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2017 NBA Mock Draft

Courtesy of Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy of Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Wagenfeld, Blueprint Staff

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To some teams, spring means competing for the annual glory of winning the championship and being cemented in history among the greatest teams to play the game of basketball. However, for numerous others, it is a period of calculating and planning for future, hoping to one day be among the greats.

 

1. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets) – Markelle Fultz (PG)

Despite being the first seed in the east, the Celtics have the highest chances of securing the first pick in the draft due to an incredibly one-sided trade made with the Nets several years ago. Regardless of whether they plan to trade the pick or keep it, Markelle Fultz is still a no-brainer at No. 1. He can play on and off the ball, handle the ball, and shoot it at a level rarely seen by players his age. He also has great physical tools giving him great defensive potential, which combined with his elite offensive ability, give him a much higher ceiling than other recent top point guard prospects, such as D’Angelo Russell and Kris Dunn.

 

2. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson (SF/PF)

The Suns, like the Lakers, seem to have an overabundance of backcourt players. Devin Booker seems to be the face of the franchise, but the team will likely want to decide whether to keep around a known commodity and borderline all-star in Eric Bledsoe or groom Tyler Ulis, who despite being 5’9’’ has potential to be special himself. It might be in their best interest to trade Bledsoe now when his trade value is high and get back more young players or veterans for a future supporting cast. Ulis and Booker, who were childhood friends, already seem to have established great chemistry with each other, so there would be no need to draft another guard (De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr.). Josh Jackson, who already has a solid offensive game, could be an elite level defender, which the Suns would likely need if they chose to start Ulis and Booker, two known defensive sieves, in the future. Josh Jackson, also projects to be a great all-around player and seems to have some Paul George vibes to him.

 

3. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (PG)

Speaking of D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers are at a crossroads as to what they want to do with their backcourt. Russell, who has played most of his minutes at the point guard position has shown that he can play the 2. He has shown flashes of potential amidst tremendous inconsistency during his first two years. Jordan Clarkson who was previously seen as the point guard of the future was moved to shooting guard two years ago and played off the bench for most of this year seems more suited for the point guard position. The Lakers need to decide whether or not they want to keep Clarkson, who will be 25 this summer, or possibly find someone with more upside, and which position D’Angelo Russell will play next year, assuming he remains with the team. He could work fairly well off the ball with Lonzo Ball who, like Russell was praised as having elite level vision coming into the league. This duo could be potentially elite and give the Lakers an identity they’ve lacked since Kobe’s decline.

 

4. Philadelphia 76ers – Malik Monk (SG)

Picking Malik Monk at No. 4 might be a bit of a stretch, but considering the 76ers needs, they might be better off picking someone like Monk who can shoot from distance and score with the best of them. His ball-handling ability is underrated and could potentially transition to point guard in the future. Even if he never becomes a traditional point guard, he would fare perfectly fine sharing ball-handling duties with Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. In addition, there’s still a fairly good chance that the Lakers pick falls below No. 3 and it’ll be transferred to the Sixers. But not only that, if the Sacramento Kings somehow won the lottery, the 76ers have the right to swap picks with them. Regardless of what happens in the draft lottery, the 76ers have great flexibility in this year’s draft, stock full of guards, a position the 76ers need to improve the most. Trust the Process, Sixers fans.

 

5. Orlando Magic – Jason Tatum (SF/PF)

The Magic, who have seemed to botch every move they’ve made the past four years, desperately need to get this one right. They’ve stunted the development of both Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton who will be up for extensions this fall and potential restricted free agents in 2018. While this might be a good thing in that they would have decreased the value of contracts other teams would offer, making it easier to retain them, it could also backfire in that Gordon and Payton could make a concerted effort to leave Orlando. In addition, the Magic lack an identity that would give them a slight chance of attracting free agents. Gordon was the supposed franchise cornerstone, whom the team spent three years attempting to undermine. At this point, no one knows what will happen with Gordon, but it is highly unlikely he reaches his potential. Jason Tatum, who offers an already elite offensive game and tremendous potential, could become the face of this franchise and bolster the near-bottom of the league offense.

 

6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonathan Isaac (SF/PF)

The Timberwolves already have three franchise cornerstones in Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine. At this point, they need to figure out who they’re going with at point guard (Ricky Rubio or Kris Dunn?) and improve their supporting cast. Jonathan Isaac will fit perfectly next to Towns with the ability to shoot from outside and handle the ball. He also has great defensive potential, something head coach/drill sergeant Tom Thibodeau would appreciate. While Gorgui Dieng is solid next to Towns, he would be better suited off the bench at center and sharing some playing time with Nemanja Bjelica. Isaac would allow Dieng to slide into a more natural role.

 

7. New York Knicks – De’Aaron Fox (PG)

Everyone knows the Knicks are a mess. Team president Phil Jackson just publicly suggested that Carmelo Anthony would be better elsewhere, and the future of the franchise decided to skip exit interviews due to frustration with the team. It appears time to blow the team up, and this pick will be crucial for the future. De’Aaron Fox, who has drawn comparisons to John Wall, looks like he would fit perfectly next to Kristaps Porzingis, supplementing the Latvian big man’s shooting and shot-blocking ability with lighting quick driving and kicking. His shot might be a problem as well as his thin frame, but his confidence will be beneficial in making it through early struggles, something especially crucial when you play for the Knicks.

 

8. Sacramento Kings – Dennis Smith Jr. (PG)

After the DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Kings started playing their young players… and they actually looked good. They’ve got a trio of big men in Willie Cauley Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Georgios Papagiannis and a pair of guards in Buddy Hield and Ben McLemore. All they need now is a point guard. Dennis Smith Jr., who projects as a poor man’s pre-injury Derrick Rose, will fit perfectly with the King’s youth movement.

 

9. Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (PG)

The Mavericks are now confronting what the Lakers were confronting several years ago. Do they go for a reload or a full-scale rebuild? Next year will likely be Dirk’s last (or second to last) and the Mavericks need to prepare for life after him. They’ve got solid pieces in Nerlens Noel, Harrison Barnes, and Seth Curry, but no franchise cornerstone. Frank Ntilikina, while still fairly unknown, could possibly be that. With great size, length, and athleticism, as well as a solid jumper, he could potentially be a great player. It still remains to be seen how he will transfer to the NBA.

 

10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans Pelicans) – Miles Bridges (SF)

Although the Kings already have both Rudy Gay and Tyreke Evans at small forward, they might want someone who is more in line with the development of the younger players. By drafting Bridges, they get one of the most athletic and energetic players in the draft, who also happens to possess a solid offensive game. Although somewhat of a tweener right now, he could develop into a very good player for the Kings.

 

11. Charlotte Hornets – Lauri Markkanen (PF/C)

The Hornets were supposed to make the playoffs this year and possibly even improve on the previous year’s 3-4 finish in the first round. However, things didn’t work out and Charlotte is now in somewhat of a predicament. Kemba Walker is in his prime and has arguably peaked as a player. His supporting cast is a solid group of guys who are also around their prime. Having said that, they won’t likely see much improvement out of their core, but it seems unlikely that they will blow their team up. As of right now, they’ll likely go with the best player available, Lauri Markkanen of Arizona. He fits fairly well in today’s NBA with shooting, rebounding, and defensive potential.

 

12. Detroit Pistons – Zach Collins (C)

The Pistons, like the Hornets, have disappointed during this past season. Reggie Jackson seems to have hit his peak and no longer seem like the preferred starting point guard. Unfortunately for them, there’s no one left in the draft to truly address that issue, and the team has other holes to fill too. Andre Drummond has stagnated and there has been no pressure for him to improve. Being backed up by Aron Baynes and Boban Marjanovic, Drummond’s starting job is fairly safe. Drafting someone like Zach Collins, a skilled and versatile big man with solid defensive potential could put some pressure on Drummond. Also, if the Pistons chose to blow everything up, Collins would be a player to have at center in today’s NBA.

 

13. Denver Nuggets – Justin Jackson (SF)

The Denver Nuggets don’t really have any holes offensively and there aren’t many good defensive players left at this point of the draft without reaching, so the Nuggets will likely look to address that issue through free agency or trade this summer… If they don’t choose to keep Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari around, Jackson will be a solid replacement offensively. He projects to be someone who can produce right away which will be good as the Nuggets plan to chase the playoffs next year. Regardless of who the Nuggets choose, Nikola Jokic will make it work because he is a god.

 

14. Miami Heat – TJ Leaf (PF)

The Heat was literally one win away from making the playoffs and likely making a decent run. They finished the season 30-11, on pace for 60 wins, after starting 41-41. They were fairly versatile and well-coached and didn’t have any major holes. That said, TJ Leaf will be a perfect fit for a team, especially with his ability to handle the ball and stretch the floor. Quite frankly, he resembles a poor man’s Chris Bosh, so Heat fans definitely won’t mind having him around. With talented creators in Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, plus a free-flowing offensive full of passing, Leaf would be in a situation somewhat similar to what he had at UCLA, and that could be scary for the league.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft