Grading All 14 Lottery Picks From The 2016 NBA Draft

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NBA Draft is finally in the books and what a night it was. There were reaches, steals and everything Serge Ibaka related in between to dream about in this draft, all of it together making it one of the more interesting drafts in a long time. The bow ties were on point, Adam Silver continued to look even more like Slenderman (and for some reason, he got booed) and we learnt once again, that Mark Tatum is freaking awesome.  

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but obviously, mine is the best, so enjoy 14 picks (was going to do the whole first round, but this took a while, so might postpone that for later or never do it) worth of grades and short analysis.

1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, F, LSU

I wrote a massive piece about why the Sixers should take Simmons a couple of days ago, so if you want more in depth analysis, click here. But long story short the Sixers did the right thing here, they didn't take a player based on need, but based on who they thought was the best player available. When you're in for as big a retool as the Sixers are in for, this should always be plan A, you shouldn't draft based on a core that is this bad. Simmons has the potential to be something special and should put out the Philly dumpster fire eventually.

Grade: A

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, G/F, Duke

Non-surprise number 2 of the night was in Lakerland. Everyone knew that whoever was left of Ingram and Simmons, the Lakers would take and it seems at least, it will prove to be a good decision. Ingram is a perfect fit on this Laker team. With a backcourt filled with ball-dominant scorers, Ingram can play off-ball with his great shooting touch, at least in the short term. On the other side of the ball, he will provide cover for the defensively weak Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, providing an all-around better team in the process on both ends. 

Overall this pick was a no brainer and if all goes well for the Lakers, Ingram will be the face of their rebuild going forward.

Grade: A

3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown, F, California

My beloved Boston Celtics were in easily the most interesting position on draft night, holding the key to how the rest of the draft will turn out. The dominoes would fall however the Celtics wanted them to and they decided to make the surprising decision of taking Cal forward Jaylen Brown, over Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray and multiple trade offers from a number of different teams.

Everyone has criticized this pick, but I myself actually like it. I would've preferred we trade it for a guy like Jimmy Butler, but I love Jaylen Brown. He is still very raw, but he has superstar potential, something the Celtics currently don't own, have been searching for and still will be hunting for long after this draft. He has physical tools nobody can teach, to go along with a strong character, attitude, tenacity and aggressiveness that will fit in well with the Celtic locker room. 

He is already a great defender, with the potential to be elite, something that a lot of prospects coming into this draft just don't have. His offensive game is still shaky and inconsistent, but he showed flashes of brilliance at Cal, with a rich man's DeMar DeRozan driving game and some incredible plays. His shooting is a massive question mark, especially for a Celtics team that got beaten down by the Hawks in the playoffs because they didn't have any of it. But if the reports are true and he did actually make 76 of 100 threes in his Celtics work out (just three less than Jamal Murray) maybe there's more potential to him than meets the eye.

But in any case, this was a reach. In all likelihood, the Celts could've picked him at 6 or 7 had they traded down, but I guess if you love the guy, you have to go and get him, right?

Grade: B

4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender, PF/C, Croatia

The Suns made a pair of smart choices in the draft and snagging the extremely talented Dragan Bender was certainly one of them. Heading into what is sure to be a tireless rebuilding phase ahead, the Suns needed to take high potential players, with room to grow and potentially be awesome 4-5 years down the track. Dragan Bender is exactly that, right from the get-go, he will add shooting from the big man spot, a nice touch of athleticism, Draymond Green-esque ball-handling and highly underrated, versatile defense that is perfect from the way that the NBA is going. 

Not only was he probably the best player on the board, but was also a very good fit. The Suns have no need for any more backcourt depth and they should give more time to T.J. Warren, to prepare him as their long-term small forward. Meaning that strengthing their pitiful frontcourt was always going to be need number one. Seeing as they also picked up Marquese Chriss, this was a good move to kick it off.

Grade: A-

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

Kris Dunn is by far and away the top point guard in this class. He has natural point guard instincts, above average athleticism for the position and a jump shot that is still coming along, but is further along in its development than most point guards comparable to him at his age -- like John Wall -- so in my opinion, as well as a lot of people's, this was a good pick in terms of value for talent in return.

In terms of fit, the Timberwolves lacked and still lack shooting, a desperate need still missing from their roster, but grabbing a high upside point guard that could potentially displace Ricky Rubio isn't a bad thing. Rubio just came off the best season of his career, but despite his excellent defense and passing, he may not be able to keep up with the rapid development of their super young core. Rubio, who will be 26 by the time the 2016-17 rolls around, probably isn't quite suited to be playing with that core, so it wasn't a bad idea at all to go after a great point guard like Dunn as a potential replacement down the track. 

Plus, the Bulls are still engaged in trade talks for Dunn, meaning the Wolves could still snare themselves an all-star in Jimmy Butler as a result of this trade, giving it an even bigger bump in terms of grade. 

Dunn, Wiggins and Towns, to go along with Thibs is scary folks. The NBA is in for a long next 10-20 years.

Grade: A-

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma

BUDDY!!! #BayouBuddy is officially a thing and although I love Buddy as a prospect, I'm not in love with this pick. 

I love Buddy's stupendous shooting touch, decent ball-handling, big game ability an-d massive balls -- shout out to Bill Simmons -- but did New Orleans really need Hield? Eric Gordon is going to be gone during free agency almost assuredly now, but still getting a shooter as a like-for-like replacement might not be the best thing going forward and when you consider that Hield won't be as good as Gordon right off the bat anyway, it is even worse. 

Getting a like-for-like replacement for a guy you could've just re-signed seems counter productive. Instead of using up a high draft pick on a shooter who doesn't offer up too much upside, when you already have a more than competent one on your roster at the moment, seems to be an inefficient use of resources, especially when you could've invested in grabbing a two-way big man -- like Marquese Chriss --  to pair up with Anthony Davis which is what they have been needing for this entire era of New Orleans basketball. 

The pick also doesn't improve New Orleans' terrible defense, which ranked 28th in the league in terms of efficiency last season, the real reason why a roster with Anthony Davis didn't make the playoffs. Their offense and three-point shooting were already middle of the pack, so this pick does nothing to really improve this roster at all.

Grade: C

7. Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky

I've been vocal about my distaste for Jamal Murray's game on this blog site, but even so, I'll make a quick summary. Although I like his scoring ability, he's the definition of a tweener. He's too small to play shooting guard, not athletic to play point guard, nor does he have the natural point guard instincts required to play the position. Among other reasons, that's why I'm not as high on Murray as other people. 

But even so, this was good value at number 7. If you're talking about an asset, this is the right move to make. Murray was a top 5 player regarded by most analysts and teams, so getting him at 7 is a snag even if I don't like him too much.

In terms of fit, I don't particularly like the pick though. The Nuggets already have 2 building blocks in place in the backcourt in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris, so it's hard to see how the trio ends up fitting in together -- combined with the other two guards they took in the draft, but that's none of my business. But in the end, there was some good value here, so it's a good pick.

Grade: B

8. Phoenix Suns (via Sacramento Kings): Marquese Chriss, F, Washington

The Suns made a great move in grabbing a high upside frontcourt building block with Dragan Bender at pick 4 and to make the most versatile, 21st century, exciting, small ball-iest team ever, they added to that perfectly by drafting Marquese Chriss.

In many ways, Chriss and Bender are very similar prospects. Both are good shooters for their positions, are switchable defenders and provide any team with flexibility. Only, Bender is slightly more polished now and Chriss has more physical tools. In my opinion, they fit nearly perfectly next to each other. There is enough defense, offense, shooting and playmaking to go around in that frontcourt for everyone and their ability to guard multiple positions defensively will make the Suns a defensive juggernaut in the future if things pan out well. 

The trade to get here was incredibly smart too, 13 and 28 combined wouldn't have gotten them a player of Chriss's caliber anyway and as the Kings found out, there wasn't much talent. at all. The Suns knew what they wanted and went and got it, that I respect.

Just like the orange and purple sun, the future is bright in Phoenix, with a dynamite rotation in the backcourt, T.J. Warren on the wing and two modern day big men to anchor the team, this is a team on the rise.

Grade: A

9. Toronto Raptors (via New York Knicks): Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah

As I stated in my most underrated players article, I love Jakob Poeltl. I believe he will be a quality starting center at some point in his NBA career, but as much as I like his game, it isn't enough to overrule how bad this pick was.

Listen, I get that Bismack Biyombo is going to leave in free agency for his massive payday, so the need for a backup big was apparent, but if you're the Raptors holding the 9th pick, a team that was just in the Eastern Conference Finals, you have to go with a boom or bust option with this pick. How many times are you going to be able to be in this situation in the draft? This was your chance to get a superstar at the cost of Andrea Bargnani, but they decided to spend their lottery scratcher on a backup who probably won't garner many minutes in his first couple years behind Jonas Valanciunas.

Grade: C-

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Thon Maker, C/PF, Australia

At this point, there are thousands of articles, memes and tweets that all share the same opinion as me on this one, so we may as well save some time...

Grade: F

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Orlando Magic): Domantas Sabonis, C/PF, Gonzaga

I'm grading the selection here, so I'm not going to mention the trade at all, so sorry Serge Ibaka lovers.

Domantas Sabonis is another player I think is overrated beyond belief. He is a player that belongs in the late 90s rather than 2016, because his game is so post oriented, below the rim and bereft of modern day big man skills it's not even funny.

But as much as I dislike Sabonis as a player, he actually fits in pretty well with what the Thunder are doing. If OKC keep Durant, he could deliver some minutes right away with his NBA ready body in a playoff series, but if they lose Durant, he can take Enes Kanter's spot in the rotation should they decide to get rid of his inflated contract, due to them not being title contenders any more.

Good fit, not a great player though from my point of view.

Grade: B-

12. Atlanta Hawks (via Utah Jazz): Taurean Prince, F, Baylor

The Hawks are already amid the competitive bunch in the Eastern Conference and had DeMarre Carroll been on this team this year, who knows how far they would've gotten in the playoffs (hint: not far, because they kinda ran into some guy called LeBron James)? 

The Hawks got their replacement for Carroll a year later than expected, but it's still a replacement nevertheless. The dreadlocked man not only shares the same hairstyle as Carroll, but has the potential to reach the same sort of 3-and-D role playing starting forward at the NBA level. He has the length and three-point stroke to make a difference from day one for the Hawks and fill a need on the wing long term, especially if Kent Bazemore leaves in free agency.

Grade: B+

13. Sacramento Kings (via Phoenix Suns): Georgios Papagiannis, C, Greece



*Back to writing*

I made a couple of jokes on Twitter about what the most Kings-y thing to do in this situation would be and as it turns out, they trumped anyone's wildest dreams. They traded down from a spot in which they were guaranteed to pick Marquese Chriss, a guy that fits superbly next to DeMarcus Cousins, and instead picked a Greek center who wasn't a bubble first round prospect.

Sure, he seems intriguing enough, with great length and alright shooting tough, but this not only did not make sense from a value perspective, but also from a fit point of view, as the Kings already have DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. They also got Boogie into LeBron mode, as he made the most obvious subtweet ever at his employers.

Grade: F-

14. Chicago Bulls: Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State

Denzel Valentine is loved by everyone for good reason, he just knows how to play basketball. He has a ridiculously well rounded offensive game, with his sweet stroke and playmaking, but does have suspect defense and athleticism. The Draymond Green comparisons will follow Tom Izzo's adopted son, as well the people telling you not to compare him to the uniquely unique Green, but in any case, he is a good basketball player that deserved to go in the late lottery, to mid first round range. 

He's also a good fit for the Bulls, if they trade Butler or decide to keep him. Either options are well suited to Valentine. If Jimmy Buckets does end up leaving, Valentine becomes the immediate replacement. If they keep him, Valentine slots in seamlessly next to Butler, as another creator for a Bulls' offense without a point guard, as a shooting presence and even if he is a defensive liability, Butler can cover for him.

Grade: B+

And so that ends my grades for the lottery. I was going to do the whole first round, but tiredness, lack of time, energy and effort have all caught up to me. If you do want to see the rest of the first round though, I'm not opposed to it, but you have to show your support on this post by tweeting it, sharing it, posting on Reddit, whatever it takes.

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