By Adam Dreyfuss
This year’s NBA draft is sure to be filled with big surprises. Boston already made a bold move by trading the first pick to Philly, the Pistons actively shopping their pick for a veteran, and murmurs that this could finally be the moment that the Bulls pull the trigger on a Jimmy Butler move, the trade rumors will start flying well before Adam Silver announces the big man of the 2017 draft.
For this reason, the mock draft you are about to read will be an exercise that is picked purely. That is to say that there will be no synthesized trades. Only picks.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
In his lone season with the Washington Huskies, Fultz put up an impressive 23.2 points per game average. Additionally, Markelle was able to chip in an impressive 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
Although he only attempted a three-pointer on 28.7 percent of his shots, he shot a solid 41.3 percent from beyond the arc. This trait would bode well for Philadelphia’s offense, which attempted the seventh most three point shots in the NBA last year.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Despite all the negative press stemming from his father, LaVar, Lonzo Ball has the potential to be a future NBA star. His court vision and playmaking ability were matched by none in college basketball this year, as he led the country with 7.6 assists per game. An even more remarkable testament to Lonzo’s playmaking is the fact that while Ball was on the floor he assisted on 31.4 percent of his teammates made shots.
With the Lakers leading assister, D’Angelo Russell, only tallying four-point-eight dimes per game, adding Lonzo Ball and his pass-first style should add another needed ingredient into Lakers’ rebuild.
3. Boston Celtics: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Jackson impressed in his single season at Kansas as he flashed the potential to be a two-way star in the Association. While his work on the defensive side of the ball is impressive, his offensive game is what should excite the 76ers the most.
The Celtics shot the third most three-pointers in the NBA this past year, and adding Jackson’s 37.8 percent from downtown would instantly make him one of the best shooters on the team. Jackson didn’t just shoot three’s either, as he shot a staggering 54.9 percent on shots inside the arc.
4. Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Even though Phoenix already has a young small forward in T.J. Warren, drafting Jayson Tatum makes the most sense if Phoenix is fully committed to rebuilding.
In his first, and only, year at Duke, Tatum put up an impressive 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Although he wasn’t the best defender, Tatum also showed last season that he is still an above-average defensive player. Jayson would be a much-needed improvement to arguably the worst defensive team in the NBA.
The pairing of Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker could wind up being one of the best offensive wing tandems in the NBA down the road.
5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
De’Aaron Fox and the Kings are a natural fit. Fox shined as a playmaking point guard in his time at Kentucky, assisting 28.6 percent of his teammates’ made field goals.
Fox would naturally slide into the Kings starting lineup, and adding him to a foundation that already features a budding Buddy Hield would create a fantastic, young backcourt.
Despite shooting a woeful 24.6 percent from 3-point range in college, Fox was still able to score 16.7 points per night. This means that if he continues to develop a 3-point shot, as he exhibited he was in the home stretch of last season, Fox could blossom into an elite scoring guard. This only looks better when added to his already polished playmaking and defensive capabilities.
6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Simply put, the Magic were not very good on the offensive end last season. They scored the fourth fewest points in, recorded the third worst field goal percentage, and had the second worst three-point percentage in the NBA last year. With their offensive struggles, Malik Monk of Kentucky is the perfect fit for the Magic.
Monk was a microwave on offense last year as he scored an eye-catching nineteen-point-four points per game. This scoring total was good enough to see Malik finish second in the SEC for points-per-game. Monk also shot 45 percent from the field, and 39.7 percent from deep last season.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State
The Timberwolves are already one of the most athletic teams and exciting young squads in the NBA. Jonathan Isaac of Florida State would only help to build upon that athleticism, as well as add to Minnesota’s great young core of Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and others.
Isaac’s height and insane athleticism make him a perfect fit for the modern NBA. Although his output at FSU last year wasn’t through the roof at 12 points and eight boards per game, Isaac has all the potential to help what is being touted as the basis of the NBA’s team of the future.
8. New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr, PG, NC State
In hindsight of recent disputes between Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks front office, the assumption is that the star small forward will likely be traded this summer. Melo’s assumed departure would signal the official changing of the guard in Madison Square Garden.
Dennis Smith Jr’s dynamic offensive skill would be a great fit with the Knicks. Although Smith has a score-first style of play, he is also a naturally adept passer, averaging a stunning 6.2 assists per game in two seasons with the Wolf Pack. Pairing Smith with another potential star player like Kristaps Porzingis could help revitalize the New York Knicks sooner rather than later.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Lauri Markkanen being drafted as a Dirk Nowitzki replacement is something straight out of a script. Both are tall, skilled, European power forwards who can shoot the lights out.
At Arizona this past year, Markkanen established himself as one of the best three-point specialists in the country as he recorded a 42.3 percent shooting percentage from long range. Markkanen’s defensive shortcomings would be canceled out by Nerlens Noel, given the Mavericks re-sign him.
For these reasons, Dallas picking Lauri Markkanen seems like a potentially great choice.
10. Sacramento Kings: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
OG Anunoby is a high risk/high reward prospect. After tearing his ACL in January, teams are wary of taking the Indiana sophomore.
However, assuming that he can stay healthy, Anunoby’s explosive game would be a good addition to the King’s new look roster. OG’s defensive ability, paired with his athleticism, show that he can excel at either three or the four. This versatility allows Anunoby to be a decent option when Dave Joerger chooses to stretch the floor.
Overall, adding Anunoby to their already young core of Hield, Skal, and Cauley-Stein would be a step in the right direction for the Kings.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
The Hornets have a history of selecting veterans over one-and-dones, and after taking a look at their needs, Justin Jackson appears to be a clear choice.
With the Hornets style of play, shooting a three-pointer on roughly ⅓ of their offensive possessions, they should try and add shooting at the small forward position, and Jackson adds just that. He was one of the best scorers in the country this year, with 18.3 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting, 37 percent from 3, and he also showed great athleticism at the combine.
12. Detroit Pistons: Zach Collins, PF, Gonzaga
The Pistons likely won’t have their pick come draft night, but if they do, Zach Collins of Gonzaga would be an ideal selection for them.
Although Collins didn’t feature too much for Gonzaga last year, his performances while on the court showed that he could have a long NBA career.
Collins was able to showcase his abilities as a shooting big, hitting 65.2 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from beyond the arc. During Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament run, Collins flashed his defensive talent tallying three blocks per game. This improvement was a spike from his 1.8 blocks per game throughout the course of the regular season.
13. Denver Nuggets: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
Although they’ve taken Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamaal Murray in each of the last two drafts, drafting Frank Ntilikina would make a lot of sense for Denver.
The Nuggets struggled to find a playmaker throughout the past year with Jameer Nelson leading the team with 5.1 assists per game.
Ntilikina’s court vision and passing ability are near the best in this draft class, and when paired with his influence defensively, Frank has the potential to develop into a two-way NBA star. His size (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) and athleticism are also very good indicators of Frank Ntilikina’s chances of developing into another international success story.
14. Miami Heat: John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
The Big 3 era is over in Miami, as the Heat have officially cut ties with Chris Bosh. Getting John Collins would help them replace Bosh at the power forward position.
Unlike Bosh, Collins isn’t much of a 3-point shooter, only attempting 1 three-pointer during his time at Wake Forest. However, despite not shooting from long range, Collins was still able to light up the scoreboard as he averaged 19.2 points per game throughout his career. Collins also commanded the boards, getting 9.8 rebounds per game.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Harry Giles, PF/C, Duke
Noah Vonleh started to stand out near the end of the season for Portland, but not he hasn’t shown this on a consistent enough basis for the Trailblazers to stray away from drafting a power forward.
Harry Giles is arguably one of the most talented players in the draft, but he’s easily the biggest question mark. Coming out of high school he was the nation’s top recruit, but after suffering his second knee injury during his senior year in high school he was severally hampered throughout his freshman year at Duke. Giles was still able to grab 20 percent of rebounds while he was on the court, and shot 57.7 percent from the field in limited minutes.
16. Chicago Bulls: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
The Bulls shooting guard position is a big question mark, with veteran Dwyane Wade flirting with free agency this summer. Currently, the only backup two-guard on the roster is German, Paul Zipser. In order to try and start a rebuild job, the Bulls must focus on their aging backcourt and take Donovan Mitchell.
This past year, in his sophomore season, Mitchell scored 15.6 points per game on 40.8 percent shooting. Mitchell also wowed on defense as he became one of the best perimeter defenders in the ACC.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
The Bucks already have a possible franchise power forward in Jabari Parker, but after tearing his ACL for the second time in the seasons this year, it may be time to look for an insurance policy.
TJ Leaf lived up to the hype in his sole season at UCLA, showing great offensive touch and skill. Leaf scored 16.3 points per game on 61.7 percent shooting. Leaf further stood out in part of his 46.6 percent field goal percentage from beyond the arc. Leaf also snatched 8.2 rebounds per game and blocked 1.1 shots per game.
18. Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Monta Ellis regressed massively playing for the Pacers this year, which means that Indiana is in the market for an upgrade at the shooting guard position. Luke Kennard might just be the guy for the Pacers.
In his freshman year at Duke, he made it clear how good of a shooter he was, and this past year, in his sophomore season, he developed into game-breaking scorer. Kennard dropped 19.5 points per game this year for Duke on 49 percent from the floor and splashing 43.8 percent of his threes. Kennard also improved his defense a lot this season, helping lead Duke to an ACC tournament championship.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Justin Patton, C, Creighton
New Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk has already said that the Hawks are targeting a big-man with their nineteenth pick. Justin Patton might be just who the Hawks have in mind as a long-term replacement for Dwight Howard in the coming years.
Although Howard and Patton bring contrasting play styles to the table, Patton’s is more centered towards the modern NBA. Justin was able to dominate down low on offense, shooting 68.3 percent on two-point attempts, but also offers range in his shots, shooting eight-for-fifteen when he took long range attempts.
If the Hawks opt to re-sign Paul Millsap, then Patton could do a good job off the bench, but if not, he and Dwight Howard could form a dominant duo in the post.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: Terrance Ferguson, SG, American Overseas
In high school, Terrance Ferguson was a McDonald’s All-American, but he opted to forgo college in order to go overseas and play in Australia.
During his time for the Adelaide 36ers, Ferguson did not impress. This caused his draft stock to fall, but his undeniable athleticism is keeping him in the afloat in the first round discussion. At the draft combine, Ferguson posted a 38-inch vertical, and if he can get his 3-point stroke back to a consistent level, he could become an explosive bench option immediately for the Blazers at shooting guard and small forward.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The Thunder may be cutting ties with Enes Kanter this offseason after head coach Billy Donovan said, “he couldn’t play” down the stretch of their postseason series with the Houston Rockets. Despite his offensive polish, Kanter simply does not defend on an acceptable level. For this reason, the Thunder will be in search of a serviceable defensive back-up for Steven Adams at center.
Jarrett Allen is just that. In his lone college season in the Lone Star state, Allen was a force in the paint. He blocked 1.5 shots per game and pulled down 15 percent of possible rebounds while on the court. This saw Allen total 8.5 rebounds per game.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
Despite the Nets key player, Brook Lopez, being a center, it would be smart for them to take a center, as their best option off the bench is Justin Hamilton.
Ike Anigbogu has been flying up draft boards after a draft combine in which he showed the potential to inflict real damage down low. Anigbogu didn’t play too much at UCLA, only getting 13 minutes per game, but he grabbed 16.9 percent of rebounds while on the court and blocked 8.8 percent of potential shots.
23. Toronto Raptors: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
Kyle Lowry is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and it is looking increasingly likely that he might leave the Raptors. Toronto needs to prepare for that possibility, and drafting Jawun Evans could help them if Lowry does decide leave for pastures new.
In his two seasons at Oklahoma City, Evans lit up the scoreboard and set up teammates with profound effectiveness. This year, as a sophomore, Evans scored nineteen-point-two points per game and shot 43.8 percent from the field. Jawun also got 6.4 assists per game which set up 43.6 percent of his teammates’ made field goals while he was on the court.
24. Utah Jazz: Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF, SMU
The Jazz have two small forwards that will be free agents this summer in Joe Ingles and Gordon Hayward. Regardless of if the two re-sign, drafting Semi Ojeleye would be a smart move because of his versatility on the court.
After spending two years with Duke, Ojeleye transferred to SMU. In his one season with the Mustangs, Semi exploded and won the AAC player of the year. This year he scored 18.9 points and hauled in 6.8 rebounds per game. He was also able to stretch the floor, shooting 42.4 percent from three-point range.
25. Orlando Magic: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, Germany
Hartenstein has draft-and-stash written all over him. He has great size at 7-foot with a wingspan of 7-foot-2 inches. This should bode well in the NBA. His athleticism also fits the modern NBA, as he has the ability to play either power forward or center.
Hartenstein won’t be exposed defending the perimeter. However, he still has a lot to learn, as he has Josh Smith-like tendencies of taking ill-advised 3-pointers which he rarely, if ever, connects on.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Andzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
Portland was able to trade for Jusuf Nurkic last year, which helped propel them into the playoffs. However, with Nurkic getting injured toward the end of the season, and Festus Ezeli no longer being on the team, Portland should look to draft a backup center.
Andzejs Pasecniks has really impressed in his workouts, showing the ability to score from all over the floor. Furthermore, his size makes him a potential offensive weapon. There are questions about his strength and defense, but this late in the draft, Pasecniks, and his high ceiling, are too good to pass up on.
27. Brooklyn Nets: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan
During Michigan’s run to the Big 10 championship, DJ Wilson showed why he has a future as an NBA player. His offensive ability was the main focal point, as he scored 11 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting. Wilson also shot 37.3 percent from deep.
Additionally, Wilson was impressive on the defensive end as he showed the ability to defend small forwards and power forwards. Although he did not participate at the draft combine, Wilson is still known to possess great athleticism as he exhibited this over the course of the season.
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Derrick White PG/SG, Colorado
The Lakers already have two good combo guards in D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Derrick White would add to those two and slide seamlessly into the Lakers offense.
This season, White scored 18.1 points per game, while still getting 4.4 assists, and 4.1 rebounds a game. White shot 50.7 percent from the field, and 39.6 percent from three-point range as well.
While White was one of the best offensive players in the country, he also proved to be one of the more underrated defenders in the draft throughout this past year with the Buffs.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Ivan Rabb, PF, California
The Spurs have had troubles with their power forwards and centers when it comes to defending. Specifically, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol were repeatedly exposed in a traditionally sound San Antonio defensive scheme.
Ivan Rabb has the balance of offense and defense that could help the Spurs. In his two years at Cal, Rabb scored 13.2 points and brought down 9.4 rebounds per game.
The only concern around Rabb’s game is his lack of superb athleticism, but given the Spur’s history of maximizing player’s potential, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for Pop and the gang.
Utah Jazz: Frank Jackson, PG, Duke
The Jazz had four point guards on their roster this past year (George Hill, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto), but only one is under contract next year. If the Jazz feel they will be unable to retain their point guards, then drafting Frank Jackson would be a heady play.
Although Jackson didn’t provide too many assists, only recording 1.7 assists per game, this shouldn’t be too concerning to the Jazz given their isolation focused play style. The Jazz only had 16.3 percent of their possessions end in assists, and Jackson assisted 12.6 percent of his teammates’ field goals while on the court.