It's July. Summer League is over, free agency has come and gone, and SportsCenter consists of clip after clip of baseball. In other words, the NBA has gone into its only quiet stretch of the year, and intrigue is hard to come by.
So let's take a way too early look at the 2016 draft.
Turns out, this draft is important for the 76ers. You may not have heard, but Sam Hinkie has spent the last few years eschewing contributing NBA players in favor of amassing a slew of future draft picks. (I know, I was shocked to learn that, too.) And 4 of those picks may wind up in the first round next June. To reiterate, the Sixers own:
1. The rights to a pick swap with the Kings, depending on who has a higher pick
2. The rights to the Lakers' Top 3 protected first
3. The rights to the Heat's Top 10 protected first
4. The rights to the Thunder's lottery protected first
5. Their own first round pick
So you could say the quality of the 2016 Draft matters quite a bit to this Philadelphia rebuild.
The Sixers will have four first round picks next year. Ready for that.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) June 26, 2015
2016 being the last year before rookie scale goes up gives me more confidence that's the target year for Hinkie and his 4 firsts + Saric.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) June 26, 2015
So while I'm reasonably in on Okafor and worried about Embiid, it looks like the four 1sts + Saric in 2016 is when we take the big step.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) June 26, 2015
Let's check in on what people are saying about the 2016 Draft! This should be fun!
Jonathan Givony, President, DraftExpress:
I think it's really weak, honestly. [The 2015 players who deferred a draft year] will help quite a bit because right now it's a really, really weak draft.
Well, then. That's probably not good. But it's probably just one man's opinion. Let's check in with the Worldwide Leader instead.
Chad Ford, ESPN:
Ben Simmons is the lone star in a weak class.
Oh, boy. This seems a little scary.
Consensus seems to be that 2016 is, indeed, a weak draft class. That's slightly alarming when the Sixers have so much invested in this particular class. Before we panic, however, let's take a quick little stroll down memory lane.
In July 2014, 11 months prior to the 2015 draft, DraftExpress's rankings placed Cliff Alexander 2nd, Montrezl Harrell 10th, and Chris Walker 11th. Alexander and Walker wound up undrafted after declaring, while Harrell dropped out of the first round to 32nd. These weren't isolated occurrences, either. Marc Garcia and Ilimane Diop were ranked 15th and 17th, respectively, and both players wound up withdrawing their names from the draft altogether, as they were overwhelmingly unlikely to be selected in the first round. On the opposite end of the spectrum, D'Angelo Russell, who wound up being selected 2nd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, was not even ranked in the Top 60.
All of this is to say that we just don't have very much information about a draft class a year in advance. Some players don't develop as expected. Some players display considerably stronger discrete skills than the hectic environment of AAU basketball allowed them to display. Some players may have simply been overrated due to the difficulty of evaluating high school talent.
Looking back at the last four drafts, I managed to put together some relevant information regarding draft status 11 months prior to the actual draft. Four drafts are not a significant sample, but the statistics are notable enough that we can still gain some insight from them.
- In the last 4 drafts, 63 out of 120 players (52%) selected in the first round had not been mocked there the previous July
- 29 out of 56 lottery picks (52%) rose 5 spots or more over the course of the year
- 18 out of 56 lottery picks (32%) were not listed in the July DX mock