SPORTS ISH: 2016 @NBA DRAFT FIRST ROUND PICKS + GRADES [FULL RECAP]


The first round of the 2016 NBA Draft is in the books, and what a first round it was. Some top players went just where they were expected, there were some surprises to go with some plain bad selections, and there was even a blockbuster trade that shook up the league’s entire landscape. Read the entire story below, courtesy of Josh Benjamin.

Tonight’s draft was also interesting enough that playing teacher and assigning grades to each pick was more than warranted, especially with so many squads drafting for depth as opposed to overall need. Some aced the test, some flunked, and some performed either as expected or greatly disappointed, even if they did receive a passing grade.

Have a recap of Round 1 and see just which teams made the grade, especially with a rising salary cap likely playing a role in how certain squads drafted. 


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

The draft started off predictably when the Sixers took the 6-foot-10 Simmons, easily the best player available. Combined with Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and a frontcourt that looks absolutely stacked right now, Philadelphia aced their selection at the top and should (hopefully) look forward to finally moving forward after years of futility. Grade: A


2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram (SF, Duke)

Out with the Kobe Bryant Era, and in with that of Brandon Ingram. The former Blue Devil still hasn’t turned 19, but is already drawing comparisons to elite scorers like Kevin Durant. He was a star at Duke and should be the exact same while rocking the purple and gold. Grade: A



3. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets): Jaylen Brown (G/F, California)

The Celtics kicked off the draft in adding an excellent wing in Brown, who can play both shooting guard and small forward and has a developing scoring game. Brown is also an excellent athlete who excels at driving the lane and also in isolation, and his being the latest piece of Boston’s young and talented puzzle should only help take Boston forward and back to prominence. Sure, taking him third was a bit of a reach, but don’t let that take away from the pick itself. The 19-year-old Brown is definitely a special kind of player in the making even if how he fits into coach Brad Stevens’ rotation is still undetermined. Grade: B+


4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender (PF, Croatia)

Phoenix definitely needs a power forward, but why they reached on the 18-year-old Bender when Washington freshman Marquese Chriss was available is puzzling, but more about that later. The young 7-foot-1 Bender definitely has talent and athleticism that gives him a high NBA ceiling, but it is important to note that he only averaged 13.8 minutes per game playing for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv last season. This could wind up being a great pick for Phoenix but given how different basketball is overseas compared to the NBA, just why Bender was taken over a more NBA-ready player in Chriss is definitely worth discussing. Grade: C+


5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kris Dunn (PG, Providence)

Minnesota has point man Ricky Rubio under contract for three more years and owes him $42.3 million over that stretch, but the Spanish sensation just isn’t the consistent scorer required in coach Tom Thibodeau’s offense. Dunn provides more consistent and versatile scoring for Minnesota and also great on-ball defense for a team that finished 23rd in points allowed per game. The former Friar is still developing, but is a great leader who could wind up making an immediate impact in Minnesota depending on certain chips falling into place, namely how Minnesota decides to address its crowded backcourt. Grade: B+


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

New Orleans fans should love this pick, as should star Pelican Anthony Davis. Hield provides an immediate scoring punch for the Pelicans and could easily slot right into coach Alvin Gentry’s starting lineup. He is remarkably aggressive and excels in the scoring department on every level, especially from three-point range. Once he learns to move away from that area just a little bit, count on him having a long and successful NBA career. The only mark against this pick? Jamal Murray is arguably better. Grade: A-


7. Denver Nuggets (from New York Knicks): Jamal Murray (SG, Kentucky)

Speaking of Jamal Murray, he is now headed to the Mile High City in a pick that fills a big need for the Nuggets, but still leaves a lot of questions. The biggest one is just what Denver’s plan for Murray is. Rising third-year guard Gary Harris took a big step forward last year and though Murray has the higher ceiling, what will become of the former Spartan? It can even be argued that the frontcourt was a greater need, but Denver also shot just 34 percent from three-point range as a team. Long story short, Murray is a phenomenal scoring guard whose skills will immediately improve Denver’s scoring punch, even if he makes the backcourt crowded with Harris and also Will Barton. Grade: B



8. Sacramento Kings: Marquese Chriss (PF, Washington) **Traded to Phoenix Suns**

This pick made little sense for Sacramento with Willie Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins already established up front, but ESPN’s Andy Katz quickly said that Chriss would head to Phoenix and join Dragan Bender while the Suns sent the No. 13 and No. 28 picks to the Kings. The former Husky is a fine forward who can play down low and also stretch the floor, making him a perfect fit in Phoenix while Bender develops. It can be argued that he should have been taken with the fourth pick, but Phoenix must have been banking on him being available here and thus the trade was orchestrated. A few years down the road, don’t be surprised if he and Bender form a phenomenal frontcourt in the desert, especially if he plays a bit more conservatively and stays out of foul trouble while adding to a spindly 6-foot-9, 225 pound frame. Grade: B+



9. Toronto Raptors (from Denver Nuggets): Jakob Poeltl (C, Utah)

This pick all but guarantees that Toronto will move on from Jonas Valanciunas and Poeltl will prove that to be the right decision. The Austrian export is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year and should immediately step right into the starting lineup next season. With a strong low post game and also an ability to play face up, his versatility and length make this a very safe pick for Toronto even though he isn’t overly athletic compared to others at his position. Grade: A-



10. Milwaukee Bucks: Thon Maker (PF, Australia)

We round out the Top 10 with the first truly bad pick of the first round. Maker’s name was being thrown around as one that could fall out of the first round entirely due to questions about his age, and Milwaukee went ahead and used a lottery pick on him. The seven-footer has tons of upside, but is he 19 years old or 22? Either way, with Greg Monroe already established at center and more established big men in Deyonta Davis available, this pick redefines the term “reach.” Grade: D



11. Orlando Magic: Domantas Sabonis (PF, Gonzaga) **Traded to Oklahoma City Thunder**

The Magic probably would have loved to have Sabonis on their team, but went into pure win-now mode in dealing him and guard Victor Oladipo to the Thunder for an excellent defensive player in Serge Ibaka. The lefty was a double-double machine at Gonzaga and was instrumental in leading the Bulldogs to the Sweet Sixteen last season, and should team up with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter to form a fantastic frontcourt. He’s also the son of former NBA center Arvydas Sabonis, so great basketball genes clearly run in the family. Grade: A



12. Atlanta Hawks (from Utah Jazz): Taurean Prince (SF, Baylor)

This pick is part of a proposed trade that saw the Hawks send Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers and George Hill to Utah, but it is still a major reach. Prince is athletic, plays great defense and is a fine catch-and-shoot threat from three-point land, but easily would have been available later in the draft. The fact that he went ahead of someone like Malik Beasley is a real head-scratcher. Yes, the upside is there, but not at No. 12. Grade: C



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

Phoenix was drafting for Sacramento and this was a huge reach on the Kings’ end. Even if the plan is to just draft for depth or even play draft-and-stash, Papagiannis likely would have been available later in the first round. This was just a bad pick by Sacramento, who easily could have drafted some much-needed guard help. Grade: F


14. Chicago Bulls: Denzel Valentine (G/F, Michigan State)

This is a great pick for Chicago, a team that looks a lot different now that Derrick Rose has been dealt to the New York Knicks. Valentine could have averaged a triple-double for the Spartans last year if he so chose, and will likely act as a shooter while also helping Jimmy Butler in the scoring department. He isn’t a superstar and probably won’t be an immediate impact player, but fills a need as the Bulls prepare to hit the reset button. Grade: B

15. Denver Nuggets (from Houston Rockets): Juan Hernangomez (PF, Spain)

Hernangomez likely would have been available when Denver picked again at No. 19, but he is definitely one of the more NBA-ready international prospects in this year’s draft class. He’s 20 years old and is already a fine stretch 4 who can also get his hands dirty in the paint. He also provides the Nuggets some much-needed depth behind Kenneth Faried and while his minutes may not be grand as a rookie, his upside speaks for itself even if he could still use some more seasoning. Grade: B

16. Boston Celtics (from Dallas Mavericks): Guerschon Yabusele (PF, France)

Boston opted to use its second first-round pick on versatility, something that Yabusele provides aplenty. He was definitely a reach at No. 16, but GM Danny Ainge must have sensed a run on international players and thus pulled the trigger. Yabusele is only 20, but has an NBA body at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds and can do everything from play in the paint to shoot threes and stretch opposing defenses. This wasn’t the best pick Boston could have made but given how television analysts went ahead and compared Yabusele to Draymond Green, this was a solid move. Grade: B/B-


17. Memphis Grizzlies: Wade Baldwin IV (PG, Vanderbilt)

Memphis is about to enter a new era under first-year coach Dave Fizdale and is also about to lose longtime point guard Mike Conley to free agency, but adding Baldwin was certainly an interesting choice. Like Conley, he was a fine shooting point guard in college and should slide right into that role next season depending on how Fizdale decides to set his lineup. The only knock is that a better overall athlete in Dejounte Murray was available, but Baldwin is a fine option as well. Grade: B+


18. Detroit Pistons: Henry Ellenson (PF, Marquette)

Ellenson is definitely one of the most interesting players in this year’s draft class, especially after falling this far. He excelled as a freshman at Marquette, showing prowess in stretching the floor while also developing his game in the paint in both the low post and on the pick-and-roll. Ellenson should be a great fit alongside Andre Drummond and provides the Pistons a strong presence at power forward, making him an absolute steal at No. 18 even if he does have some bust potential. Grade: A-


19. Denver Nuggets (from Portland Trail Blazers): Malik Beasley (SG, Florida State)

The Nuggets are definitely stockpiling guards, making it seem that a trade could be on the horizon. The difference in this case is that Beasley could likely play small forward if asked to do so and also helps Denver’s three-point shooting. He definitely has talent, but it’s hard to understand just what Denver is going for in this case. Grade: C+


20. Brooklyn Nets (from Indiana Pacers): Caris LeVert (SG, Michigan)

This is an interesting pick for Brooklyn, who acquired this pick for Thaddeus Young earlier today. LeVert missed much of the past two seasons due to injuries and has had three surgeries already, but his versatility as a guard who can slash and shoot makes him a great addition for a Nets team that is in full rebuild mode. He definitely has a lot of risk attached, but a potentially higher reward. Grade: A


21. Atlanta Hawks: DeAndre Bembry (SF, St. Joseph’s)

Versatility is the name of Bembry’s game, and this is a great pick for an Atlanta team that already reached with Taurean Prince earlier in the draft. Bembry provides depth at a position that is sure to be deep across the league, especially with teams shifting towards smaller lineups, and his being able to shoot threes and drive the lane only helps Atlanta in the long run, even if team management could have traded down into the early second round to snag him there. Grade: B


22. Sacramento Kings (from Charlotte Hornets): Malachi Richardson (SG, Syracuse)

Sacramento sent Marco Belinelli to Charlotte to land this pick and took an interesting player in Richardson, who was instrumental in leading Syracuse to the Final Four in 2016. Richardson should provide immediate three-point shooting for the Kings and has a good stepback jumper, but shot just 37 percent from the field in his lone college season. The good news is that new coach Dave Joerger’s system doesn’t call for the shooting guard to do much more than that, so Richardson should do just fine in his role even if he does need time to adjust to the NBA’s pace. Grade: B


23. Boston Celtics: Ante Zizic (C, Croatia)

When a team has three picks in the first round, the best thing to do with the last selection is to draft for depth. Zizic provides exactly that and also is a relative steal at No. 23. Odds are greater than none that Boston will let him ride the bench or stash him in Europe for a year, but his upside is there even if some marquee players were passed over in favor of him. Grade: B+


24. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami): Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (SF, France)

Though the Sixers should arguably be building a team for now rather than pick international players to draft and then stash, Luwawu-Cabarrot is a strong pick for the City of Brotherly Love. He’s only 21, has an athletic build at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and could be an excellent scorer in the making. His three-point shot is still developing and Philly could have used a point guard more than a wing, but Luwawu-Cabarrot’s overall potential makes this a fine value pick that could pay great dividends in the future. Grade: B+/B



25. Los Angeles Clippers: Brice Johnson (PF, North Carolina)

Brice Johnson is an interesting pick for the Clippers, who already have the much-established Blake Griffin at power forward. Still, Johnson is a superior defensive player and has an ever-developing jump shot and at this point in the draft, a contending team adding depth is never a bad idea. The fact that Griffin has been limited by injuries the past two years could also be a factor here, and Johnson provides a spark that can step up immediately and contribute. Throw in coach Doc Rivers’ defense-oriented system, and the only bad thing about this pick is that Johnson is a bit small for power forward at 6-foot-9, 228 pounds. Grade: B+



26. Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City, via Denver & Cleveland): Furkan Korkmaz (SG, Turkey)

Philly went draft-and-stash with this pick, not something that should have been done with a fine guard in Dejounte Murray still on the board. Korkmaz is a strong enough athlete, but has a $2 million buyout with his club in Turkey. His talent is there, but the Sixers should be putting together a team that can start moving forward now as opposed to continuing to lose for the sake of rebuilding via the draft. Grade: D+


27. Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam (PF, New Mexico State)

Just what Toronto was thinking with this pick with Deyonta Davis still on the board is a mystery. Pascal Siakam has talent, yes, but is not a strong athlete and even ESPN analysts were surprised that he went this high. GM Masai Ujiri must see something in him that others don’t, but there’s no doubt that the Raptors could have done so much better with this pick. Grade: D-


28. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland Cavaliers): Skal Labissiere (PF, Kentucky)

Labissiere didn’t do much in his only year at Kentucky, but has a long and lean build that means he’ll at least be something of a role player in the NBA. Phoenix has thus added a great deal of frontcourt depth tonight in Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and now Labissiere. This isn’t an awful pick at this stage of the draft, but it’s hard to see Labissiere and his weak rebounding abilities be anything more than a bigger shooting threat. Hopefully, some time in the D-League can improve his prospects. Grade: B-



29. San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray (PG, Washington)

The Spurs may have gotten the steal of the draft with this very pick, and for one key reason. San Antonio has always made a habit of finding great players late in the draft, and this is just another case of that. Murray is big for a point man at 6-foot-5 and will have a great role model for the next two years as he plays behind the great Tony Parker. Once he learns how to finish at the rim and limit his turnovers, he will absolutely continue to help the Spurs continue the pattern of greatness that has been established. Grade: A



30. Golden State Warriors: Damian Jones (C, Vanderbilt)

This is a strong pick for Golden State to wrap up Round 1, especially with Andrew Bogut due to hit free agency in a year. Jones has the height for his position at 6-foot-10 and proved to be a strong shot blocker with the Commodores, but often looked passive in the paint as opposed to the dominant and aggressive big man that NBA teams crave today. Give this young man a year of seasoning, and his overall abilities should develop well under Steve Kerr. Grade: B



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