16 NBA Draft Prospects to Watch in the Sweet 16

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty)

Though his lone season at LSU prepared projected top draft pick Ben Simmons for a possible rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers—both because he's already used to wearing purple and gold and because he was coached by possibly the only coach worse than Byron Scott at the collegiate level or higher—much of his 2016 NBA Draft competition is still playing in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The remaining teams will have four rounds to answer a few burning questions: Will someone swipe the No. 1 overall pick form Simmons' grasp? Who will be this year's Frank Kaminsky, riding a trip to the championship to a draft position 10 slots higher than he should be selected? And who will—not "will anyone"—finally punch Grayson Allen in the face?

All those questions and more will be answered over the next two weeks.

But for now, here are the 16 NBA prospects to watch as it all unfolds, in order of how we think they'll be drafted.



1. Brandon Ingram, Duke

Coach K's long, lanky freshman draws rightful comparisons to Kevin Durant, both in terms of physical makeup and the ease with which each scored in college. At 6'9" and just 190 pounds, Ingram has a ways to go in terms of adding strength for the next level. But if he adds enough, he could be a deadly weapon at both forward spots in the NBA. He has the potential to be an effective defender, but shows more effort on the other side of the ball.


2. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

The Sooners senior might be the best "shot maker" of the tournament, scoring with crazy efficiency on a high volume of possessions. Hield's elite balance while shooting both off the dribble and on catch-and-shoot attempts make him a likely effective secondary scorer in the NBA, with the potential to be a lead guard. Whatever his ceiling is, his defensive profile and intangibles give him a very high floor.


3. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

A short yet explosive point guard, Jackson has ably taken the reigns of Notre Dame's offense after the departures of NBAers Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Despite his 6'1" stature, Jackson's exceptional quickness and 6'5" wingspan make him a terrifying on-ball defender for opposing guards. He uses his explosiveness to score and make plays for others while still taking care of the ball. While his three-point shooting fell off this season (33.1 percent), he shot at 41.7 and 42.9 percent clips his freshman and sophomore years.


4. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga

The son of Hall-of-Famer Arvydas Sabonis, the Bulldogs big man already flashes two important skills that should translate in the NBA: rebounding strength on the interior, and the footspeed to defend the pick-and-roll and switch onto guards. Tristan Thompson just signed an $82 million deal and those are the only two things he can do. Sabonis also has a mature post game and is a nifty passer. Though his average leaping ability and shortish arms limit his upside, Sabonis' quickly expanding range gives him at least a potential path to stardom, if not an above average NBA big man.


5. Diamond Stone, Maryland

A possible boom-or-bust pick, Stone's combination of size (7'0", 255 lbs), length (7'4"), and a smooth offensive game turn scouts into a Jessica Rabbit audience. Questions about his maturity level, fitness, and practice habits are the other reasons he draws comparisons to DeMarcus Cousins.



6. Brice Johnson, North Carolina

Johnson has had a dominant senior year for the Tar Heels, leading Carolina in field-goal percentage (61.9%), scoring (16.7), rebounding (10.5), and shot blocking (1.5). While the 6'9" power forward has shown an improved jumper this season, questions about his range and 225-pound frame as a senior limit his NBA upside a bit. Still, NBA teams are never short on rim protection, and Johnson can offer that.


7. Grayson Allen, Duke

Duke's latest villain has a candy-coated stroke from outside and the leaping ability, body, and nose for the basket to be a threat in transition or on close-outs. Defensively, he has a high motor and great awareness that could make up for a lack of side-to-side quickness at the next level. Put it all together, and you've got a quality two-way player with potential as a scorer with improved handle.


8. Melo Trimble, Maryland

What the Terrapins sophomore point guard lacks in height (6'3") and length (6'2") he makes up for with deep range, strength, and quickness. Though his shooting percentages have dipped following the graduation of play maker Dez Wells, Trimble has beautiful shooting mechanics, can manage the pick-and-roll with ease, and is a pesky defender. 


9. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

The ACC Player of the Year improved his numbers across the board in his senior season. One of college basketball's best perimeter defenders, the shooting guard added to his draft stock considerably by proving himself from three-point range, shooting 40.2 percent on over five attempts from deep per game after shooting 34.9 percent on threes through his first three seasons.


10. Wayne Selden, Kansas

After struggling in his sophomore year, Selden responded as an efficient veteran for the Jayhawks in 2015-16. Though he lacks the ball handling or first step to get a lot of his own shots in the NBA, his jumper, considerable physical profile (6'5", 230 lbs), and jumping ability make him a valuable floor spacer on offense that could have an impact on the defensive end.


11. Monte Morris, Iowa State

Morris may not be an elite scorer or blessed with top-level quickness, speed, or strength, but he is what just about every team could use: a pure point guard in every sense. Not only is he eighth in the country in assists per game (6.9), he's second in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.16) a year after leading the nation in the category as well as an efficient, if low-volume, shooter. Morris still has to prove he can use his defensive tools, but he probably has a role in the league.



12. Jake Layman, Maryland

Height plus a great three-point stroke equals a spot on an NBA roster. It's a tale as old as time, right Steve Novak? But, no offense to Mr. Novak, Layman has the athleticism to impact games by doing more than just stretching the offensive floor for others. His drop in scoring as a senior has brought up questions about Layman's assertiveness, but as a bouncy 6'9" shooting wing with the potential to guard small forwards and some power forwards, he could have a long NBA career.


13. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

A year ago, with the Badgers badgering their way to the NCAA championship game, Hayes seemd a lock to be a first-rounder whenever he decided to enter the draft. Now, after a season in which he shot terribly from the floor (36.9 percent from the field, 28.7 from three) in an expanded role and rebounded less, it would take another deep run—and some big numbers from the junior—to launch him back into that discussion. Hayes projects as a good wing defender with lateral quickness in a 6'8", 237-pound frame with a 7'4" wingspan, but don't be surprised if he goes back to school to raise his shooting numbers and draft stock.


14. Robert Carter, Maryland

Carter can do a lot on the offensive end at his size. He's a solid passer and interior scorer, with decent range for a power forward (33.3 percent on three-pointers). His problems come on defense, where he's already undersized at 6'8" and has trouble staying in front of just about anyone.


15. Michael Gbinije, Syracuse

The Cuse senior might have the easiest NBA comparison. With his 6'7" height, a short wingspan, average athleticism but well above average play making and scoring at the college level, Gbinije is like the second coming of Evan Turner. What scares teams more than his limited physical profile is his lack of upside—the multiskilled wing will be 24 when the NBA draft rolls around, older than anyone else on this list.


16. Perry Ellis, Kansas

The leading scorer on the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed, Ellis is a great college basketball player. But limited athleticism and size for a power forward (6'8" with a 6'10" wingspan) hurt his chances of sticking in the NBA. However, with his ability to handle the ball and potentially shoot from NBA three-point range, he could have a career if he can add muscle and prove to passably defend power forwards at the next level.

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