2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0
If you’re the Philadelphia Sixers, Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns or Minnesota Timberwolves, then you’re probably excited about this year’s NBA Draft. If you’re the Boston Celtics, then ecstatic is an understatement. The Celtics have the best odds of landing the No.1 overall pick, thanks to the Brooklyn Nets, despite solidifying their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference at (40-22) on the season. With athletic, game-changing guards at the top of the draft, highly-skilled big’s and aggressive-slashing wings, there’s a little something for all of the team’s in the lottery, looking to change their fortunes towards a brighter future. Using ESPN’s draft order, here’s how I think the top-10 will develop:
1. Boston Celtics – PG, Markelle Fultz, Washington, 18 years-old, 6’4, 195 lbs
Prior to the 2016-17 NCAAB season, I heard the hype about Markelle Fultz and didn’t understand it. I asked myself, “what does he do so well?” and “why is everybody salivating over the Maryland native?” That was until I saw this video below, my initial introduction into the highly-touted guards game. Then I, too, became a believer in the mini high-top fade. Look at plays 3:46 and 4:00 and enjoy the amazing grace
The kid can ball. At 6’4 he has the ideal size you would want in a lead guard. There’s a quiet calmness to Fultz’s game, as in he takes his time, plays at his own pace, but can still give you the wow factor as a fan. Averaging 23.2 ppg, shooting 47 percent from the field, supplemented by nearly six rebounds and assists a game, Fultz is the total package. He excels in creating his own shot with a deft handle and is a willing passer. Unfortunately, the Huskies are having a rough year at (9-21) on the season, so we won’t have the luxury of watching Fultz perform on the big stage. Fultz will add to Boston’s surplus of backcourt options and could possibly be Isaiah Thomas’s long-term running mate, offering a pure scoring and playmaking tweener-guard with All-Star potential. The addition of Fultz also gives Celtics president of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge the option of putting together a package to bring in a superstar, the final piece to the championship desires of the organization. Celtics were rumored in deals to acquire either Chicago Bulls swing-man Jimmy Butler or Indiana Pacers forward Paul George at the trading deadline last month.
2. Phoenix Suns – PG, Lonzo Ball, UCLA, 19 years-old, 6’6, 190 lbs
Lonzo Ball’s impact on college basketball this season is similar to the effect that Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell had on the sport during the 2014-15 season. He was must-see TV when he suited up for Ohio State that year, exciting onlookers, fans and NBA scouts on his passing ability and effortless style towards the game. Ball has those qualities and more. ESPN college basketball analyst, Jay Bilas compared Ball to Jason Kidd because of his court vision, which makes his teammates better as well as his ability to score and shoot. Ball’s shot release is unconventional but it works. He is shooting 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. When you watch Ball play, you’ll see the full package. You’ll see his athleticism, catching lobs and finishing with style. The defense, led by his 6’7 wing-span which allows Ball to get into the passing lanes, intercept and win the footrace to the other end for easy scores. You’ll also see the Kevin Martin-like shot release that Ball can launch well beyond the free-throw line and you will see someone who looks every bit of a franchise cornerstone. Ball is primed for NBA stardom, and despite Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis currently manning the point guard duties on the Suns, I would be shocked if Phoenix passed up on Ball with the second overall pick. And how cool is it to have the last name “Ball”?
3. Los Angeles Lakers – SG, Malik Monk, Kentucky, 19 years-old, 6’3, 200 lbs
This is a tough one. The Lakers with the third pick can go in several directions. If they want D’Angelo Russell insurance, they could entertain NC State’s own Dennis Smith, who’s ultra-talented, but profiles as more of a scoring point guard than a pass first pg. Josh Jackson is also a popular option here. He rebounds well, can lock-down on defense, excels in the open floor, attacks the rim and plays to win, almost to a fault at times. But I have questions about his character, after he was charged with one count of criminal damage to property of Kansas women’s basketball player Mckenzie Calvert, last month and on the court, his jump-shot could use some maintenance. This is a stretch but I could definitely see the Lakers selecting Monk as their next big thing alongside their impressive young core. Monk leads the NCAA’s NBA camp in Kentucky in scoring with 21.2 ppg. He has a relentless mindset when it comes to scoring and can take his defender off the dribble for a tough acrobatic finish at the rim or a step-back two or three. On a team featuring other first-rounder’s in De’Aaron Fox and Edrice Adebayo, Monk stands out from the group and has become a finalist for college basketball’s prestigious John R. Wooden Award. If there are any issues with Monk, it could be the fact that he is undersized as a shooting guard and his shot selection is erratic at best. At Kentucky, Monk, more often than not, has had to indulge in hero-ball because of his tough-shot making ability and quick release. It’s no secret that Monk can do a lot of things offensively in iso situations, but sometimes he has the tendency to take tough shots, out of necessity from the team and his own self-confidence to produce. With Magic Johnson calling the shots now in LA, and his willingness to attract former Lakers greats to help rebuild the franchise, like a Kobe Bryant, Monk could fit right in. He wants to be great and learning under the tutelage of all-time greats like Johnson and Bryant could do wonders for the Arkansas native. Monk is already box-office and he can help bring the show-time back to Staples Center for the purple and gold.
4. Philadelphia 76ers – PG, Dennis Smith Jr., NC State, 19 years-old, 6’3, 195 lbs
Another guard is taken with the fourth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and this time, it's Fayetteville’s own Dennis Smith Jr.. Even with the departure of center Nerlens Noel at the trade deadline last month, Philly still has a surplus of talented big-men on their roster. Ben Simmons, the 2016, first overall pick, has yet to play a game in the NBA, redshirting his rookie season due to a foot injury. Joel Embiid spearheaded the “trust the process” movement with his 20 ppg and nearly eight rebounds in 31 games this season, but his season was also cut short because of a knee injury. Which leaves Jahlil Okafor to hold down the fort for the frontcourt, who the Sixers tried to trade at the deadline. I can see the Sixers trading one of these players away to bring back talent to fulfill other needs, but at the moment, and into the teams near future, the point guard position hasn’t been a position of strength. TJ McConnell is a nice player but he’s probably best suited as a backup. And in the 2017 PG free agent class, the chances of Philly selling the likes of Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Steph Curry, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday and George Hill on a team trending upwards, are slim to none. Enter Smith Jr. The North Carolina native can be the star guard that Philly has lacked since Holiday, now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. Smith Jr. can score with the best of em, rivaling the guards mentioned above. He is averaging 18 ppg, four rebs and six assists a game. Like Monk, he’s a high-flyer, and can explode when attacking the rim for flashy finishes. Smith Jr. is a score first pg who creates most of his opportunities creating off-the-dribble, maneuvering between double-teams for floaters and pull-up jumpers. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense and can be difficult to guard, which translates to the enormous confidence he displays on the court. He is fearless, and while that winning trait can result into wins, it can also spell losses. Smith Jr. knows he’s good and that can lead to bad shot selection, forcing the issue and costly turnovers. He also tore his ACL in the summer of 2015 and we’ve all seen what happened to Derrick Rose. Smith Jr. is worth the gamble. This is a potential All-Star in the John Wall, Derrick Rose type of mold. There’s a reason he’s projected to be off-the-board by the fifth pick.
5. Orlando Magic – F, Jonathan Isaac, Florida State University, 19 years-old, 6’10, 209 lbs
This is a good problem to have. Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac and Kansas’s Josh Jackson will be available. I would like to think that Orlando is comfortable with Aaron Gordon playing the three, opposed to the four where he thrived last year, because he can defend the perimeter chase guards around and apply some muscle as the resistance. He can be an intimidator on the perimeter with his size 6’9 frame and that’s what Orlando head coach, Frank Vogel wants. “He’s got all the athleticism in the world to do it, and it’s not been about blitzing pick-and-rolls and banging in the post, but about chasing guys off screens and guarding the ball,” Vogel said last month, according to nbcsports.com. Gordon needs to improve his shot to play the three and I think Orlando trusts he will put in the effort to improve from 16+ feet and beyond. And that’s why Jonathan Isaac is a great selection here with the fifth overall pick. Standing tall and talented at 6’10, and 210 lbs, Isaac’s upside exceeds former Magic forward Serge Ibaka who now plays for the Toronto Raptors. Thank the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo for Isaac’s expertise in versatility. Isaac can hit the three, post-up and drain the turn-around jumper from 3-10 feet out. He can face the basket and attack. He runs the floor and moves well without the ball. Add in lobs and offensive rebounding and Isaac is a player that can score in so many ways but his best asset might just be his ability to defend. Against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last month, Isaac recorded seven blocks and finished the night with a near triple-double, adding 23 pts and 10 rebounds to the stat-line. He could be the perfect complement to Gordon, capable of cleaning up the mess at the rim and gives PG, Elfrid Payton another weapon to dish too. When you look at Isaac, you see a slender, wiry frame, similar to KD when he came out of Texas in 2007. He needs to improve his upper body strength, so he can stand his ground and not get pushed out of the paint when he drives to the rim against stronger defenders or boxes out for rebounds. Because of this, Isaac tends to shy away from contact, electing to toss up floaters when he drives to the lane, despite having the length and height advantage to finish through contact and go all-the-way, according to draftexpress.com. With the best trainers in the world in the best professional basketball league in the world, Isaac will be just fine.