Elite Eight: Top prospects in the 2016 NBA draft

Former LSU forward Ben Simmons could be the next superstar in Philadelphia. (GETTY IMAGES)

Ben Simmons could be the next superstar in Philadelphia. (GETTY IMAGES)

The Philadelphia 76ers hold the No. 1 selection in this year’s NBA draft, and they have their eye on former Louisiana State standout Ben Simmons.

Sixers coach Brett Brown knows Simmons and his family well. He coached Simmons’ dad, David, when he was with the Melbourne Tigers, so it makes perfect sense for Philly to take the teenager from Australia.

Simmons averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds and five assists in his one season in Baton Rouge. He is easily the best player in the draft and could be the answer the Sixers have been looking for since the franchise drafted Allen Iverson No. 1 in 1996.

OneManFastBreak.net ranks the eight best players in the 2016 NBA draft:

BEN SIMMONS
Forward (6-10, 240)
NBA comparison: Blake Griffin
Scouting report: The 19-year-old already has an NBA body, which should help him transition into a man’s league. Even though LSU didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament, Simmons was easily the most talented player in college basketball. He can score in the paint, has guard-like handles and is a superb rebounder, which is always a good barometer when evaluating big men. Charles Barkley would always remind folks that anyone who averages double digit rebounds in college can play in the NBA. His shooting touch from the outside needs a lot of work, but that’s what shooting coaches are for.

BUDDY HIELD
Guard (6-3, 212)
NBA comparison: Bradley Beal
Scouting report: The Wooden Award winner and consensus first-team All-American averaged 25 points and shot 50% from the field during his senior year at the University of Oklahoma. He’s an explosive scorer with unlimited range. And he loves the big moment. The 22-year-old shooting guard powered the Sooners into the Sweet 16 by scoring 29 of his 36 points in the second half against VCU. One of the highlights of the college season was Hield’s 46-point explosion (making eight threes) at Kansas. Three-point shooting has become such a weapon in today’s NBA, and there is no one in this year’s draft class better at shooting the ball than Buddy. Hield has been working out with the recently retired Laker legend Kobe Bryant, so he’ll be well prepared physically and mentally when he enters the league. Hield is a native of the Bahamas, the tiny island that produced Laker standouts Mychal Thompson and Rick Fox.

THON MAKER
Center (7-1, 216)
NBA comparison: Kevin Garnett
Scouting Report: The most intriguing prospect in this year’s draft if Maker. To say that he’s an enigma would be an understatement. He was the top-rated high school player in the nation as a junior. But then he started packing his backs so often he disappeared from the radar. A native of South Sudan, Maker migrated to Australia before moving to the United States. He also spent some time in Canada. He’s definitely a well-traveled 19-year-old young man. On the court, Maker has all the physical gifts you’d want in a potential star. He’s long, athletic, has a good face-up jumper and works extremely hard at his craft. Those attributes alone should be enough to vault him into the lottery. But some scouts still have plenty of question marks. At 216 pounds, he is rail thin and can be overpowered under the basket. At best, he could become the next Kevin Garnett. At worst, he could be the next Hasheem Thabeet. If you’re a lottery team looking to swing for the fences in a draft considered to be average to weak, drafting Maker may be worth the risk.

BRANDON INGRAM
Forward (6-9, 195)
NBA comparison: Tayshaun Prince
Scouting report: The former Duke standout won’t turn 19 until September. Some basketball scouts compare Ingram to Kevin Durant, which is unfair because outside of their skinny frames Ingram is nowhere near KD’s scoring ability at the same age. Durant averaged 25 points a game in his lone season at Texas. Ingram averaged 17 points and made 41 percent of his threes in one season in Durham, N.C. Can he get stronger? Sure. He has time to fill out. But most lottery teams can’t wait for you to fill out. They need immediate help. Also, Duke doesn’t exactly have a good track record producing NBA superstars. Dukies are great role players (see Shane Battier and J.J. Redick), but few become franchise players. Kyrie Irving may be the lone exception.

JAYLEN BROWN
Guard-Forward (6-7, 225)
NBA comparison: DeMar DeRozan
Scouting report: Brown is an explosive athlete ready to contribute right away. He plays with great energy and physicality, and he is very comfortable playing in traffic. He finishes well at the rim and plays through contact. Because he can get to the rim almost at will, he never fully developed a consistent jumper. However, he seems to be working hard addressing that concern. During an NBA TV segment with Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, Brown knocked down consecutive 3-pointers from the corner with ease — and he had good form. He’s a natural shooting guard but at his size he could slide in as a small forward. His numbers during his freshman season at Cal were pedestrian (14 points and 5.4 rebounds). But the former high school All-American excels in isolations, so he’s tailor-made for the NBA.

KRIS DUNN
Guard (6-3, 181)
NBA comparison: C.J. McCollum
Scouting Report: Dunn has great size and athleticism for a point guard. At Providence, he was twice named Big East player of the year. The 22-year-old is tough as nails and defends his position very well. Dunn showcased his talent during the NCAA tournament when he torched North Carolina for 29 points, and gave Tar Heel guards Joel Berry and Marcus Page fits. “He’s got cat-like quickness and has the anticipation skills of an NFL cornerback. He’s got a lot of grit to him,” former NBA exec Stu Jackson said. When asked who he’s looking forward to playing in the NBA, Dunn said Russell Westbrook. That tells you Dunn is not afraid of competition. In terms of weaknesses, Dunn tends to be a little loose with the ball and his outside shot still needs polishing. But the positives clearly outweigh the negatives.

DOMANTAS SABONIS
Center (6-11, 240)
NBA comparison: Arvydas Sabonis
Scouting Report: “Little” Sabonis brings a lot of his father’s skill set. He may not be as big as his father — Arvydas was 7-3 and 290 pounds during his Portland Trail Blazers days — the former Gonzaga big man is a classic low-post scorer who can score with either hand. Domantas is not super athletic, but he’s quick enough to defend his position. Against Utah in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Domantas was matched up against pro prospect Jakob Poeltl. Sabonis more than held his own. He scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and pulled down 10 rebounds. Teams looking for a low-post presence should definitely give a hard look at Domantas.

BRICE JOHNSON
Center (6-10, 187)
NBA comparison: Shawn Marion
Scouting Report: Johnson played four years at North Carolina, and each year he got better. Johnson is an elite athlete as a power forward. He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds, and amassed 23 double-doubles during his senior season. As a freshman, he only averaged 5.4 points. The 12-point difference from his first year to his last year in college not only shows remarkable improvement but a reflection of his great work ethic. He led the Tar Heels to the national championship game, losing at the buzzer to Villanova. Johnson has a similar game to former NBA player Shawn Marion. Both are ultra quick to the ball and can bounce off the floor like a pogo stick. “I think he’s the best rebounder in the draft,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said. “Really great athlete. Can really run. He’s got a great shooting touch.”

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