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NBA mock draft 2017: Finding the best player available for every team

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This mock draft is presented by BPA — best player available.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Kentucky vs UCLA Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

This mock draft might as well be a big board. After drafting for fit in last week’s mock, this time we’re going with the “best player available” for every team in the first round. It’s resulted in a dramatic change from how the board broke last week.

The biggest difference in this mock from last week? The rise of the big men. While traditional bigs plummeted when we were looking for fit, they shot up the board while searching for the best player available. Creighton’s Justin Patton rises to No. 16 from No. 29 while Wake Forest’s John Collins checks in at No. 19 after sliding to No. 28 a week ago.

It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens to all these bigs especially after an NBA Finals series that had Kevin Durant and LeBron James playing center at times. We’ll know soon enough: we’re now less than two weeks away from the draft.

1. Boston Celtics - Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

You can expect a fresh wave of rumors about Boston’s trade options with the No. 1 pick as the draft approaches, but it would be a shock if the Celtics don’t walk away with Fultz. This is one of the best backcourt prospects in a long time: a big guard who can score from all three levels and plays with a rare creativity.

My guess is that Fultz’s role next year will be as a microwave scorer off the bench. He’s talented enough to put up a few 30-point games as a rookie and give Celtics fans a glimpse of their future. Long-term, I’d expect him to be one of the best guards in the league. If the Celtics can hit the jackpot again with the Nets’ pick next year, they could really start to build something special.

2. Los Angeles Lakers - Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

The Lakers won’t pass on Lonzo Ball, will they? It’s possible, but ultimately I think Ball’s combination of shooting ability, vision, and feel for the game gives him the edge over Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox.

Ball is a hard player to evaluate simply because we haven’t seen many players like him before. He’s not great in the pick-and-roll and his wonky shot motion prevents him from shooting off the dribble going right. Ball still dominated the college level despite all that, transforming a listless UCLA program into the best show in the country. Steph Curry and Draymond Green didn’t fit into a box either. They turned out alright.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

If I’m a Sixers fan, I’m praying Ball falls to No. 3 (it’s worth noting actual Sixers fans do not feel this way). Assuming he’s gone, Jackson feels like the next best pick. A lot will be made of Jackson’s shortcomings as a shooter when discussing his potential fit with Ben Simmons, but what I like about him is his unselfishness. Philly already has a certified stud in Joel Embiid and another potential one in Simmons. I don’t want to draft a perimeter player that’s going to take a bunch of shots away from those two. Jackson won’t. He has high basketball IQ, impressive passing ability, and just always seems to make the right play. When you factor in his ability to defend, he’s the third best player in this draft to me.

4. Phoenix Suns - Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

The truth is that players No. 4 through No. 10 in this mock can be rearranged however you want. I’m giving Isaac the edge because a) he’s the biggest, and b) he has the highest defensive potential.

I see Isaac as a full-time four who can play spot minutes at the five rather than a three. At small forward, his handle and shot would be more of a question mark. In the front court, he can focus on becoming a monster defensively who can switch every screen, while also serving as a spot-up shooter on offense who primarily takes open looks when the defense collapses on someone else. Some will criticize Isaac for a lack of assertiveness after only averaging eight shots per game at Florida State, but I want a player who plays well with others rather than someone looking to get his. He should fit in well within a team dynamic in the NBA from day one as his skill set continues to develop.

5. Sacramento Kings - Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State

The case for Dennis Smith over De’Aaron Fox: Smith averaged more points, assists, rebounds, and steals per game, and he’s also a better outside shooter. He doesn’t have Fox’s straight-line speed (no one does), but he’s even more explosive attacking the rim. The truth is that Smith’s college situation at NC State did him no favors. The Wolfpack fired coach Mark Gottfried in the middle of the year, missed the NCAA tournament, and never gave Smith a national stage to play on. He’s a little short at 6’2, but I’d expect him to be a productive pro for a long time.

6. Orlando Magic - Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are multiple teams with Tatum at No. 2 on their overall board. He’s a big wing with classic go-to scoring ability. At this point, he’s most comfortable getting buckets out of the high post, but he’s also only 19 years old. His three-point shot looks pretty good and it’s a safe bet to assume NBA range will come in time. I just don’t know how much better he’s going to make his teammates. A player like Isaac seems more malleable in a team situation.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves - Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

Monk vs. Fox is a fun debate because they’re the exact same size with completely opposite games. My case for Monk: he’s significantly better as a shooter, flashed some potential as a playmaker, and is just as much of a stud athletically. And yes, I’m well aware it’s highly likely Fox makes this take look extremely bad in a few years.

8. New York Knicks - De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

My thing with Fox: how good can a point guard be in the modern NBA if he really can’t shoot? Now, it’s possible Fox makes major strides as a shooter as his pro career goes on. He hit 74 percent of his free throws in college and his form doesn’t look totally broken. Mike Conley is a popular comparison for him and Conley certainly improved considerably as a shooter since entering the league from Ohio State. Fox also profiles as a hard-working, high-character player who should get better. I just can’t get past that shaky jump shot for now.

9. Dallas Mavericks - Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

Fox at No. 8 and Markkanen at No. 9 shows just how strong this draft is within the top 10. I think Markkanen is a much better prospect than the No. 9 overall pick from two years ago: Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky. Consider that Kaminsky hit 42 threes at a 41.6 percent clip in his breakout senior season for Wisconsin two years ago. Markkanen just drained 69 threes at a 42.3 percent clip as a freshman. Markkanen would be an elite shooter at any position, but getting it out of a legit seven-footer makes him worthy of a top-10 pick.

10. Sacramento Kings - Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

Ntilikina is a super long 6’5 point guard from France who projects as a 3-&-D ball handler in the mold of George Hill. There are a lot of teams who could use that type of player right now. If he reaches his ceiling, I envision Sixers fans complaining that the Colangelos should have just taken him at No. 3.

11. Charlotte Hornets - Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

I like the Avery Bradley comp for Mitchell: he’s short for a two-guard (6’3), but he’s a mega athlete, a ferocious defender, and has some potential as a shooter and creator.

12. Detroit Pistons - Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga

The ideal center in the modern game can protect the rim, make threes, and hang with a guard on the perimeter out of the pick-and-roll. I’ll give Collins the first two. His shooting stroke looked promising in a relatively small sample (10 made threes at 47.6 percent) and he also blocked 69 shots in just 17.2 minutes per game. I think it’s fair to question his ability to guard the perimeter. Some scouts also worry that he’s not a “next play guy,” meaning he too easily gets down on himself after he screws up.

13. Denver Nuggets - OG Anunoby, F, Indiana

Anunoby’s breakout came when he smothered Jamal Murray in the 2016 NCAA tournament. Given how good Murray looked for the Nuggets as a rookie, that’s an encouraging performance. Unfortunately, Anunoby didn’t make the jump many expected this past season at Indiana, which ultimately ended with a torn ACL. Still, this is a big, strong, and long defensive prospect who should be able to defend at least three positions in the NBA. He’s worth a late lotto pick.

14. Miami Heat - Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Allen is a mega long (7’5 wingspan) and quick center who could develop into a rock on defense and a capable putbacks/o-boards/lobs guy on offense. I don’t see him developing his perimeter offensive game much beyond that. He ended the year as only a 56.4 percent free throw shooters went 0-for-7 from three, and had 84 turnovers to just 27 assists.

15. Portland Trail Blazers - Justin Jackson, SG, North Carolina

It’s hard to hate on Jackson too much after what he did in his junior year at UNC. He finally blossomed as a three-point shooter (105 makes at 37 percent) and shut down Malik Monk on defense in the Elite Eight. He’s also by far the oldest potential lottery pick this year and isn’t that athletic or that great of a shooter. I like him more if he can defend shooting guards rather than small forwards.

16. Chicago Bulls - D.J. Wilson, F, Michigan

Wilson was a late bloomer who finally put it all together at the end of last season for Michigan. There’s a lot to like about his tools: 6’10 with a 7’3 wingspan, he’s a combo forward who can handle the ball and shoot from deep on offense while providing some measure of rim protection on defense. He feels like one of the biggest boom-or-bust guys in this draft, but someone will talk themselves into his tools.

17. Milwaukee Bucks - Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA

Everyone’s favorite comp for Anigbogu is Rockets center Clint Capela. Capela is pretty good! If you can get a similar player at No. 17 in this draft, he’s worth the pick.

18. Indiana Pacers - Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

I’m sold.

19. Atlanta Hawks - Justin Patton, C, Creighton

Patton is just starting to scratch the surface of his offensive skill. He has a developing shooting stroke, showed a little bit of a handle, and has the quick hands and quick feet required to make an impact on defense.

20. Portland Trail Blazers - Harry Giles, C, Duke

Giles is a medical decision at this point. He’s had two major knee injuries and a third operation just before the start of his freshman season at Duke. If he can regain the form he showed as a recruit, No. 20 is way too low.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide (NBL)

On paper, there’s a lot to like about Terrance Ferguson. He has great size for a two guard at 6’6, he’s super athletic, and he can get hot from three-point range, as shown by the six threes he hit in last year’s Nike Hoop Summit. The game just seems to move a little too fast for him sometimes. The key will be continuing to improve his decision making.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

I am but a lowly college basketball guy, so I can’t tell you much about Kurucs. I do know he’s a 6’8 wing who looks fluid athletically with a developing three-point shot. Here, watch a highlight video instead:

23. Toronto Raptors - Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia

I’m just going to leave this here:

24. Utah Jazz - Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU

Ojeleye committed to Duke out of high school and decided to leave for SMU midway through the Blue Devils’ championship run in 2015. He was unstoppable this year for the Mustangs, averaging 19 points per game and winning conference player of the year in the American. He’s unfathomably jacked, he can score from all three levels, and he had a 40-inch vertical. His quickness is his biggest question mark.

25. Orlando Magic - T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

Leaf led UCLA in scoring as a freshman by shooting 61.7 percent from the floor and 46.6 percent from three. He’s a 6’10 stretch four who could draw comparisons to Ryan Anderson.

26. Portland Trail Blazers - John Collins, PF, Wake Forest

Collins was basically the most efficient player in college basketball this past season. He’s an automatic scorer on the interior and a great rebounder on both ends of the floor. The problem is he doesn’t have much shooting range and he struggles defensively. He reminds me a bit of Enes Kanter — not bad, considering Kanter is an $80 million player in this league.

27. Brooklyn Nets - Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Germany

Let’s just quote what DraftExpress said here after watching him at April’s Nike Hoop Summit:

Hartenstein has developed the reputation as a 7-footer who can space the floor and attack from the perimeter but after a week in Portland he showed his initial value may be more as a hard-playing, 250-pound big who can make his presence felt on the glass and play with activity defensively as his offensive skill set continues to develop. Hartenstein may very well turn into a threat from NBA three down the road, but he showed that he has quite a bit of room to improve in that regard. His overall skill set offensively could use some polishing. With that said, Hartenstein has NBA tools to fall back on at 7' 1 with a great frame and impressive mobility. - Source:

28. Los Angeles Lakers - Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse

Like T.J. Leaf, Lydon is a 6’10 shooter who is a solid rebounder and wants to prove that he’s more athletic than his rep suggests. How would we view Leaf vs. Lydon if Lydon was the one playing with Lonzo Ball every night?

29. San Antonio Spurs - Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

A versatile 6’9 forward who shined at the draft combine in Chicago. If his jump shot is for real (he hit 32 percent from deep last year), he can have a long career.

30. Utah Jazz - Derrick White, SG, Colorado

White has a complete skill set for a guard. He can score, facilitate, and hold his own defensively. Just ask Arizona: White hung 31 points, six rebounds, and five assists on the Wildcats in the Pac-12 tournament.