NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Simmons-Ingram debate begins for 76ers
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Whether you credit The Process, Dikembe Mutombo's psychic powers, a conspiracy at the league office to reward the Sixers for cleansing themselves of Sam Hinkie, or simply the magic of ping pong balls, the Sixers are picking No. 1. The draft order is officially set.
Now we can get ready for a month's worth of arguments over who the Sixers should take, whether the Lakers and Celtics want to trade their pick, and whether Dragan Bender is playing against middle schoolers in this highlight video.
Draft season is real now. Are you ready? Let's dive in to Mock Draft 4.0.
There will be plenty of room for the Simmons vs. Ingram debate over the next month, but for now ... Will Simmons even want to go No. 1? This is less about the Sixers and more about the pull of the Lakers. He's friends with D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles is Los Angeles, and Simmons's agents were reportedly holding off on signing a shoe deal in hopes that he'd go to L.A. and improve his market value. Absent a Klutch Sports power play, though, Simmons makes sense in Philadelphia. The Sixers would be betting on upside more than fit, and that's what most teams should do with the No. 1 pick. I like Ingram more, and he's probably the safer pick to turn into an All-Star—more natural scorer, better shooter, better defender—but Simmons has a combination of size and ability that give him the chance of being revolutionary. For a team that just spent three years going through hell to get this pick, it may make sense to bet big.
Read Luke Winn's in-depth scouting report to understand how Ingram got here, and why teams love him so much coming into the modern NBA. The short version: He shoots well from all over the floor, he's got a perfect frame to turn into a great defender, he plays hard, and he improved as the year unfolded. All of this helps explain why the Lakers were the biggest winners Tuesday night. Not only did they keep a pick they would've lost if they'd fallen out of the top 3, but by landing in the top two, they now have the choice between trading this pick if the right deal emerges—Paul George? DeMarcus Cousins?—or adding Ingram or Simmons to a fun young nucleus that already has D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr., and Julius Randle. Meanwhile, Luke Walton is in charge of all this at 36 years old. Next year's Lakers will basically be a college team, or possibly a six–month fraternity party thrown by Walton. I already love them so much more than everything that happened under Byron Scott.
If the Lakers were the biggest winners, the Celtics were the biggest losers on Tuesday. A top–two pick in this draft would've put them in a much better position to trade for a star or draft someone they can plan the future around. Now ... there's still a chance Danny Ainge will spend the next month cold-calling the Bulls, Pacers, Kings, and anyone else with a superstar. But if the Celtics keep this pick, Murray may have the most upside of anyone left in the lottery. His biggest question mark is athleticism on both ends, but a lot of the same questions were asked about Steph Curry, James Harden, CJ McCollum, and Devin Booker. If he can manage to hold his own against NBA athletes, he's a great shooter and a natural scorer. He's barely 19 years old with plenty of room to grow, and he could provide the Celtics with spacing help in the short term that turns into explosive offense a few years from now. Also, who wouldn't want to watch him teach Evan Turner to mediate?
"You know, I don't have muscles like these guys," Dragan Bender said at 16 years old, "but I think I play good." He's 18 now, and he doesn't have many more muscles, but he still plays good. It's always hard to judge highlight videos, but he moves fluidly, he can attack off the dribble, and he's got great touch around the rim. And as a 7-foot power forward with three point range, Bender fits exactly where the league is going. Meanwhile, the Suns have three excellent guards, two centers, and their previous power forward of the future was last seen attacking Archie Goodwin on the bench. If Bender falls to No. 4, Phoenix will be ecstatic.
The Pelicans need shooting, and Buddy can shoot. He is old for the draft—22 years old—but if that works against him, it should be noted that his shooting percentages improved dramatically over the course of his career at Oklahoma. Half the players on the board here will be drafted on the assumption that they can improve some glaring weakness, but Buddy has shown he can actually do it. There are other players New Orleans could gamble on here, but with Anthony Davis about to hit his prime and create an endless stream of open looks, it might make the most sense to grab the Bahamian J.J. Redick while they have the chance.
The polar opposite of Buddy Hield. Skal looked overwhelmed all year at Kentucky. He was pushed around last season, he disappeared, and Kentucky fizzled. However ... It's not truly draft season until you're mesmerized by a 19-year-old sinking threes in a empty gym. There are a lot of skills with Skal, and as a power forward who can block shots, run the floor, and shoot threes, the potential will be tough to ignore. It's possible that he's not fatally flawed as some scouts and/or Kentucky internet commenters would argue. He might just have been fatally young. For a Nuggets team that has already made their choice at point guard (Mudiay) and has two great young centers (Nurkic, Jokic), this is a chance to gamble and hope that three years from now they are rolling out one of the most unfair starting fives in the league.
Sacramento hired Dave Joeger, they may keep Boogie for an extra year as they open their new arena... Things are looking up! This destination is a lot less depressing than it was a few weeks ago. As for Dunn, my favorite description is still the scout who told me, "He's John Wall with B+ athleticism instead of A+." That may not be an All-Star, but for a Kings team that just spent the year depending on Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison, Dunn would make a lot of sense as a long-term solution. He'd also be a steal if he falls this low.
Jaylen Brown is probably going to be the most polarizing player in the draft. My dream is still for him to go to Draymond camp and embrace life as stretch four, but that's probably a longshot. As a three, he was inconsistent all year at Cal. He looked as overwhelmed as Skal, but without the same kind of skill-level. Still, there's enough size and athleticism to make him worth the gamble as a long-term two-way weapon, especially for a good team that can afford to be patient. And while we're here, at the NBA Combine the Hawks gave him this riddle: "There's five machines that produce five things in five minutes. Now there's a 100 machines that produce 100 things. How long does it take?" Think about it.
It's shocking that Poeltl could actually be drafted behind Jaylen Brown and Skal Labissiere, but most of the teams in the top 10 don't need centers. Milwaukee is one team that definitely needs a pivot and spent large parts of last season getting torched with Greg Monroe filling in for the departed Zaza Pachulia. The Bucks could get more ambitious with this pick and let Poeltl slide to Orlando, but for now, let's assume they keep it simple and grab someone who can slide in next year and help right away.
Chriss came out of nowhere, and he may end up in the top 10 by June. He wasn't a McDonald's All American, and he didn't even crack the top 50 of ESPN's recruiting rankings. But he averaged 13 and 5 in 24 minutes per game for Washington, with 53% shooting and 35% from three. His frame makes him perfect as a rangy power forward, and he's only been playing basketball for five years, so there's a chance he could get much better as he learns the game. The Magic could opt for Deyonta Davis here as well, but if they're going to take a project who will take a few years, Chriss has the highest upside.
It's only a matter of time before Denzel Valentine becomes everyone's favorite player in the draft. There are so many projects in the lottery and so many stretch fours who never actually did anything in college, eventually people will fall in love with the player who's just GOOD. He was extremely skilled at Michigan State—19.2 ppg, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 46% shooting, 44% from three—and he's destined to be a valuable role player somewhere. His weakness is defense, but that's why we're putting him in front of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors for the next 10 years.
The Suns have enough talent across their roster to have some fun with this pick. Luwawu is 21 years old, he's 6'7 with a 6'11 wingspan, he's got three-point range, and he was last seen dunking all over this team from Zagreb. Luwawu is fun.
If Jackson slips this low, he'd make a lot of sense for the Nuggets. Long-term, he's probably closer to a high energy guard off the bench than a starter, and that works for a Denver team that already has Emmanuel Mudiay. At the same time, Jackson provides some decent insurance in case Mudiay doesn't pan out. Think of him as Jameer Nelson, but 15 years younger.
I knew Tyler Ulis was small. I did not know that Tyler Ulis is 149 pounds, as confirmed at the NBA Combine. There are large birds that weigh more than Tyler Ulis. That said ... at 5'8 and 149 pounds, he's still one of the best guards in the draft, and I will bet lots of money on him finding a way to be productive in the NBA. Put him next to Z-Bo and Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and watch him become a cult hero in Memphis.
Sabonis is skilled and plays hard, and he's in the Denzel Valentine category of "guys who will go too low but should definitely help on a good team." He probably wouldn't start for the Pistons, but he could develop into a great rotation player over the next few years. He's been compared to Luis Scola, and a young Scola would be perfect for Detroit.
Two themes of the mocks so far: Furkan is great, and the Nuggets are great. Also, Furkan is only 18 years old, and he could stay in Europe for a year or two to develop. Considering how many young players the Nuggets have, and how far away they are from contending, stashing a good Turkish shooting guard could be a good idea.
Baldwin is a great example of the depth in this draft, and the wide variance of projections outside the top 10. His defense alone makes him enticing as a combo guard, and his potential on offense could convince someone to take a chance on him closer to 10 than 20. For now, I'm sticking with him on the Pacers as the heir to George Hill and an antidote to Monta Ellis.
This pick might be a good indication of what the Hawks think Al Horford's going to do this summer. If they grab Jones as a potential replacement, that means anything is possible. On the other hand, they could also take their chances with Horford's free agency and look for a potential replacement for Kent Bazemore, who is due to get a significant raise this summer.
Beasley averaged 15.6 points last year and shot 37% from three. Pretty impressive for a 19-year-old. In the same way that Marqueese Chriss came out of nowhere at Washington, Beasley wasn't an All-American in high school, and he's still flying somewhat under the radar. More importantly, this week I learned that he comes from a family of actors. His mother was in The Hunger Games, and his father has worked on House of Cards and Bloodline—look at his dad with Kevin on Bloodline! Can someone draft Kevin as a feisty alcoholic point guard in the second round? Can we get Kyle Chandler to do voiceovers of Charlotte Hornets games next year?
He negotiated a buyout recently, so there's potential for him to come over and play as soon as next year. At just 19, he's also a good candidate for a draft-and-stash if the Celtics decide the roster is too full to add another rookie. In any case, whatever Boston does here depends entirely on whether they actually use their first two picks.
Bembry has the best hair, he was one of the stars of the combine scrimmages in Chicago, and he had one of the best all-around games in the country last year (17.5 ppg, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists). He played at St. Joes, too. Just keep him in Philly. It feels right. He would be twice as competent as almost any wing the Sixers have had for the past three years.
He was as productive as any big man in the country last year, and he'd fit well with a veteran Clippers team that could use some bounce off the bench. While we're here, my five favorite prospects who didn't make the first round: Robert Carter (Maryland), Kay Felder (Oakland), Ben Bentil (Providence), Fred Van Vleet (Wichita State), Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, best name in the draft).
It's more likely that the Sixers will opt to draft-and-stash a European prospect here, if only because the roster is already full of young players, and they still have Dario Saric coming over next year. If they opt for someone to arrive immediately ... Dejounte Murray has great size, and even if he can't shoot, he can get to the rim at will, so that's a start. (He's also repped by Klutch Sports, so if the Sixers are looking to win over Ben Simmons and Rich Paul, maybe a first-round promise to Murray will help?)
His nickname is "Juancho", and at 20 years old he's averaged near-double digits as a combo forward playing with Estudiantes, one of the most prestigious international teams in the world. With his brother Guillermo being acquired by the Knicks during last year's draft, the NBA could see the Hernangomez brothers soon.
He was underwhelming at Kansas, but he impressed people at the combine in Chicago last week, and there are enough physical tools to make him a smart gamble this late in the first round. The Raptors may lose Bismack Biyombo this summer, and if they do, Diallo—who has a 7'4" wingspan—could be a great project as a long-term replacement.
Brogdon was another player who impressed scouts in Chicago last week. Between great defense and three-point shooting that can improve (he improved every year at UVA, finishing at 39%), I remain convinced he's exactly the kind of useful role player that a smart team will steal somewhere in the first round. And that smart team is usually the Spurs.
It's been a tough week for the hero of these mock drafts. He showed up at the NBA Combine and we found out that he's still not healthy enough to play, he won't be able to work out for anyone, and he may not even play in summer league. What's more, it was pointed out to me after the last mock draft that going to Golden State as a Michigan alum would mean daily hazing from Draymond Green. But here's to health, and hoping all that hazing will make Caris LeVert even better. This is still happening, and no combine revelations can change it. Destiny doesn't care what happened in Chicago.