The champion of the 2016-17 NBA season has been crowned and it is now time to move on to the beginning of the 2017-18 season. Like every year, the NBA Draft kicks off the offseason but this year, things have gotten interesting before this year’s Finals even finished.
This NBA Draft class is stacked. Their has been a lot of positive buzz around this class for some time and their is great value through the entire first round.
But like in the reigning champs Golden State Warriors case, drafting the right person is important. GMs and NBA front office’s need to draft the best player for their system, not just the best player available.
We have seen a few big trades involving draft picks already and don’t be surprised if more keep on coming up until the end of the draft.
That being said, here is my NBA Mock draft (picks up to date as of Wednesday evening).
1. Philadelphia 76ers via trade with Boston Celtics – Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
During the Finals, all fingers pointed that the Fultz and the Celtics had mutual interest and were going to end up together. Until the Sixers fell in love with Fultz, pulled some strings and traded for the #1 overall pick giving the Celtics the #3 this year and two future first rounders. Scouts across the league love Fultz’s game and he was the clear cut #1 overall prospect this year. He is very explosive when driving with the ball, finishes with consistency near the rim, runs the pick-and-roll at a superb level and has a solid mid-range game as well. Sixers fans should get used to hearing “Fultz gets a pick from Embiid…” a lot next year.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – De’Aron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Lonzo Ball is a talented kid, there is no doubt about it. But do the Lakers and the front office want to deal with Lonzo’s father Lavar Ball and his off the court antics? I don’t think that is something Magic Johnson is willing to put up with the new direction he is taking the organization. So why not take Fox? Fox might be just as explosive as Fultz, if not more. He is a true scorer and with D’Angelo Russel out of the picture headed to Brooklyn, the pick makes sense. Fox’s jump shot may not be as polished as Ball’s but if he’s able to add that aspect to his game, he could be the best point guard from this class five years down the road.
3. Boston Celtics via trade with Philadelphia 76ers – Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Danny Ainge mentioned in an interview this week that he believes he will be able to get the player the Celtics want at #3 and that is why he made the trade with the Sixers. Well I believe that player is Jayson Tatum. Despite what you have heard about Josh Jackson, Tatum is a better fit for Boston because they need more offensive help. Tatum might be the best natural scorer in this draft because he can do a bit of everything already. His offensive improvement over the past year at Duke should be a sign of whats to come at the NBA level and on an already established team like the Celtics, he has a chance to flourish and contribute to a winning team.
4. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
No Lonzo Ball still. But I believe if the Celtics do pass up on Jackson, the Suns would be foolish not to take him. The reason being the Suns already have tons of talented guards on their roster and really lack youth and talent at the forward position. Insert Jackson, the most athletic player in this draft, and the Suns have a solid young core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson. Jackson is versatile enough to play SF and PF and if he develops more consistency on his outside shot, him and Booker will be a nuisance to stop in the near future.
5. Sacramento Kings – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Part of me is hoping this happens so Lavar Ball learns his chatter is hurting his son’s stock and the other part is hoping that Sacramento can finally catch a break for once. The Kings have been extremely unlucky either making bad picks (Jimmer Ferdette and Nik Stauskas) or letting former picks go too soon (Isaiah Thomas and Hassan Whiteside). Landing Ball in this year’s draft would be huge. Both Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are on the back ends of their career with and with some of the up and coming talent the Kings have, Ball would be a perfect fit. Ball is a true point guard and likes to pass the ball which is rare to find in a college player. But he is also a dangerous shooter from inside and beyond the arc. The biggest concern on Ball is his defense and effort level at times. But going to a young team that has a solid group of young studs to play alongside with would be a perfect situation for Ball coming out of college.
6. Orlando Magic – Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Malik Monk is an excellent shooter and has an overall good offensive game. He might be a bit undersized for a two-guard but the Magic could use some extra spacing on the floor. He might be labeled as a ‘streaky’ shooter but scouts love his work ethic and he should be able to develop more consistency. With Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton on the roster, he won’t be expected to come in as a starter right away which will give him time to develop his overall game. Monk could play a similar role as JR Smith did in his career providing an offensive spark off the bench.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
The Timberwolves are a team loaded with young talent already so I feel like they have the luxury to make any pick at seven in the draft. They have tons of guards but could use some depth at the big man position. Insert the seven foot Finnish player out of Arizona, Lauri Markkanen. People are already comparing him to a lite version of Dirk Nowitzki or Kristaps Porzingis. He is a phenomenal shooter from the beyond the arc, is efficient down in the post and has above average defensive instincts. Imagine being a defense facing the Timberwolves next year and when either Gorgui Deng or Karl-Anthony Towns comes off the floor, you have to face a guy like Markkanen.
8. New York Knicks – Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
Rumor has it that Phil Jackson and the Knicks front office are looking to trade Porzingis. Why? Well no one knows their the Knicks. Isaac would be a perfect replacement for Porzingis if they do decide to trade him. Isaac is close to seven feet tall, has great range for a big man, a great basketball IQ and has shown flashes of defensive potential. You might say Isaac is a ‘poor man’s Markkanen,’ it would be fitting if he was drafted right after him.
9. Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
Drafting international players too early can sometimes be risky, but this Dallas organization has had some success in the past. So why not take the big bodied point guard from France? Ntilikina is a very good defender – which is rare for European players – and has a high basketball IQ. His offensive game needs some work but I believe the Mavs have the personnel to get the most out of his potential.
10. Sacramento Kings – Josh Collins, PF, Wake Forest
I am undecided on this pick because if Lonzo Ball does fall to them at #5, they should not take Dennis Smith Jr and take a big man instead. Collins was very efficient as the roll man in pick and rolls, is a good scorer down low and does a good job of rebounding. I think he will be a good fit among Willie Cauley-Stein and other draftee Lonzo Ball.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
The Hornets just traded Marco Belinelli away for Dwight Howard so right now they are in need of perimeter shooting. A lot of scouts say Kennard could be the best shooter of the draft so this is a perfect fit for Charlotte.
12. Detroit Pistons – Dennis Smith Jr, PG, NC State
The Pistons here should take the best player available which is Smith Jr. They do have Reggie Jackson already on the roster but they lack depth at the guard position. Smith Jr is extremely athletic and can run the pick and roll well which could be a boost to the Pistons second unit.
13. Denver Nuggets – Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Nuggets are in a good position to really improve this offseason and although they have their sites set on bringing in a Paul George caliber forward, they should take Jackson at #13 as an insurance. Jackson really improved his three point shooting his junior year whcih makes him a lethal scorer from anywhere. His baksetball IQ and defensive skill have improved as well and he would be a great fit around Gary Harris Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic.
14. Miami Heat – Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Collins is most likely going to be a slightly better Kelly Olynyk in this league, which is not a bad thing. Collins has a better post prescence and is a better defender but he is not the perimeter shooter Olynyk is. He will need to learn to play the PF with Hassan Whiteside in Miami which I think he is capable of.
15. Portland Trail Blazers – OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
Portland has 3 first round picks but the bad thing is their all outside the lottery and chances are they won’t be able to trade into the lottery picks. So they can afford to take some chances and I think Anunoby is a good one. He might have to miss most of his rookie season due to injury but he is a very good perimeter defender. His athleticisim and size will allow him to guard almost all positions on switches which is something the Trail Blazers need to improve on.
16. Chicago Bulls – Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
He is only 6’2 but Mitchell’s wingspan and athleticism really makes up for the lack of size. The Bulls desperately need perimeter shooting, especially if Jimmy Butler gets traded, and Mitchell could be their answer.
17. Milwuakee Bucks – Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
The Bucks have length all across the board but they really lack spacing on the floor at times and Ferguson could solve that problem. He has a pretty perimeter shot and plays solid defense so he would fit right in with the Bucks current winning formula.
18. Indiana Pacers – Harry Giles, F/C, Duke
Unfortunately for Indiana, if they do trade away Paul George their is no SF at this point of the draft worth selecting. Perhaps they should take a gamble on the once highly recruited forward out of high school. The back to back ACL injuries really hurt his college career but he still has the potential to be something special playing along side Myles Turner.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Jarret Allen, C, Texas
This would be a steal of a pick if he did fall to #19, especially considering the Hawks just traded Dwight Howard away. Allen may lack some of the offensive tools but he is a raw talent and is explosive with the ball down low. Plus, he is a very good defender so I am sure the Hawks would love it if he fell this far.
20. Portland Trail Blazers – TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
After taking a risky pick at #15 the Blazers should take a safer pick at #20 and Leaf looks like he could be there guy. He’s tall, he can rebound well, shoot 3’s well and he went to UCLA…no he’s not Kevin Love but he can be a ‘poor man’s Love in this league.’ Leaf shot 46% from beyond the arc last season and he will help space out the floor for Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic to attack the paint.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
This might be a stretch but the Thunder need to put together a better supporting cast if they want Russell Westbrook to not leave in free agency. Ojeleye is a true two-way player coming out of college and he shoots effectively from the 3 point arc. Plus, since he is coming out as a junior, he is a bit older or more NBA ready than some other prospects at this point of the draft.
22. Brooklyn Nets – Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Brooklyn needs a lot of work and with the trade of Brooke Lopez, their looking forward to a couple more losing seasons in the future. They might as well take a high risk player like Patton who does have a high ceiling. He is versatile on offense but lacks some tools. He can contribute on defense with his above average shot bloacking skills and who knows, he might turn into somethign special.
23. Toronto Raptors – Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue
With Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry most likely leaving in free agency, the Raptors are going to have to decide which one they want to replace in the draft. They should think big man and draft Swanigan. Swanigan might out-rebound and out-hustle anyone in this draft. He has a real high motor and he should be a nice fit for the Raptors if Ibaka decides to sign elsewhere.
24. Utah Jazz – Kyle Kuzma, F, Utah
Why not draft the kid from the local university? Kuzma turned some heads at the NBA combine because he is a talented scorer. He is versatile and with his height, he can play both the SF and PF positions which the Jazz need after Derrick Favors took a dip in production.
25. Orlando Magic – Ike Anigbogu, PF, UCLA
After getting their guard in the lottery, Magic should think ig and draft a project guy. Anigbogu is only 18 years old and has very raw skills. Although it might be a few years before we see it, Anighbogu could become a very good rebounding and shot-blocking big man.
26. Portland Trail Blazers – Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon
This definitely is a stretch but the Blazers don’t pick again in the draft so they are in a tough situation. In a Pac-12 conference that had Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, Brooks won conference player of the year award and he can contribute immediately. A very athletic and versatile scorer at the SF position and because Portland might have to wait a year for Anunoby, why not take a guy who can contribute sooner?
27. Los Angeles Lakers via trade with Brooklyn Nets – Frank Mason, G, Kansas
Their might be better point guards available, but none are as tough and will work as hard as Mason. He has an extremely high motor, can shoot from outside well and is explosive when driving the lane. I can see Magic Johnson falling in love with a guy like this.
28. Los Angeles Lakers – Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
Ok, after taking two guards in the draft the Lakers need to draft a big. They will be lucky if Adebayo falls this far because they need a guy like him. Big, physical down low, can switch and guard any offensive player but he is not a guy to dominate scoring wise. Nonetheless he would be a steal for the Lakers or any team picking in the late 20’s.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
He can shoot, rebound, defend, has a high basketball IQ, works hard and is full of intangibles; sounds like a Spurs type of player to me. He played on great winning teams at Villanova during his four years and I believe he is as NBA ready as it gets for picks this late.
30. Utah Jazz – Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina
If you do not know this name, it is because you did not follow the run South Carolina went on last year. Thornwell took home the SEC Tournament MVP and sparked the Gamecocks all the way to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA tournament. He is gritty, strong, can score inside and out and is a two-way player that will contribute right away. Some might consider him a stretch at #30 but he is one of my favorite players in this draft class so I had to get him in.