The 2017 NBA Draft is still over three weeks away, but teams are already preparing for how it might shake out. This year’s class certainly projects to be far better than a year ago both at the top of the draft and in terms of depth, meaning two first round picks for the Los Angeles Lakers could be quite the luxury.
Will the No. 2 overall pick be a no-brainer for the Lakers? What type of player should they be looking for at the end of the first round? Let’s give it a try.
1. Boston Celtics — Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Fultz is the consensus top pick in this draft. Surrounded by a dismal supporting cast at Washington, he still provided ridiculous production. Some question what the implications of adding Fultz could be for Isaiah Thomas, but the Celtics need more players that can generate offense. Fultz can create his own shot and make the basic reads he will need to in that system when setting up his teammates. Unfortunately, Fultz is a great fit for what Boston needs.
2. Los Angeles Lakers — Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Speaking of great fits, Ball is nearly perfect for what the Lakers need from an offensive standpoint. His shot form is certainly unorthodox, but he displayed insane efficiency as a freshman at UCLA. His size and athletic ability will also allow him to play time at either guard spot.
I’m not sure Ball becomes a traditional star player in the NBA that racks up individual awards, but his passing, instincts, shooting and everything else he brings offensively could elevate the guys around him. That’s what the Lakers need.
3. Philadelphia 76ers — Dennis Smith, Jr., PG, NC State
Some people will consider this a reach, but Smith was very impressive as a freshman. Not only was he coming off a torn ACL, but he was also transitioning into the best conference in college basketball. Year two coming off a major injury should be better from an athletic standpoint, although it is another transition year for him. But with his explosiveness and offensive skill set, the sky is the limit for Smith.
4. Phoenix Suns — Josh Jackson, SF/PF, Kansas
The Suns need help on the wing and Jackson is a great fit here. I think his perimeter shooting still needs work, but he was still a capable three-point shooter at Kansas. Phoenix gets a tough, physical wing that can play the three or the four. Defensively, Jackson is extremely solid and is a good playmaker on the other end. This pick should be easy for Phoenix.
5. Sacramento Kings — De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Sacramento hit the reset button right before the trade deadline in February when they shipped DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans. They covet shooting guard Buddy Hield and his shooting ability, so they add his backcourt running mate here. Fox will need to add strength and really work on his jump shot, but the kid is tough as nails. There is a lot to work with, but Fox will need some time to iron out the kinks before his game can really take off at the next level.
6. Orlando Magic — Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Mario Hezonja was the fifth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and he hasn’t panned out the way Orlando had hoped. With Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier manning the backcourt, the Magic need a scoring punch on the wing that would allow Aaron Gordon to slide over to the four, the position that clearly best suits his skill set. With Tatum, Orlando adds a player that scored at a high rate at Duke while showing some defensive prowess, although he did play the four a lot in college. Can he keep up with NBA wing players? Time will tell, but he can fill it up offensively.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves — Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State
Isaac is going to bring a lot of versatility to the team that drafts him. His ceiling is extremely high on both ends of the floor. His size, length and athletic ability on the wing is rare. Head coach Tom Thibodeau could mold him into an excellent NBA defender and Isaac has shown the ability to stretch the floor a bit on offense.
8. New York Knicks — Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
Derrick Rose is a free agent and the Knicks signed Courtney Lee to a four-year contract last summer. There is a void left at point guard and Ntilikina has a ton of upside. He is still very young, but his shooting looks to be improving and he possesses the physical tools to become a good NBA point guard. Knicks fans would still probably boo him on draft night, though.
9. Dallas Mavericks — Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Monk is probably better than the ninth player in this draft. He’s a sharpshooter and an underrated athlete, despite his lack of size at the position. Unfortunately for him, a lot of the teams ahead of Dallas don’t have a glaring need for a shooting guard. Don’t be surprised if he goes earlier on draft night, but this would be a steal for the Mavs.
10. Sacramento Kings — OG Anunoby, SF/PF, Indiana
With Fox and Hield in the backcourt and a plethora of big men drafted in recent years, it’s time for the Kings to get some help on the wing. They could get more of a sure-thing with a lower ceiling here, but, if you are Sacramento, why not go big? Anunoby is still relatively raw and coming off a season-ending ACL injury, but his size, length and versatility on both ends will give one lucky team a ton to work with. He has the potential to become an elite NBA defender. If his shooting becomes consistent, watch out.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
This would just make too much sense, right? The Hornets need to add some depth, and we all know that team owner Michael Jordan would love to add a Tar Heel. Jackson’s play took a massive leap in his junior year at North Carolina. The improvement centered around his outstanding jump in three-point shooting percentage, but he has shown some prowess defensively by using his length to bother scorers. His offensive resurgence was one of the main reasons the Tar Heels found their redemption with a national championship this year.
12. Detroit Pistons — Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
If you have been following mock drafts throughout the season, then you probably noticed Mitchell’s stock continuing to rise. Listed at just 6’3”, Mitchell’s wingspan measured at 6’10” at the NBA Draft Combine, and he uses that length extremely well on the defensive side of the ball. Simply put, Detroit gets a guy that’s just solid on both ends of the floor.
13. Denver Nuggets — Zach Collins, PF, Gonzaga
Collins is the first one-and-done to come out of Gonzaga, for good reason. He is an athletic big man with nice finishing ability around the basket.
Although he lacks a lot of perimeter skills that teams want in big men in today’s NBA, the Nuggets badly need defenders. Collins can be a big that comes in, blocks shots and finishes opportunities around the rim in a high-powered offense.
14. Miami Heat — Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
A lot of people have Markkanen pegged as a top-10 pick because he is a seven-footer that can really shoot from deep. That could be a great fit here for Miami, as ideally, they need a stretch four next to Hassan Whiteside. Justise Winslow can certainly fill that role at times, but he is also coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, so that is something to keep an eye on.
Markkanen’s shooting at his position could be extremely valuable, but I have him slipping to the last lottery pick because the rest of his game needs a lot of work.
15. Portland Trail Blazers — Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Shooting guard may not be a need for Portland, but they badly need a scoring punch off the bench as their second unit was among the worst in the league last season in terms of scoring. Kennard was one of college basketball’s most prolific scorers last year, shooting the lights out from just about anywhere on the floor. The Blazers would probably prefer to get him at No. 20, but it would be a risk to see if he lasts through another four teams before then.
16. Chicago Bulls — Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
The Bulls were a mess last season before giving the Celtics a scare in the first round of the playoffs. They need shooting in the worst way, but they also need depth up front. Kennard seems like the classic Bulls pick, but with him off the board, they take a young center that has a lot of potential and can develop while Robin Lopez plays out the final two years of his contract. By then, Allen could be completely ready to take over as a starter.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Patton is really raw, entering the draft after just one season at Creighton, but teams will love his ceiling. Despite his instincts and feel for the game needing work, he still shot a blistering 67.6 percent from the floor in his lone college season. Patton measured well at the combine, and although he didn’t take many threes at Creighton, he knocked down eight-of-15, flashing shooting form that could lead to him becoming a big man that could stretch the floor.
18. Indiana Pacers — Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
I think Evans is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft class. He is certainly undersized, even for a point guard, but he can really score and create shots for his teammates. Jeff Teague is an unrestricted free agent that will have a pretty sizable price tag this summer, so he may not be back in Indiana.
The Pacers will do everything they can to build a contender this offseason to try and convince Paul George to stay when the summer of 2018 rolls around. Evans looks poised to be a rookie that could make an impact from the get-go.
19. Atlanta Hawks — John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Collins was severely overlooked as a recruit coming out of high school and really surprised people in his time at Wake Forest. Last season, he poured in 19.2 points per game on 62.4 percent shooting. Paul Millsap will be on the free agent market when July 1 rolls around, and it appears he will seriously look at other options. Perhaps Collins can become a worthy replacement at power forward down the road.
20. Portland Trail Blazers — Harry Giles, PF/C, Duke
Portland has three first-round picks, so they can gamble here with Giles, who struggled to find his way at Duke while coming off back-to-back major knee injuries. Giles, once a top recruit coming out of high school, still possesses a lot of talent and tremendous upside. Obviously, teams will look heavily into his medical records, but if they are something that can be worked with, this pick could pay off in a big way.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF, SMU
The Thunder are entering a crucial season, one that could be Russell Westbrook’s last in Oklahoma City if they don’t add some more talent around him. Ojeleye is a bit of a tweener, which has earned him some second round projections. I think he goes in the first round, though, because of his scoring ability. He averaged 19 points per game last season at SMU, hitting 42.4 percent of his three-point attempts (4.9 per game). I’m skeptical of his ability to guard NBA wings, but his skill set could provide value to the Thunder.
22. Brooklyn Nets — Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
There are a number of areas in his game that Anigbogu needs to develop, but teams should love him from a physical standpoint. He’s a mobile big man that is quick on his feet, can jump and comes with a 7’6” wingspan. Brook Lopez has one year left on his contract and it’s hard to picture him wanting to stay with the Nets going forward.
23. Toronto Raptors — DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan
Power forward is the weakest link on the Raptors’ roster, though point guard could take a big hit if Kyle Lowry signs elsewhere this summer. If that happens, Cory Joseph is a quality guy that can step into that role, even if his production won’t be to the level of Lowry’s.
Wilson still has a lot of room to grow as a player, but he improved considerably, becoming a big part of Michigan’s Sweet 16 run. He has good size, length, athleticism and can be a good pick-and-pop man if his perimeter shooting continues to get better.
24. Utah Jazz — TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
If a stretch four is what you are after, look no further than TJ Leaf. The kid is an absolute sniper from deep, connecting on a staggering 46.6 percent from three in his one season at UCLA. Ball helped create a lot of looks for Leaf, but the latter still knocked them down at a tremendous rate, averaging a very efficient 16.3 points per game. Leaf should provide a great spark offensively in the NBA, even though his defense needs a lot of work.
25. Orlando Magic — Ivan Rabb, PF, California
At one point, Rabb was projected as a lottery pick in last year’s draft, and it should be a bit concerning that his stock has only fallen since then. But with Orlando picking Tatum at six, they get a little more depth up front, specifically behind Gordon at the four.
26. Portland Trail Blazers — Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Germany
Much like the pick with Giles, Portland can try to find a really young prospect that has a lot of potential he could grow into. Hartenstein is relatively raw, but has shown the ability to stretch the floor a bit. That’s a good skill to try and build off of. With the Trail Blazers, Hartenstein enters a situation that won’t put pressure on him to develop quickly.
27. Brooklyn Nets — Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
Ferguson is a tremendous athlete with a shooting stroke that appears like it can translate to efficient three-point production. I worry about his ability to create offense because of very poor ball-handling. If that improves, Ferguson could be a steal for Brooklyn at No. 27, but it will likely take at least a couple of years for him to really develop there.
28. Los Angeles Lakers — Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
With a young core established and taking up half the roster, the Lakers can afford to swing for the fences with this pick if they choose to. From a physical perspective, Jeanne is a unicorn. The mobility he possesses to go along with his 7’2” frame and near 7’7” wingspan (Oh, and a 9’5” standing reach) is absurd.
There’s no question that Jeanne needs a lot of development. He usually looks completely lost whenever he has to defend the pick-and-roll, but he is the type of prospect Los Angeles could have develop with the South Bay Lakers. Jeanne will get Rudy Gobert comparisons because of his physical traits, and the former has even displayed some ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, though it’s a work-in-progress. His ceiling is through the roof, and the Lakers can afford to take a chance on him.
If they want more of a known commodity here, keep an eye on guys like Oregon’s Jordan Bell or Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo.
29. San Antonio Spurs — Rodions Kurucs, SF, Spain
The Spurs have a long history of drafting international players and their track record in overall player development speaks for itself. Kurucs is going to be projected to a number of teams in the bottom half of the first round, but falling to San Antonio could be perfect for him.
30. Utah Jazz — Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
Hart is an older prospect, as he elected to return to Villanova for his senior season. He was one of the most productive seniors in the country last season, racking up 18.7 points per game. His shooting was efficient from all over and he’s a tough defender. Hart is definitely a prime candidate to contribute from day one of his rookie campaign.
All statistics courtesy of DraftExpress. You can follow this author on Twitter @garykester.