LIVE: 2017 NBA Draft Grades

The NBA Draft is live with Sports Thoughts! Watch with me as I react and give grades for each team as their picks come in. Whether you can see what happens on ESPN or not, be sure to check back in to this post for the latest updates on all the action. And as always, feel free to discuss all the surprises and trades in the comments below and let me know what you think! Also, if you want to see how my predictions stack up, you can find them here: 2017 NBA Mock Draft. Now, join me as we take a look at the future stars of the NBA find their new homes.

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1      Philadelphia 76ers- Markelle Fultz, PG Washington

A.  This comes as no surprise as Fultz is far and away the most dynamic player in the draft and his self-described unorthodox playing style gives defenders fits. His phenomenal talent and ball-handling skills are enough to go #1, but what sets him apart is his leadership and ability to make his teammates better. With Fultz at the helm, the new era of 76ers basketball is here.

2      Los Angeles Lakers- Lonzo Ball, PG UCLA.

A-. The California kid is coming home! A predictable pick given L.A.’s preparation for the draft, Ball is a perfect fit in the Lakers’ game plan. He surely impressed new president Magic Johnson during his private workouts with his court vision and impressive work ethic. I only worry that his father may become an unnecessary distraction for the franchise. Regardless, time will tell if L.A. has the means to put the rest of the pieces together to make the Lakers a championship contender again.

3      Boston Celtics- Jayson Tatum, SF Duke

B+. The first mini-surprise of the draft falls to Boston. Given the fact that Josh Jackson never got a chance to work out for Danny Ainge’s Celtics, it’s not too shocking to see them take the safe route. Nonetheless, they got a gifted scorer who can mesh with Isaiah Thomas and help take the Celtics to the next level

4      Phoenix Suns- Josh Jackson, SF Kansas

A+. The Suns happily capitalized on Jackson falling right in their lap. A #1 overall talent, Jackson is an excellent rim protecter, and he always knows what to do with the ball in his hands. There is a small hole in his jump shot, but with extensive offseason training among the best coaches in the world, I expect Jackson to mold into the face of the franchise in Phoenix.

5      Sacramento Kings- De’Aaron Fox, PG Kentucky

A+. I love this guy for his personality alone. A likable character from a proven NCAA school, Fox is more than ready to take on the NBA. Furthermore, expect his vendetta with Ball to drive him to succeed in Sacramento. Despite my feelings for the decline of the Kings, I’m really excited to see what Fox can do at the next level.

6      Orlando Magic- Jonathan Isaac, SF Florida State

B. Another hometown kid makes the quick drive from Tallahassee to Orlando. Isaac is a great athlete with excellent defense. He can play all over the front court, and he has good range. For these reasons, I don’t mind the pick. However, I would have liked to see the Magic firm up their back court and establish stability before looking for big men, especially considering Isaac is not known for his strength down low.

7      “Chicago Bulls”- Lauri Markkanen, PF Arizona

A+. TRADE ALERT: The Bulls were able to trade Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and take the 7th pick as well as Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn to officially start the rebuilding process. Another man that will help is Markkanen. I had the Bulls selecting a big small forward with pick 16, so an upgrade to this 7-foot sharpshooter is well worth the trade. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits in the lineup with the way Nikola Mirotic has been playing lately, but Bulls fans can still be excited about the post-Butler era.

8      New York Knicks- Frank Ntilikina, PG France

A. You may recall the last reaction New York fans had after drafting an international player. However, none of the boos rained down on this guy. A truly gifted guard from France, the 6’5″ Frenchman has an excellent basketball IQ with a smooth fluidity to his game. Already familiar with top international competition, it won’t take long for Ntilikina to be the next big thing for the Knicks.

9      Dallas Mavericks- Dennis Smith Jr., PG NC State

A. I’m very impressed with the picks so far. Smith Jr. was my preseason #1, but after seeing him struggle with a poor NC State team this year, I still think he’s a good value in the top 10. His size and ability to drive to the hoop is a huge advantage, and he’s an easy plug-and-play in Dallas.

10      “Portland Trailblazers”- Zach Collins, PF Gonzaga

A+. TRADE ALERT: Portland moves up to #10 by trading picks 15 and 20. I like this move a lot because there isn’t much the Trailblazers can do to get better with a bunch of late round draft picks, and the Kings just need to stockpile assets. So, the Trailblazers go out and pick up a big team need with Collins. A huge presence under the rim, Portland now has a well-developed roster that can go out and win their division in 2018. They may not be championship caliber yet, but I commend their efforts by building a team the right way.

11      Charlotte Hornets- Malik Monk, SG Kentucky

A+. Finally! So far the steal of the draft, Monk lands in Charlotte. All of a sudden this roster is starting to look a little bit scary. With Kemba Walker and Monk holding up the back court and Cody Zeller and Dwight Howard down low, the Hornets are definitely capable of making the playoffs next year. It’ll be interesting to see how the new tools build chemistry, but if they work together throughout the summer, there will be no problem making the most of their combined talents.

12      Detroit Pistons- Luke Kennard, SG Duke

A. I apologize for all the high grades, but I’m really loving how well scouts and GMs are getting the perfect fit for their teams in this deep class. Kennard is one of the best shooters in the draft with great basketball IQ. Perhaps not a starter for the struggling Pistons, he can still be a very useful 6th man that contends for serious minutes in Detroit.

13      “Utah Jazz”- Donovan Mitchell, SG Louisville

A+. TRADE ALERT: The Jazz trade up and select a very athletic guard from Louisville who can play behind (or replace) Gordon Hayward. Like the Blazers, the Jazz knew they cannot get much better with a late-round pick, and wisely moved up to nab Mitchell. If they can sign Hayward back, I expect the Jazz to be back fighting for 2nd in the Western Conference next year.

14      Miami Heat- Bam Adebayo, PF Kentucky

C+. My first disappointment. Adebayo has great size, and you can never underestimate a Kentucky Wildcat, but I feel there are way better power forwards on the board. I like addressing their biggest need and giving help to Hassan Whiteside though. Hopefully he can be a big contributor to the best team to miss the playoffs, but I think Miami could’ve done better.

15      “Sacramento Kings”- Justin Jackson, SF North Carolina

A+. With their second of 3 picks now, the Kings pick up an awesome small forward. Many think he’s overrated, but I think he’s quite the opposite. I thought the All-American and NCAA Champion should fall 13th, and I’m thrilled to see him picked higher than the experts thought. His 6’9″ frame can control the glass and he has a very reliable jump shot. Nice job by the Kings so far.

16      “Minnesota Timberwolves”- Justin Patton, C Creighton

A-. Along with one of the best players in the league in Butler, the Timberwolves pick up Patton with their 1st pick. A very strong center, Patton excelled in the Big East. He may be young, but he has a very high ceiling and great range for a big man. I do have a couple more mobile centers above Patton, but if the T-wolves are looking for some muscle, they got it.

17      Milwaukee Bucks- D.J. Wilson, PF Michigan

D+. While Wilson has great length, he pales in comparison to my prediction of Anibogu. Furthermore, Wilson has a very low floor and a surprisingly small sample size even though he is a junior. I just don’t see where he fits on the floor in Milwaukee. If he can perform like he did at the end of his 2017 season, then great. However, I think he will wind up as a bust. Whatever the case, the Wolverine is now a Buck (haha).

18      Indiana Pacers- T.J. Leaf, PF UCLA

B. Leaf is a great power forward who can knock down 3s like nobody’s business. He also offers hustle on the defensive end and always exhibits a great work ethic. Furthermore, the UCLA freshman has shown great maturity, especially in the wake of all of the Lavar Ball distractions. All of that said- I don’t think he’s a first round talent. With the depth of big men in the draft, I think the Pacers had much better options with similar skill sets.

19      Atlanta Hawks- John Collins, PF Wake Forest

A+. Speaking of better power forwards, Collins is another big steal. A projected lottery pick, Collins commands the floor and has a seemingly endless battery. His energy can revitalize the Hawks as they start from scratch next year. Also, with Howard and Paul Millsap gone, he’s desperately needed to fill the void and perhaps start on opening night.

20      “Sacramento Kings”- Harry Giles, C Duke

B-. Mmmm. I’m fine with this, but Giles has some durability problems. Though he has some experience under his belt from a great university, I think there are better all-around players on the board. But if the Kings are looking for a great inside scorer and a good post player like Demarcus Cousins, it doesn’t get better than Giles.

21      Oklahoma City Thunder- Terrance Ferguson, SG Australia

B. Ferguson is a lengthy shooting guard who took his talents overseas instead of going to college. It paid off well for him as he absolutely excelled in the NBL down under. However, as I said in my predictions, it’s always risky to draft international players, and this 19 year old is definitely no exception. The NBL is not necessarily up-to-par with the USA college basketball programs, so it’ll be interesting to see how Ferguson’s skills translate. This is one of those boom or bust selections.

22      Brooklyn Nets- Jarrett Allen, C Texas.

A+. And finally here comes the worst team in the NBA last year. I had the Nets drafting Pasecniks, but that was considering Allen was off the board. So I really like that they’re addressing the need at center with Brooks Lopez gone. Allen is one of the most athletic centers in this class, and he’s a gifted defender with great hands off the glass. The Nets will depend on him to help slowly turn their organization around.

23      Toronto Raptors- OG Anunoby, SF Indiana

A-. The best player left from my mock draft, Anunoby is an athletic forward that can stretch the floor in Toronto. He can definitely help the Raptors continue their success in the regular season as long as Kyle Lowry stays in town, but I doubt he helps them get over the hump in the playoffs. Ousted by Cleveland the past two years, the Raptors probably need a little more help to compete with the Cavs and to go after a title.

24      “Denver Nuggets”- Tyler Lydon, SF/PF Syracuse

A+. I’ll be honest, this is mainly an A+ because I correctly predicted a pick this late. But don’t let that fact take away from Lydon’s all-around ball skills. A good passer with stamina to go up-and-down the floor, Lydon fits well in the Nuggets’ roster. I like this trade even more because Denver was able to drop back 11 picks in the draft, pick up a team need, and gain another asset in Trey Lyles. Very well done.

25      Orlando Magic- Andzjes Pasecniks, C Latvia

A. Orlando is a team that loves international scouting, and I’m sure they’re confident with this athletic big man. He’s a tall presence with tons of momentum in the lane that compliments fellow draftee Isaac very well. The Magic now have a very young inexperienced roster, but they look forward to growing together and building chemistry to be competitive in the future. Let’s also hope they hit the weight room because none of the starters have much strength right now, and that can lead to losing a lot of rebound battles.

26      Portland Trailblazers- Caleb Swanigan, PF Purdue

A+. YES! The Big Ten Player of the Year is by far the most underrated player in the draft. A relentless scorer, the 250-pounder loves to work his way around the lane. He also has a reliable fadeaway and jump shot if he can’t get the layup he wants. His shoot-first, aggressive mentality is key for a team trying to make a deep run in the playoffs.

27      “Los Angeles Lakers”- Kyle Kuzma, SF Utah

D+. He might be trade bait for Paul George, but there are way better small forwards out there. Kuzma is a hard worker, but undersized for the position. While he had a good season for the Utes, they still failed to make the NCAA tournament. I just think this was a missed opportunity for L.A.

28      “Utah Jazz”- Tony Bradley, C North Carolina

F. TRADE ALERT: The Jazz move up two selections to get this center from the Lakers… but why? They already have Rudy Gobert and, again, there are better big men with more size and mobility on the board. Bradley is a winner, but he struggles to maintain long minutes on the floor. Come playoff time for the Jazz, that is a big red flag. I would’ve preferred seeing Anigbogu, Hartenstein, or White here depending on Hayward’s pending decision.

29      San Antonio Spurs- Derrick White, PG/SG Colorado

A-. White is a small guard that can learn a lot from Tony Parker. With a bunch of trade rumors surrounding the Spurs, it might appear they’re selling this offseason instead of buying. I really wanted to see Chris Paul in San Antonio, but with LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green on the trading block, the Spurs might be willing to put their 20-year playoff run at risk to reload for the future.

30      “Los Angeles Lakers”- Josh Hart, SG Villanova

A++. Josh Hart isn’t the best player left on the board, but I LOVE this pick. Hart is a natural leader (and an Eagle Scout like myself), who will be vital in the Lakers’ success. I’m one of Hart’s biggest fans, and I’m thrilled to have called this pick by Los Angeles. Now the Lakers have two outstanding young guards, Brandon Ingram, a veteran Brooks Lopez, and potentially Paul George? Look out Western Conference. Look out.

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That wraps up the first round and does it for me tonight. Thank you to all of those who tuned in! Before I go, here are a few more players I like in the second round:

Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA– Has the most length in this class, and is an intimidating presence in the paint

Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C Germany– A tall shooter with a little bit to learn, he can provide key minutes for ailing centers

Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF SMU– Incredibly very strong, athletic forward that can run the pick-and-pop to provide a versatile offensive attack

Jordan Bell, PF Oregon– Really good scorer with some solid experience. He can be a great asset to a team with a depleted front court

Frank Mason III, PG Kansas– Mason is very undersized and may never be a starter in the NBA, but he is another natural leader with a great motor off the bench

 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to hear my winners and losers of this year’s draft in the coming days.

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