2016 NBA Draft Big Board Part 1: Tiers 1 and 2

As a brief introduction, I decided to break up the big board this year into different installments and tiers.  Since I only did 1 scouting report this season a large part of each player description reads like a scouting report.   This draft is full of similarly talented potential role players that makes it especially difficult to rank, especially outside the top 10 or so where an argument can be made for roughly 20 players in various orders. I evaluate based on a ranking system of 1)Stars 2)Starters on a Title Team and 3)Players Who Fit a Role in the league, and try to categorize each player based on skill-set in a specified player archetype by position of similar players currently in the league. Unfortunately, I wont have time to explain each archetype in detail prior to the draft, but will post a write up at some point explaining the system in greater detail.  But without further ado, my 2016 NBA Draft Big Board, starting with tiers 1 and 2.

Tier 1: All-Star/Franchise Player Ceiling, High Level Starter on a Title Team Floor

1.Ben Simmons

Age: 19

NBA Position: Two Way Playmaking Four (Category 1B)/Point 4

Positional Size/Athleticism: Ideal size for an NBA 4 at 6’10 with an advanced/developed 240 pound frame. Average length with a 7’0.5 wingspan and 8’11” standing reach. Incredibly fluid athlete with tremendous body control, side to side agility and top end transition speed.  Elite at changing ends of the floor with speed as a rim runner.  Plus first step and sudden accelerator with great burst to turn the corner. Not an ET athlete exploding at the rim with power, but has enough lift to finish above the rim in space and is a quick twitch athlete. Great feet with elite lateral quickness sliding in an athletic stance when engaged.  Big, soft hands.

Shooting: Inconsistent mechanics without NBA range. Drifts to the side on many attempts and shoots on the way down. Defenders sag off 5+ feet to dare him to shoot and as coined by Nate Duncan he’s currently at a “record scratcher” level of passive shooter.  More adept shooting off the bounce (.741 PPP in the half-court) than off the catch (.7 PPP in the half-court).

Creation: Grab and go transition ball-handler who can push the pace from the 4 spot and cause chaos. Incredibly advanced as a passer with generational vision on the move for his size. Moves the ball in transition and makes quick reads while the defense is recovering in the half court instead of holding the ball giving away advantages. Rare high velocity passer. Can see over the defense and make all the reads. Elite ball-handling for his size. Has a plethora of crossovers and in & out dribbles to create separation and can attack going left or right. A theoretical ambidextrous finisher but really mostly finishes with his right around the rim. Adept in the post with a right jump hook over his left shoulder and the frame to anchor for position, but is predictable in almost always finishing with his right (even over his right shoulder). Projects to kill switches in the post with enough juice to score and really pass out of doubles, negating teams putting less physically imposing wings on him to take away his normal quickness advantage.  Gets to the rim with ease drawing fouls but isn’t an overly powerful finisher in traffic, instead diverting to floaters.

Defense/Rebounding: Rarely sits down in an athletic stance, but when he does he’s an elite lateral mover. Fast, active hands defending the perimeter with switching experience and potential despite being late to react to switches at times. Has the footspeed to defend the PNR in space, hedge and recover and navigate his way around screens. Plus instincts on the perimeter anticipating for steals in passing lanes. Has the frame to absorb contact defending dribble penetration without getting dislodged. Does not project as a plus back line defender. Not a natural help defender instinctually rotating over from the weak side. Not a rim protector with his lack of length, and often played out of position at the 5 spot, but displayed promising signs of verticality. Elite rebounder who can anchor boxing out with his frame and quickly elevate to high point balls to compensate for his average arm length. Can hold position as a post defender on the block when engaged with his frame.

Intelligence/Intangibles: Generational high basketball IQ/court awareness and an unselfish offensive player. Plays the right way.

Red Flags:  Potential red flag off the court work ethic and personality. Defensive effort level/competitiveness went in and out at LSU.  Long term shooting potential is a concern without shot refinement.  No real evidence outside of non-deplorable FT% on high volume to suggest he can shoot.

Statistical Profile:

Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted (With Comparable Players in Same Archetype)

Simmonw

*Odom’s stats aren’t pace adjusted

Advanced Stats

Simmons2

  • Volume Shooting: 386 FGAs, 3 3PTAs, 297 FTAs
  • At Rim: 210 FGAs at the Rim, 158 Makes, 75% (76 Assisted, Includes Putbacks)
  • 2pt Jumpers/Creation Indicators: 173 2PTJAS, 57 Makes, 38 Unassisted Makes, 33%

Translation/Where He’ll Win in the NBA: Simmons has the best size + passing combination since LeBron, and while he is nowhere near the explosive athlete or finisher that LeBron is, he is a rare talent. Simmons personifies the skill-set of a playmaking 4 with his creation acumen. He’ll be adept in the point forward role, as few fours have the athleticism to stay with him and keep him from getting to the rim. His versatility on offense is wildly underrated. He can run a 4/1 PNR (a play rarely utilized outside of LAC & GSW) where the small isn’t used to guarding the screen.  Even if his defender plays 5 feet off he can eat that space up and get to the rim with a head of steam and side to side movement.  With the right shooting lead guard (D’Angelo Russel?) he could be an absolute nightmare on 4 on 3s as a playmaker if defenses choose to trap, and can post any small on switches with the passing chops to navigate doubles.  He doesn’t have a ton of experience as a roll man but that’s an aspect of his game he could thrive in if partnered with a stretch 5.  At bare minimum Simmons is a transition chaos creator with the ball pushing from the 4 spot, a legit big with perimeter skills to create and a plus perimeter defender with quick feet if he’s engaged. If he develops a semblance of a jump shot and the character flags are overstated (I asked around at the Hoop Summit and they appear to be), we’re talking about a top 10 player in the league.

Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:

Floor Outcome: More Athletic & Better Scoring Lamar Odom

Ceiling Outcome: More Athletic, Better Scoring/Finishing/Passing Draymond Green on Offense, Better Perimeter Defending Blake Griffin on Defense

Best Team Fit: Los Angeles (forming a 1/4 PNR offensive fulcrum with Russell, the precise kind of lead guard archetype to fully extract his skills)

Ranking Justification:  Simmons is the most talented prospect in the draft.  He’s a far superior athlete to Ingram and Bender, and his upside due to that athleticism/frame advantage is considerable if he hits his ceiling outcome.  His absolute floor is an elite passing/size/athleticism combination, which is also superior to Ingram’s largely shot-dependent floor profile and Bender’s needed frame development + non primary initiator profile.  Simmons needs a respectable jumper to hit his ceiling, which is admittedly an enormous question mark, but if he does and the character questions turn out to be fodder he’s a locked-in franchise player.

Tier 2: All-Star Ceiling, High Level Starter on a Title Team Floor

2.Brandon Ingram

NBA Position Range: Two-Way 3&D Wing + 4 Potential (Category 5) -> Two-Way Primary Handling Wing (Category 1)

Age: 18

Positional Size/Athleticism: Outlier elite size (6’9.5”) and length (7’3” wingspan, 9’1.5″ standing reach) for an NBA wing. Slight frame at 196 pounds that is evident trying to finish through contact.  Evident lack of lower body strength/girth with no ass and apparent narrow hips.  Has some potential to gain weight in the upper body with broad shoulders  Not a quick twitch athlete, although does display quick reaction time rebounding his own misses and is very fluid mobility-wise on the court. Possesses an average first step and burst combination. A long-strider who can really eat up space with the ball. Doesn’t get great lift as a finisher exploding in traffic off of one foot due to a lack of bouncy athleticism. Above average sliding in an athletic stance and moving backwards, enough for his length to compensate.

Shooting: High and fluid quick release off the catch. Should be a high volume three point shooter in the league with his height and release combination being able to shoot over closeouts. Can get scalding on off the catch when he gets in rhythm on the hop, but is more of a streak shooter than a pure shooter at this juncture.  Has a pull-up off the bounce game but is not adept at that yet (.637 PPP).

Creation: So much of his creation ability is predicated on the threat of his jump shot due to the lack of plus athleticism. Relies on a combination of shot-fakes and jab-steps to create space. Mostly just shoots over college competition. Has an advanced handle for his age and his size, but doesn’t get great separation due to his lack of burst and struggles to turn the corner. Long strides enable him to eat up space with Giannis like spin moves, cross-overs and eventually euro-steps. Adept passer with plus vision for a scoring wing archetype, though not advanced yet. Can run a pick and roll competently but doesn’t draw fouls in elite fashion (perhaps he’ll learn the ball show rip through move).  Has high promise as an off-ball shooter as he moves intelligently off the ball and has the handle to attack closeouts.

Defense/Rebounding: Prone to not sitting down in an athletic stance, but improved over the course of the season. Quick enough to stay in proximity of perimeter players to use his length. Has back line defensive rim protector potential with his length, a rarity for a wing. Decent defensive positioning for his age but is prone to ball-watching and getting back-door cut.  Doesn’t have plus foot speed or the choppy steps to navigate in PNR, but has the ability to cover ground and recover to challenge with his length.  Combination of fluidity and length is a huge plus on closeouts. Underrated contested rebounder despite not having the frame to anchor.

Intelligence/Intangibles: From virtually every report Ingram is a smart kid and hard worker with plus off court character.

Yellow Flags: Ingram doesn’t have a massive hole in his game akin to Simmons’ shooting, but it bears mentioning that his general athleticism is overrated and thus correspondingly his upside as a creator has a ceiling. He’s also not a clean, iron-clad shooting prospect as the following section will indicate.

Statistical Profile:

Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted (With Comparable Players in Same Archetype)

Ingram

Advanced Stats

Ingram 2

  • Volume Shooting: 484 FGAs, 195 3PAs, 170 FTAs
  • At Rim: 119 FGAs at the Rim, 70 Makes, 59% (11 Assisted, Includes Putbacks)
  • 2pt Jumpers/Creation Indicators: 170 2PTJAS, 64 Makes, 53 Unassisted Makes, 38%

Translation/Where He’ll Win the in NBA: If his jumper translates like I think it will (aesthetically it’s there, though not a guarantee), Ingram projects as a killer on pindown sets with his size and high release. When his body develops, he’ll have the strength to anchor in the mid-post and just shoot over smaller defenders, as few wings have the size to contest his shot. With more strength he’ll also be able to attack space, dislodge defenders with his momentum by running into their bodies, and utilize that long-stride spin move to get to the basket. Similarly, space-eating eurosteps could become a part of Ingram’s scoring attack. At bare minimum he should be able to get off a high volume of threes over closeouts and be a solid 3&D player with added playmaking via his handle and passing ability. Defensively, Ingram doesn’t have the same level of athleticism as elite perimeter stoppers like Kawhi, but with added strength his length will be an issue. He’ll be an elite team defender with more experience and especially in weak side closeout situations with his length.

Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:

Floor Outcome: More Unselfish, Less Athletic and Better Defensive Rudy Gay

Ceiling Outcome: Less Athletic Paul George

Best Team Fit: Anywhere (this is perhaps Ingram’s greatest aspect is his conducive presence to team building with ease of fit)

Ranking Justification: Ingram is less likely to hit his ceiling outcome than Simmons, which would require a combination of probably 2 of the following:  1) elite shooting 2) considerable handling improvement and/or 3) elite perimeter defense.  With his shooting profile and athleticism limitations the likely outcome is he falls somewhere in between his floor and ceiling, which is a damn solid player archetype. It’s really close between Ingram and Bender, but I give the slight edge to Ingram who has a better chance of being a primary scorer while still being a positive on defense. Bender also offers less certainty from a production standpoint, which I weigh in slightly.

3.Dragan Bender:

NBA Position: Two-Way Stretch 4 With 5 Potential (Category 4) -> Two Way Playmaking 4 With 5 Potential/Rim Protection (Category 1A)

Age: 18

I wrote an extensive scouting report on Bender earlier this year, which can be found HERE. Thus, I’ll get right to potential yellow flags.

Yellow Flags:  Bender has two things working against him: production with a small sample of minutes played this season for Maccabi and the fact he does not project to be a primary scorer/handler on the NBA level.  I’m not overly concerned with either. Bender flashes enough on tape to see the transcendent skill set despite the lack of eye-dropping numbers and playing time as an 18 year old against grown men.  His unicorn status + playmaking carries enough value in itself to compensate for a lack of Simmons level primary handling.

Statistical Profile: 

Advanced Stats

Bender1

Translation/Where He’ll Win the in NBA: As a floor, Bender is going to win on offense as an elite rim runner, as few bigs can change ends like he does.  He has a respectable floor as a  spacing threat who can pass and attack closeouts competently.  He has rare intelligence and instincts as a passer, thus at bare minimum he’s a big who can move the ball and read a defense.  Bender has displayed the ability to pass on the move, and part of the key to his development to pair with that package is fluidity as a dribbler. If he can develop a more workable handle keeping his eyes up attacking the basket notably on 4 on 3s, he could really become a special player. It is unlikely his handle is ever good enough to create a high volume of offense for himself (only a handful of 7 footers have ever had that ability), but for a 4 he has the baseline skill-set to be a plus there. He should be a pick and pop shooting threat from the off with the added ability to dive and pass or finish with his dynamic speed before the defense can recover.  Finishing is an issue however as Bender is not an above average vertical athlete, thus he’ll need to develop a respectable intermediate floater game.  He surely wont be a PNR dive threat as a lob catcher in traffic.  Right now teams can just stick a wing on him as he’s not skilled on the block. He doesn’t project to every be a pure post threat, but when he adds strength he could be a threat on duck-ins.

Defensively, Bender is going to guard the perimeter in advanced fashion as a space PNR defender, and has 1-5 switching capability. The key will be strength addition so he can better anchor in the post on rebounds and defend the rim from a stand-still and not get run through. His value increases exponentially if he can play minutes at the 5, again tied to strength improvement to be able to leverage inside.  If he hits his ceiling outcome he becomes the only player other than Draymond capable of guarding 5 positions competently and adding floor spacing, playmaking and rim protection at the 5 spot, rendering him one of the more valuable players in the league.

Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:

Floor Outcome: Bigger Better Passing Patrick Patterson

Ceiling Outcome: Taller Draymond Green with Less Girth To Anchor

Best Team Fit: Boston (scheme fit with Stevens), Minnesota or New Orleans (personnel fit next to Towns and Davis respectively)

Ranking Justification:  I have Bender as the clear cut third best player in this class based on his modern NBA friendly floor as a two-way unicorn big who can pass and shoot competently and defend both the perimeter and the interior, and more importantly his rare ceiling as a player archetype only Draymond can boast.  He has the highest likelihood to reach his upside outcome left on the board, and that upside is similarly the highest.  I honestly wouldn’t be opposed to ranking him ahead of Ingram.  More fluid mobility wise and a better playmaker than often compared Porzingis, though he can’t boast the same outlier measureables and bounciness. He’s the real deal, and this talk of some having him ranked outside the top 10 in this class is insanity to me.

*Stats derived from draftexpress.com, hoop-math.com, and realgm.com

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