Sam Smith's (Very Early) 2017 NBA Mock Draft

WITH DRAFT POSITIONS SET, SAM SMITH TAKES AN EARLY LOOK AT WHERE PLAYERS MAY GO

By Sam Smith

So will it be a sweet 16 for the Bulls this year?

That’s where the Bulls officially will select in this year’s NBA draft following Tuesday’s draft lottery results. The Bulls had a miniscule chance of getting a lottery pick from the Sacramento Kings from the Luol Deng trade. Instead, they will get the Kings’ second round pick, No. 38 in this draft.

The Bulls hold onto their No. 16 pick. My early projection is they select Louisville shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.

Mitchell is the exceptionally athletic and explosive undersized Louisville shooting guard. He’s generally regarded as a first round pick in the late teens or 20s on most of the mock draft lists and from team executives. But years watching these drafts should teach you that even the teams end up with a herd mentality. The draft, especially after the top few picks, is about taking chances.

For the Bulls, it would seem the need is a high level athlete. Mitchell is one of the best in this draft, though the pros will point to his size at just over 6-1 without shoes (6-3 with shoes, as he said he does plan to play wearing them). So teams say as a result he then needs to be a point guard. He doesn’t quite have great point guard skills. But you’d be wrong to say he has to be a point guard because he’s not tall enough for shooting guard.

The NBA is about making plays, and Mitchell with superior strength and quickness should be able to do that. Plus, the Bulls badly need that. They have plenty of nice guys (Mitchell seems nice, also) who are skilled and willing to work.

The draft comparison I’d make is Dwyane Wade. And not saying Mitchell is a potential Hall of Famer or Wade’s level of talent. After all, Wade only fell to No. 5 in a great draft.

But the question about Wade coming out of Marquette was his size, just over 6-3 without shoes. Too small for an NBA shooting guard, they said. Sure, but can you stay in front of him? And it’s not like Wade did much classic defending, anyway. But he had that long, 6-10 wingspan which enabled him to be a disrupter. Mitchell has the same 6-10 wingspan. Plus, Mitchell is a well built 210 pounds with 5.9 percent body fat and exceptionally large hands, his 9.5 width similar to most seven footers. Mitchell also was a competent three-point shooter, though was an inconsistent player for Louisville.

Will he be there at No. 16? Are the Bulls even interested?

This, of course, all comes from the usual sources who may or may not know. Since the Bulls still are conducting draft interviews and workouts, and since there’s no way of knowing whether a top prospect could slip through and fall to them, there’s likely no chance the Bulls have made any decision yet as to whom they might select.

Plus, there continues to be trade speculation around the Bulls, which is fairly common among teams that were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. So there’s no way of knowing at this point even whether the Bulls will have their pick, move up or down in the draft.

The Boston Celtics from the previous trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets acquired the right to swap first round picks with the Nets. The Celtics will since the Nets with the league’s poorest record came up No. 1 in the lottery.

The Lakers moved up to the second pick, thus avoiding losing their selection to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sacramento Kings moved up to No. 3 from No. 8. But from a previous trade with the 76ers for Nick Stauskas and salary dumps, the 76ers acquired the right to swap picks with the Kings. The 76ers took on other players from the Kings in that deal as the Kings sought to create cap room for free agents. So the 76ers will select third. The Suns with the second poorest record were a loser in falling to No. 4. The Kings get the 76ers’ selection, which dropped to fifth.

The Patriots, the Red Sox often beating the Yankees, the Celtics opening the Eastern Conference finals at home Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. And now the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft. Good sports times in Boston.

The Celtics seem virtually certain to select Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, regarded as a potentially great offensive talent. The Celtics now feature former Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas, who has become one of the NBA’s elite scorers. The pick could provide Boston the most explosive scoring backcourt in the Eastern Conference.

That would leave the expected pick of UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball to stay home with the Lakers and new chief executive Magic Johnson. Ball, who has gained more notoriety from the antics of his publicity-seeking father, is considered by some a daring playmaker like Johnson and the chance for the Lakers to finally get that potential star player to lead the team.

Here’s an early look at what the draft might look like, though trades could certainly lead to changes.

1. Boston Celtics:

Markelle Fultz, point guard, Washington, 6-4, 190. The Celtics are taking him. When there was all that talk last February about deals, they were making it clear they weren’t offering their pick from Brooklyn if they could get Fultz. Now they have him.

2. Los Angeles Lakers:

Lonzo Ball, point guard, UCLA, 6-6, 185. Maybe Johnson is Magic. The Lakers were facing losing their pick. Not only did they keep it, they moved up to basically assure acquiring the guy their fans want and who already is the biggest media personality of the draft. Perfect for L.A.

3. Philadelphia 76ers:

De’Aaron Fox, point guard, Kentucky, 6-6, 175. He’s projected basically a few picks lower, but the 76ers could use a point guard. They have last year’s No. 1, Ben Simmons, as a point forward and Fox looks like a bigtime pro playmaker. The 76ers, if healthy, of course, have the makings of a wildly entertaining group.

4. Phoenix Suns:

Josh Jackson, small forward, Kansas, 6-7, 195. A top two-way talent who may be just that good they’ll keep him. But this is where the trade talk should begin. They’ve got a young core and have been rumored to want veteran talent. But with Fultz, Ball and Fox perhaps gone, would No. 4 be attractive enough to land a great player? They probably keep the pick in the end.

5. Sacramento Kings:

Frank Ntilikina, France, point guard, 6-4, 190. Another bad lottery day for the Kings in losing a top three pick and the chance for a top point guard. Though some scouts say that describes Ntilikina as well. He’s considered an impressive and controlled all around player, and the Kings’ international management probably wouldn’t hesitate about a European.

6. Orlando Magic:

Malik Monk, shooting guard, Kentucky, 6-3, 195. They’re the poster team for blow-it-up bad luck. They basically never get lucky in the lottery, so all those losing seasons just don’t equal a star. Not that there are many. Monk’s regarded as probably the best perimeter shooter/scorer in this draft and those are good things to have.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves:

Jason Tatum, small forward, Duke, 6-7, 200. They probably most need a power forward to complement Karl Anthony-Towns. And they’ve got some good wing players, but he may be too talented to pass up as many had him a top five in this draft. He also could enable the Timberwolves to cash in one of their other young stars in trade for a top veteran.

8. New York Knicks:

Dennis Smith, point guard, North Carolina State, 6-2, 195. Perhaps another team moving on from Derrick Rose. Smith is a highlight, athletic point guard, which doesn’t sound like the triangle offense. Not a great long distance shooter and sometimes loses concentration, but exciting talent. New York needs that.

9. Dallas Mavericks:

Lauri Markkanen, power forward, Arizona, 7-0, 230. And not just because he’s been most likened to Dirk Nowitzki. A classic big man shooter for this era’s kind of game who can also handle the ball like Joakim Noah and almost too perfect as an understudy for Dirk in his last years.

10. Sacramento Kings:

Jonathan Isaac, small forward, Florida State, 6-9, 210. He’s a versatile big man for this era who can shoot the ball and make plays. With their trade of DeMarcus Cousins, he can be part of a young core, though they’re still in need of a point guard.

11. Charlotte Hornets:

Zach Collins, center, Gonzaga, 6-11, 232. Hasn’t played a lot yet given circumstances in college, but he can play center and power forward. He is a smooth player, skilled with a good touch and feel. He’ll be a nice big man to complement their perimeter strength.

12. Detroit Pistons:

Justin Patton, center, Creighton, 7-0, 230. One of the top big men is a good athlete and active. They struggled with Andre Drummond’s motivation this season. As well as free throw shooting. Figure they want to make some dramatic moves after a disappointing season. Perhaps package up Drummond for a quick rebuild?

13. Denver Nuggets:

Terrance Ferguson, shooting guard, Australia, 6-6, 185. He left high school to play a year in Australia instead of college. Though kids don’t play that much in the pro leagues when they do that, he’s shown a knock down long shooting game with athletic ability to fit into the run and gun game they like to play in Denver.

14. Miami Heat:

Justin Jackson, small forward, North Carolina, 6-6, 220. Perhaps the most ready to play, which fits more with the Heat. Does a lot of things that fit the NBA game right away with defense, switching, knowledge of the game, athletic ability and a decent shot.

15. Portland Trailblazers:

T.J. Leaf, power forward, UCLA, 6-9, 222. He’s a good shooter who can play pick and pop well with their high scoring guards. He’s a good athlete who can play a complimentary role well.

16. Bulls:

Donovan Mitchell, shooting guard, Louisville, 6-1, 210. Some might suggest the Bulls select Duke’s Luke Kennard, who is the more classic size for a shooting guard, close to 6-6 and 200 pounds. Plus he’s probably just behind Monk as the top shooting guard in the class. But athletic ability and defense would be the issue with him, and the Bulls have had great shooters who struggle with defense. I’m guessing Jimmy Butler remains with the team and it would be good to have another high level athlete to play with him and another player who can defend the perimeter. Perhaps not your 6-7 forwards, but strength and quickness is perhaps more vital on defense than size. There are several good big men, like John Collins of Wake Forest, Texas’ Jarrett Allen. Bam Adebayo of Kentucky, Harry Giles of Duke and Ivan Rabb of California. They have appeared on draft lists recommended (or guessed) for the Bulls. There’s athletic, 6-4 shooting guard Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky. Just spectating, though, since he never played in college or worked out for NBA scouts. Supposedly, he has a nice smile. Mitchell also could move up in the draft given his athletic abilities, but he feels like the right fit for this Bulls team.

38. Bulls:

Nigel Williams-Goss, point guard, Gonzaga, 6-2, 190. This is the pick from the Luol Deng trade that never quite became the lottery pick the Bulls hoped given the Kings’ ineptitude. You never know who might slip through the first round, and the Bucks probably have the rookie of the year with a second rounder. The Celtics have their leading scorer from the second round. There are several players with big ifs in this draft because of injury, like Indiana’s OG Anunoby and Duke’s Giles. Maybe teams don’t take the risk for a guaranteed deal. Or Diallo who didn’t play for anyone. Probably players like Duke’s Frank Jackson, South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier, Alec Peters of Valparaiso, Purdue Caleb Swanigan, Florida State shooting guard Dwyane Bacon or international big man Isaiah Hartenstein. With all the point guard tryouts the Bulls had last season, no one but Rajon Rondo was a playmaker. Nigel-Goss isn’t one of those super athletes. But he’s a pure point guard who can run an offense, shoot well and keep the ball moving. Maybe Fred Hoiberg lobbies for Iowa State point guard Monte Morris, who also is a good shooter and known for taking care of the ball on offense. The Bulls still need that backup point guard, as the playoffs after Game 2 demonstrated.

The fun and guessing just begins.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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