With the 2017 NBA Draft is set to take place this evening, here’s one projection of how the first round of the draft could unfold. This mock draft combines the most recent intelligence we’re hearing about what teams are looking to do in the draft, while matching the best players available on the board with each team’s needs and picks.
1. Philadelphia (from Brooklyn via Boston): Markelle Fultz, Guard, University of Washington — Philadelphia’s ability to turn all their accumulated assets into the most coveted player in this year’s draft was absolutely brilliant. Markelle Fultz will be a perfect addition to the 76ers’ young nucleus of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric, providing the shooting and offensive playmaking skills that was sorely needed.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Guard, UCLA — Even though Lonzo Ball’s father took much of the enjoyment out of this pairing (through his fame-mongering ways), this pick simply made too much sense, every since the Lakers finished second in the Draft Lottery. Ball is the type of offensive creator that this team simply didn’t — and still doesn’t — have.
3. Boston Celtics (from Philadelphia): Jayson Tatum, Forward, Duke University — All eyes will be on Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge as he makes this pick, considering many people believe Boston got “the short end” of their deal with Philadelphia. Jayson Tatum is a polished scorer who’s ready to contribute right away, which is perfect for a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, Forward, University of Kansas — Instead of further clogging up a backcourt that’s already got a few too many players, the Suns could add Josh Jackson and immediately slot him in the starting lineup. He could very well be the best two-way player in this draft, helping a team that finished dead last in defense last year.
5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Guard, University of Kentucky — It’s not much of a secret that the braintrust of the Sacramento Kings (which sounds more and more like an oxymoron) really covets De’Aaron Fox. There’s also a growing belief among many observers that Fox could end up being the very best player to come out of this draft.
6. Orlando Magic — Jonathan Isaac, Forward, Florida State University — Look at the lineup that John Hammond, the new General Manager of the Magic, built at his previous stop in Milwaukee. It was filled with long, athletic freaks. That fits the description of Jonathan Isaac perfectly.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen, Forward, Univeristy of Arizona — Even though Minnesota already has Karl-Anthony Towns listed as their power forward, Lauri Markkanen would come in and play the Stretch-4 position if/when Minnesota went to a “small ball” lineup. In other words, he’d provide yet another scoring option in a lineup that’s a bit short on scorers.
8. New York Knicks: Malik Monk, Guard, University of Kentucky — Plain and simple, the New York Knicks need somebody who can help bring some excitement back to Madison Square Garden. Their sub-mediocre play and dysfunctional front office has zapped Knicks fans of hope. Malik Monk is perhaps the most dynamic offensive weapon in this draft, whom New York fans would fall in love with.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, Guard, France — There’s a good chance the Mavericks trade this pick sometime leading up to the draft. But if they don’t, Frank Ntilikina will be their guy. They’ve already began building a relationship with him, and feel he’s a guy that they can build their future on.
10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans): Justin Jackson, Forward, University of North Carolina — If the Kings can get their starting point guard situation fixed with the 5th overall pick, then they could move on to filling the hole that Rudy Gay will leave in their lineup. Justin Jackson’s scoring ability, basketball IQ, and winning pedigree would be a welcome addition to this young and inconsistent Kings team.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, Guard, Louisville — More than anything else, Charlotte needs someone who can make plays for this team, outside of only Kemba Walker. Donovan Mitchell is a super-athletic combo guard with a lethal slash-and-kick game, and huge upside as a defender (something that Charlotte clearly covets in his picks).
12. Detroit Pistons: Dennis Smith, Guard, North Carolina State University — The Reggie Jackson era hasn’t worked out as many Detroit Fans would’ve hoped. Dennis Smith is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft, given his combination of elite athleticism and offensive firepower.
13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby, Forward, University of Indiana — For a team that allowed the fourth-most points in the NBA last season, a lockdown defender would certainly be a nice addition. Assuming OG Anunoby’s knee checks out (he tore his ACL in January), he’s a player who could legitimately turn into someone who can guard four positions at the NBA level.
14. Miami Heat: Luke Kennard, Guard, Duke University — Luke Kennard is one of those guys who won’t wow you with his athletic prowess, as his best gift is the simple ability to shoot the basketball at a high level. If Miami loses Dion Waiters in free agency, Kennard could help offset the loss of Waiters’ offense.
15. Portland Trailblazers: John Collins, Forward, Wake Forest University — Portland is clearly set at both backcourt positions, and the addition of Jusuf Nurkic midseason gave the team a huge boost. Why not add the athletic John Collins, who continues to develop a game that’s predicated on scoring and defending in the post.
16. Chicago Bulls: Zach Collins, Center, Gonzaga University — Zach Collins is listed as a center, which makes sense considering he’s legitimately seven-feet tall. But he’s athletic and skilled enough to actually play forward, where the Bulls have an acute and immediate need for help.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Semi Ojeleye, Forward, SMU — Imagine what an incredible frontcourt the Bucks could/would have by adding Semi Ojeleye int a group that already includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Thon Maker. His addition would give them a tantalizing ability to either employ big or small lineups in a way that almost no team in the NBA would have.
18. Indiana Pacers: Terrance Ferguson, Guard, Australia — In total honesty, if (or when?) the Pacers trade Paul George, they just need an infusion of young talent at every position outside of Center. Ferguson brings the combination of being an elite shooter and a tremendous defender — both of which they’d miss after George is gone.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, Center, University of Texas — Now that the Hawks have gotten rid of the carcinogenic Dwight Howard, they can start their rebuild by taking someone like Jarrett Allen. He’s a mobile big man that can run, rebound, block, and develop into a reliable option in the pick-and-roll game.
20. Portland Trailblazers (from Memphis): Tyler Lydon, Foward, Syracuse University — Tyler Lydon would provide Portland yet another scoring option to a lineup that already boasts great firepower, but with a rare combination of size (6'10) and athleticism. Think of a better version of Ryan Anderson.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: D.J. Wilson, Forward, Michigan — Oklahoma City’s basketball team is Russell Westbrook’s world, and everyone else is just living in it. That’s how you have to look at that basketball team. So, adding D.J. Wilson, who brings a combination of athleticism and the ability to shoot the ball out to the three point line, would work well in this lineup.
22. Brooklyn Nets (from Washington): Ike Anigbogu, Center, UCLA — Having traded away Brook Lopez, and fully knowing that Timofey Mozgov was basically dumped due to his heinous contract, Brooklyn now has a pretty gaping hole at Center (along with pretty much every other spot on their team). Still, Ike Anigbogu would be a nice building block here.
23. Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, Forward/Center, Germany — There’s no guarantee that the Raptors will retain Serge Ibaka in free agency, as he really didn’t make nearly the impact that Toronto was hoping he would. In which case, taking someone like Hartenstein would make sense for them, as they sorely need more production from their big men.
24. Utah Jazz: TJ Leaf, Foward, UCLA — If Gordon Hayward decides he wants to leave Utah and sign elsewhere as a free agent, then TJ Leaf could come in and at least provide some of that shooting that Utah would miss with Hayward’s (potential) departure. Few people realize that TJ Leaf might’ve been the best scorer on a UCLA team that could see three guys to in the first round of the NBA Draft.
25. Orlando Magic (from Toronto): Harry Giles, Center, Duke University — If Harry Giles were healthy, he would very easily be a top 10 selection in this year’s draft. It’s very difficult to find a player with his pure talent. But, for much of last year, it looked like his road back from tearing the ACL in both knees in recent years still had plenty of steps left. Fully knowing they’re in rebuild mode, the Magic can sit and wait for him to get better, and someday harness his upside.
26. Portland Trailblazers (from Cleveland): Derrick White, Guard, University of Colorado — Derrick White would be a solid reserve for Portland, behind the dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He’s a seasoned player (coming into this draft as a senior) that can shoot the ball, and paly either guard spot.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Brooklyn): Justin Patton, Center, Creighton University — Even though the Lakers got back Brook Lopez in the deal in which they acquired this pick, Lopez is likely a one-year rental, as his contract expires after this season. That would give Justin Patton essentially a “redshirt” year to further develop his game, before the Lakers really need him to fill their hole at Center.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston): Anzejs Pasecniks, Center, Latvia — With this extra pick, the Lakers can take a draft-and-stash guy, so they don’t have to worry about his salary immediately impacting their books as they continue to make salary cap room for the summer of 2018.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Frank Mason, Guard, University of Kansas — If there was a ever a guard who would fit the mold of a player that San Antonio would value, Mason is as much a match as anyone. He’s
a tough, fast, relentless, intelligent, and decorated player.
30. Utah Jazz (from Golden State): Caleb Swanigan, Forward, Purdue University — On a team that’s already one of the toughest in the NBA to score on Swanigan would bring even more all-around toughness to this lineup, also helping them fill that void with the departure of Trevor Booker.