Best Fits from the 2016 Draft

Kris Dunn; Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Dunn; Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

By Travis Ketchum,

The 2016 NBA draft, after weeks of speculation, has finally reached its end and 60 young players have found new homes across the league. Certain teams sought out the strategy of drafting the best talent available on the board, for their selections, rather than trying to fill any specific role on their team, but will that prove to be beneficial for their progress as a winning team? Its hard to tell what is a great fit without seeing teams play with their new picks, but many players seem to have found teams where conceptually, they fit perfectly and will fill a role that was lacking in the previous season. Which players came away from this draft in the perfect position to succeed and grow into their NBA careers? 

The first, amazingly perfect, selection from this draft was the 2nd overall pick, Brandon Ingram from Duke. Both Ben Simmons, the first overall pick, and Ingram possess superstar ceilings, but given the states of their respective teams, Ingram to the Lakers and Simmons to the 76er’s, Ingram has a more beneficial situation with the players around him. The Lakers made their needs known last season, coming in with the lowest team 3-point percentage in the league but also, with the retirement of Kobe Bryant, a wing player who can play perimeter defense and score at will was needed. The small forward position needed to be filled and he was the perfect fit to take that role, while with Simmons, the 76ers failed to make any trades during the draft and clear their overcrowded frontcourt. Simmons will most likely play a point forward role on the 76ers at the 4 position, just like LeBron has done on the Cavaliers, as he doesn’t have a good enough shot or versatile offense to succeed at the small forward. Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid all have been lottery picks over the last three years and want to start, so unless two are willing to come off the bench, which is highly unlikely, it will force Simmons to play a position that will throw him into the fire, forcing him to learn and develop a jump shot, which may do more harm than good. Without a trade for either Okafor, Embiid or Noel in the coming months, the 76ers front court will be too big for success and because of this, it is not the most conducive position for Ben Simmons to start his career in, while on the other hand, Ingram seems to have been gifted the perfect fit and position on the Lakers around a young core.

Neither of those picks were quite surprising, but even though the 76ers chose the best talent, it was not the best fit for their team, unlike the Lakers who made an uncannily perfect selection. The Celtics 3rd overall selection surprised many, Jaylen Brown out of California State, who is a very physically gifted young man, may have been the best talent on the board at that point, but doesn’t fit their team perfectly. No pick would, the thing is that the Celtics have amassed so much talent through the draft, a few pieces must be moved in order to create a good developmental environment for their draft picks. The second best fit in this draft class, next to Brandon Ingram, is Kris Dunn, the point guard from Providence who was selected 5th overall by the Timberwolves. It was somewhat of a surprise to see Dunn drop to 5th, some projected him as a possible top 3 pick, but every team except for the 76ers possesses some youthful talent at the point guard. The Timberwolves are no different however, due to the inconsistency of Ricky Rubio’s success, their current point general, and recent rumblings about his happiness in Minnesota, it makes perfect sense to start grooming an athletic and very talented new prospect. In combination with the Timberwolves young core and new coaching genius in Tom Thibodeau, this pick makes perfect sense as Dunn will fit in perfectly with the athletic and high potential core they have amassed. Dunn’s four years in college have greatly improved his vision and basketball IQ, which in addition to his athletic build and score at will ability, will make him quite the capable addition to this lineup. Unfortunately, it does spell out an end for the Rubio era in Minnesota, unless he is willing to accept a bench role (he isn’t), which will mean he will be leaving within the next offseason.

The 3rd best pick, another prospect who dropped a little further than some projected, is Buddy Hield from the University of Oklahoma who was selected 6th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans. Yes, Buddy may have wanted to have been drafted higher, but youthfulness is highly sought after in recent years and sometimes that doesn’t always lead to success. The four years’ Buddy spent in college, turned him into the perfect scoring machine and luckily for him, no team needed his abilities more than the Pelicans. New Orleans has been lucky with their franchise cornerstone, “All-World” Anthony Davis or the “Unibrow”, but they have lacked success because of their inability to build successfully around him. This is the first step in the right direction, adding the best available talent on the board, a bonafide outside sharpshooter and potential all-star who could perfectly complement Anthony Davis’s domination inside the paint. Eric Gordon, their current shooting guard, who has been anything but consistent in terms of his play and health status, has his contract expiring this offseason and will most likely seek more money than the Pelicans will give him based off of his tenure in New Orleans. This means the starting position is there for Buddy to take and he could compliment the likes of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans much better than Gordon ever could, because of his shooting first mentality and ability to get buckets. They call him “Buddy Buckets” and that is what he will do in New Orleans to help out Anthony Davis, probably proving to create one of the most dangerous, big-small duos, currently in the NBA.

The next pick that seems to be a match made in heaven, was a pick traded in the blockbuster Hawks, Jazz and Pacers trade that saw Jeff Teague move to Indiana. The Hawks netted the 12th overall pick from the Jazz for giving up Teague, which ended up filling a rather important position for the Hawks and Mike Budenholzer’s system, the 3 and D small forward position that DeMarre Carroll once occupied. Taurean Prince, a senior out of Baylor was widely considered to be a deep pick that would be taken later in the 1st round, but at 12th overall, it seems the Hawks were very Intrigued by his experience and defensive capability. His ability to knock down shots from outside at a high percentage, while guarding the toughest position in the league, is a very important role player and one the Hawks lost, making Taurean the fourth best fit in the 2016 draft. While many will think the Hawks lost in this trade to obtain the Taurean Prince pick, by giving up Jeff Teague in the process, he was a costly assets nearing the end of his prime. In addition, they have a great replacement point guard in Dennis Schroder, who’s more athletic and played in crunch time during the playoffs, so everything suggests he will be more than capable in replacing Teague efficiently. For the Hawks, this means returning to a very similar lineup to the record-breaking lineup they possessed in 2014-2015 which saw them get a 60-22 record. Taurean Prince is experienced, coming into a winning system, providing a much needed role and to a Hawk’s team which already has a group of capable starters, will undoubtedly lead to his development and the Hawk’s success.

The 5th and final, seemingly perfect pick, is a player who fell through the cracks and into the hands of one of the most successful teams in developing young players. The San Antonio Spurs have always found great success in late first round picks, netting George Hill with the 26th pick whom was traded for Kawai Leonard, Goran Dragic who was taken with 46th overall pick, Cory Joseph, taken with the 29th and Kyle Anderson who was taken with the 30th overall. Dejounte Murray, a freshman out of the University of Washington, was taken with the 29th overall pick and seeks to add an instantaneous boost off the bench for the Spurs. Dejounte is more physically gifted than anyone else drafted in recent years by the Spurs, but his talent is not to be understated as he was considered to be a top 15 draft pick by many analysts and scouts across the league. The Spurs once again seem to have been gifted another diamond in the rough, one whom could be groomed into a competent starter and even more likely, a phenomenal replacement for Manu Ginobili in a few years. While this perfect fit is certainly about Dejounte Murray and his talent, it is almost more about how exceptional the Spurs are in developing young talents and maintaining their winning record, but also system. While they could have drafted another prospect who could easily bloom in their system, Dejounte’s selection and promising ability will allow for a somewhat easier transition from their “post-Duncan era” into whatever is next.

In addition to these five great fits, players whose new teams are almost built for their development and success, there are teams who succeeded at every level in the draft in drafting the best available talent, while meeting their needs. The first team whose draft was phenomenal and added to their already promising team, is the Denver Nuggets who possessed 4 picks in this draft. Already possessing a promising backcourt, with Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay, they drafted the promising combo guard Jamal Murray out of the University of Kentucky with their 7th overall pick. A top 5 projected pick, Murray fell a little but, he will surely make a lasting impression for the Nuggets as an amazing scorer, most likely taking the starting role for Gary Harris as he moves to the 6th man role, which is much more fitting for him. Next, the Nuggets drafted Juan Hernangomez, a Spanish power forward, who may be the most NBA ready international prospect and will make a solid off the bench addition to backing up Jokic or Faried who start. Next, they drafted the most efficient shooter in the 2016 draft in Malik Beasley out of Florida State but, they did overload their backcourt just a bit. This might mean that they are planning on moving one of their current guards but, Beasley is a talented scorer and great talent which means they could also have drafted him for trade. No matter what the Nuggets plan is for their very strong backcourt, they have amassed an amazing amount of talent at this point and will be able to easily make a package deal if needed for an already established star.

The next team which was able to find amazing picks in their given situation, was the Brooklyn Nets, who traded Thaddeus Young during the draft for the 20th overall pick and a future second rounder. The Nets were able to net Caris LeVert with their newly acquired 20th pick, a promising talent out of the University of Michigan whose stock somewhat plummeted after his injury plagued college years. His talent however, has never been in question as he has always played efficiently and with meaningful minutes at Michigan, so as the Nets continue their rebuilding process, LeVert, if healthy, will be a valuable building block for this team. The Nets then added even more strength with Isaiah Whitehead, a promising and athletically gifted point guard out of Seton Hall, who found a lot of success his junior year in college. Given a few years of development, Isaiah Whitehead will blossom into a very capable starting point guard even if he does not begin in a starting role. The combination of these picks creates a dangerous backcourt for the Nets in their near future, but adding talent around these building blocks will be the true determinant of how successful this team will become.

All in all, both the Nuggets and the Nets had very successful drafts, ones which netted them talent that will be crucial in their future successes. Many teams drafted a promising prospect, even one which may fit perfectly in their system or just a talented individual but, no one succeeded to the same success as either of these teams. The Los Angeles Lakers also had a great draft, fulfilling their star need and adding a much needed presence to their frontcourt, as did the Pelicans in drafting Hield and then Cheick Diallo in the second second round. Luckily, both the Lakers and the Pelicans have a guaranteed, promising talent that will provide a much needed role going forward as successful franchises. The Timberwolves seem to be even a step a head of that, drafting a fantastic replacement guard and this is all in addition to their already acquired, promising talents of Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns. The addition of these talents makes perfect sense for each of these teams and regardless of their current inabilities, Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield will make fantastic additions and even greater fits on their new teams.

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