With the conclusion of the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery, the speculation is over. Although the NBA Draft is not until June, we finally know which team will be selecting First Overall and, where the other lottery teams will be making their picks. In this mock draft, we’ll break down the best fits for each team in the Draft Lottery.
1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, Point Guard, Washington
Thanks in part to the Brooklyn Nets, for the first time in the modern draft era, the Boston Celtics will select First Overall. With that selection, if they choose to keep the pick, the Boston Celtics will select, Markelle Fultz. For Boston, having a Point Guard from the University of Washington on the roster(Isaiah Thomas) has been a success and, they’re probably excited about their next one. Fultz is an extremely gifted shot creator and, is also very good at running a pick-and-roll offense. In the Draft, Markelle Fultz has the second best assist percentage ranking at 36%. Although his Washington Huskies did not make the Tournament, Fultz was able to help turn the program around with arguably less talented players than Lonzo Ball’s UCLA Bruins.
Averaging 23.2 Points on 50.2% shooting and 5.9 assists per game, one of his biggest challenges will be developing a consistent three-point shot. At just 18 years old, Markelle Fultz will have plenty of time to develop in the Celtics system. During his 25 game stint in the NCAA, there were concerns about his free-throw shooting and his tendencies to sometimes get too fancy with his pass selections. Lastly, Fultz’s biggest era for improvement will likely be on the defensive end. There were times last year where he would get caught flat-footed and, struggled closing out on the ball. Making the jump to the NBA however, could spark an increase the 18-year old’s overall intensity level.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Point Guard, UCLA Bruins
Lakers management and fans can breathe easy. One of the most interesting stipulations coming into the Draft Lottery was that if the Lakers fell out of the top Three, not only would they be bumped all the way down to the 28th overall selection but, they would also lose their 2019 First Round pick. However, now that their pick has been solidified at number Two, the Lakers will take hometown stud, Lonzo Ball. After spending just one year at UCLA, Ball lead a major turnaround for the 31-5 Bruins. The Lakers will welcome a Point Guard with the high-level court vision and overall basketball IQ of Lonzo Ball with open arms. If you’ve ever watched Lonzo play, you’ll also know that he has some amazing abilities in transition. Ball often makes moving down the court with and, without the ball effortless and, is good at making the quick decision to either, pull up, attack the rim or, pass the ball. This is a skill that is highly valued by NBA Front Offices.
In his freshman season, Lonzo Ball averaged 14.6 on an impressive 73.6% and 7.6 assists per game. The biggest areas of improvement for Ball will be on the defensive end, building up his in between the game and, weak side drives. Although Lonzo is a strong off-ball defender, at times he struggled guarding the ball. This was evident in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky when Ball struggled to guard the likes of Malik Monk and, De Aaron Fox. Also, Lonzo sometimes struggles on his pull-up jumpers because of his low release point, however, that could be an easy fix. Overall, this is a solid pick for the Los Angeles Lakers.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jayson Tatum, Small Forward, Duke
The Third selection is a spot where the 76ers have had success drafting from in the past with, Joel Embiid. This time around, Philadelphia will select Jayson Tatum from Duke. This will be a hard choice for the 76ers to make as Josh Jackson will still be available.
However, as the 76ers have a surplus of bigs including the likes of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, and, it is unclear where Ben Simmons will play. Philadelphia could use the three-point shooting touch Tatum brings to the table. In one season at Duke Tatum shot 34.2% on 4 attempts from beyond the arc as opposed to Jackson's 37.8% on 2.6 attempts per game. Also, the 76ers have an abundance of inside scores and lack the mid-range and isolation skills that Tatum brings to the table. There is some concern over Jayson Tatum's ability to get to the rim against NBA caliber players however, with the passing abilities of TJ McConnell and Ben Simmons he should have no problem getting open for mid-range and three-point shots.
Also, if the 76ers sign Kyle Lowry, this pick looks even better. Tatum managed to live up to the high expectations thrust upon him averaging 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. If Ben Simmons is indeed going to play Point Guard, this pick will help the 76ers “space and pace” offense.
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, Small Forward, Kansas
This pick could prove to be a steal for the Suns. Although the Suns love themselves a Point Guard, taking Jackson is the best move. Phoenix already has their shooter in Devin Booker and, Brandon Knight when healthy, serves as a great facilitator. Adding Josh Jackson to the mix, allows the Suns to space the floor but, still allow for an isolation play. The Big 12 Freshman of The Year averaged 16.3 points, 3.0 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game. Jackson is not necessarily the best shooter however, he is very effective at finding ways to score without needing to be in an isolation role and, is a very explosive athlete. His small wingspan and size may limit his ability to play Power Forward in a Small Ball set however, his defensive tenacity is definitely something the Suns like about him.
Josh Jackson is a great two-way player but, his ability and willingness to become a better, more effective and, fundamentally sound shooter will tell if he can make the jump into becoming an NBA star. For Phoenix, they get a bit of everything with this pick. Jackson is a reliable shooter, is very effective when attacking the basket and, plays with a bulldog-like mentality. Lastly, Jackson has a strong basketball IQ as well as competitive spirit, even if his offense is not always there.
5. Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox, Point Guard, Kentucky
Months removed from trading away franchise Center DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings are in need of a little bit of everything. With their first of two First Round selections, the Kings get their Point Guard of the future. In just one year at Kentucky, Fox averaged 16.7 points 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds. Fox is also a very explosive guard which, at times made it hard for defenders to stand their ground against him. Also, Fox is a crafty left- handed guard who has the ability to torch defenders and finish inside. The 18-year-olds length allows for him to thread the needle on many passes. In transition, blink once and you’ll miss him. Although De’Aaron Fox has a great basketball IQ he will need to become better in a pick-and-roll offense but, that will come over time and, the Kings are in no rush. Lastly, although scores mostly around the basket, inside and, in transition he will need to work on finding consistency.
Fox is very comparable to when DeMar DeRozan came into the league, quick, explosive, jump shot crafty around the rim. All he needs to add a jump shot to his repertoire. The addition of De’Aaron Fox will also help Buddy Hield score more from beyond the arc.
6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, Shooting Guard, Kentucky
It is quite unclear what the gameplan is in Orlando. Serge Ibaka was traded, Victor Oladipo is gone and, the team has a lot of bigs. For Orlando, taking Monk gives them an ultra-athletic guard to add to their rotation. One of Monk’s most desirable skills is his shooting ability. In one year at Kentucky, he did an a great job of creating off the dribble which, in Orlando’s offense, still allows Evan Fournier to be their primary three-point shooter.
Although Malik Monk may be a tad undersized for his position, he makes up for it with his extreme quickness and, smart shot selection. Moving forward, the Magic will need to increase his pick-and-roll abilities. The upside that Malik Monk has is huge.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, PF/SF, Florida State
With the Seventh overall pick, Minnesota take Jonathan Isaac. This pick gives Minnesota a chance to build up their defense. Jonathan Isaac has the potential to become an extremely talented shot blocker and, is a solid finisher around the rim. In just one season at Florida State, Isaac showed loads of potential. On a Timberwolves team which, features strong defenders such as Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins, Isaac’s skill set is a great fit for Tom Thibodeau's offensive system.
Lastly, Isaac has shot very well in his lone season with the Seminoles at 59.3% from two-point range. Jonathan Isaac, at this point has work to do to become an NBA star however, with Minnesota’s depth he’ll have time to grow while also, having a solid role.
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, Point Guard, France
Given their recent success with drafting overseas, do not be surprised if the New York Knicks select Frank Ntilikina. Also, the 18 year old also has the physical tools to be a very successful Point Guard in the NBA. Standing at 6’5 and possessing a 7”0 wingspan, this gives him the ability to be a threat on the offensive end with and without the ball. New York makes this pick because of the fact that the highly favorable, Dennis Smith Jr is a more pick-and-roll and, isolation oriented Point Guard.
Lastly, Ntilikina’s size and length make him a very strong defender and, he shot 40% from three-point range. When the ball is not in his hands, he could become a three-and-d threat.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen, Power Forward, Arizona
Lauri Markkanen could be the heir to Dirk Nowitzki's throne. Both European big men are very comparable. Like Dirk, Markkanen stands at 7’0 tall and, possess a silky smooth jump shot. In today’s NBA, Markkanen’s ability to shoot the ball, considering his height, makes him extremely desireable. Although his defense may not be has strong as his offense, the Finland native had no trouble adjusting to the American style of basketball. In his lone season at Arizona, Markkanen shot 42% from beyond the arc and, averaged around 15 points and 7 rebounds per game.
If Dallas can re-sign Nerlens Noel, adding Lauri Markkanen to the mix could make for an interesting tandem. Noel’s defensive intensity would makes up for the 20 year olds defensive issues. Could Lauri Markkanen be a rare stretch five?
10. Sacramento Kings: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga
The Sacramento Kings are back again and this time, they’ll be selecting big man Zach Collins. In a historic run for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Collins was very impressive, averaging 23.2 points on 65.2%, and 16 rebounds per 40 minutes. Drafting Zach Collins would allow the the Kings to transition Skal Labissiere into more of a stretch forward. The 19 year old Las Vegas native brings a strong interior scoring touch and, has shown flashes of having a very impressive jump shot.
However, for a Sacramento Kings team that ranked 28th in total rebounds per game, selecting the former Gonzaga Bulldog should help them increase their rebounding numbers.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Justin Jackson, Small Forward, North Carolina
The Charlotte Hornets are pretty thin at the Small Forward position which, is why they take Justin Jackson here. Not to mention that he played three years at the University of North Carolina. Last year, Jackson set a Tar Heel record by dropping 105 three-pointers in one season. Along with his smooth shooting, Jackson brings length and a strong defensive presence. What makes Justin Jackson such an offensive threat is his ability to score off the ball.
If the Hornets decide to go small, experimenting with Jackson at Power Forward would not hurt as, he stands at 6’8 and has a 6’11 wingspan. Charlotte will not need a lot of retooling to get back to the Playoffs however, selecting Justin Jackson would be a good first step.
12. Detroit Pistons: Dennis Smith Jr, Point Guard, NC State
Dennis Smith’s Draft day slide comes to an end as he is selected by the Detroit Pistons. As previously noted, Dennis Smith Jr plays a strong pick-and-roll game which, fits very nicely in Stan Van Gundy’s offensive system. At times last season Reggie Jackson seemed to be on the hot seat and, with his future in Detroit looking uncertain, the smart move here is for Detroit to take a Point Guard. This pick could prove to be a major steal for the Pistons. Smith is also very strong in isolation play and, is at his best when he is in transition.
Even if Reggie Jackson returns to form next year, having a player that fits the Pistons system as well as Dennis Smith Jr does especially at such little cost, is a huge get for Detroit
13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby, SF/PF, Indiana
With a need for depth at the Small Forward position, the Denver Nuggets select OG Anunoby from Indiana. Backup Small Forward Mike Miller’s career could be drawing to a close and, with Wilson Chandler’s name continually in the rumor mill, selecting Anunoby is a safe move. The 19 year old posted impressive numbers last season at Indiana and, has the versatility to play Power Forward when needed. Anunoby shot and impressive 70% from two-point range per game on 4.8 attempts per game. Also, his strong presence inside makes him a valuable rebounder. Where OG Anunoby is best is on the defensive end.
At Indiana, he would often guard Point Guards which, makes it hard for guards to pass over him, leading to blocks on the perimeter due to his tremendous length. For a Nuggets team that ranked 18th in team defense, adding a defender of Anunoby’s caliber could lead to a big payoff.
14. Miami Heat: John Collins, Power Forward, Wake Forest
John Collins came out of nowhere last season with averages of 19 points and 9.8 rebounds per game which, put NBA executives on notice. Lucky for Collins, the Miami Heat need a desperate upgrade at the Power Forward position. What makes John Collins such a valuable get for Miami is that he is a very strong two-way player with numbers to show for it. He can score, rebound and, defend the ball. Also, Collins has shown signs of being able to shoot the three-point shot as evident by his 16-25 performance from deep at the NBA Combine.
After leading the Wake Forest Demon Dragons to a 19-14 record, Collins has shown that he is able to handle tough assignments and big minutes (26 mpg). One thing that Collins will need to improve his overall court vision. There were times last season where he looked lost but, fortunately for him, he will get to learn from one of the best in Heat Head Coach, Erik Spoelstra.