By Josh Naso and Emily Van Buskirk
Tonight, hope will run high the 2016 NBA Draft takes place and teams look to add players who will help shape their futures. Some teams are looking for players to turn their fortunes around, while others are looking to add pieces to an already strong foundation.
The top off the 2016 NBA Draft has been getting dissected for weeks now, and while picks 3-10 are as wide open as ever, the players selected in that range are pretty well set in stone. Here at The Sports Fan Journal, we like to go a little deeper. Allow us to introduce seven players you didn’t know you wanted your team to draft.
The 6’9” forward from Providence had a breakthrough season in 2015-16, averaging 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. He has impressive range and can stretch the floor, and his ability to score in a variety of ways is his biggest strength. Bentil can play with his back to the basket, hit the midrange jumper, step out beyond the arc, and put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He possesses impressive footwork for a player his age.
Bentil will have to pay more attention to rebounding and defense to stick at the NBA level, but he plays with a ferocity that gives him the potential to make those adjustments. He will have to improve to be a full-time starter but could be a perfect spark player coming off the bench.
Bembry is a bit unknown nationally, but he is the reigning A-10 Player of the Year. He did a bit of everything for St. Joe’s last season, averaging 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. The 6’6” forward performed well at the Draft Combine, and he projects as a swingman in the NBA, with the necessary attributes to thrive there. Bembry can get to the basket and rebounds well for his size.
Developing a more consistent jump shot is his most pressing need for improvement. St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli speaks highly of Bembry’s intangibles. Said intangibles combined with his ability to do a little bit of everything will make him an asset on any NBA team. He would fit best on an established team, where he can come in and do whatever is asked of him to help get a win.
Felder put on a show last season at Oakland. He averaged 24.4 points, 9.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals. His scoring numbers were good for fourth-best in the nation, and his 9.3 assists led the nation. His explosive first step is his biggest weapon, and he can punish defenders with the jump shot when they fall back to protect against the drive. Felder can finish around the rim and has the vision and decision-making skills to get the ball to open teammates.
Standing at just 5’10”, his size is his biggest weakness. An impressive 44-inch vertical helps him offset some of that disadvantage, as does his quickness. His defense was also a concern, but all indications are that he alleviated some of those concerns at the Combine. Another question mark was the level of competition he faced at Oakland, but he answered those apprehensions with stellar performances against Michigan St. (37 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds), Virginia (30, 3, 1) and Washington (38, 9, 3). Overcoming his height will be a huge hurdle, but he has the athleticism and scoring ability to do it.
In today’s age of 24-hour news, social media and global scouting departments, Thon Maker has managed to remain a mystery. Maker will certainly have to add some strength to bang consistently on the NBA level. The lack of playing against known competition will hurt him on draft night, but the size and athleticism are tantalizing. The potential of what he could be if he puts it all together is beyond alluring. Whether or not you agree with the path he took to this point, the reality is someone could get a steal.
(Editor’s note: We heard. We’ll see what’s true and how much it impacts where he is selected.)
Several teams have entirely ruled Thon Maker out of the first round due to his age. Multiple sources believe Maker to be 21-23, not 19.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2016
The former Oregon Duck has a lot to offer an NBA team despite those who want to say he is too old (23) or his outside shooting game is weak (33 percent last season). While he may seem like an underwhelming draft choice to some, NBA scouts would be silly to sleep on the 6’6” wing who averaged 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for Oregon last season, all while making history as the first Duck to make three straight NCAA appearances. He is athletic, he is strong, he is determined and if there is any doubt that he would be an asset to any NBA team, rewatch his performance against Brandon Ingram and Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.
Wayne Selden Jr.
Although a slight knee injury precluded him form showcasing his skills in the Draft Combine, teams shouldn’t let that be a deterrent to drafting the 6-foot-5 Jayhawk. Selden Jr. was part of Kansas’ highly touted 2013 draft class that included Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but Selden’s first two years in Lawrence were not as stellar as predicted. He really came out of his shell last season, averaging 13.8 points per game, shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from the three-point line.
He is athletic and has a solid 6’10″ wingspan, but where Cook’s strength is on the wing, Selden Jr. is about precision and accuracy. His quiet, driven demeanor makes him valuable both on and off the court to an NBA coach, as well. Also, whichever franchise picks him up will always know what time it is, thanks to Selden Jr.’s uncle, Anthony Pitts Jr., and his massive hanging timepieces. You can’t put a price tag on reactions to dunks like this:
Another solid second-round pick comes in the form of 19-year-old former Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku (pronounced chih-NAH-noo on-ooh-AHH-koo). The surgery he had to fix his heart rhythm might cause some teams to shy away, but his long arms and penchant for rebounding should appease even the most selective of scouts. He is slightly smaller than the norm for an NBA center (6-foot-10), but he makes up for the inches with youthful exuberance and athleticism. He has a strong NBA body and excels defensively.
Last season for the Cardinals, he averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. The only drawback for Onuaku is his still-developing offensive play, but the team that steals him in the second round will not only get a solid backup center, but a player with the potential to shine down the line.
Hopefully we’ve given you something to watch after the first 15 picks or so are off the board. Feel free to drop your newfound knowledge on anyone who will listen, and let us know who we missed. Enjoy the draft, everybody.
Because you love TSFJ as a staff, record label, and as a *bleeping* crew!