We’re less than two weeks away from the 2017 NBA Draft, and much has yet to be settled. Pre-draft workouts are in full swing, and teams are starting to get a close-up look to determine who they prefer.
While the class as a whole was overhyped this season, the guard crop is still magnificent. Five versatile playmakers could hear their names called in the first eight picks in the draft, and two or three gifted 2-guards could also land in the lottery.
A few key teams could start chain reactions in the top-10 and beyond. Will the Los Angeles Lakers actually take Lonzo Ball, and which position will the Philadelphia 76ers target at No. 3? Here are our updated projections for the first round as June 22 creeps closer.
*Note: This mock has been updated to reflect Rodions Kurucs’ withdrawal from the draft. Picks 26-30 have been updated as of June 14.
1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Markelle Fultz, Washington PG (6-4, Fr.)
Back in the winter and early spring, I thought we’d have a legitimate race between Fultz and Ball. At this juncture, it’s hard to imagine hearing anyone’s name other than Fultz at No. 1.
Washington’s prodigy is unparalleled in this crop for three reasons. He has the best combination of physical gifts, proven skill and long-term upside. Fultz displayed an advanced shot-creating repertoire that will only get better, along with strong passing production in pick-and-rolls.
Fultz is appealing to Boston because he has the chops to serve as a setup man or scorer. He’ll take some of the pressure off Isaiah Thomas and turn the diminutive all-star into a more efficient off-ball threat. And leading up to IT’s free agency next summer, Fultz will give the Celts the flexibility to trade Thomas or let him walk.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, UCLA PG (6-6, Fr.)
There have been whispers that the Lakers aren’t completely sold on Ball. ESPN’s Chris Haynes also reported that Ball is open to working out for the Philadelphia 76ers. These are indications that Ball to L.A. is far from a done deal.
This doesn’t mean that the Lakers still don’t like Ball a lot. And it doesn’t mean that Ball isn’t the second-best prospect in the field. His size, playmaking prowess and promising 3-point shooting will give L.A. a different kind of jolt.
Ball’s level of floor-general vision and command are scarce; those traits will compensate quite a bit for shortcomings in other areas. If he’s their man, the Lakers will address the team’s collective defensive issues at different positions.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (via Sacramento Kings): Jayson Tatum, Duke F (6-8, Fr.)
There is no ideal fit for the Sixers at No. 3. They either have to make a massive reach on a player who fits (such as Malik Monk), pick a wing prospect who’s not a proven shooter (such as Tatum or Josh Jackson), or trade out of the No. 3 spot to get a couple of players who fit.
Philadelphia is reportedly open to trading the pick, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That might end up being the most practical route. But if they hang onto the No. 3 spot, they could gravitate toward Tatum. He has a smooth shot-making repertoire, solid mechanics, and he’s also shown stretches of perimeter potency off the ball. The Duke star could work alongside de facto point guard Ben Simmons and interior anchor Joel Embiid.
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, Kansas F (6-8, Fr.)
Plug Josh Jackson into a lineup that includes Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss, and now the Phoenix Suns are cooking. Adding an athletic, defensively gifted forward would do wonders for coach Earl Watson’s rotation.
Back in March, I likened Jackson’s playing style to Scottie Pippen’s. He may never be in the same Hall of Fame tier as Pippen, but it indicates his strengths and versatility. Much like the Bulls legend, Jackson has long, agile strides, blankets opponents defensively and provides secondary playmaking on offense. He has a nose for the rock all over the court and makes an impact on and off the ball.
5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia 76ers): De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky PG (6-3, Fr.)
Fox could get plucked sooner, but he will not fall past Sac-town at No. 5. Coach Dave Joerger’s young squad needs an engine to power it and give it direction, and Fox would be a dynamic acquisition.
The Fox-Kings marriage may not have a picturesque start, though. Sacramento still needs to add more shooting talent and experience around Fox, particularly a stretch big. The team’s spacing, timing and consistency won’t flourish immediately.
However, Fox has the elusiveness and dexterity to make plays and grow into a top-tier point guard. He’ll gradually make everyone in Sacramento more formidable. His agility and aggressiveness on defense will also give him an edge over other young guards in the league.
6. Orlando Magic: Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State PG (6-2, Fr.)
Nobody is scared of Orlando’s offense. With all due respect to Evan Fournier, it’s not a good sign that he’s the Magic’s top bucket-getter. Coach Frank Vogel’s team could use someone more explosive to ignite the half-court attack.
Enter Smith, whose burst off the bounce can turn a stagnant play into a pick-and-roll dime or a driving layup in a blink. Athleticism is his greatest asset, yet he also has a promising facilitating tool kit. Smith changes gears, finds rim-rollers and also weaves his way to pull-up jumpers.
Smith’s inconsistent defensive effort at N.C. State is perhaps the biggest issue surrounding his draft value. Can the defense-oriented Vogel get the most out of him?
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, Florida State F (6-10, Fr.)
In past mocks, we’ve established that Isaac has the physique, agility and instincts to excel defensively. He’s the interchangeable, rangy defender the Wolves need to plug driving lanes in the paint and check the perimeter. But what about his offense?
Isaac’s handles aren’t yet fluid enough for him to consistently shake his man. Fortunately, he has a great feel for moving and sliding without the ball to access cutting lanes for high-percentage buckets.
When Isaac’s not scoring at the cup, he sprinkles in outside jumpers. He converted a modest 31 of 89 (35 percent) from the college arc last season, and his shooting form is smooth for his size. Isaac also shot 78 percent on free throws, which bodes well for his jumper in the long run.
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, France PG (6-5, 18 years old)
For better or worse, New York’s rebuilding efforts will likely consist of putting triangle-friendly acquisitions around Kristaps Porzingis. The most versatile such prospect in the 2017 draft crop is Ntilikina.
He has good vision at the point of attack, and he’s also shooting 39 percent from the international arc this season. Although he’s not extremely shifty in isolation, Ntilikina is exceptionally promising coming off screens. He’ll adapt well to the triangle because he’s willing to play on or off the ball.
In addition to advanced defensive footwork and smarts, he’s armed with tremendous length. One NBA executive told Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman that Ntilikina has a 7-1 wingspan.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen, Arizona PF (7-0, Fr.)
With no point guards worth reaching on, the Mavs will turn their eyes to an intriguing stretch 4. Players with Markkanen’s size, shooting and handles are incredibly scarce, so Dallas should invest in him with the No. 9 selection.
We know he’ll be an efficient 3-point threat, as well as a decent straight-line driver and mid-post scorer. Markkanen’s defense and rebounding, however, aren’t as convincing. He doesn’t have the vertical juice to block towering centers, and his perimeter foot speed is below average for the 4 spot. He’s still active and mobile enough to guard most bigs, but don’t expect great range or interchangeability.
10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans): Malik Monk, Kentucky SG (6-3, Fr.)
General manager Vlade Divac will pull another member of the Wildcats off the 2017 draft shelves, a prolific shooter this time around. Monk is the most talented offensive weapon available in this draft, and he’ll give Buddy Hield some help in the shooting department.
His jump shot is about as convincing as a freshman 2-guard’s can be. Monk’s quick, seamless delivery is already effective out to NBA 3-point range. I’m not sold on his point-guard playmaking potential, but he could be a supplementary shot-creator and passer. His defensive size is concerning, and he might need to switch onto point guards in certain situations.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville SG (6-3, So.)
Charlotte could use help in the backcourt, and Mitchell is an enticing two-way option. He filled up the hoop and mixed in some playmaking for Louisville last season, and he could be a better all-round player than Monk if he becomes more efficient. His defensive speed, length and alertness will lure coach Steve Clifford and Buzz City’s brass.
Although he’s shorter than most NBA shooting guards, his 6-10 wingspan and upper-echelon athleticism will compensate. The Hornets will groom him under Marco Belinelli as a catch-and-shoot weapon, and they could let him initiate plays sporadically as well.
12. Detroit Pistons: Justin Jackson, North Carolina SF (6-8, Jr.)
Marc Stein reported that the Pistons are open to trading this pick in exchange for a proven veteran. It’s hard to blame them after watching the club’s inconsistency in 2016-17.
If coach Stan Van Gundy and Co. can’t pull off a pre-draft swap, Jackson would be a rock-solid addition to the wing corps. He’d come off the bench and execute efficiently between Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond. Jackson doesn’t need touches or designed plays to be effective, and his improved jumper (37 from 3 range last season) will keep defenders honest.
Is he too wiry to defend NBA small forwards? That’s a fair question. I’m more of a believer in his defensive length and energy than most, while acknowledging that he may encounter some matchup problems.
13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby, Indiana F (6-8, So.)
Despite his season-ending knee injury, late-lottery teams will take a keen interest in Anunoby. Denver could use his defensive prowess at small forward or power forward in several different lineup combinations. Sam Vecenie of Seth’s Draft House agrees that he’s an optimal fit for coach Mike Malone’s squad:
Anunoby is basically the perfect player for the Nuggets. … The team finished second-to-last in defensive rating last season, and have a significant need for a defensive stalwart at the 4 next to burgeoning superstar offensive player Nikola Jokic.
A lineup of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Anunoby and Jokic would have a captivating mix of playmaking, shooting range and defense.
14. Miami Heat: Zach Collins, Gonzaga C (7-0, Fr.)
Due to the unfortunate departure of Chris Bosh and the free agency of several other rotational players, the Miami Heat will have lots of spots to fill this summer. Team president Pat Riley and the scouting staff will target the most valuable all-around prospect on the board.
Collins is arguably the top unpicked candidate at No. 14. He’d give South Beach some depth in the post and long-term upside. With Collins backing up Hassan Whiteside, coach Erik Spoelstra will have 48 minutes of towering rim protectors every game.
That doesn’t mean Collins is ready to dominate the paint from Day 1. He’ll eventually grow into a dependable post defender, interior scorer and pick-and-pop shooter.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Ike Anigbogu, UCLA C (6-10, Fr.)
Anigbogu has leapfrogged Jarrett Allen and Justin Patton, and this is the highest we’ve placed him on our mocks. His defensive talent is alluring for a team that rolls out the red carpet for opponents too frequently.
He’ll give Jusuf Nurkic a breather when the Blazers need to stymie a star center. Anigbogu is compatible with almost any other Portland big, thanks to his blend of size and agility.
Anigbogu’s draft value has steadily climbed in recent weeks despite a small role at UCLA. He’s looked more nimble than ever during workouts, displaying his much-anticipated defensive range and flashes of offensive skill.
16. Chicago Bulls: John Collins, Wake Forest PF (6-10, So.)
Speaking of nimble pre-draft workouts, Collins has been downright electrifying. If Collins is still on the board at this point, the Bulls will strongly consider taking him off of it.
Chi-town’s frontcourt situation is relatively underwhelming. It needs an athletic boost, someone who can physically outclass opponents, unlike Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. With Cristiano Felicio and Joffrey Lauvergne hitting restricted free agency this summer, Collins will serve as an insurance asset.
Although he’s offered glimpses of outside shooting and slashing, he’ll be most productive around the tin. Collins is a strong, acrobatic rebounder (14.8 boards per 40 minutes last season) and a potentially uncontainable force in pick-and-roll situations.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Jarrett Allen, Texas C (6-10, Fr.)
Greg Monroe has a player option for 2017-18, so the Bucks might pursue a center to play behind Thon Maker. Allen’s length and coordination around the bucket will feast off the creations of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer likened Allen’s best-case scenario to Steven Adams and JaVale McGee. He explained Allen’s upside and downside:
His fundamentals and awareness are poor, but he’s so long and mobile that he could become an enforcer…Complementary offensive player who can hover on the baseline and dive in pick-and-rolls, and will run the floor hard in transition.
Allen has a great chance to be Milwaukee’s next raw prospect success story.
18. Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, Duke SG (6-5, So.)
Indy didn’t connect from 3-land nearly enough last season. The Pacers were 23rd in the league in triples per possession, with just 8.9 per 100 possessions. Kennard will be part of the remedy. He’s the best shooting commodity in the draft outside of Markkanen and Monk.
The breakout sophomore shot 44 percent from distance and will have no problem acclimating to the NBA arc. He also showed some mid-range maneuverability; Kennard sank 48 percent of his two-point jumpers, and 80 percent of those buckets were unassisted (per hoop-math.com). Coach Nate McMillan will find Kennard highly useful as a fourth or fifth scoring option who spreads the floor.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Justin Patton, Creighton C (6-11, Fr.)
Patton’s draft range is all over the teens, and Atlanta would be glad to see him slide to them at 19. He outclassed the competition at Creighton with outstanding size and budding skills, and he has fascinating NBA upside.
Other than Dwight Howard, the Hawks don’t have any dependable big men locked in for 2017-18 and beyond. This summer they’ll be retooling the frontcourt, and Patton will be a beneficiary.
Right now, he depends on his size and soft hook shots for most of his production. However, he delivered a few pivot moves, high-post passes and jump shots that suggest an expanded repertoire. Patton isn’t yet positionally sound defensively, although he has the length (7-3 wingspan) to be respectable on that end.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies): T.J. Leaf, UCLA PF (6-10, Fr.)
Leaf didn’t enter 2016-17 high on the one-and-done radar. Within a couple of weeks, his skills and feel for the game made him a candidate.
His perimeter jumper is for real, although he won’t shoot as efficiently in the NBA as he did at UCLA (47 percent). Leaf has a superb feel for drifting to open pockets or using flare screens to find 3-point attempts. He’s also a strong driver for someone that thin, and he chipped in 3.2 assists per 40 minutes as well.
The limiting factor is defense. The sooner coach Terry Stotts can figure out how to minimize Leaf’s mediocre agility, the sooner he’ll be a key figure in the rotation.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany PF/C (7-0, 19 years old)
Hartenstein could have a modest short-term role and expanded long-term duties in OKC. The agile 7-footer has enough mobility and skill to play next to any of the Thunder’s other three bigs: Steven Adams, Domantas Sabonis or Enes Kanter. He could even play the 5 next to a small-ball 4 such as Jerami Grant.
The German prodigy stands out athletically in the Lithuanian league. His inside-out skills, however, will be the key to unlocking his NBA success. While Hartenstein is shooting just 27 percent from the international arc this season, his southpaw mechanics are workable. Most importantly, he has a pretty good grasp of the game’s flow for his age.
22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards): Terrance Ferguson, USA. SG/SF (6-7, 19 years old)
Ferguson’s draft appeal stems from pogo-stick athleticism and a smooth 3-point stroke. Nets general manager Sean Marks should roll the dice on his perimeter potential, even if he’s a project.
His stint for Australian club Adelaide was brief and underwhelming. Ferguson averaged just 15.2 minutes per game, 38 percent field-goal shooting and 31 percent 3-point shooting. He is still learning how to connect with teammates and consistently play disciplined defense. Nevertheless, his sporadic avalanches of 3-point shooting and end-to-end agility are worth exploring this late in the first round.
23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers): Harry Giles, Duke PF (6-11, Fr.)
Giles won’t singlehandedly rebuild Toronto’s forward depth chart. If Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker all bolt via free agency (or if two of the three bolt), the Raptors will fill the voids from multiple avenues. The Duke freshman is a long-term investment whose length and mobility could shine in the right context.
Three high school knee injuries diminished his role at Duke, and he was unimpressive at the draft combine. But at No. 23, Toronto will consider his combination of length (7-3 wingspan) and agility around the bucket. Although he’s not exceptionally explosive from a vertical standpoint anymore, he’s still horizontally agile. Giles could become increasingly valuable if he learns to play both the 4 and 5 spots.
24. Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse PF (6-10, So.)
Clubs interested in adding frontcourt shooting will put Lydon high on their draft-night wish list. While the Syracuse sophomore isn’t dazzling in other areas, we know he’ll connect from deep.
The Jazz don’t have a truly reliable stretch big. It would be nice to bring a sharpshooter such as Lydon off the bench to play next to Rudy Gobert or Derrick Favors. His perimeter skill at power forward would complement the center, and he’d stretch opposing defenders to give Gordon Hayward room to operate. Lydon also makes sense for Utah because he plays smart with and without the ball; he’ll quickly make the right reads in coach Quin Snyder’s system.
25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors): D.J. Wilson, Michigan PF/C (6-11, Jr.)
Even though Wilson wasn’t Michigan’s featured star, he exhibited more NBA-translatable qualities than any other Wolverines player. The Magic will add him to their frontcourt depth chart after picking a guard in the lottery.
One scout explained Wilson’s NBA outlook to Seth Davis:
Big-time upside. … Just needs experience. Little bit of a 4/3 tweener. He has the size and skill set you like, as well as the footspeed and ball handling ability. He needs to be more aggressive and improve as a defensive player.
I’m interested in his ability to score from inside and out. His versatility could significantly enhance Orlando’s offense.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): P.J. Dozier, South Carolina SG (6-7, So.)
Portland will likely shop one or two of its trio of first-round picks. But if the Blazers keep the No. 26 spot, expect them to target a draft-and-stash candidate or a developmental prospect. Dozier’s just 20 years old and needs to refine his offensive skills, so he might spend some time in the G-League.
The Gamecocks sophomore has the agility, energy and length to be more than an above-average defender in the NBA. His versatility and disruptiveness on that end was crucial to South Carolina’s run to the Final Four. Dozier has the physical tools and motor to guard both point guards and wings; that’s exactly what Portland could use for their long-term push toward the upper crust of the Western Conference.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics): Bam Adebayo, Kentucky PF/C (6-10, Fr.)
Adebayo played the 5 at Kentucky, but he must learn to spend most of his time at the 4 in the NBA. Fortunately, he has the agility to compete with NBA forwards, and perhaps even the skills. And Brooklyn has the time to develop him and gradually get the most out of his electrifying physical tools. The Nets could use his elite athleticism in the frontcourt.
Adebayo’s free-throw stroke looked pretty good last season, albeit with modest results (65 percent). In pre-draft workouts however, he’s looked more than comfortable getting his jumper off on the move.
Sure, we have to take empty-gym workouts with a grain of salt. But he truly looks more fluid than what his Kentucky exploits suggested.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets): Tony Bradley, North Carolina C (6-11, Fr.)
UNC’s unproven freshman will give L.A. a physical boost in their big-man depth chart. The Lakers will enjoy utilizing his 6-11 frame and 7-5 wingspan to grab rebounds, clog the paint on defense and finish plays way above the bucket.
Bradley’s skill set is promising, thanks to a soft touch on close-range hook shots and the occasional mid-range jumper. In the near future, he’ll operate mainly as a pick-and-roll rim-runner and an offensive rebounder. He grabbed a whopping 7.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes last season, a testament to his power and tenacity. If Bradley blossoms into more than a put-back player down the road, then it’s a huge bonus.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Anzejs Pasecniks, Latvia C (7-2, 21 years old)
Another Latvian prospect could sneak into the first round based on his tremendous stature and skills. Pasecniks moves extremely well for a 7-2 center, and he uncorked a smattering of offensive skills for ACB club Gran Canaria last season.
He’ll be a reliable catch-and-finish receiver for San Antonio, with the dexterity to score smoothly with either hand. Pasecniks will also keep opponents honest by drilling a few outside jumpers. He went 7 of 12 from the international arc last season and dropped in a handful of two-point jumpers as well.
Although Pasecniks isn’t an acrobatic or formidable defender, the Spurs won’t be deterred from taking him. They’ll utilize his size to protect the paint and get the most out of him, just as they’ve done in the past with almost every big man.
30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Frank Jackson, Duke PG/SG (6-3, Fr.)
With George Hill and Shelvin Mack both testing free agency this summer, the Jazz may need backcourt insurance behind Dante Exum. Jackson is a combo-guard option late in the first round; he has a promising future as both a playmaker and shooter.
He didn’t do a ton of facilitating for Duke because Grayson Allen and Kennard got most of the touches. However, he delivered spurts of shiftiness off the bounce and productivity from 3-range.
When opponents gravitated toward Kennard or Tatum, Jackson made them pay by drilling 39 percent from 3-range. At 6-3.5 in shoes with a 6-7.5 wingspan, Jackson has decent measurables to be a reserve combo guard.
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