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.
This week’s mock draft was an experiment in thinking outside of the box. It’s easy to start thinking about certain players in certain ranges after you’ve been doing these things for four or five weeks, but the problem with that is there always are teams that end up throwing you for a loop. This week I tried to factor in some of the craziness that could occur, and it started with trying to see how far I thought Lonzo Ball could realistically drop if the Lakers do indeed pass on him with the #2 overall selection. I could see Philly and Phoenix maybe passing, too, but at the #5 selection and starved for elite talent, I can’t imagine Ball slipping past Sacramento. I think that’s probably his floor.
This also might be the first week that I’ve had Ike Anigbogu in the lottery. Things just really thin out after the top ten players, and his ceiling is as high as anybody’s. Detroit (or whichever team trades for Detroit’s #12 pick) would be lucky to have him. I also somehow ended up with Zack Collins and Donovan Mitchell getting drafted ahead of Dennis Smith in this version, too, which doesn’t seem particularly likely, but stranger things certainly have happened. Charlotte doesn’t need a point guard, but I can’t imagine that they’d pass on that value if it fell into their laps at #11.
OG Anunoby is an interesting case because he’d probably be a top-ten pick if he weren’t coming of that ACL injury, and there’s no guarantee he’ll even be ready for the start of the 2017-2018 season. A team like Chicago, who could either be in dire need of talent a year from now or still gripping onto the hope of a playoff appearance with white knuckles, seems as though they’re maybe in the best position to take that risk in the middle of the first round. The kid’s a stud, but whoever takes him will be waiting on him to get healthy.
Semi Ojeyele got a big jump this week. He’s growing on me, and I think he’s growing on teams drafting in the last third of the first round, too. Also, Tony Bradley sneaks into the first round because I’m starting to think that’s going to happen. And how much fun would it be if Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox ended up on the same NBA team? Especially if that team was the L.A. Lakers!
I know this mock is a little unconventional, but I’m toying around with a few ideas now that June is nigh. If you want to know what I really, truly think will happen, the last mock before the draft will reflect that. For now, it’s a work in progress.
Over the past week, we have gotten the closest thing we will get to confirmation on where the Celtics and Lakers are leaning with their picks, and, of course, there are no surprises. Markelle Fultz will go first overall and will be followed by Lonzo Ball at number two. I’ve been told by someone in the know that the Lakers are “increasingly open-minded” about trading Jordan Clarkson and to not be surprised for him to end up being moved as soon as draft night. That’s conjecture at this point, as the Lakers need not rush to clear what may appear to be a logjam in the making.
Sources familiar with the Sixers’ thinking still have Malik Monk ranking quite highly on their depth chart. Considering the presence of Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, it would be curious for the Sixers to draft another front court player. At the same time, drafting Monk at three (although he is the best fit) might be a bit of a reach. So one scenario that’s being mentioned as plausible is for the Sixers to engage the Kings on a trade that would end up with the teams swapping their number three and number five picks. The Sixers would presumably land Monk while the Kings, in moving up to three, would guarantee themselves Fox. For that reason, I stick with Monk and Fox going at three and five, though they could flip flop if the aforementioned trade does happen.
Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum will land with the Suns and Magic, while Dennis Smith likely lands in New York. I have been told that the Knicks are also high on Monk, but the Sixers could spoil those plans if they do indeed select him. If they go another way, it’s possible Monk could slip to the Knicks at eighth.
An interesting tidbit of information I got during the last week: the Nets are “sold” on Latvian Rodions Kurucs, who has joined Frank Ntilikina as the foreign prospect who’s been watched most. Heading into the draft process, Kurucs was thought to have a shot to slip to the Nets at No. 22, but I am hearing that he could go as early as No. 15 to Portland.
What I would say about this year’s draft, to be frank, is that there are a lot of moving pieces. Kurucs being available between 15 and 22 seems like a wide range, but it pales in comparison to Terrance Ferguson. I do know that Ferguson has gotten a lot of attention (he met with 13 teams at the Combine) and has been doing quite a few workouts. Previously dubbed a “mystery man,” I’m hearing he could go as high as 13th and as low as 25th.
Slowly but surely, we are piecing this thing together, but the one thing I would say is safe to bet on right now is that there will be at least two trades involving picks in the top 20s exchanging hands.
The Orlando Magic made a splash with the hiring of Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations and John Hammond as general manager. The tandem could make another splash on draft night in three weeks.
Both men have made bold draft picks in the past. Hammond selected Thon Maker 10th overall at last year’s draft and Giannis Antetokounmpo 15th overall in 2013. Weltman was in Toronto when the organization selected Bruno Caboclo 20th overall in 2014.
With that in mind, you’ll notice Jonathan Isaac is projected to go sixth overall to Orlando as a forward with length and a high upside who can play next to Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic in the frontcourt.
Speaking of frontcourt pairings, Lauri Markkanen would be an ideal stretch-four fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. Or, if Minnesota trades the pick for a veteran, Markkanen could become the long-term replacement for Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
While Isaac and Markkanen are two of the bigger names expected to come off the board early in the draft, don’t sleep on a couple of guys projected to go in the second round. For example, Richaun Holmes made a name for himself at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, followed by impressive pre-draft workouts, was selected 37th overall in the draft and is now a valued backup big man in the eyes of many league executives.
With that in mind, who else has seemingly come out of nowhere and put themselves in a position to get drafted higher than people expect? Damyean Dotson and Derrick White are two names that similarly fit the Holmes mold.
Dotson, 23, shot 44 percent from beyond the arc in his final collegiate season at the University of Houston. At 6-foot-5, Dotson has NBA size and can shoot off the catch or bounce, which makes him an intriguing prospect in a league emphasizing shooting more than ever.
White, 22, started as a Division II player, transferred to the University of Colorado, was named a First Team All Pac-12 member, earned an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and then an invite to the NBA Draft Combine. Now he’s a projected second-round pick.
With reports surfacing that the LA Lakers and former UCLA guard Lonzo Ball have finalized the details of a workout and face to face meeting in LA next week, there is a growing sense that unless Lonzo absolutely blows the doors off, he may not be the Lakers’ guy.
The Lakers are weeks away from needing to make their final decision, but there are many that believe the Lakers could go after both Kansas forward Josh Jackson and Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox (who made my Mock at 2 this week) with the second overall pick. It’s become so real that Ball’s camp, which started the process saying he’d only meet with the Lakers, have expressed a willingness to meet with the Philadelphia 76ers and possibly the Sacramento Kings depending on how things go with the Lakers. Neither are expected to get a workout out of Ball, but both may get a chance for a face to face meeting.
Another player to watch in the draft process is Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen. For weeks, he’s been earmarked to the Timberwolves at seven, but there is a sense the Wolves may reach a little with their pick, moving Markkanen further down the board. Scouts label Markkanen as maybe the best pick and pop big in the draft, with many labeling him an underrated talent because of how badly he was used at Arizona.
A few other names to watch:
D.J. Wilson is believed to have gotten a first round guarantee, which drove his decision to stay in the draft class. There was speculation that the promise came from the Utah Jazz, however, Jazz executive Walt Perrin went on record flatly denying a promise was made. Brooklyn, Toronto, and the Lakers make sense for Wilson. It’s unclear who gave the commitment and how firm that commitment really was.
Frank Jackson opted to stay in the NBA draft, but he also had surgery on his right foot last week and will be shelved until July, based on reports. Jackson did show well at the NBA Draft combine, but his inability to go head to head with anyone might put him outside the first round looking in.
Teams still waver on how they view OG Anunoby, Alec Peters, and Edmond Sumner. All three are still recovering from injuries, with both Anunoby and Sumner not expected to play until January or February. Peters may be cleared before the draft with room to sneak in a few workouts.
All three have been very open and transparent about their injury status; the question is who takes them knowing they likely miss the off-season program, training camp and most of the NBA season.
NBA teams have started the Pro-Day circuit with several agencies getting started this week in California, then things move to Las Vegas and then Miami as agencies showcase their players before teams get serious about individual meetings and workouts.
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