Class Is Boring NBA Mock Draft 2017
The stretch of days from Friday, June 16 — when rumors of the Sixers-Celtics trade for the number one overall pick in the draft started heating up seemingly from nowhere but Sixers’ fans collective psyche — to Thursday, June 22 — when the draft will actually, finally take place — have been outrageously jam-packed with juicy chatter and transactions. The Fultz trade (and #RTArmageddon) went through. Paul George told the Pacers he’s leaving at the end of next season, with a preference for his hometown Lakers, killing his trade value. Half the league has been linked to Jimmy Butler. The entire league has been linked to Kristaps Porzingis, and the Knicks can’t even be 100% sure he’s still alive because no one has talked to him since before he skipped his end of the year exit interview. The Lakers traded 2015 second overall pick D’Angelo Russell to the Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick as the price of offloading Timofey Mozgov’s ridiculous contract. The Cavs parted ways with GM David Griffin, much to the dismay of LeBron James. The draft usually brings more trades and rumors. So much has happened that my girlfriend is worried about my mental health.
For the last couple years, I’ve done mock drafts with the Mickstape boys. Since they’ve made the big time (check out their mock here), I’m flying solo this year. I, personally, am not as high on this draft as a lot of the experts are. I don’t understand how so many of the guys coming into the league at this particular moment in its history have such trouble shooting the ball, and in my opinion that gives this draft a much higher variance than others: if a lot of the guys with questionable shots can fix them or translate average college shooting to average or above average NBA shooting, it’ll be as loaded with stars as we’ve been hearing since last year. If not, it won’t. Here’s hoping they figure it out. As always, all of the following picks are absolutely correct, whether they’re actually correct or not.
1. Philadelphia 76ers — Markelle Fultz — G, University of Washington
The Sixers traded their number 3 overall pick to the Celtics, along with either their coveted Lakers 2019 or Kings 2019 first rounder (depending on how the lottery shakes out with regard to the pick protections) to move up two spots and secure Fultz, the consensus number one prospect in the draft, who most view as being in a tier by himself. Fultz is long and skilled, with his smoothness belying his athleticism. Sixers fans were devastated when the Lakers picked Russell, who had been compared to James Harden in terms of skill and feel for the game, in 2015, sticking them with Jahlil Okafor; now, they get a younger, more highly-rated version with a better temperament who should be a star for the next decade, as long as the team’s training staff doesn’t accidentally give him foot cancer or something
2. Los Angeles Laker — Lonzo Ball — G, UCLA
As hilarious as it would be for the Lakers to pass on Lonzo’s Drake-with-athlete’s-foot-on-his-face ass after his dad has tried so hard to pave his way to the team by talking heaping piles of cash shit, the D’Angelo Russell trade probably solidifies the idea that Lonzo will be the Lakers guy here. Magic Johnson has to love the idea of a tall, flashy point guard who will immediately be one of the best passers in the league. How Ball came to his ridiculous shooting motion is a mystery, and he can’t, like, super dribble or score at the rim without an assist or play defense, but he has the temperament to transform the team’s culture in his image the same way he did UCLA’s in his lone season there. The Lakers have to hope that, with one son successfully in the NBA, LaVar Ball turns his attention to getting his other two there instead of continuing to cause a ruckus about Lonzo. I’d bet that he has the bandwidth to do both.
3. Boston Celtics — Jayson Tatum — F, Duke
Word from the Celtics camp is that the team has targeted Tatum with the belief that he can be their next Paul Pierce, and that they would have selected him first overall if the Sixers hadn’t moved up for Fultz. Tatum has been lauded for his midrange game and footwork, which are both beyond his years, which, I mean, DeMar DeRozen was third team All-NBA this past season, so I guess a 6’8’ version of that isn’t the worst outcome in the world with the third pick, even if it is possibly the most uninspiring. Tatum has good length as isn’t as unathletic as his reputation suggests, and he shot the three better during the second half of the season; if that comes along, his ceiling goes up. I don’t know. I’ve been hurt by polished Duke players with throwback (or, if you prefer, dated) games at the third overall pick before.
4. Phoenix Suns — Josh Jackson — F, Kansas
Jackson is exactly what the Suns should be looking to add to their youth movement: a competitive, defensive-minded wing who can take the toughest non-big defensive assignment and work as a secondary ballhandler and playmaker. A defense anchored by Jackson and last year’s fourth overall pick Marchese Chriss has the potential to be scary down the line. Jackson’s jump shot is thoroughly, impressively broke; his poor free throw percentage indicates that his good shooting from deep this season at Kansas was likely small-sample shenanigans, and his 3:2.8 assist/TO ratio says that his playmaking is perhaps overblown, and the fact that he’ll be 33 years old when the 2017–18 season begins would give me pause personally, but if he ever fixes that shot he should be very good. By the way, let’s not forget that he threatened to beat a women’s basketball player at Kansas and threw something at her car.
5. Sacramento Kings — DeAaron Fox — PG, Kentucky
The Kings have been enamored with Fox for weeks, with reports leaking that they might be looking to trade up to secure him, but they’re going to get him by standing pat. Fox is similar to Jackson as a prospect: he’s super athletic (he’ll be one of the fastest players in the league as soon as he’s picked) with huge defensive upside (though at a position where that’s considered less important), but the player he’ll ultimately become hinges on his jumper. He shot horribly when he shot at all at Kentucky, but experts say his mechanics aren’t bad, so it could just be a matter of confidence and repetition. He should pair nicely with Buddy Hield in the King’s backcourt, covering for Buddy’s weaknesses of being bad at most things besides shooting (if you combined the strengths of the two you’d really be onto something). Fox absolutely cooked Lonzo Ball in the two games they played against each other, for what that’s worth, and teams rave about him as a person, which is hugely important in an environment as toxic as Sacramento.
6. Orlando Magic — Jonathan Isaac — F, Florida State
With the first five picks seemingly set, the Magic are where the intrigue in this year’s draft starts. The team has been horribly constructed over the past couple years, never competing seriously for playoff spot, never drafting high enough for a cornerstone, stunting the development of the team’s only player with star potential (Aaron Gordon) by playing him grossly out of position, and it cost former GM Rob Hennigan his job. While the potential of Dennis Smith, Jr. and Gordon just running pick and rolls and out-athelticing people is enticing, new GM John Hammond brings with him a history of drafting long, high-upside guys, and Isaac fits the bill. He and Gordon could make for a pretty devastating defensive forward combo, and his shooting ability would provide more space for Gordon at his natural position or, hopefully, as a smallball center.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves — Malik Monk — G, Kentucky
The Wolves would be devastated if they missed out on Issac, since he’s a perfect compliment to Karl-Anthony Towns. If they hadn’t wasted a pick on Kris Dunn last year, they could take Dennis Smith, Jr. here, but for a front office without a very high level of job security, it’s probably too early to cut bait on him. A lot of mocks have Lauri Markkanen going here, but that would be incredibly depressing. Monk is redundant with Zach Lavine — an athletic shooter without any real in-between game — but he could make Lavine an intriguing trade chip ahead of his rookie extension (if I were the Wolves, I’d be trying to calling the Knicks every 2 minutes hoping Phil Jackson is on exactly the right drug cocktail to trade Kristaps for something like this pick, Lavine, and a future first). Markkanen is a seven footer with a wet jump shot, but he doesn’t do any of the other things seven footers are supposed to do, meaning he’s basically a very tall guard, and he’s pretty yolked already, so it’s not like he projects to get better on defense as he gets stronger. Even with his less-than-ideal size and wingspan, Monk gives you a lot of what Markkanen does, with much higher upside.
8. New York Knicks — Lauri Markkanen — F, Arizona
Apparently, Phil Jackson liked Markkanen as a potential Kristaps Porzingis replacement. That’s pretty… racist? I don’t know if that’s the word, but it’s something like racist. Markannen resembles Porzinigis in that he’s tall, white, European, and Can shoot; he doesn’t resemble Porzingis in that he’s horrible at defense and doesn’t really have a high ceiling. More realistically, he’s probably Ryan Anderson, which is intellectually a pretty decent outcome at the eighth pick but couldn’t be more uninspiring in a considering the players who’ll be picked surrounding him. There’s not really much more to say about Markkanen. He’s not Dirk. I can’t believe I’ve even written this much. Whatever.
9. Dallas Mavericks — Dennis Smith, Jr. — PG, NC State
Remember what I said about DSJ and Arron Gordon out-athleticing people on pick and rolls? Apply that here with Nerlens Noel (who was traded for a fake first round pick) in Gordon’s place, only with Dirk Nowitzki providing spacing instead of Evan Fournier. That sounds incredibly fun, I want to watch a lot of that. DSJ’s best quality is his explosive athleticism, seen in spurts on a god-awful NC State team even though he was just a year removed from ACL surgery. His windspan isn’t great and he plays defense in the style of Russell Westbrook (which is to say, he doesn’t play it), but like Westbrook, that elite burst could make him a truly special player, and he also isn’t a horrible shooter the way Russ was prior to this year. If anyone can harness Smith, Jr.’s gifts, it’s Rick Carlisle. Bonus NBA Draft-for-dummies tidbit: say that DSJ is one of the draft’s few “three-level scorers” to sound like you know what you’re talking about if you find yourself caught in a draft conversation. The Mavs are gonna be fun next year if this happens.
10. Sacramento Kings — Justin Jackson — F, North Carolina
Vivek Ranadive doesn’t know much, if anything, about basketball. His type is accomplished college shooters who aren’t good, but Buddy Hield is the apple of his eye, so he doesn’t need to take one of those this year. With the point guard position taken care of, and the front court loaded with Willie Caulie-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis, the “only” hole on the team is at small forward. Justin Jackson played on a national championship-winning team, which checks the “meaningless college accomplishments” box for Vivek, and he’s not good, which checks the “not good” box. This is a reach, but it makes so much sense cosmically that I need to see it happen.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Zach Collins — PF/C, Gonzaga
The Hornets love their tall white guys. Collins is a tall white guy. Not only that, but he’s skilled, and much more athletic than the average white, so he should be able to play modern defense, especially in Steve Clifford’s conservative system. No fan base besides Boston is ever going to be particularly thrilled with drafting a white big man, but The Miles (?) Plumlee-for-Dwight Howard trade opens up one of their Tall White slots, and he fits what the Hornets organization inexplicably looks for in the same way Jackson fits what the Kings look for, so regardless of fit, he’s the pick at 11.
12. Detroit Pistons — Donovan Mitchell — G, Louiseville
Donovan Mitchell has the tools to be a true 3-and-D guy, which is one of the most valuable player types in an NBA where shooting and defensive versatility are more important than they’ve ever been. Mitchell’s arms are cartoonishly long, which should allow him to guard at least three positions even at 6’3”, and he could help make Kentavious Caldwell-Pope expendable as he becomes very expensive. Stan Van Gundy’s GMing has put Detroit firmly on the mediocrity treadmill, so it’s not like they have a pressing need to pay KCP for a coming extended playoff run or anything. What a rough state of affairs in Detroit.
13. Denver Nuggets — Frank Ntilikina — G, France
Frankie Nicotine spent most of the season projected in the top 10, but concerns about his lack of athleticism have dropped him down a lot of draft boards. Personally, that doesn’t bother me so much, because I view Ntilikina as more of a shooting guard than a dynamic lead guard, and his value comes more from his shooting and defensive tools than offensive creation. The nuggets have been burned before by explosive international guards — as much as I liked him going into the draft, Emmanuel Mudiay has been an unmitigated disaster — so Ntilikina makes sense as a correction at the position, and Nikola Jokic’s unparalleled passing mitigates his weakness as an offensive fulcrum perfectly.
14. Miami Heat — TJ Leaf — PF, UCLA
This seems high for Leaf, Lonzo Ball’s Bruins running mate, but this part of the draft is sort of a cesspool, and he fits the Heat’s need for a stretchy power forward helping to create room for Goran Dragic-Hassan Whiteside pick and rolls — think Josh McRobers with a better handle. Miami has the distinct advantage of having the league’s best conditioning program and one of its best coaches in Erik Speolstra, so if any team can make Leaf a defender, it’s the Heat. The team will probably take a look at OG Anunoby here, but they already have Justice Winslow, so he’d be a bit redundant, even if his length and an extra couple years of team-control make him appealing.
15. Portland Trail Blazers — OG Anunoby — F, Indiana
OG is a comedically long defender who would have gone higher than this in last year’s weaker draft class had he chosen to leave college after his freshman year. The Blazers idiotically tanked their rebuild after an inspiring and utterly useless playoff run a couple years ago, handing out massive contracts to Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe, so their only path to meaningful improvement is swinging for the fences in the draft. Anunoby should help sure up a defense that’s weaker than a damn made of clouds at the point of attack, his size and athleticism make him an intriguing roll man at the small forward position, and if he ever develops a jump shot he’ll outperform his draft slot many times over.
16. Chicago Bulls — Jarrett Allen — C, Texas
Assuming the Bulls choose to move on from Jimmy Butler, and assuming (this one is a way bigger leap) that they do so for young guys and picks and actually do a real rebuild instead of the typical GarPax job-security coast, the Bulls will have exactly zero (0) positions filled with long-term solutions moving forward, which means they can draft for best player available. They should honestly take a look at Harry Giles, because just like a lot of the teams around them, they need to hit big with one of this mid-first round picks if they’re going to be relevant any time soon, but 16 is too high for him for anyone who isn’t John Hammond. The team has shown an affinity for productive old-school power forwards like John Collins, but they probably don’t want to move on from Bobby Portis quite yet, given that drafting him is basically the only thing the team has been praised for in the last four years. Jarrett Allen has a preposterous 7’5” wingspan, he blocks a lot of shot, he has the quickness to potentially switch screens, and a fantastic afro. He’s worth a shot here.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Ike Anibogu — C, UCLA
Ike Anibogu fits everything that the Bucks look for in their prospects: length, athleticism, upside, and an African name. Another guy with an insane wingspan (7’6” wingspan vs 6’8” height! What the goddamn hell!), consider Anibogu and his NBA-ready body a high-ceiling low-floor hedge against the possibility that Thon Maker is in fact 25 years old and won’t ever put on the muscle necessary to play center in the NBA. His pedestrian vertical leap is a bit concerning, but he’s quick off the ground and and moving laterally and, again, a 7’6” can make up for a lot of deficiencies. With Anibogu, Maker, Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon potentially sharing the floor, I don’t know how anyone could possibly complete a pass that isn’t just a dribble handoff against the Bucks.
18. Indiana Pacers — Luke Kennard — G, Duke
The Pacers will be moving on from Paul George soon, and as smart as their fans allegedly are, their market might be too small to sustain a long rebuild. A hedge against that: giving them a white shooter to cheer for during the lean years. Kennard is more athletic than you would expect from someone fitting the Duke White Three Point Shooter mold, which make him still not very athletic, but he’s tall and is also pretty good with the ball in his hands, which gives him some upside as a secondary creator (in this scenario, a secondary creator to Lance Stephenson, the NBA is incredible) who can attack closeouts. The main draw, though, is his shooting, which should translate well to NBA range and give the Pacers a second floor spacer to go along with centerpiece Myles Turner. As always, keep an eye on the Kings snatching up Kennard at 10 out of pure habit.
19. Atlanta Hawks — Justin Patton — C, Creighton
After trading Dwight Howard for Oh Who Cares As Long As It’s Not Dwight Howard, the Hawks have a hole to fill at center. Justin Patton could help fill his role on offense, setting picks and throwing down lobs, while at the same time not trying to have sex with minors or owning snakes like the man he’s replacing. The Hawks are one of the most respected player developers in the league, so they would be a good bet to help him harness his athleticism on defense. Patton is also a weak rebounder, which most teams would see as a weakness but which the Hawks, after years of Al Horford slowly chipping away at their expectations, probably view as a major strength.
20. Portland Trail Blazers — Bam Adebayo — C, Kentucky
While the Blazers have to hope that they stole their center of the future from the Nuggets in Jusuf Nurkic, the Bosnian Bear has the same issue that seemingly everyone on the team has: he’s more of an offensive difference maker than a defensive one. He was better after the trade, since his efforts issues dissipated after the Nuggets dumped him, but it’s tough to count on him after such a small sample. Bam, along with OG Anunoby, would give the Blazers a couple of high-upside defenders to help with their issues on that side of the ball. Plus, you never know what skills a Kentucky guy has that he didn’t get to show under Coach Cal.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — Semi Ojeleye — F, SMU
The Thunder have been struggling for years to find a 3 and D wing. They’ve been stuck settling for either/or, between guys like Anthony Morrow or Andre Roberson. It’s a little late to actually matter since Kevin Durant left with all of the team’s hopes and dreams last summer, but it’s still worth having a guy like Ojeleye, who can provide sorely needed spacing for Russell Westbrook’s cannonballing rim attacks and guard small ball fours. As the NBA continues to downsize, his tweener size could become less of an issue.
22. Brooklyn Nets — Harry Giles — C, Duke
The damage from the disastrous trade wherein the Nets sent three first round picks and swap rights to the Celtics for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett has been mitigated a bit by them getting D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers, but since they once again don’t have their first rounder next year, they should still be swinging for the fences with this pick. Harry Giles was considered the best player in this highly-touted class until he shredded his knees, and it doesn’t look like the explosiveness that made him so special has returned at all to this point. If it does, though, the Nets could turn out stealing one of the draft’s best players, a guy who’s been compared to a young Chris Webber when healthy. It’s unlikely, but at 22, what do they have to lose?
23. Toronto Raptors — John Collins — PF, Wake Forrest
John Collins is a throwback power forward. Contrary to what old players would say, that’s not a good thing. At this point he doesn’t shoot threes, and his average wingspan limits his effectiveness as a rim protector. With that said, Collins was too productive at the college level to drop too far, and it seems like teams won’t give up on back-to-the-basket bigs as a change of pace. That’s where Collins excels. I don’t like his game, but some executive is going to bet on his talent and talk themselves into him as a value pick.
24. Utah Jazz — Tyler Lydon — F, Syracuse
If Gordon Hayward leaves for Boston or Miami this summer, the Jazz are fucked. There’s no one left at this point in the draft would can reasonably fill his shoes, obviously, but if the team needs to pivot, it would help to have a floor-spacer like Lydon to give Dante Exum (or George Hill if he sticks around rather than pursuing the bag) and Rudy Gobert more room to operate.
25. Orlando Magic — Derrick White — G, Colorado
Honestly the combination of “25th overall pick” and “Orlando Magic” makes it impossible to care. Derrick White was productive and has an interesting backstory and we’ll never hear from him again. Who cares.
26. Portland Trail Blazers — Jonah Bolden — F, Australia
The Blazers probably won’t make all three of these picks, but if they do, I would expect them to take an international guy with the hopes of stashing him. Bolden spent one disappointing year at UCLA before leaving for Europe, and his shooting, defensive potential, and athleticism mean that he could be a steal in the late first or second round if he every puts everything together mentally — if he had played at UCLA with Lonzo Ball this year, he probably goes way higher than this.
27. Los Angeles Lakers — DJ Wilson — PF, Michigan
The Lakers have two young-ish power forwards with very different skill sets. Julius Randle is one of those throwback power forwards who doesn’t really shoot or defend the rim, but he does a decent Draymond impression when he pulls down a rebound and pushes the ball in transition. Larry Nance, Jr. is a defense-and-energy guy. What they don’t have is someone who can spac the floor at the position, which is something they’ll need when Lonzo is running the point. Wilson gives them that, and brings some length and defensive potential to boot.
28. Los Angeles Lakers — Anzejs Pasecniks — C, Latvia
The easy thing to do is compare any tall Latvian to Kristaps Porzingis. Pasecniks obviously isn’t anywhere close to that level of player, and he’s much more of a rim runner than a versatile floor spacer, but he has his uses, and I would expect any team with three first round picks to take a guy they can stash overseas for a couple years.
29. San Antonio Spurs — Caleb Swanigan — PF/C
Swanigan is a strong, long inside-outside scorer who was one of the most productive players in the nation in his sophomore year with the Boilermakers. He’s an comfortable from behind the arc as he is with this back to the basket, and his long, 7'3" wingspan makes up for the fact that he’s a bit undersized. The Spurs are the safest bet to help him translate his productivity to college and help him learn to leverage his length on defense, where he has the potential to struggle due to his average athleticism. I totally expect this pick to incite “The Spurs got another steal at the end of the draft” vs. “Would he be nearly as good on any team besides the Spurs?” arguments in a couple years.
30. Utah Jazz — Jawun Evans — PG, Oklahoma State
The Jazz invested the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft in Dante Exum, but to this point, he hasn’t been able to stay on the floor, injury-wise or production-wise. It’s probably too early to give up on him, but it couldn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Jawun Evans is a classic waterbug point guard, an OK shooter who struggles at the rim but loves to attack and gets to the line a ton. He’s also very good in the pick and roll, a very important skill for any point guard but particularly so for one playing with Rudy Gobert.
That got bleak pretty quickly. Draft night is all about possibility and sliding doors, though, so if any GMs pick anyone that I don’t have them taking here and they don’t work out, be aware that if they’d just done what I said they would do, the player would have reached and the exceeded his ceiling.