However, Poeltlt is a major force down low thanks to elite size and strength and aside from not boasting top shelf athleticism, there aren’t many knocks to his game. He leads the way at center easily thanks to his balance, size and surprising fluidity on both ends of the court.
Labissiere could vie for the top center spot, as he can play the four and brings arguably the most upside of any center prospect in this draft class. He already has the size and potential working in his favor, in addition to what looks like a solid shooting stroke. His main drawback is we can’t be sure how good he’ll be, as he lacks experience or polish.
Johnson is just the opposite, as he doesn’t have a jumper that goes out far and we pretty much know exactly what he is. Probably bet suited skill-wise to be a power forward, he doesn’t have a reliable jumper and won’t do much for you outside of 5-10 feet. Much like former Tarhell John Henson, he gives you size, length, fundamentals and effort. He will be a defensive presence, but it’s tough to gauge what he can be offensively beyond put-backs and alley-oops.
Hammons is a big 7-footer who brings good size and strength to the table and also knows how to work the post on the offensive end already. His main issues are his advanced age, his inconsistency and can be a bit turnover-prone. He’s going to be an offensive asset from day one, however, and has the physicality and upside to be a great two-way option.
Zubac wraps up our look at each position’s top five options, and he gives NBA teams a look at a very interesting international talent. Zubac runs the floor well and has terrific size and length for the position. While not a great athlete, he knows how to work down in the post, while he already has displayed the ability to be a solid team defender in the middle.
There are certainly other tantalizing prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft, but these are your current top options at the major positions. For the top five overall, we’re likely looking at Simmons, Ingram, Hield, Bender and Dunn, in that order.
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