2016 NBA DRAFT ANALYSIS: IMPACT FOR THE 2016-2017 SEASON
With the 4th of July holiday weekend looming the league is abuzz with the excitement of what newly drafted talent will bring to the 2016-2017 season, who will end up where as teams jockey for position to sign coveted free agents and what will those new pieces mean for each franchise’s chances of making a run to the postseason?
Here are some players to look out for this season – some could be great but could others fall behind?
BEN SIMMONS – PHILADELPHIA 76ers
*Photo courtesy Sportsglory.com via USA Today
Coming off a horrendous 0-16 start last season, the Philadelphia 76ers are scrambling to get back on track, drafting LSU forward Ben Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Their acquisition of Jahlil Okafor a year ago was largely a failure as the Duke product couldn’t stay out of trouble off the court and became more of a distraction than a key piece of the team.
With rumors swirling around the league that Okafor is on the trading block with a potential move to Chicago, the addition of the 6’10 Simmons is a risky move for the team. Philadelphia doesn’t have veteran leadership and a 19-year-old one-and-done could yield similar results for the fledgling franchise; die hard Philly fans are hoping Simmons will grow into his role in the league but he’s inconsistent and the Tigers didn’t make the big dance making him a high-risk, high-reward proposition for a team in need of consistent performances.
KRIS DUNN – MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
*Photo via PickandPop.net
The Minnesota Timberwolves are well on their way to putting together one of the hottest young teams the league has seen. Drafting Providence’s Kris Dunn puts the Midwestern team right on track for the 2016-2017 season as he joins Kentucky standout Karl Anthony Towns and number one draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Dunn was unsure of his future going into the draft this summer, telling the Bleacher Report, “It was nerve-wracking. You don’t know where you’re going to live or what team or organization you’re going to be with, so you have a lot of different ideas of where you think you’re going to go.”
With many were thinking Phoenix or Boston may have scooped up the college sensation the move to Minnesota is the best of both worlds for Dunn whose basketball IQ was on full display this past year. He’s shown an upward trajectory in college, working through injuries and improving his offensive game in pick and rolls and aggressive drives to the glass where he’s known to blow past defenders and take contact while finishing at the hoop.
While his propensity for turnovers is a concern some intensive ball handling drills and a boost in confidence will serve the 22-year-old well as he prepares for his first season as a pro. He’s sure to fit right in with Towns and Wiggins, making his addition to the team a key piece in the building process. “I’m a young talent in there, and there are so many young talents already there and they’re all going to improve through the years. And because were young we’re going to have a good relationship.” Young told BR’s Jonathan Wasserman following the draft.
BUDDY HIELD – NEW ORLEAN’S PELICANS
*Photo via BABAIMAGE - Free License
Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners fell and fell hard in the NCAA tournament to eventual champion Villanova Wildcats in a game that had Hield’s critics chomping at the bit. He was sometimes thought of as being inhuman with off balance buzzer beaters and improbable drives down the lane that would make any defender dizzy but I expect the Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year to silence his critics in the NBA in his rookie year. Why? Well he’s consistent; Hield averaged 17.4 PPG as a junior, upping that average to a dab worthy 25 PPG this past year.
His motivation to continue to improve is already impressing those around the league, Pelicans’ writer Jim Eichenhofer tweeted “Just ran into Buddy Hield grabbing a quick bite at “Pelicans practice facility, he’s already doing a workout over there this morning,” a few days ago. With four years of college experience under his belt and a degree to boot he’s more mature and prepared than freshman prospects and he’s continued to improve year after year.
The addition of Hield is the first piece of the puzzle for New Orleans as the team looks to bolster a lineup of complementary players to play with Anthony Davis. After an injury plagued season resulted in a disappointing 30-52 record, the new duo is sure to get to off to a better start this year as Davis wouldn’t shoulder so much of the offensive workload and it seems NOLA coach Alvin Gentry is thinking the same thing. I think we just got to add players, good players,” Gentry told ESPN, “I don’t think you can ever say no to any position that’s a good player.”
DOMANTAS SABONIS – OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
*Photo via Sportsman.com
If you follow college basketball, then you know the name Domantas Sabonis. The 6’10 forward is a dominant force on the glass, putting Gonzaga University back on the map in west coast college basketball, a region that hasn’t been known to produce hard hitting teams of late. The Lithuanian defensive specialist joins the Oklahoma City Thunder after being drafted at number 11 by the Orlando Magic. Sabonis is the second son of an NBA Hall of Famer to be selected in the NBA draft, his father Arvydas Sabonis played for the Portland Trail Blazers.
How will he do in Oklahoma City? Well many people expect him to do well and I have to agree with them. OKC head coach Billy Donovan is probably still reeling from losing winnable games against the Golden State Warriors and looking to stop the bleeding; the Thunder gave away a 3-1 lead to Golden State and were subsequently outplayed in Western Conference Finals. Sabonis is joining a well-established team and brings a defensive tenacity that the Thunder have been missing. While in general the Thunder have been good on the glass, Sabonis is the king of the backboard, cleaning up whatever leftovers are available and forcing loose ball fouls that quickly put opposing teams in the penalty, a trait that will give Oklahoma City an edge. Offensively Sabonis is adept in putting the ball on the floor and collapsing even the best defenses often finishing on his own or dishing for an assist; his ability to cause confusion will give the Thunder the last bit of edge they need to get over the hump for a championship.
DENZEL VALENTINE – CHICAGO BULLS
*Photo courtesy Bleacher Report via Getty Images
In terms of basketball powerhouses Michigan State has continued to make a case for their top ten rankings producing players like Draymond Green and Shannon Brown and now Denzel Valentine will continue the tradition in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. The 6’5 shooting guard played for Izzo for all four years, thrilling audiences at the Breslin Center in East Lansing with an array of athletic offensive moves that left many commenters puzzled as to how he got that shot to go in? Well he’s part man, part basketball Phenom and the Chicago Bulls didn’t waste any time acquiring the Olympic hopeful at number 14 in the draft. Valentine continued to improve throughout his college career, averaging a consistent 14 PPG as a senior. While MSU was upset by Middle Tennessee State in a stunning first round exit from this year’s NCAA Tournament, I’m not going to throw the book at Valentine. His overall performance in the regular season.
Following a blockbuster five player deal that sent the injury prone Derrick Rose to the stagnant New York Knicks, Valentine joins Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant in Chicago. Let’s be frank, barring a meteor hitting the Windy City I fully expect Valentine to get the start over Calderon. His crafty ball handling and offensive range is far superior and if he continues to play with the swift handle he did in East Lansing, he’s sure to fill the assist section of the stat sheet forcing switches off pick and rolls and dishing to Robin Lopez on mismatches. The Chicago Bulls seem to have been the team that got the best bang for their buck this year in the draft and if the numbers pan out they should make a postseason run.demonstrates his growth and offensive prowess.