With the Draft tonight at 7pm sharp, teams are now crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s on who they are going to pick this year. With that being said, this is still a stressful decision that teams can change their mind on as frequently as humanly possible. We always hear those famous stories about a general manager changing their mind while on the clock. That makes for good drama, however, predicting who teams will draft is even better. Here is the official ATB News 2017 NBA Mock draft for the top 15 picks.
1. Philadelphia 76ers select Markelle Fultz (PG/ Washington)
This was basically a done deal ever since the 76ers acquired the first pick of the 2017 draft from the Celtics. Fultz has quickly become the consensus #1 pick after his wonderful season at Washington went largely unnoticed. However at 6’4, Fultz showed the ability to fill the cup and realistically that is what the sixers need. I have this theory that they would like Ben Simmons to be the distributor and Fultz to only focus on scoring and defense. This could work to the 76ers advantage.
2. Los Angeles Lakers select Lonzo Ball (PG/ UCLA)
Now I do believe that they Lakers are not entirely sold on Lonzo Ball, however, this is probably the safest pick for the Lakers. With the trading of D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers need a point guard with D’Angelo Russell’s skillset… just not D’Angelo himself. Keep in mind that the Lakers did not trade Russell because he is a bad basketball player but because of the locker room issues he was causing. Lonzo Ball best fits D’Angelo Russell’s abilities in this draft except has a three point shot. Ball has great court vision, can rebound and is a good defender. Now in terms of the locker room dynamics, Ball could or could not be an issue. Ball’s father LaVar could be a problem, however, LaVar is not Lonzo and I think that is the approach the Lakers will take here.
3. Boston Celtics select Josh Jackson (SF/ Kansas)
Now a lot of people thought the Celtics were crazy for trading the first overall pick, however, it makes sense. The Celtics already have a premier point guard and do not want the pressure of drafting a guy who is not a fit for their team. Know who I think the Celtics should take and who I think the Celtics will take are two different things. The Celtics need a big man that can shoot. The reason why is the Celtics need a big man who can be an upgrade from Amir Johnson. Who the Celtics will take is Josh Jackson because he is a great defender at the small forward position. Now this means that the Celtics will not get better from three point land but if Jackson turns into a serviceable shooter than this pick can work for the Celtics.
4. Phoenix Suns select Jayson Tatum (SF/ Duke)
The Suns need a serviceable small forward and Tatum has the potential to give them that. Tatum has the potential to be a good to elite scorer in this league with his shot. That will compliment Drew Bledsoe’s slashing well.
5. Sacramento Kings select De’Aaron Fox (PG/ Kentucky)
I think it would be wise for Sacramento basically transform into ‘Kentucky West’ and pick up both De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk in this draft. The reason why is because Sacramento needs a complete reset at the point guard and shooting guard position. It is not that the kings are bad at this position, but the Kings are middling in this position and need to develop some top level point guards and shooting guards. I know for this organization that is asking a lot/ However, one thing that might help is getting two guys at those positions who know and push each other like De’Aaron fox and Malik Monk.
6. Orlando Magic select Jonathan Isaac (SF/PF/ Florida State)
With Ibaka gone, it was clear the magic need a reliable two way PF. With potentially no chance of acquiring a top tier power forward through free agency, the Magic need to address this need through draft. Isaac will give the Magic good defense and has shown the ability to score in different ways.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves select Dennis Smith (PG/ NC State)
I know it has only been one year but I do not think the Kris Dunn Experiment worked out well in Minnesota. In an average of 17.1 minutes per game, Dunn averaged 3.8 points per game, 2.4 assists on 37% shooting and was a 61% free throw shooter. Now Dunn could very improve, however, it is probably in the Wolves interests to move on and pick up Dennis Smith. Now Dennis Smith is a PG who cannot stay consistent but he does understand the concept of trying to get to the free throw line and that is transferable.
8. New York Knicks select Lauri Markkanen (PF/ Arizona)
Kristaps Porzingis and Phil Jackson are making it clear that Porzingis does not want to play in New York, which means they need a guy at the Power Forward or Centre position. Also it would be preferable if that big man had similar skills to Porzingis. Thus, the Knicks would probably be looking towards drafting ‘Porzingis lite’ Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish seven footer has a great shot, solid handles for a man his size and is not soft around the paint. Now he is not anywhere near the defender Porzingis is but he can potentially be a very nice replacement for Porzingis down the road.
9. Dallas Mavericks select Frank Ntilikina (PG/ Strasbourg IG)
I do not think this is a pick that Dallas will make because it suits Dallas’ needs but because Frank Ntilikina has a lot of upside. At only 18 years old, he has already shown the ability to handle the rigors of a pro league and shoot the lights out at that. Also he is extremely athletic, good passer and is a willing defender.
10. Sacramento Kings select Malik Monk (SG/PG/ Kentucky)
Now a small part of me doubts that Monk will still be on the board by the time #10 comes in. However, in a perfect world for Sacramento, he will be. Like I said, Sacramento has a good opportunity to push the reset button on the PG and SG position and set themselves up really well for the future
11. Charlotte Hornets Select Donavan Mitchell (SG/ Louisville)
Kemba Walker needs some help from the SG position. Now Mitchell shoots a lot, almost too much for his own good. However, if he can refine his game at the next level then I do not see why he would not be able to form a solid duo with Kemba Walker.
12. Detroit Pistons select Luke Kennard (SG/ Duke)
I think one of the problems with Detroit is that they do not have a good three point percentage as a whole. In theory, that is probably a main reason why slashers on team struggled this year. I say in theory because Stan Van Gundy mercilessly ripped players on his team for their lack of work ethic. With that being said the pistons do need a shooter.
For anyone wondering, the Pistons as a team shot 33% from three which was good for 28th in the league. Kennard should help with bringing that percentage up. Operative word is should because we have seen some guys not able to properly adjust to the NBA three point line. However, if Kennard is able to adjust then he will be a welcome addition to the Detroit Pistons.
13. Denver Nuggets select O.G. Anunoby (SF/ Indiana)
Now injury concerns is probably a big thing in this but let us assume O.G. Anunoby will be relatively healthy for the rest of his career. If that is the case, O.G. could very well be the final piece in the proverbial rebuild puzzle. Not to say that Wilson Chandler is not good at what he does, in fact he is much underrated. However Chandler is 30 and by conventional wisdom, he will decline soon… but not yet. This actually works because it is a perfect situation where O.G. can eased into a team. O.G. can just work on developing into a Wilson Chandler type player. He will even get a year of relative freedom to do so before Nuggets fans expect results. What is even more impressive is that O.G. already looks like a better defender than Chandler. Thus, down the road Anunoby can be a great contributor for the Nuggets.
14. Miami Heat Select John Collins (PF/ Wake Forest)
I think having a guy like Collins, who is an energy guy, helps for the Heat. The Miami Heat have some good talents in ‘the Dragon’ Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside but they need a guy who just plays hard. John Collins has a great motor, plays aggressive and can be a Tristan Thompson like player for an already talented team.
15. The Portland Trailblazers select Zach Collins (C/ Gonzaga)
I think if anyone is going to take a chance on Collins, it will be the Blazers. I think it is safe to say that the Festus Ezeli experiment in Portland is already shaping up to be a failure, as he did not play a minute for the Trailblazers last season. Now Granted, Ezeli may rebound from his knee injury quite nicely. However, while unfortunate, he will probably not be the same player he once was. Also the player he once was is a marginal player at best. Enter Zach Collins. Collins can be groomed to be the ‘third guy’ in Portland and may even be a good player for Portland down the road. Do not get me wrong, Collins will need a lot of development but Portland will take a chance on him.