Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and then what? Projecting the top of the 2017 NBA draft
Markelle Fultz. Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson are among the top NBA prospect in this year’s draft. (AP, Getty photos)
The world learned the order of selections for next month’s NBA draft Tuesday night, with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers winning the top three picks.
Now it’s time to take a first run at predicting the first 14 picks in the June 22 draft from a deep pool of talent.
1. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)
Markelle Fultz | Point guard | Washington
The Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade continues to benefit Boston. The Celtics get the No. 1 pick a year after taking Jaylen Brown third overall. They are widely expected to take Fultz, a 6-foot-4 guard capable of playing either backcourt spot with oodles of potential.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball | Point guard | UCLA
The Lakers somehow bucked the odds and wound up with the second overall pick for a third straight season. They will almost certainly select Ball.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (from Sacramento)
Jayson Tatum | Small forward | Duke
With Ben Simmons playing point guard, the Sixers can look for another wing player to complement their plethora of bigs. Kansas forward Josh Jackson could be an option, but Tatum, a long, rangy wing, likely will be the selection.
Josh Jackson | Small forward | Kansas
The Suns were one of the big losers in the lottery, dropping from second to fourth. But while Phoenix – which has never had the No. 1 pick – would have loved to get its hands on either Fultz or Ball, getting a wing such as Jackson to pair with Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe is a pretty nice consolation prize.
De’Aaron Fox | Point guard | Kentucky
In typical fashion, Sacramento moved up in the draft lottery for the first time … only to have to swap picks with Philadelphia because of a horrible cap-clearing trade (horrible for the Kings, anyway) in 2015. Still, the Kings can still get a point guard of the future in Fox, who some think is even better than Ball.
6. Orlando Magic
Lauri Markkanen | Power forward | Arizona
The talent drops off after the top five players, so this is where things start to get interesting. Orlando likely will change general managers before the draft, and that may also change the direction of the team. For now, we’ll go with Markkanen, a shooter for a team lacking in them.
Photos from the NBA draft combine, held from May 9-14, 2017, in Chicago.
Jonathan Isaac | Power forward | Florida State
Tom Thibodeau would like to see his team contend for the playoffs next season, so this pick could easily be traded before or during the draft. For now, Isaac – a high-upside, though high-risk, prospect – works here.
Frank Ntilikina | Point guard | France
The higher upside prospect is Dennis Smith, the combustible point guard prospect who could be a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Kristaps Porzingis. But the 6-foot-5 Ntilikina is the more likely pick, giving Phil Jackson the big guard he has always wanted.
Dennis Smith | Point guard | North Carolina State
This seems like a perfect marriage: Smith, the combustible but talented prospect, with Mark Cuban, the brash billionaire owner of Mavericks. Smith may also drive Coach Rick Carlisle insane, but few landing spots would offer him a greater opportunity to blossom.
10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans)
OG Anunoby | Small forward | Indiana
The Kings took a guard with the No. 5 pick (Fox), and they already have some bigs on board, so let’s give them Anunoby, a toolsy but raw prospect coming off a knee injury last season.
Justin Jackson | Small forward | North Carolina
A couple of bigs – including Gonzaga’s Zach Collins – could be in the mix, but owner Michael Jordan is a North Carolina alum and Coach Steve Clifford loves three-point shooting, so Jackson makes sense here on the wings.
Donovan Mitchell | Shooting guard | Louisville
The Pistons could use some depth in the backcourt behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is going to be a restricted free agent. The choice, for now, is Mitchell.
Luke Kennard | Shooting guard | Duke
Denver has a ton of players on its roster and could use this pick, with one of them, as a sweetener in a deal for a veteran. But if the Nuggets keep the pick, Kennard – who had a strong sophomore season – can give Denver some more shooting to help space the floor around budding star center Nikola Jokic.
14. Miami Heat
Zach Collins | Center | Gonzaga
Miami is a perfect place for Collins, assuming he drops this far. Collins can play 15 minutes a game as a rookie and spell Hassan Whiteside as an athletic big off the bench, and could possibly even play alongside him against specific matchups.