Several top SEC players expect to hear their names called during the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday night. The league has continued to produce top talent, and this year looks to be no different.
The SEC is expected to produce the top overall draft pick for the second year in a row after Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns went first overall last June. Four other conference players are expected to be first-round locks, as well.
Here is where the experts are projecting the top SEC draft to land:
Ben Simmons, LSU
- Draft Express: No. 1 to Philadelphia 76ers
- CBS Sports: No. 1 to Philadelphia 76ers
- ESPN: No. 1 to Philadelphia 76ers
- NBADraft.net: No. 1 to Philadelphia 76ers
In his one season at LSU, Simmons was one of the most over-analyzed players in college basketball. Playing on a team with limited talent, he was blamed for an underachieving program that ultimately missed the NCAA tournament.
But on Thursday, Simmons is expected to put all that behind him and become the first man off the board Thursday night. He is a legitimate franchise player, boasting elite ball skills and physical for a player of his size. If he can develop his jump shot, Simmons should be an All-Star for years to come.
Jamal Murray, Kentucky
- Draft Express: No. 6 to New Orleans Pelicans
- CBS Sports: No. 3 to Boston Celtics
- ESPN: No. 6 to New Orleans Pelicans
- NBADraft.net: No. 5 to Minnesota Timberwolves
The talent on this year’s Kentucky team might not have entirely rivaled previous seasons, but Murray separated himself as an elite scorer. He lacks elite athleticism, but his standout shooting skills and high basketball IQ make him a tantalizing prospect.
Murray averaged 20 points per game at Kentucky and shot an astounding 40.8 percent from the 3-point line. He should be a sought-after prospect for any team looking for perimeter help.
Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
- Draft Express: No. 11 to Orlando Magic
- CBS Sports: No. 11 to Orlando Magic
- ESPN: No. 11 to Orlando Magic
- NBADraft.net: No. 11 to Orlando Magic
Less than a year ago, Labissiere was one of the most in-demand players in the nation. But after an inconsistent freshman campaign at Kentucky, there are some doubts about his NBA future. Labissiere averaged just 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, and often got lost in the rotation.
However, scouts are still enamored with Labissiere’s potential. Listed at just under 7-foot, he has the ability to move on the perimeter and defend different positions. He would be an excellent fit for the Magic, where he could line up next to Aaron Gordon to give Orlando a long, athletic frontcourt.
Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
- Draft Express: No. 12 to Utah Jazz
- CBS Sports: No. 17 to Memphis Grizzlies
- ESPN: No. 14 to Chicago Bulls
- NBADraft.net: No. 14 to Chicago Bulls
Baldwin had a breakout season in 2015-16 and will likely leverage it into lottery pick status. The sophomore boasts a tremendous 6-foot-11 wingspan and showed dynamic combo-guard ability during his sophomore campaign, in which he averaged 14.1 points and 5.2 assists per game. Most importantly, Baldwin shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line in each of his two seasons with the Commodores.
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
- Draft Express: No. 28 to Phoenix
- CBS Sports: No. 21 to Atlanta Hawks
- ESPN: No. 30 to Golden State Warriors
- NBADraft.net: No. 23 to Boston Celtics
A few years ago, Jones — a productive big man and who shot just under 60 percent from the field with Vandy last season — could have had a shot at becoming a No. 1 overall pick.
Where Jones has tremendous potential for growth is on the defensive end of the court. He has good lateral mobility, which allows him to rotate on defense. Additionally, he averaged 1.7 blocks per game throughout his career, which is a skill that typically translates. Now, Jones needs to ensure he is able to effectively capitalize on his natural talent more consistently at the pro level.
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
- Draft Express: No. 33 to Los Angeles Clippers
- CBS Sports: No. 29 to San Antonio Spurs
- ESPN: Second round
- NBADraft.net: No. 45 to Boston Celtics
If Ulis was only a few inches taller, he might be one of the top picks in the draft. But listed generously at 5-foot-10 and a just 149 pounds, Ulis compares more to Shane Larkin than he does to star NBA point guards.
Ulis averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 assists per game at Kentucky. For his efforts with the Wildcats, Ulis was named SEC Player of the Year. Unfortunately, between his size and rumored hip injury concerns, Ulis is expected to slip out of the first round.