Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2017 NBA Draft. Included is an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process.
Check a mock draft anywhere and have a look at the top. It’s Markelle Fultz. It’s always Markelle Fultz, very often followed by Lonzo Ball at #2. Here’s the thing, though: Josh Jackson is a better fit for several of the teams likely to be in play for the top overall selection. For the Suns, Lakers, and Sixers, Jackson fits their needs so much more than another point guard, and even in Philly’s case, Ben Simmons is going to be the primary ball handler. If one of those three teams lands the top overall pick, it absolutely is within the realm of possibility that Jackson would be just as much in play as Ball or Fultz. Be ready for him to enter this conversation. It’s not just a two-pony race.
Beyond those guys, the other surprises I’ve got in my initial draft probably are Ivan Rabb in the lottery (yes, ahead of Zach Collins), and Hamidou Diallo and Dillon Brooks in the first round.
It feels like Rabb has been mentioned in mock drafts for half a decade, but this is the year he actually comes off the board. The former McDonald’s All-American averaged a double-double as a sophomore at Cal this past season and might have been a lottery pick a year ago. He still could be this year.
Brooks’ talent spoke for itself in the NCAA tournament. It’s an insult to how well he played all year that he’s not in the conversation for a first-round pick more often. As for Diallo, it’s no sure thing that he actually stays in the draft. The redshirt Kentucky freshman could still decide to play some actual college basketball before making it to the NBA, but if he stays in, there’s a great opportunity for a late first-round team to land some incredible value. He seems like the kind of potential stud a team would want on that first-round guaranteed contract.
The Draft Combine is coming in a week, and the Draft Lottery isn’t too far behind. We’ll get a better sense of things after those events wrap up.
Creating a mock draft is the equivalent of building a large puzzle. You identify and spread out all the pieces, find the four corners as your foundation and then build within that frame.
Now imagine finishing that puzzle and someone knocking it off the table abruptly. That’s what the lottery could do in two weeks.
It only takes one lottery combination with the faintest of chances to throw off an entire mock draft order. Think back to the 2008 lottery when the Bulls were slotted ninth, but miraculously landed the top overall pick to select Derrick Rose.
Similar to a puzzle, the pieces will move around constantly before settling into place on draft night. The Portland Trail Blazers have three first-round draft picks and are likely to move at least one. Boston’s pick could be dangled as trade bait to land a star on the trade market such as Jimmy Butler or Paul George. Or, Boston can keep the pick and swing for the fences with Gordon Hayward in free agency this summer.
Keep an eye on the Sacramento Kings who currently have two picks in the top 10 to dangle as trade bait. The Brooklyn Nets also have the No. 22 and 27 overall picks, which can be dangled to move up. Those two picks, along with Brook Lopez, could make for an enticing trade package. Lopez was mentioned in trade talks at the deadline with the New Orleans Pelicans before the team acquired DeMarcus Cousins as Basketball Insiders previously reported.
Lastly, keep an eye on the Philadelphia 76ers to put shooters around Ben Simmons to give him the best chance to succeed as the primary playmaker for Philadelphia.
Once the lottery takes place, we’ll have the foundation. From there we’ll begin to align the pieces and make the perfect mock draft puzzle.
What makes the 2017 NBA Draft quite interesting is the fact that it’s a point guard heavy draft and that appears to be the position of strength. Based on what we have seen from Isaiah Thomas during the course of the postseason, if the Boston Celtics do end up winning the top pick, would they be better served exercising the pick on Markelle Fultz or packaging the pick and shipping it to either the Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls in exchange for either Paul George or Jimmy Butler, respectively?
If the Los Angeles Lakers end up staying in the third spot, would they draft another point guard? It’s quite possible that Lonzo Ball could still be on the board, but would D’Angelo Russell make a good shooting guard? Would one of them become trade bait for the aforementioned George? And what if the Lakers slip out of the top three? Their pick would then belong to the Philadelphia 76ers.
While there are a few teams toward the top of the lottery that need point guards, many don’t seem to. For that reason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some pre-draft trades that may involve a team or two moving back. The Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets each have two picks and desperately need a franchise player, while the Portland Trail Blazers own three first round picks and are in need of another wing scorer.
It’s still very early in this process, but if there is one thing I have learned over the past few years, is that most teams approach the draft with their eyes on filling a current need on their roster. We will obviously know more after the draft lottery is held, but for now, my mock takes into account a player’s perceived value, as well as the team’s current needs. It’ll only get more interesting from here.
While the 2017 NBA Draft class looks as promising as any in recent history, NBA scouts and executives continue to warn that while there are some elite prospects at the top of the draft board, none them look to be instant hits like a LeBron James. According to many, the likely outcome may end up being more like some of the more recent drafts in terms of immediate impact players.
With the NBA Draft Combine on tap for next week in Chicago, it’s expected the top overall candidates in Markell Fultz, Lonzo Ball and possibly Josh Jackson and Jason Tatum may skip the event entirely, even thought they would only be asked to take part in team interviews, medical testing and possibly media availability.
As much as the NBA has tried to make the Combine suitable for all players, more and more of the top level guys see no value in taking part in an uncontrolled environment like the Combine, opting to hold private workouts and having medical done by hand-picked doctors.
Ultimately teams are going to draft these players whether they participate or not, so there is no motivation for guys at the very top.
While this draft class looks to have some potential future All-Stars at the top, there is also a sense that there could be very good roster players in the teens and early twenties of this draft pool. While the Combine likely won’t feature the cream of the crop, there is still a lot of potential depth to this class which will make next week interesting as NBA teams start to develop a more rounded short list of who to bring in after the NBA Draft Lottery.
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