The NBA Draft is one of the best days on the sports calendar, and 2017 looks to be no different.
We've had a number of trades already go down as the rumors continue to heat up in the hours before the big event. A few lucky teams will turn their fortunes around on Thursday night. Contenders might add even more weapons to their stockpiles. And some poor franchises will believe they've struck gold only to realize they struck out.
The Los Angeles Lakers will draft Lonzo Ball ... and he'll be the best player in the class
The first part of that prediction is by no means bold. The Lakers are taking Ball, just as the universe intended. The other half is a little spicier take, though, given that Markelle Fultz is the consensus No. 1 pick in this year's draft.
Fultz will be a very good professional basketball player who makes a couple of All-Star Games and perhaps plays for a championship-winning team someday. He has the highest floor of anyone in this draft. But for sheer starpower, I'm putting my money on the Big Baller Brand.
Ball's leadership, court vision, unselfishness and catch-and-shoot accuracy will make him one of the best players in the NBA before too long — and easily the best player in the 2017 rookie class.
Richard MacksonUSA TODAY Sports
Harry Giles will go way earlier than you think
Before the Nets dealt for D'Angelo Russell earlier this week, I was convinced Brooklyn planned to package its two late first-round picks to move up to No. 18 or so and take Giles.
A couple of years ago, Giles was the No. 1 prep player in the country. Then, injuries in both high school and college caused him to plummet down draft boards. Most mocks have him going somewhere between the 22nd and 30th picks.
He has lost a step, and his athleticism isn't what it would have been had he stayed healthy, but those same skills still exist. Moreover, Giles received as close to a clean bill of health as he could earlier this week, which should allay some of those health concerns.
Given that the middle of the first round doesn't offer a whole lot of upside in most drafts, count on a team such as the Milwaukee Bucks (who nailed Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15 in 2013 and have the 17th pick this year) or Indiana Pacers (No. 18) to take a chance on a talented big man.
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The Boston Celtics will regret their decisions
Oh, Danny Ainge — always out here overthinking your decisions.
There's a universe where everything works out for the Celtics. They take Jayson Tatum at No. 3 (my sense is they will pass on Josh Jackson), and the Duke forward perfectly complements Jaylen Brown to form a dynamic wing duo at the core of a Boston dynasty. Markelle Fultz reaches his high floor but not his ceiling, Lonzo Ball flames out, and the Celtics emerge as the true Eastern Conference superteam in the post-LeBron era.
Back here in reality, Boston is dancing with the devil. There's a strong probability the Celtics traded an opportunity to take the best player in the draft in exchange for the Lakers' pick next year — let's call it the No. 7 pick — and Ainge's draft history gives you every reason to think Boston will take a bust at No. 3.
With Kristaps Porzingis reportedly on the market, the Celtics could have made the best offer if they still had the No. 1 pick. For Boston's sake, let that be the only regret Ainge has in this draft.
Speaking of Porzingis ...
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Phil Jackson will nail the draft, then ruin his top prospect
The Zen Master deserves most of the criticism he receives as New York's president of basketball operations. He's ruined the Knicks' relationship with Carmelo Anthony, soured Kristaps Porzingis on the franchise and has taken the team back to the stone age with his insistence on the triangle offense.
He's also a pretty good evaluator of talent, as picking Porzingis in the first place shows. I fully expect New York to take international point guard Frank Ntilikina, whose youth (he doesn't turn 19 until December), length and defensive instincts make him one of the most compelling players in the draft.
Two years later, I expect Jackson to decide he's sick of Ntilikina, trade him for next to nothing, then get fired by James Dolan after burning the Knicks to the ground.
It's the New York way.
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This will be one of the most fruitful NBA drafts in recent history
That doesn't necessarily mean there are a ton of superstars in this draft. In fact, I'd be surprised if there are more than two or three real game-changers in the class.
When you look through the first round and the early part of the second, though, you quickly realize how much substantial talent there is this year. Every first-round pick should become a rotation player for his team, and some of those selections past No. 30 will be starters in their own right.
The NBA is only as strong as its superstars, but the depth of role players is a big reason today's game is so entertaining. The 2017 draft should continue to strengthen all 30 teams, with maybe an exception or two.