NBA Mock Draft 2017: Back to the future with Lonzo to Lakers and Tatum to Celtics
Forgrave's mock: Lakers take a point guard at No. 2, and it's exactly who we first thought it was
Well this got interesting pretty quick. A week ago we thought we had a pretty good idea of how this first round -- or at least how this lottery - was going to go down. Markelle Fultz to the Celtics, Lonzo Ball to the Lakers, Josh Jackson to the Sixers, etc.
Then the Sixers and Celtics flipped picks.
Since then, it's as if NBA front offices have all gotten bit by the trade bug.
By the time you read this, Paul George may be on his way elsewhere. Jimmy Butler too. I have a feeling picks are going to be flying all over the place Thursday night in Brooklyn as franchises attempt to get an impact player in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
Expect plenty more fireworks Thursday night. With the 2017 NBA draft, nothing is set in stone until Adam Silver makes it so.
Reid Forgrave's NBA Mock Draft
1. Â 76ers via trade with Celtics
Is Fultz "can't-miss"? He's as close as there is to can't-miss as there is in this draft, which is loaded with great talents but devoid of a Karl-Anthony Towns-like, Kyrie Irving-like, LeBron James-like transcendent and surefire superstar. It remains to be seen how Fultz and Ben Simmons, both players who flourish with the ball in their hands, will mesh on the court. But whatever. The Sixers are going with the player with the highest ceiling, and building a team that could be a juggernaut in the future. Fultz does it all: He has phenomenal size for an NBA guard, a diverse set of offensive weapons and elite athleticism. Yes, I wonder about his decision to play his one-and-done season at a floundering collegiate program like Washington, and winning only nine games there. But the talent? Yeah, it's undeniable.
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
After all the drama of the past few months (see: subpar Lakers workout, Josh Jackson rumors, LaVar being LaVar), it turns out that Ball ends up going to the place where we expected him to go all along. I worry about the pressure on his shoulders of playing for Showtime in his hometown. The better career path may be cutting the cord and going to, say, Phoenix, or Sacramento. But Ball's potential, and with Magic Johnson as a mentor, is too perfect to pass up.
3. Celtics via trade with 76ers
As I, Jayson Tatum fits the Celtics to a T. Fultz does not. It may prove to be the smart decision, seeing that the Celtics have plenty of flexibility in the near future. (If things break the right way, there's a chance the Celtics could have high lottery picks from the Nets and Lakers next season.) Tatum is a natural scorer from all three levels, the type of player the Celtics need. Plus he has one of the more mature heads on his shoulders of any teenager I've met. He'll be able to step in and make an immediate difference
De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
A tough decision for the Suns. Taking Fox means eventually jettisoning Eric Bledsoe. But Fox's ceiling is higher than Bledsoe's, and this extraordinarily young, extraordinarily talented team won't be playing to win next year anyway. They're playing for the future. And adding this speedy, intelligent two-way point guard -- someonein this stacked point guard draft -- will put the Suns on that track.
The easiest pick of the draft. There is a near-consensus that the top five players in this draft are in a tier of their own (I'd add Florida State's Jonathan Isaac to that mix). The Kings just have to take whoever falls to them. Jackson is a great athlete, a get-after-it two-way player who'll play with as much energy as anyone on the court. The shot isn't great, but it's good enough.
Hey! I got a nickname for Markannen! Let's call him "The Whooper Swan." Because that's Finland's national bird, and Markannen is kind of like a Finnish (Larry) Bird (this, by the way, is why I don't work in marketing). Anyway: I think Markannen could be a near-star in this league, a Dirk Nowitzki Lite. He's one of the top 3-point-shooting 7-footers in college basketball history, and was one of the most efficient scorers in all of college basketball last season. The Magic need everything. Markannen is the type of unique package you can't pass up on. He's versatile on offense, mobile on defense and has great instincts.
A home-run swing for a team that's one young star away from making some serious noise in the Western Conference. I loooove Isaac's potential. Think it's the highest ceiling in this draft, in fact. He's 6-11 and, according to his college coach, still may be growing. A late growth spurt meant that he grew up playing guard positions before he shot up in height, a la Anthony Davis. Coaches have raved about his unselfishness and work ethic. Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, a onetime NBA coach, told me Isaac has one of the best basketball IQs he has ever seen. And a near-seven-foot athlete who can shoot, pass and blocks shots is a huge asset in today's NBA. While his offensive game is far from complete and he needs to pack muscle onto his thin frame, Isaac is a helluva shooter for a big man, making 34.8 percent of his 3s and shooting 78 percent from the free-throw line. "He has the versatility to be whatever a coach wants him to be," Hamilton told me. If this pick hits, the Timberwolves will be contending in the West in a few years. And I think it'll hit.
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The most electric player in this draft playing at Madison Square Garden? Gimme that. Monk is a superb athlete and a fantastic (if streaky) shooter. Monk can light it up from deep like no other player in this draft. I can't wait for him to go on one of his signature three-minute tears at MSG, where he's the only guy who matters on the court. In practices you can see how his work ethic ends up paying off in games. Yes, he's incredibly streaky, and yes, his size -- 6-feet-3 -- is more the size of a point guard than an NBA two. But Monk is an exciting young player who, paired with Kristaps Porzingis, breathes more life into a struggling franchise.
Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
A high-IQ basketball player with remarkable perimeter defensive skills and great game management talents -- and I don't mean that as faint praise. Ntilikina's physical profile -- 6-5 with long arms -- is impressive for a point guard. In time, he'll learn to be more aggressive, which is something he needs to do.
Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
The Kings, once again, have an easy decision: Take whoever falls to you. The Kings' fifth pick may be the end of the elite tier, and the 10th pick is the end of that next tier, I believe. We'll see if they end up shopping these two picks to move up, as has been rumored, but that makes no sense to me (unless they're swinging some deal to get Fultz, which is highly unlikely). Smith is a bit small but an absolute stick of athletic dynamite on the court. His inconsistency might make teams worried. In January, he scored 32 points in a stunning upset at Duke, but in his last collegiate game he had seven points and four turnovers.
Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
I have long had an unabashed love of Kennard's game (every mock needs to have a hipster element: "I thought this was cool before everyone else thought this was cool"). As a shooter Kennard was one of the best in college basketball last season, but to pigeon hole him as only a shooter is a mistake. Kennard is an all-around scorer who leverages the respect teams give his outside shot to score effectively from all three levels. He's a surprisingly good ball-handler who, when he doesn't have the ball, knows how to move well off it. Will he be able to defend at the next level? I don't know. I mean, he's not going to lock down Russell Westbrook, but who can? I believe that Kennard will be competent as a team defender and more than make up for it on the offensive end as a J.J. Redick-like presence. He might be the steal of the draft.
Mitchell is an absurd athlete with terrific measurements, as evidenced by his showing at the NBA combine. His wingspan is 8.75 inches longer than his height (which at just shy of 6-2 is subpar for an NBA shooting guard). He is speedy and an incredible leaper, and he was Rick Pitino's most-trusted player last season at Louisville. With improved 3-point shooting his sophomore year (35.4 percent), Mitchell can score from anywhere he wants. Yes, there's the hero-ball element to Mitchell that NBA coaches will have to pound out of him. But the dude is a high-motor both-ends-of-the-floor type of guy.
Long and lanky with a high IQ and a variety of offensive tools, Jackson came back for a junior season determined to improve the parts of his game NBA scouts told him were lacking. And he did. He improved his 3-point shooting to a respectable 37 percent, which was key in showing NBA teams he can play the three in the league. A star? No. A reliable NBA starter if he can add strength to his lanky frame? Absolutely. Jackson took a while a while to develop into a star at the college level -- he was a higher-ranked recruit than future one-and-doners Karl-Anthony Towns, Justise Winslow and D'Angelo Russell -- but by his junior season, that's exactly what he was, the most talented player on a title-winning UNC team.
Christmas in June for Pat Riley's team, as Collins falls to 14. The young big man is just solid, solid, solid. We got to see Zach Collins' best college game on the biggest of stages when he dropped 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks on South Carolina in the Final Four. While he'll never be called spectacular, there are few holes in Collins' game. He combines size and mobility, touch and strength. If Collins can stretch his range and become a consistent NBA 3-point shooter, he could be a very impactful player. Not a star, but you'll have a great chance at getting a very solid all-around two-way big man, and that's a valuable thing.
15. Trail Blazers
Harry Giles, PF, Duke
A surprise pick here. With three first-round picks the Trail Blazers can afford to take a home-run swing on the biggest risk-reward pick since Joel Embiid. And I don't believe Giles will last until 20, when the Trail Blazers have their next selection. Leading into Giles' senior year of high school, he was one of the top three or so talents in this stacked draft -- then he tore an ACL for the second time. Giles is a gifted athlete who talent evaluators would mention in the same breath as Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett. If you watched Giles last season, you barely caught glimpses of that as he recovered from two knee injuries over the past calendar year. But he was once that good. The risk here is huge; so is the reward. He could become an All-Star, or he could never see a minute of NBA playing time.
Also a risky pick, as Anunoby's injury during his senior year might keep him off the floor during his rookie season. But if his health improves he could be the Draymond Green of this draft. Yes, he is a bit of a tweener, but that's not nearly as much a negative in the NBA as it was even five years ago. He can guard multiple positions. He's a great athlete. He plays bigger than his height (6-7 with a 7-2 1/2 wingspan). His offensive skills are very much a work in progress. But there aren't any sure things at this point of the draft anyway.
The size is there. The potential is there. I worry about the shooting (56 percent from the free-throw line in college) and the lack of offensive tools. But a college coach who recruited Allen raved to me about his focus and work ethic. He's not the type of kid who will get in trouble, instead just staying in the gym and working on his game. At the very least he can be an intimidating, explosive low-post presence. That's a pretty nice floor.
Guess who had the highest player efficiency rating in college basketball last season? It was Collins, who was incredibly efficient around the rim. Collins made 62 percent of his shots, and he was one of the best rebounders in college hoops, especially on the offensive glass. And he's incredible at getting fouled, drawing more fouls per 40 minutes than any projected draftee. He's not effective away from the basket, but remember: Collins made a huge jump from his freshman to his sophomore season under coach Danny Manning. He's a coachable player motivated to improve his game. Can he play alongside Myles Turner? I believe so.
Ike Anigbogu, PF, UCLA
Anigbogu is a project, especially on offense. He's an 18-year-old freshman who plays with energy -- a tall, strong and athletic big man with long arms and loads of potential. He has a long way to go to develop his offensive game, but being so young and such a remarkable raw talent means Anigbogu still has lots of room to grow, both physically and as a player. He has an ideal frame, athleticism and energy for a high-level shot-blocking, rebounding, dunking NBA center.
20. Trail Blazers
TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
A tall, white power forward from UCLA who can rebound and make 3s? Wait, I think I've heard this one before. No, Leaf isn't Kevin Love 2.0, but the comparison has some merit. Leaf is the type of guy who will fit on any NBA team, as that 46.8 percent 3-point shooting clip in college would suggest. A safe pick for the Blazers after the risky Giles pick at 15.
Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
Russell Westbrook needs another shooter next to him, and Ferguson has the prettiest shooting stroke in this draft, with length and elite-level athleticism to boot. Ferguson has the tools to become a special wing in the NBA. One scout told me his season playing in Australia against grown men would be a better transition to the NBA for Ferguson than a year in college would have been. If he can become a more dynamic half-court player, Ferguson could be an absolute steal at this point. If not, he could still be a useful 3-and-D wing.
The worst franchise in the NBA doesn't have a pick until No. 22. Rough spot, and the penance for trading away all your draft picks to try and do the win-now thing with aging players. It's a tough place to draft, because at 22 we're long since past sure things and are starting to run out of the risky home-run type of guys. Patton, I believe, is the last home run possibility left (assuming he lasts this late). He is a great athlete for a 7-footer. Though he certainly needs to add some muscle to his thin frame, Patton's offensive versatility and efficiency (he was one of the most efficient shooters in college basketball last season) and shot-blocking skills make me believe there's a high ceiling here. The Nets will have to be patient with him. But it's not like they'll be playing for anything over the next few years anyway.
Peters was one of college basketball's top shooters last season, with a remarkable 60.4 percent true shooting percentage. As the best player in the Horizon League last season, teams ganged up on Peters, so ignore his 36.3 percent from 3-point land and look at his previous two seasons, where he shot 46.6 and 44 percent from three respectively. Is he going to be a star? No. He's far from the "elite NBA athlete" level. But shooting like he does -- and being able to score from all over the court -- means he'll be able to be a productive player in this league for a long time.
Not only is he the most heart-warming story of this draft but "Biggie" also is the most NBA-ready player available late in the first round. He's simply going to outwork everybody on the floor. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. And he knows his role in the NBA. He told me there will always be a place for a rebounder in the NBA. That's where he's going to butter his bread, and he knows it. The questions about his body, size and athleticism are overwrought. He's a winner, pure and simple. Fans should want this inspiring and inspired young man on their squad.
Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Lithuania
A lefty 7-footer, Hartenstein is big and agile, physical on the boards and a guy who gets after it on both ends. It remains to be seen whether he can become an asset on the offensive end aside from crashing the glass and getting putbacks.
26. Trail Blazers
Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
Is he a tight end or a basketball player? Well, if the NBA doesn't work out, the NFL is only a phone call away. Adebayo was one of the most physically imposing players in college basketball last season, and at a cut 6-10 and 250 pounds, he'll be able to come into the league immediately and bang with 10-year veterans down low. He's no creative offensive force, but Adebayo can make a difference on both ends of the court based on sheer size, athleticism and motor. He could easily go eight to 10 spots higher than this.
27. Lakers via trade with Nets
A solid stretch four type, Kuzma is a rare high-ceiling guy who will be available late in the first round. And that's what the Lakers need instead of pieces that fit their needs, because this franchise needs just about everything. Kuzma is an excellent, versatile athlete who doesn't have many glaring holes in his game. His solid offensive performance at the NBA combine opened a lot of eyes about his potential.
Tony Bradley, PF, North Carolina
Bradley is a huge -- 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan, weighing in at 250 pounds -- and physical big man who doesn't shy away from contact. He may need some time in the D-League -- er, the G-League -- before he can make an impact at the NBA level. But if he develops a more refined offensive game, this could turn into a solid pick.
Hart could be the Malcolm Brogdon of this draft, a player who came into college underrecruited, got better and better each of his four collegiate years under a great coach, is full of intangibles, and simply is a winner. If that doesn't sound like a prototypical San Antonio Spur, I don't know what does. He's a high-IQ, hard-working consistent player who can play multiple positions. He can shoot, he can rebound, he can defend. If Hart slips into the second round, he'll be an absolute steal there. He can help a team immediately.
Frank Jackson, SG, Duke
Jackson could add an exciting scoring threat to one of the NBA's most plodding (though efficient) offensive teams. Yes, he's a tweener, and there's plenty of uncertainty around whether he'll fit as a point guard or shooting guard at the next level. But he's a natural scorer, an excellent 3-point shooter and a guy who can flat-out get to the rim.
31. Hornets via trade with Hawks
One of the toughest point guards I've seen at the college level, and perhaps the most underrated point guard in this loaded point guard draft. He was a great do-it-all point guard for his collegiate team, and he'll be able to ably spell Kemba Walker for spurts with the Hornets.
On a team as young as the Suns, the 23-year-old White will be somewhat of a veteran leader despite being a rookie. The most improbable story in this draft, White is a former Division II player who shot up draft boards this season as he was one of four players in college hoops to average 18 points, four assists and four rebounds.
A stretch four who can really shoot, Lydon's offensive versatility will immediately help one of the league's worst 3-point shooting teams.
A steal. Rabb was considered a possible lottery pick after his freshman year. Now, in a tougher draft and after a mediocre sophomore year, Rabb could fall to the second round. He could develop into a solid NBA post player. It will take time.
Frank Mason, PG, Kansas
If you didn't love watching Mason last year, you don't love basketball. He's tough as nails. He has one of the hottest-running motors out there. He's small but explosive, a helluva shooter and, most importantly, an experienced winner. He'd fill a lot of needs for the Magic.
D.J. Wilson, PF/C, Michigan
A near 7-footer who took a while to develop, Wilson projects as a nice stretch-four in the NBA. He can shoot it at a pretty good clip. He is as late of a bloomer as there is in this draft.
Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
A team like the Celtics needs players they can stash overseas, and the 7-2 Pasecniks is a perfect candidate, a 21-year-old center with potential but whose body still needs to fill out.
Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
Big and strong and a fantastic athlete, Ojeleye can do it all offensively. He shot 42.4 percent his final season at SMU. Gotta be honest: I probably have him too low.
Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon
His dynamic play in the NCAA tournament was the main reason Oregon made the Final Four. He's a bouncy and ambitious defender who will develop as an offensive player. A down-and-dirty energy guy is what Philly needs.
Tyler Dorsey, SG, Oregon
The Pelicans traded away Buddy Hield, but Dorsey, who tore it up in the NCAA tournament with a 78 percent true shooting percentage, could give this team the offensive firepower it needs in the backcourt.
41. Hawks via trade with Hornets
An ideal size for an NBA wing, Iwundu can do a lot of things -- defend several positions, feed teammates, run and jump at an elite level.
42. Â Jazz
Jonah Bolden, PF, UCLA
When Bolden came on at UCLA, coaches whispered to me some of those mini-Kevin Durant comparisons we love to throw out there: A near 7-footer who can really shoot it from outside. He's been on the radar for some time, but amazingly, he's only 21 years old and still has time to come into his own.
Motley is another in a long line of underrecruited college players who went to Baylor and, in three or four years, developed into legit NBA players. He's big, he's tough, he just needs to work on his outside shooting.
A big, explosive two-way wing who has some weaknesses -- his 3-point shooting regressed in a major way his senior year -- but has the size and experience to make an immediate impact.
With two second-rounders, the Rockets can afford to pick a guy like Sumner who has first-round potential but is coming off an ACL injury toward the end of last season. Sumner is a shifty, lanky guard who can find holes in defenses.
Dwayne Bacon, G, Florida State
A big, strong wing who can really score. He could become the second-round steal of the draft if he becomes a better defender.
Mathias Lessort, PF, France
Lessort is a great athlete who has a great motor and limited offensive skills. He plays above the rim at an elite level.
Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina
One of my favorite advanced stats sites, ValueAddBasketball.com, had Thornwell as the most valuable player in college basketball last season. So what? Well, this is the same site that had Jimmy Butler as a sleeper coming out of Marquette, and has hit on plenty of other sleepers. The MVP of the SEC who had a phenomenal NCAA tournament, Thornwell is a big, strong, tough player in the Frank Martin mold who can score inside and out. A guy who can come into the league and make an immediate impact.
The sure-handed Morris can be an NBA backup point guard for a decade or more. He's never going to wow you, until you look at his assist-to-turnover ratio and realize the dude never turns the ball over. Basically, the anti-Mudiay.
Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
Jeanne recently was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, which could end the potential first-rounder's career. But with a bevy of second-round picks, the Sixers can take a flier on the Frenchman whose build and game is reminiscent of Rudy Gobert. If there's a 30 percent chance Jeanne will play again, this is a smart pick.
Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon
In a Pac-12 that featured Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, it was Brooks who took home the conference's player of the year award. That means something. He's a strong and versatile scorer who plays with a fire that can help him as well as hurt him.
52.Â Pelicans via trade from Wizards
Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
A steal. The burly Bryant could have been one-and-done but stayed for a sophomore campaign when Indiana really struggled. His elite big man size indicates a high ceiling.
Yes, Brimah struggled his senior season. But remember what he was before then: One of the tallest, longest players in college basketball who was an absolute shot-blocking force. That's the one area of greatest need for one of the worst rebounding and shot-blocking teams in the league. In three of his four collegiate seasons, Brimah ranked in the top six in the country in block percentage.
P.J. Dozier, G, South Carolina
A long and athletic combo guard whose build and game is somewhat reminiscent of Shaun Livingston, Dozier could have used an extra year in college and might have become a mid-first-rounder. The Suns aren't going to win any time soon, so they can be patient and mix Dozier into their young and talented core. His shot needs to improve, but he has the physical attributes for success.
Andrew White, SF, Syracuse
One of the most prolific 3-point shooters in college basketball the past couple years, White logged an insane amount of minutes last season, showing amazing stamina. White is a somewhat one-dimensional player, but that one dimension is incredibly important.
Kornet holds the all-time NCAA record for 3-pointers made by a 7-footer, with 150. He's probably not going to get drafted, and I think that's a mistake in a league where a 7-footer who can shoot is a luxury. He's a competent post defender as well. The Celtics can spread their big man risk on Kornet and Brimah; one of the two will make the roster.
Oliver is a long and strong power forward who can crash the glass and make outside shots. If he proves that his 38.4 percent from 3-point range last season wasn't a fluke, Oliver could prove a steal. Be patient here.
Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga
Solid, solid, solid. Williams-Goss isn't flashy but he doesn't make mistakes, as we saw when he led Gonzaga to the national title game. He can be a great backup NBA point guard who can quarterback a team, rebound the ball at a high level and make shots when needed.
Alpha Kaba, C, France
The big, long Frenchman has the build to make an impact down low as a shot-blocker. It remains to be seen how he will refine his offensive game, but getting into the Spurs' system can only help.
The 60th pick should be called the IT4 Memorial Pick, only used on a speedy sub-6-footer who is an elite scorer but undervalued because of his size. That's Keene in a nutshell. He led college hoops in scoring last year (30 points per game! while averaging 4.9 assists!), and while it's unlikely he actually gets drafted, I'd be thrilled if he gets a shot. What can I say? Two of my favorite players growing up were Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues.
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