We’re over halfway in both the NBA and college basketball regular seasons and fans are given an insight into which teams need a new franchise cornerstone and which college stars can fulfill that role of franchise player. This draft class seems to be all about the guards, so if your team is in need of a new playmaker, then this is the year to draft one. There are descriptions available for all lottery picks, while the rest are just picks I’ve made without reasoning. The mock draft order is based on teams’ current records:
1) Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets) – PG Markelle Fultz (Washington)
The Celtics are currently 3rd in the Eastern conference. And thanks to a trade a few years ago with the Brooklyn Nets, they may wind up with the first overall pick in the draft, with the Nets currently holding the worst record in the NBA. There’s no power forward worthy of being the #1 pick in this 2017 class, so the Celtics may have to settle with drafting a point guard and Markelle Fultz may be the complete package. At 6’4, he’s long and athletic, as well as an exciting playmaker and advanced scorer. He recently hit the 30-point mark for the third time this season against Stanford and despite Washington struggling this season, Fultz’ strong play is helping his draft stock grow. With this selection, the Celtics can build a backcourt with Fultz and Isaiah Thomas, with Avery Bradley moving to a sixth man role and Marcus Smart possibly being traded.
2) Miami Heat – PG Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
With Dwyane Wade gone from South Beach, it’s time for the Heat to find a new franchise player. You could argue that Justice Winslow or Hassan Whiteside fills this role, but Lonzo Ball could be the player who can give this team a jump-start. He did that with UCLA this season, who are #1 in the nation in offensive efficiency. Through six Pac-12 conference games, Ball is averaging 16.7 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 turnovers. He possesses the flashy playmaking ability of Jason Kidd, the athleticism of Derrick Rose and the unorthodox, but lethal shooting style of Stephen Curry. Many are excited about his brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, but Lonzo is leading the way for the next generation. There are concerns over his scoring ability and mid-range game, but these can be fixed as Miami looks for a strong backcourt partner for Goran Dragic.
3) Phoenix Suns – SF Josh Jackson (Kansas)
With P.J Tucker set to hit free agency, the Suns should look to draft a replacement in Josh Jackson. Jackson has the same defensive presence as Tucker, but provides more versatility on offense and upside. Averaging 15.6 points and 3.0 assists, Jackson has that slasher ability and is great at improvising in the lane. He can be considered a point forward with his playmaking and ball-handling, similar to Ben Simmons’ game. If he can fix his jumper (9-of-36 threes this season) and free throw shooting (57% from the free throw line), he will be a perfect fit for the Suns. His athleticism, vision and defensive competitiveness will have teams fall in love with him.
4) Dallas Mavericks – PG Dennis Smith Jr (NC State)
The Mavericks can look for a big man to develop under Dirk Nowitzki as the German superstar near the end of his storied career. But the big man class is not as strong as previous years. Instead, Dallas should look for a point guard to become the new face of their backcourt. Dennis Smith Jr seems to be one of the safest picks in this draft class, averaging 19.5 points and 6.2 assists this season. He’s a strong playmaker and scorer who can help Harrison Barnes provide some offense. Smith is a solid jump shooter and can put pressure at the rim. If drafted, expect Smith to develop under Deron Williams before Williams moves on to another team.
5) Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers) – SG Malik Monk (Kentucky)
Thanks to a trade with the Lakers, the 76ers may end up with two lottery picks in 2017 and more importantly, two top-ten picks. With these picks, expect Philadelphia to add some firepower to their backcourt. Kentucky’s Malik Monk is the top shooting guard in this draft class and one of the best shooters available. He’s a shot-maker and scorer who can play off the back of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. This season, Monk is averaging 3.2 threes per game at 41.5%. His biggest scoring output this season was when he dropped 47 points against North Carolina. Monk has elite athleticism and is solid in transition, although the concern will be that he has limited playmaking skills. Putting him with the 76ers, with a playmaker like Simmons and whoever the Sixers draft at point guard would make Monk’s life a little easier.
6) Minnesota Timberwolves – PF/C Lauri Markkanen (Arizona)
With the Timberwolves shopping Ricky Rubio, they could draft Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, but he has a similar to Rubio in that he can’t shoot. This leaves the T’Wolves in a bit of a conundrum, but could ultimately lead to them reaching for a big man to help Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng in the frontcourt. Markkanen has the versatility, shot-making ability and potential that could intrigue the Wolves. You could argue he’s one of the top shooters in this draft along with Malik Monk, hitting 46.5% from downtown this season. He’s been used a pick-and-roll ball-handler at times, with the ability to step-back and pull up off the dribble. He put up 30 points recently against Arizona State and is making a case as one of the top offensive prospects in this 2017 class. Markkanen gives the Wolves a shot-maker and floor spacer.
7) Philadelphia 76ers – PG De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
The chances of this happening are unlikely, but we could see the Kentucky Wildcats backcourt taking their talents to Philly. The Sixers draft their point guard of the future in De’Aaron Fox and drafting him along with Malik Monk will make life easier for both players. Fox isn’t a great shooter compared to the other top guards in this draft, but his top-notch decision-making (6.4 assists and 2.2 turnovers) gives the Sixers a strong playmaker next to Ben Simmons. His defensive quickness and mentality will help this backcourt with Joel Embiid anchoring the defense in the frontcourt. Fox has shown that he doesn’t need to score 20 points to impact a game, instead his defense and stability can give Philadelphia a spark in the years to come.
8) Sacramento Kings – SF Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
Rudy Gay is in a contract year and his season-ending injury has complicated things, but the Kings should be prepared in case Gay decides to leave Sacramento. Jonathan Isaac helped his draft stock with a recent 17-point, 12-rebounds outing against North Carolina. In that game, he showed his toughness as he competed for loose balls and won against stronger bigs. He also, like this whole season, flashed his scoring potential with pull-jumpers, threes and the ability to create his own shot. He’s shot 62.7% inside the arc and averaged just 2.6 turnovers this season. Isaac is a better shooter than Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum, which gives him a higher ceiling and could lead to him being drafted in the top 5 later in the draft process, but for now, his offensive efficiency gives the Kings a nice replacement if Rudy Gay leaves.
9) New Orleans Pelicans – SF Jayson Tatum (Duke)
The Pelicans have long needed a scoring wing and they may have finally found that guy in Jayson Tatum. At 6’8, Tatum is a great ball-handler and a capable shot creator who can shoot over defenders or beat them to the rim. However, he has been inefficient this season (shooting only 42.3% from the floor), lacking a consistent jumper or an explosive finishing ability, but his tools and skills should translate well to the professional level. Tatum’s size gives the Pelicans a handy option, as they could play him at the power forward position in a small-ball lineup alongside Anthony Davis.
10) Portland Trail Blazers – PF/C Ivan Rabb (California)
With the backcourt of the future set in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, it’s time for Portland to find some depth in the frontcourt. Ivan Rabb is the first non-freshman taken off the board and his decision to stay one more year at Cal seems to be paying off. Rabb has the tools and production to be a solid option for the Blazers’ frontcourt. He’s looked good during Pac-12 conference play, averaging 17.3 points and 14.2 rebounds. In the post, Rabb possesses advanced footwork and terrific hands. The Blazers will love this guy’s relentless rebounding presence and finishing ability.
11) Orlando Magic – PF/C Harry Giles III (Duke)
It’s unsure whether Serge Ibaka will re-sign with Orlando after this season, so it’ll be good if the Magic find some frontcourt depth. Giles has a very high upside, but this pick is a risky one due to Giles’ injury history and limited game time. The #1 high school prospect just returned from a devastating knee injury and he’s been limited with Duke, averaging only 5.6 points in 13.3 minutes. Giles needs to grow as a post scorer and shooter. Staying for another year may be an option for Giles, but if he opts to enter the draft, the Magic will draft this kid for his tools and athleticism. Here’s hoping his durability and skills catch up over time.
12) New York Knicks – PG Frank Ntilikina (France)
The Knicks need to draft and develop Derrick Rose’s long-term replacement at the point guard position and with most of the top guards taken, the Knicks will be hoping Ntilikina is still around once they pick. Ntilikina has great poise and maturity for a young man. At the U18 European Championships, he made an impressive 17-from 29 shots from downtown. At 6’5, he has long arms and quick feet, which helps him become a nightmare on defense. He doesn’t have the playmaking ability of De’Aaron Fox or the scoring potential of Dennis Smith Jr, but Ntilikina’s tools, skill level and versatility will give the Knicks a solid option at the playmaker position. He’s currently getting experience in the France’s top league and despite the limited opportunities there, it’s clear he’s ahead of other prospects his age.
13) Detroit Pistons – SF/PF Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
The Pistons need help in the backcourt, but there isn’t many options available. Instead, they look to the small forward position and Miles Bridge, who’s explosiveness and bounce and spark some energy off Detroit’s bench. The Pistons already have Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris occupying the forward positions, but Bridges is a different player than these two which gives the Pistons a different gear. He recently put up 24 points against Ohio State, nailing four threes. He needs work on his off-the-dribble game and shot creation, but the Pistons will like his ability to drive, cut, make putbacks and spot-up shoot.
14) Milwaukee Bucks – PF/C Justin Patton (Creighton)
Patton has risen up draft boards thanks to consistent scoring. He’s currently averaging 14.0 points on 73.7% shooting. At 6’11, he’s an athletic big who can become an effective finishing target, but can also be a nimble post scorer. He’s flashed the ability to use the dribble and attack closeouts, finish on the move or find the open man. Patton has alos made five threes this season, so his upside, production and efficiency will give Milwaukee a nice option off the bench.
15) Denver Nuggets – PF/C Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany)
16) Chicago Bulls – PF/C Robert Williams (Texas A&M)
17) Charlotte Hornets – PF/C Bam Adebayo (Kentucky)
18) Indiana Pacers – PF TJ Leaf (UCLA)
19) Washington Wizards – SG/SF Dwayne Bacon (Florida State)
20) Oklahoma City Thunder – SF Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
21) Denver Nuggets (from Memphis Grizzlies) – SG Luke Kennard (Duke)
22) Atlanta Hawks – PF/C Jonathan Motley (Baylor)
23) Brooklyn Nets (from Boston Celtics) – PF Tyler Lydon (Syracuse)
24) Utah Jazz – PG Edmond Sumner (Xavier)
25) Toronto Raptors – SG Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers)
26) Toronto Raptors (from Los Angeles Clippers) – PF Cameron Oliver (Nevada)
27) Houston Rockets – PF Alec Peters (Valparaiso)
28) Portland Trail Blazers (from Cleveland Cavaliers) – SF Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson)
29) San Antonio Spurs – SG Josh Hart (Villanova)
30) Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors) – SG Grayson Allen (Duke)