As I make my final mock draft for the 2017 NBA Draft, I’m taking something I learned from our mock draft contest during the 2017 NFL Draft. Predicting trades is way more difficult than predicting picks. So, if you can nail one or two trade predictions, you’ll be deemed a mock draft expert.
With that in mind, for my final mock draft I’m going ALL IN on every trade I think might happen. Does making a mock with every plausible trade prediction weaken the mock? HELL NO! What Danny Ainge did this week opens up the possibility that anything can happen. Nobody thought he was really going to trade what seems like a surefire prospect for a lesser surefire star and a protected 1st round pick. But. He. Did.
Look, the 2017 NBA Draft is going to be loaded with trades. In fact, just in the time I wrote made this mock, the Lakers traded De’Angelo to the Nets just to clear cap space for the summer of 2018. That’s how fast trades are going down. But I’m not surprised. In my last mock draft from May 31st, I basically predicted that trade. Here’s what I wrote weeks ago:
The next step for the Lakers is to clear cap space for the 2018 NBA free agency season. They’ll be able to sign Boogie Cousins and Paul George. The Lakers could trade Luol Deng’s and Timothy Mozgov’s contracts, and trade D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
OK, so maybe I didn’t predict the trade precisely. The Lakers weren’t able to send both contracts. But, I got crucified by Laker fans for even suggesting it.
I’m feeling hot right now, and I’m going to roll the trade prediction dice and let it RIDE!
Damn.. let’s get to it. Here’s MockOut’s final and official 2017 NBA Mock Draft.
- Philadelphia 76ers, Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
It might be somewhat hyperbolic to say this, but this might be the best pre-draft trade in the history of the NBA, at least from the 76ers’ perspective. Fultz has every quality that the 76ers were looking for in a third star….well, a potential star. His scoring versatility and creativity is going to open up a lot of easy looks for Embiid and Simmons. As a Celtics fan, everything about this trade is painful. After the draft lottery, watching highlights gave me an instant pick-me-up. Now, if I see his highlights I immediately divert my gaze. It’s too painful. I can already see Fultz scoring 60 points at the Garden and staring down Danny Ainge after every shot. As much as I respect Ainge, I won’t feel bad for him when it happens. He deserves it. Ugh…
- Los Angeles Lakers, Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
The Lonzo hype was loud as hell after the draft but has quieted down after a slew of “Lonzo had a bad workout” tweets. All the Big Baller Brand shenanigans overshadowed Lonzo’s elite playmaking skills and basketball IQ. (I usually refrain from using cliches like “basketball IQ,” but there is no other way to describe Lonzo’s ability to process and react to game action.) If it wasn’t for his Shawn Marion-esque shooting mechanics, Lonzo might be wearing a 76ers jersey next season.
- TRADE: New York Knicks, SF, Josh Jackson
Boston Celtics trade the 3rd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jae Crowder, and the Los Angeles Lakers/Sacramento Kings protected pick to the New York Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis.
This is not a clickbait prediction. The trade rumors weren’t the smokescreen. The rumors that it was all a smokescreen is a smokescreen. The New York Knicks overplayed their cards and are now pumping the breaks to get a better deal. The Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis have separated, and they have the divorce lawyers on speed-dial. Management and Kristaps haven spoken since he skipped his exit meetings. Two months ago! It’s totally likely the initial trade rumors were a way for NYK management to send a message to Kristaps. But stop and think for a moment: what do you think the real message to Kristap was? Do you think it made him rethink the relationship and try to make amends? Or, do you think it did the opposite? I’m going to bet Kristaps is more resolute than ever in his decision to leave the Knicks after his contract is done. He won’t resign, he’ll take the qualifying offer, and then leave for nothing. The Knicks could wait one more season. They could fire Phil. They could act like a functional team. But they won’t. Phil is in charge, and the message he is sending is not to Porzingis, it’s to the rest of the NBA.
Oh yeah…Josh Jackson. I haven’t seen a prospect more unfairly evaluated since Jaylen Brown. A year ago, Jackson and Giles were the top candidates for the #1 pick. Nothing about his game has changed other than he’s proven that he can compete at the highest level in college basketball. His shooting mechanics are bad, but they can improve. They’re not nearly as bad as Michael Redd — a terrible shooter at Ohio State who fell to the 2nd round, then became one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA. Other than his athleticism and competitive fire, Jackson’s best skill is his passing, which will help create some ball movement for the Knicks.
- Phoenix Suns, Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
A second playmaker with defensive potential fills out the Suns’s starting lineup perfectly. (Although, they do need a point guard to take over once Eric Bledsoe’s contract is up.) The only question with Tatum is if he can elevate his passing skills and share the ball with Devon Booker. It may take a season or two for them to figure it out. But if and when they do, this will be the most skilled scoring duo in the NBA.
- Sacramento Kings, De’Aaron Fox, PG, University of Kentucky
The Kings get lucky. Fox gives them a speedy point guard to transform their transition game and give Buddy Hield a defensive stopper in the backcourt. The Warriors will still own this Northern California rivalry, but Fox’s on and off-ball defense on Curry will help the Kings steal a game or two during the season.
- Orlando Magic, Jonathan Isaac, PF/C, FSU
Of all the prospects in the NBA draft, Isaac excites fans the most. It’s not because he’s the most talented or that he does one thing better than any other prospect. It’s that he fits a need that nearly all NBA teams have: a versatile defender who can play the 4 or the 5 and can hit open 3-pointers. He’s also an intense competitor – a Kevin Garnett-light type. He won’t solve the Magic’s problems, but he will give them a real building block for their never-ending rebuild.
- TRADE: Chicago Bulls, Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
Minnesota Timberwolves trade the seventh pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and Zach Lavine to the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler.
Forget all the noise about Jimmy Butler to the Cavs – they don’t have the assets to get the deal done. And the Celtics aren’t trading for Butler either – they’d rather use that cap space to sign Hayward. The Timberwolves have not been in the playoffs since 2004. Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were nine years old!!!!
It’s time to build a winning culture, and it starts with a superstar player like Jimmy. The main objection is that Jimmy doesn’t fit their timeline. By the time Wiggins and KAT hit their prime, Jimmy will be too old. Bullshit! He’ll be 30 years old. Butler takes care of his body and is a competitive fiend. He’ll be playing into his late 30s. He’ll be the older star of the all-star trio. You can win a championship with a Townes-Butler-Wiggins trio.
As for the Bulls, call the Pacers and ask them if they regret not trading Paul George last summer. Smith and Lavine give the Bulls a backcourt reboot and a foundation to start a rebuild. They get to focus all of next season on rebuilding, rather than aiming for the 7th seed.
- New York Knicks, Frank Ntilikina, G, France
The Knicks show they are serious about rebuilding for a 2020s dynasty. Ntilikina is a physical freak and has all the skills you would want in a guard. Except for advanced passing abilities. So, he might end up being a shooting guard, not a point guard. With Ntilikina and Josh Jackson on the roster, the Knicks start building a roster of lockdown defenders.
And to all the Knicks pissed off at me right now: by trading Porzingis and taking Ntilikina and Jackson, you can TANK the 2017/2018 NBA seasons and get a top five pick. Then you let the young players learn during the 2018/2019 season, and then you get two top five picks (the Knicks and the Kings). That’s four or five blue chip prospects, and if one of those players ends up being Michael Porter or Marvin Bagley then you’ve really revitalized your franchise. Then, play another season and all the bad contracts get cleared from your books AND all these young players you drafted will still be on their rookie deals. Sign two max players to go with this roster and you have yourself a contending team. It’s a four-year plan to contention. It’s time to do the dirty work of rebuilding. If you keep Porzingis, and he leaves, we’re going to be talking about how to rebuild for the 2030s…
- Dallas Mavericks, Lauri Markkanen, PF/C, Arizona
What a perfect offensive partner for Nerlens. Lauri’s shooting ability might be the best single talent of anyone in the draft. He lacks the size and strength to be a solid defender. But he’s smart enough to become a decent positional defender who won’t hurt the team too badly. And his shooting is so special that it will make up for his defensive liability.
- Sacramento Kings, Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
The Kings backcourt suddenly got really crowded with Fox, Monk, and Buddy. But the Kings are not in any position to make a trade based on need. They’ll make this work or they’ll find out which of the three they’ll need to trade. For now, it’s raining threes in Sacramento.
- Charlotte Hornets, Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
Mitchell has been simply overlooked as a top tier prospect throughout his collegiate career. His defensive intensity, athleticism, and wingspan fit perfectly with Kemba Walker. He also allows the Hornets to play a potent small-ball lineup with Batum at the SF, Kidd-Gilchrist at the PF, and Dwight Friggin Howard at Center. (Dwight Howard was traded while I made this mock!)
- TRADE: Orlando Magic, Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Detroit Pistons trade the 12th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to the Orlando Magic for Evan Fournier and the 25th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
This is the make-or-break season for the Andre Drummond-led Pistons, and Evan Fournier gives them another competent scorer. Fournier’s contract is reasonable and will enable the Pistons to forgo giving Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a MAX deal.
The Magic now have a frontcourt of Gordon, Collins, and Isaac that can defend and shoot (well, not Gordon, but the other two).
- Denver Nuggets, Jarrett Allen, PF/C, Texas
The Nuggets pass on the sharp-shooting Kenard to take Allen, a long-term project with a 7’5” wingspan and athletic skills to be a defensive monster. If Allen perfects the fundamentals of the game and learns how to shoot, he’ll be the steal of the draft. All BIG “ifs.”
- Miami Heat, Luke Kenard, G, Duke
As always, the Heat get a draft night steal. Kenard is the sharpshooter that will space the floor and give Heat fans Dan Majerle flashbacks. He’ll likely come off the bench throughout his career, but he’ll have a few Sixth Man of the Year awards to put on his mantle.
- Portland Trail Blazers, John Collins, PF/C, Wake Forest
Down the road, Damian Lillard and Collins can go pick-and-roll beast mode on the NBA. Collins has an offensive skillset that, with some major polish, could make him into a strong starter on a contending team.
- TRADE: Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
Portland Trail Blazers trade the 20th and 26th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft to the Chicago Bulls for the 16th pick.
This is either six picks too high for OG, or six picks to low. It’s hard to get a read on where he is on teams’ draft boards. It’s unlikely that he ever develops anything resembling an offensive game. Bad footwork, lame passing ability, no instincts. The only hope is that his shot can be serviceable and that he actually is a modern NBA center who can defend the interior.
- Milwaukee Bucks, Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
Evans has everything you want in a point guard, except for size and strength. He’s small but he’s lightning quick, and his quick release is going to make him a nightmare to guard in transition.
- Indiana Pacers, Jonah Bolden, F, Australia
Bolden is a skilled forward who can hit deep shots. He’s a safe bet type prospect with a high ceiling who needs to prove that he can compete against NBA talent.
- Atlanta Hawks, Justin Patton, C, Creighton
For a hot minute during the college season, Patton was sneaking his way into the lottery. He’s explosive with a soft touch around the rim. He needs to get stronger and tougher and log a season or two in the G League.
- Chicago Bulls, Ike Anigbogu, PF/C, UCLA
Bulls get great value. If Ike stayed in school one more year, he’d likely be a lottery pick. He’ll never develop a shot, and injuries have slowed him down, but he’s built like a tank and he’s got a mean streak that you want in a center.
- Oklahoma City Thunder, Harry Giles, F, Duke
For most prospects, workouts with the teams don’t really matter much to their draft position. For Giles, the workouts mean everything. He’s got big questions to answer about his athleticism and mobility. Teams need to see that he’s returning to his old form before they can decide whether to risk a draft pick with the hopes that he won’t get injured again. It sounds like his workouts are proving that his athleticism is back and that he could return to his old form. If that’s the case, the Thunder may have drafted a top five pick at #21.
- Brooklyn Nets, Bam Adebayo, PF/C, Kentucky
Bam lands in the absolute best situation. He’s a high-energy and explosive big man that needs to just learn how to play. Brooklyn will have plenty of minutes for him to work on his footwork and shooting.
- Toronto Raptors, Justin Jackson, F, UNC
Jackson is an older 3-and-D type player that can help fill a need for the Raptors as they embark on another quasi-run at the Eastern Conference Finals. He’ll come off the bench on day one.
- TRADE: Detroit Pistons, TJ Leaf, F, UCLA
Detroit Pistons trade a lottery protected 1st round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to the Utah Jazz for the 24th pick.
The Utah Jazz don’t need more young players on their roster. They need to stock up on tradeable assets. The Pistons get an offensively gifted power forward who has major defensive weaknesses. But that’s why he’s perfect next to Drummond.
- Detroit Pistons, DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan State
The Pistons pull off the rare back-to-back picks from a trade down and a trade up. Wilson plays like a guard, and he defends like one, too. He’s a gifted exterior defender who can switch on smaller players.
- Chicago Bulls, Jordan Bell, PF/C, Oregon
Bell’s game is best served in the paint. He’s a master at getting tip-ins and has the strength to overpower defenders for a nasty dunk.
- TRADE: Indiana Pacers, Terrance Ferguson, SG, USA
Los Angeles trade the 27th and 28th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George.
George gave the Pacers no choice. And, considering the circumstances, the Pacers got a lot of value for George. In Ferguson, they get an ultra-athletic shooting guard who has shown flashes of offensive brilliance. He just needs to learn how to harness it and play consistently.
- TRADE: Indiana Pacers, Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
Semi is a 3-and-D player who isn’t that creative with the ball but has potential to be a contributor off the bench.
- San Antonio Spurs, Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
Lydon is one of the most underrated prospects in the draft who will have a much better career than most expect. Of course, he goes to the Spurs. He can shoot, cut, and is a capable passer.
- Utah Jazz, Ivan Rabb, PF/C, California
Rabb is a cautionary tale for all those student athletes out there: quit while you’re ahead. Nobody’s draft stock fell more than Rabb’s. He still has his length and rebounding ability. On a loaded Jazz roster, Rabb will have the luxury to refine his game in the G-League and show everyone that his sophomore season was an anomaly.
photo: Jennifer Buchanan, USA TODAY Sports