With only a couple days to go before the start of the NFL season, I feel compelled to put a stake in the ground regarding potential 2016 NFL Draft Busts. Unlike last year, I waited until the end of the preseason this year. It seems like I had more time to write when I didn’t have a J-O-B. Oh well, at least it’s a good excuse. Prior to the start of training camp this summer, I thought the most likely (although still improbable) busts included #1 pick Jared Goff, #9 pick Leonard Floyd, and #10 pick Eli Apple. However, based on his extended holdout, #3 pick Joey Bosa has become my overwhelming favorite as a potential Top 10 Bust. Jameis Winston received that same designation last year so Bosa shouldn’t be too worried. Or should he?
In an earlier post, I evaluated the trades made by the Rams and Eagles to move up to the first two spots in the 2016 NFL Draft. At that time, I commented that #1 overall pick Jared Goff needed to match the career of Eli Manning and #2 overall pick Carson Wentz needed to match the career of Philip Rivers to be worthy of those trades. Since then, Philadelphia traded QB Sam Bradford so the bar for Wentz has been lowered to Jay Cutler. With respect to these comparisons, Wentz has a reasonable chance to meet the target whereas Goff doesn’t. Even on an absolute basis, I predict the #2 pick will outshine the #1 pick throughout their careers.
When originally preparing my countdown of Top 10 Busts, I reviewed all NBA players drafted since 1970. Of note, I relied on basketball-reference.com in order to compile and analyze the career statistics of these players. By doing so, I was able to create thresholds above or below which they could be grouped. For example, I identified all-time greats, stars, average players, busts, and Top 10 Busts. In this post, I offer the representative NBA draft picks who help define the categories.
With the 5th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected point guard Kris Dunn. As a junior at Providence last year, Dunn averaged 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals per game. Those numbers, which were unmatched by anyone else in the NCAA, earned him 2nd Team All-American honors. Including Dunn, the Timberwolves have amassed a talented group of young players over the last three years. Specifically, they have the last two Rookies of the Year (and #1 overall picks) Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. At the same time, reigning two-time Slam Dunk Champion (and 2014 #13 overall pick) Zach LaVine has shown that he’s not a one-trick pony. It’s too early to tell how good the Timberwolves can be, but Dunn should help make them even more competitive for years to come.
With the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Croatian phenom Dragan Bender. Unlike the first three picks, Bender played exclusively overseas. As such, most of us have no basis to compare him with the other top prospects. Regardless, the “experts” believe he has the talent to become a star. In contrast, I believe he’s more likely to become a bust. I’ll admit that I undervalued 2015 #4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis. However, I’ll double down and bet that Bender is not another “unicorn.”
Twenty years ago, the NBA celebrated its 50th Anniversary by revealing the names of the 50 greatest players in league history. In anticipation of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary, many sites are starting to compile their own rankings of top players. Given the outstanding players from the last two decades, the league easily could expand the honor to 75 players without diluting quality. At the same time, it could fix the injustice of omitting players like Dominique Wilkins and Walt Bellamy. Thanks to analysis provided by my son, Top10Busts has joined the fray with a ranking of the NBA Top 25. As a teaser, the top five are Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and LeBron James.
During the 2015-16 regular season, Cal freshman Jaylen Brown put up respectable averages of 15 points and six rebounds per game. At the same time, he shot 46% from the floor (including 31% from behind the 3-point arc). During the 2016 Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, however, he wilted and averaged only eight points and three rebounds. In those three tournament games, Brown had almost three times as many turnovers (14) as field goals (5). Additionally, he shot an abysmal 17% from the floor, including a 3-17 outing in an 82-78 overtime loss to Utah. Regardless, Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge seemingly went against the grain and took Brown with the team’s #3 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. While it’s unlikely that Brown will be a Top 10 Bust, he certainly is on the radar screen.
With the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Ben Simmons. After years of tanking, the Sixers “earned” the right to select one of the highest profile phenoms since LeBron James. Despite conventional wisdom, Brandon Ingram made a legitimate case to be the first pick instead. During his “one-and-done” season at Duke, Ingram averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. It’s hard to question Phildelphia’s decision. However, the organization has been a complete embarrassment for over a decade. Would you be surprised if 2016 becomes a repeat of 2007 when the Trail Blazers passed on Kevin Durant? Based on Ingram’s upside, you shouldn’t be.
Going into the 2016 NBA Draft, most experts predicted that Ben Simmons would be the #1 overall pick. During his “one-and-done” season at LSU, Simmons averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals per game. Given that production, the young phenom justified the hype which began while he still played in high school. Considered by some to be a “can’t-miss” prospect, Simmons regularly has drawn comparisons to LeBron James. Clearly, Simmons has a long way to go to match the best player on the planet. Sorry Steph, but the King still holds the crown. As of now, Simmons has a blank canvas upon which to paint his career. The odds are greater that Simmons will be a Not Top 10 Bust (i.e. an all-time great) than a Top 10 Bust (i.e. an all-time failure). Yet, I’m still not completely sold on him.
Before I provide my assessment of the top 10 overall picks from the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s only fair that I revisit my projected 2015 NFL Busts. Going with the odds, I predicted most of the players wouldn’t be busts or stars. For now, there don’t appear to be any negative outliers (i.e. likely busts) but there are two positive outliers (i.e. players on their way to being stars). As the only two rookies selected to the 2016 Pro Bowl, #1 pick Jameis Winston and #10 pick Todd Gurley have started their careers very solidly. While I’ll take credit having argued that Gurley was worth a top 10 pick (against the protests of “experts” like Mel Kiper), I have to admit that I thought Winston would be a bust. As discussed in more detail in the following post, I have given myself an overall grade of B- for my predictions. Just like most of the top picks in the 2015 Draft, I had moments to remember and moments to forget.