Although the 2016 NBA Draft is 11 months away, now is a good time to take a look at some of most talented prospects from the class. The draft itself is not as deep as previous years but there is still some elite level talent near the top. LSU’s Ben Simmons, Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and Croatia’s Dragan Bender are all candidates to go number one overall and have All-Star potential.
Here’s some of the most talented players in 2016:
1. Ben Simmons (LSU, Freshman, SF/PF):
NBA SKILLS: Extremely adaptable, positionless force; high-level shot creator
Some compare him to Tracy McGrady. Some compare him to Scottie Pippen. One thing is certain: Ben Simmons is an elite talent who should become a perennial All-Star in the league. Though he is not receiving the same buzz as Andrew Wiggins did going into his freshman season, Simmons has similar (if not greater) upside and is a perfect match for today’s “small ball” landscape in the Association.
Standing at 6’10, the Australian can handle and shoot like a guard, can play multiple positions on the floor, and is an improving defensive presence. He will have plenty of opportunities to shine with the Tigers this fall; he and Antonio Blakeney could easily have LSU back atop the SEC next year.
If Simmons plays close to his potential, we could have a generational talent on our hands.
2. Skal Labissiere (Kentucky, Freshman, PF/C):
NBA SKILLS: Elite size, shooting touch, versatile defender
Skal Labissiere has one of the coolest names you will ever see. But the intrigue does not stop there…the big man has a multi-faceted attack that he brings to the table. He’s very slight at 7’0, 215 pounds but he is a very fluid runner/athlete and can shoot with the best of them.
Skal will hold the keys to Kentucky’s upcoming season. Along with other top recruits like Isaiah Briscoe & Jamal Murray, he is expected to come in right away and be a game-changer for Coach John Calipari. While some compare him to Anthony Davis, Skal is a unique talent who has a much more varied offensive skill set at this stage of his basketball life.
3. Dragan Bender (Croatia, PF):
NBA SKILLS: Combination of elite size (7’1) & shooting ability
Bender is yet another 7-footer, with a soft touch, scheduled to be selected in the 2016 Draft. At only age 17, he has turned heads in the highest of NBA circles and projects as a future star if his body and skills mature the correct way. Bender has excellent touch out to the three-point line and is comfortable taking control of games in tight situations.
He still has some work to do on the defensive end but his length and activity makes him a very intriguing prospect on that end as well. Similar to Kristaps Porzingis this year, Bender should stay in the top 5 on most draft boards all year long as his “legend” continues to cultivate overseas (with Maccabi Tel Aviv).
4. Brandon Ingram (Duke, Freshman, SF):
NBA SKILLS: Size/wingspan, scoring prowess on the wing
Ingram’s decision to go to Duke did not come until late in the process but the Blue Devils certainly got a gem. With a 7’3 wingspan and emerging perimeter presence, Ingram has both tremendous physical tools and upside for a wing.
Coach Mike Krzyzewcski is the perfect coach to mold Ingram into a two-way star at both the collegiate and NBA levels. The first step will be adding some strength to his slender, sub-200 pound frame but when he does…look out! It might be blasphemy to compare him to young KD (nice shooter & ball-handler; great athlete) but Ingram will show that kind of promise in a few months.
5. Jaylen Brown (Cal, Freshman, SF):
NBA SKILLS: Elite athleticism, finishing ability
Jaylen is an explosive athlete who is a fearless finisher at the basket. When he is in transition, it’s pretty much a wrap for defenders. He loves getting after it on defense, is a good shooter and is has shown some nice decision-making skills in the half-court.
Coming into the season, Brown is firmly in the top-10 on most draft boards but he has the work ethic and translatable NBA skills to move up throughout the season. He is on fast track to becoming the best wing in the Pac-12 and should produce huge numbers playing alongside fellow incoming freshman, Ivan Rabb.
Honorable Mention: Jamal Murray (Kentucky), Cheick Diallo (Kansas), Ivan Rabb (Cal), Damian Jones (Vanderbilt), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Kris Dunn (Providence), Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey), Henry Ellenson (Marquette), Diamond Stone (Maryland)
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