Russell Westbrook hasn’t even been named MVP yet, and it’s already time for the draft. Unlike the MLB, where the draft happens midseason, or in the NFL where we have to wait months after the Super Bowl to find out which college athletes will make the pros, the NBA gives us approximately one week to breathe after the season ends before making their picks. So after a lot of speculation, here we are. Let’s take a look at how the 2017 NBA Draft should go down.
1 Philadelphia 76ers- Markelle Fultz, PG Washington
The 76ers traded up for one reason and one reason only: to acquire the best player in the draft and solidify a young starting 5 with loads of potential. I may have gotten overzealous thinking they would come close to making the postseason last year, but with Fultz, that dream will be a reality by 2019.
2 Los Angeles Lakers- Lonzo Ball, PG UCLA
Ball and the Lakers want each other. Ball, a California native and UCLA grad, has always dreamed of donning the purple and gold, and the Lakers need him. With D’Angelo Russell struggling due to a lack of experience and veteran talent, the Lakers shipped him to Brooklyn. So, Ball’s talents are needed now more than ever. It’s too bad because with Ball’s vision and shooting skills and Russell’s insane passing ability, they would have just needed one more stud to solidify L.A. as a playoff team in 2018. . .
3 Boston Celtics- Josh Jackson, SF Kansas
I love the move down for Boston. By virtually trading Fultz for Jackson and a first round pick, Boston gains more assets to make trades. With Isaiah Thomas, Patrick Beverly, and Al Horford already on board, picking up Gordon Hayward or Paul George would be huge. With a stock pile of first round picks, it’s viable to use these as leverage to kick start the rebuilding efforts in Utah or Indiana.
4 Phoenix Suns- Jayson Tatum, SF Duke
Tatum is an excellent player, but not the 4th best in my opinion. Nonetheless, he falls where many believe he should in Phoenix. Tatum is a big body with extraordinary talent that could fit into the starting lineup on opening night, and that’s just what you want from a top 5 pick. Tatum isn’t for everyone, but he is for the Suns.
5 Sacramento Kings- De’Aaron Fox, PG Kentucky
Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. The Kings are a mess of an organization. Not only did they finish with only 32 wins, but after trading away their franchise player for pennies, they have no direction. I’m sorry, but it’s only going to get worse from here in Sacramento. Here is the best player on the board from the best basketball school in the country to play point guard. Good Luck.
6 Orlando Magic- Malik Monk, SG Kentucky
Monk is another great talent who really impressed at the combine and during private workouts. With Elfrid Payton emerging as a premier point guard, Monk’s athleticism is a perfect match. With a strengthened back court, the Magic can focus on forwards and big men for the remainder of the draft.
7 Minnesota Timberwolves- Lauri Markkanen, PF Arizona
This pick was tough for me because I love the Timberwolves’ roster as-is. They’re young like the 76ers with no true holes, and frankly, I can’t understand why their record isn’t closer to .500. So, if they don’t trade this pick they might as well get a sharpshooter in Markkanen. Regardless, they can’t go wrong unless they get a point guard after seeing how Kris Dunn underperformed off the bench last year.
8 New York Knicks- Donovan Mitchell, SG Louisville
Mitchell is a well-rounded player with developed offensive fundamentals, but the Knicks will need his tenacious defense. Coming off a season where opposing team’s routinely gouged the Knicks, Mitchell’s perimeter defense is a much-needed addition. However, with this historic franchise in shambles, it won’t surprise me to see them go in a different direction.
9 Dallas Mavericks- Dennis Smith Jr., PG NC State
If the Knicks don’t draft Mitchell, the Mavs certainly should as he’d be the perfect fit for their hole at shooting guard. However, since Smith struggled to lead NC State to a tournament appearance despite his vast skill set, it might be wise to allow him to make a transition to the two-guard slot. It’s also worth noting that owner Mark Cuban loves to makes big trades, so perhaps we can expect one here.
10 Sacramento Kings- Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF Florida State
Some experts are picking Isaac to fall in the Top 5 and with good reason. He’s an athletic big man that can excel almost anywhere. Even though the Kings should pass on him for Fox, he can seriously help their newly-depleted front court if he falls to #10. These two stars can try to help the Kings stop the bleeding and turn the franchise around.
11 Charlotte Hornets- Luke Kennard, SF Duke
This is another match made in heaven. Kennard is just what the Hornets need. Somewhat of a J.J. Reddick-like player, he can give Charlotte depth and perimeter shooting. Kennard is a proven talent with deep range to make the Hornets more diverse and to give a little relief to the bench.
12 Detroit Pistons- Zach Collins, PF Gonzaga
Collins is another experienced big man who made waves late in the year. Thanks to Gonzaga’s national attention, Collins was able to showcase his size and command of the lane. Andre Drummond will surely welcome this partner in crime to form a scary duo under the rim in Detroit.
13 Denver Nuggets- Justin Jackson, SF North Carolina
I’ll admit I like Jackson a little more than most people, but after his rookie season I believe those thoughts will come to fruition. Jackson is a strong shooting forward with size that will make space for Jokic down low and will spread out the Denver attack. While his ball handling skills struggle at times, he’s a strong passer that can open up the Nuggets’ game plan.
14 Miami Heat- Frank Ntilikina, PG France
The Heat are one of the best team’s in the country at international scouting, and as we transition from starters to 6th men, look no further than Ntilikina. The Frenchman is known for his vision and ability to adjust to changing defensive schemes. Miami would love to welcome him into the lineup behind Goran Dragic, that is, unless they can formulate a trade for Hayward instead.
15 Portland Trailblazers- Jarrett Allen, C Texas
One of the best duos in the country needs help inside, and there is no one better that is still on the board than Allen. Despite a relatively lackluster season for the Longhorns, Allen showed what he can be capable of doing for an NBA franchise. Without much support inside, Allen might find his way into the starting rotation within the first 40 games of the season.
16 Chicago Bulls- Og Anunoby, SF Indiana
Well, the more prevalent news in Chicago is whether or not they trade Jimmy Butler and start over, or find a big man and try to acquire someone of their own like Hayward. If they choose the latter, I like Anunoby to play the corner slot. Derrick Rose and Butler are incredibly athletic and know how to move without the ball. With Anunoby’s drive-and-pop playmaking ability, the Bulls can be deadly when given an inside presence on top of all of that.
17 Milwaukee Bucks- Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA
Anibogu is massive, and the Bucks love massive. Boasting over a 7’6′ wingspan, imagine trying to weave through the trees that are Anibogu, Giannis Antetokounpo and Thon Maker. That’s a combined 21′ 6″ wingspan amongst them, which literally covers half the court. I’m not sure all of that size will lead to balance, but I don’t know of any way to effectively beat 3 of the tallest men in the NBA on the floor at one time.
18 Indiana Pacers- John Collins, PF Wake Forest
Depending on what the Pacers do with Paul George, John Collins is a steal and a perfect fit for the Pacers’ scheme. As Indiana comes to a crossroad in their organization’s future, Collins has a chance to be a cornerstone in the next era of Pacers basketball. On top of his stellar career at Wake Forest, he’s a great leader in the locker room and loves to make his teammates better.
19 Atlanta Hawks- Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C Germany
Hartenstein is a huge presence that can learn from the best before becoming a starter in the coming seasons. While Dwight Howard ages and Paul Millsap contemplates free agency, this German can study the game for a year or two before bursting on the scene when the time is right.
20 Portland Trailblazers- Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF SMU
One of the stronger men in the draft, this forward can drive and provide a more balanced attack for Portland. While Lillard and McCollum rain 3s, Ojeleye is a threat to knock them down as well as drive the paint. Furthermore, his size can compliment Allen and give the Blazers a seriously formidable attack.
21 Oklahoma City Thunder- Caleb Swanigan, PF/C Purdue
Probably the most underrated player in the draft, Swanigan can be the rookie of the year in Oklahoma City. Already a proven multi-talented player that earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors, his experience with Purdue can quickly transition to the NBA. Add on how future 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook (PLEASE) can distribute the ball, Swanigan can thrive in his new environment for years to come.
22 Brooklyn Nets- Anzejs Pasecniks, C Latvia
The Nets are reportedly very high on selecting Porzingis’ former teammate. In my opinion, any international player is a risky pick because of the unknown transition to the USA, but seeing how well Porzingis has played, I don’t blame the Nets for going after Pasecniks. Besides, what do they have to lose?
23 Toronto Raptors- Justin Patton, C Creighton
This is a steal for a massive rim-protector to compliment Serge Ibaka. The Raptors are another well-rounded team on the brink of being legitimate championship contenders, but they just seem to be missing that one piece to push them over. Patton has a few years of experience under his belt under an excellent Creighton coaching staff. He might not be the difference for a Toronto title, but he can be a big boost down low.
24 Utah Jazz- Tyler Lydon, SF/PF Syracuse
If Hayward leaves, the Jazz will be sunk. However, if they can manage to re-sign him and get Lydon for some scoring on the bench, they’re one piece away from losing to the Warriors in the Conference Finals. That is, Golden State is unbeatable right now, but the Jazz are closer than it seems to threatening them at the top.
25 Orlando Magic- D.J. Wilson, PF Michigan
Ojeleye and Lydon would be great here, but the Magic are just a little too late. Wilson is less versatile, but was a solid shooter at the end of last year. I’m not quite convinced his skills will translate from what I’ve seen in college, but if he continues to play like he did in the tournament, the Magic could walk away with a big steal. If they pass on him, it will be due to his low floor.
26 Portland Trailblazers- Derrick White, PG/SG Colorado
The Trailblazers could go anywhere with their 3rd pick of the first round, but after taking a center and forward, I chose another utility man. This guard can help give Lillard and McCollum rest with his contributions and completes the trifecta of picks. Meanwhile, with these three men in hand, Portland will be wise to go out and capture one of the powerhouses of free agency.
27 Los Angeles Lakers- Harry Giles, C Duke
Even with the trade for Brooks Lopez, Giles is too good to pass up. A proven stud, Giles can rotate inside and garner some playing time early. Another potential steal of the draft, Giles compliments everything the Lakers have. There is no need for a point guard after selecting Ball, and with Brandon Ingram and a certain small forward, the Lakers are right on the edge of title contention with the Jazz.
28 Los Angeles Lakers- Josh Hart, SG Villanova
Now with back-to-back picks, I believe that the Lakers have plans to draft Hart. A four-year starter and NCAA Champion, Hart is renowned for his leadership on and off the court. The Lakers need stability as they try to make the transition from 26-56 to 56-26. I’m not a fan of the trade because of Russell’s untapped potential due to his youth, but Hart already has that maturity and can make a fine replacement.
29 San Antonio Spurs- Jordan Bell, PF Oregon
Jordan Bell is another big presence that can do it all. You might be sensing a trend in this year’s draft. With many more front court players left, I think Bell could be a lottery pick almost any other year. Still, the Spurs pick up some size, scoring, and an excellent rebounder. With this pick, San Antonio is the full package, and all they need to do is stay healthy to try to get revenge on the Warriors in the Conference Finals.
30 Utah Jazz- Jawun Evans, PG Oklahoma State
Whether Evans replaces Hayward or becomes his backup, he’ll be needed. Utah lacks guard depth and Evans can give the Jazz some more production when Hayward is off the floor. Utah fans will just hope that that is not indefinite. The only downside with Evans is the fact that he is undersized for a guard in the NBA, but if Isaiah Thomas can mold into a superstar, why can’t Evans?
2nd Round Notables:
T.J. Leaf, PF UCLA
Ivan Rabb, PF/C California
Thomas Bryant, C Indiana
Frank Mason, PG Kansas
Johnathan Motley, PF/C Baylor
Dillon Brooks, SF Oregon
Sindarius Thornwell, SG South Carolina
Nigel Williams-Goss, PG Gonzaga
Alec Peters, PF Valparaiso
Derrick Walton, PG Michigan