ESPN’s Chad Ford has released a new mock draft (Insider) following the NBA Draft lottery, and he has a certain SEC player going first overall to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ford has the Sixers selecting LSU forward Ben Simmons with the first overall pick. Simmons knows Philadelphia coach Brett Brown from Brown’s stint coaching in Australia; Simmons is also a playmaker the Sixers desperately need. He averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in his freshman season with the Tigers.
Ford also has an SEC player going third overall in the NBA Draft: Kentucky guard Jamal Murray to the Boston Celtics. Ford thinks it’s possible the Celtics will try to trade this pick — if they don’t, Ford thinks Murray’s versatility and shooting skills make him an appealing option No. 3. Murray finished his freshman season in 2015 with 20.1 points per game.
The next SEC player in Ford’s projections shows up at No. 11, with Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere going to the Orlando Magic. Ford likes the way Labissiere’s defensive abilities can complement what Nikola Vucevic does for the Magic on the court. Last season for the Wildcats, Labissiere averaged 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, and added 59 total blocked shots.
Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis is the next SEC player in Ford’s mock, going to the Denver Nuggets with the 15th pick. Ulis earned SEC Player of the Year honors last season while contributing 17.3 points, seven assists and three rebounds per game for the Wildcats.
The last SEC player Ford predicts as a first-round selection is Vanderbilt guard Wade Baldwin IV. Ford has Baldwin going to the Detroit Pistons with the No. 18 pick. Baldwin averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 assists and four rebounds per game for the Commodores last season. Ford thinks Baldwin’s size and the Pistons’ lack of depth at guard make him a likely selection.
Ford had 11 SEC players included in his top 100 NBA Draft prospects list. In addition to the five listed above who made Ford’s top 20, Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (No. 57), LSU guard Tim Quarterman (No. 66), Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe (No. 74), Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith (No. 79) and Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (No. 81) were listed in his top 100.
The NBA Draft will take place on June 23 on ESPN.