The lead up to the 2017 NBA Draft has been a roller coaster of trades and trade speculation on top of normal speculation as to which players would be drafted by various teams. One of, if not the biggest trade, has been the trade between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. The trade has resulted in the widespread knowledge that the 76ers will be taking guard Markelle Fultz with the number one pick. That leaves the Los Angeles Lakers with the only pick that is not already set in stone.
With the Lakers, University of Los Angeles guard Lonzo Ball potentially represents what the Lakers have been seeking. Ball can be the star that fans have been starving for, that makes the team better and returns the Lakers to past glory.
Is Ball the next Magic Johnson? The logical answer is most likely not, but Ball can be the next great Lakers point guard. The path for Ball to succeed has also been paved with the recent trade of guard D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the number 27 pick (via Celtics).
Standing at 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Ball has strong physical measurements. He is not the most athletic prospect in the draft. What helps him stands apart are the more intangible factors. He has great vision, good feel for the game and outstanding passing. At UCLA, Ball averaged 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game in 35.1 minutes per game. In 36 games, he shot 55.1 percent overall and 41.2 percent on three-point attempts.
Substantive criticism of his game include an unorthodox jump shot that may make it difficult to score on the pro level, somewhat average defense and either an unwillingness or inability to consistently get to the rim.
Look for the Lakers to continue to build around their young core led by forward Brandon Ingram and Ball while attempting to secure the services of forward Paul George through a possible sign and trade.
#17 – Donte DiVincenzo – Milwaukee Bucks
Donte DiVincenzo put himself on the map with his breakout performance in the 2018 National Championship, scoring 31 points and winning the Most Outstanding Player award. The Milwaukee Bucks, needing spacing around Giannis Antetokounmpo, nabbed the sharpshooter with the 17th pick in the draft.
DiVincenzo’s shooting ability and high basketball IQ should fit nicely with new coach Mike Budenholzer’s pace and space offense and will be able to provide rebounding help and toughness at the guard position. One of Milwaukee’s biggest issues last season was spreading the floor, finishing 24th in three-point percentage. DiVincenzo will give them a scoring option off the bench that can stretch the floor. Posting a 42″ vertical leap at the Combine, DiVincenzo is a superior athlete who competes on defense and will benefit from the long-armed Bucks frontcourt behind him.
DiVencenzo has already played in several high stakes games including two National Championship games and was not afraid of the moment, likely a factor in the Bucks’ selection. He projects to be a longtime rotation player with a lot of room for growth.
#20 – Josh Okogie – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie with the 20th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft.
At the NBA level, Okogie probably projects as a shooting guard. Despite being 6-foot-4, Okogie has the physical tools and the ability to guard taller shooting guards. He was a pretty good defensive player in college and that will probably be one of his strengths in the NBA.
On the offensive end, Okogie is a good shooter. He shot 38 percent from the three-point line last season as a sophomore. An outside shooter is something the Timberwolves will definitely welcome to the rotation. In terms of the rest of his offensive game, he might struggle a bit getting his shot off over taller wing defenders in the NBA. At the college level, he was able to get to the rim and score and it will be interesting to see if that translates to the NBA.
Overall, he does project as a nice 3-and-D prospect. Defense and shooting are his strengths and lockdown defenders who can hit the three-ball are highly desired at the next level. It’s a bit difficult to imagine him getting regular rotation minutes right away for a playoff team but down the line he should emerge as a solid rotation player.
#19 – Kevin Huerter – Atlanta Hawks
With the No. 19 pick in the NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Kevin Huerter from the University of Maryland.
After 10 consecutive seasons reaching the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks failed to win 25 contests in 2018. Gone are All-Stars Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague, each of whom the franchise groomed at various points during their decade of playoff bliss. Now the team is faced with a daunting rebuild under second year general manager Travis Schlenk and first year coach Lloyd Pierce.
Huerter becomes the first Maryland player to be selected in the first round since center Alex Len was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2013. Huerter was projected to be available in the 16 to 24 range and the Hawks get a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who has the ability to spread the floor.
In two seasons at Maryland, Huerter averaged 12 points, five rebounds and three assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor. As a sophomore, Huerter connected on 73 three-pointers on a sparkling 42 percent accuracy from long range.
The Hawks have been looking for consistent production from the two guard spot ever since Tim Hardaway Jr. left the team to join the New York Knicks in free agency last summer.
Huerter will join a young Hawks core of point guard Dennis Schroder and forward John Collins, two of the team’s first round draft picks from prior years, as well as dynamic guard Trae Young, who was selected with the fifth overall pick of this year’s draft (pending the trade with the Dallas Mavericks being finalized).