The Sixers were rewarded for their 72-loss season with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Now that the ping pong balls bounced their way (finally), the real work begins. The Sixers' reshaped front office must decide between two blue chip talents at the top of the draft. It's a decision that will shape the franchise for years to come.
1. Philadelphia 76ers - Ben Simmons, 6-10, 240, Small Forward, LSU
The merits of Simmons vs. Duke's Brandon Ingram will make for terrific debate over the next month. I understand the arguments for both players. Simmons has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the draft and has the chance to be truly special. Ingram is more of a natural scorer and would give the 76ers sorely needed punch on the perimeter.
In the end, the allure of Simmons' unique skill set will win out. Ingram may be a better immediate fit, but the 76ers won't be able to pass up on a talent like Simmons. Players his size who can handle the ball and pass don't come along too often. I'm not that bothered by Simmons' lack of a jump shot. That can be developed in time. It's the other red flags that concern me — his tendency to be passive in big moments, the fact he couldn't lead LSU to the NCAA Tournament, and the rumors already swirling that he'd prefer Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
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But it comes down to this — the 76ers lost 199 games in the last three years with the sole intention of drafting a player who can single-handedly alter a franchise. No one in this draft has a better chance of doing that than Simmons.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - Brandon Ingram, 6-9/195, Small Forward, Duke
The Lakers were big winners Tuesday night — they kept their Top 3 protected pick and are guaranteed to land a difference-maker with the second pick. I get the feeling they would prefer Simmons to Ingram, but in this scenario they would be forced to settle for their second choice. Make no mistake - Ingram is a fine consolation prize. Add him to a young nucleus that includes D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson and suddenly the post-Kobe era is looking up in Los Angeles.
3. Boston Celtics - Dragan Bender, 7-1/225, Power Forward, Croatia
The Celtics are brimming with young backcourt pieces so addressing the frontline makes sense here. That is assuming Boston doesn't trade the pick in an effort to land a proven star. But for arguments sake, the Celtics keep this pick and take Bender. The immediate success of Kristaps Porzingis bodes well for Bender, another skilled big man with loads of potential.
4. Phoenix Suns - Jaylen Brown, 6-7/220, Small Forward, California
For the record, I don’t like this pick. I'm not sold on Brown and think he would benefit from another year in college. But this is a selection based purely on need. Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn are superior prospects, but the Suns already have a surplus of young talent in the backcourt. Phoenix needs an athlete on the wing and Brown fits that mold.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Kris Dunn, 6-4/205, Point Guard, Providence
This would be a dream scenario for Minnesota, who inserts Dunn at point guard along with Andrew Wiggins on the wing and Karl-Anthony Towns inside. That's a terrifying young trio for the rest of the Western Conference. Dunn is a ready-made NBA point guard. He can pass, get to the basket and plays the passing lanes extremely well on the defensive end. I'd be surprised if Dunn doesn't make a handful of All-Star games.
6. New Orleans Pelicans - Jamal Murray, 6-5/200, Shooting Guard, Kentucky
Murray represents great value for the Pelicans here. He has the chance to be an elite scorer on the pro level. Murray kicked it into high gear in the second half of his freshman season at Kentucky. He's a combo guard with a tremendous outside stroke and the athleticism to finish in traffic.
7. Denver Nuggets - Buddy Hield, 6-5/210, Shooting Guard, Oklahoma
Hield went from a likely first-round pick last year to a surefire top-10 pick this year after making the wise decision to return to Oklahoma for his senior season. He was the best player in college basketball this past season. Hield is the best pure shooter in the draft and would form a dynamic backcourt with Emmanuel Mudiay in Denver.
8. Sacramento Kings - Henry Ellenson, 6-10/230, Power Forward, Marquette
Ellenson is the type of prospect NBA executives covet — a "stretch four" with a reliable jump shot and good ball skills. Ellenson's versatile game would be a good complement to Demarcus Cousins' low post prowess in Sacramento.
9. Toronto Raptors - Skal Labissiere, 7-0/215, Power Forward, Kentucky
Not a fan of this pick, but it's a safe bet that Labissiere will be a top-10 selection. He finally showed flashes of life at the tail end of Kentucky's season, but he was a colossal disappointment during his only college season. The size and athleticism are there, but the competitiveness and production are big question marks.
10. Milwaukee Bucks - Domantas Sabonis, 6-10/230, Power Forward/Center, Gonzaga
I'm a big fan of Sabonis' game, which he developed nicely the past two years at Gonzaga. He's an athletic, versatile big man with NBA bloodlines — his father Arvydas carved out an impressive career with the Trail Blazers. The younger Sabonis would fit in nicely with Milwaukee's young athletic core.
11. Orlando Magic - Deyonta Davis, 6-10/230, Power Forward/Center, Michigan St.
Davis isn't your typical Michigan State prospect who enters the league with a polished game ready to contribute immediately. But there's no denying his upside, and he would give Orlando a very intriguing backcourt playing alongside Nik Vucevic.
12. Utah Jazz - Denzel Valentine, 6-6/220, Small Forward, Michigan St.
Back-to-back Spartans go off the board here, with Valentine finding a home in Utah. He's one of the most complete prospects in the draft — able to score, rebound and facilitate at a very high level. I'm a Valentine fan and would surprised if he doesn't have a very good NBA career.
13. Phoenix Suns - Marquese Chriss, 6-10/230, Power Forward, Washington
After upgrading at the wing by taking Jaylen Brown with the fourth pick, the Suns bolster their frontcourt with the second of their two lottery picks. Chriss has tons of potential thanks to his high-end athleticism and ability to shoot from the perimeter.
14. Chicago Bulls - Furkan Korkmaz, Shooting Guard, 6-7/185, Turkey
The Bulls need to upgrade their outside shooting and Korkmaz is one of the best shooters in this year's draft. He's also just 18 years old, so Chicago will have to be patient. But Korkmaz would be a nice fit for how Fred Hoiberg wants the Bulls to play.
15. Denver Nuggets - Jakob Poeltl, 7-1/240, Center, Utah
I'm not as high on Poeltl as others. This is the low end of where he's projected to be drafted. He's got great size and skill on the low block, but I was scared off by his poor performance in the NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga and Domantas Sabonis.
16. Boston Celtics - Taurean Prince, 6-8/220, Small Forward, Baylor
Prince's stock has been on the rise in recent weeks. He's a versatile forward who could fill the role played by free agent-to-be Evan Turner in Boston. Prince should be able to contribute immediately following four seasons at Baylor.
17. Memphis Grizzlies - Malik Beasley, 6-5/190, Shooting Guard, Florida St.
Beasley could end up being a steal here for Memphis. He's only 19 but is regarded as one of the premier shooters in this year's draft. The Grizzlies could use an infusion of youth in their backcourt and Beasley is a prospect with a very high ceiling.
18. Detroit Pistons - Stephen Zimmerman, 6-11/235, Power Forward, UNLV
Zimmerman is an extremely athletic big man who has plenty of room to improve following just one collegiate season at UNLV. His ability to run the floor and make plays at the rim make him an intriguing frontcourt option for the up-and-coming Pistons.
19. Denver Nuggets - Timothe Luwawu, 6-7/205, Shooting Guard, France
Luwawu adds to the deep crop of international prospects in the draft. He's a well-rounded wing player who competes on both ends of the floor. Since this is the third of Denver's three first-round picks, Luwawu is a candidate to stay overseas for another year and continue to develop.
20. Indiana Pacers - Tyler Ulis, 5-9/160, Point Guard, Kentucky
I'm a big fan of Ulis' game. His size is the obvious question mark but he can play. Ulis was the SEC Player of the Year last season at Kentucky thanks to his superb decision-making at the point guard position. He would be a tremendous addition to the Pacers' backcourt.
21. Atlanta Hawks - Diamond Stone, 6-10/255, Power Forward, Maryland
Stone didn't live up to expectations during his lone college season at Maryland. But the skill set and potential is there. With questions surrounding Al Horford's future in Atlanta, Stone would be a valuable addition. He has the natural ability to develop into one of the top big men in this year's draft.
22. Charlotte Hornets - Ben Bentil, 6-8/230, Power Forward, Providence
Bentil is coming off an impressive performance at the combine that should solidify his status as a first-round pick. He's a versatile big man with shooting range that extends to three-point territory. Bentil also has little trouble scoring inside. His skill set should translate well on the pro level.
23. Boston Celtics - Brice Johnson, 6-9/230, Power Forward, North Carolina
If the Celtics keep all three of their first-round picks, they could look to draft an international prospect here to stash overseas. But Johnson projects as an athletic forward with the ability to run the floor and score in transition. He came into his own as a senior at North Carolina. If he continues to improve at this rate, he could end up being a great find late in the first round.
24. Philadelphia 76ers - Wade Baldwin, 6-3/195, Point Guard, Vanderbilt
The point guard position has been an area of need for the 76ers for the past two seasons. Ish Smith has proven himself capable, but the 76ers take a chance on Baldwin here late in the first round. He is a lead guard capable of creating shots for himself as well as facilitating for his teammates. Baldwin has good size and has also proven to be a reliable outside shooter, shooting better than 40 percent from three in each of his two seasons at Vanderbilt.
25. Los Angeles Clippers - Cheick Daillo, 6-9/220, Power Forward, Kansas
Daillo was a non-factor late in the season for Kansas, but he turned in a solid performance at the combine, one that ultimately reaffirmed his status as a first-round pick. Daillo is very raw, particularly on the offensive end. The Clippers will have to be patient and give him time to develop.
26. Philadelphia 76ers - DeAndre' Bembry, 6-6/210, Small Forward, Saint Joseph's
With three first-round picks, the Sixers could go the international prospect route here and stash that player overseas. But it wouldn't surprise me if they have their eyes on Bembry, a local product who excelled during his three seasons at St. Joe's. Bembry was one of the biggest winners to emerge from the combine, where he showed the ability to score on a consistent basis against pro-level competition. Bembry is a deceptive athlete and a terrific rebounder for a wing player. His jump shot is a concern, but he has plenty of time to improve that aspect of his game. One of Bembry's biggest assets is his understanding of the game. I expect him to have a solid 10- to 12-year NBA career.
27. Toronto Raptors - Thon Maker, 7-1/215, Power Forward, Australia
Maker is one of the biggest wild cards in this year's draft. Just 12 months ago, he was a highly-touted high school prospect at the center of college recruiting battles. But following a ruling that proved he in fact graduated from high school in 2015, he was able to enter the draft. Maker needs a good amount of seasoning but the potential is plain to see. He's a 7-footer with tremendous athleticism and ball skills. Maker prides himself as a Kevin Durant clone, but he's got a long way to go before he's thought of in that sense.
28. Phoenix Suns - Malachi Richardson, 6-6/200, Shooting Guard, Syracuse
Richardson played his way into the first round during Syracuse's surprising run to the Final Four. He's a very athletic wing with a game that tends to translate well in the NBA. This would be the Suns' third pick in the first round, and Richardson could turn out to be the best of the bunch.
29. San Antonio Spurs - Demetrius Jackson, 6-1/195, Point Guard, Notre Dame
Jackson is the type of heady backcourt player that Gregg Popovich gravitates towards. With the Spurs starting to transition from the 'Big Three' Era, Jackson could be a very useful piece of the future. He had a knack for making winning plays during his time at Notre Dame.
30. Golden State Warriors - Damian Jones, 6-11, 250, Center, Vanderbilt
The Warriors bolster their frontcourt with the last pick in the first round. Jones progressed nicely through his three seasons at Vanderbilt. He provides a strong, physical presence in the paint and is a consistent finisher around the rim.