The Five Biggest Winners of the 2016 NBA Draft

Serge Ibaka & Victor Oladipo; Credit Getty Images

Serge Ibaka & Victor Oladipo; Credit Getty Images

By Brent Best,

The 2016 NBA draft seemingly began before Thursday June 23rd at 7:30pm. A number of trades and “leaks” got the party started early with reports indicating that Ben Simmons received a “promise” by the Philadelphia 76ers days before the NBA draft. It was followed by a 3 team trade in which the Utah Jazz gave up their 12th pick in the draft sending it to the Atlanta Hawks. In return they received George Hill from the Indiana Pacers while the Hawks sent Jeff Teague to Indiana. That same day the Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks for Jerian Grant, Jose Calderon, and Robin Lopez. And “sources” revealed that the Lakers, to know one’s surprise would be selecting Brandon Ingram from Duke University. Things died down briefly, then the real fun began. To select the five biggest winners of this year’s NBA draft I looked at multiple factors.

How well did you use your assets?

You can “win” a draft without picking a single player. Ask the Boston Celtics back in 2008 when they acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett by packaging a host of draft picks and young players.

Did you find that diamond in the rough?

Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler. Those are 5 of arguably the 10 best 2-way players (factoring in offense and defense equally) in the NBA. What do they have in common? They were all drafted with the number 10 pick or later in their respective drafts. Did a team find a player who right now none of the experts have pegged as an all star?

Did you get a potential franchise player that will make your team better?

This can be a bit of a chicken or the egg thing. There are many top talents in the NBA who I don’t believe to be franchise players for a variety of reasons. Demarcus Cousins comes to mind. His numbers suggest he may be the best big man in the NBA but his team, the Sacramento Kings haven’t even come close to being a playoff team in his 5 years in the NBA. In fact his teams don’t even perform much better period with him off the court. So to me a “franchise player” is someone that will turn a franchise around by being one of the 5 or so most talented players in the league, or be capable of being a top 15ish player who’s intangibles and leadership elevates everyone around him.

I think more than 5 teams did enough to make themselves better, but here are the five that did the most to improve their organization.

5 – Minnesota Timberwolves
Key Additions – Kris Dunn
I believe this to be the best fit in the entire draft. Kris Dunn is a tough as nails two way point guard that can come in and play immediately. At 6’4” with a wingspan just under 6’10”, Dunn should be able to guard both guard positions giving him the ability to easily play off the ball. Minnesota got far and away the best point guard in the draft who fills a position of need, is ready to contribute, and should mesh very well with budding stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to go along with 2 time slam dunk champ Zach Lavine. This is the best young core since the days in which Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka were developing together. And this one arguably fits better as a group.

4 – Indiana Pacers
Key Additions – Jeff Teague (via trade), Thaddeus Young (via trade), Georges Niang (2nd round pick 50th overall)

Subtractions – George Hill, 1st round pick, future 2nd round pick

The Indiana Pacers got much better yesterday adding an all star point guard, an athletic and versatile forward, and making a solid 2nd round selection. Their best player Paul George is 26 years old and is ready to start contending. An upgrade at point guard and trading the 20th pick to acquire a player that averaged 15 points and nine rebounds while playing great defense and maintaining a player efficiency rating of over 17 is a great 2 day stint for the Pacers. Teague and Young are each 28 years old so they have many prime years remaining. The Pacers aren’t on Cleveland’s level in the east quite yet, but right now they are the team that appears most capable of pulling off a shocking upset.

3 – Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions – Ben Simmons (1st round, 1st overall), Timothe Luwawu (1st round 24th overall), Furkan Korkmaz (1st round 26th overall)

The 76ers landed the player with the most potential in the entire NBA draft with Ben Simmons. Simmons has been picked and prodded as a person and a prospect since the start of this past college basketball season taking it by storm at the beginning then ending with a whimper as his team missed the NCAA tournament (making him the 1st number 1 overall pick to play in college and miss the NCAA tournament since Michael Olowokandi in 1998. His team was also mired with chemistry issues, Simmons was suspended a game for academic issues, and his shooting chart showed that he shot 43% or less at EVERY spot on the floor outside of the paint. With that said, Simmons has LeBron James like size, passing ability, and court vision. I don’t think he’s quite the pure athlete that LeBron was at 19 but most scouts compare him to a LeBron/Magic Johnson. Personally I see him as a better version of Lamar Odom who is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but not the generational player of a LeBron or a Magic. Simmons could also have issues with spacing as right now the 76ers have a log jam of post players and few guards or wings who can space the floor. The reason I don’t give the Sixers a clear cut number 1 spot is because of fit. I hope that Simmons gets surrounded by people and players that allow him to maximize his talents but I do not believe the current Sixers roster does that.

2 – Los Angeles Lakers
Key Additions – Brandon Ingram (1st round, 2nd overall), Ivica Zubac (2nd round 32nd overall)

Brandon Ingram is as rail thin as anyone I can remember enter the NBA draft. He is also a highly skilled 6’9” player with a 7’3” wingspan. As Ben Simmons’ season crumbled, Ingram’s seemed to improve as he gained experience. The soft spoken Ingram is regarded as a great teammate and unselfish person to go along with his basketball skills. The fit with the current young core of the Lakers next to Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Jordan Clarkson seems to work on paper as well. If Ingram fills out and adds weight to his frame as expected, there is no reason to thing he won’t become an efficient 2-way forward with the potential to be somewhere in the Kevin Durant/Paul George mold. Ivica Zubac is absolutely enormous and moves with very good fluidity for a person who is 7’1” 260 lbs.

1 – Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions – Victor Oladipo (via trade), Ersan Ilyasova (via trade), Domantas Sabonis (1st round 11th overall)

Subtractions – Serge Ibaka

I absolutely love this trade for the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Kevin Durant stays with the team then this will be the turning point as to why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are hoisting their 1st championship trophy (I just made my 1st prediction of 2016-2017). Victor Oladipo can flat out defend and is an underrated offensive player. Oladipo is merely an average 3 point shooter at this point but he has a great chance to improve as you’d expect more open looks playing alongside Westbrook and possibly Durant. It’s now also been revealed that Serge Ibaka was unhappy with the number of touches he’s been receiving in Oklahoma. His player efficiency rating had dipped to below league average this past season and his blocks per game have dropped for 5 consecutive season, peaking at 3.7 per game in 2011-2012 and dropping down to 1.9 this past season., The emergence of Steven Adams, shooting of Ilyasova, and offensive interior presence of Enes Kanter will help hill in that production by committee. They also got a prospect in Domantas Sabonis who has the pedigree of a hall of fame center as a father who dominated college basketball last season. OKC was already a contender, and if the Thunder are able to keep Durant then I believe this trade puts them on equal ground with Golden State as co-favorites to win the title, not just merely a contender.

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