The Sixers have officially moved up to the No. 1 overall slot and appear poised to select Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall to combine with Ben Simmons and (a hopefully healthy) Joel Embiid, to create a super team of the future. Beyond that is when things start to get very interesting…
1. Philadelphia 76ers
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 18, 2017
Markelle Fultz – G – Washington
No need to waste time here; the Sixers have long coveted Fultz, for obvious reasons, and they (rightly) felt it was worth one of their bevy of future picks to trade up and secure their number one target. He is the only player who has the size, athleticism, shooting ability, and positional versatility to fit perfectly into their future plans. Danny Ainge may disagree (or think other players are just as good), but Fultz is a future stud, perfectly suited for the modern NBA and the Sixers’ current roster.
Worst Case: Fultz lands somewhere between Shaun Livingston and CJ McCollum: a good, long, versatile offensive player, but one who sort of coasts through without making his mark.
Best Case: Steph Curry + Andre Iguodala morphed into one person. Or John Wall/Bradley Beal, but longer. Or James Harden/Penny Hardaway. There really is no one person he reminds us of; it’s more combinations of multiple different players. The point is, they’re all very, very good.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball – PG – UCLA
Over the past few weeks, the Lakers front office has done a LOT of leaking to suggest that this pick isn’t a done deal, but we still say it gets done. The on-court fit is perfect: the Lakers have a bunch of young players who have potential, but none are leaders on or off the floor and all of them need to play with someone who can get them the ball in the right spot. It also shouldn’t be a problem pairing Ball and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt, as Ball doesn’t need the ball in his hands all the time to be effective, and Russell was always viewed as a combo guard more concerned with scoring than playmaking.
Worst Case: A Ricky Rubio/Rondo type who might lead the league in assists, but not make the All-Star team
Best Case: Jason Kidd with a jumper. Hall-of-Famer.
3. Boston Celtics
Josh Jackson – F – Kansas
While there certainly could be a trade coming as the next shoe to drop – otherwise why would the Celtics be in such a rush to get it done – for now, we can take Danny Ainge at his word: the Celtics liked at least one other player in this draft as much as they like Fultz, so they were happy to pick up an extra asset (that could conceivably turn into the No. 2 overall pick next year and land them a franchise-type player) to move down and take the guy they might have at No. 1 anyway.
Josh Jackson seems like the most likely candidate, although Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox also both seem like Ainge-approved prospects to a certain degree. My guess is that he probably likes Fultz, Ball, Jackson, and Tatum all about the same, and views this deal as acquiring a valuable pick for basically nothing.
Jackson can’t consistently create his own offense off the dribble or reliably knock down jumpers, but the 6’8, 210 lb small forward does pretty much everything else well, including defend, compete, pass, take care of the dirty work, and finish with authority. There is also a lot of evidence to suggest that the future of the NBA is teams full of long two-way wing players who can knock down threes and guard 3-4 positions. The Celtics clearly value that, and if Jackson’s near 50% 3-point percentage over the second half of last year holds anywhere close to true, Jackson may be their ideal player. As a Celtics fan myself, I worry that Jackson’s sub-60 FT% is more indicative of his future as a shooter, and that he will always be a “what if” guy, while Fultz develops into a perennial All-Star.
Worst Case: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but not as bad offensively
Best Case: A bigger, badder version of peak Andre Iguodala
4. Phoenix Suns
De’Aaron Fox – PG – Kentucky
Phoenix is supposedly head-over-heels for Fultz and Ball and would love to move up for either of them. If that’s the case, and the Suns are willing to move forward with a point guard, Fox is the best pick here. Fox is a perfect complement to Booker – perhaps even better than Ball would be, because of his defense – and also the highest upside player left in the draft. At worst, he sits behind Bledsoe for a year and ends up as a feisty two-way player. At best, he develops a reliable outside jumper and becomes an absolute terror as part of a destructive 1-2 punch with Booker.
Worst Case: Elfrid Payton
Best Case: A longer, souped-up Mike Conley
5. Sacramento Kings
Jayson Tatum – F – Duke
Tatum is a younger, better, cheaper, more mature version of Rudy Gay. He is already really good now and possesses a decent amount of upside because of his smooth mid-range stroke that could turn into a deadly three-point weapon and his 7-foot wingspan. The Kings get a highly-skilled player with very little chance of becoming a bust, which is something they desperately need.
Worst Case – A shorter Rudy Gay
Best Case – Paul Pierce/Carmelo Anthony
6. Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac – F – Florida State
Isaac may be our favorite player in the entire draft outside of Fultz and Ball. The Celtics should seriously consider taking him third overall. He’s extremely long and athletic and is already a weapon on defense. He also has a decent looking jump shot. Isaac projects as a stretch four who can shoot threes AND block shots, not to mention the ability to switch against any pick and roll. The only issue with Isaac is that it will take a few years for him to reach his potential. That shouldn’t be a problem for Orlando; everyone knows they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, themselves most of all. What they need are players suited to the modern NBA game, and Isaac fits that to a T. As a bonus, he’s from Florida and went to high school and college there.
Worst Case: Channing Frye with better defense
Best Case: Rashard Lewis combined with a young Serge Ibaka
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
Lauri Markkanen – F/C – Arizona
By all accounts and common sense, the T-Wolves covet Jonathan Isaac most of all. If he stays in the Sunshine State, Markkanen makes the most sense, slotting in as a stretch four right next to Karl Anthony Towns and spelling him as a stretch five off the bench. The downside? If Towns never develops more as a defender, Minnesota will be flayed on defense when the two of them play together. However, if Towns doesn’t develop as a defender, they’re kind of screwed anyway. Worst case, they could find a better defender to play off of Towns in the starting lineup and have Markkanen come off the bench as a terrifying mismatch nightmare. At this point the Timberwolves have to be building for the long-term: an excellent, championship-level 6th or 7th man is a good result, even with the 7th pick in a great draft.
Worst Case – Kelly Olynyk with a higher three-point percentage
Best Case – Dirk…ish
8. New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina – PG – France
God knows what the Knicks will do – no one can predict that shit – but if they’re going to run the triangle offense, the long-armed Ntilikina is clearly the best fit. Dennis Smith may be the most talented, but if Phil Jackson takes him and then proceeds stubbornly to stick with the triangle offense, he is simply incompetent. But I guess we already knew that.
Ntilikina fits perfectly in the triangle because he doesn’t need the ball, can make open threes, and can guard up to four positions. Just accept that you aren’t going to get the Jordan/Kobe part of the triangle with the eighth pick and make a concerted effort to be worse next year without Carmelo for another loaded draft. Be happy that you now have your future center and point guard, and consider all other positions up for grabs.
Worst Case – Dante Exum
Best Case – A taller Chauncey Billups
9. Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith Jr. – PG – NC State
Dennis Smith needs a few things in order to be a successful pro: a great defensive center who can excel in the pick and roll at both ends (both showing against and defending point guards and rolling to the hoop), a few long 3-and-D perimeter guys, and a great coach who excels at tutoring small point guards. Ding, ding, ding!! We have a winner…
Worst Case – Brandon Jennings
Best Case – Damian Lillard/Steve Francis
10. Sacramento Kings
Malik Monk – G – Kentucky
Would it make sense to take Monk when you think Buddy Hield is the next Steph Curry? Maybe not, but neither does taking Zach Collins when you have Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere flashing lots of talent. As we mentioned before, the Kings just need talented players who won’t bust, and Monk fits that criteria. Plus, in today’s NBA, you’re better off having too many wings and guards than too many big guys.
Worst Case: A less prolific Monta Ellis
Best Case: Imagine Steph Curry playing off the ball. Now take 75% of that (still pretty good)
11. Charlotte Hornets
Zach Collins – PF/C – Gonzaga
This is a deep draft, but after No. 11 it becomes very much about “the eye of the beholder.” After Collins, the remaining talent drops a level. Even though he plays a similar position to Frank Kaminsky, Michael Jordan, Rich Cho and company shouldn’t let past draft mistakes affect this year’s showing. Collins is the best combination of need and fit (the same criteria for any team making any pick, in varying proportions) left on the board, and therefore too good to pass up. He runs the floor, sets picks, catches alley-oops, rebounds the ball, can defend smaller players on the pick and roll, and can even shoot threes once in a while. Collins appears more and more like a safe pick and a (relative) steal at No. 11.
Worst Case: Amir Johnson
Best Case: Serge Ibaka before he fell off
12. Detroit Pistons
OG Anunoby – F – Indiana
There isn’t much going well in Detroit these days. They should consider dealing Andre Drummond to Boston and starting over with Boston’s 2018 pick, but either way, their choice here should come down to Anunoby and Donovan Mitchell of Louisville, two freakishly long wing players who should be great on defense and have a chance to be special at both ends. Depending on his physical, Anunoby gets the nod as the bigger, more versatile player. He may play a similar position to Stanley Johnson, but you don’t hold spots in the lineup for guys who average 4.1 PPG. Even if OG takes a year to get healthy, it won’t matter: Detroit just needs talent. Badly.
Worst Case: Al-Farouq Aminu
Best Case: Kawhi Leonard with a much more modest offensive arsenal
13. Denver Nuggets
Harry Giles – F/C – Duke
This is only if his physical looks clear. Putting an athletic beast (once again, if the physical works out and he just needs a year to get right) who can rebound, block shots, and guard the pick and roll right next to Nikola Jokic would be a dream situation for the Nuggets.
If Giles’s physical doesn’t work out, Donovan Mitchell, Ike Anigbogu, and Justin Jackson would all be options.
Worst Case: Out of the league with injuries
Best Case: A less obnoxious Dwight Howard
14. Miami Heat
Donovan Mitchell – G – Lousiville
This guy is 6’3 with shoes and yet somehow has a 6’10 wingspan. He also got a lot of Dwyane Wade comparisons recently at the NBA Combine because of his combination of length, athleticism, and shot-making ability. Neither are pure point guards or great outside shooters, but both play way taller than their height and fill the stat sheet. That’s good enough for the Godfather himself, Pat Riley.
Worst Case: Terry Rozier
Best Case: A slightly lesser D-Wade