Now that the dust has settled and the draft order is complete, it is time for an early NBA Mock Draft. This is going to be a small sample size of the little information we know only hours after the lottery has ended. With that being said, this is going to be a mock draft for only the teams that were in the lottery.
#1 Boston Celtics- Markelle Fultz (Washington, Point Guard, Freshmen)
After winning the NBA draft lottery, the Celtics look to add the already NBA playmaking ability that Fultz can bring day-one to a team ready to face the reigning NBA Champions in the Conference Finals. Fultz, standing at 6’4”, has the prototypical build for a point guard, but can also play the two if need be. Adding this young playmaker to the already crowded Celtics backcourt may bring up questions to trade some of their key role players such as Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, who have all made key contributions in Boston’s deep playoff run. With the versatility of Fultz, playing alongside Thomas is going to give the Celtics a much-needed second option to create out on the perimeter.
Strengths- Pick and roll maestro, controls speed of game
Weaknesses- Defensive effort, settles for too many jumpers
Comparison- Cj McCollum
#2 Los Angeles Lakers- Lonzo Ball (UCLA, Point Guard, Freshmen)
Did we really think that the NBA was going to let the Lakers potentially stink for another two to three more years? With their immediate future being determined Tuesday night, Magic Johnson and the Lakers hit a lottery of their own, they got to keep their picks (2017 and 2019). There will be no surprises on draft night, the Lakers are looking for their next star and Lonzo has the potential to be just that. This pick should officially move D’Angelo Russell to shooting guard for good, this leaves the floor wide-open for the Lonzo Ball show. Lonzo’s court vision reminds me of Steve Nash, though not as flashy but definitely has the ability to see the play develop before it actually happens. This is a step in the right direction, but Lakers fans cannot expect instant success from this young core.
Strengths- Elite Court Vision, knock down shooter
Weaknesses- Lateral quickness, hitch in shot could affect mid-range/off-dribble shooting
Comparison- Jason Kidd
#3 Philadelphia 76ers- Malik Monk (Kentucky, Shooting Guard, Freshmen)
Now, do I think Malik Monk is the third best player in this draft? No, but I do think this is easily the best fit for the 76ers if Fultz and Ball are presumably off the board. This is a rare situation in the NBA where I can see value in a team trading down a couple of spots based on the value of their current need and what is available. Personally, I think Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox are all better prospects, but Monk is the best fit for the 76ers simply based on his ability to score at will. Stacking a player like Jackson or Tatum would just complicate the rotation with already having Simmons, Saric and Covington at the forwards; they need scoring and Monk can provide that day one. Monk’s combination of not only athleticism, but also his ability to create his own shot at will could provide the extra spark Philadelphia needs moving forward.
Strengths- Ability to score at all three levels, JR Smith confidence
Weaknesses- Undersized shooting guard, loose handle
Comparison- Better version of Zach Lavine
#4 Phoenix Suns- Josh Jackson (Kansas, Small Forward, Freshmen)
The Suns had the second-best chance of winning the draft lottery, they fell to fourth and whether they were picking at one or at four, Josh Jackson would’ve been their guy in my opinion. The Suns are a guard-dominant team with ball-dominant players such as Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker manning the starting back court; a player of Jackson’s skills was much needed. Jackson shows tons of potential to be more than the “three and D” player he was labeled as early in his college career, he showed late in the season at Kansas that he can be a go-to scorer late in games if called upon. Known for his chase down blocks and his insane heat checks in March, Josh Jackson has the tools to be one of the best two-way players in the league.
Strengths- Explosive Athlete, ability to switch onto guards and forwards with ease
Weaknesses- Lacks mental strength in adversity, off-court issues
Comparison- Paul George
#5 Sacramento Kings- De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky, Point Guard, Freshmen)
The Kings are getting a steal at five if they can get De’Aaron Fox. He arguably has the potential to be the best player in this draft class if he can correct his poor outside shot (23% from three). A combination of speed, body control, and just a will-to-win, he already has the tools to be the starting point guard for the Kings; with this pick, they would finally be stepping in the right direction. I’ve compared Fox to John Wall since his first game at Kentucky; after watching him own the moment in the UCLA game in the Sweet 16, I knew this kid was going to be something special.
Strengths- Ability to get any shot he wants, defensive tenacity
Weaknesses- Three-point shooting, small frame
Comparison- John Wall
#6 Orlando Magic- Jayson Tatum (Duke, Small Forward, Freshmen)
Arguably the most lethal scorer at all three levels, Tatum has the offensive tools to be special. The Orlando Magic, who are in desperate need of instant offense, can get a top three prospect at the seventh pick; the Magic ranked in the bottom three in PPG, FG% and three point%. Standing at 6’8”, Tatum can easily play at the three or the four. This is much needed versatility from a team that was playing Aaron Gordon at Small Forward at times this past year…yeah, I don’t get it either.
Strengths- Excellent footwork, would thrive in the pick and roll/pop
Weaknesses- Three-point consistency, defensive aggressiveness
Comparison- Danny Granger
#7 Minnesota Timberwolves- Jonathan Issac (Florida State, Power Forward, Freshmen)
Minnesota was dead last in the league in terms of three-point attempts per game, this was due to lack of spacing around Karl-Anthony Towns. For the majority of his career, Towns has had to play with another big that cannot stretch the floor to the three-point line, this changes now. Jonathan Issac brings length, athleticism, shot blocking and the ability to stretch the floor to this young core that needs a player of his skill set. Playing this 6’11” freak of nature at the four will leave the lane wide-open for Wiggins and Towns.
Strengths- Versatility defensively on switches, catch and shoot three point shooter
Weaknesses- So-so hands, lacks ability to put ball on the floor effectively at times
Comparison- Longer Harrison Barnes
#8 New York Knicks- Frank Ntilikina (France, Point Guard, 1997)
Now here is someone most of you have never heard of, but for Knicks fans doesn’t this sound familiar? Two years ago, you found a diamond in the rough in Kristaps Porzingis and now another international stud just landed on your doorstep. The sexy pick here would probably be Dennis Smith Jr., but an undersized shoot-first point guard is not really the right fit here. The right fit is the 6’5” athletic Frenchmen that is at worst just a ball stopper on the defensive end at point guard, but his upside offensively is still a mystery due to the lack of consistency and competition overseas. Phil Jackson has probably never seen this guy play, mind that, I can guarantee Phil Jackson never went out of his way to go overseas to watch this guy play. If he wants to keep his job and prevent riots in New York, he needs to go with the perfect fit for the Triangle and that guy is Ntilikina.
Strengths- Defends all three positions on the wing, good off-ball shooter
Weaknesses- Loose handle, below average passer
Comparison- 6’5” Patrick Beverley
#9 Dallas Mavericks- Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, Point Guard, Freshmen)
Early in the year, Smith Jr. was labeled as a top three prospect for the upcoming draft, but after his weaknesses glared at NC State, the right place for him to shine is in Dallas. For the majority of his time on the floor, he was surrounded by two bigs that couldn’t stretch the floor, but he still managed to get his shot whenever and wherever he wanted. At times, he got into trouble when he tried to do too much and his lack of developing plays early led to plenty of turnovers. The Mavericks are the perfect landing spot for a player of his skillset, with the ability to give him the perfect amount of spacing in the half court to maximize his offensive potential, this is a no-brainer for both sides. The question marks are: will he be able to affect the game when not scoring and his lackadaisical defensive effort. I’m sure Rick Carlisle can get the best out of him.
Strengths- Supreme Athleticism, crafty finisher
Weaknesses- Decision making, defensive effort
Comparison- Steve Francis
#10 Sacramento Kings- Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, Power Forward, Freshmen)
After taking a much-needed point guard with the fifth pick, the Kings decide to draft another big man, but Markkanen isn’t just any big man. What Lauri Markkanen lacks defensively, Willy Cauley-Stein can make up for on the back end, Markkanen is going to make his money on the offensive end. The seven-footer out of Finland is a lethal shooter from the outside, but can also make his money in the mid-range with his stellar footwork. Markkanen has also shown flashes of greatness defensively out on the perimeter, at times holding his own against smaller and quicker guards on switches. The Kings are rebuilding, the 2017 draft could be a step in the right direction if handled correctly and I think the right step for them is Fox and Markkanen.
Strengths- Lethal shooter, can score at all three levels
Weaknesses- Struggles against length, poor rebounder
Comparison- Dirk Nowitzki
#11 Charlotte Hornets- Zach Collins (Gonzaga, Center, Freshmen)
The Gonzaga standout shined when given the chance, only averaging 17 minutes per game he averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game on 65% shooting and also shot 48% from three as well. The seven-footer would be a no brainer for the Hornets, desperately needing a consistent threat at center offensively, while still protecting the rim defensively.
Strengths- Great touch inside, high defensive IQ
Weaknesses- Issues staying out of foul trouble, average athleticism
Comparison- Kevin McHale
#12 Detroit Pistons- OG Anunoby (Indiana, Small Forward, Sophmore)
The Detroit Pistons didn’t get much out of Stanley Johnson in his second year, and with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope probably hitting free agency, the Pistons are going to need some athletic wings that can defend. This is why the Pistons are going to take a flyer on Anunoby, even with him coming off of an ACL injury, the Pistons are desperate for any players with superstar upside. At worst, he gives the Pistons another defensive specialist that can finish at the rim. If he develops the way most scouts think he can, the Pistons are looking at possibly their next franchise player if he can stay healthy.
Strengths- Elite defensive presence, ability to guard the 1-4
Weaknesses- Coming off ACL tear, lacks consistent jumper
Comparison- Trevor Ariza, Kawhi Leonard potential
#13 Denver Nuggets- Justin Jackson (North Carolina, Small Forward, Junior)
With the Denver Nuggets future with Danilo Gallinari uncertain, a player of Jackson’s skillset would be a perfect fit for the Nuggets. A forward that can provide shooting, length, and off-ball playmaking ability offensively is exactly what the Nuggets need to surround their star Nikola Jokic. Justin Jackson, who was a starter on a Tar Heel team that went to back-to-back National Championships, has shown he’s a proven winner and can bring that Malcom Brogdon-esque leadership to a young team as a rookie at the age of 22.
Strengths- Improved jumper, high basketball IQ
Weaknesses- Loose handle, settles for jumpers too often
Comparison- Matt Barnes
#14 Miami Heat- John Collins (Wake Forest, Power Forward, Sophmore)
This pick is going to be a ‘best fit’ selection. John Collins would be an instant upgrade to Miami’s weakest position. Collins has an extremely high motor and has shown he has the potential to stretch the floor to the three-point line if needed to as well, this would leave the lane wide open for lobs to Hassan Whiteside almost every possession. If he can continue to show the ability to shoot the three that he did at the combine (16-25), while combining that with the athleticism and great hands, Miami could have their frontcourt of the future.
Strengths- High motor, excellent rebounder
Weaknesses- Issues staying out of foul trouble, poor passer
Comparison- Jerami Grant
Written by: Tyler Vernor @tvernor85