With the first half of the NBA season now complete, it’s about that time of year to begin looking into the upcoming draft. The draft order is still uncertain, however we can make assumptions about the order based off current records and overall team performances thus far. The only sure thing about this year’s draft order is that the Brooklyn Nets will finish with the league’s worst record, barring a ridiculous sequence of events. This would normally play towards Brooklyn’s advantage, except they gave up the entire franchise for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and are still feeling the repercussions. The move granted the Boston Celtics the right to swap picks with Brooklyn in 2017, giving the Celtics an incredible opportunity despite having one of the better records in basketball. With that said, let’s take a look at this year’s loaded draft class:
1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): SF Josh Jackson, Kansas
This pick may come off as a bit of a surprise, as most people have Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball going #1 overall. While it’s pretty clear that Fultz is the best talent in this class, he is also a point guard which is not something the Celtics currently need. The emergence of Isaiah Thomas all but guarantees that Boston will not be taking a point guard with the first overall pick. That leaves Josh Jackson, who I believe has the potential to become the next NBA superstar small forward. Jackson has the athleticism to do it all and appears to be the perfect fit for a young Celtics team in need of a star player. Boston is about to reach their peak and Jackson can be the final piece needed to make a legitimate run at the Eastern Conference crown.
2. Phoenix Suns: PG Markelle Fultz, Washington
The Suns have an interesting situation on their hands heading into this year’s draft. Eric Bledsoe is locked up for a few more years and is undoubtably a quality starting point guard in today’s league. Phoenix is currently tied with Toronto as the youngest team in the league and it’s clear that the Suns have a young star in the making in Devin Booker. Pair the 20-year-old shooting guard with Fultz and you’ve got one of the youngest, most talented backcourts for years to come. The best move for the Suns right now would be to move Bledsoe for draft picks or young talent and roll with Markelle Fultz at point.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: SF Jonathon Isaac, Florida State
The Lakers made a big mistake when they traded away this pick for Steve Nash in 2012. Fortunately for LA, the pick is top-3 protected and if the season ended today, the Lakers would keep their pick. Something tells me the league won’t let this slip away from their beloved Lakers, so expect them to fall somewhere within the top 3 on lottery night. If Los Angeles is able to keep their pick, then look no further than Jonathon Isaac out of Florida State University. While Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are more attractive options at SF because they play for big-name programs, Isaac has flown under the radar and may actually be the best of the bunch. Isaac’s size and skill gives him the potential to be a force in this league and I think the Lakers should take a chance on the 6’11 big out of FSU.
4. Orlando Magic: SF Jayson Tatum, Duke
When I picture Jayson Tatum, I see the next face of the Orlando Magic. I don’t know why, but the guy just looks like a member of the Magic. Orlando has been lacking a superstar since they traded away Dwight Howard in 2012 and Tatum may be their first shot at getting a new one. Small forward is easily the weakest link on the Magic’s roster and should definitely be their main priority heading into the draft. If Tatum is still available, this one should be a no-brainer for the rebuilding Magic.
5. Philadelphia 76ers: PG Lonzo Ball, UCLA
The Process is about to be complete if Philadelphia is able to get their hands on UCLA star Lonzo Ball. Philly is stocked up with young talent in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor (for now), but lack a guard with as much potential as their bigs. Ball is one of the better passers we’ve seen in college basketball this season and would absolutely flourish if thrown into the mix with the rest of Philly’s young lineup. The Sixers’ biggest concern going forward will be the fact that they are actually starting to win games in 2017, which could push them away from a chance at landing Ball.
6. Sacramento Kings: PG D’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
The Kings, fresh off of a questionable deal that sent Demarcus Cousins to New Orleans, are expected to lose out the rest of the way. Sacramento is officially in rebuild mode after trading away their superstar center and with a roster full of holes, they may want to start at point guard. The Kings are equipped with another 1st round pick later on in this draft so the best move would be drafting D’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky. Fox is averaging 15.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 5.4 APG as a freshman in the SEC and could compliment Buddy Hield in Sacramento’s backcourt of the future quite nicely.
7. Dallas Mavericks: PF Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki is going to retire at the end of the 2017 season so it’s only right if Dallas goes after another 7-foot power forward to replace him. Lauri Markkanen not only has the size but also the shot, shooting 45% from 3-point range this season and 49% from the field overall. Dallas should definitely be in the market for a big man going into this draft to play alongside Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and Yogi Ferrell next season. If Dallas has a high enough pick to draft the highly-touted Arizona big, then look no further than Markkanen to help the fans mourn the loss of Dirk.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves: PG Frank Ntilikina, International
Frank Ntilikina is the highest ranked foreign player eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft. Minnesota is in need of a point guard after realizing that Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn are not the answer. Ntilikina’s draft profile says that one of his weaknesses is that he is more of a secondary option who strives when playing with an elite-level shot-creator. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns’ offensive abilities would definitely benefit Ntilikina’s game.
9. New York Knicks: PG Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
The Knicks finally have a chance to right the ship after a disappointing start to the 2016-2017 season. Derrick Rose has played great during his tenure in NY but with a max contract on the horizon, the Knicks should look for a playmaker to handle the ball alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Dennis Smith Jr. shows shades of Russell Westbrook in his game, using a combination of passion and athleticism to fuel him each night. This dunk at the buzzer of a road upset vs Duke tells me Smith Jr. is the real deal and someone I want on my team:
10. Milwaukee Bucks: SG Malik Monk, Kentucky
Malik Monk has enough potential to be selected in the Top 5 of this draft but if the Lakers and 76ers opt for other selections, then expect Monk to fall somewhere in the 8-10 range. The Kentucky star would be a solid fit for the Knicks at #9 but if they decide to stick with a point guard then Monk may end up in Milwaukee. This move would set up a dangerous young lineup for the Bucks with Malcolm Brogdon, Malik Monk, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Thon Maker. These players combine for an average age of 21.5 years old so the Bucks should look into obtaining the high-volume scorer from Kentucky to complete their team of the future.
11. Portland Trailblazers: PF Robert Williams, Texas A&M
12. Denver Nuggets: SF Miles Bridges, Michigan State
13. Charlotte Hornets: PF Jonathon Motley, Baylor
14. Detroit Pistons: PF John Collins, Wake Forest
15. Miami Heat: PF Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
16. Chicago Bulls: C Justin Patton, Creighton
17. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans): PF Ivan Rabb, California
18. Indiana Pacers: PF Isaiah Hartenstein, International
19. Atlanta Hawks: SF OG Anunoby, Indiana
20. Oklahoma City Thunder: SG Josh Hart, Villanova
21. Utah Jazz: PF Harry Giles, Duke
22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): SF Justin Jackson, UNC
23. Toronto Raptors: C Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
24. Memphis Grizzlies: G Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
25. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers): SF Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
26. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston): C Jarrett Allen, Texas
27. San Antonio Spurs: SG Luke Kennard, Duke
28. Houston Rockets: PF TJ Leaf, UCLA
29. Portland Trailblazers (via Cleveland): PF Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): SG Terrance Ferguson, International