The hype ahead of the 2017 NBA draft has already been building for years. By the time these players were juniors in high school, there was talk that this could be a special class.
For the most part, the freshmen projected to be at the top of June’s draft have lived up to the hype. It’s a great year for point guards, with six of them projected to go in the first 11 picks of this mock draft. There are also a trio of oversized wings to choose from at the top of the draft, perfect for a time when that type of player is coveted more than ever.
At the top, there’s a fascinating debate between two floor generals who spent the season in the Pac-12 playing under extremely different circumstances. On one side sits Markelle Fultz, the star for a nine-win Washington team you almost certainly never saw play. On the other side is Lonzo Ball, the captain of UCLA and the most-hyped player in college basketball.
Every draft class is fun, but this one feels particularly fun. Here’s a snapshot of where this draft class stands after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
1) Boston Celtics (via Nets) - Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Fultz checks every box NBA teams look for in a point guard. He has great size at 6’5 with a 6’8 wingspan. Need proof of his athleticism? Just check our compilation of his many chase-down blocks this year. He’s also been a great shooter from three-point range and on dribble pull-ups from mid-range.
There just aren’t many holes in his game. The chance at a player like this is why Boston decided to stand pat the trade deadline.
2) Los Angeles Lakers - Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
The Lakers could go in a number of different directions if this pick lands at No. 2, but the temptation to add a hometown kid in Ball is too much to pass up. Ball is a basketball savant, a point guard with preternatural vision who is always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. That jump shot might look ugly, but he’s been above 40 percent as a high-volume three-point shooter all year. His jumper has range, too.
Could Ball and D’Angelo Russell work together? Why not? It would give the Lakers two big guards who can shoot, pass, and dribble. This would be a fun experiment.
3) Phoenix Suns - Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Looking for an NBA comparison for Josh Jackson? Think Andre Iguodala. The 6’7 wing is a terror in transition, an elite perimeter defender, and gifted passer. He also has a great feel for the game and is as competitive as anyone in this class.
The biggest hole in his game is his jump shot. Jackson has been hot from three lately to move close to 40 percent on the season, but he’s still only a 56 percent free throw shooter. He also has some serious questions to answer off the court related to an incident where he vandalized a woman’s car and allegedly threatened to beat her.
4) Orlando Magic - Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Tatum has been on NBA radars for a while as one of the elite recruits in the high school class of 2016. He’s delivering on his promise late in the season for Duke where he’s blossomed as a three-level scorer who can take over a game offensively. He might not have one elite skill, but he’s the type of player every team needs. He also has a lot more polish to this game than any freshman should.
5) Philadelphia 76ers - Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in place, the Sixers should have two high-usage superstars. What Philly needs now is someone who can fill in the cracks and have a positive impact on the game without needing the ball in his hands.
Isaac is a great fit in that regard. He can be a high-level wing defender and a capable shooter. He raises the team’s overall floor in terms of athleticism.
6) Sacramento Kings - Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
When Monk is on, he’s been one of the most thrilling scorers in the country. Just look at the 47 points he dropped on North Carolina or his 30-point second half against Florida. The freshman guard offers the combination of special shooting with high-level athletic ability. Even with questions about his size (6’3) and who he defends, that’s hard to pass up on.
The real reason the Kings make this pick in this hypothetical reality? With Dennis Smith and De’Aaron Fox still on the board, they’re guaranteed to get an elite point guard with their next selection. Plus, we all know how much Vivek Ranadive loves shooters.
7) New York Knicks - Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
Here’s a scary thought: Smith might have been the most athletic point guard in college basketball this year, and that was only 12 months removed from a torn ACL. We likely didn’t even see his peak athleticism this year for NC State.
There will be questions about Smith’s feel, vision, and jump shot. Still, he can be a big upgrade at point guard for a Knicks team that has had long-running issues at that position.
8) Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans) - De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
De’Aaron Fox might be the fastest player in college basketball. He’s also has the potential to be an elite defender at point guard with plus passing vision and the ability to get to the rim. The Kings have Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere already, so let’s give them two more Kentucky guys. The Phoenix Suns are jealous.
9) Minnesota Timberwolves - Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Markkanen has an elite skill as a three-point shooter and he does it at 7-feet tall. His release is quick, his stroke is beautiful, and he’s proven he can combine volume (4.4 attempts per game) with efficiency (43.3 percent from deep). There are questions about his defense, but that’s why his good buddy Karl-Anthony Towns is around.
This would give Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, and Kris Dunn an ocean of space to play in. Could be fun.
10) Charlotte Hornets - Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
Do you really think Michael Jordan will pass on one of the most accomplished Tar Heels of the last decade? Jackson has taken a big step up in his junior season for one main reason: he’s finally grown into a confident and capable three-point shooter. As long as that deep ball is no aberration, Jackson should be a dependable scorer on the wing.
11) Dallas Mavericks - Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
The French point guard projects as an excellent defender and plus shooter. Even amid Yogi Ferrell mania, the Mavs would love to add a young player with that skill set at point guard.
12) Portland Trail Blazers - Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
Bridges has the most athletic power of any player in this draft. His three ball (39 percent on five attempts per game) was better than expected in his freshman season, too. He’s not exactly a 3-and-D guy and he’s a little short to be a small-ball power forward (6’6), but a smart coach can put his tools to good use.
13) Chicago Bulls - Robert Williams, PF, Texas A&M
The Bulls talked all summer about getting younger and more athletic, yet somehow only got older and slower. Assuming the front office is serious about adding athletes this year, they can’t do better than Robert Williams. The 6’9 big man gets off the ground quicker and higher than anyone in this class. He could be an elite shot blocker and an above-the-rim finisher as a roll man.
14) Milwaukee Bucks - Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide (NBL)
T-Ferg won MVP at the Nike Hoops Summit by hitting six three-pointers, then promptly decided to play pro ball in Australia instead of honoring his commitment to Arizona. He’s the type of player who could win a dunk contest and a three-point shootout.
15) Denver Nuggets - Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany
The 7-footer from Germany is supposed to be an active body who can make a jump shot. That’s enough to get you drafted in the top 15.
16) Detroit Pistons - OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
Anunoby tore his ACL in January, but he’s worth a shot here solely based on his defensive potential. Super long, strong, and quick on his feet, this is someone who might legitimately be able to defend four positions one day.
17) Miami Heat - Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Giles tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus going into his sophomore year of high school. He tore the ACL in the other knee during the first minute of the first game in his senior year of high school. The young man has had some bad luck. Still, there was a time when Giles was considered the No. 1 recruit in the country as a long and athletic big man with limitless upside. He didn’t show it this year at Duke, but the chance that he discovers his old form is worth a first round pick.
18) Indiana Pacers - Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Kennard was supposed to be Duke’s sixth or seventh man this year. Instead he became the Blue Devils’ best player. He’s an elite three-point shooter who is also a crafty finisher inside the arc.
19) Atlanta Hawks - Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
The McDonald’s All-American has quietly been one of the best players on a top-seeded Gonzaga team over the last two months. He could see his stock soar if the Zags make a Final Four run.
20) Portland Trail Blazers - Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal
Rabb may have been a lottery pick last year if he declared after a freshman season playing alongside Jaylen Brown. Instead, he came back and his numbers didn’t get much better. He still has nice touch around the basket and rebounds the ball well enough to be a first rounder.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder - Wesley Iwundu, SF, Kansas State
Iwundu is a 6’7 wing who is a versatile defender and a good passer. The big question is his jump shot, but he made major strides there (37 percent) as a senior.
22) Toronto Raptors - Rodions Kurucs, SG, Barcelona II
Kurucs is a 6’8 wing who can shoot it. He should be wealthy soon.
23) Orlando Magic - Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
Lydon quietly had a really good sophomore season for a Syracuse team that just missed the NCAA tournament. He’s a good option for any team looking for shooting in the frontcourt.
24) Brooklyn Nets - Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
Mitchell is short for a shooting guard (6’3), but he’s athletic and a willing defender. He should be a Draft Combine All-Star.
25) Brooklyn Nets - John Collins, C, Wake Forest
Collins was off the recruiting radar two years ago. Now he’s averaging 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in the toughest conference in America. He’ll need to be better on defense to stick in the league.
26) Utah Jazz - Jaron Blossomgame, SG, Clemson
The Clemson senior is a potential 3-and-D guy.
27) Portland Trail Blazers - Josh Hart, SF, Villanova
Hart might be the National Player of the Year this season. At the NBA level, he should carve out a role as a wing stopper.
28) Los Angeles Lakers - T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
First we gave the Lakers Lonzo Ball, now they get T.J. Leaf. He’s a shooter in the frontcourt that Ball will appreciate having around.
29) San Antonio Spurs - Juwan Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
Small but mighty, Evans quarterbacked the nation’s most efficient offense this year. Anyone who saw him face Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament knows how good he is.
30) Utah Jazz - Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
A strong combo forward who can score from all three levels, Ojeleye was fantastic all season in his SMU debut as a Duke transfer.