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The NBA Draft Thread

post #1 of 9059
Thread Starter 
Because it's never too early.
post #2 of 9059
Thread Starter 
Chad Ford Mock Draft 1.0

A mock draft in August?

There's a reason it's called the Way Too Early Mock Draft.

I know, it seems a bit absurd to try to project players to teams when neither side has played a game this season, but it's never too early to start talking draft for NBA executives, scouts and fans of obvious lottery teams. In fact, NBA scouts have already been out in full force this summer at various camps and international tournaments getting a gauge on the 2016 class. And thanks to our ESPN panel of Summer Forecast voters, we have a first glimpse at what the order might look like on draft night in June.

Remember, in a mock draft we don't tell you where a player should go, but rather what each team in the draft would likely do with its pick. If you want a ranking of players, check out our first Big Board of the year. At this point, this is purely a guessing game. Most teams don't figure out whom they'll pick until draft night, let alone in August. So expect this mock draft to fluctuate greatly over the course of the next 10 months.

Nevertheless, it's time for our first full mock draft of 2016. It's our best stab at a full first-round mock draft -- assuming every eligible prospect who has yet to state his intentions on the draft declares -- after taking into account team needs.

So, without further ado, I present Mock Draft 1.0: Summer Forecast edition.

Note: Traded picks include explanations at the bottom.

1. Philadelphia 76ers - Ben Simmons

The ESPN forecast has predicted the Sixers would finish with the worst record in the league for the past two years. In 2014, they finished second to last. In 2015, they were third to last. Third time's the charm?

The Sixers have two potentially dominant big men in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel and possibly a third in Joel Embiid if he ever gets healthy -- but they still need plenty of help in the backcourt and on the wing. Simmons is really a positionless player. He's 6-10, 240, and plays like a point guard. The comparisons to a young LeBron James or Magic Johnson show how highly regarded he is by scouts. Simmons, as a versatile playmaker, could be a great fit in Philly. In fact, he has more upside and potential than any of the four lottery picks the Sixers have selected in the past three drafts. So tank away, Sixers. Maybe 2016 will be your year.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Scal Labissiere

The Timberwolves have the past three No. 1 picks on their roster at the moment -- Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Is it possible they could end up adding a fourth? I'm not as down on their chances this season as our panel. While I don't think they'll be a playoff team, I also don't think they'll finish with the worst record in the West. The team is just loaded with talent. There are no obvious needs in Minnesota with the exception of shooting, so I think the Timberwolves take the best player available. Labissiere has size, athleticism and a game that allows him to play both in the paint and on the perimeter. He looked great at the Nike Hoop Summit and John Calipari knows how to get the best out of his players. If anyone challenges Simmons for the No. 1 pick, it will be Labissiere. He and Towns would create an imposing front line in Minnesota if the Wolves land him at No. 2.

3. Denver Nuggets (from New York Knicks) - Jaylen Brown

Sorry, Knicks fans. As part of the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks gave the Nuggets the right to swap picks in the 2016 draft. Our panel had the Knicks finishing with the third-worst record in the league, and despite the obvious upgrades in free agency and the draft this summer, the Knicks landing this high in the lottery doesn't feel far-fetched. The Nuggets got their point guard of the future this summer with Emmanuel Mudiay. Brown would give them an uberathletic wing who can score in multiple ways. He'd be the perfect running mate for Mudiay and would certainly help jump-start the rebuilding process in Denver.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers) - Jamal Murray

That trade for Steve Nash several years ago is still hurting the franchise. If the Lakers finish in the top three of the lottery, they keep their pick, but fall to fourth or lower, and it's headed to Philadelphia. If the Lakers finish with the fourth-worst record, there's a 62.2 percent chance they'll give up the pick. If the Sixers get this, then you can expect them to fill another major gap at point guard. Murray might not be the most explosive athlete, but he's big, poised beyond his years and shows a terrific balance between scoring and getting others involved. He's a big-time talent, and with the addition of Murray and Simmons to a core of Noel, Okafor and possibly Embiid, Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas, the Sixers could become a very dangerous team in a couple of years.

If the Lakers land in the top three? Simmons, Labissiere and Brown all fit major needs for them.

5. Toronto Raptors (from Denver Nuggets) - Dragan Bender

This is where things get a little more complicated. The Nuggets are predicted by our panel to finish fifth. However, Denver owns the right to swap picks with the Knicks. The Raptors, in turn, get whatever pick is left for the Knicks as part of the Andrea Bargnani trade a few years ago. Swapping picks with the Nuggets for Anthony is tolerable, but losing a top-five pick because of Bargnani is devastating. The Raptors will happily clean up. There are several forward options here for them to consider, but general manager Masai Ujiri is never afraid to go international and Bender, as a skilled 7-footer who can play either forward position, might be too tempting to pass up.

6. Orlando Magic - Brandon Ingram

The Magic should be getting better. Every year they add more lottery talent to their roster and this summer was no exception. Mario Hezonja has rookie of the year talent. Last year's No. 4 pick, Aaron Gordon, looked awesome in the Summer League, and Elfrid Payton has elite talent at the point. Add in Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris and they should be more competitive. But the East is getting better as a whole, and while the record might improve, it might not move Orlando that much closer to the playoffs. If the Magic finish sixth, they'll be looking for a rim protector. I don't really see one at this point in the draft, though. If Ingram is on the board, he'll be hard to pass on. He's not necessarily a need, but when you find a 6-10 small forward with a 7-3 wingspan who can shoot and run the floor, you don't draft for need.

7. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets) - Malik Pope

The Nets sent this pick to the Celtics as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade. Both KG and Pierce are gone and the Nets' fortunes are fleeting at the moment, making that Celtics trade look better and better by the day. In fact, both Kevin Pelton and I believe that the panel overstated the Nets' record. If this pick falls to third or fourth, I wouldn't be shocked. The question is whether it will be high enough for the Celtics to finally land a superstar. Pope has that sort of talent and the Celtics were one of the first teams to get on him early. He's got the right size, athleticism and skill set for his position to be a star. He just needs to get stronger, stay healthy and put in a big season at San Diego State. If he breaks out, we might have him too low.

8. Sacramento Kings - Malik Newman

Every season the Kings end up finishing somewhere right around here -- bad enough to get a real sniff at the lottery, but not bad enough to land a franchise-changing player. While our panel does think they'll be better, better won't be good enough to make the playoffs. The somewhat good news is that if this picks falls between 11 and 30, they have to send it to the Timberwolves. The Kings did add Rajon Rondo to the roster, but I don't think there are many who feel he's the long-term answer in Sacramento. Newman isn't a pure point guard. He's more of a hybrid guard who excels at creating his own shot off the dribble. But in the modern NBA, players such as Newman convert all the time and his high basketball IQ, shooting ability and character should all be attractive to the Kings. Also, he's going to put up a lot of points.

9. Portland Trailblazers - Henry Ellenson

The Blazers ended up gutting the team this summer after it became clear LaMarcus Aldridge wasn't returning. The loss of Aldridge, along with Nic Batum and Wesley Matthews, caused our panel to knock 20 wins off of last season's win total and throw Portland into the lottery. The Blazers added Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh at the 4 this summer, but they could still use another talented big man on the roster. Ellenson has drawn some comps to a young Kevin Love. He's a good athlete, can play the 4 and the 5 and can really stretch the floor.

10. Phoenix Suns - Cheick Diallo

Phoenix flew too close to the postseason sun two years ago and it blinded them from what they ought to have been doing: rebuilding. Instead, they've spent the past few years in limbo as a not-quite-good-enough Western Conference team. Their one chance to land a high pick -- via the Lakers -- was squandered when they traded it away for Brandon Knight at the deadline, and now they're projected to pick at a spot in the draft from which few players turn into stars. Diallo might not ever be a superstar, but he's going to have a long career in the league with his terrific blend of athleticism and motor. No one in college basketball will play harder than Diallo. Given the problems the Suns are currently having with Markieff Morris, that sort of positive energy should be welcome in Phoenix.

11. Detroit Pistons - Jakob Poeltl

The Pistons' biggest need probably lies at power forward, but the draft isn't particularly strong at the position after Diallo goes off the board. Although Andre Drummond has the center position locked down, you can never have enough size. Poeltl is a good athlete, a very good rebounder, and with added strength, could turn into an Omer Asik-type big man.

12. Charlotte Hornets - Furkan Korkmaz

The Hornets, despite numerous changes this summer, still need help in the backcourt. Neither Jeremy Lamb nor P.J. Hairston looks like the long-term answer at shooting guard and while both Nic Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can play the position, it's not the ideal spot. They also need shooting and Korkmaz just finished the under-19 championships shooting 45 percent from deep this summer. He's got the right size, is a terrific athlete and he's aggressive. I think he's somewhat of a sleeper in this draft.

13. Indiana Pacers - Kris Dunn

The Pacers have several combo guards -- George Hill, Rodney Stuckey and Joseph Young -- to run the point. But they've lacked a pure point guard for a while and Dunn seems like an obvious long-term fit. He's a terrific passer who also can break down the defense off the dribble and his ability to dominate the pick-and-roll makes him a very attractive prospect. even though he can be turnover-prone. If he were two years younger, he'd be five to 10 spots higher on this mock.

14. Utah Jazz - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

Mykhailiuk was the youngest player in college basketball last season. His numbers at Kansas didn't wow anyone, but those in the program who regularly watched him in practice say great things are coming this season. He's got a high basketball IQ, athleticism and can really stroke the basketball (despite shooting 29 percent from 3 as a freshman on a pretty limited sample size). Shooting remains one of the few needs the Jazz have left. He could be a great fit coming off the bench behind Alec Burks.

15. Boston Celtics - Ivan Rabb

Rabb was one of the top-rated high school players in the country. His draft stock slipped a bit during the Nike Hoop Summit after he struggled to keep up with the physicality of the other elite players and looked very limited offensively. However, his body underwent an amazing transformation over the summer. He's put on 20 pounds and suddenly looks much more like a potential NBA player. He's a very good athlete and defender. If he can show some semblance of an offensive game at Cal, I wouldn't be surprised to see Danny Ainge roll the dice. The Celtics need athleticism in the paint and Rabb has enormous potential.

16. Boston Celtics (from Dallas Mavericks) - Zhou Qi

This pick is the Mavericks' penance for the Rondo trade last season. The Celtics get it if it falls between 8 and 30, which is a highly probable outcome. With Pope and Rabb in the fold, the Celtics can afford to take a risk here and grab Qi. He's got elite size, is a terrific shot-blocker and defender, is very skilled offensively and is putting up impressive numbers in China. He's painfully thin, but with two rookies already on the roster, the Celtics can afford to leave him in China and let him develop. There's a lot of upside there.

17. Milwaukee Bucks - Stephen Zimmerman

The Bucks landed a major free-agent coup this summer in Greg Monroe, but they still are pretty thin in the middle behind him. The Bucks could go a couple of directions here, but Zimmerman offers the most upside. He's mobile, athletic and very skilled. He'd be good gamble here for the Bucks, who really just need a big man who can play 10 to 15 minutes a night behind Monroe.

18. Toronto Raptors - Domantas Sabonis

I think scouts might have Sabonis a bit underrated. His lack of elite athleticism limits his ceiling somewhat, but he's one of the most skilled -- if not the most skilled -- big men in the draft behind Simmons. He was very productive coming off the bench for Gonzaga last season and has the sort of toughness and basketball IQ that Ujiri loves. He'd be another great fit in Toronto, where you could imagine an eventual all-international front line of Jonas Valanciunas, Sabonis and Bender.

19. Washington Wizards - Diamond Stone

Stone is an old-school big man in the mold of a young Al Jefferson. He's not a great athlete, but he knows how to carve out space and to score in the post. He's not the rim protector or mobile big man that the NBA covets these days, but few players at his age have his scoring instincts or touch. NBA scouts love him. He'd have been a lock as a top-10 pick in the previous decade, but where does he fit now? He could end up much higher on draft night (several teams have him in their top 10) but if he slides a bit because of his weaknesses, given an aging front line in Washington that lacks depth, he should be a nice long-term fit with the Wizards.

20. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami Heat) - Grayson Allen

The Heat are still paying for LeBron. This pick went to Cleveland as part of the original sign-and-trade for James and the Cavaliers later sent it to Philly in the three-way deal that landed Love. Allen was a darling of the NCAA tournament and it will be interesting to see what role he'll play at Duke this season. Blessed with elite athleticism, a terrific jump shot and a super-aggressive attitude, he could be in store for a breakout year as a sophomore. The Sixers still need lots of perimeter help and his combination of shooting and athleticism would be very welcome there.

21. New Orleans Pelicans - Caris LeVert

LeVert is our first and only senior on the board in the first round. He would've been a mid-to-late first-round pick in the past draft had he not suffered a broken foot in January. He's a very skilled wing who can shoot, pass the ball and defend multiple positions. After showing a major improvement his sophomore year, he's leveled off a bit as a junior. But teams still see upside there (he just turned 21). The Pelicans could use his shooting and playmaking ability from the wing. Small forward might be the weakest position on the team for them.

22. Atlanta Hawks - Damian Jones

Jones has been a tease his first two seasons at Vanderbilt, but impressed folks this summer at the Nike Skills Academy. He's got size for the position, is a solid rebounder and shot-blocker and has an emerging low-post game. The Hawks should be looking only for some depth at the 5 behind Tiago Splitter, and Jones is a good value here.

23. Chicago Bulls - Demetrius Jackson

The Bulls have an aging Kirk Hinrich and an undersized Aaron Brooks backing up Derrick Rose. Given Rose's injury history, that isn't ideal. Jackson would be a great fit in Chicago. He's a bulldog of a point guard, blessed with great athleticism, an NBA body and the ability to both see the floor and get to the rim.

24. Memphis Grizzlies - Nigel Hayes

The Grizzlies have to send this pick on to the Nuggets if it falls in the lottery, but that seems very unlikely given the talent on this team. Scouts are all over the place on Hayes. He started to emerge as a possible small forward with his shooting ability last season, but most teams see him as an undersized 4. His huge wingspan makes up for some of that and he has a very high basketball IQ.

25. Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City Thunder) - Justin Jackson

This would be the fourth first-round pick for Philly. The 76ers received this pick from Denver as part of the JaVale McGee pickup at the trade deadline. They also own the ability to swap this pick for the Warriors' pick if the Warriors somehow finish with a worse record than the Thunder. Would the Sixers really need a fourth player from this draft? Probably not. You can expect Sam Hinkie to try to combine a few of these picks to get another high draft choice or a future first. But if they do select here, they clearly need the talent. Jackson, as a sweet-shooting wing, gives them depth in an area of need.

26. Los Angeles Clippers - Isaiah Briscoe

When Austin Rivers is No. 2 on the depth chart at point guard behind Chris Paul, you can always use help. Briscoe has the sort of talent that could land him five to 10 spots higher were it not for the fact that Kentucky has two other point guards -- Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis -- already in the backcourt. Briscoe is freakishly strong and has the sort of body that will allow him to play in the NBA right away. He just needs to improve his jump shot and prove to scouts he's a point guard despite the fact that he's unlikely to see much time there this season.

27. Denver Nuggets (from Houston Rockets) - Chinanu Onuaku

The Nuggets get this pick as part of the Ty Lawson trade this summer. Onuaku was a bit of surprise for Louisville last summer. His numbers won't wow you, but the advanced analytics loved him and his play for Team USA in the U19s this summer won him even more fans. He's very limited offensively, but defensively there is a lot to love as an athletic, high-energy big man coming off the bench.

28. San Antonio Spurs - Jalen Brunson

Brunson might be the steadiest freshman point guard in the country. There's not a lot of flash to his game, but few players his age see and feel the game the way he does. He feels like a perfect Spur.

29. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland Cavaliers) - Tyler Dorsey

Dorsey impressed scouts this summer with his play for the Greek U19 team. He has size, athleticism and a great motor. He's just a bit of a tweener -- a quality the Suns apparently love in their point guards.

30. Golden State Warriors - Egemen Guven

Guven didn't dominate this summer the way he did last year, but he's still a very intriguing prospect for NBA scouts. He's skilled, has great footwork, can score in a variety of ways and he's a good rebounder. He's a nice draft-and-stash prospect for a team that's already very loaded.
post #3 of 9059
While it sucks beng a Knick fan and losing prolly another lottery pick, at least it is happening in this draft. Draft is TRASH. People will sell themselves on certain guys as draftime comes along but it's just not good.

Troy WIlliams will be a 1st round pick by the end of the year.
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post #5 of 9059
After the 1st 3 or 4 picks this draft has a high chance of getting real weird laugh.gif


post #6 of 9059

Seeing Grayson Allen at #20 makes me wonder about this class


I'm hoping Brunson shows out in college, he's my favorite player going into this season


I also can't believe Murray is that high at #4, will be interesting to watch his stock 


Not in on Simmons yet either. I don't see the hype

post #7 of 9059
It's so early P laugh.gif


post #8 of 9059
Thread Starter 
I figured it would at least separate the draft talk from the college bball thread. It's honestly hurt the thread the past few years.
post #9 of 9059
For the life of me, I cant' understand why James Blackmon gets no love from the internet draftniks - like not lottery or anything but at least getting drafted this year in late Rnd 1. He's smaller but above average wingspan, missed most of last summer and still came out and killed. I think he's going to have a huge year.

I like Malik Pope a lot but Ford really has a hard-on for him.

He's older, but I think Sheldon McClellan deserves more pub.

I don't think Simmons just plays PF - he's going to play some 5 for LSU and he's going to kill it.

Jalen Moore from Utah State and AJ English from Iona would be my off the radar guys I'd put stock into. Moore especially.
post #10 of 9059
For those low on Simmons, what's there not to like other than his lack of shooting at this stage and wingspan/standing reach?
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post #11 of 9059
Kris Dunn really went back
post #12 of 9059
Originally Posted by Al3xis View Post

For the life of me, I cant' understand why James Blackmon gets no love from the internet draftniks - like not lottery or anything but at least getting drafted this year in late Rnd 1. He's smaller but above average wingspan, missed most of last summer and still came out and killed. I think he's going to have a huge year.

I like Malik Pope a lot but Ford really has a hard-on for him.

He's older, but I think Sheldon McClellan deserves more pub.

I don't think Simmons just plays PF - he's going to play some 5 for LSU and he's going to kill it.

Jalen Moore from Utah State and AJ English from Iona would be my off the radar guys I'd put stock into. Moore especially.

isn't this the 3rd knee injury for Blackmon? undersized 2 guard with average athleticism can't afford to get any slower.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #13 of 9059
Blackmon already looks like he's 40. I honestly think scouts look at him, see his average athleticism and polish...and see an old head roll.gif

Son was in HS in this pic. HIGH SCHOOL lol
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post #14 of 9059
Originally Posted by WavyCrocket View Post

For those low on Simmons, what's there not to like other than his lack of shooting at this stage and wingspan/standing reach?

How do you project him as a pro though? I have no doubt he will be nice in college... who is your pro comparison? 

post #15 of 9059
Originally Posted by Vincent Van Ho View Post

How do you project him as a pro though? I have no doubt he will be nice in college... who is your pro comparison? 

A more perimeter oriented, quicker Blake Griffin. Similar play style to Blake in the playoffs this year. Same size. Blake is just more muscular, and has more bounce. But Simmons is a legit 6'10 240lbs.

I mean it's not crazy to think he can't develop a consistent jumper out to 18-20ft to keep the defense honest. Dude is truly a "positionless" basketball player, and a matchup nightmare at the 3/4. You can play Simmons out the high post, p&r. Both ball handler and screener. He can run the break and initiate the offense. He finishes very well with both hands, and has a soft touch and nice floaters on his drives. He also has quick feet and can guard on the perimeter and rebound w/ the bigs and bust out with the ball.

He'll ultimately have to become a better post defender and shooter...but those are two things that are very correctable for a player like him.
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post #16 of 9059
Originally Posted by WavyCrocket View Post

A more perimeter oriented, quicker Blake Griffin. Similar play style to Blake in the playoffs this year. Same size. Blake is just more muscular, and has more bounce. But Simmons is a legit 6'10 240lbs.

I mean it's not crazy to think he can't develop a consistent jumper out to 18-20ft to keep the defense honest. Dude is truly a "positionless" basketball player, and a matchup nightmare at the 3/4. You can play Simmons out the high post, p&r. Both ball handler and screener. He can run the break and initiate the offense. He finishes very well with both hands, and has a soft touch and nice floaters on his drives. He also has quick feet and can guard on the perimeter and rebound w/ the bigs and bust out with the ball.

He'll ultimately have to become a better post defender and shooter...but those are two things that are very correctable for a player like him.

I've heard that comparison around NT multiple times... I definitely will keep an open mind

post #17 of 9059

I admittedly have only seen tape on him, but I don't see any Blake Griffin in there. I just don't see it, but we shall see. 

post #18 of 9059
Thread Starter 
Dragan Bender is the 17-year-old Croatian salvation for your terrible NBA team

You already know what Europe's next great basketball prospect looks like before you've ever seen him play. He stands about 7 feet tall, but prefers to play from the perimeter rather than bang down low. He's long but skinny, and badly needs to add strength to compete on the glass. The mechanics on his jumper are fluid, but his shooting percentages aren't great. He's universally referred to as "skilled" in a way American players his age rarely are.

Inevitably, someone will call him the next Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol. NBA GMs have been on the hunt for the Next Dirk and Next Pau for 15 years at this point, with diminishing returns. Whether it's Nikoloz Tskitishvili or Darko Milicic or Andrea Bargnani or Kristaps Porzingis, it often seems like the name is the only variable in the equation.

There's a new name ahead of the 2016 draft, and what a name it is. Dragan Bender isn't a 3D fantasy summer blockbuster at the theater or a "Game of Thrones" spinoff. He's a 17-year-old Croatian who stands 7'1 and is already playing on one of the top teams in Europe. He's the best NBA prospect overseas at the moment, and it isn't particularly close.

Bender made his third trip to the United States on Thursday as Maccabi Tel Aviv played the first of two exhibition games against Italian rival Milan at the United Center in Chicago. The game featured former NBA players like Jordan Farmar and Robbie Hummel, a Rockets draft-and-stash prospect in Alessandro Gentile and former college starters like Brian Randle and Trevor Mbakwe.

No disrespect to any of those players, but they weren't the reason multiple NBA GMs were in the gym. Bender has been on the map for a couple years, but this is the first year he's draft-eligible. He's almost certainly a high lottery pick whenever he decides to declare. Right now, he's No. 5 in DraftExpress' 2016 mock, No. 7 on Chad Ford's big board and No. 3 in a mock draft by some guy at this website.

The hype is real even if Bender swears he's not paying attention to it.

"I actually don't see (NBA scouts) in the crowd of people," he said after game. "I just focus on the game and come trying to learn new things every night from my coach and teammates."

Fair enough, but Bender's performance on Thursday night will only get him more attention.

His numbers didn't jump off the page -- 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes -- but it's the context that matters. During a time when an immensely talented group of high school players are entering their senior year in America, Bender is the same age and already playing against pros. He's working hard, getting better and drawing rave reviews from everyone around him.

This will be Bender's first season playing with Tel Aviv's senior team after making a name for himself playing for his home country of Croatia and Tel Aviv's junior team. It seems like it would be an overwhelming experience for someone who doesn't turn 18 years old until November, but Farmar said the transition isn't all that unusual.

"It's the nature of this game," Farmar said when the night was over. "They say your idols become your rivals. I got drafted when I was 19 and I was on a team with Kobe. I was in 7th grade when the Lakers won their first championship, then I end up playing on the same team and winning championships with him. It's kind of just the nature of this business."

It only takes one look at Bender to see his long-term potential, and also to see how far he still has yet to go. He's currently making a valiant effort to grow facial hair, but the results could charitably be described as mixed. His limbs are impossibly long and he moves well on his feet, but he'll need to hit the weight room hard over the next few years no matter what country he's playing in.

From a scouting perspective, Bender fits the European archetype almost perfectly. He spent of the night floating around the three-point line despite often being clearly the tallest player on court. His length resulted in two impressive blocks but he didn't do much rebounding. It's all par for the course.

But there is one way Bender appears to stand out from those before him, even if it's vague characterization from a small sample size. It really does seem like Bender has a great feel for the game. Sometimes you know it when you see it. He never forced anything and had an impact on the game while playing within himself the entire night.

Bender's most impressive moment actually came on the defensive end. He was matched one-on-one against Gentile on the perimeter in back-to-back crunch time possessions, and stopped him both times. It's that type of versatility that is so en vogue right now, and the reason he's bound to be a very high draft pick whenever he wants to be.

For now, Bender says his focus is on winning titles and developing his game with Tel Aviv. Even if he enters the draft, it's easy to envision a scenario where he stays overseas for a couple of years, like fellow Croatian Dario Saric. His long-term potential is undeniable, though. Whether Bender actually is the Next Dirk or Next Pau remains to be seen, but you can bet some team will be willing to take the chance.

post #19 of 9059

Sucks we didn't get to see Bender play in the FIBA Qualifying tournament this summer

post #20 of 9059
Bender is slow, soft and doesn't finish strong at the rim. I want no parts. He is really skilled offensively though.

Never seen a 7ftr finish so many gimme dunks as lay ups laugh.gif
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post #21 of 9059
He below average leaper but he's a good athlete in every other department, really mobile, really fluid, and has enough length where his lack of vert won't matter.

Saw the game in Chicago but very annoyed he din't play FIBA ball.

Croatia is in the midst of golden generation with Saric, Zubac, Bender, and Hazonja.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
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post #22 of 9059
All them first round picks from my Sixers smokin.gif
That we're bound to jus mess up laugh.gif
post #23 of 9059
Thread Starter 
Pre-Preseason NCAA Draft Projections

I lost Insider access, so this thread may be sparse unless I get a helping hand...nerd.gif
post #24 of 9059
Chad Ford Big Board 2.0:
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere and Dragan Bender are among the top prospects for 2016.

The college basketball season begins this week, which means it's time for Big Board 2.0: Preseason edition.

We debuted Big Board 1.0 during the summer based on how NBA front offices viewed players from the previous season. With scouts now getting access to players this fall in practices, international events and camps, it's time for an update.

Our Big Board is a more detailed look at the top 30 players (essentially the first round) from our top 100. It tracks player movement, stock fluctuation and gives you the latest intel from NBA scouts.

So here it is -- our preseason Big Board for the 2016 NBA draft.

Ben Simmons
HT: 6-10
WT: 239

The majority of scouts and GMs I speak with continue to believe Simmons is the player in this class who has the best chance to be transcendent. His size, athleticism and feel for the game are unique. He's going to fill up the box score.

"Ben's really good at just allowing himself to play whatever the game dictates," LSU head coach Johnny Jones told reporters after LSU's exhibition win over Southwest Baptist. "He doesn't force it. If he's got an opportunity to make plays, knock down shots, I think he takes advantage of it. He can get to the rim, play inside or out, and he's done a good job of making passes. His assist line could have been up even higher."

Scouts can't peg what position he plays, no one is exactly sure what sort of season he'll have at LSU, but virtually all of them agree that he has the best chance to become a star.
Skal Labissiere
COLLEGE: Kentucky
HT: 7-0
WT: 225

Like his predecessors Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, Labissiere is a super-skilled big man who can score from everywhere on the floor. Seven-footers that can do that efficiently are rare, which is why scouts see him as the top contender to Simmons for the No. 1 pick. His weakness, like Davis and Towns before him, is showing toughness in the paint as a freshman. And head coach John Calipari is already working on transforming him into a low-post monster.

"He's got a ways to go," Calipari told reporters. "We've got to really do a better job of teaching him how to fight for position (in the paint), how to hold his position and how to make sure you're catching balls, catching it close. It's all new to him. The reason you want to step away from the basket is because it's easier. You're not going to have to (play) body to body. 'I don't have to fight. Let me just shoot this fadeaway jumper.' Yeah, (Towns) said the same thing."

If Labissiere shows the same progress Towns did last season, he's going to keep the race for the No. 1 pick very competitive.
Dragan Bender
COLLEGE: Croatia
HT: 7-1
WT: 216

With Kristaps Porzingis making the Lakers and Sixers second-guess passing on him in the draft and Nikola Mirotic moving into the starting lineup in Chicago, big Euros who can play multiple positions and stretch the floor are back in fashion. And some scouts believe that the athletic, versatile Bender could end up being better than Porzingis and Mirotic.
Brandon Ingram
HT: 6-10
WT: 219

While Simmons, Labissiere and, to a lesser extent, Bender dominate the discussion about who's No. 1, scouts haven't forgotten about Ingram. A lanky wing, he has the ability to be a scoring machine. He's an athletic small forward who stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-3 wingspan who can shoot and finish above the rim. If he shows more aggressiveness this season, he could sneak into the conversation for the top pick.
Jaylen Brown
COLLEGE: California
HT: 6-7
WT: 221

Brown looks the part of a pro player already. He might be the most athletic prospect with the best NBA body of anyone at the top (though Simmons probably begs to differ). His ability to do things like this has scouts drooling. He'll be playing out of position at Cal this season, much like Justise Winslow did last season at Duke. Brown and Winslow are very similar players, in their strengths and their weaknesses.
Jamal Murray
COLLEGE: Kentucky
HT: 6-5
WT: 207

Murray lacks the elite size and athleticism of other players at the top, but his basketball IQ and productivity on the court might trump the rest of the field. Murray is a scoring and passing machine who can orchestrate an offense better than anyone in the draft (again, with the possible exception of Simmons). Scouts will fret a bit all season about his lack of explosion and defined position, but he's got a real chance to win player of the year as a freshman on the way to becoming a dominant starting guard in the NBA someday.
Henry Ellenson
COLLEGE: Marquette
HT: 6-10
WT: 228

Ellenson fits the mold of what NBA scouts are looking for in a big. His combination of size, athleticism and ability to shoot with range make him highly coveted in an otherwise weak power forward pool. While he's not a great defender yet, he has the tools to improve.
Malik Pope
COLLEGE: San Diego State
HT: 6-10
WT: 215

Pope is the hardest player in the top 10 to peg at the moment. He has the skills and body of a top-5 prospect. However, the consistent production wasn't there during his freshman season. If he dominates this season, we might have him too low. He brings just about everything Ingram does to the table. If he struggles to put up numbers on a nightly basis, we probably have him too high.
Cheick Diallo
HT: 6-9
WT: 220

Diallo is still waiting for the NCAA to clear him academically. He's been allowed to practice with the team, but is unable to play. If he does get cleared, he'll instantly make an impression with a motor that never stops, toughness and elite athletic abilities. His offense is still a work in progress, but it's developing. If he doesn't get cleared by the NCAA? I doubt it will do anything to his draft stock in either direction.
Malik Newman
COLLEGE: Mississippi St.
HT: 6-4
WT: 180

Newman is switching to full-time point guard at Mississippi State as a freshman. If he can handle those playmaking duties, I think he's a very similar to Brandon Knight as a prospect, but his transition could be a little rough. He's sat out the past few weeks with a turf toe injury, missing valuable time on the court.
Furkan Korkmaz
HT: 6-6
WT: 200

Korkmaz is playing a supporting role off the bench this season for Andoulu Efes, averaging about 13 minutes per game in Euroleague play and 21 per game in Turkish play. His stats don't really wow right now -- 3.7 PPG on 50 percent shooting in Euroleague play -- but his team is playing at the highest level of Europe, and that much playing time should be enough for scouts to accurately evaluate him.
Jakob Poeltl
HT: 7-0
WT: 248

Poeltl's massive weight gain over the summer was the big story for him; he put on 30 pounds, according to his coach. Scouts were concerned all last season that he lacked the strength to play his game in the post. That shouldn't be the case this season. If he dominates, he'll rise.
Kris Dunn
COLLEGE: Providence
HT: 6-4
WT: 220

Based on talent, Dunn should probably be another five or six spots higher on our board. He's a big, super-athletic point guard with a flair for the dramatic. But scouts are concerned about his age; he turns 22 in March. They also want to be assured that his jump shot has improved and hope to see him cut down on his turnovers before anointing him as a top-10 pick.
Damian Jones
COLLEGE: Vanderbilt
HT: 7-0
WT: 245

Jones showed significant progress this summer. He was stronger, more aggressive and showed that he can be more than just a force defensively. If he can put together the same sorts of dominating performances in the SEC this season, he'll be a lock for the lottery.
Diamond Stone
COLLEGE: Maryland
HT: 7-0
WT: 250

Stone's ability to score in the paint is a key selling point. He has some Jahlil Okafor in his game. He's savvy with his back to the basket and has the size to carve out space, but his lack of elite athleticism and defense give scouts some pause in ranking him higher.
Thomas Bryant
COLLEGE: Indiana
HT: 6-11
WT: 241

Bryant's stock has risen this summer as more scouts are coming around to the idea that he could be this year's sleeper. With a 7-6 wingspan and a high motor on both ends of the floor, he has the potential to rise 10 spots on this board if he can consistently impact games at Indiana.
Stephen Zimmerman
HT: 7-0
WT: 234

Zimmerman fits the mold of the skilled big man with athleticism and the ability to hurt you on the perimeter. His body could use some work, and scouts would like him to not rely on his jumper so much, but he should get lots of opportunities to shine at UNLV. He'll move up if he does most of his damage in the paint.
Demetrius Jackson
COLLEGE: Notre Dame
HT: 6-1
WT: 195

Jackson played in Jerian Grant's shadow last season. Now, this is his team. Everyone already knows about his toughness, defense and shooting ability. Scouts have questions about his abilities as a passer and ball handler, but if he can show off his floor-general skills this season, he has the rest of the physical tools and skills to be a very good NBA player.
Ivan Rabb
COLLEGE: California
HT: 6-10
WT: 215

Rabb is a bit of a blank slate. The athleticism and rebounding ability already are there. His body reportedly is coming along. If he can add a low-post game to his arsenal along with a more consistent jump shot, he has top-10 talent. Most scouts, however, think it might be at least another year before he'll be able to put it all together.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
HT: 6-6
WT: 210

This is Mykhailiuk's sophomore season, but he's still younger than most of the freshmen on this list. Scouts believe his game should be much further along this year. He's gotten stronger and has been working on polishing that jumper. But it's also possible that, like Zimmerman and Rabb, it might take another season before he lives up to his potential.
Zhou Qi
HT: 7-2
WT: 209

Qi already has the skill set that NBA teams covet in a big. He's huge, protects the paint and can stretch the floor offensively. He had a terrific season in China as an 18-year-old last season. The question now is, how can he add 30 pounds of muscle?
Grayson Allen
HT: 6-5
WT: 205

Allen's explosive leaping and scoring ability get scouts excited. But can he impact the game on a nightly basis? Consistency will be the key for him. He's too low if he delivers regularly.
Caris LeVert
COLLEGE: Michigan
HT: 6-6
WT: 205

LeVert's broken foot suffered in January of last year hurt his draft stock, but there's still time to rebuild it. He's young for his class, is one of the best playmaking wings in the draft and, with a big year, can re-sell his potential to scouts who are inherently suspicious of upperclassmen.
Nigel Hayes
COLLEGE: Wisconsin
HT: 6-8
WT: 237

Hayes is still stuck between positions and might have benefited from playing third fiddle to Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker last year. Now that he's the main man at Wisconsin, can he handle the pressure?
Isaiah Briscoe
COLLEGE: Kentucky
HT: 6-3
WT: 202

Briscoe is trying to carve a place out for himself next to Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis in the Kentucky backcourt. He's focusing on defense right now, an effort John Calipari certainly welcomes, but Briscoe is more than just a defender. He can see the floor and score in a variety of ways. But will we really see it this year, with Murray and Ulis dominating the ball? He, too, could be a wait-until-next-year type of prospect.
Domantas Sabonis
COLLEGE: Gonzaga
HT: 6-10
WT: 238

Sabonis is already a terrific rebounder and has a fantastic basketball IQ. He's going to be an impact player this season, but his lack of shooting ability and athleticism lower his ceiling somewhat.
Carlton Bragg
HT: 6-9
WT: 220

Scouts are watching Bragg closely. Like Bryant, he might be a late-blooming prospect who outperforms players ranked 10 or 15 spots higher than him coming out of high school. His versatile offensive game, terrific size and athleticism are his selling points, but will he get enough minutes in an already crowded Jayhawks frontcourt?
Timothe Luwawu
HT: 6-6
WT: 205

Luwawu is having a breakout season for Mega Vizura in the Adriatic League this season. He already projects as an elite defender. His offensive game is coming along, too.
Wade Baldwin IV
COLLEGE: Vanderbilt
HT: 6-2
WT: 195

Baldwin didn't get a lot of hype coming out of high school, but a stellar freshman season has made him a favorite of the analytics crowd. He has great length and strength for his position, and he shot the ball well as a freshman. If he can continue to show an improved handle, he could be this season's Cameron Payne.
Justin Jackson
COLLEGE: North Carolina
HT: 6-8
WT: 215

Jackson's ability to shoot it from midrange, where he really excels, and from deep are the most attractive qualities he possesses. He's not a great athlete, but his size and length make up for his lack of explosion.

Next five in: Jalen Brunson, PG, Fr., Villanova; Devin Robinson, F, So., Florida; Troy Williams, F, Jr., Indiana; Jake Layman, F, Sr., Maryland; Chinanu Onuaku, C, So., Louisville
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2016 NBA draft Big Board 1.0: Top 20 prospects as college season tips off

In a recent conversation with an NBA team’s scouting director, I mentioned that I was torn on who to rank No. 1 in my first Big Board of the season. His response: You’re crazy if you don’t go with Ben Simmons. “His talent level is off the charts,” he said. “It’s effortless. He steps on the floor and within minutes you know he’s the best player out there, no matter who he is playing with or against.”

Several similar conversations yielded the same answer. Scouts love Brandon Ingram, the smooth Duke forward. They are tantalized by Skal Labissiere, the most skilled power prospect in the draft. But if they had No. 1? Simmons. Simmons. Simmons. Said one college scout, “It’s not even close.”

OK, got it. Simmons at No. 1. And everyone else? Let’s find out. Here’s’s first Big Board for 2016:

1. Ben Simmons, LSU

6-10, 240 | Forward | Fr.

Comparisons for Simmons have been overwhelming. Lamar Odom. Paul George. Even LeBron James. He’s that good. Simmons is an irresistible talent, long and lean and getting bigger by the day, with natural playmaking instincts. NBA scouts have been fawning over Simmons all summer, with several projecting him as a next generation of stretch-four; strong and versatile enough to defend the position and a matchup nightmare for anyone that tries to guard him. LSU was an unorthodox choice—the school has no recent history of success, winning only one NCAA tournament game since 2009—but that won’t hurt Simmons pro prospects. It’s likely nothing will.

2. Brandon Ingram, Duke

6-9, 190 | Guard | Fr.

Ingram is a fascinating shooting prospect with great length and (hopefully) the ability to fill out a slender frame. Ingram has near picture perfect form on his jump shot, and NBA execs will be watching how his three-point shot develops closely. Ingram has shown the potential for a nice off the dribble game, another skill scouts are optimistic he can develop.

3. Skal Labissiere, Kentucky

6-11, 245 | Forward | Fr.

Kentucky fans—and many NBA scouts—breathed a sign of relief when Labissiere was cleared to play by the NCAA last month. Opinions are divided on Labissiere. There is a dynamic, Kevin Garnett-like talent (especially offensively) there. But multiple scouts have raised questions about Labissiere’s motor, citing examples of sequences in games he appeared to cruise in. He’s not especially athletic, either. John Calipari has earned a reputation of getting the most out of his freshmen, so perhaps Cal will spark something in him. But Labissiere strikes some scouts as the type of heavily hyped player who could slip on draft boards quickly.

4. Dragan Bender, Maccabi Tel-Aviv

7-0, 215 | Forward | 17 years old

Bender is the latest in the line of perimeter-oriented European big men prospects. Bender checks all the measurement boxes—7’0”, 7’2” wingspan, 9’3” standing reach—and while he’s not especially athletic, he showcased two-way potential in Europe last season. His NBA skill is his shooting though, and several scouts say he has the offensive skills to be a dominant stretch-four at the next level.

5. Jamal Murray, Kentucky

6-5, 207 | Guard | Fr.

Murray was brilliant at the Nike Hoop Summit last spring, and has been rising on several scouts boards since. Slightly undersized for a two-guard, Murray has showcased dazzling one-on-one ability, a skill NBA scouts drool over. There is some thought that Murray can be developed as a point guard, but that won’t happen at Kentucky, which is two-deep at the position. Still, natural scorers like Murray will be always be coveted.

6. Kris Dunn, Providence

6'4, 220 | Guard | Jr.

Dunn was in the lottery mix last year before stunning many by pulling out of the draft. Dunn is a tremendous athlete with an explosive first step and rapidly developing passing ability when he gets to the paint. His age—Dunn will be 22 in March—is going to come up, but if Dunn improves his ball handling and three-point range from last season, he’s going to be hard for a point guard-starved team to overlook. Teams might start getting over fears of drafting older prospects with recent late first round success stories, most notably Utah’s Rodney Hood.

7. Jaylen Brown, Cal

6-7, 225 | Forward | Fr.

Brown is an athletic, physically gifted forward with great size for his position. He’s a scorer (he averaged 28 points per game last season) and scouts have praised his ability to attack the basket and score off the dribble. He’s not much of a jump shooter yet, but if he develops a reliable shot this year he’s the type of player who will move up draft boards quickly.

8. Jakob Poeltl, Utah

7-0, 235 | F/C | Soph.

Poeltl was in the lottery mix last spring before ultimately deciding to return to Utah for a second season. Defense is Poeltl’s calling card; he’s a lean 7-foot with nice technique and potential to be an impact shot blocker. Offensively, Poeltl wasn’t much more than a paint player last season, and scouts will be looking to see if his game evolves at all in his second year.

9. Diamond Stone, Maryland

6-10, 250 | Center | Fr.

First, great name. Second, Stone is a sturdy pivot with a decent post game, a developing mid-range jumper and the ability to overwhelm smaller centers physically. Scouts say they will be watching two things with Stone: Defense; Stone has shown potential to be rim protecter, but he is far from consistent. And conditioning; Stone dropped 20-plus pounds after arriving at Maryland in August, and NBA teams want to see a player who can finish games as strong as he starts them.

10. Furkan Korkmaz, Anadolu, Efes

6-7, 185 | Guard | 18 years old

The bottom half of the top-20 has several foreign prospects, none more intriguing than Korkmaz, a potentially elite shooter. Korkmaz was impressive at the Under-19 Championships, leading his team in scoring and connecting on 45% of his three-pointers. Scouts that have seen him love his footwork and his feel for the game; one scout described Korkmaz as having the poise of a five-year veteran on the floor. He’s skinny and will need a lot of work on his defense, but he has outstanding potential as a scorer.

11. Henry Ellenson, Marquette

6-10, 245 | Forward | Fr.

It was an exhibition, and it was against Valley City State University, but Ellenson’s stat line (16 points, 17 rebounds, five assists) earlier this week was impressive. Ellenson is a stretch-four prospect with three-point range and a knack for rebounding and a willingness to mix it up underneath. He’s a developing ball handler who with some nice moves in the post. He’s someone who could rise quickly.

12. Cheik Diallo, Kansas

6-9, 218 | Forward | Fr.

Diallo’s college career is in a holding pattern while the NCAA investigates his eligibility. On the floor he’s a relentless, high-motor forward who runs the floor extremely well and can finish in traffic. He’s unpolished offensively, with one scout comparing Diallo to a “bull in a china shop." The physical tools are impressive though, and (hopefully) a year working with Bill Self will add a few layers to his game.

13. Malik Newman, Miss. State

6-3, 190 | Guard | Fr.

Smallish hybrid guards tend to scare NBA teams, which is one of the few knocks on Newman right now. Newman thrives in transition but can score off the dribble and has looked comfortable in the pick-and-roll, one of the NBA’s bread-and-butter plays. It’s likely Newman will play some point guard with the Bulldogs and league execs will watch closely to see if he has the skill set to play the position at the next level.

14. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

6-1, 198 | Guard | Jr.

With Jerian Grant gone, there is a huge opportunity for Jackson to improve his draft stock this season. Jackson is a dynamic athlete and a strong playmaker who loves to play in transition. He can shoot the three (42.9%) and will likely get more trips to the free throw line this season. His assist numbers are a little low but, again, he will have more chances to swell his stats with Grant out of the mix.

15. Damian Jones, Vanderbilt

7-0, 245 | F/C | Junior

Jones is a strong big man who moves well and plays above the rim. He plays with energy and projects as a solid shot blocker. Scouts say Jones had one of the better summers of any returning prospect, and several are eager to see if he added anything to what was a rudimentary offensive skill set.

16. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

6-8, 235 | Forward | Jr.

Hayes is another prospect who, with the departures of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, will get plenty of opportunities to improve his stock. Scouts love the strides Hayes took last season, particularly his development into a solid three-point shooter (39.6%) after not attempting a single three as a freshman. He’s something of a tweener, but smaller power forwards are popping up all over the NBA. Some scouts believe his perimeter skills will make it possible for Hayes to transition to small forward down the road.

17. Justin Jackson, North Carolina

6-8, 193 | Forward | Soph.

One number defined Jackson last season: 30.7, his shooting percentage from three-point range. The NBA has little use for wing players with no range, so Jackson will have to significantly improve that number this season. Everything else is there: Jackson can handle the ball and hit the mid-range shot while rarely forcing his offense. He’s a willing passer who improved as a defender towards the end of last season, though he has room to grow in that area, too.

18. Caris LeVert, Michigan

6-7, 205 | Guard | Sr.

LeVert wasn’t exactly surging up draft boards when a broken foot ended his season last January, but he likely would have been a first-round pick if he left Michigan. That said, he’s been a 40% three-point shooter the last two seasons and can play multiple positions. He's also a willing passer—and maybe too willing. Scouts last season hoped he would thrive in a more prominent role, but any improvements were nominal. A more aggressive season could push LeVert into the lottery mix.

19. Malik Pope, SD State

6-10, 205 | Forward | Soph.

Pope is ridiculously long with good athleticism, nice ball handling skills and range from beyond the three-point line (41.7% last season). Consistency issues plagued Pope as a freshman, and NBA scouts are eager to see what Pope does in an enhanced role with the Aztecs this season. Shooting is a sought after commodity and Pope looked comfortable firing from all over the floor last year. If he looks that way more regularly he will move up into the lottery.

20. Zhou Qi, China

7-2, 209 | Center | 19 years old

Qi is a rare stretch-five prospect with impressive length and range that extends beyond the three-point line. Scouts love his potential as a shot blocker but are terrified by his size; he weighed in at just 209 pounds at the Hoops Summit. His body type doesn’t suggest someone that will fill out much, either. Still, he’s highly skilled and someone will take a chance in the first round and hope he gets stronger, if not bigger.
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Thursday, November 5, 2015
Updated: November 6, 9:31 AM ET
Dragan Bender tops 2016 power forward draft prospect rankings
By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

Last season was a bit of down year for power forwards. Kristaps Porzingis and Trey Lyles were lottery picks, but only one other 4 was taken in the top 25.

2016 NBA Draft

Get ready for Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere and the 2016 draft with analysis from Chad Ford and other ESPN experts.

• Top 10 PF prospects | Top 10 SF prospects
• Top 10 SG prospects | Top 10 PG prospects
• Top 100 rankings | Big Board 1.0
• Mock Draft 1.0 | Way-too-early preview

This year looks stronger. We have three power forwards ranked in the lottery and another five ranked as potential first-rounders, more in line with traditional norms.

The players below are the best NBA prospects at the power forward position at the moment. To compile this preseason ranking, I spoke to NBA general managers and scouts. As college games begin and the season develops, players will move up and down the list.

You can visit our Top 100 prospects list for the latest updates.

Potential NBA superstars

1. Dragan Bender
Age: 19
6-foot-11, 211 lbs

Bender has been on the NBA radar for a while, but got a significant bump in his draft stock a few weeks ago when his Maccabi Tel Aviv team played two exhibition games against Milano in Chicago and New York. Bender was terrific in both games while matched up against Allesandro Gentile, a player who's likely to be in the NBA next year.

His versatility is a big plus. While his offensive game is still rounding out (as is his body), he can play the 3, 4 and 5 on offense -- much like Porzingis in the Liga ACB last year. Bender's 3-point shot is improving and he shows terrific athleticism. What's not to like?

"I think the biggest takeaway from those two games was that Bender is going to get significant playing time for Maccabi," one GM said. "That's huge. If he can play big minutes in the Euroleague and make the impact that we saw him make early, he's got a shot at the No. 1 pick.

"He's a skilled 7-footer that can score from anywhere and defend three positions. Those guys don't come along very often.

"I'd probably put Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere in front of him. Maybe Brandon Ingram too. But if he has a big year in Europe, I might be inclined to go with Bender. Especially if Porzingis ends up having a big year in New York."

Potential NBA starters

2. Henry Ellenson
6-10, 228 lbs

Ellenson broke his hand in March, robbing him of the opportunity to show off his game to scouts at the McDonald's All American Game and the Nike Hoop Summit. Otherwise he would be more front of mind in NBA circles.

He's the rare big man with such a complete offensive package: great athletic ability, the strength to dominate in the post, the shooting ability to stretch the floor and terrific ballhandling skills. He dominated in a four-game trip to Italy for Marquette in August, averaging 21 points and 7.5 rebounds. In other words, he can be an instant impact player.

Concerns about his defense abound. And there were conditioning questions until he slimmed down during the past year to a svelte 228. Overall, he's the closest thing we've seen to Kevin Love since Love.

"He's the most underrated kid in this draft class," one NBA scout said. "His game and his body have improved so much the past year. Offensively, there isn't anything this kid can't do.

"He's a bit of a defensive liability right now, but there's no reason he has to be. He's got great mobility and long arms. He just needs to learn how to play on that end, too. I think he'll pick it up on that end with time. I wouldn't be surprised if you have him in your top five in June."

3. Cheick Diallo
6-9, 220 lbs

Diallo is still waiting to hear whether he'll be cleared by the NCAA to play for Kansas. If he is, he'll be an immediate impact player, especially on the defensive end.

There isn't a player who plays with more energy or toughness than Diallo. He uses his elite athleticism, long arms and speed to protect the rim and harass players on the perimeter.

On offense, he's unpolished. He's been playing basketball for only five years and his game is still coming along. But scouts who watched him closely this spring all say the same thing -- his game is developing rapidly on that end, too.

"He's my favorite player in the draft," one GM said. "I'm not saying he's the best player. Just my favorite. I love guys that go [all] out on both ends for 48 minutes. They guy just doesn't stop. Bill Self is going to love him. He's going to have a major impact at Kansas on both ends.

"And I think if his offense ever catches up to his defense he could be a star. He's got the physical tools and the work ethic and the right demeanor to be one. I love him."

4. Ivan Rabb
6-10, 215 lbs

Rabb is one of the harder freshmen to rank. For much of high school, he was a consensus top-five player in his class. By the end of his senior season, scouts had cooled a bit, as they wondered whether Rabb was a center trapped in the body of a small forward.

He has tried to address both of those issues this summer. By August he had put on 11 pounds of muscle. He's been working on refining his face-up game.

The rest of his game is NBA-worthy. He's a very good athlete with great length, he plays hard and he's one of the best rebounders in his class. He might be behind the other top freshmen in this class, but he has the talent of a lottery pick.

"He might need two years," one NBA GM said. "But he's a really talented kid. He's just skinny and he's still figuring out what his game is. But I love guys with his athleticism and his ability to rebound. Rebounding translates and he's as good of a rebounder as any freshman in the country."

Potential NBA rotation players

5. Zhou Qi
Age: 19
7-2, 209 lbs

Since Yao Ming took the league by storm in 2002, we have awaited the next star from China. Yi Jianlian looked the part when playing against a chair, but in the NBA he struggled. Since then the talent pipeline from China has dried up. Until now.

Scouts are in agreement that Zhou has the potential to be a very good NBA player. He's got an arsenal of offensive moves and the size and athletic ability to succeed. He can be an absolute menace as a shot-blocker. He just has to get stronger -- a lot stronger to survive the NBA.

"If he could pack on 30 or so pounds, I see a lot of Kris Porzingis in him," one GM said. "He's so skilled in so many ways. But he's 7-2, 210 pounds. He's got a long ways to go. I'm glad he stayed in China another year. It might need to be another two years. But talent-wise? He's got lottery-type talent."

6. Nigel Hayes
6-7, 250 lbs

Hayes was a popular player among NBA scouts last year during a breakout sophomore campaign. Not only is he a versatile forward who can score from anywhere on the floor, he's got a world-class personality on and off the court.

The question is, with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker now both off to the NBA, can he transition from role player to leading man at Wisconsin? If he can make the leap, we have him too low, but there are plenty of skeptics that fear he'll get exposed under the spotlight.

7. Domantas Sabonis
6-10, 230 lbs

Sabonis drew lots of praise from NBA scouts last year. While he doesn't yet have the elite basketball IQ of his legendary father Arvydas Sabonis, he's still an intelligent player who made an immediate impact off the bench for Gonzaga as a freshman.

He was one of the best rebounders in college basketball last season. He's strong and can score in the paint. But his lack of a consistent jump shot and his below-average length and athleticism for his position raise questions about his NBA upside.

8. Carlton Bragg
6-9, 220 lbs

Bragg was ranked just 21st among our ESPN 100 top high school seniors. But the near-universal consensus among scouts who've traveled to Lawrence to watch Kansas practice is that he's going to be a NBA player someday.

The question is when. His athleticism and offensive versatility (he can score from anywhere on the floor) can make him an attractive prospect. But he still lacks a high basketball IQ, his intensity level can wax and wane and currently he's stuck behind Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor in KU's rotation at the 4. He might not break out until next season, but scouts will be watching closely anyway.

9. Robert Carter Jr.
6-9, 235 lbs

Carter spent two years at Georgia Tech putting up solid numbers before deciding to sit out a year so that he could transfer to Maryland. At Georgia Tech, scouts saw a talented power forward who excelled as a rebounder and had the ability to stretch the floor and score in the post. But conditioning issues and maturity dogged his draft status.

Now Carter is in the best shape of his life (down to a slim 235 pounds, according to his coach) and seems to have matured. Scouts visiting College Park say he could be ready for a breakout year and a shot at the first round of the draft.

10. Alpha Kaba
Age: 19
6-9, 225 lbs

Kaba drew serious interest this summer after a stellar workout in Santa Monica, California, in front of a horde of NBA scouts. The big man with a huge 7-foot-3 wingspan played in just eight games last season for Pau-Orthez in France. If he can get more run this year, he's going to be intriguing.

He can run the floor, and he has a soft touch and the length and athleticism to thrive at the position. But he needs to develop his basketball IQ and motor.

Others to watch: Petr Cornelie, 20, France; Marcus Lee, Jr., Kentucky; Egemen Guven, 19, Turkey; Marquese Chriss, Fr., Washington; Chase Jeter, Fr., Duke; Lauri Markkanen, 18, Finland; Martynas Echodas, 18, Lithuania; Shawn Long, Sr., Louisiana Lafayette; Caleb Swanigan, Fr., Purdue; Brice Johnson, Sr., UNC; Rico Gathers, Sr., Baylor; Jordan Bell, So., Oregon; Jalen Reynolds, Sr., Xavier; Joel Bolomboy, Jr., Weber State; Perry Ellis, Sr., Kansas; Kyle Wiltjer, Sr, Gonzaga; Devin Williams, Jr., West Virginia; Octavius Ellis, Sr., Cincinnati; Ryan Anderson, Sr., Arizona; Jameel McKay, Sr., Iowa State; Bonzie Colson, So., Notre Dame; Jameel Warney, Sr., Stony Brook.

Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #29 of 9059
Thread Starter 

post #30 of 9059

Simmons. Good grief 

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