2017 NBA Draft Preview

It’s that magical time of the year when teams that sucked all year long get to be in a position of power….or you can be the Boston Celtics, a team that had great success and have all the power.

The 2017 Draft Class has been talked about all year long as a strong class with multiple potential All-Star players. We’ve already seen some initial jockeying at the top with the trade between the Celtics at 1 and the 76ers at 3. That marked the first time since 1993 that the number 1 overall pick had been traded. I anticipate even more positioning within the lottery; Lakers, Suns, Kings, and Pistons have all been public about their desire to either move up/down in the draft or try to acquire a second pick within the lottery. These talks will continue and only intensify the closer we get to draft night.

The Orlando Magic, at #6, sit squarely in the meaty portion of this draft. Many teams and expert view this as a top 6–8 player draft, which gives us great bargaining power going into the night. We also have the 25th, 33rd, and 35th picks which opens up a lot of avenues for potential trades. Jeff Weltman our new President of Basketball Operations has stated that bringing in four rookies is not Option A for us.

When you enter a draft, you usually go in with one of two distinct strategies with the lottery; 1) draft for need or 2) draft best player available. Drafting for need is rare and usually reserved for teams gifted with secondary picks or good teams with lottery luck from traded picks. The Magic don’t have either (as of now), so we’re in draft best player available mode. So with that…let build our Big Board!

The Big Board

  1. Markelle Fultz (PG) — I love his size and ability to play either Guard position. He’s got a very fluid tempo to his game. He’s a 3 way scorer that also shows an interest on defense. I think he’s as close to a sure thing in this draft as you can get. Comparable: Baron Davis, James Harden
  2. Josh Jackson (SF) — I love me some Josh Jackson. He’s relentless on defense, has great size/strength, and has shown a decent offensive game. If he can further expand his offensive game, he’ll be a superstar. Comparable: Andre Iguodala, Kawhi Leonard
  3. Jayson Tatum (SF) — Probably the most refined offensive player in this draft. He’s got a great size for a SF and a high release on his shot that allows him to really get what he wants. If he can improve his 3pt shooting and his defensive commitment, he’ll be amazing. Comparable: Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony
  4. Lonzo Ball (PG) — He’s one of those polarizing players, that I really don’t know how to rate. His on the court play is amazing. He makes his teammates better and brought almost instant success to UCLA. His shot is ugly but it works. Then comes his father, the “brand”, and his love for LA. All big knocks against him. Comparable: Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson
  5. Dennis Smith (PG) — Super athletic 3 way player. He has all of the tools to be a very good PG from day one. He’s engaged on defense and should only get better with more coaching. Question marks about his attitude and prior ACL injury are what keep him from being a top pick. Comparable: Eric Bledsoe, Steve Francis
  6. Jonathan Isaac (F) — Raw, lengthy, super athletic wing. Size of a PF/C but plays like a guard. He has that scary word attached to him….potential. He’s kind of passive right now on offense. If he can assert himself more, I think he’ll be an All-Star. Comparable: Rashard Lewis, Giannis Antetokounmpo
  7. De’Aaron Fox (PG) — Lightning fast, tenacious defender, and loads of potential. His game to me is a little rough around the edges. He struggles to use his off hand at the rim, shot is inconsistent, and gambles a lot on deffense. If he cleans those things up, he’s going to be a very good player. Comparable: Dennis Schroeder, John Wall
  8. Malik Monk (SG) — Malik has a lot of things going for him. He’s a deadly shooter and super athletic, exactly what you want in today’s NBA. However, his size is going to be his achilles heel. Will he be able to guard NBA SG? Will he be able to finish at the rim? Comparable: JR Smith, Ray Allen
  9. Zach Collins (C) — Athletic big man that can run the floor, finish in transition, defend the rim, and shoot 3’s. There is a lot to like. Cautionary side points to his lack of playing time at Gonzaga and his thin frame. Definitely will need some time to put on NBA weight and get more reps. Comparable: Myles Turner, (skinny) Marc Gasol
  10. Lauri Markkanen (PF) — Sweet shooting big man that has a really diverse offensive game. He plays well in space and use his size extremely well to get his shot off. I just didn’t see enough on the defensive end to totally fall in love with him. If he can grow that part of his game, he’ll be an absolute beast. Comparable: Ryan Anderson, Kristaps Porzingis, Dirk Nowitzki
  11. John Collins (C) — He was the most efficient college player from last year in the draft. He can dominate the post on both ends and runs the floor extremely well. I label him as a center but his size is more in line with PF which brings up his biggest issue. Fit. Can you get by with him as your lone big? Comparable: Maurice Speights, David West
  12. Luke Kennard (SG) — A sharp shooting Dukie…seems like a tradition. He has a little more to his game than just catch and shoot. He can put it on the floor, finishes well at the rim, and showcases a high BBall IQ. Defense and athleticism will be a concern. Comparable: JJ Reddick, Jeff Hornacek
  13. Frank Ntilikina (PG) — Tall, lanky European. There is always a level of unknown with these guys. The intangibles are there; great size, speed, length. You just don’t know how it will work on the court. NBA competition is so much different, some rise up, other falter. Comparable: Dante Exum, Shawn Livingston
  14. Donovan Mitchell (G) — Donovan is intresting. He’s a strong and super gritty guard. He’s good at both positions but doesn’t do either well enough to shine. Because he’s somewhat position-less he may be more of a super sub oppose to an every day starter. Comparable: Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley

There is a lot to like about this years lottery. It is filled with real star potential at a variety of positions. You can see why so many teams are jockeying for extra picks. I’ve had a hard time narrowing on a single player myself, which is why I’m not upset about being #6 this year. You allow the top of the draft to force a good player your way. Some teams may deviate and draft for need (Celtics, Kings) and force a very good prospect down.

I do think it is safe to assume Fultz (PHI), Ball (LAL), and Jackson (BOS) will be gone by our pick. So with that assumption, I think we can narrow down a group of Tatum, Smith, Isaac, and Fox. PHO sitting at 4 is hard to guage. They have two solid PGs on roster but they keep getting Fox attached to their slot along with SAC at 5. Fox makes a lot of sense in SAC. They’ve been searching for a PG for years and won’t have a better chance to snag one than this draft. So Fox getting out of the top 5 seems unlikely. Narrowing our group now down to Tatum, Smith, and Isaac.

Tatum has a great fit for our team. He could be an instant impact player and go to scorer. You can play him alongside Aaron Gordon allowing each player to support the other players weakness. Tatum also takes pressure off of the other players that are currently trying to do more than their abilities allow. Vucevic no longer has to carry the scoring load. Elfrid can be more of a facilitator than a scorer. Fournier can solely focus on outside shooting.

Smith has that amazing athletic ability along with great scoring ability that we seemed to lack at PG. I like Elfrid but I can’t be blind to the chance to get better at that position. I have the confidence that Smith will be a solid player for us I just also have concern about then wasting a player like Elfrid while not getting better on the wing. Taking Smith requires secondary moves. If those are in place, great, if not, I’m not sure we’ll be a drastically better team.

Isaac is the most scary of all our possible selections. The word “potential” will get you GM of the year or will get you fired. Is our fan base ready for a guy that could take 3–4 years to turn the corner? I don’t think so. So I only take Isaac if you think you can groom him quickly. If the best player available still needs 4 years to pan out, is he really the best player available? Is there a time limit to nurturing talent? All of these questions in this assessment is why Isaac is so scary.

That’s a lot of noise…..so who do we take?

Easy answer is Tatum. We hope SAC or PHO reach and gift us with our leading scorer….however, odds of that happening are on the slim side. So Smith or Isaac….Isaac or Smith. Under the clock, I take Jonathan Isaac. This is the exact opposite of what you’re suppose to do. I select need over best player available according to my board. Why? I still believe in this team…a little…and I also don’t believe in our ability to upgrade our other roster spots through FA or trade. The difference in Isaac and Smith is minimal in my eyes, so take the gamble on the kid that plays the position we need most. If Elfrid did not become a tripple-double threat at the end of last season my view would probably be different. Talent is important, but I put an almost equal weight to roster balance. Elfrid is good enough at PG. Isaac takes us to the next level at SF.

What about these other picks?

Oh yeah, we have like…..three more picks in this draft. Three quality picks. I 100% expect us to try to package all 3 or some of them along with a player to move into the lower part of the lottery. We’ve worked out Kennard, Mitchell, and Zach Collins…..that’s a lot of smoke. SAC at 10 seems like an obvious target. DET has also rumored to be willing to trade out of the draft. I welcome a move that could add one of those 3 guys. Each would give us much needed bench depth and all could easily find their way into the starting lineup with time.

Trading is easier said than done. So if we are stuck with the picks here are a number of guys I like. All of these guys I could see getting at 25 all the way to 35. The draft from pick 20–40 gets really muddy.

(Ordered from most desired to least desired)

  1. TJ Leaf (PF)
  2. Jawuan Evans (PG)
  3. Semi Ojeleye (SF)
  4. OG Anunoboy (SF)
  5. Harry Giles (C)
  6. Justin Jackson (F)
  7. Jordan Bell (PF)
  8. Frank Jackson (G)
  9. Frank Mason III (PG)
  10. Ike Anigbogu (C)