2017 NBA Draft
Mock Draft 1.0: Point guard prospects at forefront for Boston Celtics, L.A. Lakers
Pac-12 foes Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball could help rekindle Celtics-Lakers rivalry
The NBA.com first round for the June 22 draft, based on conversations with executives and scouts:
1. Boston Celtics
Markelle Fultz | Washington | PG | 6-4 | 195
Boston has an All-Star at point guard, Isaiah Thomas, but Fultz still fits because he can play off the ball as a tandem with Thomas. Plus, he’s the best talent in the draft. The height at point guard, and 18 years old with the chance to still grow, the ability to create space to get to the rim or pull up from the perimeter, the versatility to play some shooting guard as well – he has been the consensus top pick most of 2016-17. Fultz shot 41.3 percent behind the arc, although also just 64.9 from the line.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball | UCLA | PG | 6-6 | 190
As if the hype machine wasn’t already overheating, the Southern California product gets to stay home with one important reminder: Lonzo is not his dad, his dad is not Lonzo. Family issues are a non-factor for front offices because the Ball who will be drafted comes across as grounded, relaxed and, more than anything, a team player. He has great vision and is a pass-first point guard with the basketball IQ to deliver the ball at the right time and the right place. Then-Washington coach, Lorenzo Romar, speaking to a group of reporters on Feb. 3 moved the hype machine all the way to: “The last time I saw something like this was Magic Johnson with the Lakers.” So no pressure.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Josh Jackson | Kansas | SF | 6-8 | 205
Philly needs shooting, and that’s not Jackson, who showed only occasional three-point range and was just 56.6 percent from the line. But the 76ers also needs help at small forward. Jackson has great size for the position, which along with the physical gifts may eventually allow him to play small-ball power forward after getting older and stronger. And while he can become a great scorer in transition, he can also find the open man.
4. Phoenix Suns
Jayson Tatum | Duke | SF | 6-8 | 205
The question is whether he can develop three-point range, and not just because it is important for a wing. It’s that if Tatum gets that part down as well, he will be close to a complete scorer, able to get points by constantly exploiting openings he finds in transition, with a mid-range game and from offensive rebounds. He has the size for the position.
5. Sacramento Kings
De’Aaron Fox | Kentucky | PG | 6-4 | 170
This could still work out very well for the Kings even after dropping from three to five when the 76ers exercised the option to flip picks. Fox had moments in the NCAA Tournament when he should have been in the conversation for No. 1. Front offices love the speed and nonstop energy that comes across on defense as well as when he pushes the ball in transition, and that he’s not out of control in the process – his assist-to-turnover ratio in the first week of February was 3-1 before finishing at 1.90-1. That’s a good look even if he is the envy of most every point guard with the typical glut of Kentucky talent on the receiving end of the passes. Don’t expect much yet on the jumper, though, especially anywhere close to the three-point line.
Complete coverage of 2017 NBA Draft | DA’s Big Board: Point guards, Shooting guards, Small forwards, Power forwards and Centers.
6. Orlando Magic
Dennis Smith | North Carolina State | PG | 6-3 | 195
Good NBA defenders may have trouble staying in front of Smith as a rookie. He has that much explosiveness, with speed and leaping ability while constantly in attack mode, assets that allow him to break down defenses, get inside and play above the rim at 6-3. The lack of perimeter game, though, means the same defenders will be able to back off. Playing big minutes at a high level was an especially important accomplishment after missing 2015-16, what would have been his senior season in high school, with a knee injury.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
Malik Monk | Kentucky | SG-PG | 6-4 | 185
A few things to counter concerns he is slightly undersized to become an impact shooting guard: That level of athleticism means he can play bigger than 6-4, he is 19 and could add an inch or two, and has promising three-point range after the 39.7 percent as a freshman. And not just success behind the arc. Monk stepped up in clutch situations as a freshman. The NBA loves to see that intangible.
8. New York Knicks
Jonathan Isaac | Florida State | PF-SF | 6-11 | 205
So much of what happens in New York depends on whether Carmelo Anthony takes Phil Jackson’s suggestion to accept a trade, but small forward will soon be a need one way or another. Isaac’s height plus a nine-foot reach creates a lot of possibilities on both sides of the ball, along with rebounding even while obviously needing to put on weight. It’s the ability to handle the ball and create that makes small forward an option. Isaac has already shown the quickness to play there, making the potential versatility as a combo forward an obvious plus.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Frank Ntilikina | France | PG | 6-5 |170
If he is this poised and unselfish with the ball at 18, already 6-5 and with the chance to keep growing, with this much court vision, imagine the possibilities when he becomes an old man of 21 or 22 with NBA experience. Not merely the top true international prospect, Ntilikina has a path to the top half of the lottery if he blows teams away at individual workouts. That he isn’t there already says everything about the depth at point guard this year.
10. Sacramento Kings
Lauri Markkanen | Arizona | PF | 7-0 | 225
The agile, fluid 7-footer is the latest European stretch four bound for the lottery, following Kristaps Porzingis and Dragan Bender. Markkanen, from Finland, will beat defenders down court on the break or pick them apart in half court with range that resulted in making 42.3 percent of his threes while attempting 4.4 per game. In a draft heavy with point guards, he is a big who stands out.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Zach Collins | Gonzaga | PF | 7-0 | 230
Collins had a fast climb up draft boards in the second half of his freshman season, even for someone prominent enough to be a major recruit for the Zags. Although front offices don’t want to over-emphasize one game, the 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the national semifinals at the Final Four showed he can already handle the pressure moments. Collins averaged just 17.2 minutes on a team loaded with veterans, but that was enough to impress the NBA.
12. Detroit Pistons
Justin Jackson | North Carolina | SF | 6-8 |195
He can impact a game on both sides of the ball with energy, mobility and long arms. He finds openings on the defense to score in a variety of ways while his role has increased each of the last three years, to where Jackson was the leading scorer on a national champion. That’s the other thing: Three years in an elite program with the added experience of back-to-back trips to the title game. He does not have three-point range that will force an opponent to come out, but is improving.
13. Denver Nuggets
OG Anunoby | Indiana | SF-PF | 6-8 | 235
Denver needs to get a lot better defensively. Anunoby would have been an easy call as one of the top defenders available until needing season-ending surgery on his right knee from an injury suffered Jan. 18 at Penn State. The health concern will obviously weigh heavily on the minds of front offices. But if Nuggets doctors sign off, this is a fit.
14. Miami Heat
T.J. Leaf | UCLA | PF | 6-10 | 225
Nothing about Leaf jumps out as spectacular. The appeal is that he does a lot of things well, with moves around the basket, range out to the three-point line and passing ability, all the more impressive that it’s as a freshman. He was an important recruit a year ago but not compared to some of the elite high school seniors at the top of 2017 draft boards, and he is not close to the No. 1 prospect from his own school, yet Leaf has jumped out. He benefited from the NBA eyes on Ball.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
John Collins | Wake Forest | PF | 6-10 | 225
He went from 7.3 points and 54.7-percent shooting as a freshman in 2015-16 to 19.2 and 62.2, respectively, this season while playing against the very good competition of the ACC. The offense, beyond scoring inside and capitalizing on offensive rebounds is very much a work in progress. But defensively, although hurt by foul trouble, he is active and could develop into a rebounder and shot blocker in the NBA.
16. Chicago Bulls
Luke Kennard | Duke | SG | 6-5 | 190
Kennard – not Tatum, not Harry Giles or Grayson Allen with more publicity – was Duke’s most dependable scoring threat and also one of the biggest three-point threats in the country. While that range is the obvious selling point, Kennard has a nice offensive game in general, including passing, as part of the big improvements from last season as a freshman. The NBA does not see star potential, but can project a solid career at least as a contributor in the rotation.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
Harry Giles | Duke | PF | 6-11 | 220
On talent, Giles is in the conversation for at least the top five and possibly even No. 1. But he tore ligaments in both knees in high school and missed the first 11 games this season while recovering from a third procedure, arthroscopic surgery on the left knee, meaning a general manager is really, really going to have to trust his medical staff before spending a high pick on Giles. He averaged just 11.5 minutes in 26 games without the consistent standout play front offices want to see from a lottery pick, but also with the understanding 2016-17 was a double transition as a freshman and working back from injury.
18. Indiana Pacers
Donovan Mitchell | Louisville | SG | 6-3 | 210
He has the physical tools, with very good athleticism and strength at 210 pounds, both of which help compensate for being undersized for a shooting guard. But his game is inconsistent and lacks three-point range, two obvious concerns for front offices. He did have some of his better showings against quality opponents.
19. Atlanta Hawks
Jarrett Allen | Texas | C | 6-10 | 235
The size, the big hands, the long reach and wingspan – he will be ready physically. It’s just that Allen does not play physical, doing most of his damage running the court hard and finishing, and following offensive rebounds. Beyond that, his offense needs a lot of work. His level of agility and reach equals the potential to become a good shot blocker and rebounder, and the NBA noticed he strung good games together after a slow start, including the statement of 22 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks at Kansas on Jan. 21. Front offices love to see upward trajectory.
20. Portland Trail Blazers
Justin Patton | Creighton | C | 7-0 | 230
The redshirt freshman, originally not part of the discussion of the heralded first-year players, has surged with athleticism to go with the size. The 18 points on nine-of-12 shooting plus eight rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes when Creighton played then-No. 1 Villanova on Dec. 31 was part of getting noticed, but not everything. The rest of the season offered encouraging hints of Patton’s future.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Ivan Rabb | California | PF | 6-10 | 215
Rabb is an old man compared to much of the rest of the projected draft class – a sophomore – who was a lottery candidate a year ago while playing with eventual No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown and second-rounder Tyrone Wallace before returning to school. Rabb remains a candidate for the teens, with the ability to score inside, either from the post with a nice touch or on the run with good mobility, and rebounds. But he will need to improve to make an impact when he moves away from the paint.
22. Brooklyn Nets
Terrance Ferguson | Australia | SG | 6-7 | 185
He gambled big by turning pro in Adelaide, Australia, rather than spending a freshman season at the University of Arizona with much better competition and playing for a coach, Sean Miller, with a record of developing NBA prospects. Ferguson needs to add to his game whatever the location. For now, he is essentially a spot-up shooter without much ability to handle or create an opening, but the Nets need three-point threats and, generally, anyone who can make baskets.
23. Toronto Raptors
Rodions Kurucs | Spain | SF | 6-8 |190
The Latvian playing in Barcelona is advanced and versatile offensively with the ability to attack the basket in transition or creating on his own, hit from the perimeter or pass. That, along with being 19 years old and needing to get stronger, makes him a candidate to become the first draft-and-stash taken. And that means he could easily get to the late-teens or early-20s to a team with multiple first-rounder picks. Kurucs’ defense and whether he can become a dependable three-point threat are the questions.
24. Utah Jazz
Ike Anigbogu | UCLA | C | 6-10 | 250
The numbers – 4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 13.0 minutes in a reserve role – don’t demand attention, and neither does playing on a team with Ball and Leaf both possibly heading to the top half of the first round. But Anigbogu has good size, agility, is a good rebounder in a limited role and is still just 18 years old. He has a long way to go, but also has a very good starting point.
25. Orlando Magic
Isaiah Hartenstein | Lithuania | PF | 7-0 | 240
The versatile offensive threat was born in Eugene, Ore., in 1998, moved to Germany in 2008 and joined Lithuanian team Zalgiris in 2016. He can score from different areas, inside and out and also on the run, a sign of his mobility at that size while still growing at 18 years old. NBA teams would like him even more but are wondering about his attitude and whether bad body language and being taken out of his game by emotions is being a teenager or being a potential problem.
26. Portland Trail Blazers
Bam Adebayo | Kentucky | C | 6-10 | 250
He can play with some power inside or use mobility to score in transition, complete with the leaping ability that could lead to finishing a lot of lobs. Beyond potential as a rebounder and the ability to play in open court, though, Adebayo is offensively challenged, getting most of his baskets on the run or from offensive rebounds while struggling when he steps out, from the line or as a passer. He would almost certainly have to be paired with a big who can hit a shot or score from the post.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Caleb Swanigan | Purdue | PF | 6-9 | 250
This is not the same Caleb Swanigan who declared for the 2016 draft, had a bad showing at the Chicago pre-draft camp, and wisely decided to return to school. The 2017 version, a sophomore, is much improved almost every way, from conditioning to approach to on-court execution. He suddenly has the look of a potential reserve big man, at power forward and possibly some small-ball center.
28. Los Angeles Lakers
Anzejs Pasecniks | Spain | C | 7-2 | 230
The Latvian, a former teammate of Kristaps Porzingis on the under-18 national squad, has had a very good season in the quality competition of Liga ACB. He moves well for his size and should only get stronger while adding bulk to the 7-2 frame. That could help him develop an inside game, important for someone who has struggled to find consistency with his shot. For now, Pasecniks has the look of a backup center.
29. San Antonio Spurs
Jordan Bell | Oregon | PF | 6-9 | 230
The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year went from some very good moments in the tournament (eight blocks and 13 rebounds in the Elite Eight victory over Kansas) to the additional credibility boost of a nice showing at the Chicago pre-Draft combine. Following that with more good days at individual workouts would solidify Bell’s spot in the first round. Teams already know his energy and athleticism means the defense should translate to the NBA. He could also contribute on the boards.
30. Utah Jazz
Jawun Evans | Oklahoma State | PG | 6-1 | 185
Evans should not be overlooked in a class with many other point guards rated higher and was not lost in Oklahoma State’s bad start to conference play as part of a 20-13 season. Evans has the speed to compensate for any concerns, handles the ball well, and would be coming out with two years of experience at a major program against tough competition. Teams see a backup point guard of the future available late in the first round.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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