OOWF Official 2016 NBA Mock Draft

It’s here. Time to quickly shift gears after an exhilerating Game 7. Out of Write Field wrapped up its second annual alternating NBA mock draft this morning. For those new to this, we each take turns acting as the front office of the NBA franchise selecting with our pick, making the call based on what we would personally do (disregarding trades, sorry Boston) rather than what likely will occur. After patiently trudging through last year’s NBA mock and this year’s NFL mock, Miggy gets his shot at a Wisconsin team’s first rounder, but conveniently the end product saw each of us making one of the Bucks’ three selections. On the whole, the results were littered with surprises. The Philadelphia 76ers have made a promise to Ben Simmons, much to the chagrin of OOWF. Jack’s beloved Thon Maker fell to 47. Milwaukee’s own Diamond Stone fell to, well, no one. It’s draft night. After the Larry Nance Jr. fiasco, who knows what we have in store?

Round 1

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (Miggy) – Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
  2. Los Angeles Lakers (Jack) – Ben Simmons, F, LSU
  3. Boston Celtics (Swit) – Marquese Chriss, F, Washington
  4. Phoenix Suns (Miggy) – Dragan Bender, F/C, Croatia
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves (Jack) – Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky
  6. New Orleans Pelicans (Swit) – Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma
  7. Denver Nuggets (Miggy) – Jaylen Brown, F, California
  8. Sacramento Kings (Jack) – Kris Dunn, G, Providence
  9. Toronto Raptors (Swit) – Henry Ellenson, F/C, Marquette
  10. Milwaukee Bucks (Miggy) – Timothe Luwawu, G/F, France
  11. Orlando Magic (Jack) – Skal Labissiere, F/C, Kentucky
  12. Utah Jazz (Swit) – Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame
  13. Phoenix Suns (Miggy) – Domantas Sabonis, F/C, Gonzaga
  14. Chicago Bulls (Jack) – Wade Baldwin IV, G, Vanderbilt
  15. Denver Nuggets (Swit) – Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
  16. Boston Celtics (Miggy) – Deyonta Davis, F/C, Michigan State
  17. Memphis Grizzlies (Jack) – Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State
  18. Detroit Pistons (Swit) – DeAndre Bembry, G/F, St. Joseph’s
  19. Denver Nuggets (Miggy) – Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, Turkey
  20. Indiana Pacers (Jack) – Taurean Prince, F, Baylor
  21. Atlanta Hawks (Swit) – Juan Hernangomez, F, Spain
  22. Charlotte Hornets (Miggy) – Patrick McCaw, G, UNLV
  23. Boston Celtics (Jack) – Dejounte Murray, G, Washington
  24. Philadelphia 76ers (Swit) – Caris LeVert, G, Michigan
  25. Los Angeles Clippers (Miggy) – Malcolm Brogdon, G, Virginia
  26. Philadelphia 76ers (Jack) – Cheick Diallo, F/C, Kansas
  27. Toronto Raptors (Swit) – Chinanu Onuaku, C, Louisville
  28. Phoenix Suns (Miggy) – Paul Zipser, F, Germany
  29. San Antonio Spurs (Jack) – Malachi Richardson, G/F, Syracuse
  30. Golden State Warriors (Swit) – Petr Cornelie, F/C, France

Round 2

  1. Boston Celtics (Miggy) – Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia
  2. Los Angeles Lakers (Jack) – Michael Gbinije, G, Syracuse
  3. Los Angeles Clippers (Swit) – Tyler Ulis, G, Kentucky
  4. Phoenix Suns (Miggy) – Malik Beasley, G, Florida State
  5. Boston Celtics (Jack) – Isaia Cordinier, G, France
  6. Milwaukee Bucks (Swit) – Ben Bentil, F, Providence
  7. Houston Rockets (Miggy) – Guerschon Yabusele, F, France
  8. Milwaukee Bucks (Jack) – Rade Zagorac, F, Serbia
  9. New Orleans Pelicans (Swit) – Zhou Qi, F/C, China
  10. New Orleans Pelicans (Miggy) – Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina
  11. Orlando Magic (Jack) – Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
  12. Utah Jazz (Swit) – A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue
  13. Houston Rockets (Miggy) – Kahlil Felder, G, Oakland
  14. Atlanta Hawks (Jack) – Joel Bolomboy, F/C, Weber State
  15. Boston Celtics (Swit) – Georgios Papagiannis, C, Greece
  16. Dallas Mavericks (Miggy) – Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana
  17. Orlando Magic (Jack) – Thon Maker, F, Australia
  18. Chicago Bulls (Swit) – Gary Payton II, G, Oregon State
  19. Detroit Pistons (Miggy) – Robert Carter, F, Maryland
  20. Indiana Pacers (Jack) – Ron Baker, G, Wichita State
  21. Boston Celtics (Swit) – Daniel Ochefu, C, Villanova
  22. Utah Jazz (Miggy) – Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt
  23. Denver Nuggets (Jack) – Danilo Fuzaro, G, Brazil
  24. Atlanta Hawks (Swit) – Pascal Siakam, F/C, New Mexico State
  25. Brooklyn Nets (Miggy) – Isaiah Whitehead, G, Seton Hall
  26. Denver Nuggets (Jack) – Stephen Zimmerman, C, UNLV
  27. Memphis Grizzlies (Swit) – Tyrone Wallace, G, California
  28. Boston Celtics (Miggy) – Alex Olah, C, Northwestern
  29. Sacramento Kings (Jack) – Wayne Selden, G, Kansas
  30. Utah Jazz (Swit) – James Webb III, F, Boise State
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NBA Draft Primer: Value can be found at shooting guard

“Value” is a precious term for front offices in the present-day NBA. With the salary cap escalating to unimaginable levels and contracts soon to become unspeakably lucrative for free agents, “value” will be placed at a premium, just as it always has been. Players offering general managers and executives the highest output-to-cost ratios are naturally sought after. These players, more often than not, take the form of rookie contracts, placing considerable emphasis on the NBA Draft process.

Concerning the shooting guard position in the draft two weeks from now, National Player of the Year Buddy Hield and freshman sensation Jamal Murray are top 10 guarantees. A pair of international prospects, 3-and-D Frenchman Timothe Luwawu and Turkish mystery man Furkan Korkmaz, are projected to find a new home either late lottery or in the middle of the first round. The true value of the 2016 NBA Draft lies after these four are vacated from the board. Teams in need of a value pick should look no further than the flurry of 2-guards slated late in the first round and throughout the second. This year’s deep crop of shooting guards is underscored by a pristine mixture of prospects capable of playing NBA minutes tomorrow and prospects with sizeable upside. We analyze 10 of these 2-guards that will be available in value spots here.

Pay no attention to the order in which the prospects are listed. I initially tried ranking them but found it far too difficult, although I do have a favorite (McCaw) and least favorite (Richardson). Instead, I separated the players into two categories, either identified as “Immediate Impact” players or “Upside” players. Along with each prospect’s analyses are all the important measurables and the particular player’s latest DraftExpress mock draft projection. Also included are player comps. For those who have wider range of what they could develop into, a ceiling comp and floor comp are given. Let’s run.

Immediate Impact Guys

DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s

DX Mock: 28

Age: 21

Height: 6’5¾”

Weight: 207

Wingspan: 6’9¼”

Max Vert: 38”

Bembry, as a mere freshman, was the undeniable glue of a St. Joe’s squad that was a defensive rebound shy of rewriting history and knocking off the eventual National Champion UConn Huskies in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Bembry spurned the likes of Virginia Tech and Seton Hall for St. Joe’s, and it didn’t take a trained eye tell he would develop into an Atlantic-10 star. There are only a handful of players in this draft class that can greater impact an NBA game at this moment in time than the St. Patrick High School product. Likely remaining on the board until the 20s, Bembry will be one of the steals of the draft and the rich will get richer. Bembry is defined as a two-way player with a well-rounded game and crazy scoring versatility. Just because he is identified as an immediate impact prospect, however, does not entail he is lacking in upside. Bembry is a consistent 3-point jumper away from being a potential All-Star caliber wing. Established stars such as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler were viewed as defensive stalwarts before realizing their full potential offensively after reaching the Association. Bembry could fall under the same category. #FearTheFro.

BembryHair

Ceiling: Jimmy Butler

Floor: Iman Shumpert

 

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

DX Mock: 41

Age: 23

Height: 6’5½”

Weight: 223

Wingspan: 6’10½”

Max Vert: 35½”

Brogdon is a near-lock to be able to instantly make a difference for an NBA team, just as a handful of these 2-guards. The 4-year star at UVA’s calling card, just as it was in college, will be the defensive end of the floor. Captaining the nation’s best defense over the past three seasons, Brogdon was surely schooled well on defensive concepts by Tony Bennett. Brogdon notched a tremendous 93.9 career defensive rating in Charlottesville thanks to an unsullied amalgam of strength and length, which will assuredly translate to the NBA. For any team selecting in the early-to-mid second round, Brogdon should be near the top of their boards, as he will, at minimum, immediately be a defensive stopper off the bench, being able to guard anywhere from 1-3 and potentially the 4 in smaller lineups. Any offense he generates would be a luxury, but that is a luxury Brogdon is capable of providing. He improved his shooting percentage each of his four seasons, a testament to his work ethic, and with a bit tighter handle would be capable of running the point in a pinch. A grown man with a decorated college career as the winningest player in Virginia history, Brogdon should enjoy an extended NBA career.

Player Comp: Keith Bogans

 

Michael Gbinije, Syracuse

DX Mock: 53

Age: 24

Height: 6’6¾”

Weight: 205

Wingspan: 6’7½”

Max Vert: 37½”

Gbinije is owner of one of the more intriguing backstories in the 2016 draft class. Gbinije was a rare transfer out of Mike Krzyzewski’s program at Duke after one year. A former 5-star recruit, Gbinije landed in upstate New York at Syracuse and steadily progressed each year, culminating in a Final Four run in his senior season. Gbinije is only found lower on draft boards due to his age, as he turned 24 last Sunday. He projects anywhere from point guard to small forward in the NBA. As a result of his size causing potential matchup issues for defenses, the point, just as in college, may be where his greatest professional future lies. The best thing Gbinije has going for him is improved shooting mechanics, almost to the point where they are near-flawless, a tribute to his work ethic. Whether it’s off the dribble, or catch-and-shoot either in spot-up situations or on the move, Gbinije always finds a way to square his feet and has a pretty stroke.

Gbinije

Gbinije can drill threes with deep range and combines that with size and a decently quick release to be able to hoist shots up over most defenders from both distance and mid-range. Shooting is likely to be his best asset offensively at the next level, but Gbinije is nowhere near a one-trick pony, which gives him such high second round value. He can see over the top of defenders in pick-and-roll situations, contributing to his 4.5 assists per 40 minutes, and was also the stabilizer of the top of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, amassing 2 steals per 40 minutes for his career without elite length. Gbinije was scary consistent over his final two seasons in school, shooting 46% from the field and 39% from deep both years. He utilized to 2015 summer to hone his game, winning the Afrobasket championship with the Nigerian national team. He parlayed that into a stellar senior year and hopefully a lengthy NBA career.

Player Comp: Josh Richardson

 

Caris LeVert, Michigan

DX Mock: 46

Age: 21

Height: 6’7”

Weight: 191

Wingspan: 6’10”

Max Vert: N/A

We would not be having this conversation if it weren’t for LeVert’s unfortunate and ongoing health issues. He’d likely have wrapped up his rookie season in the NBA by now, but a torn ACL damaged his draft stock and forced him to remain at Michigan for his senior season, which was cut well-short by another leg injury. Once viewed as a top 10 prospect and now a second round pick in all likelihood, LeVert is perhaps the epitome of “value” in basketball terms. The old adage is that the most imperative offseason in collegiate athletics is the one between your freshman and sophomore seasons. LeVert seemed to take that to heart, as not only did he evolve his game, but he added 2 inches and 20 pounds of muscle to his frame. All of the tools are there. Late bloomers, such as LeVert, are always more intriguing because logically there is plenty more room to grow. His injury-shortened 2015-16 campaign was his best yet percentage-wise, shooting a blistering 51/45/79. LeVert has more than sufficient point guard skills to be a menace at that position at the next level with scary size and length to accompany excellent vision and scoring versatility. Once the second round hits in the NBA Draft, guaranteed contracts are out the window, eliminating almost every ounce of risk. Logically, nabbing LeVert and praying he is able to overcome the run-ins with the trainer makes too much sense.

Player Comp: Doug Christie

 

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

DX Mock: 23

Age: 22

Height: 6’5¾”

Weight: 210

Wingspan: 6’10¾”

Max Vert: 32”

Several scouting outlets categorize Valentine as a shooting guard, which is why he is among this group. However, his NBA future likely lies as a lead guard, just as in East Lansing, but his shooting ability will allow him to play some off the ball. What the 2016 AP Player of the Year lacks in explosiveness he makes up for in basketball IQ. Valentine constantly plays with his head up and loves to push the ball off both misses and makes, throwing lead passes to not only wings, but also threading the needle to bigs running the middle of the floor. A major component of the NBA, of course, is pick-and-roll, and Valentine is one of the best PnR ballhandler prospects we have seen in recent memory. A threat offensively in so many ways, Valentine navigates the PnR patiently and with ease. Coming off of ball screens, he always keeps his dribble alive and surveys the floor, calculating the best move. Go under the screen and this 44% 3-point shooter will make you pay. Blitz the screen and he will find a way to hit the roll man. Valentine, above all out of the PnR, is unparalleled in whipping cross-court passes to shooters when weak side help collapses on the roll man, all credited to his ability to see the entire floor at all times.

Valentine

For these reasons, Valentine is a guarantee to find a niche in the NBA. 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists per 40 minutes in the Big Ten speaks for itself. Valentine plays with a fearlessness that will not allow him to fail. For every Tom Izzo verbal haymaker thrown his way, he calmly buried a three on the ensuing possession. Denzel is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the 2016 class.

Player Comp: Draymond Green (guard version)

 

Upside Guys

Malik Beasley, Florida State

DX Mock: 32

Age: 19

Height: 6’4½”

Weight: 190

Wingspan: 6’7”

Max Vert: N/A

Dwayne Bacon was the more heralded incoming Seminole prior to the 2015-16 season, but Beasley proved to be more NBA-ready with a quietly outstanding and efficient freshman year, shooting 47/39/81 and averaging 21 points per 40 minutes. The theme of scoring versatility continues, and among the prospects we have analyzed here, Beasley is probably the best pure scorer. The Florida State product is highlighted by sound shooting mechanics and can showcase his athleticism when given space. Beasley may need a bit longer of an incubation period and is possibly best-suited joining a contender late in the first round. In the end, a proficient college scorer with a solid understanding of shot selection has a lot to offer NBA teams.

Ceiling: C.J. McCollum

Floor: Rashad Vaughn

 

Isaia Cordinier, France

 DX Mock: 39

Age: 19

Height: 6’4¾”

Weight: 177

Wingspan: 6’8”

Max Vert: N/A, but….

Cordinier

Cordinier is the same age as this year’s freshman class, and there’s a lot to like about the French high-flyer. First and foremost, his athleticism jumps out at you on tape (no pun intended). Cordinier is a dynamic athlete who is at his best when in transition and is an explosive leaper off both one and two feet. He, however, is more than solely a dunk artist. Although he cooled off a bit after a red hot start in the LNB Pro B League in France, the development of his shooting stroke from last year to this is incredibly encouraging, improving from 25% from 3 in 2014-15 to 40% in 2015-16. Cordinier, like several of the others highlighted here, is a high-character prospect. An energizer bunny with a motor running non-stop on both ends, Cordinier never takes a possession off. Conversely, Cordinier only knows how to play one speed, and that’s 100 mph, which causes him to be turnover-prone and undisciplined at times defensively. Added issues about his level of competition in France’s B-League, per se, have also contributed to him falling into the second round in most mocks. Once Cordinier is able to bottle up that energy and play more under control, he will be primed to play a role in an NBA franchise. A team selecting early in the second round seeking a draft and stash option such as Boston, who owns eight (EIGHT!) picks on the night of June 23rd, would be wise to go with the bouncy 19 year-old project hungering to improve his game.

Player Comp: Rudy Fernandez

 

Patrick McCaw, UNLV

DX Mock: 40

Age: 20

Height: 6’6¾”

Weight: 181

Wingspan: 6’10”

Max Vert: 38”

This, when the dust settles, may end up being the true hidden gem of the 2016 draft class. McCaw was a quiet 2016 NBA Draft early entry on the heels of a quietly excellent sophomore season. Bucks fans witnessed Rashad Vaughn play out the worst PER rookie season in NBA history among those rookies that played 600+ minutes. I promise this UNLV guard will be a much different story because of his overall versatility. McCaw excels when he can get out in transition, specifically as a ballhandler. He frequently makes this happen attributable to an intrinsic ability to create turnovers. McCaw’s defensive instincts are at the top of this class. He relentlessly hunts for steals with his 6’10” wingspan and anticipation that cannot be taught.

McCaw

That anticipation will be one of the initial items in McCaw’s toolshed early in his NBA career. With 2.9 thefts per 40 minutes and countless Mountain West guards falling victim to pick pockets, he undoubtedly makes his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor. Moreover, similar to Bembry, McCaw will factor on the offensive end scoring in a variety of ways and acting as a secondary facilitator. In transition, McCaw makes plays both for himself and his teammates. Shooting 47/37/77 this past season and racking up nearly 5 assists per 40 minutes gives us a glimpse of the holistic nature of his game. Broad shoulders indicate he will be able to add onto his 181-pound frame. He remains a lesser-known commodity due to a relative lack of visibility in school. Don’t be surprised if we see McCaw jolt up boards here in the latter stages of the draft process as he becomes less of a secret. For me personally, it’s not too farfetched to claim the former Runnin’ Rebel is a down-the-road All-Star. A number of teams will eventually be kicking themselves for passing on him.

Player Comp: Corey Brewer with a jumper

 

Dejounte Murray, Washington

DX Mock: 35

Age: 19

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 170

Wingspan: 6’9½”

Max Vert: N/A

Murray was one of the most impressive freshmen in college basketball this past season. While there are certain areas of his game he must improve upon to have staying power in the NBA, this combo guard is oozing with upside. Murray’s game is very reminiscent of Jamal Crawford’s. Playing a streetball-type style, Murray is ultra-wriggly with the ball in his hands, knifing through defenders with Crawford-esque hesitations and behind-the-back dribbles and finishing with creative, high-degree-of-difficulty floaters and runners.

Murray

Murray’s floater game accounts for a good portion of his offense, and he consistently showed through his lone season in Seattle an innate ability to stop on a dime and avoid charges along with a soft touch, providing optimism for ameliorating a 29% 3-point jumpshot. There exist some obvious red flags, however. Turnovers (3.9 per 40 min) and efficiency (99.7 offensive rating) are a glaring issue, and while some of that may be attributed to Washington’s up-tempo, care-free style of play, Murray remains a volume shooter, occasionally extremely loose with his handle, and struggles against physicality at just 170 pounds. He was foolishly advised by his agent to bypass the NBA Draft Combine, causing us not only to have out-of-date measurements, but more importantly for Murray himself, a gaping draft range. He can be seen slotted in mocks as early as mid-lottery and as late as early second round. Nevertheless, no matter where he is selected, his potential makes him worth the flier and a no-brainer if that comes later in the draft.

Ceiling: Jamal Crawford

Floor: Archie Goodwin

 

Malachi Richardson, Syracuse

DX Mock: 33

Age: 20

Height: 6’6¼”

Weight: 200

Wingspan: 7’0”

Max Vert: 38”

With Richardson, we have the annual classic case of striking while the iron is hot. The Syracuse freshman came of age in the NCAA Tournament, especially in an Elite Eight win over Virginia with a 23-point performance and a second half takeover. Naturally his draft stock skyrocketed and he parlayed his tourney run into a one-and-done season. I was never too involved with the Malachi Richardson hype train and view him as strictly a second round prospect, but there’s more to like about him than just his First Team All-Hair selection.

MalachiHair

Richardson’s positives are all tied together by his upside. A 7-foot wingspan indicates 3-and-D potential. He’s still only 20, but our evaluations of him at the next level are relying on a two-week hot streak. A disconcerting 37% field goal percentage is particularly what stands out. I wasn’t predominantly fond of Richardson’s draft decision, but, again, the upside is certainly worth a second round choice.

Ceiling: Alec Burks

Floor: James Anderson

 

Each of the preceding players certainly has his own defining skillset. In digging deeper into the numbers, we do, however, find a trend. Basketball is in full-fledged evolution mode with the propensity of 3-point attempts growing each year. Going hand-in-hand with that evolution, though, is the ball movement, well, movement, for lack of a better word. Isolation is down and assists are up, and having 5 players on the floor who are threats to dribble, pass, and score is becoming a necessity. This year’s shooting guard/combo guard class embodies the trendy style of basketball, as almost all of the prospects we have highlighted here are proven facilitators.

PLAYER

AST/40 MIN

Valentine

9.4

LeVert

6.4

Murray

5.3

Bembry

4.8

McCaw

4.6

Gbinije

4.5

Brogdon

3.6

Cordinier

3.4

Richardson

2.4

Beasley

2.0

Even Beasley, as primarily a scorer, showed in his time at Florida State he was more than willing to make the extra pass and rarely took poor shots. This, exactly, is the value pinpointed as well as it possibly can be. With this year’s group of 2-guards, whether they can contribute instantly or down the road, teams are getting all-around basketball players.

NBA Draft Primer: Why Ingram over Simmons is the correct call

Very few would have believed back in October that LSU’s season would end on March 12th. The date of LSU’s swan song wasn’t so much astonishing as the manner in which it occurred. The Tigers effectively wrote their own eulogy with blowout losses at the hands of Tennessee and Arkansas down the gut of the season, but it doesn’t get much more embarrassing than what transpired in the SEC Tournament Semifinals against Texas A&M. 13 first half points. 19% shooting. A 71-38 drubbing was perhaps the most fitting capstone to a Ben Simmons era that had come and gone quicker than you can say “NCAA Tournament.” Countless analysts and experts throughout the college basketball season were broken records in stating that they have no problem with Ben Simmons failing to lead a team to an NCAA Tournament berth, citing his undeniable talent as what trumps any of his team’s ultimate struggles. Yes, the skill for his size is tantalizing. His offensive game is very present-day LeBron-ish. Transcendent vision, relatively poor outside shooting, almost all damage done in the paint, supreme dexterity at the rim. The LeBron comparisons have been surrounding him for quite some time. For such a can’t-miss prospect, missing the postseason is simply intolerable, and the history of NBA top picks would agree. So why now are exceptions being made?

Just as obvious as Simmons’ basketball talent is the reasoning behind LSU not nearly approaching its expectations. Simmons was mantled with plenty of surrounding talent to pilot a formidable basketball team. NBA caliber guards Tim Quarterman and Antonio Blakeney and ex-top 100 prospect Craig Victor were augmentations to the centerpiece. Teams often take on the personality of their indubitable best player. It might be harsh to plant all the blame on one man’s shoulders, as a handful of his teammates underperformed, but Simmons wore his poor values on his sleeve throughout his time in school. He had absolutely zero interest in defending, and his matador defense repeatedly led to uncontested layups or careless swipes at the ball and foul trouble. Insistence on flashiness rather than completing the simple play repeatedly led to careless turnovers. Carelessness off the court frankly had me shocked he was still eligible. “Careless” is the common thread, and it is an accurate summary of what Ben Simmons stands for, trickling down to his teammates as well. The Tigers weren’t even competitive in several of their losses. Rumors of a potential $100 million shoe deal swirled as LSU played games critical to their at-large hopes, but that did not bother Ben Simmons, because “at-large” was not in his vocabulary. As flattering as every LeBron James and Magic Johnson comparison may be, the reality is winning is not important to Ben Simmons, and that couldn’t be more obvious. Meanwhile, in Durham, NC, a perennial powerhouse program was faced with a set of obstacles that neither Mercer, nor Lehigh, nor an Eric Maynor dagger could even provide. The Duke Blue Devils were pressed into playing six for the vast majority of the 2015-16 season, including 38 minutes nightly from the least-heralded Plumlee. In spite of the roadblocks, Duke quietly managed a collection of noteworthy wins and another Sweet 16 appearance. Along the way, a once gangly incoming freshman physically matured and improved with each passing day.

A tale of two teams. Questions of NCAA Tournament participation surrounded them at approximately the same juncture. LSU folded the tent, Duke dug itself out of a 4-4 ACC hole, a mirror image of the case on our hands as the NBA Draft approaches. Brandon Ingram’s off-the-charts character dwarfs that of Ben Simmons, but analyzing the two from a purely prospect standpoint makes the idea of Simmons as the consensus top pick even more puzzling. Ingram already scores efficiently at all three levels, most notably a 41% shooter from beyond the arc, and with further added strength he will only get better at the rim. Conversely, the dexterously-confused Simmons attempted a grand total of 45 jump shots in 33 games (12% of his shot attempts), sinking just 14 (31%). Applause for understanding one’s own limitations, but a jumper that is broken beyond repair does not bode well at the next level. Clogged lanes forced awkward shots and a preference to defer, and that defensive gameplan will be amplified by the remainder of the NBA. While scoring in a half court setting is largely a foreign language for Simmons, Ingram thrives, just as he does in transition, with a deft ability to create his own shot and a superb middle game.

The NBA has such an infatuation with age. The late-blooming Ingram is 10 months younger than Simmons, not turning 19 until September. The NBA, additionally, has an infatuation with length, and justifiably so. Length can solve a lot of issues and make up for a lot of shortcomings. It cannot be taught. It translates to the professional level. Ingram has it. Simmons doesn’t. Ingram puts that physical gift to good use on both ends of the floor. Length alone allowed him to consistently finish through contact in the paint at Duke, finishing either over defenders or contorting and scoring at unusual angles.

IngramAnd1

The same category of contested shots were largely missed by Simmons, hindered by average length and no shooting touch to write home about. With plenty of room and time to fill out his frame, some strength to complement Inspector Gadget arms would transform Ingram into an indefensible offensive juggernaut, able to score from anywhere on the floor and appropriating the Kevin Durant comparisons. Shear length comes in handy, perhaps even more so, on the defensive end of the floor, contesting and blocking shots and distorting passing lanes. Ingram was able to wreak havoc in such a way, averaging 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes. The Duke star put that on full display in a matchup with Utah, a team with plenty of size, at Madison Square Garden, blocking three shots and collecting three steals. We can see an example of his length leading to defensive playmaking in post defense against the Utes’ Kyle Kuzma, a 2017 NBA Draft prospect.

IngramBlock

Still relatively frail, Ingram may get outmuscled, but his length makes amends. Again, the inevitability of adding to his frame will only aid Ingram in his quest to become a two-way star.

The NBA, above all, has an infatuation with versatility. Playing multiple positions. Defending multiple positions. Stuffing stat sheets. Simmons, as a triple-double waiting to happen, is oftentimes seen as synonymous with that word. Overlooked is the notion that Ingram is actually the one that checkmarks all the boxes. With Duke being devoid of a competent true point guard this past season, Ingram was, in fact, pressed into some point guard duties while playing center in other lineups. In the NBA, he will likely be able to line up anywhere from 1-4. I have focused much of my energy on Ingram’s scoring proficiency, but his versatility extends to every important aspect of the game. The assist numbers aren’t that gaudy, accumulating a respectable 2.3 per 40 minutes, but Ingram showed flashes as a passer on several occasions throughout the season. Duke had no choice but to play small given their personnel, spacing the floor with shooters and hiding Marshall Plumlee behind the defense for lobs and dump-offs. This system was tailor-made for a player of Ingram’s skillset and is very comparable to what he will be seeing next year. With each game, Ingram became more adept at reading defenses on the fly in Duke’s dribble-drive/drive-and-kick scheme, making the simple play by either kicking out to shooters or pocket passes/dump-offs underneath when bigs helped up like so:

IngramPass

Unlike his counterpart, Ingram never tries to do too much and has shown he brings more than merely scoring to the table. His defensive potential, however, may be the true goldmine in terms of his versatility. Ingram’s aforementioned length will prove to be very disruptive and will allow him to guard power forwards, but devious quickness provides the element of the ability to defend opponents’ point guards. Here, we see Ingram on a switch matched up with NC State’s Cat Barber, one of the quickest players in all of college basketball.

IngramD

Ingram is able to keep Barber in front for an extended amount of time and forces him into a difficult contested runner. You could sift through hours of Ben Simmons film and won’t find a single instance where he showed the willingness to compete like this nor the desire to prove he can guard at all. Concerning defense, Ingram is in a completely different hemisphere than Simmons, and character and general effort, not to mention a more diverse offensive game, are the separating factors firmly placing the Duke product ahead of the Australian lefty.

The Philadelphia 76ers (AT LAST!) will be making the first selection in the 2016 NBA Draft on June 23rd, and all signs point towards them taking Ben Simmons. This has forced me to ask if I am missing something, because this selection defies all of my logic. It’s almost like Hinkie is still running the show.

Hinkie

Simmons has stated he would have no issue playing in Philadelphia, which I am not buying. It is no secret Los Angeles is his ideal destination. Do the Sixers have a real shot at retaining him beyond his rookie contract? The man with his eyes fixated on the League the second he set foot on campus in Baton Rouge. The man fixated on the dollar. The man fixated on flashiness. The man fixated on looking cool. The man who wouldn’t get in a defensive stance if his life depended on it. That’s who will be chosen. The Sixers have now finished dead last in offensive efficiency for three consecutive seasons. Is it really a good idea to infuse an utterly anemic offense with another non-shooter? Philadelphia will be building their franchise around this #1 pick. It is far easier to build around the two-way player, but

Kermit

Milwaukee Bucks #1 Offseason Priority: Regain the Culture

We are not too far removed from the Milwaukee Bucks being one of the hottest commodities in basketball for the first time in over a decade. In the constant search for something fresh and unique, the Bucks were an obvious attractant for the hoops junkie. A 26-win turnaround and competitive playoff series with rival Chicago completed the perfect storm, and Milwaukee was again on the basketball map. Fans of the Association gravitated towards a literal “freak” unlike anything the game has ever seen, a highly-touted college superstar at Duke, analytics god Khris Middleton, and a head coach still better known for his days as a top player of the generation prior. Many, however, failed to properly recognize the true driving forces behind the scenes that could only explain this borderline-miraculous transformation. You don’t find 26 more wins overnight. Enough young talent was accumulated on the roster to compete on a nightly basis, but to materialize such an improvement, direction was necessary. Scilicet, a complete identity overhaul was vital to rejuvenating “Fear the Deer.” The ’14-’15 Bucks can be added to the laundry list of examples proving the best route to success is an impeccable blend of youth and experience. Said experience is, in large part, what injected a defensive identity, a winning culture into an annually middling small market franchise. Two players, Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia, can be specifically pinpointed as the most responsible. Dudley, the talker, the corner-pocket three marksman, very much acted as an extension of the coaching staff, being the undisputed vocal leader and communicating Jason Kidd’s defensive principles. Pachulia, the bruiser, the imposing Eastern European presence, embodied the idea of actions speaking louder than words, providing an excellent example of how the game of basketball should be played. The fingerprints of these two wily veterans were all over this team. They were the glue of the NBA’s #2 defense (99.3), the calling card of the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference. With a defense predicated on length, blitzing ball screens, and rotations and switching almost like clockwork, the likes of Dudley and Pachulia were ideal to fill in the gaps.

So what happened? 2015-16 saw a regression many felt was unforeseen due to justified through-the-roof optimism in the offseason. Yet, seemingly every transaction during the 2015 offseason proved to be counterproductive to the strides made just months prior. Dudley and Pachulia were gone, dealt for essentially nothing. A 2017 first rounder and the pick to be used on Norman Powell were shipped in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, a miserable failure to put it lightly. And of course the big splash. Milwaukee had established itself as a destination. They outdueled New York and Los Angeles for a name free agent, an unprecedented development. The Greg Monroe signing was the final domino to fall, and the Milwaukee Bucks bandwagon was standing room only. The theme of these moves, all in all, was opting for more scoring, the next natural step in the team’s progression. Not taken into account, however, was the defense expended with the acquisition of scoring. Defensive efficiency ballooned to 105.7 in ’15-‘16, good for 22nd in the NBA, while scoring continued to lag behind. Monroe became a clear non-fit just about three games into the season. The ability to switch wasn’t as rampant. Rotations were slow. Pace was down. Monroe’s back-to-the-basket ability did not outweigh his slow-as-molasses lateral movement on D and vertical just high enough to slide a piece of Dunder Mifflin cardstock underneath his shoes. The personnel changes, overall, prevented Milwaukee from successfully duplicating the previous season’s defensive scheme, forcing Monroe to spend more and more time on the bench, rendering his presumed added scoring punch on the other end of the floor mute. This decline begs the question to be asked: Were the Bucks too quick to pull the trigger? Was the overachievement of ’14-’15 actually a setback? When a small market franchise is presented with a golden opportunity to make a statement in free agency, it should undoubtedly be pursued, so I fully condone the premise of the Monroe signing. Sometimes it’s okay to count losses, admit mistakes, and move on, which I hope is our final chapter in the cautionary tale of Greg Monroe.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, nevertheless, “moving on” should mean hearkening back to what once worked. As one of the NBA’s smallest markets, flashiness in free agency is not a plausible route to sustained success. A gritty, defensive-minded, winning culture was lost with the departures of Dudley and Pachulia, and the effects were far more drastic than I had anticipated. Re-establishing defense as the organization’s cornerstone must be the only approach to the 2016 offseason. With Antetokounmpo and Parker max contracts likely in the very near future and a Monroe trade potentially handcuffing Milwaukee with another bad contract in exchange (or just Monroe himself), cheap options on the market will be prioritized. A few impending free agents fit the bill and would allow the Bucks to defend the way they want to, replicating what Dudley and Pachulia provided and then some. Let’s take a look.

Ian Mahinmi

In the 2016 free agent class, Ian Mahinmi is just about the closest thing to a Zaza Pachulia clone as the real thing. Mahinmi, 29, did have, by far, the best season of his career in a contract year, and that may raise a red flag. However, ’15-’16 was his first real opportunity to strut his stuff, starting all 71 of the games he appeared in for a playoff team that took the Toronto Raptors to the brink. Mahinmi’s interior defense was a huge reason why Indiana was just minutes shy of pulling off the first round upset, and was instrumental in a Game 4 blowout victory with a 22 point, 10 rebound, 5 assist performance. Mahinmi as a defensive stalwart is not a new development. A 3.6% block rate places Mahinmi at about the 85th percentile, and a 2.8 defensive +/- at approximately the 95th percentile, so this is no secret. As a very viable rim protector, Mahinmi can bring an improved offensive game and physicality to the table. His style mirrors that of Pachulia, and he’d likely even be able to provide greater production, making the pursuit of this unrestricted free agent a no-brainer.

Ian Clark

Clark has been a favorite of mine since his college days. A 4-year starter, pure scorer, and standout defensive player for Belmont, one of the best mid-major programs in college basketball, Clark burst onto the scene as the 2013 NBA Summer League MVP with some dazzling performances, including 33 points in the championship game. It must say something about his ability that he was able to find a role on the best team in NBA history this season, albeit relatively tame. Clark, a 6-3 combo guard, showcased glimpses of his scoring knack throughout the season, specifically in Golden State’s first round series with Houston when thrust into action. He would be able to offer some spacing and creative ways to score to a Bucks team thirsting for some shooting, but it’s what Clark provides on the defensive end that makes him even more of a sensible free agent target. The 2013 Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year has provided endless energy off the bench for Golden State, annoyingly pressuring ballhandlers and using quick hands and outstanding anticipation defensively to his advantage. We can see evidence of this here, stripping James Harden leading to a layup on the other end.

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Clark, of course, would see an increased role in a Bucks uniform, a selling point that probably a handful of suitors will have as he is likely to be a sneakily sought-after commodity. As a restricted free agent, Golden State, who is currently paying him less than $1 million, would have the opportunity to match any offer. Yet, Clark makes too much sense, and could see a rise similar to that of Cory Joseph in terms of moving from a limited role on a perennial contender to a greater role leading to greater production. He would have the potential to be a sparkplug scorer and pesky backcourt defender off the bench as a Buck.

Matthew Dellavedova

Speaking of pesky, that may in fact be Matthew Dellavedova’s middle name, and I have about 29 NBA point guards that agree with me. Dellavedova plays with the exact edge and tenacity that the Bucks were lacking. Not only would his play style fill a void, but Milwaukee would also be able to offer a more solidified role as a third guard or perhaps even a starter. Like Clark, Delly is restricted, but obtaining the ideal man for regaining the culture would be worth outbidding the Cavs, which I’m sure wouldn’t be terribly difficult given their cap situation. Dellavedova’s defense is well-renowned, introducing himself to the world with shutdown performances on the MVP in Games 2 and 3 of last year’s NBA Finals. In addition, Delly would give Milwaukee a threat from deep, and the Bucks now know too well the perils of having a non-shooter at point guard. Free from the presence of LeBron, Delly, still only 25, would be able to show his true colors as a voice on the floor, another critical missing piece for Milwaukee. When he’s on the other side, he is easily one of the most hateable players in basketball. But when he’s banking in wrong-foot floaters and diving on loose balls up by 25 for you, you cannot help but love the man.