The 2016 NBA draft was full of surprises, trades, and questions marks. Everyone knew that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram would go 1st and 2nd consecutively, however the rest of the draft was up in the air. For some organizations, acquiring proven veteran talent outweighs a draft prospect depending on the state of their respective franchise. Here we examine some of the winners of the draft that made promising roster moves for the future.
Oklahoma City Thunder
-Victor Oladipo G (trade from ORL)
-Ersan Ilyasova F (trade from ORL)
-Donantas Sabonis F Gonzaga (11th pick, from ORL)
The pending free agency of Kevin Durant is the biggest priority right now for the organization. Durant is currently one of the best players on the planet, with a variety of skills to compliment his size. OKC will explore every option to have KD remain in a Thunder uniform. On draft night the Thunder made a blockbuster trade that not only provides incentive for Durant to stay, but also provides a bit of stability if he departs. OKC traded Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic, for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the draft rights to Gonzaga big, Domantas Sabonis. Oladipo provides OKC with a super athletic combo guard that can handle the ball, score, defend his position, and play off ball. This may potentially put OKC over the hump if Durant stays, because it was evident that the Thunder were desperate for another guard during their western conference finals loss to the Golden State Warriors. Ilyasova and Sabonis both provide some depth at the PF position, both utilizing outside shooting and floor spacing to go along with emerging center, Steven Adams. With KD in town or not, this was a great move for the Thunder.
-Jeff Teague (Trade from ATL)
-Thaddeus Young (Trade from Nets)
-Caris Levert, G Michigan (1st Rd. 20th pick)
-Georges Niang, F Iowa State (2nd Rd. 20th pick)
The Pacers were a team that made the playoffs last year, and with a recent coaching change they’re looking to take another step forward and compete now. Indiana acquired the speedy point guard in Jeff Teague from the Hawks, which on paper makes for an interesting potential lineup with the trio of Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George. Thaddeus Young, who was acquired from the Nets, adds versatility to the forward position with the ability to play the stretch 4 position, while being a rebounding force when at small forward. This will be beneficial, as the NBA is progressing into a versatile game. Forwards are often asked to not only be able to space the floor, but posses the athleticism to defend multiple positions on switches. First round pick Caris Levert will add to the back court with length and the ability to play the passing lanes on the perimeter. Levert should make for a nice off-ball option as a slasher with a capable spot up jumper. Second round pick Georges Niang was one of the most skilled players in this draft in my opinion. Standing at 6’7, he is not the most athletic or explosive player by any stretch, but he has a sophisticated offensive presence and court awareness. Niang has the ability to score from the post, run the break, spot up for three, and create his own shot in the half court set off of the dribble. All skills that should allow him to step into the league and contribute as a role player immediately. The Pacers were successful in upgrading the overall talent roster and gaining valuable assets. In this case, veteran talent trumps unproven draft picks from other organizations.
-Kris Dunn, PG Providence (5th pick)
The Twolves are one of the hottest franchises to watch going forward. The recent hiring of former Chicago Bulls head coach and Team USA assistant, Tom Thibodeau, is one of the better hires in recent memory. The veteran coaching leadership combined with extraordinary talent could be devastating. This team is loaded with young talent, returning the last two NBA rookies of the year in Andrew Wiggins (2015) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2016), to along with the 2x, back to back defending NBA Slam Dunk champion, Zach Lavine. With the 5th pick the Twolves selected Kris Dunn, who may have been the best all-around point guard prospect in the draft. At Providence, Dunn won Defensive POY, and Big East POY in both the 2015 & 2016 season consecutively, while also making a 2nd team All-American appearance. His explosiveness, passing ability and defensive toughness will immediately help Minnesota’s back court, and could potentially challenge Ricky Rubio for the starting position. Coach Thibs should be in love with this pick, as Dunn fits the Thibodeau player mold being a tough and fiery competitor. Do not be surprised to see this young roster take the next step and find themselves competing for a playoff seed next season.
-Jamal Murray, SG Kentucky (7th pick)
-Juan Hernangomez F, Spain (15th pick)
-Malik Beasley G Florida State (19th pick)
-Peter Cornelie, PF France (53rd pick)
The Denver Nuggets are a team that is lacking talent in every way imaginable. They have nice pieces in former USA Olympian Kenneth Faried, and promising young guard Emmanuel Mudiay. However, they need more overall talent in general to be more competitive . In what may be the steal of the 2016 draft, insert Jamal Murray here. Murray entered the draft as one of the best overall prospects, despite being just 19 years-old. He is a silky-smooth, crafty scorer that can not only spot up from behind the arc, but can create his own shot with or without the ball in his hands. This may the perfect sidekick recipe for Emmanuel Mudiay, who is a predominantly pass-first point guard looking to penetrate the lane and dish to the open man. The two have actually shared a court together before, participating in the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit. While at Kentucky, Murray was the only player during the Coach Calipari era to average 20 PPG for the season. This is an astonishing stat, considering the school has recently sent All-Star players like Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins and John Wall to the NBA. The Denver Nuggets may have snagged their back court of the next decade fall into their laps with the 7th pick. The rest of Denver’s picks were addressing the lack of talent on the roster. Juan Hernangomez (15th) is a 6’9 forward that has deadly outside range to go with good fundamentals. He could be a problem in the pock and pop situations. Malik Beasley will add depth and athleticism on the perimeter, that is much needed in today’s era of guard dominant basketball. Peter Cornelie (53rd) is a 20-year-old overseas project, that appears to be staying in Europe for the time being. Regardless, the Denver Nuggets are walking away from this draft smiling about snagging Jamal Murray after falling to 7th pick.