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2016 NBA Draft Re-grade: Eastern Conference

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

The 2016 NBA Draft was always headlined by Ben Simmons, but it got pretty unpredictable after he and Brandon Ingram went No. 1 and No. 2. Jaylen Brown went third when most mock drafts had him going seventh or eighth. The rookie of the year — Malcolm Brogdon — fell all the way to No. 36 and Pascal Siakam, one of four all-stars in this draft, went 27th. 

In 2016, the NBA lottery worked out perfectly. Philadelphia had the worst record in the NBA and won the lottery and the order that followed mirrored the final standings of the 2015-16 NBA season. It was the first time that had ever happened.

Let’s re-grade it. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Picks (Pick No.): Ben Simmons (No. 1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (No. 24), Furkan Korkmaz (No. 26)

The 2015-16 Sixers were one of the worst basketball teams of all time. They went 10-72 and were 29th in points per game and opponents points per game. Just two years later, they went 52-30 and that’s largely due to the completion of the rebuild that Ben Simmons signified. Simmons is undoubtedly one of the best players in this draft. He’s first in assists, second in rebounds and averaging 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and eight assists for his career. He didn’t play in 2016-17 due to a foot injury, but has been healthy and a star since he stepped on an NBA floor. He’s already a two-time all star. 

Luwawu-Cabarrot and Korkmaz have become similar players in the NBA coming off the bench. Korkmaz is undoubtedly having the more impactful career and is an important piece to the bench rotation in Philadelphia as one of the better 3-point shooters on Philly’s roster.

Grade: A+ | The first year Simmons played, the Sixers won 52 games. That’s a 42-game difference in two years. Yes, there were other reasons why, but Simmons was a big part of it and continues to be a part of one of the better teams in the East.


Boston Celtics

Picks: Jaylen Brown (No. 3), Guerschon Yabusele (No. 16), Ante Zizi (No. 23), Deyonta Davis (No. 31), Rade Zagorac (No. 35), Demetrius Jackson (No. 45), Ben Bentil (No. 51), Abdel Nader (No. 58)

Still here? The Celtics made EIGHT draft picks in 2016. Of course, not all of them were actually for Boston. Some were on behalf of other teams who had made trades like Deyonta Davis, who began his career in Memphis. Nonetheless, Boston’s name comes up quite a bit. But only one pick here matters.

If you’ll remember, Brown was not supposed to go third. Bleacher Report’s mock draft early in June of 2016 had him going seventh to Denver. There was a mock draft on NBA.com the night before the draft that had him going eighth. Regardless of where he was supposed to go, the Celtics made the right call picking him with the third overall pick. Dragan Bender and Kris Dunn came right after him and definitely haven’t had the same caliber of career. 

In June of 2013, the Nets traded three first round picks to Boston in exchange for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Boston is now the clear winner of that trade due to the picks it made in 2016 and 2017. Brown and Jayson Tatum, the 2017 first round pick, will be the core of the Boston Celtics for years. The other seven picks in this draft were nowhere near needle movers.

Grade: A- | Trying to break down all of these picks is pointless. The most important pick was Brown and I don’t even care that no other pick has played all four seasons since the 2016 draft. For what it’s worth, Nader was good value at No. 58, but then again so is any 58th pick who actually plays an NBA game.


Toronto Raptors

PIcks: Jakob Poltl (No. 9), Pascal Siakam (No. 27)

Poltl has never started more than 24 games in a season and only started four total in Toronto before being traded as part of the Kawhi Leonard deal. But, of course, the story here is Siakam. After averaging 4.2 and 7.3 points his first two seasons, Siakam exploded onto the scene in 2018-19, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while winning the Most Improved Player award that season. He backed that up with another season that puts him in the conversation for most improved player, averaging 23.5 points in 2019-20 and making an all-star team for the first time. He’s seventh in points and third in rebounds in this class at the No. 27 pick and might go inside the top 5 if this draft was re-done. 

Grade: A+ | Poltl didn’t exactly work out, but he did assist in getting Kawhi to Toronto and Siakam has turned into one of the best players in this draft. 


Milwaukee Bucks

Picks: Thon Maker (No. 10), Malcolm Brogdon (No. 36), Patrick McCaw (No. 38)

Thon Maker left MIlwaukee quickly and Patrick McCaw was traded away to Golden State on draft night. McCaw actually has three championships in four years due to his stint with the Warriors and his 2018-19 season in Toronto. 

With that being said, Brodgon is clearly the highlight of this draft and one of its more surprising results. He was the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year, averaging 10 points and 4.2 assists. He proved that that accolade was not a fluke by becoming one of the better true point guards in the NBA. In 48 games with Indiana in 2019-20, Brodgon averaged 16.3 points, 7.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds. Say what you want about his rookie of the year award, but Brodgon is undoubtedly a high-level NBA point guard who is far and away the best pick in the second round of this draft. It’s almost like a point guard who can shoot, pass and defend at 6’5 translates from college to the NBA. In hindsight, he should’ve never fallen to 36th.

Grade: A | It’s not an A+ because that would essentially put Brogdon on the same level as Siakam, which isn’t fair. 


Orlando Magic

PIcks: Domantas Sabonis (No. 11), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 41)

In 2016, the Magic traded Sabonis and Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka. Four years later, it was clearly not the right call for Orlando. Ibaka spent half a year in Orlando before being traded to the Raptors and Sabonis and Oladipo are now together in Indiana, where they are the two best players on the team that currently sits at 5th in the Eastern Conference. It really is a series of unfortunate events for the Magic and makes you wonder what that Orlando team would look like now with a Oladipo-Sabonis-Vucevic-Fournier-Gordon core. 

Grade: C- | This is more of a commentary on the decision the Magic made to trade Sabonis and Oladipo rather than Sabonis’ skill level. 


Chicago Bulls

Picks: Denzel Valentine (No. 14), Paul Zipser (No. 48)

Valentine was good at a lot of things in college but not great at anything. Guess what, he’s now OK at a lot of things but not good at anything in the NBA. He missed the entire 2018-19 season due to an ankle injury and only played 13.6 minutes per game in 2019-20. If I was a GM, I’d probably take someone with more upside than Valentine at the NBA level. Zipser didn’t exactly save the draft for Chicago, either. 

Grade: D+ | Valentine was great at Michigan State, but the chances of him being great in Chicago were very low. 


Detroit PIstons

Picks: Henry Ellenson (No. 18), Michael Gbinije (No. 49)

Ellenson has played in just 81 games over four seasons and Gbinije played nine games in the NBA. 90 games between two picks and one of them being just outside the lottery is not good. Retreat back to mediocrity, Detroit.

Grade: D | There’s nothing to be excited for here.


Indiana Pacers

Picks: Caris LeVert (No. 20), Georges Niang (No. 50)

Shortly after drafting LeVert, the Pacers traded him to Brooklyn for Thaddeus Young. Almost exactly a year later, they waived Niang, who then signed with Utah. In terms of value, both players have exceeded expectations. LeVert has formed into a 17 points per game scorer and Niang has appeared in at least 59 games for Utah in the past two seasons. They just didn’t do either of those things with the Pacers.

Grade: B | These are good players, but giving the Pacers any higher than a B for it would be misleading considering the Pacers clearly didn’t have huge faith in either. 


Atlanta Hawks

Picks: DeAndre’ Bembry (No. 21), Isaia Cordinier (No. 44), Kay Felder (No. 54)

Bembry has established himself as a bench piece in Atlanta. That’s about the only good thing to come out of this draft for Atlanta. Cordinier never played an NBA game and Felder played just 58 games after being traded to Portland. Bembry probably isn’t what you want at No. 21, but he’s at least an established NBA player. 

Grade: C- | Bembry is a career 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds player. When your other two picks produced basically nothing, the score isn’t going to be that high. 


Charlotte Hornets

Picks: Malachi Richardson (No. 22)

Charlotte traded their 2016 second round pick to Oklahoma City for Jeremy Lamb in June of 2015. With their lone pick, the Hornets selected Richardson. He was traded almost immediately to the Kings for Marco Belinelli, which was a good choice. Belinelli averaged 10.5 points in 74 games with Charlotte in 2016-17 and Richardson has appeared in 70 games total in his NBA career.

Grade: D+ | If Bembry is a C-, Richardson must be lower than that. He never played in more than 26 games in a season and wasn’t on an NBA roster in 2019-20. 


Brooklyn Nets

Picks: Marcus Paige (No. 55)

It’s not a surprise the Nets only had one pick considering every meaningful pick they had been 2015 and 2018 went to Boston. Paige played in five games in the NBA in 2017-18 for the Hornets and has spent the majority of his professional career in Serbia with Partizan Belgrade. 

Grade: C | It’s a C just because it’s the No. 55 pick and nobody should expect much from that selection.

Photo by: Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

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