Five best ‘stretch bigs’ in the 2016 NBA Draft
Five best ‘stretch bigs’ in the draft
BOSTON – Like any other sport, the NBA has its share of trends from time to time.
And right now, the ‘in thing’ for teams is to acquire “stretch bigs” or “stretch forwards” depending on which term you prefer; the kind of players that have the potential to more often than not cause matchup problems offensively.
And while many classify these players as having the ability to shoot well from the perimeter, a stretch big can still be an impactful player and not necessarily be a knock-down, long-range shooter.
Stretch players with above-average ball-handling skills can initiate offensive sets effectively, often finding matchups in transition in part because of their size and ability to see over the top of defenses.
And there are those who aren’t great shooters or passers, but can defend at a high level which allows them to be on the floor provided they are surrounded by plenty of shooters.
In this draft, players with some or most of those traits will be among the first players to fly off the draft board.
Here’s a look at five of the top stretch players in tonight’s NBA draft:
5. Ben Bentil, F, Providence College
Bentil was one of the ACC’s top scorers last season, and showcased a nice inside-outside game in workouts the past month or so. And while he doesn’t have ideal height (6-9) for a stretch big, he more than makes up for that with nice shooting mechanics and a wingspan in the 7-foot neighborhood. His offensive talent coupled with his physical measurables could be just enough for him to slide into the latter stages of the first round.
4. Dragan Bender, PF/C, International
When the draft process began there were questions about what his adjustment to the NBA would be like. And now that we’re on the cusp of the draft, he remains a man of mystery. Still, in the limited amount of time he played this season along with practices, it’s clear to all those who have scouted him that he has a future in the NBA as a versatile big man who can score from the perimeter as well as around the basket. But being the youngest player in the draft (he doesn’t turn 19 until November), there’s no telling how long it will take for the 7-foot-1 big man to start displaying the inside-outside game that so many NBA minds predict will be the hallmark of his success down the road. Bender is a top-10 lock in this draft, and could go as high as No. 3 to Boston.
3. Henry Ellenson, C/PF, Marquette
He only shot 28 percent on 3s last season, but there’s so much to Ellenson’s game that you have to like. Unlike most of the “stretch bigs” in this draft, Ellenson (7-0, 242) tends to be more on the “bigs” side of this with the ability to occasionally stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting. He has one of the more complete offensive games in this draft among big men, but there are concerns as to how effective he will be defensively. He doesn’t move well laterally which has a huge impact on his rim-protecting ability as well as his ineffectiveness when he has to switch out and defend smaller players in pick and rolls. Still, the offensive skills that he possesses will be enough to secure him a first-round spot with the 19-year-old likely to be selected near the end of the lottery (top 14).
2. Ben Simmons, PF/SF, LSU
Simmons will reportedly be taken by Philadelphia with the top overall pick tonight, but he’s not the best stretch big man in this draft. He averaged more than 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game, something that had not been done in 30 years. And yet he failed to get LSU to the NCAA Tournament in large part because teams sagged off him defensively and all but dared him to shoot which more often than not, he didn’t. There are some who question whether that was because he lacked confidence in his shot-making or whether it was because he wanted to stick to his strength which has been to pass up good shot attempts to instead make the extra pass for great ones. Defensively, he has all the physical tools to effectively defend 3s, 4s and 5s as well as some guards depending on the situation. Still, he failed to do it with any consistency at LSU, which has raised questions about his compete level for a player with his immense skills. That said, the talent is undeniable. To see a 6-10, 240-pound man show such exquisite ball-handling skills is impressive and frankly, unheard of, which is why he’s considered a player with transcendent, once-in-a-generation-type potential along the lines of LeBron James when he came into the NBA. Simmons will be the top overall pick tonight.
1. Marquese Chriss, F, Washington
We hear about a player’s upside all the time, but there’s arguably no one in this draft with more than Chriss. At 6-10, he rivals Cal’s Jaylen Brown for the title of most athletic player in this draft. Combine that with him being a 35 percent shooter from 3-point range while shooting 53 percent from the field and you can see why teams are excited about what he can do offensively as a stretch big in the NBA. But there are some concerns about his game that won’t go away. Despite his ability to play (way) above the rim, Chriss is not a very good rebounder. And while you like the fact that he blocked 1.6 shots last season, he committed more than two turnovers for every assist. And then there’s foul trouble, which seemed to plague him throughout his lone season at Washington. But Chriss has only been playing highly competitive basketball for a couple of years so there’s a very steep learning curve awaiting him in terms of understanding what he can and can’t do at this point. Still, when you look at his size, his skills, the under-rated footwork that he possesses, he in many ways has all the physical tools that teams covet a stretch big man. That’s why he’ll be a lottery (top 14) pick who could go as high as No. 3 to Boston.