As draft night 2017 gets set to take off, the NBA community has already endured more shake up than usual.
Before draft week even arrived, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers agreed to swap their picks at the top of the draft. This deal delivered the Sixers the top overall pick for the second consecutive season, after selecting Ben Simmons in 2016’s draft.
With the No. 1 pick, the Sixers will draft Markelle Fultz, a guard out of Washington, according to reports.
However, after the certainty of the top, the pick this year’s draft holds many questions. Those start directly with pick No. 2.
The Los Angeles Lakers have long been tied to former UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, whether due to Ball refusing to work out for any other team or because Ball’s boisterous father LaVar proclaimed months ago his boy would be a Laker. Despite all of the proposals of a Ball-Lakers marriage from the player’s end, the team doesn’t seem as committed to the relationship just yet.
Magic Johnson, President of Basketball Operations, has explored many options with the No. 2 pick so far since lottery night, including a similar move that Philadelphia capitalized on.
Lakers had interest in pursuing a deal for No. 1 pick/Fultz, but Sixers ability to potentially deliver 3 FRP's in deal too much to overcome. https://t.co/9aBUwqVMiq
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2017
Along with growing fond of Fultz, Johnson and the Lakers have batted around the idea of selecting former Kansas forward Josh Jackson and former Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox with the second pick in Thursday night’s draft.
But despite the back and forth about whether Ball will don the purple and gold or not, signs are beginning to point toward the inevitable anyway.
Lonzo Ball's camp remains confident he will be the Lakers' selection at No. 2 on Thursday night.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 19, 2017
Drafting or not drafting Ball isn’t the only decision that Los Angeles has been trying to make, though. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported on Monday that the Lakers were looking to acquire another lottery pick on top of their No. 2 selection. On top of it, Chad Ford suggested that the Lakers were going as far as dangling D’Angelo Russell in attempts to acquire it.
Sounds like Lakers are dangling D’Angelo Russell in effort to get another Top 12 pick. Luke Kennard & Zach Collins appear to be targets https://t.co/2NPeEKX4SM
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 20, 2017
While the Lakers could find themselves with a new point guard of the future early in the night if they select Ball, at this moment it’s questionable who will be sharing the backcourt with him.
After the Lakers make their decision, the Celtics’ clock starts running just a few minutes later than they expected even a week ago. Based on the deal they made with the Sixers and reports out of Boston, the Celtics held players like Jackson and former Duke forward Jayson Tatum in the same category as Fultz in terms of player evaluation.
As their draft slot draws closer, the Celtics will likely focus in on one of these two premium wings to add to their already talented roster that finished atop the Eastern Conference last season.
Further down the line, it looks as if the Dallas Mavericks are taking interest in another foreign prospect that they hope can be a cornerstone of their franchise for years to come.
Frank Ntilikina's coach at Strasbourg, Vincent Collet, will coach with the Mavs Orlando Summer League team – Dallas all in on Ntilikina
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 19, 2017
Trying to bring Ntilikina on board in Dallas should come as one of the least surprising moves draft night will have to offer. The French point guard brings an interesting combination of raw skill and physical attributes that can catch just about any team’s attention in the draft. Considering the Mavericks are well versed in overseas scouting, the potential selection of Ntilikina should he be on the board at No. 9 makes more than enough sense.
For one team currently selecting outside of the lottery, draft fortunes could change before Thursday night if they push the right buttons. The Indiana Pacers are in a situation where their star player, Paul George, has already made the decision that he will leave the team next summer via free agency in an attempt to join the Lakers. The Lakers are also among the teams speaking to Indiana about a trade for George, though there are others.
The Clippers, Rockets, Wizards and, yes, Cavs are among the teams that have also talked Paul George trades with Indiana, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 20, 2017
Should the Pacers be able to deal George ahead of draft night and recoup a handful of assets, including a lottery pick on this year’s draft, they would be headed in the right direction for their post-George existence.
With the draft being held at the Barclays Center, the hometown Brooklyn Nets will be looking to make some moves of their own. Owning two late first-round picks (Nos. 22, 27) the Nets seem interested in packaging their pair of picks for a chance to select a little sooner.
Brooklyn Nets are looking to package their two first-round picks (22, 27) to move up in the draft, league sources told Basketball Insiders.
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 20, 2017
Sitting relatively devoid of assets and talent, general manager Sean Marks seems willing to take a chance on bringing in a higher quality player to help jump start the rebuild up in Brooklyn.
Not to be outdone by his crosstown counterpart, Phil Jackson made waves Tuesday morning when a report came out that the Zen Master isn’t completely closed to the idea of trading the future of the Knicks’ franchise in Kristaps Porzingis.
Sources: As teams become aware Phil Jackson isn't ruling out possibility of trading Kristaps Porzingis, frenzy of interest is growing today.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2017
While it certainly wouldn’t be ideal for Knicks fans to move on from their one shining light from this past season, Jackson usually isn’t one to conform to conventional thinking. The 13-time NBA champion has apparently given enough thought to the possibility of moving Porzingis that he’s even considered who the Knicks would select with the No. 8 pick Thursday night as the 7-foot-3 Latvian’s replacement.
Sources: Phil Jackson met with Lauri Markkanen in New York on Monday, a player whom he's considering at No. 8 should Knicks move Porzingis. https://t.co/44d8EqMoBm
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 20, 2017
A player of Porzingis’ caliber, coupled with his age (21 years old), should return more than a respectable trade haul. If the versatile forward were to be moved, a high pick in this year’s lottery would most likely be involved, adding even more movement to an already interesting draft night.
However the night plays out, one thing for certain is that the 2017 NBA Draft will be nothing short of interesting.
#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).
#16 – Zhaire Smith- Phoenix Suns
The Philadelphia 76ers reportedly traded the rights to Mikal Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for the 16th overall pick, which was used to select Zhaire Smith, as well as a 2021 first round draft pick.
Smith was a freshman small forward out of Texas Tech who has plenty of athleticism. Last season, Smith averaged 11.3 points, five rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Where Smith stands out is on the defensive end. He has the size, speed, mobility and instincts to be a plus-defender, which is rare among players at this stage in their respective careers. The downside is that Smith doesn’t necessarily have the size to reasonably guard most power forwards, though he can certainly hold his own in limited situations.
Smith should be a nice addition for Philadelphia, which already has several big wing players. The team is built around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but Smith adds even more athleticism and upside for the young up-and-coming squad. Smith is also a solid passer and he can take the ball off of the dribble. However, Smith’s jumper can be a bit inconsistent at times, which is something he will need to work on moving forward. He also needs to work on becoming a more effective player in pick and roll situations. However, with his elite athleticism and notable skill set, it’s not hard to undestand why the 76ers had interest in making a deal for him.
This is a nice grab for the 76ers, who saved some cap space and acquired a future first rounder in the deal.
#14 – Michael Porter Jr. – Denver Nuggets
With the No. 14 pick in the NBA draft, the Denver Nuggets selected forward Michael Porter Jr. from the University of Missouri.
Leading up to the draft, there was much speculation that Porter could have gone as high as the second overall pick, but after teams got a look at his medical records, his perceived value began to fall. Porter slid all the way to the Nuggets, who record-wise, were the best team that missed out on the playoffs.
Porter measures in 6-foot-10.75, 211 pounds. The sample size was very small since Porter had to miss the majority of his freshman season, but the potential is definitely there for the Missouri alum. Porter’s scoring prowess makes him have one of the highest ceilings in a loaded draft class this year, which could make him one of the greatest draft-day steals of all time if he reaches it.
If Porter reaches his ceiling, then he is undoubtedly a perfect fit in Denver. The Nuggets, who were arguably a healthy Paul Millsap from making some noise out West, desperately need a go-to scorer to pair with their young core. Porter’s ability to score from anywhere on the court should make him the perfect complement to Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.
His ability to put the ball in the bucket should make him a keeper, but his athleticism is what could make him a potential franchise cornerstone. Porter has a fair amount of quickness for a guy his size, which could make him one of the league’s best two-way players.
Unfortunately, Porter’s question marks make him as much of a high risk as he is a high reward. His medical records evidently turned teams off after he was believed to be selected in the top 10, and there has been a lot of chatter that he may not be the most motivated basketball player. Perhaps falling all the way down to 14th could give him all the motivation he needs.
The Nuggets received a lot of flak when they traded Donovan Mitchell’s draft rights for Trey Lyles and the rights to Tyler Lydon at last year’s draft, but now they may have made up for all of that by getting Porter.