With college basketball season just about over and the NBA season winding down, it is time to look ahead at the NBA Draft. I will use the standings as of the morning of April 1st for the draft order and assume the lottery will play out in the expected order. For the sake of being thorough, I am only doing the lottery as I have not had the time to go in depth with every top 50 prospect, as well as all the international players that tend to be draft-and-stash players at the end of the first round. NBA mock drafts tend to get a little boring as they tend to be top heavy and there is usually a consensus on the who the top prospects are.
- Boston Celtic
Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington Huskies
Pro Comparison: Damian Lillard
There will be some debate whether Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz should be draft number one overall, but the answer is clear. The real debate should be on who should go number two. Fultz is such a well-rounded prospect it is hard to find a true fault in his game. The biggest knock on Fultz would be that his team lacked success. The Washington Huskies went 9-22 with Fultz playing in only 25 of those games. It is tough to know without every meeting him, but you could say that leaves some worry about leadership and lack of desire to win. In a sport where one player can change a team so drastically, you would think he would have pulled together a few more wins. The other knock on Fultz would be is that he does not put the same effort in on defense as offense, but just as LeBron James sometimes conserves energy on defense so he is fresh for offense, Fultz might be in the same boat. He had to carry the entire offense. When these are the two weaknesses we are nitpicking, you have a safe prospect. Fultz has ideal size for a point guard, but also tall enough to play the 2. His over 6’9” wingspan and athleticism projects well to be an above average defender. He can shoot, drive, create, play off-ball, has a midrange game, can explode to the hoop, rebound, run in transition, has a nice Euro-step and pretty much everything else. I compare him to Damian Lillard as the are both explosive prospects who can do a little bit of everything and possess great, but not elite athleticisms. Another projection might be a middle ground of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. It sounds crazy to compare a prospect who couldn’t even make the NCAA Tournament to the two leading MVP candidates. This is not to say he will be that good ever. But if you averaged out those two players, you would get a similar skillset to what Fultz could be. Fultz has the both highest floor and ceiling of any player in the draft. Boston is in a unique position in that they could be the number one seed in the East and still get the number one pick. They have a group of players in their prime that will compete for the next few years. 2016 draft pick Jaylen Brown, Fultz, and whoever the Celtics get in the 2018 draft from the Nets’ pick, likely a top five, will give this group of veterans in their prime three elite young talents on rookie-scale contracts.
- Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas Jayhawks
Pro Comparison: Andrew Wiggins
Josh Jackson is the best two-way prospect entering the NBA Draft. He should be able to make contributions on both sides of the ball from day one. Most years Jackson would be the first overall pick, and some teams may still value him there. Fultz is just such a unique prospect that it will be tough for Jackson to overtake him. Jackson is Andrew Wiggins 2.0. Each is a one-and-done player for Bill Self at Kansas and each ahs a very well rounded game. It could be argued that Jackson is an even more NBA-ready prospect than Wiggins was at the same time. Jackson has the ideal build for a NBA small forward; 6’8” and over 200 pounds with great athleticism. Even if his offensive game takes some transition time, he will still be able to run the court and finish in transition while also being a contributor on the defensive side. Jackson averaged 1.1 blocks and 1.7 steals per game as a freshman while also playing within the team defense and never trying to do too much. He impressed in the ability the chase players down in transition and had a number of highlight chase down blocks. Wiggins has the same style of defensive play, but has not been able to put everything together to become an elite defender. With experience, I expect both players to continue to grow on that side of the ball, especially with a more well rounded offensive team so energy can be evenly distributed on both sides of the ball. Jackson going to a Suns team that already has Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker as offense focal points is a nice way for Jackson to start his NBA career. Jackson could wind up being right up there with Wiggins, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler and franchise building blocks that are great on both sides of the ball. Jackson does everything you could want on offense. He can play isolation ball, can get to the hoop or pull up, can play in the post against smaller defenders, can rise up defenders when driving, can facilitate the offense and create for others. He shot over 50% from the field which shows he plays inside himself and never tries to do too much, but the passion he shows lets you know that he wants the ball in his hands at all times, whether that be to take the shot or create for someone else. Jackson shot an impressive 38% from three-point range as a freshman, but with 57% from the free throw line and the extended NBA three point line, it should be expected that his three-point percentage drop significantly. That is the biggest knock against his game right now, as it was with Wiggins. Whether that develops or not will ultimately determine his ceiling but all his other abilities will allow him to be a starter in the NBA regardless of his shooting. He could also just prove me wrong and continue his 38% percent shooting and put all those questions to rest. We’ll see.
- Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Pro Comparison: Jason Kidd
I want this draft pick to happen just to hear LaVar Ball inevitably rip apart D’Angelo Russell for taking the ball away from his kid. And every other reason that he will find a way to complain about the Lakers and how everything is wrong with the franchise except Lonzo. I am not huge on Lonzo Ball, his dad aside. I think his awkward jumper could be an issue. It is a fairly slow release and because it crosses his body somewhat, it is easier for a defender to stick a hand out. It is one of the reasons he had a nonexistent midrange game in college. Because of the close proximity of the defender as you move closer to the basket, the less time you have for your release. One of the reasons Steph Curry and Carmelo Anthony are so lethal from anywhere on the court is because of how quick they get the ball out. You will rarely, if ever, see these two get their shot blocked on a jumper. Think about it like a quarterback’s throwing motion. The quicker a release for a quarterback, the less time the defense has to react. One of the main criticisms of Tim Tebow was he dropped the ball low in his motion, giving the defensive lineman time to swat the ball and gives the defensive backs a extra split-second to see where the ball is headed. That being said, there is a lot to like about Ball and there are reasons he is slotted at number two overall. Ball makes everyone around him better. Ball took a UCLA team that went 15-17 in 2015-2016 and led pretty much the same team to a 31-5 record in 2016-2017. Ball plays basketball like someone would play chess; he tends to see the whole play before it happens, and that play is usually up-tempo. Ball’s style of play worked at the high school and college level, but most NBA teams run a slower paced offense than what he is used to. The Lakers are not one of those teams. Luke Walton likes to get his young team out running and Ball would be the perfect player to run this offense. The young combination of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Brandon Ingram is promising, but has not shown that any one of them is capable of being a star. Perhaps with a true floor general, it will make the whole team better. The Lakers’ rebuild is based on all the youth they have, and for it to be successful, at least one or two of these promising players has to be a star. Ball to the Lakers will also allow Russell to play as a 2 more often, and both Ball and Russell have the size to match up against either guard they are facing depending on the matchup. Clarkson will be able to move to the sixth man role, something he should excel in and will likely be competing for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Ball is so unique as a player that the Jason Kidd comparison is not ideal, but this is a close as I can think of. Maybe Michael Carter-Williams with a jump shot and just an overall more fluid game? For everything Lonzo does on the court to make the team better, I cannot stress enough how little I would want LaVar Ball around my team.
- Orlando Magic
Pro Comparison: Carmelo Anthony
Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson are comparable to Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins of a few years ago. They are even from the same colleges. Each has a different style of play and are of similar skill level with similar potential, albeit in a different fashion. I think it will come down to preference as to who goes first out of these two players. Tatum had a slow start to the year due to injury but came on strong down the stretch, even if team success was not indicative of it. Carmelo Anthony is one of the best scorers in NBA history. I always find it pretty absurd to compare college players to some of the best players in NBA history but the style of play and what Tatum can bring to a team is similar to that of Carmelo. Watching Tatum, you see the well-rounded offensive game he brings and how he can score from anywhere on the court. Tatum can take the ball in the post, and from a combination of little stutter steps, fade away on the baseline for an easy twelve-foot basket. Tatum can take the ball from the outside and drive to the basket, either pulling up for a midrange shot, or continue the drive to the hoop. Like Anthony, Tatum will never be rising above defenses and will probably not have a career of poster dunks in Lebron-type fashion, but can contort his body at the rim to draw a foul and still get a good shot up. Tatum can also serve as a spot-up shooter. His 34% three point shooting wasn’t great but his 85% free throw shooting represents a the potential for that three point number to rise. Tatum is also a solid rebounder and with work in a NBA strength an conditioning, Tatum should be able to put a few pounds on and operate as a stretch four when his team goes small, especially with his advanced rebounding skills. How Tatum develops on the defensive side will determine his NBA ceiling. In college he was able to hold his own, but currently does not have the quickness for the more athletic NBA 3s nor the size for the bigger NBA 4s. If he were playing the Cavs, Tatum would get destroyed by either LeBron all around or Love in the post. (Most people do though.) Tatum did show that when playing down low he can come over and be weak side help and his 1.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game show good defensive instincts. I am much higher on Tatum than most people, as I could see him being the focal point of an offense and has a ceiling as one of the better scorers in the NBA. If he can go to a team that has some defense and ball movement around him, I expect a Rookie of the Year Award. There is no one entrenched on the Magic as a go-to scorer right now so Tatum should get a bulk of the offense built around him from the start. The Magic have been rebuilding since Dwight Howard left, looking for that foundational piece. With a solid group of role players around him, Tatum should be able to fill that role.
- Philadelphia 76ers
Pro Comparison: Derrick Rose
Dennis Smith is in a position similar to Fultz in that he played on an awful team and was asked to carry the entire offensive load. Smith averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, .4 blocks, and 1.9 steals per game on 46% from the field and 36% from three in his lone season of college ball. Every single one of these stats are better than what Derrick Rose accumulated in his lone season in college except the field goal percentage, which Rose only bested him by about 2%. When you hear Derrick Rose now, you think Rose of the Knicks, but if Smith can be even somewhat of pre-injury Rose was, the Sixers have a star on their hands. Smith is so explosive driving to the basket and is such a good athlete. When he drives, it is reminiscent of Russell Westbrook or Rose. The kinds of athletes will always have a place in the NBA. His assists and three point percentage also give indications that he can help a team and serve as a spot up shooter. Smith tends to not put 100% into defense, but that seems to be a common theme with these draft prospects who played on bad teams and had to carry the whole offensive load. Smith has all the intangibles to be a good NBA defender. The Sixers are nearing the end of “The Process.” This isn’t to say they are ready to win championships but this year they proved they have a foundation that can win games. Ben Simmons is expected to be the primary ball handler, so there might be some overlap with Smith, but in the NBA you should always go for an elite talent over need. The Sixers could use Malik Monk to space the floor but Monk’s ceiling is so much lower than Smith’s. You have to go with Smith in this situation and find a way to make it work. This is not the same as the Sixers drafting three centers in a row either. Smith should be able to find a role with this team. There is also nothing guaranteed with the Sixers right now. Embiid and Simmons both still have injury histories to overcome so they should still be focusing on collecting the most elite talent they can. The Sixers have a solid foundation and Smith will only add to that. There is also a chance that the Sixers get the Lakers’ top three protected pick that is owed to them. The Lakers “dropping” to third worst record in the NBA helped the odds that the Sixers get the pick this year. The Sixers are in the second most enviable position out of all the teams in the lottery after the Celtics. They have Simmons and Embiid who look like they can be future stars if they stay away from the injury bug, Dario Saric looks like he could be an above-average starter, and then there are a bunch of other role players that look like they are a fit. All these players are extremely young and have room to grow together and the Sixers have a number of incoming picks over the next few years. If the Sixers end up with the Lakers’ pick this year and can add some combo of Dennis Smith, Jayson Tatum or Malik Monk, they will be shaping up to compete for the 2020 NBA Championship.
- New York Knicks
Pro Comparison: Dennis Schroeder
De’Aaron Fox has the floor of Elfrid Payton, the ceiling on John Wall, so lets go with a middle ground of Dennis Schroeder. These players are all threats to go for triple-doubles or get close to it on a given night. Fox is one of the fastest players I have ever watched, whether it be running in transition with the ball or chasing down some on defense. But where he really amazes me is how quick he is off the dribble in a half-court setting. He can get to the rim before the defense even realizes what has happened. Once blowing by his defender, Fox can either rose up over defenders to finish in the lane or dish out to teammates on the outside when defenses collapse. Fox is like Wall in that he has the athleticism to throw down dunks over the defense or contort his body for a contested layup. Fox also has a midrange game and can pull up over defenders, but has not yet developed three-point range. Fox shot only 25% from deep in college. In the modern NBA, it is tough to pick out a successful point guard who is not a good three-point shooter. Wall was not a good shooter out of college as he was never asked, or needed to shoot all that much. He was so much more athletic than opposing defenses he could always just get to the hoop. Wall is by no means an elite three-point shooter but has developed a jumper that defenders at least have to respect. Payton on the other hand have no jumper and does not have the athleticism of Fox, and has struggled to become a decent NBA player. Schroeder is a middle ground of the two in that he will never be an elite sniper, but has a respectable jumper and can drive by defenses with his speed, but Schroeder will never been the distributor that Wall is, who is arguably the best in the NBA right now. Fox should be able to contribute right away on the defensive side of the ball. His size and athleticism allow him to stay in front of his man, and he was able to hold Lonzo Ball in check in their two matchups. He actually drastically outperformed Ball, which shows that he can compete against NBA caliber talent. I loved watching Fox place this season. He was always exciting to watch and there was always a highlight to be made. He could grab a rebound, push the floor in transition, beat almost everyone down the floor due to his speed, and throw an alley-oop to a teammate or throw it down himself. The Knicks will be entering a rebuilding mode so letting Fox have control of this offense and running the pick-and-roll with Porzingis is a good place to start. Phil Jackson will probably not be around much longer so I am not worried about the fit in the triangle offense.
- Sacramento Kings
Pro Comparison: Jamal Crawford without the elite handle
The perfect landing spot from Monk’s perspective would be the Sixers. He would be able to play off ball with Ben Simmons doing must of the ball handling, and on defense switch onto point guards most of the time to avoid oversized shooting guards. That pick may happen and has been common in mock drafts I have seen. As much as the Sixers need shooting, they cannot reach for Monk with Smith still on the board at pick number five. Monk is an undersized, streaky shooter, who does not create much offense and is not a strong defender. These characteristics as a group tend to not translate to great NBA players. That is not to say Monk won’t be a good NBA player, he just has a few things to overcome. But Monk is also recently 19 and has a lot of room to grow and does one thing that most NBA teams value above all; score. Monk was one of the best scorers in college basketball this past season. He averaged 19.8 points per game on 45% shooting from the field and a touch under 40% from three. His most memorable game of the season came against North Carolina when he went for 47 points. I expect Monk to be a heat check player in the NBA, similar to Jamal Crawford. He can hit five threes in a row and it seems like everything will go in, and then go cold for stretches. Monk, like Crawford, will have to focus on runners and floaters when he gets into the paint as his size and lack of athleticism will keep him from finishing above the rim. Luckily this is one of his strengths. Players coming out of Kentucky are tough to judge. Due to all the talent around them, sometimes players aren’t asked to do as much and stick to their specialties. No one thought Devin Booker was going to be as good as he currently is. Booker has the Harrison twins and Tyler Ulis playing ahead of him and we were just not given the opportunity to see his full skill set. Monk got much more of an opportunity to show what he can do. He played 1218 minutes in his lone season of college basketball compared to Booker’s 816. Everything Monk is weak in, De’Aaron Fox is generally pretty strong in. They balanced each other out very well so given the opportunity, Monk may be able to develop those traits we didn’t get to see in college. If not, we might get Jeremy Lamb 2.0. I would not want to be picking 7th in the 2017 draft. The drop-off from 6 to 7 is significant. The Kings already have a player of similar style in Buddy Hield, but they are not in a position to be picky about prospect’s role. Both of these players are well suited in a sixth man role, so the Kings should just be worried about accumulating talent.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Lithuania
Pro Comparison: Donatas Motiejunas
This could very well end up being the biggest bust in the draft. I am well of aware of it but think Hartenstein is worth the risk as he could give the Timberwolves the last piece they need to be competing for the 2020 NBA Championship. He is a raw prospect in every sense and has not played against much elite competition. Hartenstein also has a little arrogance to him. Not nearly as bad as Mario Hezonja but in a similar mold. He also has a habit to tend to fall in love with the three, even when he is the biggest guy on the court. So besides having raw skills to develop, he will need to make an attitude adjustment and also an adjustment in style of play. That is not to say he can’t shoot from outside because that is a main draw, but he needs to learn when to do what. That sounds easy and something once told, you should just be able to do, but it is not always the case. Josh Smith for example was obsessed with shooting threes, despite the fact that he was not very good at it. This led to his NBA downfall. Hartenstein is by no means ever going to be Shaq but when he goes for dunks in the post, he goes up powerful off two feet and throws the ball down with two hands with his legs going out as if to say “get out of my way.” He will never be Shaq but it shows a willingness to play down low as opposed to solely a perimeter player. Hartenstein has the size of an NBA center with above-average athleticism that allows him to play power forward. His combination of shooting from outside, playing down low, and rebounding is above that of any prospect in this draft. Each individual skill might not be the best but no other big man prospect can offer the same combination of skills, while able to play both the 4 and 5. The thought of Hartenstein continuing his development and having a defensive minded coach in Tom Thibodeau work on his weaknesses is scary for the rest of the NBA. The Timberwolves were a hot pick in the preseason for a team that would take the next step under Thibodeau. The thought of bringing in a player who could very well turn into a star to the current base of this young roster is scary for the rest of the NBA. Hartenstein would be able to slot in next to Karl Anthony-Towns and give a balanced frontcourt where both players are above-average athletes, can shoot from the outside, pass, rebound, and score down low. What really excites me about the possibility of Hartenstein joining the Timberwolves is his outlet passes. He immediately looks up the court after getting a rebound and tries sending it down the court to start a fast break. On a team with athletes such as Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn, and passing wizard Ricky Rubio, this is a fun thought as a fan to see all the Dunk Contest worthy dunks we will see in this transition offense.
- Dallas Mavericks
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona Wildcats
Pro Comparison: Ersan Ilyasova
When I first sought out at evaluating the class of 2017 NBA prospects, Lauri Markkanen was low on my initial impressions. I thought of him as Andrea Bargnani. A big man who can shoot and that’s about it. After watching some more game film of Markkanen, he is more than that. Markkanen is an elite three-point shooter and has the height to shoot over pretty much anyone. He can also create his own shot off the dribble, something Bargnani could never do. Markkanen lacks the build and touch right now to be a post of scorer and playing on a team like the Mavericks who have Nerlens Noel at center, he will probably not be asked to do so often. Markkanen has an offensive skillset that is valuable in the modern NBA but defense is where he is going to have to work on if he wants to stick in the NBA. The have been a lot of comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis. I can maybe see that on offense a little bit (I think even there they are very different), but defense is where the comparison really falls off. Porzingis is a great athlete and elite shot blocker. Porzingis will probably play his best NBA basketball when the Knicks decide to slide him over to center. Markkanen currently could not hold his own at center, but will also struggle to stick with more athletic 4s, nor is he a good rebounder. It is tough to think of a team where you would be comfortable having Markkanen and not feel like he was a liability on defense. A team will draft Markkanen due to his offensive potential in the hopes that they can teach him defense, the question is just whether it can ever be developed and he can overcome his natural limitations. It would not be a surprise to see the Timberwolves draft him and hope having Gorgui Dieng and Karl Anthony-Towns around him can cover up some of his defensive inefficiencies and open up the floor for the rest of the offense.
- Sacramento Kings
Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State Spartans
Pro Comparison: Justice Winslow
Justice Winslow is currently a much better defensive player at all levels than Bridges. That is not to say Bridges is a bad defender, Winslow is just pretty elite, yet the style in which they play and that their body type allows them to play at is comparable. Each player has a NBA-ready body and has the quickness to stick with players on the perimeter, but the size to be a weak-side defender down low. Each also has the skills to play either man on pick and rolls. Winslow was known for his defense coming out of college and Bridges would have a lot of work to match him but whereas Winslow has the edge on defense, Bridges has the edge on offense. On offense, Bridges can do a little bit of everything. Bridges is 6’7” and a solid 230 pounds. Bridges has surprising athleticism for someone his size and is routinely getting above the rim on offense, always looking for an alley-oop. When not using his athleticism, he tends to hover more towards the perimeter and is comfortable putting up over five threes a game and hitting them at a 39% clip. While lacking a post game currently, he can cover his flaws with athleticism and his shooting but it is something he will need to work on to become an above-average NBA player. If Bridges can add an inside game, he has a chance to be one of the best players in this draft and he would be able to score at every level in the NBA. A player of his build, athleticism, rebounding ability and current perimeter shot is rare and that combination is a very important skillset in the modern NBA. Bridges did show a willingness to move inside as the season progressed, but still tended to flutter towards to the perimeter. One thing I really like about Bridges is that he wants the ball. You can see every time the game is close that Bridges wants the ball and if someone else shoots it, he is going for the offensive rebound and if that ball misses, he still wants the put back. Bridges is not Draymond Green, another ex-Michigan State Spartan, as Green is a much better point forward, but outside of the creating offense, which Bridges really lacks, it is a similar skillset.
- Detroit Pistons
Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide 36ers
Pro Comparison: J.R. Smith
I was very tempted to put Ferguson higher in this draft but with a deep top tier of prospects, I could not find a spot where it worked. It also did not feel right to compare anyone to J.R. Smith because he is one of a kind. Ferguson was the 16th rated recruit by 24/7 Sports but decided to play the year in Australia for the Adelaide 36ers so we did not get to see him play against any of the other top prospects. Ferguson has explosive athleticism and we could see him competing in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He also has very good three-point range. These two are clearly his strengths but also has a nice floater game. His game resembles that of Monk’s, but cannot create quite as much. Ferguson also has less than ideal length, despite being 6’7”. Ferguson also has nice combo of arrogance and fun to his game, similar to that of Smith. This pick gives the Pistons a player who can fit a role that every NBA team needs in a 3 and D. He can also be insurance incase KCP leaves in free agency this summer. Ferguson also just gives the Pistons another weapon who can space the floor for Andre Drummond.
- Charlotte Hornets
Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State Seminoles
Pro Comparison: Brandon Ingram
I have seen Isaac a lot higher than this on most mock drafts. I am not a fan Isaac but I can see the draw some scouts have. He has the body, speed and basic skillset that he can play the 2, 3 and 4, similar to Ingram. The foundation is there, it will just take the player bringing these skills together to reach their incredibly high ceiling. The difference between Ingram and Isaac is that Ingram had a lot more production in college to show scouts. Isaac could disappear for games at a time and looked like a future All-Star in others. He is somewhat similar to Marquese Chriss in that regard. Each compares favorably to past All-Stars and they possess all the physical tools in the world, they just have to put everything together which is much easier said than done. It would not be shocking to see any of Chriss, Isaac or Ingram become an All-NBA player and it would not be shocking if they were all out of the NBA in five years. Charlotte has a foundation in place and an All-Star in Kemba Walker so they might go after someone who can contribute right away. The other side of it may be that they do not need a rookie that is playing 15 minutes a game so they might shoot for the stars instead.
- Denver Nuggets
Harry Giles, PF, Duke Blue Devils
Pro Comparison: Gorgui Dieng
In 2015, Jeff Goodman, of ESPN, tweeted, “Besides Anthony Davis, Harry Giles is top overall recruit I’ve seen in past decade-plus.” Rivals and 24/7 Sports had Giles ranked as the number two recruit in the country after Josh Jackson, with ESPN ranking him number one overall. He also starred for Team USA at the 2015 FIBA Under-19 World Championship. These accolades tend to lead to a top three draft pick, yet Giles will be lucky if he goes in the lottery. This is due to two surgically repaired knees and an underwhelming freshman season at Duke. There are two players we can look back on from the 2016 draft to compare Giles to; Thon Maker and Skal Labissiere. Maker was a YouTube sensation with his diverse skillset and ridiculously high ceiling, yet had never played against any elite competition and scouts were unsure if Maker and his skinny frame would ever be able to put all his tools together. Labissiere was a top two recruit on all three major recruiting services, with Rivals even rating him above Ben Simmons. Labissiere struggled to even crack Kentucky’s lineup his lone year, but entered the draft due to potential. Both Maker and Labissiere have held their own at the NBA level this year and both improved over the school year. This bodes well for Giles in that joining an NBA team, with their coaching and training, will be able to live up to the potential he showed in high school. And watching his high school highlights was something special. Dieng is a safe comparison for Giles style of play in that they can do a little bit of everything inside the arc. If Giles even gets close to what he looked like in high school, he will absolutely exceed Dieng and could come closer to a Kevin Garnett. If that player, now almost two years removed from his most recent knee surgery, can come back, the Nuggets will have a star in the making. The Nuggets have a lot of depth all over their roster and are at the point that they just need to pair stars with their current start Nikola Jokic. They are one of the few teams in the lottery who can afford to swing on a boom-or-bust prospect like Giles.
- Indiana Pacers
Frank Ntilikina, PG/SG, France
Pro Comparison: Dante Exum
Frank Ntilikina is a 6’5” French point guard prospect. Dante Exum is a 6’6” Australian point guard who was the fifth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and currently plays for the Jazz. Both prospects were or will be 19 at the start of their respective rookies seasons and are coming into the league as raw, athletic point guards who both possess the size to be combo guards in the NBA. Neither has gotten the chance to play against too much elite competition before coming to the NBA and their draft position is based on potential rather than what they have accomplished so far in their careers. Exum has dealt with injuries but even so, has not lived up to expectations. As much as each prospect is unique, the NBA is a copycat league and front offices tend to follow draft trends. This may hurt Ntilikina, as there has not been a highly drafted international guard that has lived up to their draft expectation recently. Ntilikina can excel to the rim and can create for others but most other parts of his game are raw and it will probably be two or three years before we can expect a breakout. If he can develop a reliable jumper, he should stick in the NBA. Ntilikina does not fill a need for the Pacers, but can be insurance in case Jeff Teague leaves in free agency. Ntilikina probably will take a few years to develop so they cannot count on him right away, so they might want to go with a more NBA-ready player such as Justin Jackson in the hopes that putting talent around Paul George will encourage him to sign an extension.
In this lottery, Justin Jackson, Jarrett Allen, OG Anunoby, Justin Patton, Ivan Rabb, and TJ Leaf are a few notable prospects left out. I am a big fan of John Collins, Edmond Summer, and Jawun Evans as key rotation players on playoff caliber teams, but do not have the upside of the players listed in the lottery.
One team that will be interesting to see what they do in the draft is the Portland Trail Blazers. If the season ended today, they would have the 17th, 20th, and 26th picks in the draft. Just as the Celtics in 2016, I do not expect them to bring in three rookies. With Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis, Festus Ezeli, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Evan Turner all on pretty hefty second contracts, it has always been known that a few of them with have to be moved. The odds are that one or more of these players will be packaged with picks to bring in more talent. The other option could be swinging for the fences on their draft picks. They could draft players like Harry Giles (although not available in this mock draft), OG Anunoby, or another player with star potential but a lot of risk with the hope they hit on one of the three.
Image from: http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2017/2/6/14516612/nba-draft-2017-markelle-fultz-lonzo-ball-head-to-head-scouting-report
All stats from: http://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/