It’s that time of the year again. The NBA Draft welcomes 60 new draftees hoping to make a major impact on the league. Teams looking for a floor general will be excited over the plethora of point guards on hand in 2017. But let’s not count guys like Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and Malik Monk, who have some strong credentials in their own right. So here we go – the final mock draft before D-Day. With the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select…
1) Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz (PG, Washington)
Fultz has been the consensus #1 pick for the majority of this draft process, but the one thing that’s changed is the team picking at #1. Originally, the Celtics had the top pick and the idea of Fultz teaming up with Isaiah Thomas in a strong Boston backcourt seemed intriguing. However, the Celtics felt there was a better player available down the board and relinquished their pick to Philadelphia, who have the #1 overall pick for the 2nd year in a row. Now Fultz has the opportunity to play alongside last year’s #1 pick Ben Simmons and potential 2016-17 Rookie of the Year in Joel Embiid. He’ll share ball-handling duties with Simmons but can score from all three levels of the court. There will be doubts over the fact he led Washington to just 9 wins last season, but you can’t deny Fultz is the best all-around point guard as well as having the best upside. It’s been a long process for the City of Brotherly Love, but’s with Fultz’s pick tomorrow, it’ll finally be time to trust the process.
2) Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA)
The most talked-about person during this draft process has been the father of this former UCLA point guard. Despite LaVar Ball’s antics heading into the draft tomorrow, it doesn’t seem to have affected his son’s draft stock at all. They say actions speak louder than LaVar’s words and Lonzo has definitely let his play do the talking. He’s been compared to Jason Kidd for his ability to lead the floor and make all his teammates around him better. He’s the best passer in this draft and his unorthodox, yet lethal jump shot should help him survive in a game where shooters are more dangerous than dunkers. But the fit with the Lakers seems perfect. He’s a hometown boy, whose skills should help lead a fast-paced offense under Luke Walton. There were concerns about his conditioning during his workouts but with D’Angelo Russell traded to Brooklyn, the point guard spot seems to be all Ball’s. Forget PG13 and LeBron for now, tomorrow is where the turnaround for the purple and gold begins.
3) Boston Celtics – Josh Jackson (SF, Kansas)
The Celtics seem to be one piece away from a championship team after falling to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. With a big stash of draft picks and a huge amount of cap space to chase after Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin in free agency, Boston seems to have everything figured out. After trading the #1 pick to the 76ers, general manager Danny Ainge said that the player he would’ve picked at #1 is the player he’ll pick at #3. The top two candidates who fit this statement are Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson. Both players would fit with the Celtics, but Jackson gets the edge for being a better two-way player. The only concern here is that Jackson didn’t work out for the Celtics and Tatum did. Jackson did have a secret meeting with C’s coach Brad Stevens, but is that enough to convince the Celtics that he’s the pick at #3? I certainly feel so.
4) Phoenix Suns – De’Aaron Fox (PG, Kentucky)
It seems the Suns won’t get Lonzo Ball, but why not get the man who outplayed him during the NCAA tournament? De’Aaron Fox is in the same tier as Fultz and Ball and with Phoenix not sure of what to do with Eric Bledsoe, drafting a replacement should be done sooner rather than later. Fox doesn’t have a consistent jump shot, but his defense and John Wall-like speed should help him team up with former Kentucky Wildcats Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.
5) Sacramento Kings – Jayson Tatum (SF, Duke)
The Kings were high on De’Aaron Fox, but they shouldn’t compain about getting Tatum. The most skilled offensive wing in the draft, Tatum should help provide some scoring alongside a young core consisting of Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere.
6) Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac (SF, Florida State)
Isaac is someone who shouldn’t be overlooked in this draft and may have the best defensive upside in this draft. He led Florida State to their winningest season in 45 years and his tall, lean and athletic build has created some fans in the Orlando front office.
7) Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen (PF, Arizona)
The Timberwolves are all set for the future with Towns, Wiggins and LaVine, but their bench may need a bit of fixing. Markkanen is an efficient scoring big man who can shoot from the outside, so he’ll provide a different dimension on offense when paired up with Towns and Dieng. However, there are concerns over his build and athleticism.
8) New York Knicks – Malik Monk (SG, Kentucky)
Phil Jackson has desperately been trying to trade up in the draft in the hopes of drafting Josh Jackson or a replacement for Kristaps Porzingis if a trade for the big Latvian occurs. But if the Knicks keep their #8 pick, they should draft one of the most exciting prospects in the class in Malik Monk. Monk is the best scorer in this draft and his highlight reel plays seem to fit right in with the Madison Square Garden atmosphere.
9) Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (PG, France)
The Mavs like what this Frenchman brings to the table. He made the trip to New York for the draft but will have to fly back to Europe the next day for his club’s crucial winner-take-all playoff game. Although the Knicks are heavily interested in the point guard, Ntilikina is more interested in playing in Dallas. One main reason being his coach at Strasbourg, Vincent Collet will be coaching the Mavs summer league team.
10) Sacramento Kings – Dennis Smith Jr (PG, NC State)
Despite not getting their guy at #5, the Kings get another opportunity to land a starting point guard in Dennis Smith Jr. Smith is not far off from guys like Fultz, Ball and Fox, but their are concerns over his consistency. He had a 32-point game in an away win against Duke, but in his last college game, only managed 7 points. If you need a reason to cheer Smith though, he’s from the same town as J Cole, so there’s that.
11) Charlotte Hornets – Luke Kennard (SG, Duke)
The Hornets have made one of the most lop-sided trades so far this off-season, sending Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli to Atlanta for Dwight Howard. The loss of Belinelli opens up a spot for a shooter and Kennard fits the bill as one of the top shooters in this draft. He’s an easy comparison to former Duke star J.J. Redick, with his ability to move off-the-ball, but he does possess an underrated ability to handle the rock as well.
12) Detroit Pistons – Donovan Mitchell (SG, Louisville)
Mitchell has one of the top risers in this draft thanks to his big wingspan, scoring ability and athleticism. He’ll be a nice asset to a Pistons side looking to have a bounce back year after failing to make the playoffs last season.
13) Denver Nuggets – Harry Giles (PF, Duke)
The first real shock of the draft here. Giles was a top high school prospect but after two knee injuries over a year, he hasn’t been the same player many were hoping he would become. The risk/reward potential is there with Giles, which could cause him to slide down draft board. Fortunately, with a team like the Nuggets who have a great amount of depth on their roster, they don’t need to worry about Giles playing straight away. Giles cancelled a workout with the Heat, which usually means a team ahead of Miami has promised they would pick Giles in the lottery range. Denver may be that side.
14) Miami Heat – T.J. Leaf (PF, UCLA)
If you don’t know who T.J. Leaf is, basically he’s the second-best player on the UCLA team behind Lonzo Ball. But Leaf is a strong player in his own right. Offensively gifted as a power forward, Leaf can complement Hassan Whiteside in the Miami front-court.
15) Portland Trail Blazers – Zach Collins (C, Gonzaga)
It’s highly unlikely Collins slides this far down the draft, but what a steal it would be for the Blazers, who hold three first-round picks. Collins is strong rim protector who had a breakout party during the NCAA tournament, leading Gonzaga to a Finals appearance.
16) Chicago Bulls – Justin Jackson (SF, North Carolina)
With Tony Snell and Doug McDermott both being traded last season, the wing spot is open for the Bulls and Jackson is a ready-to-play prospect who has shown he’s a winner after leading North Carolina to a National Championship earlier this year.
17) Milwaukee Bucks – OG Anunoby (SG, Indiana)
This is a risky pick for the Bucks, but they did pick Thon Maker last year at #10 so I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised. Anunoby is a lottery talent who will miss the majority of the season with a knee injury. However, the talent is all there.
18) Indiana Pacers – John Collins (PF, Wake Forest)
Collins was one of the most efficient players at the rim last season and could slot right in alongside Myles Turner in a Pacers team who should start thinking about life after Paul George.
19) Atlanta Hawks – Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)
Following the Dwight Howard trade, center becomes an immediate need for Atlanta. The best big man available is Allen out of Texas. He boasts a long wingspan and athleticism but still needs a bit of polish in his game.
20) Portland Trail Blazers – Anzejs Pasecniks (PF, Latvia)
If you want the closest thing to Porzingis in this class, it may be this guy and not just because he’s from Latvia. He’s a 7’2 prospect with great skills and mobility. The Blazers can let Pasecniks develop for a while in Europe before bringing him over the NBA when he’s ready.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder – Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA)
Anigbogu has a lot of upside and will have time to develop behind Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. He’s an athletic player who can finish at the rim. Oh, and he’s only 18 years old!
22) Brooklyn Nets – Justin Patton (C, Creighton)
Realistically, Patton should be drafted just outside of the lottery, but Sean Marks and the Nets franchise would certainly hit the jackpot if Patton was available at #22. The Nets are huge fans of Patton and with Brook Lopez out of Brooklyn, Patton would be an immediate fit.
23) Toronto Raptors – Bam Adebayo (C, Kentucky)
Bam is a strong rim protector who showed during his pre-draft workout that he can hit the three-point shot as well. He’ll have to come in and develop behind Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira.
24) Utah Jazz – Semi Ojeleye (SF, SMU)
The Jazz will have to be prepared if Gordon Hayward ends up leaving in free agency. Ojeleye has a bit of Jae Crowder to his game, but may not get playing time right away.
25) Orlando Magic – Frank Jackson (PG, Duke)
The Magic may not have drafted a replacement for Elfrid Payton with their first pick, but it’s hard to see them leave the draft without having drafted a playmaker. Jackson is a freak athlete who played in a stacked Duke side last year, so he may be able to break out on his own in the NBA.
26) Portland Trail Blazers – Jawun Evans (PG, Oklahoma State)
In a stacked point guard class, Evans may be the sleeper pick of the lot. He’s a lightning quick guard who can score from anywhere. There will be concerns over his size, but no one told Tyler Ulis that. Evans may wind up being the steal of the draft and the Blazers with their three first-round picks can afford to make this pick.
27) Los Angeles Lakers – Kyle Kuzma (PF, Utah)
The Lakers may end up trading one of these late first-round picks tomorrow, but Kuzma has the offensive skills and versatility to be a nice pick for Los Angeles.
28) Los Angeles Lakers – Terrance Ferguson (SG, Adelaide 36ers)
Ferguson is a solid shooter who has the advantage of having already played professional basketball over in Australia. Despite being small, he’s not afraid to get physical and he’d be a nice replacement for Nick Young who’s entering free agency.
29) San Antonio Spurs – Josh Hart (SG, Villanova)
Hart could be the Malcolm Brogdon of this class – someone who isn’t as hyped as other prospects but through hard work and intelligence, can play his way into the rotation. He’s a proven winner, having led Villanova to a National Championship in 2016 and his experience of being a four-year college player will help his maturity in the league.
30) Utah Jazz – Isaiah Hartenstein (PF, Germany)
Hartenstein was a former potential lottery pick due to his upside. However, he’s slipped down draft boards as people feel he’s not ready for the league yet. This could end up being a big steal for the Jazz.