The 2016 NBA Draft is now in the books and new blood has been selected by teams as they get ready for the 2016-17 season and beyond. The draft class itself was not believed to be a very deep one, but the selection of many international players that cracked the Top 12 picks was an encouraging point. It showed that NBA team scouts are in touch with the emerging talent coming from Europe and other regions.
There was little to no surprise as the first two picks of the draft were made. Days before the event, the Philadelphia 76ers already reached out to Australian Ben Simmons (208 cm) that he would be taken 1st overall, and that was exactly what they did. Simmons is a multi-talented standout from LSU and has the potential to become a great player in the NBA. Philly can groom the dynamic forward and mold him to a big point guard to dominate the competition.
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Brandon Ingram (208 cm) with the second pick in the draft. He and Simmons have long been touted as the consensus top two picks of the draft and it comes as no surprise that the Lakers would take him off the draft board right away. The Duke forward is an athletic specimen at only 18 years of age.
Jaylen Brown (201 cm) was taken by the Boston Celtics with the highly coveted third pick. Brown is talented defender and an athletic swingman. The Celtics were originally trying to trade their third pick for some established talent, but could not seal any deals. Picking for themselves, the Celtics went with Brown as a good fit for the team.
18-year-old big man Dragan Bender (213 cm) was a bit of a surprise as Top 4 pick, but the Phoenix Suns clearly see a bright future for this skilled youngster. He has dual citizenship from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He played last season for Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He saw limited minutes on the floor, but displayed flashes of brilliance when executing his outside shot and when attacking the basket. Bender and Alex Len could serve as a dynamic frontcourt in the Suns’ distant future.
Pick #5: Kris Dunn (193 cm), Minnesota Timberwolves
The New Orleans Pelicans picked Bahamian guard Buddy Hield (193 cm) with their sixth pick. He is a talented scorer and will be able to help spread the floor to make space for Anthony Davis in the post.
The first Canadian to get taken off the draft board was Jamal Murray (198 cm) who went to the Denver Nuggets with the seventh pick. He is a high-volume three-point shooter who is an excellent answer to one of Denver’s biggest issues in 2015-16. The Nuggets were one of the poorest teams when it came to perimeter scoring. Murray’s addition will address that and quickly swing the pendulum in the other direction.
Pick #8: Marquese Chriss (206 cm), Sacramento Kings (traded to Phoenix Suns)
Austrian big man Jakob Poeltl (213 cm) was picked by the Toronto Raptors. He will bring a fresh dimension to the team’s frontcourt rotation and is a project for the future. For now the duties in the paint will fall squarely on the shoulders of Jonas Valanciunas. Toronto is still up front and Jakob should be able to smooth out those minutes at four and five.
Thon Maker (216 cm) has been around. He has dual citizenship from South Sudan and Australia. The big man is the only player to be selected in the first round coming out of high school. He was snatched up by the Milwaukee Bucks and will be an interesting addition to their already healthy stable of “positionless” players. Maker is still a raw talent, but has some potential to be another Kevin Garnett if he is developed and utilized correctly.
Another interesting international player who cracked the first round of the draft was Domantas Sabonis (209 cm). He is a Lithuanian-American player and son of Lithuanian basketball Legend Arvydas Sabonis. Domantas was selected by the Orlando Magic, but he was packaged in a deal that sent him to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sabonis will get a chance to make an instant impact with his new team, as they let go of starting power forward Serge Ibaka in the trade.
Of course, like in any draft the 2016 NBA Draft saw its own share of winners and losers. Among the winners, are basketball fans from all over the world.