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.
Last week I had Lonzo Ball as the #1 overall pick, mostly to prove a point that I don’t think Fultz is the sure-thing top overall pick like most mock drafts seem to believe. This week I’m completely selling out and putting Fultz first, because I really do think he’s the best player in this draft and the closest thing to a sure-thing that there is. Also, I really hope he doesn’t end up in Boston. What a shame for him to be underutilized in such a stacked guard rotation there. For him or Ball to end up with the Celtics would be an absolutely waste considering how good both of those guys could very well be right out of the gate for a team like Phoenix or Philadelphia.
I’ve also got Zach Collins back in the lottery this week, which is something I really do think will happen despite his relative lack of playing time in college. His size, his defense and his range combine for a prototypical stretch big in today’s NBA. I don’t know if he’ll be any good, but once teams get past that Dennis Smith/Lauri Markkanen threshold, you’ve got to reach for the stars. There’s not a lot separating the first round, frankly, so it’s a matter of taste, fit and risk.
Speaking of inexperience, Ike Anigbogu feels like the prototypical Milwaukee Bucks pick, doesn’t he? Physically imposing but unproven on a team rife with players who made their way on that same resume.
Portland has three first-rounders and ended up with Leaf, Kennard, and Adebayo in this mock. Not a bad haul, but the truth is they’d probably draft a Euro stash with one of those picks if they even kept them all. They’ve got bigger needs than adding three rookies anyway. It’s easy to see them trading at least one of those away or attempting to consolidate and move up.
Either way, this entire thing will get blown up next week since the Combine is immediately forthcoming. That will change my opinion on a lot of things, I’m sure, and the lottery isn’t far behind. Right now, we’re grabbing at straws. The truly educated guessing comes soon.
Last week we covered that 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.
We’ve now reached a corner of the puzzle’s foundation. The NBA Draft Combine is upon us and will move the needle for several prospects.
Notable college players are weighing whether to keep their names in the draft or return to school. Hamidou Diallo, Tony Bradley, Frank Jackson, Andrew Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Rawle Alkins and D.J. Wilson will get a better sense of their draft stock at the Combine.
Markelle Fultz has an opportunity to solidify his case to become the No. 1 overall pick with Lonzo Ball skipping the Combine.
In addition to Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Jonathan Isaac, Malik Monk, Dennis Smith, Frank Ntilikina, Rodions Kurucs and Isaiah Hartenstein will not participate in the Combine.
As we covered last week, once the lottery takes place, we’ll have almost the entire foundation. The NCAA deadline to return to school on May 24 will be another piece with the NBA early entry withdrawal deadline on June 12 being the final piece of the foundation. From there we’ll finalize the pieces and make the perfect mock draft puzzle.
That’s when the fun begins.
So, the good news is that the draft will begin to get some color in the coming weeks. The draft combine began on May 9 and will run through May 14, and traditionally, it’s been a week where we are able to learn a bit about where the minds of many of the league’s teams are. As I said last week, in my experience, most teams use the draft to fill needs on their roster, while some will occasionally select the best player available, even if it will create a logjam.
Two days after the combine concludes, on May 16, the draft lottery will be held in New York. We will finally know for certainty where the Boston Celtics will draft, as well as whether the Los Angeles Lakers will be able to exercise their pick or fork it over to the Philadelphia 76ers. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks (currently in the seventh slot), will learn their fate, as well. Depending on how the chips fall, there will be tremendous fallout.
Now, in terms of what we currently know: I am hearing fewer people suggesting that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball slip out of the first two spots, with Fultz considering among most as the consensus top player. Depending on whether the Celtics opt to exercise the pick or trade it because they believe that Isaiah Thomas is their point guard of the future is an interesting storyline, so I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on that. There will be a tremendous ripple effect.
At this point, I have had a few conversations with people familiar with the thinking of Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and I’ve been told that despite the draft being loaded with talent at the point guard position, with Carmelo Anthony believed to have played his final game in New York, the Knicks might actually have their eyes set on a replacement, with Duke’s Jayson Tatum being a name to watch.
Another name that’s come up in conversations I’ve had recently is that of John Collins of Wake Forest. Collins is currently projected to be a mid first round pick, but does have the potential to move up based on the growth that he showed over the course of last season. He, as well as Tyler Lydon of Syracuse, I’ve been told, will each have an opportunity to move up the draft boards.
It’s all mostly conjecture, though. The good news is that by the time we drop our next mock draft on May 17, we will have had the results of the combine and the draft lottery. At that point, we can begin filling some pieces in with more certainty.
With the NBA Draft Combine getting underway in Chicago today, the focus of NBA executives is going to be on the next tier of players as the top tier in attendance won’t do much more than an interview and take physicals.
However, that won’t stop the debate about who will be the top players taken. Despite the prevailing belief in NBA circles being that Markelle Fultz’s skill set translates the best of all of the prospects, there are some that are pegging Lonzo Ball as possibly having the biggest upside because of his intangibles.
The story from the Ball fans is that he has uncanny court vision and awareness and plays so unselfishly that he’d fit in better with teams that already have players in place, which is the case for most of the teams looking at a top five pick. Ball isn’t without his issues; he is not much of a mid-range shooter, he has virtually no game film in pick and roll situations (a staple of NBA basketball) and he is a somewhat streaky and unorthodox shooter.
As much as people like to focus on the noise around Ball by way of his father LaVar, few teams see him as a negative, other than his visibility in the media. One executive said if his team were drafting Ball, they would set very clear ground rules around LaVar and hold both accountable to them.
NBA teams have been watching the Ball situation for more than a year and say that the coaches at UCLA had nothing but glowing things to say about Lonzo and his work ethic, and that LaVar wasn’t much of a problem for them.
While Fultz might look like the perfect NBA package, there are some that say Ball might be the best bet on a future star – but concede there is an extreme boom-or-bust scenario the team drafting him is going to have to come to grips with.
There is almost no doubt that Ball has that “it” factor teams covet. The question is, will anyone pass on what seems to be a sure thing in Fultz to see if it’s something that translates to the NBA?
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