Every summer, the Basketball Insiders team calls dibs on their home markets and goes through the draft one pick at a time to get a sense of how the first round of the draft may actually play out. This mock is different in that it represents many ideas and many voices instead of just the thoughts of a lone individual trying to think for all 30 teams. The actual draft is this Thursday, but this should help hold readers over until then. Enjoy!
1. With the 1st pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Markelle Fultz, a point guard from the University of Washington.
“The Sixers address their biggest area of need with the best player available. Adding Fultz gives them a legitimate scoring guard who can play off the ball, pairing perfectly with 6-foot-10 point guard Ben Simmons.” – Dennis Chambers
2. With the 2nd pick in the pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the L.A. Lakers select Lonzo Ball, a point guard from UCLA.
“Lonzo potentially represents what the Lakers have been desperate for: a star that fans get excited for, makes the team better and returns the Lakers to past glory. Magic 2.0? Great vision, good feel for the game and outstanding passing help Lonzo stand out. Substantive criticisms of his game include an unorthodox jump shot, average defense and, so far at least, an unwillingness or inability to get to the rim, but for now he’s the Lakers’ best bet at pick number two.” – James Blancarte
3. With the 3rd pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Boston Celtics select Josh Jackson, a forward from the University of Kansas.
“The Celtics made the trade to get the guy that most embodies the Celtics’ DNA. He’s tough. He is gritty. He is a good team guy and he has exactly the kinds of tools the Celtics gravitate toward. In time, he could be one of the brightest of the bunch, but from day one he fits a team that almost won the East.” – Steve Kyler
4. With the 4th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Phoenix Suns select De’Aaron Fox, a point guard from the University of Kentucky.
“The Phoenix Suns have had multiple starting-caliber point guards in recent seasons but are still in search of their point guard of the future. De’Aaron Fox has a nice combination of length, skill, athleticism and upside. He may not have all of the tools that Markelle Fultz has or the hype of Lonzo Ball, but he is a talented prospect who could develop into the Suns’ franchise point guard. However, he needs to work on his jumper and grow into his frame sooner rather than later if he is to have any real impact in his first few seasons in the league.” – Jesse Blancarte
5. With the 5th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Malik Monk, a guard from the University of Kentucky.
“Once upon a time, Eric Bledsoe lived in the shadow of John Wall, the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Bledsoe went 18th to OKC, and joined Avery Bradley as the only players picked in the second half of 2010’s first round that remain significant rotation players. Like Bledsoe, Malik Monk had to sacrifice to play a role complementary to a more highly-touted guard prospect. Like Bledsoe, the NBA will give Monk the platform to emerge from that shadow.” – Buddy Grizzard
6. With the 6th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Orlando Magic select Dennis Smith, a guard from North Carolina State University.
“New Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said recently that the team will be looking to draft the best available player on Thursday night, rather than draft based on need. If Smith is available, he could check both boxes for the Magic. Smith could be the best player available for the Magic when they make their first of four selections on draft night and he figures to be able to immediately come in and give the team a boost at the point guard position. The team has sorely lacked an offensive-minded point guard and Smith could be that guy for the Magic.” – Cody Taylor
7. With the 7th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Frank Ntilikina, a point guard from Strasbourg, France.
“I’ve got the first reach! Because they really already have loads of talent, the Minnesota Timberwolves in my opinion will trade this pick if they can. But if they keep the pick, there’s no immediate need for polished talent with an up-and-coming roster like theirs. With Ricky Rubio’s difficultly fitting into Tom Thibedoau’s system and Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones still learning the ropes, the organization takes a stab at correcting the point guard position with Frank Ntkilina.” – Spencer Davies
8. With the 8th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the New York Knicks select Jayson Tatum, a forward from Duke University.
“I certainly did not expect Jayson Tatum to be on the board at No. 8. As a result, this was an extremely easy choice. The worst-kept secret in New York is that Phil Jackson and the Knicks desperately want to trade Carmelo Anthony. In Tatum, they get a player that many pundits agree is the closest facsimile to Melo in the 2017 draft. Tatum, like Melo, is 6-foot-8 and is known for his polished offensive game. Like Anthony, he excels in isolation due to his array of moves and rare combination of size, strength and skill. His defense needs work, but he has the physical attributes to be a plus-defender. New York can search for its point guard of the future in free agency or in subsequent drafts because with Tatum in tow, the Knicks now have two solid foundation pieces they can build around. Today, Phil and company celebrate Tatum landing in their lap. Tomorrow they go point guard hunting.” – Tommy Beer
9. With the 9th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select Lauri Markkanen, a forward from the University of Arizona.
“Markkanen is a great shooter. He’s long and at 7-feet tall he can get up and shoot over almost anyone. He’ll make for a nice frontcourt addition with Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel (if they re-sign him). Once Dirk retires, Markkanen could step into his role of the shooting/scoring PF/C almost immediately, with high upside on the defensive end as well. And, obviously, he’ll be or has already been compared to Dirk, so why not have him learn from Dirk?” – Shane Rhodes
10. With the 10th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Jonathan Isaac, a forward from Florida State University.
“Due to health concerns, Skal Labissiere fell all the way to 28th and became the steal of the 2016 NBA Draft. The Kings weren’t expecting to be so lucky as to have Jonathan Isaac fall to 10th this year. Isaac is built for the modern NBA, and his perimeter skills make him the perfect third big to add to Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein.” – Buddy Grizzard
11. With the 11th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select Luke Kennard, a guard out of Duke University.
“As the lottery selections wind down Charlotte adds arguably the best shooter in the draft to pair in the back court with All-Star caliber point guard Kemba Walker. This duo projects as a high scoring pairing for years to come.” – Dennis Chambers
12. With the 12th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Detroit Pistons select John Collins, a forward out of Wake Forest.
“Detroit, not sold on Reggie Jackson, but with the elite point guards of the draft off the board, selects John Collins. Head coach Stan Van Gundy loves high motor physical frontcourt players, and Collins has the tools to etch out a nightly role as a rookie in a Pistons rotation needing more depth.” – Lang Greene
13. With the 13th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Denver Nuggets select Donovan Mitchell, a guard from the University of Louisville.
“The Nuggets have high-level prospects at every position, so there’s no significant area of need. Mitchell is the best player left on the board, with great upside on both sides of the ball.” – Ben Dowsett
14. With the 14th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Miami HEAT select Zach Collins, a center from Gonzaga University.
“Somehow, Collins dropped to No. 14 in our mock draft, so selecting him on behalf of the Miami HEAT is a no-brainer. The HEAT could be looking for a big man with their lone draft pick come Thursday, and Collins would be a great pick should he fall in their lap. He’s projected by most to be taken in the 10-12 range so there’s a chance he’ll be off the board by the time the HEAT select. Collins could give the HEAT insurance at the backup center position should they lose Willie Reed in free agency. Collins looks to be a good fit in the HEAT’s system with his ability to impact a game on the defensive end.” – Cody Taylor
15. With the 15th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select Jarrett Allen, a center from the University of Texas.
“The Portland Trail Blazers have a nice mix of young, versatile talent. However, they also have limited cap flexibility, so bringing in prospects who fill an area of need is essential. Jarrett Allen may not be ready to be a rotation player on day one, but he gives the Trail Blazers a long, physically gifted athlete at center. Jusuf Nurkic anchors the middle for Portland, but Allen is a springy athlete who can run the floor and finish lobs. He isn’t a perfect fit, but his athletic abilities and upside make him a nice addition to Portland’s frontcourt.” – Jesse Blancarte
16. With the 16th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Chicago Bulls select OG Anunoby, a forward from the University of Indiana.
“While it stinks that Anunoby probably won’t play until 2018 because of his ACL rehab, he would have been a sure-fire lottery pick if he were healthy, and the Bulls do love a good value pick regardless of where they are drafting. Anunoby is a complete player on both ends and would have been one of the most physically and mentally prepared players in this draft. The Bulls just have to wait a bit to actually see how he fits.” – Joel Brigham
17. With the 17th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select T.J. Leaf, a forward from UCLA.
“The Bucks are kind of loaded at every position and may be creating something of a logjam at the forward positions, so I decided to add a stretch big to the group in UCLA forward T.J. Leaf. He can shoot and score, which always is a plus for a younger team like the Bucks.” – Moke Hamilton
18. With the 18th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Indiana Pacers select Ike Anigbogu, a center from UCLA.
“The Pacers need to go into full rebuild mode, and Anigbogu, with his other-worldly athleticism and sky-high defensive potential, could be a really fun fit alongside Myles Turner. Anigbogu is the youngest player in the draft, so there could be some waiting on him, but you’ve got to love the kid’s ceiling.” – Joel Brigham
19. With the 19th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select Derrick White from the University of Colorado.
“Although it was tempting to grab Harry Giles here, the injury concerns were hard to ignore (i.e. Leon Powe). At 6-foot-5, Derrick White offers the versatility to play multiple positions and possesses the playmaking traits that new Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk looks to add, similar to the Golden State blueprint where he spent 12 seasons.” – Lang Greene
20. With the 20th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select Terrence Ferguson, a guard from Adelaide in Australia.
“The young shooting guard is not ready to be a contributor at the NBA level, but with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner already on the roster, that’s not a huge issue. Ferguson has talent and potential on both sides of the ball. His biggest issue is his thin frame, but a season or two of training should help there. Should a player like Crabbe or Turner be moved in the near future, Ferguson will be there to step in and show what he can do.” – Jesse Blancarte
21. With the 21st pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Semi Ojeleye, a forward from Southern Methodist University.
“In need of another playmaker alongside Russell Westbrook, as well as somebody that can shoot the basketball from deep, the Oklahoma City Thunder nab Semi Ojeyele from SMU. His size and versatility will do wonders as both an athletic small forward and in some cases, as a stretch four.” – Spencer Davies
22. With the 22nd pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Brooklyn Nets select Harry Giles, a center from Duke University.
“For the Nets, there may be no lottery ticket better than Harry Giles. Despite his serious injury history, Giles firmly represents the type of prospect the Nets should take a swing on — particularly so without a first round pick in next year’s draft. With Brook Lopez set to enter unrestricted free agency in 2018 as well, selecting the risky Giles makes sense across the board.” – Ben Nadeau
23. With the 23rd pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Toronto Raptors select Bam Adebayo, a center from the University of Kentucky.
“Bam Adebayo is one of those project players that can eventually yield a big payoff. An athletic defensive presence, he could end up being the type of big man Dwayne Casey covets if/when the Raptors move on from Jonas Valanciunas.” – David Yapkowitz
24. With the 24th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Utah Jazz select Justin Jackson, a forward from the University of North Carolina.
“While the Jazz don’t feel like Jackson is a legitimate possible replacement for a player as good as Gordon Hayward, he does offer another modest-upside prospect on the wing in case Hayward does go elsewhere over the summer.” – Ben Dowsett
25. With the 25th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Orlando Magic select Justin Patton.
“Selecting Patton at No. 25 definitely fits the bill as drafting the best player available. It remains to be seen if he’ll ultimately drop this low on draft night, but Patton has perhaps the highest upside of any player left in the draft. Measuring in at 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Patton has great athleticism for his size. He possesses great skills on the offensive end and proved to be an efficient scorer during his one season at Creighton. With other big men on the roster in Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo, Patton may not be needed to come in and make an immediate impact, which could allow him to develop at his own pace and learn from the two guys ahead of him” – Cody Taylor
26. With the 26th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select D.J. Wilson, a forward from the University of Michigan.
“Portland has a few versatile forwards who can stretch the floor but none has all of the physical tools and upside of Wilson. He is nowhere near ready to be a regular contributor, but if all goes right in his development, he could be a valuable stretch big with versatility on both ends of the court. That would be a pretty nice addition for the capped-out Blazers, especially this late in the first round.” – Jesse Blancarte
27. With the 27th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Brooklyn Nets select Isaiah Hartenstein, a center from Zalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League.
“Isaiah Hartenstein has dropped down draft boards as of late, but the Nets are more than happy to scoop him up at No. 27. His potential as a floor-stretching center is a perfect fit for Kenny Atkinson’s trigger-happy three-point shooting side. He may not come to the NBA immediately, but the Nets are in no rush. Alongside Giles, Hartenstein would give the Nets a much-needed boost of young talent in the frontcourt.” – Ben Nadeau
28. With the 28th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select Tyler Lydon, a forward out of Syracuse University.
“Lydon is a capable prospect with a variety of talents on the offensive end. He finds various ways to score, which are rooted in his notable shooting abilities. Place Lydon on a ball movement-based offense that coach Luke Walton wants to build and he will likely find a way to be a positive contributor. This should be a fairly reliable, modest upside pick for the Lakers.” – James Blancarte
29. With the 29th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Jawun Evans, a point guard out of Oklahoma State University.
“Evans is a good fit for the Spurs given the clouds surrounding Tony Parker and the uncertainty of Patty Mills returning. He is a great playmaker who can run the pick and roll and at least fill Mills old role off the bench. He is also pesky on defense and one of the quickest players in the draft as well.” – Shane Rhodes
30. With the 30th pick in the 2017 Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft, the Utah Jazz select Frank Jackson.
“The former local high school standout shows immense promise on both ends, and while Jackson needs work as a full-time ball-handler, his shot-making could be a valuable asset down the line for a Jazz team always in need of spacing.” – Ben Dowsett
What did you think of your team’s pick? Reach out to our writers on Twitter and of course be sure to check out the actual draft this Thursday. Stay plugged into Basketball Insiders for all the latest news and rumors in the last couple of days leading up to it!
PODCAST: Lonzo’s Shot, How To Cut Luol Deng and More
Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA writer and salary cap guru Eric Pincus talk about Lonzo Ball and the unreasonable expectations some have had about his rookie campaign, what the Lakers could do with Luol Deng, teams that have cap exceptions and could likely use them, which teams are for real and more.
Johnson Is Leading By Example In Philadelphia
Amir Johnson may not be a star player, but his impact on the locker room is a constant in Philadelphia.
After every home win, the Philadelphia 76ers have a miniature liberty bell in their locker room that gets rung by a selected player, usually the who had the biggest impact on the game.
On Monday night, Amir Johnson got to the ring the bell after the Sixers beat the Utah Jazz 107-86 to secure their ninth win of the season. Johnson turned in his best performance since joining Philadelphia this offseason, with eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 21 minutes of playing time as Joel Embiid’s substitute.
Up until about 45 minutes before the 7 p.m. tipoff, Embiid’s status was unclear due to knee soreness. Johnson would’ve been tasked with the starting role had his teammate been unable to perform. Instead, he fulfilled his backup role to perfection, which has been the status quo for Johnson so far this season.
When the Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year $11 million deal in July, it was for the purpose of shaping a young roster with some veteran leadership. Management wanted to ensure there would be a professional in the locker room to help navigate the likes of Embiid and Ben Simmons through a full NBA season, with hopes of making it to the playoffs.
“When we looked to build our roster and sort of identify people we started talking about Amir Johnson,” Brett Brown said. “And Bryan was way more familiar with Amir — this is to Bryan’s credit — than I was, because of his Toronto background. And I started digging in and calling his teammates. I’ve been in the league for a long time, so you follow him, and you speak to people like Evan Turner. You know, tell me about Amir when you were in Boston and so on.”
While Brown was doing his research on Johnson, he came across an impressive level of continuity when it came to how others viewed the center.
“It’s amazing to a man how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said of Johnson. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game and now worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots? It isn’t ever on my mind with Amir.”
The Sixers’ head coach seems honest in his assessment, and Johnson’s fluctuating level of productivity and use reflects that. Prior to his big night against Utah, Johnson logged a combined 21 minutes over the team’s previous four games — including two DNP’s, both coming against the Golden State Warriors.
Still, just barely over a month into this new season, the Sixers are trying to iron out the kinks in their lineup. With injuries to Richaun Holmes, Markelle Fultz, Jerryd Bayless and Justin Anderson over the course of the season so far, finding a set group of guys and defining their roles has been a tricky situation to maneuver.
Last season, Johnson started 77 games for the Boston Celtics during their campaign that ran all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. His one start in 14 games this season, with a cut in minutes per game, is a far cry from the level of use Johnson experienced just one year ago. But coming into this season, that was known. Johnson’s role would be to help guide his junior counterparts and chip in where he could.
So far, the deal is paying dividends on both ends.
“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”
In a game that featured the absence of Jazz star center Rudy Gobert, Johnson was able to make his presence more prevalent during his reserve minutes. Along with his four blocks, Johnson had a game-high 15 contested two-point shots. As a team, Utah shot just 35.3 percent from the field.
Backing up a superstar in the making in Embiid, Johnson has limited time to let it be known that he’s still around. That situation is magnified on nights that Holmes is seeing extended run as well. But in his 13th season in the league, Johnson knows a thing or two about finding ways to be effective and efficient.
“Finding my way on the floor, knowing the amount of time I have, just finding ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “I watch a lot of film. Just for me to find open spots, set screens, and the biggest part that I can help this team out, is just play defense and grabbing rebounds.”
On the nights where Johnson doesn’t get his number called — a la games against the Warriors and other small-ball teams — the veteran just continues to do what he was brought in to do in the first place, lead by example.
“Just sticking to my routine,” Johnson said. “Being mentally prepared, getting my teammates ready, just being a professional, doing all kind of things to prepare for a game.”
After being around the come up in Boston, Johnson knows there are bigger things at stake for the Sixers than a few minutes here and there on the court. To him, winning is the only thing that matters.
“When you don’t play and you win, man it’s like and that’s all that matters,” Johnson said. “We’re here to try and do one goal, and that’s win games and make the playoffs, and go from there on.”
Whether he’s on the bench waving a towel, or on the court making a play, Johnson will continue to lead a young group of talented players by example, hopefully culminating in a trip to the playoffs.
“He is a legitimate pro, on and off the court,” Brown said. “He’s a wonderful teammate.”
NBA PM: Marcus Morris’ Return Bolsters The Celtics
With the Boston Celtics riding high with a league-best 16-game win streak, the return of forward Marcus Morris has provided a lift.
Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a huge personnel gamble this summer that changed four starters from a roster that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. One of the less-heralded among the new starters — forward Marcus Morris, who arrived from the Pistons in a surprise trade for starting shooting guard Avery Bradley — has proven to be a key component in Boston’s early success.
After missing the first eight games of the season due to lingering knee soreness, Morris has scored in double figures in six of nine appearances. Following Saturday’s win over the Hawks in Atlanta — the 15th of the current 16-game win streak — Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Morris’ contributions have been vital, even as Stevens continues to monitor his minutes.
“We need Marcus quite a bit,” said Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back. Hopefully, that continues to be more and more and more.”
Morris was plus-18 against the Hawks, 10 points better than any other starter, despite being the only starter with single-digit shot attempts. Stevens added that Morris’ offense has been a boost despite few plays being run for him.
“He brings us scoring, he brings us defense [and] he brings us toughness,” said Stevens. “I think we really need his scoring, like his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”
Morris’ emergence as an offensive threat was noted in the offseason by an Eastern Conference forward in an anonymously-sourced piece on underrated players by HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy.
“I think Marcus Morris is really underrated,” the forward told Kennedy. “He can play multiple positions and he went from being a role player to someone who scores the ball really well. When other players have made that leap, they got more attention. Take Chandler Parsons, for example. When Chandler made big strides, he got a ton of attention and a huge contract. Marcus hasn’t gotten the recognition or the payday that he deserves.”
While some questioned the wisdom of trading Bradley, a starter for a team that had a lot of success and remained on the rise, Celtics center Al Horford — the sole remaining starter from last season — said he was looking forward to playing with Morris once the trade was announced.
“He’s one of the guys that really excited me once we got him this offseason, just because of everything he’s going to be able to bring,” said Horford. “I don’t think he’s at his best yet. He’s doing okay. But he’s just going to keep getting better. So that’s a good thing for us.”
With the knee injury that lingered after the start of the season, Horford said the team is still getting accustomed to the diverse set of tools Morris brings to the court.
“Marcus is great,” said Horford. “Defensively, his presence is felt. On offense I think he’s finally starting to get into a rhythm. He’s getting more comfortable [and] we’re getting more comfortable with him. It’s a matter of time.”
While Stevens and Horford both feel that we haven’t seen Morris at his best, his return to action was timely as it bolstered the lineup during the current win streak. Horford, who was part of a 19-game win streak for the Hawks during the 2014-15 season, was asked how Boston is approaching its current prosperity. Horford said that, like his former Hawks team, the Celtics are avoiding the subject in the locker room.
“We’re not honestly really talking about it much,” said Horford. “That winning streak here was pretty special. We were playing at a high level. We didn’t talk about it here either and we’re taking that type of approach. We’re just playing and enjoying the game out there.”
With Boston carrying the current streak into a Wednesday visit to Miami, Ainge’s surprising trade for Marcus Morris is looking more and more prescient. If his best is yet to come, as his coach and teammates maintain, the recognition that has elluded Morris could be just around the corner.