The 2017 NBA Draft is still four months away, and a lot will happen to adjust this mock draft between now and then. The NBA trade deadline. The NCAA Tournament. The NBA playoffs. You’ll recognize many of the names below from the 50 Best Players in College Basketball list. Last June, we took a way-too-early look at the 2017 NBA lottery.
1. Boston (via Brooklyn) – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
The guards in this class are incredible, but there’s only one 7-foot sniper who could be the 2nd coming of Dirk Nowitzki. Markkanen is shooting 47 percent on 3-pointers, one of the greatest marks for a big man in college basketball history. Boston’s got guards, wings, and defenders, and Markkanen could be the final piece to the puzzle. He’s slumped the last few games as the team works Allonzo Trier back into the rotation, but last year at this time, he was suiting up for the Finland national team. Here’s how much power Danny Ainge has – he could trade back a few spots, get more picks, and draft Markkanen. Four months out, I went Markkanen – the only unicorn in this draft – first with this in mind: If Boston makes a run in the East to the conference finals, is Danny Ainge moving on from Isaiah Thomas and busting up the backcourt? Ainge’s last two first round picks (Rozier in 2016 and Jaylen Brown in 2016) were both mild surprises.
2. Phoenix – Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
What do the Suns do? Three of their four best players are guards (Bledsoe, Booker, Knight). It feels like they’ve had a surfeit of guards for a few years now. No, I don’t know what you do with Eric Bledsoe if you draft Fultz. Soon, you become the Celtics – loaded in one spot, devoid in many others (and without Brad Stevens and the playoffs appearances). Fultz (23.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, 47/42), who compares favorably to Brandon Roy, will probably be your leader for Rookie of the Year.
3. LA Lakers – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
This would be too perfect. Sure, they already have two lead guards in Russell and Clarkson, but getting a local star helps the fan base, and will certainly help Luke Walton’s up-tempo offense. And neither of those guards has been dominant yet, and more than a few NBA people I’ve spoken with think Russell could be expendable this summer. But he only turns 21 this month, and it seems way too early to give up on him. Could you play Ball/Clarkson/Russell/Ingram/Randle? You may not get many rebounds, but offensively …
4. Orlando – Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
The Magic continue to go nowhere fast. Aaron Gordon is only 21, but still without position, Elfrid Payton is about to turn 23, which nearly matches his shooting percentage on 3-pointers. Nikola Vucevic can’t play defense, and the Ibaka trade clears up a spot. Isaac (12.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is not yet a stretch four, and too thin (205 pounds) to play the five. Malik Monk could definitely be in play here, even though Orlando’s leading scorer is 2-guard Evan Fournier (16.9 ppg).
5. Minnesota – Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Feels like they’ve been searching for a shooting guard for years. Have an elite young big man (Towns), elite young small forward (Wiggins), and they’re in good shape at PG with Rubio/LaVine/Dunn. This would be the perfect pick.
6. Philadelphia – Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Still many questions because we haven’t seen Ben Simmons play yet. Can he run a team? Is he going to play point guard or point forward? They’d love it if Monk would fall here, because they need another shooter. Could you play Simmons and Tatum together? Josh Jackson is also a possibility. The 76ers remain (for now) frontcourt heavy with Embiid, Noel, Okafor and Saric.
7. New Orleans – De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Another franchise running in quicksand. Do they pay to keep Jrue Holiday, or let him walk and get another UK guy in the building? The Pelicans are 27th in offensive efficiency, and a stabilizing presence at point guard would be a step in the right direction, though Fox doesn’t instantly make them a playoff team, and the clock continues to tick on Anthony Davis.
8. Dallas – Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
The list of Jayhawks forwards pegged for stardom in the NBA, only to struggle, is lengthy (McLemore, Diallo, Julian Wright, Thomas Robinson, Cliff Alexander, etc). I don’t have as many concerns about Jackson (16.5 ppg), a smooth inside-outside player who should easily pack 10 pounds onto his slender 205-pound frame. The Mavs have needs all over the place, and this feels like a best-on-board pick, even though their best player now is probably SF Harrison Barnes (20.1 ppg).
9. New York – Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
One year after trading for a bouncy, 6-foot-3 point guard in Derrick Rose, the Knicks draft one in Dennis Smith. The freshman leads the ACC in assists, is tied for 3rd in scoring (18.7 ppg) and shoots 38 percent on 3-pointers. This 32-point performance in Durham reminded me a little of Damian Lillard.
10. Portland – Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The biggest 2016-2017 disappointment in the NBA is set in the backcourt, but has multiple unsettled spots in the frontcourt. The problem here is several players are locked in for two or more years (Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu). For that reason, I believe the Blazers will be in the market to trade down a bit, or draft and stash. Allen is a promising freshman (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) who went for 22-19 against Kansas.
11. Miami – Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State
Pat Riley likes to collect pieces, and because the Spartans haven’t been very good (yet?) and Bridges was briefly injured, he doesn’t have the profile of other freshman. Shoots 40% on 3’s. What is he in the pros? Well, nobody knew what Draymond Green was going to be, either. Bridges reminds me of a more level-headed Michael Beasley. The Heat have done a lot of damage lately (13-game win streak) with 2015 lottery pick Justise Winslow out injured.
12. Chicago (via Sacramento) – Frank Ntilikina, PG, Belgium
The Bulls feel like a trade-up candidate, and would love to get their hands on Ntilikina to be their post-Rose point guard. They make the fewest 3-pointers per game of anyone in the league (6.4), and shoot the worst percentage (31%). What will happen with Jimmy Butler? He feels like the only untouchable player on this roster.
13. Charlotte – Harry Giles, F, Duke
I know there are major concerns about his health given the ACL injuries to both knees. He’s 18 and has already had surgery on his knees three times. As a Carolina kid, there’s still major value in his upside … if he can stay healthy.
14. Milwaukee – Luke Kennard, SG/SF, Duke
I’m still lukewarm about his NBA prospects because as good of a scorer as he is, wasn’t Doug McDermott, too? He’s struggled in Chicago for a variety of reasons. But the Bucks, who’ve seemed on the verge of a breakthrough for a few seasons now, could use a shooter. They’re only making 8.6 3’s a game, 23rd in the NBA.
15. Denver – OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
16. Detroit – TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
17. Chicago – Ivan Rabb, PF, California
18. Indiana – Justin Patton, C, Creighton
19. Oklahoma City – Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
20. Toronto – Justin Jackson, SF, UNC
21. Atlanta – Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
22. Portland (via Memphis) – Robert Williams, F/C, Texas A&M
23. Utah – Rodions Kurucs, F, Latvia
24. Washington – Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
25. Orlando (via LA Clippers) – Josh Hart, G/F, Villanova
26. Brooklyn (via Boston) – Bennie Boatwright, F, USC
27. Houston – Obi Enechionyia, F, Temple
28. Portland (via Cleveland) – Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany
29. San Antonio – Caleb Swanigan, PF/C, Purdue
30. Utah (via Golden State) – Dillon Brooks, F, Oregon