The drafting order of the lottery is out. The Celtics, as a result of their trade with Brooklyn in 2013, will pick first. The Lakers, for the third straight season, will pick second. Another notable part of this draft is that Sacramento got the Pelicans’ pick in the DeMarcus Cousins trade this season, and pick at selections number five and ten as a result.
1 – Boston Celtics – Markelle Fultz (Washington)
Fultz is the best prospect in this draft. He was projected to go number one before Lavar Ball caught the eye of National Sports Media, and after Lonzo Ball chose to only workout for the Lakers, Fultz is the clear number one option, regardless of whether Boston keeps or trades this pick.
2 – Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
Although his dad may be controversial, Lonzo Ball still had an excellent season for UCLA. The 6’5″ Californian is an excellent passer, ball-handler, and he has the ability to shoot as well. Ball is nearly unanimously regarded as a franchise point guard in the making.
3 – Philadelphia 76ers – Josh Jackson (Kansas)
Josh Jackson is one of the toughest players in this draft. The gritty 6’8″ wing player led Kansas this year in a great regular season as well as a respectable four game tournament run. Jackson is knowledgeable about the game and a great athlete even if the jump shot could use some work.
4 – Phoenix Suns – Dennis Smith Jr. (N.C. State)
Dennis Smith Jr. is a very good option at point guard for his poise, leadership, and well-rounded game. He led the ACC in assists (197,) assists per game (6.2,) assist percentage (34.2,) and points produced per game (19.4.) On a team with great scorers like Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and raw athletes like Marqueese Chriss, Derrick Jones Jr., Dragan Bender, and Alex Len, Smith is an ideal candidate at point guard since Eric Bledsoe’s time in Phoenix is likely numbered by their current youth movement.
5 – Sacramento Kings – Jayson Tatum (Duke)
Jayson Tatum was very productive at Duke. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a freshman while sharing the scoring responsibility with great talents like Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, Frank Jackson, and Amile Jefferson. Sacramento blew up their DeMarcus Cousins based team, and now have building blocks at guard with Buddy Hield, and multiple center prospects like Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, and Willie Cauley-Stein, but they are lacking a forward like Tatum to commit to the future with.
6 – Orlando Magic – De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
De’Aaron Fox is rising up the big boards as public opinion of him rises following a solid freshman year (16.7 points per game on 47.8% shooting,) and outplaying Lonzo Ball in their NCAA tournament match-up. Fox is a great athlete, and he projects as a high level NBA defender. With Fox, the Magic suddenly become a team with some high defensive potential with athletes like Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Bismack Biyombo under defensively stout Frank Vogel’s coaching schemes.
7 – Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
Jonathan Isaac is another athletic one and done with potential, but the 6’10” 210 pound Isaac is a front court player. Isaac averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds for Florida State last season, and he finished in the top-ten in 16 different statistical categories in the ACC last year. Minnesota had a disappointing season last year, but there were signs of life. In the front court, Karl-Anthony Towns and Gourgi Dieng pulled their weight (18.2 combined win shares,) but Adreian Payne, Nemanja Bjelica, Cole Aldrich, and Jordan Hill are not nearly as potent of defenders as Isaac. If the defensive accountability from the back-court increases, Minnesota should absolutely take Isaac.
8 – New York Knicks – Malik Monk (Kentucky)
Malik Monk excelled in the college game. The freshman SEC player of the year averaged 19.8 points on 45.0% shooting and 39.7% from three. There are concerns about his pro potential as an undersized 6’3″ two-guard, but Monk has done everything he could in the college game to silence the doubt. New York will be desperately in need of a back-court player with Derrick Rose likely on his way out, and Sasha Vujacic, Justin Holiday, and Ron Baker on expiring contracts.
9 – Dallas Mavericks – Lauri Markkanen (Arizona)
Lauri Markkanen was flat-out dominant for Arizona last season. The 7’0″ freshman averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 49.2% shooting for the Wildcats. He a Wooden award finalist, and led the Pac 12 in win share rate (.235 per 40 minutes,) and he was 5th in the NCAA with a 134.1 offensive rating. Dallas is seeing a similar player on the cusp of retirement in Dirk Nowitzki. Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell, and Salah Mejri have their best years ahead of them – investing in Nowitzki’s replacement is definitely worthwhile for Dallas right now.
10 – Sacramento Kings – Frank Ntilikina (France)
Frank Ntilikina is an unknown relative to the players playing in the NCAA this season, but he is the highest rated international draft prospect right now. Ntilikina led Strasbourg to a 25-12 record, and in the U18 European Tournament, he averaged 22.7 points, 6.7 assists, 3.2 steals, 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes on 58.6% shooting from three. He has great size (6’5″) at the point guard position as well. Sacramento still needs their point guard of the future, and getting Ntilikina at 10 after snagging Tatum holds great value.
11 – Charlotte Hornets – Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
Justin Jackson raised his draft stock as much as anyone in the NCAA tournament – save for South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell. Jackson, however, finished a great season in which he won ACC Player of the Year, made the Consensus All-America 1st Team, and was a Wooden Award finalist. Jackson averaged 19.5 points per game in the tournament, and has great size (6’8″ and 195 pounds) for an NBA wing. Nobody likes successful college athletes – at the expense of the potential of the one and done freshman – as much as Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets, who also have local connections with UNC. The team has taken Frank Kaminsky, Doug McDermott, Cody Zeller, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin, and even Adam Morrison in years past.
12 – Detroit Pistons – Luke Kennard (Duke)
Kennard is another player with limited upside, but he showed a lot last season at Duke. Kennard is possibly the best shooter in this draft with a 43.8% three point shot, and he can put the ball in the hoop inside the arc too with 19.5 points per game on 49.0% shooting. Kennard has NBA wing size at 6’5″, and can greatly improve the Pistons bench. Shooters thrive in Stan Van Gundy’s system, and he can play off the ball as well as anyone on this team.
13 – Denver Nuggets – Zach Collins (Gonzaga)
Collins was incredibly efficient last year at Gonzaga. His 65.2% from the field, 47.2% from three, and 30.9 PER are unbelievable, and it is very encouraging as an NBA prospect that Collins is 7’0″. Collins averaged 20.0 points, 15.1 rebounds, and 6.7 blocks per 40 minutes in Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament run all the way to the championship game. For a Denver Nuggets team that might be losing Mason Plumlee, Roy Hibbert, and Danilo Gallinari in free agency and looking to trade Wilson Chandler or Kenneth Faried, Collins is an excellent selection at 13th.
14 – Miami Heat – John Collins (Wake Forest)
John Collins was excellent for Wake Forest this season. The 6’10” sophomore averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on 62.2% shooting. Collins led the entire NCAA in PER at 35.9, and he led the ACC in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, and win shares per 48 minutes (.256.) The last player to average Collins’ points, rebounds, and field goal percentage in a power five conference was Blake Griffin. The Heat are a team that will likely make major changes in free agency, and their concern should be taking the best player available.
15 – Portland Trailblazers – Jarrett Allen (Texas)
Jarrett Allen showed potential his lone year at Texas. Allen averaged 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on 56.6% shooting for the year, and he averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on 59.9% shooting in conference play. Allen is the best prospect available for Portland, and the last time the Blazers took a Texas big man, LaMarcus Aldridge turned out pretty well.
16 – Chicago Bulls – Justin Patton (Creighton)
Patton is another great front court prospect. The 6’11” Creighton product averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds on 67.6% shooting in 25.3 minutes per game. Patton only took 15 threes on the year, but he converted on 8 of them for 53.3% from behind the arc. Chicago could use a higher upside center than Cristiano Felicio given Robin Lopez and the other veterans’ unsure future with the Bulls. Whatever the case, Patton is a great pick regardless of the Bulls’ other personnel moves in coming months.
17 – Milwaukee Bucks – Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany)
Isaiah Hartenstein is one of the other unkown international players, but he sure passes the eye test. Hartenstein is 7’0″, 230 pounds, and just turned 19. His team, Zalgiris, went 37-4 this season. Milwaukee is set in the back court if they continue to play Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard with Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, and Khris Middleton there. The front court is another story if Michael Beasley, Spencer Hawes, and Greg Monroe all enter free agency, and Thon Maker and John Henson don’t develop further.
18 – Indiana Pacers – OG Anunoby (Indiana)
OG Anunoby didn’t meet expectations as a sophomore, but the 6’8″ 215 pound wing could have done worse than put up 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game on 55.7% shooting. For a Pacers team that needs a defensive wing if Paul George stays, and talent at wing if Paul George leaves, the in-state Anunoby is a good choice here.
19 – Atlanta Hawks – T.J. Leaf (UCLA)
T.J. Leaf was one of the most skilled basketball players in college basketball last season. He averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds on 61.7% shooting and 46.6% from three in 29.9 minutes per game. The defense was questionable, but the offense was as good as anyone’s. For an Atlanta team with Dwight Howard protecting the paint, and all three power forwards enterring free agency (Paul Millsap, Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries,) Leaf is an excellent selection for fit and talent.
20 – Portland Trailblazers – Donovan Mitchell (Louisville)
Donovan Mitchell had a shaky start to his sophomore season, but the Louisville guard averaged 18.1 points and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 40% from three in conference play. Portland could greatly use another back-up to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that doesn’t have Evan Turner’s liability defensively, and is better overall than Shabazz Napier, Tim Quarterman, and Pat Connaughton.
21 – Oklahoma City Thunder – Ivan Rabb (California)
The only player who’s draft stock declined more than OG Anunoby’s was Ivan Rabb, who stayed in school for his sophomore year. Rabb was lottery projected last season, but not only did Rabb fail to increase his production, but it actually decreased. Rabb’s points (17.2) and blocks (1.2) per 40 minutes both decreased, but none more so than his field goal percentage, which declined from 61.5% to 48.4%. Still, Rabb averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this season, and the Thunder, with Taj Gibson, Nick Collison, Mitch McGary, and Andre Roberson all entering free agency, should take Rabb here.
22 – Brooklyn Nets – Hamidu Diallo
Hamidu Diallo didn’t play a single game for Kentucky last season, but Diallo might just be the most athletic player in this draft. Diallo has good size (6’5″ and 190 pounds) at the guard position, and he wowed at the draft combine. Brooklyn has nothing to lose. They might as well swing for the fences with Diallo because they have nothing to lose anymore after trading hopes of any measurable success away for a season with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry in the trade that gave Boston the number one overall pick in this draft.
23 – Toronto Raptors – Terrence Ferguson (Australia)
Terrence Ferguson played internationally instead of in college last season, but the 6’7″ 190 pound wing tested well at the combine, and shot the ball well this season. The Raptors should invest in a boom or bust small forward like Ferguson now that Terrence Ross is gone. DeMarre Carroll’s four year, 60 million dollar contract has been the worst decision made by Masai Ujiri since taking over the Raptors in 2013. P.J. Tucker was decent this season, but is 32 and declining steadily, and Bruno Caboclo has not improved since being taken for his potential in 2014.
24 – Utah Jazz – Johnathan Motley (Baylor)
Johnathan Motley made the right decision to return to Baylor for his junior year. Motley averaged 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game on 52.2% shooting. Motley was a 2nd-Team Consensus All-American, a Naismith Award Finalist, and the winner of the Karl Malone award. The Utah Jazz have good depth everywhere, but with Boris Diaw as the leader in playing time at the four, Utah can stand to improve at that position.
25 – Orlando Magic – Harry Giles (Duke)
At this point, Harry Giles’ incredibly disappointing freshman season is worth overlooking for his potential. The number one ranked player in the high school class of 2016 still averaged 13.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals per 40 minutes this season on 57.7% shooting. For an Orlando team that lost Serge Ibaka to trade and is about to lose Jeff Green to free agency in the front court, Giles is worth the shot here.
26 – Portland Trailblazers – Ike Anigbogu (UCLA)
Ike Anigbogu only played 13.0 minutes per game for UCLA, but that didn’t stop him from being the Pac 12’s 9th leading blocker at 1.2 per game. This is Portland’s 3rd pick of the first round, so they should take a defensive minded player since they’ve addressed talent and positional needs with their first two picks.
27 – Brooklyn Nets – Jonathan Jeanne (France)
Jeanne is a giant. He is 7’2″ with a 7’6.5″wing span and a 9’5.5″ standing reach. Jeanne needs to add weight, but he is #1 in the 1997 international class. The Nets can afford to take another risk with this pick. Jeanne adds a physically imposing element to center that Brook Lopez, although vastly more coordinated, lacks.
28 – Los Angeles Lakers – Bam Adebayo (Kentucky)
Bad Adebayo did a great job for Kentucky as a freshman. The center still got 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game with Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Isaiah Briscoe in the same starting line-up. Adebayo finished top ten in the SEC in 26 different statistical categoies. Now that the Lakers have their point guard of the future in Lonzo Ball, they need to shore up the center position. Timofey Mozgov was awful for them – especially defensively. Tarik Black was efficient,but in limited minutes. The same goes for Thomas Robinson and Ivica Zubac.
29 – San Antonio Spurs – Frank Jackson (Duke)
Frank Jackson didn’t standout for Duke by any means, but the 6’3″ point guard complemented Duke’s starting line-up well. The freshman scored 10.9 points on 47.3% shooting and 39.2% from three for the Blue Devils, and he got better in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. San Antonio could be losing most of their back court players this off-season with Patty Mills entering free agency, Tony Parker dealing with injury until January, and Manu Ginobili possibly retiring. With one of the best systems and rosters in basketball, Jackson is ideal for being a winner from a high level program.
30 – Utah Jazz – Rodions Kurucs (Latvia)
Rodions Kurucs actually played the biggest role of any of the international players in the draft. He averaged 9.5 points in 21.2 minutes per game on 55.7% shooting. The 6’8″ 200 pound definitely has potential. If Gordon Hayward returns this off-season, Kurucs can be a draft and stash candidate. If not, he can come to the NBA right away. The Jazz have the luxury of this insurance with Kurucs.