Most young NBA draft prospects are promising in several areas without being spectacular in any single facet.
We’re here to show you those who are spectacular in each major category. As the 2016 class takes shape, it’s time to identify the most talented passer, shooter, defender, etc.
These nominations are based on who has the most noticeable skills and potential that should translate to the NBA level. We chose our top performers from among the class’ widely projected first-round prospects.
Passer: Kris Dunn, Providence PG (6’4″ Junior)
Kris Dunn might not be the first point guard selected on draft night — Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray will challenge him for that honor — but he’s the most gifted passer of the bunch.
During his breakout sophomore campaign at Providence, he dished 7.5 assists per game and 8.8 per 40 minutes. Dunn has a tremendous feel for distributing while on the move, whether it’s off creative drives or pick-and-rolls. His quickness and shiftiness as a handler help break down defenders, and his vision and deft quarterbacking precision take it from there:
Kris Dunn is a pick and roll maestro. Great pace. Keeps the defender on his back and delivers the pass right on time. Good showing today.
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 28, 2015
Dunn delivers the ball from a variety of angles and wrap the ball around defenders using his long arms. More importantly, he has great timing and often catches foes off guard with quick passes. He was overzealous on many occasions last season (4.2 turnovers per game), but his dynamic passing prowess is undeniable. NBA opponents will have a tough time stymieing him in both half-court and transition scenarios.
Slasher: Ben Simmons, LSU F (6’9″ Freshman)
When it comes to weaving and driving past opponents and finishing around the rim, Australian import Ben Simmons has the best arsenal in the 2016 draft.
Guards like Murray and Dunn are shiftier handlers, and Jaylen Brown is a stronger finisher. But Simmons has the best assortment of dribbling, agility and length to attack and thrive in the NBA. He has a springy first step, an impressively refined handle for someone his size and abundant acrobatics:
Ben Simmons has a really nice right hand for a lefty. Has finished off-hand floaters a few times this week.
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 10, 2015
Simmons’s slashing skills aren’t ready to dominate the Association yet, but his tangible potential is unmistakable. We’ll enjoy plenty of glimpses of that upside this year as he takes over LSU.
Rim Protector: Skal Labissiere, Kentucky C (7’0″ Freshman)
With apologies to shot-swatters like Jakob Poeltl and Zhou Qi, Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere is the most versatile rim-protecting prospect.
Whereas Poeltl possesses great positional awareness and fundamentals, and Zhou has tremendous length and timing, Labissiere has the best athleticism of the group.
The Haitian-born tower not only leaps and alters shots vertically, but he prevents shot attempts from even happening with his horizontal fluidity. He covers a ton of ground for a 7-footer, which enables him to stick with slashers or rotate swiftly from the weak side.
Perimeter Defender: Caris LeVert, Michigan SF (6’7″ Senior)
Michigan’s upperclassman Caris LeVert gets the nod here because he guards positions 1-3 with magnificent instincts, fundamentals and length.
LeVert moves his feet extremely well against slashers and pull-up shooters, and his long arms serve as pesky deterrents. There’s a sense of urgency, a bounce in his step that you don’t always see from wing defenders. It shines through when he sticks with handlers as they change direction or go around screens.
Don’t crown him as a perfect defender yet. LeVert needs to improve his strength and discipline before he reaches his lofty ceiling as a stopper. However, his versatility and footwork give him a great chance to become a valuable asset in the pro ranks.
Low-Post Scorer: Diamond Stone, Maryland C (6’10” Freshman)
There aren’t any eye-popping low-post masters in the 2016 draft class. No one in this year’s crop comes close to Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns. But Maryland big man Diamond Stone will put a dent in Big Ten defenses en route to the NBA.
His game isn’t wildly diverse, and it may take some time for him to learn to counteract NBA opponents. Nevertheless, he shows the best low-block command and potential in this draft:
Diamond Stone one of the few big guys looking to consistently post up in 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 drills — tough to handle when he gets position.
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 30, 2015
The 6’10” youngster has a terrific blend of strength, footwork and touch. During high school, he displayed a devastating drop-step and the ability to turn and connect from 5-7 feet with a soft baby hook. He helps compensate for middle-of-the-road athleticism with a smattering of pump-fakes and pivots.
There’s a chance someone like Labissiere eventually becomes a more prolific post player. For now, we’re choosing Stone’s mix of power and nimbleness.
Rebounder: Cheick Diallo, Kansas PF (6’9″ Freshman)
Comparisons are rough guesses at this stage, but ESPN.com’s Chad Ford likens Cheick Diallo to one of the NBA’s top pound-for-pound board-getters.
“He might end up being a better version of Kenneth Faried,” said Ford.
Diallo is taller (6’9) and longer (7’4″ wingspan) than the Manimal, and he’s just as active. That should translate to equal or better rebounding effectiveness within a couple of years. Diallo is gritty, rangy and athletic, which all bode well for Kansas’ power-forward prospect. NBA adversaries will have nightmares about his offensive rebounding explosiveness.
Shooter: Malik Newman, Mississippi State G (6’4″ Freshman)
If we’re talking about pure shooting here, especially on open looks, this category is up for debate.
When you factor in pull-up jumpers, hitting contested shots and scoring from deep range, the debate ends quickly. Mississippi State’s Malik Newman is the most dangerous jump-shooting threat in this draft class, with the ability to bombard the basket from any spot on the floor:
Malik Newman is a stud. Dynamic in transition, deep range with excellent elevation on his jumper. Going to be very good at the NBA level.
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) April 11, 2015
Given his underwhelming size and combo-guard playing style, Newman probably won’t be the most efficient shooter in college or the pros. But as far as pure talent goes, he has Jamal Crawford/J.R. Smith-type potential. Newman can change directions, stop on a dime and launch silky smooth jumpers.