MockOut’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft Version 2
The 2017 NBA Draft for the Heat, Knicks, and Mavericks will determine their franchises’ directions for the next decade. If each team ends up with a top pick. For the Heat and Mavs, it’s about getting their next superstar player. For the Knicks, it’s about finally rewarding their fans with two Knick superstars — in their prime — on the court at the same time.
It’s also possible that all three teams will blow it by winning too many games this year. Only the worst 10 teams will have a chance at the top tier NBA draft prospects: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, Dennis Smith, Frank Ntilikina, Lauri Markkanen, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Jayson Tatum.
There are potential star players somewhere outside the top 9. But they’re hard to find. In my first mock draft, the Heat were drafting Lonzo and the Mavs taking Josh Jackson. Now they are looking at the “Harry Gile” type players. High-potential players with flaws.
Anyway, let’s get started with the second version of MockOut’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft! First up, the draft envy of the league: the Boston Celtics.
1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Sorry to ruin the drama, but every mock draft I make now until June will have Markelle Fultz at #1. The challenge is explaining why the Celtics will take Fultz in a new and refreshing way.
I don’t know…maybe because he’s the next James Harden with defense or the next Dwyane Wade with a 3-point shot? He can do it all. And he gives the Celtics so many options on where to take the franchise. They could add him to the “win now” roster and have him be the first option off the bench. He’ll win both Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year in 2017. He’ll be Isiah Thomas’s apprentice, and together they’ll be an unstoppable offense, capable of scoring 120 ppg. Or, the Celtics could just build around Fultz, trade all their veterans, and go for a 2020s dynasty.
The point is that Fultz’s talent will define the franchise that drafts him. If you want to really understand his game, read Kevin O’Connor’s scouting report in The Ringer.
2. Phoenix Suns: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Lonzo Ball plays basketball like a chessmaster. And, the Suns have some exciting chess pieces. Devon Booker is his rook — the sharp shooter who can hit shots from any spot or distance on the court. Marquese Chriss is his knight — the athletic player who can jump over a defender, grab a Lonzo Ball lob, and finish it. Dragan Bender is his bishop — the stretch big who can hit shots from long distance and finish in transition. The only thing Ball needs on his chess board is a queen, the player that can create his own offense in different ways and provide Ball with a lethal offensive attack.
Or, the Suns could trade this 2017 NBA draft pick, Marquese, and Bender for Demarcus Cousins, and then the Suns can play two-player Contra with Devon and Boogie. (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.)
3. Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas
Don’t overthink it, Lakers! If you’re lucky enough to land a 2017 NBA Draft lottery pick — and somehow avoid the draft disaster of handing the 76ers their pick — just let it all ride on the best available talent. Josh Jackson is having the season that scouts expected from Andrew Wiggins. The big question will be if Josh Jackson, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle can all play together. Jackson or Ingram will need to play shooting guard.
4. Philadelphia 76ers, Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
Keep getting that rest, Embiid. The Sixers don’t need the playoffs, yet. Now they just need to finish the tanking job. The process doesn’t become the dynasty until the Sixers get that third star. Smith would give them scoring and offensive versatility out of the backcourt. He’d be able to collapse a defense to get Embiid an easy dunk. He can play off the ball to give Simmons another teammate to pass to. Or he can just score 30 points and win the game himself.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State University
Don’t panic, Wolves. I know it’s tempting to punt on the Kris Dunn pick and draft one of the remaining talented point guards like Fox or Ntilikina. Dunn is the Wolves’ point guard of the future, and I’d wager the Wolves management agrees. He just needs time, and Isaac will need it, too. (He also needs to gain 20+ pounds of muscle.) Isaac gives them interior defense, more rebounding, intensity, and a lot more space on the floor to operate because he can hit an open 3-pointer. Guys like Wiggins and Dunn will have a lot more room to drive to the basket because both Towns and Isaac can shoot the ball.
If you want an informed deep dive into Isaac’s game, check out this draft profile by The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks, who makes the argument that Isaac may be even better than we all realize.
6. Orlando Magic: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Remember when the Orlando Magic signed Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady and we all expected Orlando to be contenders throughout the 2000s? That plan went to hell because Hill could not stay healthy and the Magic became middling-type contenders. Tatum is the Grant Hill redemption. He’s a natural scorer who’ll have a chance at a of lot scoring titles before his career is over. He’s everything the Magic franchise needs.
7. Sacramento Kings: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
I know what you’re thinking. The Sacramento Kings will draft the player that can help them win now because they are so obsessed with just making the playoffs that they can’t wait for a prospect to develop. Fox or Malik Monk would be the safe picks here. But here’s the thing: all these prospects will need time to develop. What the Kings need is to go big or go home. LET IT ALL RIDE on Ntilikinav! What will get stuck in the heads of Kings management is that Ntilikina is the next Giannis. Everyone passed on Giannis because they didn’t have enough information on him. They were too scared to take a chance. Ntilikina might be the best player in this draft. Seriously. He might be better than Fultz. No matter what, the Kings will have Boogie. And they can always trade Ntilikina for a win-now star to play with Boogie. But if they strike gold it will completely transform their franchise, with or without Boogie. They can build around Ntilikina.
The Kings don’t have many more chances to hit a homerun. Ntilikina is it. Just take a look at this excerpt from a recent NY Times article written about Ntilikina’s growth as a player:
Positive signs keep emerging. Early last month, Collet said, Ntilikina dominated a practice for the first time. A week later, he joined the junior national team for the European Under-18 Championship, where he led France to the gold medal and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. After notching 23 points, 9 assists and 5 steals against Italy in the semifinals, he scored 31 points in the final against Lithuania.
Facing players his own age, and forced to lead, he looked unstoppable, swaggering smoothly around the court, draining difficult shots, making the ball his personal plaything.
8. New Orleans Pelicans: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
It’s taken me some time to accept Markkanen as an elite prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft. Maybe it was the subpar athleticism or the short wingspan. But that goddamn three-point stroke is so fast, and so accurate. He is everything Anthony Davis needs in a frontcourt partner. Everything except shutdown interior defense. Hopefully, the Pelicans don’t ruin it all by trading for Jahil Okafor. (Spoiler alert: They will.)
9. Dallas Mavericks: Malik Monk, SG, University of Kentucky
Congratulations Mavericks! You’re gonna win 34 games and miss out on a top-5 talent. Luckily for your fan base, there are ten “blue chip” prospects in this draft. Dallas might be the best landing spot for Malik, who will need a lot of shots to be the star player many expect him to be.
Monk’s game is what it is. He’s a shoot-first and shoot-a-lot guard. So, is he the next Stephen Curry or the next Austin Rivers? Vice Sports contributor Sam Vecenie takes a look at how Monk’s game compares to past high-profile draft picks.
10. New York Knicks: De’Aaron Fox, PG, University of Kentucky
You want to play a fun drinking game during a Kentucky basketball game? Take a shot every time the announcer mentions how fast Fox is. He’s so fast it’s distracting. In any other year Fox would be drafted in the top five.
11. Milwaukee Bucks: Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Hey, Milwaukee. Have you ever gone to a club with a group of friends and as you all walk in the bouncer lets everyone but you through? Well, that’s what happens at pick #11. No more top-tier prospects. The only chance left to get passed over the velvet rope and in the club is to grease the bouncer a Harry Giles. Wait, what??!! He’s your last-chance ticket into the club! As long as Giles can recover fully from his knee surgeries and stay relatively healthy throughout his career. He’s showing flashes of his old self and may just get you into the future all-star club yet.
12. Portland Trail Blazers: Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Wow. I haven’t seen a prospect move up a draft board this fast, and this high, since a mysterious Spanish big named Pau Gasol suddenly was showing up in the top ten on mock drafts. Patton keeps putting up numbers and showing that he’s for real.
If you still don’t know why Patton is so good, check out this SI article by Seth Davis about why Patton is rising so fast.
13. Miami Heat: Ivan Rabb, PF, CAL
Coming into the season I was completely lukewarm on Broccoli Rabb. I gave him that nickname because as a player he’s good as a side, not as an entree. But I was totally wrong. Rabb could be a star — if he shows that he can develop a consistent 3-point shot. Seriously, how will any team be able to rebound against Rabb and Whiteside?
14. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State University
Remember when being a “tweener” was a bad thing? Now it means you’re versatile and you guard multiple positions. Bridges brings offensive versatility and production. He’s a winner and makes everyone around him better. However, the best tweeners, like Draymond, usually have one secret weapon: long wingspan. Bridges has the wingspan of a hummingbird. (FYI: If you’re wondering, the Wandering Albatross has the longest wingspan of any bird, just beating out the Kawhi Buzzard.) But he’s hitting 40% of his 3 pointers. He’s super athletic and can finish in transition. Bridges has a ceiling. But that ceiling may be way higher than we realize.
15. Denver Nuggets: TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
You don’t need to be spectacular to be special. Leaf’s game doesn’t look like it, but he’s a very efficient player who will be a starter on a good team. He won’t take Denver to the next level. But they don’t need him to. He’ll be the third or fourth scoring option who will create just as much offense with his passing as he does with his shooting.
16. Detroit Pistons: OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
I’ve noticed some mock drafts are now projecting Anunoby to be picked in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s just too raw and is nowhere near ready to play in the NBA next year. But all Anunoby needs is a few breakout games to get scouts all juiced up again. The Pistons can wait for Anunoby to develop. I’m actually expecting that when the commissioner announces this pick they’ll hand Anunoby a Grand Rapids Drive (Pistons D-League team) cap to wear on stage. ‘Cause he’ll be clocking some major miles with the Drive next year.
17. Chicago Bulls: Bam Adebayo, PF/C, University of Kentucky
Adebayo’s skills are maturing with each game, and that makes him exciting to watch. He started the season as a raw talent and he’s played his way to medium-rare. The Bulls could build their defensive personality around Adebayo. But he does more than just play defense.
In fact, part of his offensive growth is due to the people who have taught him the right skills. SI writer Brian Hamilton noted in this recent article that Adebayo found a tutor who knows all the NBA cheat codes:
So Graves called on a friend with some strong credentials: Rasheed Wallace, the former North Carolina standout and four-time NBA All-Star. Between the end of high school basketball season and the beginning of summer school in Lexington, Wallace drove to Greensboro a couple times a week to train Adebayo at the Brown YMCA. “He basically taught him for three months how to play against taller players,” Graves says of Wallace. “In high school, Bam is 6′ 10″ playing against 6′ 4″ [players]. You get to Kentucky, everybody is 6′ 10″. Rasheed taught Bam all the leveraging moves to use against the taller guys.”
18. Indiana Pacers: Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Germany
The Pacers would be so lucky to land a draft-and-stash type player like Hartenstein. The Pacers are a deep team and will be in “win now” mode next season to keep Paul George happy (along with the $200 million contract extension). Hartenstein has all the physical attributes you’d want in a modern center. Just compare Dragan Bender’s scouting videos to Hartenstein — are they really that far apart? When you consider how much deeper the 2017 NBA Draft is compared to the 2016 NBA Draft, Bender would probably have fallen to the teens this year.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder: Robert Williams, PF, Texas A&M
Finally! Just what the Thunder need: a defensive big man with a 7’4” wingspan, mobility, and some offensive polish. The big concern about Bobby Williams is that he’s not a lightning bolt on offense or defense, which means he’ll get pushed around in the NBA. The good news for Williams is that he’ll be playing with the most aggressive player in the NBA — he’ll just have to learn how to dial up the wattage.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Terrance Ferguson, SG, International
Before I get into Ferguson I just want all the Atlanta fans to know that we’re all rooting for you. You guys deserve better than what your professional sports teams have handed you. I hope one day the Hawks really figure out and contend for a championship. Now let’s just have a moment of silence for the 2017 Super Bowl Atlanta Falcons that never were.
Moving on…Anything you read about Ferguson will begin and end with his shooting. He gets up so high and his release is so fast. In other words: he’s a perfect player for the Hawks system. But what’s even more impressive is how he can explode at the rim. He’s a better finisher than advertised. And, if you really want to know what kind of person he is, check out his Players’ Tribune article about playing in Australia.
21. Toronto Raptors: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
If I was predicting trades in this mock draft, the Atlanta Hawks or the Orlando Magic would be picking here. (The Raptors are going to trade for either Milsap or Ibaka.) The big hangup with Luke is his physical attributes. He’s got no length nor size. But it’s hard to dismiss his offensive production on a loaded Duke roster.
22. Washington Wizards: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida State
The Wizards need a lot more help at the power forward and center positions than they do for another SF. But if you’re team is drafting for need in the 20s, then you’re doing the draft wrong. Bacon is a physically empowering small forward who can hit shots from behind the 3-pt line. Lots of scouts are underrating him, and he may drop to the second round. Reminds me of the same mistake scouts made about Jae Crowder.
23. Denver Nuggets (via Memphis Grizzlies): Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
Have you noticed a theme in this draft? Bigs who can shoot! Tyler has the offensive ability to be a starter on a good team. But what doesn’t get recognized enough about his game is his ability to play defense at the 4 or 5. Nuggets get a steal at 23!
24. Toronto Raptors (via LA Clippers): John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Remember, at around pick #10 the talent drops off considerably and the bouncer is no longer allowing teams into the top-tier talent club. This is where you experience the next drop in talent. But there are players who are still rising up draft boards. Players like John Collins, who has made a huge leap during his sophomore season.
25. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics): Marcus Keene, PG, Central Michigan
You have no idea who Marcus Keene is, right? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Just look at his extensive DraftExpress scouting report. But Keene is this draft’s Isaiah Thomas. An undersized player that defenders just can’t stop. By the time teams are drafting in June, everyone will know his name. The Nets have nothing to lose and will take a chance on Keene.
26. Utah Jazz: Justin Jackson, SF, UNC
Jackson could play in the NBA for 10+ years as long as he adds a lot more muscle. (Some scouts question if he has the frame to do that, though.) But he’s shown that he can put up big numbers against the best teams in college basketball.
27. Houston Rockets: Grayson Allen, SF, Duke
Grayson Allen is the defected item in the clearance bin. If he didn’t act like such a turd he would be a top 20 pick. But a lot of that turd behavior is due to his competitiveness, which is a prerequisite trait for any NBA player. What scouts will really notice is how Allen can fit into the rhythm of any offense with his catch-and-shoot skills.
28. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
We’re all biased when it comes to NBA draft prospects. Lots of us start with the projections that sites like DraftExpress or ESPN put out and then form our own opinions from there. I bring this up because, for some reason, mock drafts aren’t giving Swanigan enough respect. If they had projected him as a top 15 pick, nobody would question it. Because the guy has sick offensive talent and the physical build to be an effective defensive player.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
Mitchell’s potential as a first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft will probably be determined by his performances in the NCAA tournament. He has a tendency to have some HUGE games and some DUD games. A few HUGE games in March will go a long way to securing his place in the first round.
30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
When you sit down to make a mock draft, the one constant worry you have is “have I forgotten about somebody?” So, I’m going to give all the professional mock drafts a mulligan because ALL of them seem to have forgotten about Alkins. He can shoot, defend, finish, pass…he does it all! He’s a first rounder in my book, and I would bet Adam Silver calls his name this June.
You can track changes to my mock draft, as well as other mock drafts from around the web at these NBA Mock Draft Databases:
photo: USA Today