Digesting the 2017 NBA Draft: A Thought on Each Pick

Digesting the 2017 NBA Draft: A Thought on Each Pick


Digesting the 2017 NBA Draft: A Thought on Each Pick


1. Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz

Fultz combines the length and laid-back demeanor of fellow former Washington Husky Brandon Roy with the handles and explosiveness of should-be Hall-of-Famer Kevin Johnson. Roy averaged nearly five dimes per game as a combo guard before injuries cut him down in his prime while Johnson (9.1 APG) is one of the more underrated and prolific passers in NBA history.

Both Roy and K.J. could score and play-make with the best of them, but neither was a great three-point shooter, with Roy sinking 1.0 per game on 34.8 percent and Johnson hitting just 0.2 per game on 30.5 percent. That’s what makes Markelle, who scored 23.2 points, handed out 5.9 helpers, and drained 2.1 threes per night (on 41.3 percent) as a college freshman, such an unbelievably talented prospect worth mentioning in the same sentence as these legends before he even suits up for the Sixers. It’s also what makes Fultz an awesome fit alongside point forward Ben Simmons and star center Joel Embiid.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball

Lonzo won’t be leading L.A. back to the playoffs as a rookie (sorry LaVar), but the Lakers will finally deserve their never-ending slate of national TV games. If Ball bulks up and improves on defense, the Jason Kidd comparisons could come to fruition.

3. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

I would’ve gone with Jonathan Isaac here. In my opinion, Boston’s biggest need for improvement is on the defensive end. Al Horford doesn’t provide enough rim protection alone, and the small-ball Celtics tend to get pulverized in the paint. Unlike Tatum, Isaac has the potential to be an elite and versatile stopper – and he flashed an efficient offensive skill-set at Florida State.

With that being said, Tatum does seem like a pretty good fit on the offensive end. An inside-out scoring forward who likes to go to work in the mid-range, Jayson should have plenty of room to operate thanks to Boston’s surplus of floor spacers.

4. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson

I can’t fault Phoenix for this selection, as Jackson fills a need at forward and offers two-way upside.

5. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox

A hard-nosed defender who loves to penetrate and dish sounds like a match made in heaven for backcourt mate Buddy Hield.

6. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac

Isaac enters a similar situation to the one he faced at FSU in that he’ll immediately be one of the team’s better three-point shooters. The Magic are overloaded with depth in the frontcourt (Aaron Gordon, Nik Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo) and start a point guard who can’t throw a rock in the ocean (Elfrid Payton). If there’s one team in the NBA that you might be able to get away with playing a zone against, it’s Orlando. This is why I advocated for Dennis Smith to Disney in the lead-up to the big day.

I’d fully endorse this selection if I could get a guarantee that Isaac and Gordon will start together at the 4 and 5 someday soon. Nevertheless, Isaac is cut from Frank Vogel’s defense-first cloth and offers as much upside as any player in the draft.

7. Chicago Bulls – Lauri Markkanen

Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Markkanen was the big haul for Jimmy Butler. Chicago badly needed to address its outside shooting woes, but drafting a defensively dismal center at No. 7 was reckless. The Bulls will be a fixture in the lottery for years to come.

8. New York Knicks – Frank Ntilikina

Ntilikina probably won’t take the league by storm like Kristaps Porzingis did as a rookie, but the young French point guard is going to be a fine fit for the triangle.

9. Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith

Smith and Rick Carlisle might bump heads from time to time – but Dennis was lucky to land in Dallas, and the Mavericks were very fortunate that he fell to them. Adding Johnathan Motley as an undrafted free agent was a quality move as well.

10. Portland Trail Blazers – Zach Collins

Portland traded up for a center with legitimate two-way potential, addressing their biggest need in the process.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Malik Monk

After acquiring Dwight Howard days before the draft, the Hornets filled their glaring hole at shooting guard. If Kemba Walker, Monk, and Nicolas Batum all start together, is it fair to refer to Charlotte as Portland-East?

12. Detroit Pistons – Luke Kennard

While the Pistons need perimeter shooting for lineups with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond to survive, it’s unlikely Kennard moves the needle much for a franchise that appears to be stuck in the middle.

13. Utah Jazz – Donovan Mitchell

When the Pistons passed on Mitchell, Utah made its move, trading former lottery selection Trey Lyles (No. 12 overall in 2015) and the 24th pick for the rights to No. 13 overall. Mitchell will likely become a key cog for the Jazz as long as he can keep improving his jumper. He’s a long and versatile defender who complements their franchise player (Rudy Gobert), and moreover Mitchell has upside on offense. Donovan has the ability to shake, bake, and bounce like a young Eric Gordon, and while he still needs to prove he can shoot on par with NBA guards, the former Louisville Cardinal has a smooth, easy-looking shot – plus he’s a willing passer.

14. Miami Heat – Bam Adebayo

While there may not have been an obvious pick here, Miami’s choice still felt like a reach. Adebayo isn’t a good enough shooter or perimeter defender to occupy the power forward spot in the modern NBA, which basically makes him Hassan Whiteside’s backup.  With that being said, the Heat did need a reserve center since Willie Reed is about to hit the open market.

15. Sacramento Kings – Justin Jackson

Adding a seasoned wing with a 3-and-D skill-set was a solid choice here for Sacramento, especially after they drafted a point guard who isn’t going to beat defenses with his outside shot (at least not yet).

16. Minnesota Timberwolves – Justin Patton

Minnesota fleeced Chicago for Jimmy Butler, then drafted a better two-way center prospect (than Markkanen) to pair with KAT.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – D.J. Wilson

Wilson will be a project, and it’ll be interesting to see how much time he spends honing his 3-and-D skills in the G-League.

18. Indiana Pacers – T.J. Leaf

Leaf provides floor spacing at stretch forward, but it’s unlikely he’ll be able to defend the quicker wings who slide down the positional chart in small-ball units. Nevertheless, he and Myles Turner make for an intriguing fit at the 4 and 5 spots.

19. Atlanta Hawks – John Collins

Similarly to Leaf, Collins is a power forward prospect in a puzzling predicament. John wasn’t a good defender in college, and like Leaf, Collins will likely struggle to slide his feet along the perimeter against small-ball 4’s. I think there is slightly more hope for Collins at the next level thanks to his incredible leaping ability. Despite having just a 6-11 wingspan, Collins jumps like Flubber found the soles of his shoes, which means there is at least a possibility he can slide to center if groomed for the position.

20. Sacramento Kings – Harry Giles

After making a relatively safe pick at No. 15, the Kings swung for the fences at No. 20, and who can blame them?

21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Terrance Ferguson

Ferguson has the potential to be a solid 3-and-D wing, which is just what the doctor ordered for the Thunder.

22. Brooklyn Nets – Jarrett Allen

Allen could’ve been a late-lottery selection. Instead, he fell to the hosting Brooklyn Nets – for whom he could start as a rookie.

23. Toronto Raptors – OG Anunoby

There will be a lot of pressure on Anunoby to develop his jumper, but Canadians will love his hustle and hard-nosed defense. If OG proves capable of knocking down corner treys, he’ll be a perfect fit alongside a ball-dominant scorer such as DeMar DeRozan.

24. Denver Nuggets – Tyler Lydon

Trey Lyles and Tyler Lydon have a few things in common: they play basketball, shoot lots of 3’s, don’t play good defense, share the same initials, and have y’s in both their first and last names. Maybe Lyles and Lydon were simply destined to join forces in Denver, or maybe the Nuggets should have selected an elite defensive prospect (OG Anunoby) at No. 13 overall.

25. Philadelphia 76ers – Anzejs Pasecniks

Pasecniks will be stashed overseas. He’s a gifted offensive center who could be Embiid’s primary backup a few years from now if Richaun Holmes receives lucrative offers.

26. Portland Trail Blazers – Caleb Swanigan

The Trail Blazers doubled down on centers, selecting the slow-footed but sharpshooting Swanigan, who will likely be the third center on the depth chart behind Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. Given how far Caleb has come, it’s not wise to count him out at the next level. Nevertheless, his package of size, strength, length, and offensive skill won’t matter if he can’t keep up on defense.

27. Los Angeles Lakers – Kyle Kuzma

An unselfish combo forward like Kuzma is a good get for the Lakers.

28. Utah Jazz – Tony Bradley

With Gobert and Derrick Favors already in the fold, Bradley doesn’t exactly fill a need, but the upside is there.

29. San Antonio Spurs – Derrick White

White has shown shades of Andre Miller’s vision, toughness, and savvy mixed with Malcolm Brogdon’s 3-and-D versatility, length, and sneaky athleticism; it’s no wonder he slipped to the Spurs.

30. Los Angeles Lakers – Josh Hart

Selecting Kuzma and Hart late in the first round and adding P.J. Dozier as an undrafted free agent suggests that while the Lakers are shifting to a “Showtime” style of play, they’ll be doing so with gritty players who bring intangibles and character.

31. New Orleans Pelicans – Frank Jackson

Jackson was an exceptional selection for the Pelicans, who might need him to step in and play heavy minutes right away if Jrue Holiday heads elsewhere this summer.

32. Phoenix Suns – Davon Reed

Reed has tangible two-way upside as a 3-and-D wing, plus he boasts a 7-0 wingspan. Drafting Jackson and Reed addressed the team’s need for versatile defenders.

33. Orlando Magic – Wesley Iwundu

Like Isaac, Iwundu has probably already stolen Vogel’s heart. The jack-of-all trades forward will provide plenty of toughness and versatility along the wing.

34. Sacramento Kings – Frank Mason III  

It shouldn’t be a shocker that the team that drafted Mason is the same one that took a chance on Isaiah Thomas with the final pick of the draft back in 2011.

35. Memphis Grizzlies – Ivan Rabb

At 6-10 with a 7-1.5 wingspan, Rabb isn’t quite long enough to protect the rim and he isn’t quick enough to consistently defend along the perimeter. He’d need to leapfrog either third-year power forward Jarell Martin or sophomore center Deyonta Davis for minutes, and if JaMychal Green is re-signed, Rabb will almost certainly spend the season in the G-League.

36. Philadelphia 76ers – Jonah Bolden

Bolden would’ve been a lottery pick if he had remained at UCLA, and now he probably won’t come over to the NBA for at least a couple years. Nevertheless, the Sixers are getting a steal of a 3-and-D power forward when he does.

37. Boston Celtics – Semi Ojeleye

One of my favorite prospects in the entire class, Ojeleye bolsters the power forward spot for the Celtics and could contribute immediately on both ends as a versatile 3-and-D workhorse.

38. Golden State Warriors – Jordan Bell

If Bell eventually becomes Golden State’s fifth starter and the Warriors win five more championships, be sure to blame the Bulls.

39. Los Angeles Clippers – Jawun Evans

Evans could be thrust into a backup role behind Austin Rivers if Chris Paul jumps ship this summer.

40. Charlotte Hornets – Dwayne Bacon

Bacon brings scoring punch off the bench, but he might spend much of the 2017-18 campaign with the Greensboro Swarm.

41. Atlanta Hawks – Tyler Dorsey

With Tim Hardaway Jr. entering restricted free agency, Dorsey could earn minutes as a backup in Atlanta’s backcourt. It seems likely that the Hawks are bracing themselves for a rebuild, so young guys like Tyler should be afforded plenty of opportunity.

42. Los Angeles Lakers – Thomas Bryant

It took longer than expected, but the Lakers finally fell for a center. For what it’s worth, I would’ve gambled on Bryant’s upside long before settling for Caleb Swanigan.

43. Houston Rockets – Isaiah Hartenstein

Hartenstein reminds me of Donatas Motiejunas, who also began his NBA career with Houston. The Rockets ended up signing Cameron Oliver as an undrafted free agent, but I was surprised they chose Hartenstein here and risked losing Oliver.

44. New York Knicks – Damyean Dotson

In terms of playing style, Dotson is comparable to former Knick and current Cavalier J.R. Smith.

45. Memphis Grizzlies – Dillon Brooks

Brooks bring toughness and big-game experience, but he is undersized at forward and likely not quick enough to cover guards.

46. Milwaukee Bucks – Sterling Brown

Brown and Malcolm Brogdon may make Matthew Dellavedova very irrelevant in Milwaukee’s backcourt sooner rather than later.

47. Indiana Pacers – Ike Anigbogu

Despite already having Myles Turner, Anigbogu was a good upside snag based on measurements alone if his health holds up.

48. Los Angeles Clippers – Sindarius Thornwell

Thornwell is the versatile 3-and-D wing the Clippers have been craving for years. Too bad the band looks like it’s about to split up.

49. Denver Nuggets – Vlatko Cancar

A draft-and-stash big man not known for his defense doesn’t make up for Denver’s whammy in Round 1. Mathias Lessort would have been a more logical fit for Nikola Jokic among the international players remaining.

50. Philadelphia 76ers – Mathias Lessort

Like Pasecniks, Lessort will spend some more time overseas. However, while Pasecniks thrives more-so on offense, Lessort offers upside as a small-ball 5.

51. Denver Nuggets – Monte Morris

Morris is a steady point guard who may have to earn his spot on the roster by showing out in summer league. With Jamal Murray expected to spend more time at point, Emmanuel Mudiay entering a make-or-break campaign, and Jameer Nelson under contract for one more year, it will be tough for Morris to crack the rotation as a rookie even if Denver doesn’t add another 1 this offseason.

52. Indiana Pacers – Edmond Sumner

Given that the Pacers are in the midst of trying to recoup some value for Paul George, it made sense for them to shoot for the moon on athletic but injured prospects such as Anigbogu and Sumner.

53. Boston Celtics – Kadeem Allen

Allen is a solid perimeter defender who, given Boston’s backcourt depth, will likely spend a good bit of the year playing for the Maine Red Claws. He has great size, length, and quickness for a guard, and should stick in the league if he improves his shooting and playmaking.

54. Phoenix Suns – Alec Peters

Peters projects as a highly-skilled power forward with minimal defensive potential. Maybe I’m jumping off the Dragon Bender bandwagon too quickly, but the Suns seem to lack a two-way big man prospect. In my opinion, 3-and-D center Chris Boucher would’ve been a better decision here.

55. Utah Jazz – Nigel Williams-Goss

We’ll have a better idea about Nigel’s odds of playing a meaningful role next year after the next couple weeks. He has good size for a point guard, and it’s not impossible to imagine him stealing some minutes as a backup ball-handler if the Jazz don’t do so well in free agency.

56. Boston Celtics – Jabari Bird

With the last of Boston’s picks, they selected Jaylen Brown’s former teammate from Cal, who developed into a solid outside shooter during his four-year college career.

57. Brooklyn Nets – Aleksandar Vezenkov

A stretch-4 with a sweet shot, it’s not hard to picture him as a future backup forward in Brooklyn whose defensive struggles are well-hidden by starting center Jarrett Allen.

58. New York Knicks – Ognjen Jaramaz

A fun and flashy point guard who doesn’t play much defense and may never suit up for the Knicks.

59. San Antonio Spurs – Jaron Blossomgame

An athletic wing defender who hasn’t proven he can shoot; again, no surprise San Antonio scooped him.

60. Atlanta Hawks – Alpha Kaba

Standing 6-10, Kaba is fairly mobile and boasts a 7-5 wingspan.

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