Ben Simmons (LSU)
Age 19, 6-10/239 lbs
2015/16 College stats: 19p/12r/5a/0.8b/2s, 56 fg%
Ben Simmons is the most NBA-ready prospect in this year’s draft. He has been garnering comparisons to NBA legends like: LeBron James and Magic Johnson for years and it’s hard to deny those comparisons. Simmons is a player that combines NBA power forward size (6-10, 240) with an elite ability to out-run anyone that is guarding him. Being the size he is, the LSU alum is able to see over any smaller player that guards him. His knack for finding his teammates on the break and in the half-court is easily his best skill. The Australia native averaged almost 5 assists per game during his one year in college. The new wave of the NBA big-men is players who can dribble and make plays for their teammates; he fits right into that. This was evident in a game last year against North Florida where Simmons posted a stat line of: 43 points, 14 boards, 7 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks. How many college players have you seen put together that kind of all-around of a game? The one knock on his current game is his jump shot. It isn’t at the level it needs to be if he wants to score on a consistent basis in the league, but he has time to change that. Stretching his range to keep defenders honest will be the key to him unlocking something special.
Simmons’ NBA comparison: LeBron James, Lamar Odom
Jamal Murray (UK)
Age 19, 6-5/201 lbs
2015/16 College stats: 20p/5r/2a/1s, 45 fg%/41 3p%
The Kitchener, Ontario native is looking to become the 7th Canadian in the past five years to be chosen in the lottery and the 4th to be picked in the top 5. Murray was a one and done player at Kentucky where he averaged 20 points, and 5 rebounds on 45% shooting, while only dishing out 2 assists per game. Those numbers scream shooting guard in today’s league but many think that he is good enough to transition to the point guard spot in the big leagues. Known for his elite shooting ability that is able to stretch out to NBA three-point land and beyond, Murray shouldn’t have trouble scoring at the pro level. During the 19 year-old’s workout with the Celtics, he apparently knocked down 79 out of 100 three-point attempts. Along with the ability to stretch it out with range, Murray sports a great crossover and secondary dribble move that allows him to get to the rim where he uses his 200 pound frame to finish through contact. Adapting to the point guard position might be a struggle for the Kentucky product, both offensively and defensively. Murray sometimes struggled guarding point guards in college. He doesn’t have the quickest feet so working on his speed laterally will be very important in his development. Also, only being 6-5 and somewhat under sized for a prototypical shooting guard could hurt his ability in bodying up bigger 2-guards.
Murray’s NBA comparison: Dwyane Wade, Victor Oladipo
Buddy Hield (OKLA)
Age 22, 6-5/215 lbs
2015/16 College stats: 25p/5.7r/2a/1.1s/05b, 50 fg%/45.7 3p%
Buddy Hield played all four years of eligibility at Oklahoma, and it worked out. The Bahamas native increased his stats every season, capping it off with a stellar senior campaign where he was second in the nation in scoring, and narrowly missed posting the forever-coveted 50/40/90 shooting percentage line. The 22 year-old topped off his college career by winning the Naismith Player of the Year award. He’s got the scoring ability that you want to see in a shooting guard. He could come in and immediately put up 18+ ppg for whatever team chooses him. He has all-around guard skills that he pairs with a large 6-5, 215 pound body to be a fit for opposing defenders. NBA three-point range, and a willingness to get in the paint and score over taller guys is what sets him apart in the scoring department. One thing Hield will have to work on as a pro is his play-making ability for his teammates. He never surpassed a 2 assist per game average in any season in college. This translates into his mentality as a player because he is the type of guy to always think score. This could potentially get him into trouble once teams learn how to guard him.
Hield’s NBA comparison: CJ McCollum, OJ Mayo (maybe a touch of Kobe Bryant)
Jakob Poeltl (UTAH)
Age 20, 7-1/239 lbs
2015/16 College stats: 17.2p/9.1r/2a/1.6b/0.6s, 64 fg%
Poeltl had some very impressive numbers in his sophomore season with the Utes this past year. Scoring a solid 17 points per game, while also hitting the boards with an average of 9 per game. Not only was it his offensive production that was impressive; the 7-1 center blocked 1.6 shots per game, which came out to 2+ blocks per 40 minutes. The 240-pound Austrian has excellent athletic ability for a man his size. He gets up and down the court like a guard. But the post is where Poeltl makes his living. He shot an extremely impressive 64% from the field, with most of those shot attempts coming off post-ups. At 7-1 he’s got great height, but he only fills the rest of it with about 240 pounds, not good when you’re his length. If he could add 20 pounds or so to that frame he would be much more dangerous against players he’ll be forced to guard. With all that being said, Poeltl is probably the most NBA-ready center in the draft and he should be able to positively affect a team right from the jump.
Poeltl’s NBA comparison: Andrew Bogut, Jonas Valanciunas
Timothe Luwawu (France)
Age 21, 6-7/195
2015/16 Adriatic League stats: 14.6p/4.8r/2.8a/0.4b, 39.8 fg%/37 3p%
Timothe Luwawu is one of the most intriguing players in this years draft class. Just a year ago, Luwawu was a 19 year-old French kid playing in the French B League and junior leagues. Now a year later he is a projected to be a late lottery pick in the NBA draft. Being so young, and inexperienced at playing at a high-level of basketball would seem like a disadvantage, but in this case it should be looked at as a positive. Luwawu can come in as a relative unknown. People aren’t going to know what to expect.
The 19 year-old has a solid understanding of playing both sides of the ball. He can score in a multitude of ways on offence, then turn around and shut down his man on the other. His 6-7 and wiry 195 pound frame allows him to play light on his feet and keep up with smaller guys while also towering over them. Another thing scouts like in this kid is his massive improvement from one season to the next. Luwawu upped his three-point percentage by ten points from two years ago to last. His offensive game is very raw, which is evident in his sub-40% shooting from the field last season, but it has improved and shows flashes of brilliance. The Frenchman has a good feel for the game and is able to make plays that seem too tough for a guy his size to make. He’s got all the tools to become a solid player; he will just need time to feel them out. The mental aspect of the game hasn’t caught up with the physical yet. Expect Luwawu to go in the mid-to-high teens, but he could go as early as 9 where the Raptors have shown interest.
Luwawu’s NBA Comparison: Nicolas Batum, Thabo Sefolosha
Check out the other 2016 NBA Draft Profile pieces:
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