Projecting the 2017 NBA Draft: Point Guard Edition

The 2017 NBA Draft has been touted for quite some time as perhaps the deepest collection of elite point guard talent for quite some time. In a league flush with elite playmaking stars such as Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Kyrie Irving the teams in the lottery will be looking to close the gap on elite teams that already have these stud PG’s. Here we’ll take a quick look at the prospects who are projected to go in the lottery that could have an immediate impact on the franchises that draft them. If all goes according to plan, these kids may usher in a new generation of fierce floor generals.

MARKELLE FULTZ  (6-5, 185 lbs. Washington)

Fultz has come a long way from not even making the varsity basketball team at the extremely presitigious DeMatha Catholic program that most recently produced the likes of Victor Oladipo and the Grant brothers. His body has developed into the prototypical NBA combo guard physique, combining good height with a strong wide frame. Markelle combines a quick first step and explosivness driving to the rim with a flair for the creative pass. He has shown ability playing both on and off the ball due to elite ball handling skills and a high IQ in terms of moving off the ball and slashing. His jumpshot and range have improved over the past seasons, but his freshman year at Washington will be very telling in terms of whether he will develop legitimate 3-point range in the NBA.

Fultz has been trending upward more-so than any other propect in the draft. If he continues to show promise in his freshman season, expect him to be a top-five pick in the draft and to land with a team that needs a modern combo PG with elite offensive and defensive potential. He may even have the ability to start at both point guard and shooting guard depending on the situation, and projects as a capable defender at both positions.

Comparison: An explosive version of Tyreke Evans with a significantly higher ceiling

Ideal Fit: Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers notoriously have a plethora of bigs along with newly drafted PG in a PF-body, Ben Simmons. However, they would be ecstatic to pounce on the opportunity to draft Fultz. He would immediately enter their starting lineup and provide a significant impact on both ends of the floor.

Secondary Destination: New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans have not found a guard to compliment their superstar PF Anthony Davis, as both Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans have not been able to stay healthy for a full campaign (and both become free agents next summer). Inconsistent perimeter play has been to the detriment of Davis’s development and Fultz would provide a consistent option to pair with Davis before he gets fed up and leaves town.

DENNIS SMITH (6-2, 175 lbs. NC State)

Dennis has always been described as a point guard with all the intagibles and leadership abilities required to excel. What works in his favor is that he also has the skills and athleticism required to succeed. He is a willing passer, a high flier, and a complete floor general of the offense in both the half court and the fast break. If he can answer questions about improving consistency on his outside shot and dedication to the defensive end, he will most certainly be a top-eight pick. Surprisingly, his athleticism allows him to get an inordinate amount of blocks from the guard position. Expect him to replace Cat Barber at NC State and provide leadership to a program that’s starving for some postseason success.

Player Comparison: Kemba Walker combined with Steve Francis

Ideal Fit: Sacramento Kings. The Kings have been missing charisma, leadership, and consistent PG play since the days of Mike Bibby. Dennis may not have the ability to lead them into the playoffs in his first few seasons, but he has all the intagibles to be a building piece in the right direction. They have to start somewhere especially if Cousins leaving is becoming more of an inevitabilit–and Smith would be a great place to start.

Secondary Destination: Boston Celtics. The Celtics own Brooklyn’s pick, and if they didn’t I would say the Nets would be a perfect fit for him. On the Celtics, he would land in a situation where the team could use his confident play in the playoffs as they attempt to compete with the elite of the East.

FRANK NTILIKINA (6-5, 180 lbs. Strasbourg IG, France)

Ntilikina has a complicated name, but we will all have to learn how to spell it. French players have had a rich history of success since Tony Parker joined the league–and Frank will follow in those footsteps. His strengths include pro experience, size, length (7-0 reach), and athleticism. Questions include consistency, raw skills, and a skinny frame. This means Frank may have a wide range of possible outcomes in the NBA, so whichever team drafts him has to show some patience. If developed properly, perhaps he could become a French Freak, similar to Giannis in terms of length and versatility with similar explosiveness and better shooting.

Player Comparison: Nicolas Batum, but with much better handles and a worse jump-shot.

Ideal Fit: Milwaukee Bucks. It would be great to see the French Freak join the Greek Freak in Milwaukee. The length and positional versatility would be a terror to face for other Eastern Conference teams. A backcourt of Ntilikina and Middleton would be a good fit with Dellevadova coming off the bench.

Secondary Destination: New York Knicks. Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings are not the long term answer at PG in the Garden, and Carmelo isn’t going to be around forever. Eventually this is going to Porzingis’s team and when you hit a home run on a high upside player like Kristaps, why not take a shot on Frank as well? Two home runs and Knicks fans may actually have something to look forward to besides mediocrity.

DE’AARON FOX (6-3, 170 lbs. Kentucky)

One half of an extremely exciting freshmen Kentucky backcourt this season along with Malik Monk, Fox will be the PG and primary ball-handler as his playmaking skills are top notch. More of a scorer than a shooter, Fox is a change-of-pace guard that excels by keeping the defense off balance. A quality mid-range shooter, if he can expand his range and become a consistent 3-point shooter his NBA prospects would improve significantly. His skills are very reminiscent of a young Chris Paul, although I would never suggest any young prospect should be expected to reach Point God levels in the NBA. Due to very tangible defensive skills, Fox’s floor will make him a productive NBA prospect regardless of where he ends up.

Player Comparison: Chris Paul or Dennis Schröder? Perhaps somewhere in between.

Ideal Fit: Minnesota Timberwolves. Yes, I know they have Rubio and Dunn, but Thibs would love Fox. If Rubio ends up somewhere else next offseason, they should give Fox a good long look.

Secondary Destination: Orlando Magic. Elfrid Payton doesn’t seem to be the answer in Orlando, but Fox might be just that. Actually, I have no clue what the Magic are doing. The Sixers have a plan that Fox would fit.

LONZO BALL (6-6, 180 lbs. UCLA)

Ever hear of the Ball brothers? Think “Hoop Dreams,” but three brothers coached by their progressive father that believes in run and gun. Lonzo has been an NBA prospect for some time, a floor general with definite playmaking skills and significant NBA range on his jumpshot. It’s actually amazing how proficient he is from downtown after seeing his shooting mechanics. Let’s see if the shot continues to drop at UCLA, because if it does who am I to question whether it will be successful in the NBA as well? Aside from that he has the length, athleticism, quickness, and playmaking skills to be a succesful pro, perhaps in a sixth man role. His defense should not be overlooked.

Player Comparison: Zach Lavine with Kevin Martin’s shooting form

Ideal Fit: Chicago Bulls. The Bulls lack shooting and Ball could be a dynamo scorer for them. His quirky shot may confuse Chicago fans at first, but if he turns into a Jamal Crawford type scorer with positive defense he could quickly become a fan favorite.

Secondary Destination: Washington Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal are there but they need help–especially if Beal can’t stay on the court. Imagine a backcourt rotation of Wall, Ball, and Beal. The fit seems (almost) as good as it sounds.

MALIK MONK (6-3, 180 lbs. Kentucky)

John Calipari got himself the perfect shooter to pair with Fox in the Kentucky backcourt. If Fox is the playmaker, Monk will be the shooter. That doesn’t mean he can’t develop significant playmaking skills off the ball. Look at how far along Jamal Murray came last season playing SG next to Tyler Ulis. In the preseason, Murray already looks ready to become the next young shooting stud that becomes more and more comfortable playing point guard. Steph Curry and Damian Lillard did it first, now Murray is following in their footsteps, and maybe next year Malik will follow in Jamal’s. As of right now, Monk is a scorer with an aggressive mentality that lacks consistency. It will be interesting to see how he meshes with Fox and if he improves upon his shot selection.

Player Comparison: J.R. Smith

Ideal Fit: Utah Jazz. Rodney Hood has improved by leaps and bounds, but the Jazz need another guy to provide shooting and scoring in their backcourt. George Hill and Dante Exum are a fine PG rotation, and Monk would be a good fit playing with either.

Secondary Destination: New York Knicks. Monk may replace Courtney Lee in the Knicks starting rotation right away if he has a successful freshman season under Calipari. Knicks fans loved J.R. Smith, so they will also enjoy nights when Monk goes off.

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