Draft-time is always an exciting period for NBA fans. Which players will join their favourite team, can we unearth the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
The NBA Draft also offers the opportunity for the most unsuccessful teams of the previous year to potentially reinvigorate their franchise back to being highly competitive and tipped for the title – providing that respective club can select more hits than misses on draft day.
For every Karim Abdul-Jabbar – drafted in 1969, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson (1979) or Shaquille O’Neal (1992), who went on to have fantastic professional careers from a first overall selection, there are the pitfalls of choosing more unsuccessful high draft picks such as Joe Smith (1995), Kwame Brown (2001) or Darko Milicic (2003).
In this article, we will look at five players who are entering the professional ranks who we think can perform with credit at the next level.
The Philadelphia 76ers have had two high draft picks in recent seasons with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor both being selected third overall in 2014 and 2015. Allen Iverson was the last number one overall selection to arrive in Philly, until the Sixers selected Forward Ben Simmons as this year’s top pick. Statistically, the 19 year-old ticks all the right boxes to successfully transfer his abilities to the pro game, but – like all rookies – he has to prove himself, with his long shooting requiring work as a prime example. Philadelphia look to be forming a promising roster with the addition of 6’10” and 240lbs Simmons – who has the definite potential to become an NBA star of the future.
Not turning 19 until September, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Forward Brandon Ingram with the number two selection in this year’s draft. The former Duke star rose rapidly through many draft boards throughout his final season, to the point where the 6’9” swingman was ultimately challenging Simmons for the overall top pick. Ingram has silky ball skills, and is more than adept at making plays on his own and for his teammates. Currently weighing in at around 190lbs. Ingram will have to work on his body strength to cope with the rigours of the NBA, but the upside is definitely there for all to see.
Point Guard, Kris Dunn was selected fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves – perhaps to the dismay of the Chicago Bulls. Several reports suggested that Minnesota rebuffed the Bulls offer of a trade deal with Jimmy Butler for the highly promising Dunn. After suffering with shoulder injuries in his early days at Providence, the 6’4” prospect shot to prominence in his junior year. An indication to prove his fitness to prospective NBA teams, Dunn declined the opportunity to step up to the pro ranks in 2015 to perform with great credit in his senior year. Dunn has all the physical attributes required to perform at the next level with his telescopic arms being a key element in his arsenal.
Scoring sensation Buddy Hield was taken sixth by the New Orleans Pelicans, who almost single-handedly dragged Oklahoma to the final four last season. After four years with the Sooners, Hield will turn 23 early into his NBA career, but that should not detract from the quality of player that the Pelicans have selected. The former Sooners’ scoring versatility immediately signals him out as a player to look out for in 2016. In his final year, Hield averaged over 35 minutes per game, scoring 25 points per match, 50.1% shooting accuracy from the field, with an impressive 45.7% from outside the three-point-line, the Pelicans will be hoping for more of the same at the NBA level.
Former Utah Center, Jakob Poeltl might not have some of the initial upside that some of the other highly selected draftees possess, however the 20 year-old Austrian can make his mark for the Toronto Raptors with their ninth overall pick. Poeltl helped the Utes to their best record for eleven seasons, with a number three seeding in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. He also earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honours after averaging 17.2 PPG, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Likened to fellow European, Pau Gasol, Jakob Poeltl is far from the finished article, but the Center could turn into a big NBA star given time.