NBA Mock Draft: Where the lottery picks may end up
On Thursday night, the dreams of 60 prospective professional basketball players will come true as 30 NBA teams participate in the 2017 NBA Draft (7 p.m, ESPN).
Here’s a prediction of the lottery picks and their potential impact in the NBA.
No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers (from Boston Celtics) — Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Last weekend, ESPN confirmed that the Celtics and Sixers agreed to swap the No. 1 and No. 3 picks in exchange for the Sixers 2018 and 2019 first-round draft picks.
For the fourth year in a row, the Sixers will have a top-3 pick. In 2014 the Sixers selected Joel Embiid, who just finished his rookie season in 2016-2017, out of Kansas at No. 3. In 2015 they selected Duke’s Jahlil Okafor at No. 3. In 2016, the Sixers won the draft lottery and took LSU’s Ben Simmons at No. 1.
And this year, after acting on a pick swap from Sacramento, they moved to the No. 3 spot in the draft and now successfully negotiated a trade with Boston to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft.
The trade is a slam dunk for the Sixers and the Celtics. With Fultz, the Sixers are able to provide a balanced perimeter and pick-and-roll scorer alongside Simmons and Embiid.
Fultz is an at-will scorer with great court vision. On the Sixers he will be able to develop in conjunction with two other potential franchise players into a deadly offensive weapon.
This offensive trio has the ability to become a perennial powerhouse. If Fultz had been drafted by Boston, a team in win-now mode, he would have had to play second to Isaiah Thomas.
The Fultz-Thomas combo would be interesting to watch, but it could create uncertainty for the future of Boston once Isaiah Thomas hits free agency. This trade allows Boston to select the sharp shooter it needs to play alongside Thomas and Avery Bradley, frees Fultz up from a restrictive role, and gives Philadelphia the steady hand at the point they’ve so desperately needed.
If for some reason, Philadelphia’s injury-prone rookies Simmons and Embiid cannot stay healthy, Fultz can become new tool to build around in the upcoming drafts.
No. 2 Los Angles Lakers — Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
No. 3 Boston Celtics (From Philadelphia) — Jayson Tatum, G/F, Duke
After a season that exceeded expectations, the Celtics need to fill their roster with role players around Isaiah Thomas. While they can do that in the free-agent market (rumors are circulating that the Celtics are interested in Chicago’s Jimmy Butler) they need to play it safe and draft an impact player. Duke one-and-done Tatum proved he can score at any means possible. He’s a sharp shooter guard/forward hybrid that can add rebounding on both ends of the court and help spread the floor out for Thomas.
Tatum also presents a matchup challenge for other teams in the East. He’s too quick for a traditional size matchup with another forward, but too big to stick a guard on him.
A Tatum-Thomas duo, along with the steady scoring of Avery Bradley and Al Horford, gives the Celtics a real chance to dethrone the Cavaliers in the East.
No. 4 Phoenix Suns — Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
No. 5 Sacramento Kings — De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
No. 6 Orlando Magic — Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State
No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves — Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Kennard’s sophomore season at Duke elevated him from potential first-round pick to assured lottery pick. Kennard finished the season leading Duke in scoring with 19.5 ppg. He proved to be not only a lethal shooter from 3-point land, but showcased his ability to score from mid-range and at the rim. Kennard will provide Minnesota with a quick scoring shooter.
No. 8 New York Knicks — Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
No. 9 Dallas Mavericks — Justin Jackson, G/F, North Carolina
Dallas solved some issues at guard with strong performances from Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry, and acquired Nerlens Noel, to help ease pressure on the aging Dirk Nowitzki last season. But they still need a strong-scoring big man. The ACC Player of the Year, Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels to a national championship with his ability to score. At 6-foot-8, Jackson has the handles and outside scoring of a shooting guard and the height and skill to play in the post. Jackson should be a nice pick-and-pop scorer along the young guards. Jackson is the kind of role player and potential franchise player that can jumpstart the Mavericks rebuild when Nowitzki finally tosses in the towel.
No. 10 Sacramento Kings — John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
No. 11 Charlotte Hornets — Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
The Hornets have been stuck as a .500 team, on the brink of the playoffs as an eight seed, for the past three years.
Their all-star point guard Kemba Walker is the only reliable scorer today, but lacks interior players to add an effective pick-and-roll offense. Collins, a freshman, is a bit of a gamble, but the upside is worth the risk. Collins helped lead the Bulldogs to the National Championship game averaging 10 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Collins can step out and shoot the mid-range jumper, while also finishing at the rim. He’s also 7-feet tall.
No. 12 Detroit Pistons — Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
No. 13 Denver Nuggets — Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
No. 14 Miami Heat — Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona