Photo Credit: The Seattle Times
The 2017 NBA Draft is scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 22, 2017, making it less that one month away. With the draft order set thanks to the recent draft lottery, which player will each team in the top 10 select and why? Will any teams in the top 10 take a player who is NOT a freshman?
1. Boston Celtics (53-29) – Markelle Fultz, Freshman PG, Washington Huskies (9-22)
The Celtics are a team that is already a contender. As a contestant in this season’s Eastern Conference Finals, getting the #1 overall pick via a trade with the Brooklyn Nets is an added bonus. They’ll be looking to take the best player in the draft regardless of position, and that player is Markelle Fultz. Fultz lit up the stat sheet in his lone season in college with Washington, averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game, the only player to put up such numbers. Consider this pick a lock.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (26-56) – Lonzo Ball, Freshman PG, UCLA Bruins (31-5)
#2. The pick everyone has been, is, and will be talking about. The Lakers lucked out and landed the #2 pick in the draft lottery, and the only player that makes sense for them to take is the electrifying point guard from Chino Hills, California, Lonzo Ball. With Ball only working out for the Lakers, likely thanks in part to his loud-mouth father, LaVar, the basketball world would be in a state of shock of they selected someone else given the fact that the Lakers are, indeed, lacking at guard.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (28-54) – Josh Jackson, Freshman SG/SF, Kansas Jayhawks (31-5)
With the 76ers in rebuild mode and “trusting the process”, Josh Jackson makes perfect sense here. While off-the-court issues may make small forward Jayson Tatum worth a second look given the 76ers’ need for a good wingman, the 76ers will go with Jackson due to his immense potential. If he pans out, you’re looking at a starting five including Ben Simmons, Josh Jackson, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric. Given the prospects of that lineup, I trust the process.
4. Phoenix Suns (24-58) – Jayson Tatum, Freshman SF, Duke Blue Devils (28-9)
While the best player available is probably Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Suns are already loaded with guards…and four of them actually played for Kentucky. So they’ll address their weakest position, small forward, by selecting Jayson Tatum, whom the 76ers passed up. In his freshman season at Duke, Tatum was a solid scorer, shooter and overachiever on the defensive end. Coming out of Duke, arguably the top one-and-done NBA school, Tatum is too good for the Suns to pass up.
5. Sacramento Kings (32-50) – De’Aaron Fox, Freshman PG, Kentucky Wildcats (32-6)
The Kings will do what the Suns elected not to, and that is draft the best available player. What is good for the Kings is that that player, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, is a point guard, and the Kings desperately need a solid point guard. The speed Fox has going up and down the court has caught the eye of many NBA scouts, and paired with his overall athletic ability, it would be foolish to let him fall outside of the top 5. The idea of “no one can guard me” is something that various NBA players state from time to time; it just might be true for Fox. The Kings get a steal here.
6. Orlando Magic (29-53) – Dennis Smith, Freshman PG, North Carolina State Wolfpack (15-17)
The Magic have needs across their whole roster, but none is bigger than their need for a guard. Their two best options are Dennis Smith and Malik Monk, and they will likely go with Smith. Smith was a great all-around player in his lone season in college, averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists, and he was able to do so playing against opponents from the ACC, arguable the nation’s toughest and deepest conference, all season long. The Magic won’t pass up the battle-tested Smith.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51) – Jonathan Isaac, Freshman PF, Florida State Seminoles (26-9)
As one of the worst defensive scoring teams in the NBA, the Timberwolves will be looking to add a player that provides their defense with a spark. That player is Jonathan Isaac, who at 6’10” averaged 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game at Florida State despite only playing an average of 26.2 minutes per game. Not only is he great on the defensive end, but he is also a solid scorer, which can go a long way next to the young core that the Timberwolves have already assembled with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.
8. New York Knicks (31-51) – Malik Monk, Freshman PG, Kentucky Wildcats (32-6)
In all likelihood, the Knicks will select whichever guard that that Magic do not. In this case, the Magic selected Dennis Smith, so the Knicks will go with Malik Monk. Monk is a solid shooter both inside and beyond the arc, and his 19.8 points per game average is a nice bonus as well. As a team that doesn’t score all that well and will lose point guard Derrick Rose in free agency, Monk would be a great add despite being more of a scorer than an all-around basketball player.
9. Dallas Mavericks (33-49) – Lauri Markkanen, Freshman PF, Arizona Wildcats (32-5)
With the possibility of power forward Dirk Nowitzki retiring at the end of next season, which would be his 20th NBA season, the Mavericks would be wise to draft his replacement awhile to let him sit behind Nowitzki on the depth chart in order to learn from one of the greats for a season. Lauri Markkanen can be that replacement, and he resembles Nowitzki in pretty much every way thus far. He is a great in the post, as he averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in college, and he is an above average 3-point shooter for a big man, shooting 42.3% from beyond the arc. Drafting Markkanen will make the transition from Nowitzki to the future a whole lot smoother for Dallas.
10. Sacramento Kings (32-50) – Zach Collins, Freshman C, Gonzaga Bulldogs (37-2)
Having already addressed their need at point guard by selecting De’Aaron Fox, the Kings will now look to fill the gaping hole left when big man DeMarcus Cousins was traded to New Orleans. Center Zach Collins from Gonzaga would do just that. The 7-footer averaged 10.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in just 17.2 minutes per game of playing time in his freshman season as Gonzaga, and he got a taste of what the big stage is all about when the team went to the national championship game. If the Kings make it out of the top 10 with both Fox and Collins, then this draft was a huge step forward for them in terms of the rebuilding process.