Mock drafts should be fun. Look man -- I understand the desire to know what is most likely to happen on draft night. But I'm just as interested in the wacky scenarios that could happen on this most unpredictable of nights.
So for this mock draft, I'm taking a different route than your typical mock draft. What if NBA teams get insanely trade-happy on June 22, and tons of draft-night trades throw off even the best-laid of our mock-draft plans?
This is an especially important year to consider the possibility of a slew of draft-night trades blowing up any mock scenarios experts come up with. One reason is because the team with the No. 1 pick is the Boston Celtics, a team that's fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. This isn't a rebuilding team; this is a team that's a piece or two away from legit title contention, and I wonder if Danny Ainge is thinking that getting a veteran star now is more important than a potential-filled 19-year-old who could pay off later.
The other reason is, well, this draft is stacked. We spoke about the 2014 draft (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, etc.) as one of the deepest, most talented draft classes in years. Well, the 2017 draft is deeper and more talented, I believe -- perhaps the deepest draft since 2003 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade). It's not a draft where you want to be on the outside looking in.
Just remember: This is fun. This is pretend. And if this is what happens on the night of June 22, all hell's gonna break loose.
Reid Forgrave's Mock Draft
1. Pacers via trade with Celtics
Mock trade: Boston sends No. 1 overall pick in 2017, both of their second-rounders this year as well as a 2019 first-round pick (which had been acquired from the Clippers) to Indiana for Paul George and Al Jefferson.
Why not just go for it? The Celtics came as close as they were going to come with their current roster at unseating LeBron's Cavs atop the East -- in other words, not particularly close at all. Getting Paul George and trying to sign him to a long-term deal is the ultimate win-now move. This trade assumes that George shows interest in staying with Boston and not just in hopping on the first train to Los Angeles, and that Gordon Hayward stays put in Utah instead of heading to Boston. It helps that the Pacers are throwing in someone who can shore up the Celtics' post play in Al Jefferson.
As for the Pacers? They get to start their rebuild on the back of Fultz, one of the most dynamic guards to come into the NBA in years. They'll get a couple more potential assets in the deal, too, which should turbo-charge a rebuild.
The only trade the Lakers should make here is up one slot to No. 1, if the Celtics convince the Lakers they're thinking of either taking Ball or trading this pick to someone who will. Which they won't. The Showtime fit is just too perfect for Ball to end up anywhere else. Ball being teammates with D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson will give the Lakers one of the top young back courts in the NBA. Lonzo Ball has the tools to become a superstar point guard. I can't wait to see how Luke Walton puts his own stamp onto what Ball showed us as the engine of the exciting UCLA up-tempo attack.
3. Kings via trade with 76ers
Finally, the Sixers find a place for Jahlil Okafor. And they only move down a couple spots in the draft to do so. And they get Ben McLemore in the trade, giving him a chance to live up to a sliver of the mini-Ray Allen hype when he was drafted four years ago. Not bad for the Sixers. The Kings get a player in Fox who is the best two-way point guard in this draft, the speediest player in this draft, and someone who is a consistent 3-point shot away from being a star in the NBA. The first three picks of this stacked point guard draft are all point guards. Perhaps the Kings can also find a role for Okafor, who is still a uniquely talented low-post offensive player -- I'm not nearly as ready to give up on him as some.
In this mock draft fantasyland, the Suns tried to unload Brandon Knight in a ploy to move up to No. 1, but shockingly the ploy didn't work. For a team with loads of young talent like the Suns, Tatum is a solid, high-ceiling type of guy. Maybe he won't become a superstar (although I love his versatile offensive game), but a mature, high-character guy who scores from all three levels is a huge asset for any young team.
The Sixers get who they wanted anyway, and are able to reshape their roster in the meantime by dealing off Okafor and gaining McLemore. Jackson is an impressive physical specimen whose measurables are beaten only by his motor. He plays with a fiery attitude on both ends of the floor. If he can develop into a dynamic small-ball four in this young and dynamic Sixers roster, watch out.
6. Trail Blazers via trade with Magic
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Mock trade: Orlando sends No. 6 pick to Portland for all of Portland's first-round picks: the 15th, 20th and 26th picks of the draft.
Portland has three mid-to-late first-rounders, so it makes sense it could trade up in order to get a more immediately impactful player in Markkanen, who I believe could become a star. (Think Dirk Nowitzki Lite.) He's one of the top 3-point-shooting 7-footers in college basketball history. The Finnish freshman was one of the most efficient scorers in all of college basketball last season. The Trail Blazers need one more star, not a handful of mid- to late-first-round fliers. The Magic, however, need as many fliers as they can take in the hope of landing a couple of studs.
You can make an argument (as one NBA scout did to me) that Isaac has the highest upside in this entire draft. The scout said Isaac, if he adds muscle, could someday be spoken of in the same "physically off the chart" tier as LeBron James or Paul George. The Timberwolves get one more tantalizing piece for a roster that is oozing with young talent.
Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
Smith is an unfinished, inconsistent product -- his sole college season swung wildly from remarkable to disastrous depending on the game -- but when he's good, he's good, as his career-high 32-point outburst to beat Duke on the road will attest. The Knicks didn't win the lottery, but Smith falling this low could give the Knicks a helluva consolation prize in a stacked point guard draft. This is a risky pick that could pay off.
Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg (France)
Watch his game tape and you see a remarkable perimeter defender and great game manager. I'm not sure he'll become a star, but he could become a very solid two-way player for a playoff team.
10. Pistons via trade with Kings
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
With perhaps the best natural scorer in this draft still available at 10, the Pistons frantically pull the trigger on a trade that'll instantly give them credibility from 3-point land, where this team struggles as much as any team in the league. It's a win-win; the Pistons draft a player in Monk who would have been a top-five level talent in a less stacked draft, while the Kings only drop back a couple of picks and acquire a useful piece in combo guard Michael Gbineje, who was a second-round pick last year (and who shot nearly 40 percent from 3 during his senior season in college).
Collins was a big-time freshman contributor on Gonzaga's national runner-up squad, so he has already been able to show off his full toolbox of mature offensive skills -- and excellent defensive instincts -- on the national stage. The idea of Collins being on the floor with Frank Kaminsky is tantalizing -- two 7-footers who can spread the floor and open things up for Kemba Walker.
12. Kings via trade with Pistons
OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
The idea of having Anunoby on the court at the same time as De'Aaron Fox means two possible lockdown NBA defenders who'll give other teams fits. Anunoby's in-between size used to be considered a negative but could now be considered a perfect fit for today's NBA. Anunoby can guard multiple positions at a high level. He's a great athlete. And he plays much bigger than his height (6-feet-7 with a 7-2 1/2 wingspan). Suddenly, the Kings look interesting -- especially when you add young players like Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Malachi Richardson to the mix.
Collins is high-ceiling front-court player who fills an immediate need. Collins was one of the most efficient scorers in college basketball last season; if he can develop more range on his shot, he'll be a steal at this point in the draft. His development under head coach Danny Manning from his freshman to his sophomore seasons was impressive.
Chris Bosh is gone. Patton is the most Bosh-like player in this draft. Although he needs to put on some muscle so he can hang with NBA bigs, Patton is a superb athlete for a 7-footer, and showed impressive offensive versatility at Creighton as well. He might take some time to fill his potential, but the potential is certainly there.
15. Magic via trade with Trail Blazers
A stellar combine saw Mitchell's stock rocket up. An explosive athlete who scored at the level Mitchell did at Louisville -- he averaged 15.6 points as a sophomore, more than double his average from his freshman season -- is always welcome in the NBA, even if he is undersized for his position. With the first of the three picks the Magic acquired for flipping the sixth pick in this fantasy scenario, the Magic go with an elite athlete who in college proved himself on both ends of the floor.
Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
I'm higher on Anigbogu than many, despite the small sample size (he averaged 13 minutes as a reserve at UCLA). He's all potential. He's the type of player that coaches and general managers can look at and paint their own canvas on. For a team like the Bulls, an enormous paint presence like Anigbogu is much needed. The offensive end is very much a work in progress.
17. Thunder via trade with Bucks
Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
The Thunder spot an opportunity to trade up and get their perfect guy, sending the 21st pick and Grant to Milwaukee for the chance to take Kennard. I think Kennard is the most underrated player in this draft; he also happens to be the perfect 3-point-shooting, confident player the Thunder need alongside Russell Westbrook. Kennard could develop into a lefty J.J. Redick in time.
Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
So the Pacers made the biggest trade of the NBA offseason in jettisoning Paul George in order to acquire the No. 1 pick. Who do they decide to put alongside Markelle Fultz? How about a player in Ferguson who has the size and elite shooting stroke of a player who easily could have been a lottery pick in a less stacked draft? Ferguson's post-high school season in an Australian professional league helped him learn how to play against grown men, which will only help with his NBA learning curve. Fultz + Ferguson in the backcourt = fun basketball for years.
Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
You don't hear these stories much anymore: a highly regarded five-star recruit who underwhelms at first, stays in college for three seasons and develops into a lottery pick. Jackson is a reminder that college players can develop at different rates, and that shouldn't be considered a bad thing. A 3-point shot that had been inconsistent for his first two seasons stabilized his junior year, and Jackson became the versatile and athletic go-to guy for a national championship team.
20. Trail Blazers via trade with Trail Blazers
Harry Giles, PF, Duke
This is the Magic's home-run swing, which the trade to get three picks for one can afford them. There's no bigger home-run swing in this draft than Giles. He could perform in the NBA like a top-five pick -- that's what he was considered to be before he tore an ACL for the second time his senior year in high school -- or he could never see a minute of NBA play because of injuries. If it's still possible for Giles to fulfill the potential scouts saw in him two years ago, he could become a Chris Webber Lite, or Kevin Garnett Lite. Like Labissiere before him, Giles saw his stock plummet as he struggled during his lone college season. And like Labissiere, the charming and smiling Giles is easy to root for. The Magic ought to be in rebuilding mode. Giving a shot to Giles is a smart move.
21. Bucks via trade with Thunder
TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
The comparison to Kevin Love, a tall, white power forward from UCLA who can rebound and make 3s, is an easy one to make, though an exaggeration. He was a vital part of the most up-tempo NBA-like team in college basketball last season. This isn't a franchise with needs that jump off the page; Leaf is a versatile type of player who can fit on any team.
An enormous talent to be available at this point in the draft (which is perhaps directly correlated to this trade-happy draft experiment). The size is there, clearly, and so is the potential as a back-to-the-basket big man. There are concerns: From the free-throw line (56 percent in college), and a general lack of offensive tools outside the post. Getting this sort of potential at this point in the draft makes Allen worth any sorts of risks.
The future of this franchise seems very much in flux. Peters, one of college basketball's top shooters, is the type of player who can come in tomorrow and make an impact. No, he might not have NBA athleticism, but Peters' remarkable 60.4 percent true shooting percentage in college works for any NBA team. A team that needs to win now like Toronto would be wise in taking a college senior like Peters.
I've vented in this space before about how I hate people putting Biggie in a box. Enough about how Swanigan's body, size and athleticism aren't NBA-ready. Whatever: This guy is ready to help NBA teams immediately by outworking everyone on the floor. This is a guy who is one of the hardest workers I've been around in college basketball, both off the court and on. He understands what his primary role will be in the NBA: As a rebounder who outworks his opponents. He's a high-character guy with so much tangible and intangible basketball talent that he'll absolutely become a positive presence on a winning basketball team.
Ivan Rabb, PF, California
Rabb's decision to return for a sophomore year did not pay off in terms of draft stock, as he went from likely mid-lottery pick to far lower. But he's certainly worth a flier at this point in the draft as a project who, with added strength and more refined offensive coaching, could develop into a nice post player.
26. Magic via trade with Trail Blazers
Do you think the Magic ought to go all-in with Elfrid Payton, one of the worst-shooting point guards in the league? Neither do I! Instead, how about taking a flier on Evans, one of the toughest point guards I've seen at the college level. Yes, he has physical limitations -- just shy of six feet, not an elite athlete -- but because of those limitations Evans has become the most underrated point guard in this loaded point guard class. He was a great quarterback of a point guard in college, and he will be in the NBA as well.
Yo, Brooklyn needs everything. This team is a disaster. Bell is a solid and occasionally explosive front-court player. Forget, if you can, Bell's bonehead box-outs in Oregon's national semifinal game. Instead, remember that Bell's play throughout the tournament was the reason Oregon made it that far. He's the type of player who is all over the court on defense (see: Bell's eight-block performance against Kansas that sent Oregon to the Final Four). He had double-digit rebounds his final seven collegiate games. Bell is a bouncy and ambitious defender who is developing as an offensive player. His great combine ought to vault Bell into the first round.
Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
The Lakers' rim protection is among the worst in the league. Bam can help with that, and Bam can bang down low with the best of them. The 19-year-old is like a 6-10 linebacker out there. While Adebayo might never be a creative offensive force, he can make a difference on both ends of the court based on sheer size, athleticism and motor.
Hart could be the Malcolm Brogdon of this draft: A guy who developed into a better and better player each of his four years in college, who is full of intangibles, and whose main attribute on the basketball court is simply that he's a winner. Does he have the athletic attributes of a lottery pick? Certainly not. But is he the type of high-IQ, hard-working consistent basketball player who could find his dream fit in San Antonio? Absolutely. Plus he's a great shooter, and nearly as solid of a wing defender as Brogdon is -- one of the best perimeter defenders in this entire draft.
Frank Jackson, G, 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 either a point guard or a 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.