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.
Los Angeles Lakers
Picks (Pick No.): Brandon Ingram (No. 2), Ivica Zubac (No. 32)
The Lakers didn’t get the best version of Ingram. It’s clear what he can be after one year in New Orleans. The Lakers got the unreliable, slightly injury prone scorer that they clearly didn’t think could go alongside Lebron in a race for a title. Well, maybe it was Lebron who didn’t think that. He averaged 18.3 points in just 52 games in his last season with LA and exploded for 24.1 points, 4.2 assists and 6.2 rebounds during his first season with the Pelicans. He’s third in scoring in this draft class and second in points per game. It’s taken him a couple of years, but it’s clear that Ingram is one of the elite scorers and better players in this draft.
Zubac is one of the five players taken in the second round to play all four seasons since getting drafted. He and Ingram make the Lakers the only team with multiple picks to have all of their draftees play more than 200 games in the NBA.
Grade: A | Ingram probably wouldn’t be the No. 2 pick again, but he along with Zubac, who is good value at No. 32, make up an A rating.
Picks: Dragan Bender (No. 4), Georgios Papagiannis (No. 13), Skal Labissiere (No. 28), Tyler Ulis (No. 34)
The Suns had two lottery picks and four inside the top 34 in 2016. They’ve walked away with a class that only features two players who have played all four seasons and no players that have played more than 187 games in four seasons. Bender never lived up to what he was supposed to be and he only played 16 games in 2019-20.
Papagiannis only played 39 games and two Kentucky products, Ulis and Labissiere, haven’t been anything special and Ulis has only played one NBA game in 2018-19. The Suns had a really good chance to add to a young core of players that started with Devin Booker. Instead, they drafted three players that aren’t part of their future just four years later.
Grade: C | There just has to be more value with four top 34 picks.
Picks: Kris Dunn (No. 5)
A player with Dunn’s athleticism always has a chance to be special — see Russell Westbrook — but he has had a really hard time staying healthy in his four years in the NBA. Just a year later, he was part of the trade that sent Zach LaVine to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler. Since arriving in Chicago, Dunn hasn’t played in more than 52 games in a season and once again is struggling with a lower body injury in 2020. The Providence star had so much upside, but an athletic point guard who doesn’t shoot it well and struggles with injuries isn’t going to have a great career.
Grade: B- | Dunn hasn’t been horrible when he’s healthy, and there’s still time for him to have some prolonged health.
New Orleans Pelicans
Picks: Buddy Hield (No. 6), David Michineau (No. 39), Diamond Stone (No. 40)
Buddy Hield has been easily the most durable NBA player in this draft class. He’s played 18 more games than the next closest guy and has played at least 80 games every season prior to the shortened 2019-20 season where he has played 67 games as of Aug. 6. As a result, the high level scorer and elite shooter leads the draft class in points and is third in points per game. Whether or not Hield can be one of the best players on a championship team — which is where he’s positioned in Sacramento right now — is yet to be seen. But few players have been of higher value in this draft class.
If the Pels could go back, they’d probably hold on to Hield instead of trading him for DeMarcus Cousins.
Grade: A | This grade is an A only because the Pelicans traded Hield quickly, but his value has been an A+.
Picks: Jamal Murray (No. 7), Juan Hernangomez (No. 15), Malik Beasley (No. 19), Petr Cornelie (No. 53), Daniel Hamilton (No. 56)
Murray is right behind Hield in the category of durability. He’s played at least 75 games every season except 2019-20. After an all-rookie selection in 2016-17, Murray quickly became the point guard of the future in Denver and the core of a team that has aspirations of competing in the West for the foreseeable future — especially if Michael Porter Jr. continues his crazy play in the NBA bubble. He’s averaging at least 16.7 points each of the last three seasons. The knock on Murray thus far is his inefficiency in the playoffs, but he’s only a fourth year player with plenty of time to grow into that important role on a top three team in the West.
Hernangomez and Beasley were both respectable bench players in Denver until 2019-20 when they were traded to Minnesota. Both players exploded in their 14 games in Minnesota before the suspension. Denver got multiple players, including Gerald Green and Shabazz Napier, and a first round pick in the 2020 draft.
Grade: A+ | Denver found their point guard of the future and two more established NBA players with their three top 19 picks.
Picks: Marquese Chriss (No. 8), Isaiah Cousins (No. 59)
The Kings traded their No. 8 pick to Phoenix for the Suns’ 13th and 28th picks. With those picks, they selected Papagiannis and Labissiere. Chriss has easily been the best of those three players, but that isn’t saying much. He’s played for four teams in four seasons. Cousins never played an NBA game to round out a draft for the Kings that was very forgettable. Luckily, they got Hield half way through the 2016-17 season.
Grade: D+ | They ended up with the No. 6 pick and one of the better players in this draft, but the draft night decisions were questionable at best.
Picks: Taurean Waller-Prince (No. 12), Isaiah Whitehead (No. 42), Joel Bolomboy (No. 52), Tyrone Wallace (No. 60)
Most of these players didn’t actually make it to Utah. The most impactful move was the three-team trade between Atlanta, Utah and Indiana that sent George Hill to Utah. The Jazz had their core in place and were about to go 51-31 in 2016-17.
Grade: C | There’s just not much going on here.
Picks: Wade Baldwin (No. 17), Wang Zhelin (No. 57)
Another draft, another useless pick from Chris Wallace. Baldwin played 56 games in the NBA and only 33 in Memphis. Just for fun, here’s who was drafted after Baldwin: Caris LeVert, Pascal Siakan, Dejounte Murray, Malcolm Brogdon. Those are the notables, but a lot of the players drafted after would’ve been of much higher value. Oh, and they drafted Zhelin who never played an NBA game.
Grade: F | Because it’s Chris Wallace.
Los Angeles Clippers
Picks: Brice Johnson (No. 25), Cheick Diallo (No. 33)
The Clippers were right in the midst of their Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan era and had just gone 53-29 in 2015-16. As a result, their draft position wasn’t ideal and the results were what you’d expect. Johnson played 21 NBA games. Diallo is still hanging around the NBA but has played only 177 games in four seasons. Ultimately, it wasn’t a needle-moving draft for the Clippers.
Grade: C- | Getting only 21 games out of a top 25 pick is not good, but ultimately wasn’t a big deal.
San Antonio Spurs
Picks: Dejounte Murray (No. 29)
The Spurs are the kings of drafting high value players late in the first round. They drafted Kyle Anderson a couple of years earlier and Murray has been even more productive than him. He missed the entire 2018-19 season but is averaged 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and four assists in 2019-20 and is a big part of the young core in San Antonio. I don’t know if it’s Popovich or that front office who’s responsible, but rarely do the Spurs completely miss in the draft.
Grade: B+ | In a year, Murray will probably be an A, but with the missed season and a slowish start as a rookie, we’ll keep him at a B+ for now.
Golden State Warriors
Picks: Damian Jones (No. 30)
There might not be a more unimportant draft pick in NBA history, and that’s not a knock on Jones at all. The Warriors had just cemented themselves as the best regular season team of all-time — yes, regular season only. With that being said, Jones struggled to get on the floor his first two seasons, played 24 games in 2018-19 and then played 55 games in Atlanta in 2019-20. There’s a very real argument that we don’t really know what James is capable of in the NBA.
Grade: C | I mean, it’s not an awesome pick, but it certainly isn’t horrible and it didn’t matter who they picked here.
Picks: Chinanu Onuaku (No. 37), Zhou Qui (No. 43)
The Rockets drafted two players in the second round that played a total of 25 games in the NBA. That’s all you need to know. All hail James Harden.
Grade: D+ | They didn’t find anyone in this draft to stand on the three point line and watch James Harden play.
Picks: AJ Hammons (No. 46)
As uneventful as Houston’s draft was, Dallas’ was even more so. They drafted Hammons out of Purdue with the No. 46 pick. He played 22 games in one NBA season and was out of the league.
Grade: C- | Like most 46th picks, Hammons didn’t last in the NBA.
Photo by: Erik Drost / Wikimedia Commons