Why, What and Who: NBA Top-Five Mock Draft

By: Christian May-Suzuki, SSW

After a college basketball season capped off by an outrageous NCAA tournament, the next step for many of the young players who took part is putting their names in for the NBA Draft. A great deal of preparation, scouting and testing goes into each team’s decision to select one of these players with one of their picks in the draft, with teams hosting workouts and meetings to determine which player could become the most talented. This is magnified in the first few picks where both the risk and the reward are high enough to impact a franchise for years to come. Here are my projections for the top-five picks and their most apt comparisons in the league today.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons | SF/PF | LSU | 6’10”, 239 |

Why: Simmons comes into the draft as the consensus number one pick, and has held that distinguishment for some time. Despite his Louisiana State team not making the NCAA tournament, Simmons had a monster year for the Tigers. He averaged 19.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in his first and only season in college, and showed a unique combination of guard skills and athleticism that has drawn many comparisons including arguably the greatest prospect of all time: LeBron James.

What: Simmons is similar but not quite up to par with even high school LeBron. He has unique court vision and ability to handle the ball, something incredibly rare for a player his size. He uses his long legs to run the court very well, and has a decent sense of where he wants to be. This length contributes to his uncanny ability to get to the rim, as almost all of his points came from near the basket. However, he is incredibly reluctant to shoot the ball, only taking 45 jump shots for the Tigers, making 14. He isn’t particularly long despite his size with only a 6’11” wingspan and a 8’6” standing reach, which can make it difficult for him to play in the post versus the type of size he will see in the NBA.

Who: Besides the constant LeBron comparisons, Simmons is similar to Lamar Odom, Boris Diaw or Michael Beasley in terms of his size and handle, but Simmons possesses much better court vision and passing ability than any of the three when they were entering the draft. Barring a freak accident, Simmons will no doubt be a good player in the NBA, but many feel his broken jump shot and hesitancy from beyond the arc will prevent Simmons from fulfilling his potential and living up to a number one pick’s expectations. This on top of his questionable mentality, maturity, overall character, and his inability to win at the college level are small red flags, but can become glaring flaws at the NBA level. If he can improve those things, he has the potential to be a prototype that the NBA has never seen before.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram | SF | Duke | 6’9”, 196 |

Why: Of course with a comparison to LeBron, there must be one to Durant and the spindly build of Ingram fits the perception of the Slim Reaper in many people’s mind. Ingram fits the mold for the prototypical wing, and there is an argument that he is more NBA-ready than Simmons. The Lakers are looking to replace a huge scoring hole with the loss of Kobe Bryant, and Ingram has the potential to become the best scorer in the draft.

What: Unlike Simmons, Ingram does have a decent jumper coming out of college, using his height and length to shoot over defenders without needing exceptional handles to create his own shot. While his ability to dribble is not overwhelming, he does possess the ball-handling skills to run the floor and attack the basket  and has a back-to-the-basket game that he can apply well in the midrange. Ingram is going to need to gain some weight to bang around with some of the bigger guys as Durant did, but the 18-year-old  is already a versatile scorer from all parts of the floor.

Who: As mentioned before, the most striking resemblance is Kevin Durant. Though Durant weighed 20 pounds heavier than Ingram going into the draft, their games are very similar in the use of their incredible length and skill to weave their way through and over defenses combined with a proficiency shooting from outside and inside the perimeter.

  1. Celtics: Buddy Hield | SG | Oklahoma | 6’5”, 214 |

Why: Hield shot up draft boards this year by putting together a magical senior season at Oklahoma. A culmination of four years of gradual improvement, Hield scored 25.1 points per game in his final season as a Sooner, and lead Oklahoma to the Final Four with a brilliant shooting display that will be remembered. The Celtics

What: Hield is the best shooter in the draft with the ability to pull up from long distances and has an improving long range shot off the dribble. He has a good awareness on the court, and is able to find open spaces on the floor to set up for shots. His ability to shoot off the dribble is improving but his mediocre handle and struggles as a passer hinders this even more.

Who: J.J. Redick was an unbelievable shooter coming out of college, but he had similar issues with passing, handling and defense that Hield does. If Hield can learn to adjust his game to not be the central focus of the offense and instead play as a third or fourth scoring option others as a shooter, he will be in the league for years to come.

  1. Suns: Dragan Bender | PF | Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) | 7’1”, 225 |

Why: A face-up shooter at that height is always coveted talent and Bender moves very fluidly on the court. However, he is still very raw talentwise, but has much time to grow at age 18. Physically he is still immature as well, but scouts are high on the versatility that can be developed in his skillset along with the opportunity to mold the physique of a player in any way they choose The Suns can afford to wait for Bender’s to develop with the talent they currently have.

What: Bender would probably be used at either the four or the five for a team, and has an outstanding feel for the game despite his inexperience.He has the athleticism and lateral quickness to keep up with players and attack from the perimeter, and already has a very smooth jump shot with textbook form.

Who: Massive, young, skilled and athletic. Those were four words that we used to describe another European phenom in last year’s draft: New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis lived up to the hype and then some, showing tremendous ability to play inside and outside on both ends of the floor. While Bender is not expected to make as much of an immediate impact, the upside is very similar.

  1. Timberwolves: Kris Dunn | PG | Providence | 6’4”, 205 |

Why: A great athlete with long arms and a fiery competitive spirit, Kris Dunn would be the most ideal pick for Minnesota. The Timberwolves have only one main distributor in Ricky Rubio, so being in the position to pick a highly skilled and athletic pass-first point guard in a draft where the position is incredibly thin is the perfect situation for Minnesota. Dunn had some troubles at Providence with staying healthy after undergoing multiple shoulder surgeries, but can be a valuable distributor that would fit perfectly with the Wolves young and athletic core.

What: A crisp passer with solid court vision, Dunn’s athleticism allows him to play much bigger on the boards than his size as a guard. Great speed makes him incredibly dangerous in transition, and he can score in the post against smaller defenders as well. While his jumper is improving, it is still quite erratic, and many teams lived with allowing Dunn to take long range shots this season.

Who: Dunn is built very similarly to Washington Wizards guard John Wall, with blistering speed combined with unique size and strength for a point guard with such impeccable vision. Wall’s shot has been an issue for him for his entire career as well, but he is still able to attack the rim and take advantage of smaller matchups as Dunn does. While Dunn’s vision is not quite as good, he has all of the physical tools that Wall has that makes him a three-time All-Star.