The first round of the NBA Draft saw a conference-leading five players from the SEC picked. Here's how things broke down:
Ben Simmons, by way of LSU, was selected first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers to no one's surprise. Simmons is a 6'10, 240-pound point forward whose only drawback is his lack of apparent shooting ability. He is often compared to Magic Johnson and LeBron James because of his court vision and passing ability. Despite his brilliance throughout the season, LSU struggled to find significant team success finishing the season 19-14. Ben Simmons should prove to be one of the most talented players on the Sixers as they look to improve from their NBA worst-10-72 record.
The Denver Nuggets selected Jamal Murray, a freshman guard from Kentucky, with the seventh overall pick. Murray has the potential to play both point and shooting guard, although he measured in at the combine at 6'4. He reminds me of former All-Star Gilbert Arenas because of his pure scoring ability. During his only season at Kentucky, Murray averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, and only 2 assists per game for a 27-9 team whose season ended in the Round of 32.
Developing into a true combo guard will be his biggest obstacle to overcome throughout his career. The 33-49 Nuggets selected Murray with the hopes to could develop into their point guard of the future.
Wade Baldwin, the sophomore point guard from Vanderbilt was selected 17th overall by the Memphis Grizzles. Baldwin helped lead Vandy to a 19-14 record, while posting a respectable 14 PPG, 4 RPG, and 5 APG. At 6'3, Baldwin reminds me of Luther Head because of his consistent outside shooting and willingness to pass. He needs to improve on scoring without the ball, finishing in the paint, and also relying on his jump shot too much. The perennial playoff contender Memphis Grizzles, hope that Baldwin can develop into a sufficient backup to Mike Conley.
The Sacramento Kings used the 28th pick to select freshman big man Skal Labissiere from Kentucky. Although Skal possesses lottery round talent and size (6'11" 225), he had a disappointing freshman season averaging only 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game to boot.
What makes him an interesting prospect is the fact he dominated the Nike Hoop Summit last summer and was considered the second best prospect coming into the season. He showed elite athleticism as well as a capable shot blocker. I consider him to be a potential Tristan Thompson if developed correctly. The Kings will look for Skal to develop more low post moves, a better understanding of the game, and also he will need to learn how to use his athleticism.
The final SEC player selected in the first round, was Damian Jones, who was taken 30th overall by the Golden State Warriors. Jones was the second Vandy player selected in the first round, giving them multiple picks for the first time since three Commodores were taken in the 2012 NBA Draft, which also was the last time they had a pick in general as well. The 7-foot, 245-pound junior center averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in the 2015-16 season.
The best comparison for Jones is Hassan Whiteside because of his size, rebounding ability, and shot blocking ability. The record setting 73-9 Warriors will look for Jones to add a much needed post presence. He will be able to contribute this year if he improves his terrible free throw shooting.