With the 2017 NBA Draft order decided, we can now take a more realistic look at where prospects are likely to end up this June.
Half the waiting is now over. The 2017 NBA Draft order is set. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers hold the top two picks, and Sacramento’s third overall pick swapped with the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 5.
Half the angst of the NBA Draft is where teams end up. Now that that part is over, the real fun begins. No longer do we have to bask in as many endless possibilities. We’ve officially entered peak mock draft season.
While the order is determined, there’s still plenty we don’t know. Boston and Los Angeles are both potentially in the market to trade for a star. The Sixers likely won’t get to draft Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, the two bets fits for the team. Where do they go if those guys are gone? How does Sacramento handle having two top-10 picks?
After the lottery, this draft class dips a bit. However, the late-first rounders into the second round are very deep and interesting. We’ve seen year after year that there is value hiding in that 25-60 range, and we’re not talking just Draymond Green. With still plenty of suspense to be had, here’s a first jab at the 2017 NBA Draft following the finalized order. The Boston Celtics are on the clock.
Feb 4, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz (20) dribbles against UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) during the first half at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no telling how many phone calls Danny Ainge takes over the Boston Celtics picks from the Brooklyn Nets. After winning the 2017 NBA Lottery, it’s going to go up exponentially. Whether Boston keeps or trades the pick, the reality is Markelle Fultz is the number one pick in this draft.
Should Boston keep him, Fultz can coexist with any of the Celtics’ guards and can grow into stardom with less pressure on him. Fultz can facilitate and score, the perfect foil for both Isaiah Thomas or Avery Bradley.
Should Boston trade the pick, they have higher value with Fultz in a package than someone like Lonzo Ball or Josh Jackson. Winning this lottery is about flexibility. It gives them the chance to extend their winning basketball or rev up to challenge Cleveland with the addition of someone like Jimmy Butler.
But Boston might not trade the pick. If they don’t, Fultz gives them a complete pick-and-roll guard that only makes Boston’s future brighter. He has the potential to grow into the best player drafted by the Celtics since Paul Pierce. That’s someone they may want to hold on to. Fultz is the type of prospect you hope you end up with after securing those picks from Brooklyn.
Mar 17, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) reacts on the court against the Kent State Golden Flashes in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I want to be a contrarian here, but Lonzo Ball and the Lakers are meant to be. That has nothing to do with LaVar and everything to do with Lonzo. The Lakers are a professional team that can handle any antics from LaVar. That being said, he was not a problem at UCLA. In Lonzo, the Lakers get the LA kid, someone who has played basketball nearly his whole life, and a player whose intelligence and selflessness adds to what Luke Walton is trying to build.
By keeping their 2017 pick – and 2019 as a result of that – the Lakers can continue to build on a promising young core. Building on that young core with Lonzo Ball makes a lot of sense. Ball could be an absolute stud, but it has to be the right fit. Los Angeles is one of the better fits out there for him. Not to mention, he’ll be a happier camper playing in Los Angeles.
Contrary to what many say, Ball is a great fit with D’Angelo Russell. Where Russell thrives on ball and in the pick-and-roll, Ball can be a secondary creator. Additionally, playing off the ball allows Lonzo to exercise his talent as a cutter and can still stretch opponents out because of his three-point range.
If Ball can transform UCLA with such a low usage rate as a teenager, just imagine what he’s capable of in a few years time playing for his hometown team.
THE PICKS SWAPPED! Do yourself a favor and praise Sam Hinkie. Now, Ball and Fultz seem to be the consensus top-two prospects, so No. 3 with Philadelphia is where things get interesting. The team is in dire need of backcourt scoring and a point guard, but plans on letting Ben Simmons run the show.
Therefore, the best complements to Simmons are Malik Monk and Frank Ntilikina. Reaching for either player at No. 3 would be too high, though. Philadelphia could trade back, pick up assets and get that perfect guard. If they stand pat, they’re likely to have to choose best player available over fit.
When it comes to this debate, Philadelphia’s roster is still very unknown. Simmons hasn’t played a game and Joel Embiid has yet to play more than 31 games in one season. Yes it would make sense to find a 2017 draft pick that fit with those players, but best player available also gives the Sixers an insurance policy on their injured duo. That’s where Josh Jackson comes in. Where other point guards and Jayson Tatum are too ball dominant, Jackson is both the best fit of the remaining prospects and the best player available.
Jackson does not need the ball and if he figures out his jump shot, we’re looking at a two-way All-Star similar to Andre Iguodala. Even if Jackson stays a non-shooter, he provides secondary playmaking, tremendous potential on defense, an electric motor and a solid cutter. Jackson allows the Sixers to both swing for the fences and commit to a prospect that would fit well between Embiid and Simmons if everything goes right. At the very least, who exactly is scoring on a Jackson-Embiid-Simmons-Robert Covington defense?
Mar 9, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) controls the ball against Louisville Cardinals forward Mangok Mathiang (12) during the second half of an ACC Conference Tournament game at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sportsat Barclays Center.
With a crowded backcourt, Phoenix will hope that either Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum falls to them at No. 4. The Suns theoretically could draft a point guard and start calling teams about Eric Bledsoe, but Bledsoe is on a great deal and there’s a huge hole on the wing. Jonathan Isaac is certainly an option, especially if Jackson is taken in the top-three. Phoenix, though, will ignore the temptations to draft a unicorn wing in Isaac and go with a safer pick in Tatum.
Tatum seems to divide draft experts and writers, though not to the same degree as Lonzo Ball. At Duke, Tatum was a prolific scorer by season’s end, showed some promise passing the ball, and even glimpses of at least not being a minus on defense. At bare minimum, he should generate plenty of steals and blocks.
Tatum straight up knows how to score. Alongside Devin Booker, the Suns will have all the scoring they’d ever need for the next decade. There’s a chance Isaac just becomes a super role player, while Tatum could still be a two-way star. And it’s unlikely Tatum never becomes a 20 points per game scorer at the very least. Phoenix surely would have loved being in the top-three, but a player as talented as Tatum doesn’t come along very often at No. 4.
Mar 7, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Avry Holmes (12) defends North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Dennis Smith Jr. (4) during the first half during the ACC Conference Tournament at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Smith Jr.
PG, NC State
De’Aaron Fox is one of the hottest names in the NBA Draft right now and sites like Draft Express have the Kings picking him here at No. 5. He’s high for good reason and for a Kings team looking to start over, it makes sense. Fox has potential on defense and is extremely likable. Sacramento could very likely draft him, but I’d go with someone else.
The Kings don’t have a lot right now in terms of young talent. They also lose their 2019 first round pick to Philadelphia. That’s why they should swing for a star here at No. 5. Fox could be a great two-way point guard one day, but Dennis Smith Jr. could be one of the most dominant offensive point guards in the NBA.
Despite playing with awful spacing and worse teammates, Smith Jr. put up 18 points and six assists per game, showing promise from three-point range by shooting 36 percent. Smith Jr. will never be a good defender, but he could be an elite offensive point guard who can score from all three levels. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Smith Jr. feels his character is being targeted because of his body language and losing so much. He may come in with a huge chip on his shoulder, in addition to all the hype Ball, Fox and Fultz get.
He’s also still getting his confidence fully back from a torn ACL. His burst is still tremendous and he showed his ability to create for teammates despite no talent or space around him. Smith Jr. is going to eat when he gets to NBA-level spacing. The Kings should invest in a dynamite scorer who can carry the offensive load as the other pieces gradually fill in.
Mar 15, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) addresses the media during a press conference prior to the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
SF/PF, Florida State
The fact that De’Aaron Fox could fall past No. 6 is no knock on him, but rather indicative of the depth of this lottery and the point guard position. Frank Vogel would love to coach Fox, but with Elfrid Payton having a similar game to some degree, it makes sense for Orlando to avoid drafting a point guard here.
Malik Monk could be a nice addition, but the Magic already have a lot of minutes and money invested in Payton, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross. Monk would only really be able to play with either Payton or Fournier, and pairing with the latter would be a disaster on D. Therefore, they should go for more of a home run with Jonathan Isaac.
It’s unclear what the core is going forward in Orlando, but Aaron Gordon, Payton and Fournier appear to be the best bets. With a weak draft at center and plenty of options on the roster, Isaac’s ability to defend multiple positions is a great fit for this team. Isaac even has the potential to be a long-term small-ball 5 in some situations. He and Gordon can interchange up front and his shooting as a big man bodes well for a poor shooting point guard in Payton.
Isaac would allow Vogel to play Gordon more at the 4 and would be the Magic’s best option for an All-Star at this point. If Isaac improves his play off the dribble and his passing, the sky’s the limit. Some worry about his feel and his ability to dominate offensively, but the tools are there for a star to be born.
Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (5) reacts after a three-point basket against the Wichita State Shockers during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports
Every mock draft under the sun has Jonathan Isaac ending up in Minnesota, but it wouldn’t surprise me if someone in the top-six fell in love with his size and skill. If Minnesota is looking at things with Isaac off the board, look no further than Malik Monk.
Lauri Markannen could fit in between Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but it’s unclear how much he can do aside from shooting. Monk is another shooter, but has more upside in terms of defending and passing.
It’s unlikely Monk ever becomes an adept enough passer to turn into a point guard or primary ball handler, but the idea that he’s just a shooter is a lazy narrative. In addition to passes like the one below, Monk makes terrific plays in transition, where his athleticism can shine. He’s prone to bad passes on the break, but he should get better with those reads the older he gets.
His bread and butter, though, is his jumper. Monk gets terrific elevation on his jump shot and will be tough to abandon when teams want to double Towns or Wiggins. Minnesota will also get to run plenty of screen action for him, which he was deadly out of at Kentucky.
Defensively, he’ll never be able to guard shooting guards well, but wouldn’t need to in a backcourt with Ricky Rubio. Monk has the potential to be an average defender guarding other point guards, as long as he has some help.
In short, he won’t add the defensive potential that Isaac could have unlocked, but Monk is still a great complementary piece for a T-Wolves team that needs to make a jump next season.
There’s some underrated goodness to Monk’s passing. Excels hitting the dive man in PNR. Can’t ignore accuracy here https://t.co/A6RtXerLEv
Mar 26, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox (0) drives against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Theo Pinson (left) in the first half during the finals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
One of De’Aaron Fox or Dennis Smith Jr. is likely to fall a bit on draft night. The New York Knicks will be hoping one of them falls all the way to No. 8. Rumors have it the Knicks have their eyes on French combo guard Frank Ntilikina, but they should avoid temptation if Fox is still available. Fox has two-way point guard written all over him and should be extremely coachable if Phil Jackson is still insisting on the Knicks playing the Triangle.
Fox shot the ball poorly, but has solid mechanics, leading me to believe he’ll become an average shooter. He’s not John Wall, but the progression of Wall’s jumper leaves room for optimism.
Fox is also a perfect guard for Kristaps Porzingis, a potential star the Knicks need to make happier. With Fox’s speed and finishing ability, a Porzingis pick-and-pop is going to be a tough guard. From his time at Kentucky, and that monster 39-point performance against UCLA, Fox can handle the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
Most of all, Fox is a high character kid, which is something the Knicks could really use. He’s someone who I really believe will grow into a phenomenal leader. Fox’s energy will impact the Knicks on and off the court. He might even help Porzingis want to stay.
The Knicks must nail this pick given how few pieces they have to work with and an aging Carmelo Anthony. Fox might not have the highest ceiling of all the point guards in this draft, but the Knicks will gladly scoop him up here.
Mar 27, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) in action during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the American Airlines Center. The Thunder defeat the Mavericks 92-91. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The 2017 NBA Draft has a significant drop-off after the first 10-12 picks. Donovan Mitchell and Zach Collins are becoming draft sweethearts, but Dallas should really be deciding between Lauri Markkanen and Frank Ntilikina. Because of Markkanen’s inability to do much outside of shooting, Ntilikina should be Dallas’ pick here.
Frank Ntilikina is one of my favorite prospects, who could be a top-five pick in a normal draft. At 6-foot-5 with an enormous wingspan, he can guard three positions at the next level and he’s one of the youngest players in the draft. Ntilikina is extremely mature for his age, very driven and managed to get playing time in the top division in France.
He turned himself into a top-10 prospect by improving as a jump shooter. Strasbourg moved him to shooting guard, which allowed him to guard bigger players and improve his shooting. He won’t be ready to be a lead guard 1-2 years into the league, but he could turn into one as he matures and bulks up.
For now, he’s a mean defender with a good eye for passing and an improving jumper. He doesn’t have the same burst of Fox and Smith Jr., but he’s a very solid athlete nonetheless. Between his intelligence and demeanor, Ntilikina’s potential could be unlocked by Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. Alongside Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel, the Mavericks would be in a prime position for gradual improvement.
Jan 5, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) is defended by Utah Utes forward David Collette (13) during the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
A combination of Dennis Smith Jr. and Lauri Markkanen won’t win any games with their defense, but at this point in the draft the Kings should go with the best player available. Many scouts and teams might consider Donovan Mitchell, Zach Collins or even OG Anunoby, but Markkanen’s floor is too high to pass up here. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Sacramento passed on Markkanen, though.
It’s hard to knock a seven-footer who might be the best shooting big man to ever enter the NBA Draft. However, watch one game of his and you can see how little legitimacy there is in claiming him as the next great stretch-4.
He’s no Kevin Love, as he is a poor rebounder and rarely makes plays for his teammates. Markkanen isn’t a total disaster on defense, but will get destroyed out on the perimeter and can’t really protect the rim. So why draft him this high, right?
Well, a good defense can hide a lot of these issues, and if he can hit 40+ percent of his threes, that’s invaluable in the modern NBA from a big man. Smith Jr. never played with real space at NC State and he never played with a stretch big like Markkanen. Similar to a Fox-Porzingis pairing, these two might be even better.
Markkanen might be limited in playoff basketball experience, but the Kings are far from that as a regularity. He’s likely better off as a center and could be hidden next to a good defensive 4. If the Kings think they can improve and hide many of his deficiencies, this is great value at No. 10.
Feb 26, 2017; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Donovan Mitchell (45) dribbles against Syracuse Orange guard Frank Howard (1) during the first half at KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Donovan Mitchell has been one of the fastest risers in the NBA Draft. After impressing at the combine with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and a chiseled physique, Mitchell will likely go in the lottery. The former-Louisville player was up and down throughout his sophomore year, ultimately the focus of the offense. That led to him doing a little bit of everything, which he won’t be tasked with at the next level.
Right now, he projects to be a tough, plus defender who can add secondary playmaking. If he can shoot above 35 percent from three, he could have an Avery Bradley-like impact on an NBA team. Despite shooting just 35 percent from three, Mitchell hit nearly 81 percent of his free throws, a positive sign for his jump shot improving.
Charlotte has no quality depth on the wing or at point guard, so there may be playing time right away for Mitchell. He’s a guy who could potentially start with Kemba Walker in the backcourt and guard opposing 2-guards. Having extra wing help with injuries to Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a massive help. Not only could Mitchell supply that support, but he’d do so without cutting into the Hornets’ cap. And he’d be an immediate contributor for a team focused on returning to the postseason.
Apr 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Zach Collins (32) dunks the ball against North Carolina Tar Heels guard Nate Britt (0) during the first half in the championship game of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Collins is a top-10 talent that would make the Detroit Pistons very happy. The Pistons are in a weird position where they are young and talented, but going nowhere at the moment. Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson have been disappointing, and Andre Drummond has yet to become a franchise player. They have a plethora of solid wings and stretch-4s, but they struggled whenever Drummond left the floor. Not to mention, he often hurt the team by missing so many free throws.
A teenager from Gonzaga won’t be able to fix any of that right away, but he provides a long-term backup policy on Drummond. Stan Van Gundy could be the right coach to push the right buttons with Collins. While raw, Collins has the potential to be a complete big who can pass, shoot and protect the rim. If he can nail down Detroit’s defensive concepts, there’s no reason he can’t take Boban Marjanovic’s minutes.
While Drummond will be locked up for a while, Collins can either become one of the league’s best backups, trade bait, or Drummond’s eventual successor. It’s not the best fit, but Detroit doesn’t have too many other needs with so many point guards gone at this point in the draft. If Mitchell slides past everyone, he’d be a good pick here too. If Collins can make the bigs of Gonzaga obsolete, there’s no telling who can hold this kid back with age.
Mar 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward OG Anunoby (3) loses the ball out of bounds against the Michigan Wolverines during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Michigan wins 72-69. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Were it not for a torn ACL, we might be talking about OG Anunoby as a top-10 pick. He might still go there, but it’s more likely he goes in the 11-20 range. Drafting him will be contingent on liking what his medical records show about his injury and who else has been taken. That being said, Anunoby is a good investment if his medical checks out.
Even though Anunoby is extremely raw offensively, he could be the best defender in this draft depending on health. At the NBA Draft Combine, he weighed in at 232 pounds, standing 6-foot-8 with a wingspan over 7-foot-2. Now, that’s not the insane 7-foot-6 wingspan that was rumored, but impressive nonetheless. With great agility and massive hands, Anunoby could be the next destroyer of worlds on the defensive end.
If you’re looking for the next small-ball power forward who can switch everything and protect the rim, Anunoby is your guy. Without a long future pledged to any of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari or Kenneth Faried, Anunoby could help lessen the blow of losing some of their forwards.
Even if he doesn’t develop a three-point shot, Anunoby could fit well in a lineup of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic, with one more shooter. He could be the perfect 4 to play with Jokic thanks to his defensive prowess. With his floor likely to be a bulkier Andre Roberson, this doesn’t seem like a bad gamble for Denver.
Feb 11, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard (5) reacts after scoring against the Clemson Tigers in the second half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Fourteenth is a little high for Kennard, but I love the idea of him replacing Dion Waiters as the sixth man of the Heat. Waiters can be a free agent this summer and will likely look for a long-term contract. This opens the way for Kennard, a silky, smooth scorer, who can make some nice passes at times too. Kennard and Erik Spoelstra would also be a great match together, giving Miami a guy ready to contribute right away.
Kennard is going to struggle against NBA length, which is why he seems best suited for a bench role. That doesn’t mean he can’t play a big role off of it, though. Kennard could run the offense off the bench as a smooth operator in the pick-and-roll, and a lights out shooter. The Heat could go small with Winslow at the 4 and Tyler Johnson potentially running the point. Kennard could even get some time with the starters because of his ability to knock down the three.
While he’s not the athlete that Gordon Hayward is, thus challenging his defensive ceiling, there’s no reason he can’t be a poor man’s version of Hayward on offense. Being a lefty will benefit Kennard, as he gets craftier. Additionally, he already has made use of hesitation dribbling, which he’ll need to add to at the next level. Miami will be hoping one of the 13 players already selected drops, but Kennard wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize at all.
Feb 23, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins forward Ike Anigbogu (13) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Wells-Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Where the Sixers control the lottery, the Blazers will dictate how picks 15-30 go. At No. 15, Portland has their first of three first-rounders. And the thing is, the Blazers absolutely do not need all three because their roster is so congested. Expect them to try and package these picks to trade up on draft night. For the sake of this mock draft, they’re going to keep all three and use their first on a project big man in Ike Anigbogu.
Despite playing a bigger role at UCLA, don’t be surprised if T.J. Leaf gets drafted after Anigbogu. While Leaf could turn into a lethal stretch-4, his teammate has the makings of the next great defensive center. Anigbogu averaged just 13 minutes per game, but put up 12.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes.
He can’t do much offensively yet, but has a ridiculous 7-foot-6 wingspan, in addition to already weighing over 250 pounds. Anigbogu isn’t even 19 yet! Just imagine what he’ll be like in his physical prime. Someone in the first 20 picks is going to fall in love with his motor and physical tools. With three picks and only Jusuf Nurkic as a strong option at center, Portland would be smart to add Anigbogu to their team.
Mar 4, 2017; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Jawun Evans (1) drives to the basket as Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) defends during the second half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Kansas won 90-85. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
PG, Oklahoma State
The Chicago Bulls are one of the few teams that really need a little bit of everything. Aside from Jimmy Butler, they have absolutely no one proven on the wings. With the possible impending departures of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, who may not want to stay after a season with more in common with a dumpster fire, they are in need of new recruits. They could opt for a young big man to invest in like Justin Patton out of Creighton or Jarrett Allen from Texas, but there’s more stability up front than in the backcourt.
That’s why Chicago should go all in on Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans. Evans won’t be Chris Paul or Isaiah Thomas, but he could be the next great small point guard. Evans stands under 6 feet tall, but possess a 6-foot-5 wingspan, which should allow him to work towards being at least an average defender. He’s less likely to be Thomas on defense.
Offensively, there’s a lot to like. For example, Evans might be the best pick-and-roll point guard in this draft class not named Markelle Fultz.
At Oklahoma State last season, Evans assisted on nearly 44 percent of his team’s buckets when he was on the floor. He’s also showed promise as a shooter, hitting 40.7 percent of his threes through two college seasons, per Sports-Reference. Owning that three-ball will be imperative for him in the NBA. Chicago needs fresh faces, so who better than a small point guard who plays with a chip on his shoulder and is excellent at spreading the rock?
Feb 20, 2017; Morgantown, WV, USA; Texas Longhorns forward Jarrett Allen (31) dunks the ball during the first half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not hard to figure out the Milwaukee Bucks’ plan going forward: placing long and athletic players around Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’re definitely in need of more shooters, especially with Tony Snell’s potential free agency this summer. Don’t be surprised if they take Hamidou Diallo here if he stays in the draft.
Still, between Greg Monroe’s free agency and a youthful frontcourt of John Henson and Thon Maker, the Bucks could use some more depth up front. At No. 17, Milwaukee goes for a safer long-term big man in Jarrett Allen. Justin Patton would be the real swing for the fences here, but I’d be concerned over his feel and being labeled soft. Allen also measured better than Patton, with a longer wingspan and a higher weight despite being younger than Patton.
With potential to protect the rim, dive to the hole and score in the paint, the Bucks may believe they can turn him into a starting center. The biggest sign of optimism for Allen was hitting 47.7 percent of two-point jumpers, which made up 55 percent of his field goal attempts. Given that 42 percent of those were assisted, per Hoop-Math, it shows potential for him to be a pick-and-pop weapon, even if only from midrange. He’ll have to better than 56 percent from the free throw line, though.
Apr 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) works around Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Silas Melson (0) during the second half in the championship game of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Indiana Pacers are in a tough position overall and in the draft. All signs point to Paul George leaving by next summer and they don’t really have much going for them other than Myles Turner. They’re better off getting a bunch of picks and young players to start their next rebuild. That makes this pick so tough. Does Indiana go for upside here, banking on a future without PG-13, or do they get a guy who can contribute now?
At this point in the draft, the major upside guys are the international players, Justin Patton and Harry Giles. Given their core guy is Turner and most upside plays here are bigs, they should opt for a guy who could blend in with any roster the Pacers put together.
Justin Jackson was the poster boy for pulling out of the NBA Draft process in 2016. He went back to school, became a lethal three-point shooter, and improved his defense and passing. Jackson won’t be the defender in the NBA he was at UNC, but that would be less of a factor off the bench. A bench role, possibly backing up Paul George, could be his role next season.
Once Indiana figures out its long-term plan, Jackson can be a fifth starter on the wing who spreads the floor and plays the right way. If not, he could potentially grow into a sixth man role or a killer bench guy. It’s not a sexy pick, but sometimes safer picks can be the right move for teams in flux.
January 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (22) dunks to score a basket against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dwight Howard isn’t happy (shocker) and Paul Milsap is a free agent. So yeah, things are going great in Atlanta! The Hawks have some promise with DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince around Dennis Schroder, but that’s basically it. Howard isn’t likely going anywhere with nearly $50 million owed through 2019. So for Atlanta, it likely makes the most sense to try and upgrade at power forward.
Prince will get some looks there, but Atlanta could use more of a stretch-4. That’s where T.J. Leaf comes in. Despite how horrendous he was on defense, he showed himself to be a stretch-4 who could score at all three levels and pass a bit. Leaf cannot be a starting 4 most likely, especially if his team doesn’t have a strong defensive point guard and center. Atlanta would be a better fit to hide Leaf with Howard’s rim protection and Schroder’s toughness, however.
Still, there’s no telling whether Leaf can stay on the court like Kevin Love or not. Even if he can’t stay on the court in a playoff series, he’s going to be a nightmare matchup. Leaf is an underrated athlete and passer, and is going to develop into a monster offensively. With the Hawks’ core built around sound defensive players, Leaf could be a nice addition if Atlanta is buying his three-point shot.
Apr 22, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) watches his team play from the bench against the Golden State Warriors in game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
With its second first round pick after the lottery, Portland looks overseas with Barcelona’s Rodions Kurucs. Though he played mostly for Barcelona’s B team, at just 19 years old, he’s a possible draft-and-stash option for the Blazers. Again, with how many guaranteed contracts they have it’s unlikely they keep all three of these picks. If they end up keeping at least two, it makes sense to look at the international pool.
Though the international class of 2017 is weaker than past years, Kurucs is considered one of the best options after Frank Ntilikina. As an athletic wing, Kurucs could eventually give Portland a shooter and a superb finisher in transition.
He has a long ways to go in terms of improving his ball handling, passing and defense, but much in large to his athleticism, he has tremendous potential to improve in every facet of the game. Putting on more muscle would also certainly help the native of Latvia.
Mar 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds All American guard Terrance Ferguson (6) poses for photos on portrait day at the Marriott Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Terrance Ferguson made a rare decision to go overseas after high school after making the McDonald’s All-American Game. While he surely matured plenty and got great experience, he didn’t exactly kill it in Australia. Ferguson struggled to put up massive numbers or gain an abundance of minutes — just 15 per game, in fact. Still, he projects to be a solid 3-and-D wing, which isn’t easy to find despite the growing popularity of the phrase and archetype. Ferguson’s toughness also likely improved from playing in Australia.
For Oklahoma City, the name of the game is building a team that can help Russell Westbrook. The reality is, they have no real two-way wings besides Victor Oladipo. Oklahoma City will likely re-sign Andre Roberson, but it would be worth investing in a wing that can shoot and defend. Roberson was unplayable for stretches in their playoff series against the Houston Rockets and Westbrook could always use more spacing.
Ferguson likely won’t be a heavy contributor for at least a year or two, but if he can just defend and make threes he’ll be a major upgrade over anyone but Oladipo. There’s no reason he can’t turn into at least someone like Tony Snell, but I’d expect him to be able to exceed that comparison. He’s not the most win-now prospect, but a great fit and investment through Westbrook’s prime.
Apr 10, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson reacts on the side line during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
It’s going to be a tough few years for Brooklyn, especially as Boston capitalizes on their losing seasons. That being said, the Nets, yet again, have bought their way into the first round with an extra pick. Here at No. 22 they’ll get to select a promising talent thanks to that pick swap with the Celtics.
Harry Giles makes a lot of sense as a project-level investment, but I’d be scared to risk that much on their higher pick here. This part of the draft is stocked with upside bigs, but few with as high a ceiling as France’s Jonathan Jeanne.
Jeanne made the trip to the NBA combine and thoroughly impressed. The near-20-year-old stands at 7-foot-2, with a wingspan over 7-foot-6, and a standing reach of 9-foot-5. He likely won’t be Rudy Gobert, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be productive center. Here’s what Draft Express wrote about him following the combine:
“Jeanne did a great job all Combine long of setting screens and rolling to the basket. Despite not having much bulk, he has great timing and knows how to use his body to create space and give his guards the right angle to penetrate and deliver the ball around the rim.”
The biggest thing he’ll have to do is grow as a defender and rim protector. Brooklyn is working on a patient rebuild, so they’ll have plenty of time to help him figure out a better feel for the game.
May 7, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; A general view of t-Shirts draped over the seats at the Air Canada Centre prior to game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The late-first round international trend continues, as Toronto makes its first and only selection on draft night. With the potential to lose Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Kyle Lowry in free agency, Toronto could look very different next season. As free agency occurs after the draft, the Raptors should be patient with this pick, opting for Isaiah Hartenstein.
At 7-foot-1, weighing over 250 pounds, Hartenstein is already built for the NBA. He looks to play with a physical edge and will be able to protect the rim some. For more context, here’s what Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of Draft Express wrote after seeing him at the Nike Hoop Summit:
“Hartenstein may very well turn into a threat from NBA three down the road, but he showed that he has quite a bit of room to improve in that regard. His overall skill set offensively could use some polishing.”
He likely needs another year or two to get better, giving Toronto the chance to keep a useful player abroad and save cap space. With a good track record of drafting foreign players, don’t be surprised if that’s where Toronto goes on draft night.
Feb 15, 2017; Newark, NJ, USA; Creighton Bluejays center Justin Patton (23) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Seton Hall Pirates at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The Utah Jazz are one of a handful of teams with multiple first round picks in 2017. Their first pick comes here at No. 24 with their second coming at No. 30. Utah’s offseason focus will be bringing back Gordon Hayward, but they could lose him and George Hill. Hill was a tremendous pickup for the team and would leave the Jazz without a strong point guard. But at this point in the draft, there aren’t any great point guard options.
That’s why Utah should take a chance on Justin Patton here. Patton has potential to land in the lottery because of his size and skill, but never put it all together at Creighton. He won’t be expected to start thanks to Rudy Gobert and Utah could bring him into a backup center role.
As Derrick Favors approaches free agency in 2018, developing a young big could help Utah save a lot of money. The Favors-Gobert combo was a nightmare for spacing anyways. Between Patton and Trey Lyles, Utah would have nice, young bigs that Gobert could mentor.
Additionally, Utah could look to trade Favors for help at either power forward or point guard. If Patton can get tougher, he could become a big who can protect the rim and score inside and out. Utah was a top-4 team in the West – they don’t need a rookie to move the needle next season. Take Patton and invest in a high upside big if he falls this far.
Orlando looks to make its second selection here after taking Jonathan Isaac at No. 6. Without a franchise player, the Magic make a second pick in the first round aimed at a high upside prospect. Hamidou Diallo hasn’t played a lot of basketball as of late, but could be a stud if he can put it all together.
At this point, it’s unclear whether he stays in the draft. The talk around teams seems to be that they’re not sure what to make of him and that he has not helped or hurt his stock. Diallo would likely have a better shot at improving his stock by going back to Kentucky. That being said, the Wildcats just brought in another deep class and if he gets a first round promise, why not stay in?
Should he stay in, Orlando would be drafting one of the best athletes in this draft class. In Chicago, Diallo posted the highest vertical leap, and was one of the fastest players for both the shuttle run and three-quarter sprint. While that says a lot about Diallo, the Magic would also be getting one of the rawest players too.
In 2016, Diallo shot 17 percent from three over 18 games sampled by Draft Express. He has plenty of work to do in terms of shooting and developing his offensive game, but if he works hard enough, there’s no reason he can’t be a two-way impact wing. If Orlando, or other teams, can get an interview with him and like what they see, he’s worth a gamble in the twenties.
Feb 18, 2017; Newark, NJ, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) dunks the ball during the first half against the Seton Hall Pirates at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
To sound like a broken record, it’s very unlikely Portland keeps all three picks. However, after looking at some high upside and international players with picks 15 and 20, Portland can add a veteran rookie here in Josh Hart.
Hart seems to have gotten lost in the draft process, where he underwhelmed at times as Villanova’s go-to man. But that’s not the role Hart is destined for in the NBA. At 6-foot-5, with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, he has great size to be a shooting guard. Hart will likely excel as a super role or bench player and should have success similar to Rookie of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon.
If he can bring it on the defensive end and continue the shooting he showed from three, he’s going to be a steal like Brogdon was. Hart shot over 40 percent from three and that’s the shot that he can use to make an NBA career for himself. At 22 years old, Hart will know better than the teenagers taken in the lottery what it takes to work hard and win.
Evam Turner has been a disaster in Portland and the team has very little cap flexibility. Adding a talent like Hart who can contribute right away could help the Blazers find a way to improve next season.
Apr 1, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard PJ Dozier (15) shoots as Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Silas Melson (0) guards during the second half in the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
SG, South Carolina
After taking Jonathan Jeanne with their first pick, the Nets take a gamble on a combo guard with a lot of potential. P.J. Dozier got lost a bit in the amazing season that his teammate Sindarius Thornwell had at South Carolina. Despite not shooting the three-ball well, Dozier averaged nearly 14 points, five rebounds and three assists per game this season.
At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Dozier has the size to guard 2s and 3s. His athletic measurements were off the charts at the NBA Draft Combine too. Despite finishing the season shooting just under 30 percent from three, he did shoot over 40 percent between November and December, per Draft Express. That shows that he has the potential to be a sound shooter.
The other aspect of Dozier’s game that is intriguing is his ability to handle the ball. Make no mistake, it’s highly unlikely he becomes a big point guard. That being said, there’s no reason he can’t be a secondary ball handler at the next level. A backcourt of Dozier and Caris LeVert, however, could be the start of moving forward in Brooklyn.
If the Nets believe in his jumper, they can take a gamble on a combo guard that can add a lot of value in multiple areas. If Dozier falls into the right setting with the right development, he could become a special player and a steal on draft night.
Apr 1, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Jordan Bell (1) dunks during the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
With Lonzo Ball added to a young Laker backcourt, the team could look to improve its wing depth or front line here. There’s a lot to be desired from those positions. Some potential options on the wing could be Sindarius Thornwell or Derrick White. However, don’t be surprised if Luke Walton and co. see a little bit of Draymond Green in Oregon’s Jordan Bell.
Bell is not Green, but offers an intensity and flexibility on defense that is so valued today. He won’t be pushing the break or leading the Lakers in assists, but he’s a rare power forward who could be a small-ball 5 and someone who can guard on the perimeter. There’s a lot to like with guys like Ivica Zubac, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr., but there’s no guarantee any of those guys are long term pieces.
Bell was arguably the Ducks’ most important player as they made a run to the Final Four. He showed that he could anchor a defense, play above the rim and even pass a bit more than expected. That became obvious to everyone who saw him shine at the NBA Draft Combine. In fact, he posted athletic measurements as impressive as the most explosive guards in attendance.
The Randle, Nance Jr. and Zubac trio is going to struggle defensively for awhile. With so much money headed to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, Bell allows the Lakers to get better defensively without having to spend too much cap flexibility. His high motor and defensive potential make him a fascinating pair to the backcourt of the Lakers. Players like Bell help win championships as much as talents like Ball and Russell.
Mar 10, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Harry Giles (1) reacts during the second half of an ACC Conference Tournament game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Can’t you just see the Spurs unlocking Harry Giles’ potential and getting him as close to the prospect he was in high school? If anyone can, it’s the Spurs. It’s more likely they go after an undervalued, older guy like Sindarius Thornwell or Derrick White, but Giles would be really tempting here. As tempting as it might be, he might come with the most risk of anyone.
Giles looked lost at Duke. Even during his best stretches he looked average. Back in high school he could do it all: run, dunk, post up, guard, protect the rim, pass and even shoot a little. Now, he can do almost none of that. But that doesn’t mean the story’s over for Giles. He made a very smart decision to enter the draft because the best environment for him to start getting his game back is through an NBA team’s development program.
Between the retirement of Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge’s fall from grace, the Spurs don’t have a whole lot up front. Dejounte Murray showed some promise, so rather than taking another guard, why not take a chance on Giles?
There’s a chance that even if Giles doesn’t bounce all the way back that he can be a really solid center that can do a little bit of everything. In addition, there’s always the slightest chance he becomes close to the prospect he once was and that would be the most Spurs thing ever. If anyone has the best shot at getting the most out of him, it’s the best-run franchise of the past 20 years.
Jan 28, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) reacts after a play in the second half against the Oregon Ducks at Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Ducks 74-65. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
After going with the upside of Justin Patton at No. 24, Utah pulls a page out of San Antonio’s book and takes an overlooked prospect with the last pick in the first round. Derrick White is a journeyman, 23 years of age, and someone who spent much of his college career playing D2 ball. He’s come seemingly out of nowhere to be in contention for a first round pick and with good reason.
White can play the one or the two, measuring at just over 6-foot-4, with a near 6-foot-8 wingspan. Additionally, he was one of the best testers at the NBA Draft Combine, exhibiting athletic upside. This season at Colorado, White put up an impressive line of 18-4-4 and hit 40 percent of his threes.
He also generated plenty of blocks and steals, showing he can be an impact player on defense at the very least. With the potential loss of George Hill, this is a nice gamble for Utah to find someone that can do a lot of what Hill can.
White may not be able to start in the playoffs next season, but he adds everything you’d want in a guard surrounding Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward. His age is a big reason he won’t go as high as his production and skill level. Odds are he’ll make 29 teams pay for not taking him.