Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2017 NBA Draft.
Here is this week’s Mock and the Draft notebooks from each writer.
I didn’t put Lonzo Ball to the Lakers this week out of spite. It’s too neat a narrative that Ball would fall to Los Angeles after all that hullaballoo over only wanting to play for that one team and trying to scare away every other team from even considering selecting him. There’s just no way this is a done deal this early in the process, in large part because adding another ball-dominant guard might not even be the best thing for the Lakers. I know; teams draft talent first and figure out the fit later, but in this case, Josh Jackson arguably could be considered just as talented (albeit in different ways) and would be the better fit.
Imagine, if you will, the Sixers landing the #2 overall selection and the Lakers landing #3. In this thought experiment, does Ball still only work out for L.A.? While he’s not a great fit with the current group of Lakers, he’d be a perfect part of what Philadelphia is putting together. In fact, if L.A. were to take Jackson in the current draft order (and can you imagine the headlines if that’s the case?), Ball falling to Philly might actually be better for everyone involved. We’ll see how it all plays out, but I’m not ready to gift-wrap Lonzo for L.A. just yet.
Donovan Mitchell makes it into my lottery this week for the first time. He measured out in a big way at the Combine has been generating quite a bit of buzz. With a lower third of the lottery that’s pretty wide open, he seems like as good a bet to slip in there as anybody.
Hamidou Diallo (should he stay in the draft) saw a big jump from me this week for the same reason, and also because we know Milwaukee doesn’t mind taking risks on athletic and long big guys.
Somehow, Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton and John Collins all dropped into the 20s this week, which isn’t what any of those players deserve, but with the breadth of big men available this year, somebody’s going to tumble a bit. They (along with Rabb, Diallo, Giles, Leaf, and Adebayo) could all get mixed up in any of a number of orders.
Finally, Frank Jackson makes it into the first round for the first time in one of my mocks. I remember speaking with him as a high schooler and was incredibly impressed with his poise, charisma and maturity. Add those interview skills to how well he performed at the Combine, and he’ll get some looks from first round teams, especially with so few point guard prospects outside of the top ten.
It’s amazing how the very moment the lottery concluded, scouts and agents began spilling some beans about where certain prospects were bound to land. What makes it very interesting, though, is when sources who both seem to be in the know give you differing outlooks. It’s especially interesting when the scenarios all seem to make sense.
Last week, I offered a viable permutation of the first eight picks that had the Philadelphia 76ers causing a massive ripple effect that began with them selecting Malik Monk. While many believe that Monk would be a bit of a reach at three, I’ve been told that the Sixers are enamored with his potential, though the concerns about his size are quite real. As I said last week, what they ultimately decide to do with their third pick depends on where they see Ben Simmons fitting best, and that isn’t a decision that has been made quite yet. So Monk at three, I’ve been told, continues to be a real possibility. If Simmons is going to be their full-time play maker, they’ll go with Jackson at three; if not, they could go with Fox. If they want to hedge, they could take Monk. For now, I’m sticking with Monk, because I think he’s the pick that makes the most sense.
Knicks fans were giddy with that result, as it resulted in them improbably landing De’Aaron Fox with the eighth pick. At this point, this scenario should be considered far fetched. What I’m hearing as far as the draft plans for the Kings is that they were looking to walk away from the draft with a point guard and a wing. I’ve been told to bet on them taking Fox at number five and whichever of the highly projected bigs remains at 10.
As for the Knicks, the intel I’d be privy to said that the franchise wasn’t necessarily looking to draft a point guard with their eighth pick, but rather would select the best player available. Tuesday’s report that the Knicks were still looking to acquire Ricky Rubio, to me, suggests that they will do exactly that. For them, the road diverges: if they land Rubio, I would look for them to draft a small forward to replace Carmelo Anthony. If they don’t, the way the draft is looking is that they will have their choice of Dennis Smith or Frank Ntilikina. Word form within the Knicks organization is that they are enamored with the all-around game of Ntilikina, and if they continue to be married to the triangle, he would probably make more sense than Smith. I’m sticking with Smith at eight this week for the Knicks, though, mainly because I believe he is the supreme talent between the two, and I think the Knicks will eventually see the light.
For me, that’s what I’ve learned over the past week. One other tiny tidbit worth passing along: Jonathan Jeanne and Terrance Ferguson are the two international players being projected in the mid-20s that could make an improbable rise. In Jeanne, teams see a spry and nimble big who can run the floor and protect the rim. He opened eyes at the combine, is quite young and can be turned into an effective big in a pace-and-space system. He has amazing timing and instincts, despite not having much playing experience to this point. Ferguson is a tough spot shooter who would excel playing alongside a young, dynamic point guard. I could see Jeanne going in the teens and Ferguson in the early 20s.
Over the next week, I’ll be spending some time making some calls on a few players expected to go in the late first round. The Nets and Jazz each have been doing a lot of homework, from what I hear.
Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will enter the NBA draft with the most chips at the poker table. Those chips include tradable young players, the first overall pick and Brooklyn’s first-round pick next year. How Ainge uses those chips will depend on his long-term vision for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. He will become an unrestricted free agent after next season and command a salary over $30 million annually.
Ainge can draft Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick as an insurance policy if he decides he doesn’t want to pay Thomas long-term, play the two together in the backcourt at times, or trade the pick for a star wing player such as Jimmy Butler. While the Celtics have Gordon Hayward on the free agent radar this summer, it’s no lock the organization will be able to pry him away from the Utah Jazz.
Similar to Boston, the Sacramento Kings have two valuable poker chips with the fifth and 10th overall picks in this draft. On paper, Sacramento should be able to land a long-term point guard and small forward with those selections. However, if Sacramento has its heart set on Josh Jackson, for example, the organization can dangle both picks to move up in an attempt to land him.
Orlando is considered a wild card with the sixth overall pick in the draft. The Magic let go of several staff members, including Harold Ellis, Michael Arcieri, and George Rodman, as first reported by Basketball Insiders. Those moves paved the way for Orlando to hire Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations and John Hammond as general manager each with new five-year deals, as reported by The Vertical. Hammond shocked the world when he selected Thon Maker 10th overall at last year’s draft and Giannis Antetokounmpo 15th overall in 2013. Will he shock the world again this year?
The Dallas Mavericks recently sent Donnie Nelson and Tony Ronzone to Strasbourg to scout Frank Ntilikina, as reported by Basketball Insiders. Ntilikina could represent a long-term point guard solution for the Mavericks with the ninth pick.
Lastly, the Portland Trail Blazers remain the favorite around the league to play “Let’s Make A Deal” and trade one of their three first-round draft picks.
With the Draft lottery firmly in the window, there has not been a lot of movement around the top of the draft board according to NBA scouts and executives. However, the middle and the bottom of the draft is starting to move around a little as teams are starting to meet with players and hold workouts.
The biggest news of this week is the Orlando Magic, who have announced the hiring of both Jeff Weltman as Team President and John Hammond as General Manager. The Magic have been hosting workouts for several weeks, and some of that process may start again now that the Magic have real decision makers in place. The narrative around the incoming leadership is that no decisions on a path have been made and that both are going to evaluate their new team before doing anything drastic, but there is a sense that Weltman and Hammond are going to put their imprint on the Magic quickly.
Another notable is Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox. As much as people like to point to his poor three-point shooting, more and more teams label him as the sneaky play for the Lakers with the second overall pick. Like the Magic, the Lakers have been hosting workouts basically every day, but the real evaluation of the second pick has not started yet.
There are a couple of names to watch in the middle of the draft, namely Duke’s Harry Giles and Indiana’s OG Anunoby.
The narrative from scouts on both is they are elite level talents and likely solid NBA prospects, but both face questions about their status going forward.
Giles has torn both ACLs in high school (left in 2013, right in 2016) and has not been nearly as explosive as some had hoped after his second surgery. There is a belief that Giles could return to the elite form that made him a top high school recruit, but it’s far from certain. The risk and the unknown for Giles have his expected draft range all over the place. Some teams view Giles as a huge reward guy with some risk, while other see the risk as too great for where their teams are going to select. A team willing to gamble might end up with a very good prospect, but the questions surround what NBA team doctors think after seeing all of his medical.
Similarly, Anunoby tore his ACL in January and is in the middle of his rehab. There is a sense that Anunoby may not play at all next season. If that becomes the belief from NBA teams his draft stock could take a big hit, even though he is an elite NBA talent. There are some that view his floor as 21 to the Thunder, mainly because they tend to have an appetite for risk and a willingness to wait out injury.
Both players grade out very high in the talent department; the question is which teams bet on the future knowing that both players may not be able to be as involved as others on the board.
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