Last time I reviewed the Top 10 Lottery Prospects of the 2017 NBA Draft was way back in January. Since then much has changed – we’ve had the NCAA March Madness Tourney (Xander is one happy Tar Heel), as well as the NBA’s annual tankapalooza for the best odds of achieving the top pick in the draft.
With the lottery tiebreakers done (tough break Knicks fans) and a record 182 early entrants into the NBA Draft, it’s time to do our first official mock draft for this year’s lottery (picks 1 through 14).
Boston, you’re on the clock.
1. BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN)
Odds to win: 25.0%
Team needs: PF, Depth
Analysis: The Celtics biggest team needs are not going to be met in this Draft, however what a boon for a team that got the #1 seed in the East to have this asset. The best talents in this draft are PG’s, and while they do have a great one in Isaiah Thomas, he’s an impending free agent in 2018 and a considerable defensive liability. Do they want to pay him the HUGE dollars he’s going to command? The Celtics will be tempted by Lonzo Ball’s ability to play both guard spots. They may also be tempted by Josh Jackson and his “do it all” game….but in the end will pick the best pure talent in the draft. That player is Markelle Fultz – the dynamic PG from Washington (coincidentally, also Thomas’ alma mater). Fultz has the size, shooting ability, finishing touch and defensive tools to be a star – it’ll be interesting to see if Boston holds him, or trades him for a star to contend with their current roster.
With the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select….Markelle Fultz, from Washington University.
2. PHOENIX SUNS
Odds to win: 19.9%
Team needs: SF, C, Depth
Analysis: This will be a tough call for Phoenix. Do they go with Lonzo Ball, the best passer in the NCAA, who could form a big back-court with budding star Devin Booker? Or do they go with Josh Jackson, the star SF for Kansas that has just about everything you want other than a reliable jumper? Jackson’s stock rose considerably in the second half of the season, as he flashed all the tools that made him such a highly rated high school recruit. Jackson does come with a couple character question marks, but given the hole at SF, I’ll go with him as the Suns pick, who they’ll be hoping to mold into The Matrix 2.0.
With the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select….Josh Jackson, from Kansas University.
3. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Odds to win: 15.6%
Team needs: SG, C, Depth
Analysis: Is there a more Magic Johnson pick than Lonzo Ball? The kid from Chino has outwardly spoken of his desire and preference to be a Laker, and if the Lakers retain a Top 3 pick in this draft – Ball gets his wish. Ball gives the Lakers another shooter, and the unconventional back-court of Ball and Russell will be very interesting viewing. Do they elevate each other’s game, or hurt it? I can’t wait to see LaVar Ball’s ego added to the mess that is the Lakers FO.
With the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select….Lonzo Ball, from the University of California, Los Angeles.
4. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Odds to win: 11.9%
Team needs: PG, SG, SF, Depth
Analysis: The Sixers are adamant that Ben Simmons will be their point guard, including defending the position. Despite the talent at that position in this draft, and the Sixers will consider De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith at this position, I think the Sixers go with the best shooter available as the perfect floor spacer next to Simmons and Embiid. Monk proved he can score from anywhere on the floor, and could be a lethal catch and shoot player next to a generational passer like Simmons, and an elite post presence like Embiid.
With the fourth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select….Malik Monk, from Kentucky University.
5. ORLANDO MAGIC
Odds to win: 8.8%
Team needs: PG, SF, Depth
Analysis: The Magic are all out of tricks, and Hennigan (or should I say, shennanigans) is out of a job. The Magic need to make the most of this pick, and despite the solid season Elfrid Payton had, I feel the Magic are likely to deal him and go with a PG in this draft. There are a couple of options on the board, highest being Dennis Smith Jr or De’Aaron Fox. Fox had a HUGE game vs Ball’s Bruins, but his weaknesses (a shoddy jumper) are very Paytonesque. Smith Jr’s stock is down based on no NCAA Tourney play, but he’d be a fantastic piece for Orlando to rebuild around. Highly explosive and a capable shooter, Smith could be the breath of fresh air this franchise needs badly.
With the fifth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select….Dennis Smith Jr, from North Carolina State University.
6. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Odds to win: 5.4%
Team needs: SG, PF, Depth
Analysis: The Wolves could go in a number of directions here. After Ricky Rubio looked on the outer, he bounced back with an incredible 2nd half of the season once LaVine went down to further cloud their future back-court. Do they go with Fox, ANOTHER Point Guard who can’t shoot (after drafting Kris Dunn last year), or do they draft Jayson Tatum – the highly rated combo forward with an advanced offensive game? While Thibs would be tempted by Fox’s defensive prowess, Tatum offers too much in a position of need for the Wolves to ignore. He could be an amazing modern NBA front-court partner for Towns.
With the sixth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select….Jayson Tatum, from Duke University.
7. NEW YORK KNICKS
Odds to win: 5.3%
Team needs: Where to begin…PG, SG, SF, C
Analysis: The Knicks are a basket case once again, with PJax managing to alienate not 1, but 2 of their franchise cornerstones. However, they just lucked into some good fortune. With the impending Free Agency of Derrick Rose, the Knicks will shore up their back-court with the addition of De’Aaron Fox, the lightning quick, defensive minded PG that Knicks fans will love. He’ll need time to develop his jump shot, but he’s a great pick at #7 and a terrific long term fit with Porzingis in what Knicks fans can only hope is a brighter future.
With the seventh pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select….De’Aaron Fox, from Kentucky University.
8. SACRAMENTO KINGS
Odds to win: 2.8%
Team needs: PG, SF, Depth
Analysis: The Kings are rebuilding again, and will be annoyed to miss out on one of the top flight PG’s taken a pick earlier. They look to have found their new SG (Buddy Hield) and PF (Skal Labissiere) in last year’s draft, so will look to find a replacement for the injured (and Free Agent) Rudy Gay at the SF/PF. They may be tempted by Lauri Markannen, however given the long term rebuild time horizon, the Kings will look hard at Jonathon Isaac, the 6’10” combo forward from Florida State. They will have to be patient, but Isaac has as high a ceiling as any player in this draft class – once he fills out his frame a little.
With the eighth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select….Jonathon Isaac, from Florida State University.
9. DALLAS MAVERICKS
Odds to win: 1.7%
Team needs: PG, PF, C, Depth
Analysis: Now this would be cool. What better person to inherit a European 7 footer with NBA 3pt range than Rick Carlisle? What better player for Lauri Markannen to learn under than future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki? This is a match made in heaven. The Mavs would love one of the PG’s to fall through the cracks, and depending on their view on Nerlens Noel – they might also need a C. However, my money is that if Markannen is on the board you can just about lock this one in.
With the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select….Lauri Markannen, from Finland and Arizona University.
10. SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA NEW ORLEANS)
Odds to win: 1.1%
Team needs: PG, SF, Depth
Analysis: The Kings have their second pick in the lottery due to the Boogie Cousins trade. Having just taken their SF of the future in Isaac, the Kings likely look at the next best available PG on the board. That leaves them with international man of mystery Frank Ntilikina, the 6’5″ French guard with a reported 7″ wingspan. Ntilikina has the tools to be a defensive pest, but is quite raw. He’ll have plenty of playing time and opportunity in Sacramento.
With the tenth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select….Frank Ntilikina, from France and Strasbourg (BEL).
11. CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Odds to win: 0.8%
Team needs: PF, Depth
Analysis: The Hornets are in a weird spot. They’ve got the roster to be in the playoffs, but were disappointing this season. There are no huge, obvious holes in this team outside of their lack of star power and depth. Given Michael Jordan is the owner, the Hornets will have a really hard time passing on recently crowned National Champion Justin Jackson out of North Carolina. Jackson is a SF with NBA range, a nice overall feel for the game that could see him take over fellow former Tar Heel, Marvin Williams, in a year or two at the 3 or 4 spot.
With the eleventh pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select….Justin Jackson, from the University of North Carolina.
12. DETROIT PISTONS
Odds to win: 0.7%
Team needs: PG, SG, PF
Analysis: Not much went right for the Pistons in Season 16/17. SVG benched Reggie Jackson and couldn’t find a taker for his albatross of a contract, Andre Drummond regressed and they had few consistent players. With question marks over their motor (pun intended), I feel the Pistons go for a player like Zach Collins, the 7″ Freshman PF/C out of Gonzaga who had a terrific tourney. A polished offensive player with shooting range, Collins could be a solid combo with Drummond in time – or his replacement if he doesn’t pull his finger out.
With the twelfth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select….Zach Collins, from Gonzaga University.
13. DENVER NUGGETS
Odds to win: 0.6%
Team needs: PG, SF, PF, Depth
Analysis: The Nuggets experimented with a back-court of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris towards the end of last season, and may choose to go that way again. After dumping Nurkic for Plumlee, the question remains whether they intend on paying Plum, or Gallinari for that matter. Given the Nuggets are a deep team, they may be prepared to wait for OG Anunoby to fully recover from his torn ACL suffered in January this year. Anunoby was a projected Top 10 pick, and the Nuggets might go for value and hope he can recover – as he would provide the perimeter defence this team needs, and potential to go small, given he has a reported 7″6′ wingspan!
With the thirteenth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets select….OG Anunoby, from the University of Indiana.
14. MIAMI HEAT
Odds to win: 0.5%
Team needs: SG, PF, Depth
Analysis: The Heat would’ve likely been hoping one of Collins or Anunoby slipped through, as both would fill needs. However, Pat Riley did spend some time watching UCLA earlier this season – where he would’ve come away impressed with TJ Leaf’s scoring prowess and surprising athletic ability. Leaf fills a need for Miami at the 4 spot and provides some insurance if James Johnson or Luke Babbitt don’t return. Miami likely will also look hard at a couple other front-court players in Harry Giles or Jarret Allen, if either are available at the pick.
With the fourteenth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat select….TJ Leaf, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
There you have it, our first lotto mock draft of the off-season. Stay tuned for our official post lottery mock draft over the next few weeks, as we’ll know the final draft order on the 16th May!