Five best wing players in 2016 NBA Draft
BOSTON -- While Thursday’s draft may be short on franchise-caliber players, it does have a decent amount of depth.
This is especially true at the wing position, which has become even more critical in this small-ball age of the NBA.
Wing players are now tasked with playing the role at times of being big enough to defend power forwards and still agile enough to play their natural small forward position or if needed, some shooting guard as well.
Here we take a look at five of the top wing players in this draft, all of whom bring their own unique skillset to the floor that enables them to be versatile performers and play multiple positions.
5. DEANDRE BEMBRY
Shooting guard/small forward, Saint Joseph’s
Most of the top wings in this draft have a versatile skillset, but few possess the passing skills Bembry brings to the table. At 6-foot-6 he can see over most defenses, which allowed him to average 4.5 assists last season while committing 2.2 turnovers. Bembry isn’t considered one of the draft’s top athletes, but his foot speed, overall quickness and deceptively solid leaping skills can sneak up on teams if they’re not careful. With a 6-9 1/2 wing span, Bembry can defend 2s (shooting guards) and 3s (small forwards) effectively. The knock on him has been his inability to knock down the 3-ball in college, evident by his shooting percentage on 3s dipping each year he was at Saint Joseph’s. Still, Bembry does so many things well that there will be a team that’ll select him late in the first round.
4. DENZEL VALENTINE
Shooting guard/small forward, Michigan State
The MRI results on his right knee at the pre-draft combine in Chicago became a topic of discussion among NBA teams interested in Valentine. And while he has not been red-flagged, it will likely drop him down a few spots on draft night. The 6-foot-6 Valentine emerged this past season as arguably the best multi-positional player in college basketball, averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. He has often been compared to Boston’s Evan Turner, a key player for the Celtics who becomes a free agent this summer and will likely get more money to play elsewhere. Valentine would be a logical pick to help fill that potential void. Examining Valentine’s body of work, it’s clear that he has top-10 talent but will likely have his named called somewhere near the end of the lottery (top-14) or potentially into the late-teens. Whoever drafts Valentine will be securing one of the biggest steals in the draft.
3. TIMOTHE LUWAWU
Small forward, international
Luwawu won’t be the first international pick of this draft (that’ll be Dragan Bender), but he may have the biggest initial impact. There’s really not a lot to not like about Luwawu. He has the size, strength and athleticism that all teams like, with defense being his calling card. And 3-point shooting, once a major concern about his game, is now one of his strengths after he shot around 40 percent this past season. He didn't work out for teams, reportedly because of an ankle injury suffered near the end of May, but that won’t stop Luwawu from being selected somewhere in the middle of the first round.
2. JAYLEN BROWN
Shooting guard/small forward, California
Brown has ideal size (6-foot-7, 223) to play small forward in the NBA and, when called upon, some power forward in small-ball lineups. Possessing a 7-foot wingspan with deceptive quickness, Brown has the potential to be an elite defensive player in the NBA. Teams also love his ability to slash into the paint and draw contact. However, whatever team drafts him will immediately go to work on improving his shot mechanics, which helps put his erratic shooting at Cal in context. Still, Brown is a solid top-8 pick who could be selected as early as third overall to Boston, which brought him in for a pair of workouts.
1. BRANDON INGRAM
Small forward, Duke
In a league where there’s an extremely high premium on skilled players, skill is what sets Ingram apart from everyone else at the wing position in this year’s draft. He has a skinny-as-hell, wiry 6-foot-9 frame with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, which allows him to shoot with ease over most defenders. He shot 41 percent on 3s in his lone season at Duke, but he also has a nice feel for finding teammates as well. With the Sixers reportedly telling Ben Simmons’ camp that he will be the No. 1 overall pick, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to gobble up Ingram with the No. 2 overall pick and, with his talents, it won’t be long before Ingram will be counted on as a go-to scorer in L.A. But in the meantime he has to add weight to his 196-pound frame and work towards becoming more explosive in using his above-average ball-handling skills to beat players off the dribble and get to the rim.