With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror, many teams will be looking towards the future and how they can improve as a team. For some, the best path to success will come on June 22 at the NBA Draft. Along with March Madness, the NBA Draft is one of the hardest sporting events to predict, but I still try my hand at it every year. So here it goes: my first 2017 NBA Mock Draft.
1. BOS (from BKN): Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Although Markelle Fultz is emerging as the consensus first overall pick, many people have yet to watch a game of his due to the fact that he plays for the University of Washington. However, he is a fantastic all-around point guard who can do anything that is asked of him. At 6-4, 194 lbs, Fultz has great size for a point guard. He can shoot off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, as well as finish in the lane. He is also a fantastic facilitator and defender, making him a potential star in the NBA and unfair that the second seeded Celtics can add him this summer.
2. PHO: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Lonzo Ball may be the most exciting player in college hoops and his father is definitely the most vocal of the many fathers of college basketball players. Nevertheless, Ball has extraordinary height for an NBA point guard at 6-6, incredible vision, and fantastic passing skills. Although Ball has a very unorthodox shot, which is one of his few weakness, he knocks it down consistently and with limitless range. He has good instincts on defense, resulting in a lot of steals and deflections, and is a good rebounder for a point guard. Although he may not be better than Steph Curry like his dad claims, Ball could be a very nice NBA point guard.
3. LAL: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Josh Jackson is the best two-way player in this draft, excelling at Kansas on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Jackson is a talented finisher around and above the rim and above the rim, showcasing his athletic ability on a regular basis. His largest shortcoming is his shot mechanics as he has a small hitch on his way up, but Jackson is shooting .366 from three this season. Defensively, Jackson is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He is averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game for Kansas, showing his versatility on that side of the ball. Jackson is also averaging 7.1 rebounds per game. Something that goes unnoticed about his game is his playmaking ability. Averaging 3 assists per game, Jackson is a very underrated passer which will be very helpful at the next level, especially if his shot doesn’t improve.
4. ORL: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Jayson Tatum is a great all-around player for Duke. He is incredible operating in mid-range and can score with ease from there. His jump shot still has some improving to do, and he is not as comfortable with catch-and-shoot threes, but he has shown flashes of being a great outside shooter, such as his game against Virginia in which he went 6-7 from three and scored 28 points. Tatum’s shot selection can also be questionable at times and the ball can stop when it gets to his hands as he likes to go 1-on-1 often. Tatum is an above average athlete, but what stands out when you watch him is the fluidity wit’s which he plays; he is very smooth going up and down the court. Although he looks unenthusiastic on defense occasionally, Tatum has the potential to be a very solid defender. The Orlando Magic are second-to-last in scoring, so they could use a player like Tatum who can go out at get buckets consistently.
5. PHI: Dennis Smith Jr, PG, NC State
Dennis Smith Jr is an incredible athlete and explosive finisher who is almost impossible to stop in the open court. A good ball handler, Smith can create shots for himself and his teammates with ease. However, he plays a little out of control at times, resulting in high turnover numbers. Smith’s shot still needs some work. He is very streaky, so he can be really hot one game and then really cold the next (4/8 from 3 against Georgia Tech then 1/7 from 3 against Pitt the next game). Although Joel Embiid thinks T.J. McConnell is the second coming of Michael Jordan, the Sixers could use a point guard to help out Embiid during ‘The Process.’
6. SAC: Jonathan Isaac, SF, FSU
Jonathan Isaac may be the longest player in the draft, standing 6-11 with a wingspan over 7-1 and a standing reach over 9 feet. Although Isaac only weighs 205 pounds, his quickness and ball-handling skills allow him to play small forward, and his length could enable him to play power forward in the NBA. Isaac’s shot has been a little inconsistent this season, but he has a smooth stroke. A mobile defender and solid shot blocker, Isaac can be a great two-player in the NBA.
7. MIN: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Malik Monk is the best scorer in this draft, and he score in a multitude of ways. Monk is outstanding at catch-and-shoot and pulling up from anywhere on the court, as well as penetrating and finishing around the hoop. Monk has scored double-digit points every game this year, including 47, 34, 37, and 33 point games. Along with his incredible scoring ability, Monk is a phenomenal athlete. He won the McDonald’s All-American 3-point and dunk contests as a senior in high school. However, Monk is a little undersized for an NBA shooting guard at 6-3. A good NBA comparison for Monk is Zach LaVine, so maybe the Timberwolves won’t want two, but LaVine just tore his ACL and the Wolves do need some help scoring, making Monk a good fit in Minnesota.
8. DAL: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
De’Aaron Fox’s best attribute is his speed. He is a very talented playmaker and able to use his tremendous speed to get his teammates open looks. Fox is also under control when he uses his speed, keeping turnovers at a minimum. His max vertical jump is 38.5 inches, allowing him to finish above the rim. However, Fox has a very suspect jump shot. A below 20 percent three-point shooter at Kentucky, his jump shot may be the one aspect of his game that refrains GMs from selecting Fox. However, his speed, athleticism, and playmaking are hard to pass up.
9. NYK: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
To be honest, I do not know that much about Frank Ntilikina. I do know that the Knicks are a mess and may do who knows what with Rose this offseason, putting them in need of a point guard. According to Bleacher Report, Ntilikina is an “unselfish passer, improving shooter and arguably the top defensive guard in the class.” The Knicks could use a player who likes to pass and play defense so this seems like a match made in heaven for them. This pick makes too much sense for the Knicks so Phil Jackson will probably pass on Ntilikina, but for their sake, I hope they don’t.
10. POR: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Lauri Markkanen is a player that could end up going in the top five in the draft after his workouts when teams realize the kind of offensive player he can be. Markkanen is one of the best shooting big men in NCAA history, hitting 2.0 threes a game at 44.4 percent. This would be incredible for any player let alone a seven-footer. Markkanen is very mobile for a seven-footer, which is useful on the defensive end. However, he is a poor shot blocker and can struggle in the post both on offense and defense. Because of his offensive skill set, Markkanen should still be a very good stretch four at the next level.
11. CHA: Miles Bridges, SF, MSU
Miles Bridges is one of the most athletic players in this year’s draft. Everytime I watch a Michigan State basketball game, Bridges does something that makes my jaw drop, which is saying a lot since I’m a Michigan fan. Something surprising about his game at MSU this season so far has been his three-point shooting. Bridges is over 40 percent for the season, which is a huge plus. However, his shot has been inconsistent at times, so he could definitely work on that. He is also an exceptional rebounder, averaging over eight per game. If Bridges can work on creating shots for himself off the dribble, he can become a really good NBA player.
12. CHI (from SAC): Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Justin Patton is a name you probably don’t know, but you should. After red-shirting his true freshman year, Patton has developed into a very nice center for Creighton. Although he’s not a finished product by any means, his size, athleticism, and potential will draw the attention of every team on draft night. As a Bulls fan, I am not too sure what their plan for the future is, but the Bulls could use another big man with the potential that Patton has. This pick, however, will probably stay with Sacramento. It is top-10 protected, and it’s hard to see the Kings finishing outside of the bottom ten.
13. MIL: Robert Williams, PF, Texas A&M
Robert Williams is another big man who is a long-term project with a lot of upside (there are a lot of players that fit this description in this draft class). He has a 7-4 wingspan, which fits right in with Milwaukee’s long team. He has shown signs of developing a solid post game and mid-range jumper, and his great athletic ability allows him to finish near the rim. Williams is a great shot-blocker, in part due to his massive wingspan, but also because he times his block attempts very well. Williams is a tough big man who can develop into a solid NBA big man, but it could take some time.
14. MIA: Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Harry Giles is one of the most interesting prospects in this year’s draft because of the massive difference between his floor and ceiling. Because of multiple knee surgeries, many scouts have doubts about Giles. However, he was the number one overall prospect last year and was projected to go number one in this draft before he tore his ACL (again), so the upside is there. In limited playing time at Duke, Giles has yet to show the promise many scouts thought they would see in college. But if Giles can stay healthy, which is a big if, a team could be getting a real steal in the mid to late first round.