As the guy who was singing the praises of the 2017 Draft long ago on this blog, I felt it was only appropriate I took the lead as our Mock Draft Guy this summer. Let’s get after it. For this 1.0 version we won’t be doing any trades.
1. Boston Celtics- Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
I was singing his praises in the aforementioned blog, and I’ll double down. This is a future MVP. The Celtics trading this pick for Paul George or Jimmy Butler would be a colossal mistake. Fultz is the no-brainer pick. He is going to be a James Harden type offensive talent.
2. Los Angeles Lakers- Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
I doubled down on Fultz on pick 1, and I want to double down on Ball on pick 2. You have to surround him with the right team, but if you hand over your franchise to Lonzo and surround him with unselfish shooters like he had at UCLA, he will bring LA a title. He is as special a basketball talent as you will come across. I am all in, BIG BALLERS ONLY!! Trade Russell for a shooter, run out Lonzo-Clarkson-Ingram-Randle and a rim protector and let him be the face of the franchise. Welcome to Big Baller Zone!
3. Philadelphia 76ers- Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
As many people have said before and will continue to say, the draft really gets interesting here at pick 3. The 76ers would love to add a floor spacer and a guard, but the best two guards are gone at picks #1 and #2, and Malik Monk is generally considered a reach here. So the pick comes down to Tatum vs. Josh Jackson, and if the 76ers are going to run out Ben Simmons as their primary ball handler, they are going to need shooting and scoring ability from their other core star, and Josh Jackson is no lock to provide those. Instead, they lock down 20 points a night for the next 10 years from the next Danny Granger/Paul Pierce. He is a notch below Lonzo and Fultz, but he’s hardly a consolation prize.
4. Phoenix Suns- Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
The perfect pick. The Suns have a great young backcourt and multiple interesting big man, what they really need is a athletic wing who can defend. Enter the draft’s best athlete, Josh Jackson. Jackson’s athletic talents and competitiveness can’t be matched, be its hard to take him top 2 with his shaky jumper. It improved all throughout the season, but after shooting 56% from the FT line its hard to project him as an above average NBA shooter. Still, Jackson feels like the safest thing in this draft, there’s almost no way he isn’t an NBA caliber SF for 10 years. This draft is loaded. The Suns might have picked Jackson #2 overall had they got the second pick (You can’t pass on Fultz).
5. Sacramento Kings- De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Everyone’s favorite “Sleeper” this year, many are advocating for the lighting quick Fox to overtake Lonzo Ball and go 2nd overall. There’s no question Fox has the chance to be a bonafide star PG if his jumper develops, but even if it doesn’t his incredible quickness and finishing should make him a starting NBA PG. Fox doubles as the perfect backcourt mate with Buddy Hield, as Hield’s shooting will help mask Fox’s lack of jumper and space the floor, and Fox’s defensive abilities will help cover up Hield’s inability to guard the cat quick guards of the NBA. IF, and its a big IF, Fox can successfully add weight and an NBA caliber jumper, the Kings may very well have the next John Wall-Bradley Beal on their hands.
6. Orlando Magic- Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
A rare offensive talent, Monk is the purest shooter in the draft and will probably step in and score 15 a night his rookie season. This is good for the Magic, because the sign and draft like 5 big men strategy didn’t really work last year, and Elfrid Payton at PG begs for some scoring next to him. Monk and Evan Fournier probably have a bit of crossover in their skills but Monk is an elite scoring prospect and something that Magic desperately need.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves- OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
The first “surprise” of the draft, most people don’t have the Indiana forward in the top 10 after his mid-season ACL tear, but I’m going to take this leap. Anunoby is basically every modern NBA team’s wet dream at the 4, able to guard anyone 1-4 at the highest level, and hopefully space the floor on offense. His defensive potential is limitless, and I think Thibs can’t resist the idea of a small ball front line of Wiggins-OG-Towns. The switching capabilities are too amazing. The popular pick in most mocks is Jonathan Isaac for good reason, but I’m going to go with OG.
8. New York Knicks- Dennis Smith Jr, PG, NC State
Most mocks have the Knicks taking French PG Frank Ntilkina, and I get it, he’s the classic triangle PG. However, this is NY, and the Knicks need stars, so I see them taking the risk and taking Smith Jr., who has a way higher ceiling than Frank. Smith’s one year at NC State felt very Ben Simmons-like, as his team STUNK and he seemed to not be entirely invested every minute of every game. Still, his athletic feats are scary, and his finishing is already NBA ready. Combine that with a passable jumper and his spread pick and roll potential is “the roof is the ceiling” territory. If this doesn’t sound like a good fit for Phil Jackson’s Knicks, you’re right, but I just can’t see them passing up on a potential star for the sturdy Ntilkina.
9. Dallas Mavericks- Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
Isaac going 9th overall should speak to the insane quality of this draft, because Jonathan Isaac is no regular 9th overall pick. The Mavs should be thrilled with their haul here, as they add a guy who can step in right away next year and contribute, and could be a long term franchise cornerstone. Their is a bit of overlap with Harrison Barnes, but this draft goes down a tier after Isaac and the Mavs would be silly to pass on him, as both he and Barnes offer more than enough versatility to make the pairing work.
10. Sacramento Kings- Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
The rising star of the NCAA tournament, Collins made himself some millions with his performances in the Final Four, specifically his dominant defensive performance against South Carolina. Gonzaga’s first one and done should be a lottery pick, and the Kings at #10 make a lot of sense. With their backcourt set (Fox and Hield) and a couple of promising centers (WCS, Skal), the Kings should be searching for a 4 who can stretch the floor a little and add to their devastating front line to help protect the rim and shield Buddy Hield’s lack of defense a bit. Enter Collins. A Fox-Hield-3-Collins-WCS starting 5 is actually something to be genuinely excited about in Sacramento. And with the news Rudy Gay is opting out, a potential 2018 Tank and the top pick in the 2018 draft is very in play. Throw Michael Porter Jr. on that team and all the sudden maybe the Boogie trade wasn’t so awful after all.
11. Charlotte Hornets- Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
Another draft riser, Mitchell too seems like a lottery lock at this point after an impressive late season run and combine. The Hornets are in an interesting spot with this pick because they have a deep, sturdy roster but just desperately need a star to take them to the next level, something that can’t get here at pick 11. So instead they get a 2 guard who can play next to Kemba, guarding the top-flight NBA PG’s and spacing the floor a little. Solid selection.
12. Detroit Pistons- Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
Many have pegged Markkanen as a top 10 selection, but I gotta imagine his inability to defend or rebound will scare teams off and send him down to the 10-15 range. Still, this is excellent value for the Pistons as Markkanen can essentially function as a cheaper, better Jon Leuer, who they just gave a sizable contract too. Lauri spacing the floor is the perfect 4 next to Andre Drummond, and Drummond protecting the rim and rebounding is the perfect 5 next to Lauri. Good fit.
13. Denver Nuggets- Frank Ntilkina, PG, France
The French PG’s slide ends here at 13 with the Nuggets, as Denver needs to acquire perimeter defenders to help mask Nikola Jokic, there newfound star, and his lack of defensive ability. Ntilkina is a terrific on ball defender, and team up with Emmanuel Mudiay to give the Nuggets a young, intriguing PG duo. Hopefully one emerges.
14. Miami Heat- Justin Jackson, F, UNC
After falling just short of the playoffs this season the Heat will probably look to draft someone who can contribute right away, not some sort of long shot project (think the Bucks). Enter UNC Junior Justin Jackson, he of the devastating floater and vastly improved 3 point stroke. Jackson can easily garner wing minutes alongside Justice Winslow and hopefully help guide the 2018 Heat to the playoffs.
15. Portland Trail Blazers- Justin Patton, C, Creighton
With Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum in the backcourt the Blazers pick clearly will be on the Wings or a Big Man. Even with the addition of Jusuf Nurkic a shot blocking, rim diving big is a clear need. The Blazers will likely need to decide who has the highest ceiling between the big men available at this stage, and I favor the RS Freshman Patton over Jarrett Allen, John Collins or any other big left on the board. After sitting out a year Patton exploded this year showing a real smoothness to his game, and a great ability to finish around the rim. He likely will spend a good portion of the year next year on the bench bulking up, but in due time he could turn into a solid starting center.
16. Chicago Bulls- Luke Kennard, G, Duke
The Bulls love college stars from big programs who have established their ability to play basketball at a high level (McDermott, Valentine, etc). Sound like Luke Kennard? Plus, the Bulls have a clear need for outside shooting, as they were the NBA’s worst 3 point shooting team this past season. The sweet lefty stroke of Kennard seems like a good fit, and a nice change of pace from Dwayne Wade’s bricks.
17. Milwaukee Bucks- Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky
Then Maker, Giannis, Hamidou Diallo. This is what the Bucks do. For those who don’t know the name, Diallo is this Draft’s mystery man. He enrolled at Kentucky last December only to practice with the team, and blew up at the combine posting freakish athletic testing figures. The tape on Diallo currently is a terrific athlete with little basketball skill and no jumper, which sounds a bit like the Bucks current MVP candidate who went 13th overall in one of the weakest drafts of all time. The Bucks just HAVE to make this pick, don’t they?
18. Indiana Pacers- T.J Leaf, F, UCLA
Assuming they keep Paul George around for another season, the Pacers are going to need to find some outside shooting to help space the floor for him. Thaddeus Young is a nice player, but adding T.J Leaf to their front line to help give George and Jeff Teague some room to operate is a no brainer. Leaf shot the ball as well as anyone in college, and at 6’10 is no slouch around the rim and on the glass. The Pacers are more than the #18 pick overall away from retaining Paul George, but Leaf can most certainly help.
19. Atlanta Hawks- Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
Here’s the drafts other Project. Jeanne has been hit with the classic “2 years away from being 2 years away” tag, and that’s probably fine for the Hawks, who are really just dating Dwight Howard’s replacement here. Jeanne showed off at the combine, showcasing elite defensive ability along with close to 0 basketball IQ. At pick 19 though, this is a possible home run for the Hawks, a team who could use a home run draft pick.
20. Portland Trail Blazers- Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia
With 3 first round picks the Blazers should seriously consider drafting a player who they wouldn’t mind throwing in the D-League for a season, as all 3 rookies are very unlikely to step in right away and play for the NBA team. Terrence Ferguson, a former 5 star recruit with a silky jumper and major hops, seems like an ideal candidate to give a year in the D-League, as nobody knows what the 19 year old can really do right now. This pick is fairly boom or bust, but the Blazers can afford to take the risk.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
The Thunder are likely targeting guys who can come in and contribute right away, something Ojeleye should be able to do. Hopefully for the Thunder he can function as a bit of a cross between Andre Roberson and Doug McDermott, and I’m not talking about Roberson’s shooting and Doug’s defense.
22. Brooklyn Nets- Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The Nets draft strategy is very clear, HIGH UPSIDE. As the most screwed franchise in professional sports right now, the Nets might as well draft complete prayers and hope they land a star as long as the Celtics have their 1st rounder. So after drafting the injured Caris Levert last year the Nets grab the 19 year old Jarrett Allen here, a guy who didn’t even look like he would be in the draft around late January. He closed strong though and has great pedigree, so there’s no reason to not dream on him being a NBA caliber starting center long term. These are exactly the type of guys the Nets should be taking a chance on.
23. Toronto Raptors- Wesley Iwundu, F, Kansas State
The Raptors are probably just going to keep showing up and losing to LeBron each spring, so might as well keeping drafting wings who maybe have a better chance of stoping him than Demare Carrol or Patrick Patterson.
24.Utah Jazz- Frank Jackson, PG, Duke
The Utah native was another Draft Combine winner, as he decided to go 1 and done after a meh year at Duke and an excellent combine. With George Hill in the fold the Jazz can afford to stash Jackson on the bench for a few years and see if they can get a return on their investment in 2020 or so. Seems like a solid fit. Plus, Dante Exum isn’t really looking like a long term solution so they do have a long term need for a PG.
25. Orlando Magic- Rawle Atkins, G, Arizona
As mentioned before, the Magic need scoring. Atkins can score. So there you go. Seriously though, Atkins might not even be in this draft, as he might stick around at Arizona as many pundits seem him as a 2nd round selection. Still, it only takes one team, and I’ll guess after grabbing Malik Monk the Magic take a risk on the young New York guard.
26. Portland Trail Blazers- Rodions Kurucs, F, Barcelona
This is the third Portland Trail Blazers 1st round selection, so they should probably draft someone they can stash in Europe or the D-League. Here’s the top European prospect. I know nothing about him.
27. Brooklyn Nets- John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
The Nets need some scoring punch, and Collins can provide that. He’s a surefire 1st round selection, so getting him at 27th overall is a solid grab for the Nets. Collins and Brook Lopez is a solid finishing front line.
28. Los Angeles Lakers- Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
The Lakers are going to need big men who can rebound and finish lobs to play with Lonzo Ball, two things mini Dwight Howard can definitely do. Hopefully he will be better than real Dwight Howard was in LA. And better than Timofey Mozgov was.
29. San Antonio Spurs- Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal
This pick just feels Spursy. Rabb probably goes in the lottery last year had he entered the draft, and has a terrific post up and mid range game, to go along with solid rebounding skills. The Spurs draft Lamarcus Aldrige’s replacement at pick 29, thats why they are the Spurs.
30. Utah Jazz- Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
The Jazz already have a dominant rim protector-lob catcher in Rudy Gobert, so why not follow the same formula and try to snag the next Gobert in Ike. He is as raw a prospect as you will find, he barely even played big minutes at UCLA, but the potential is there. He can really catch lobs and protect the rim.