We finally know the order of the 2017 NBA draft. As a Mavs fan, it’s hard to see that Dallas might have won the #3 pick if only they’d lost another game and had more ping pong balls in play. Instead, they’ll pick 9th, after almost all the top tier talent is already gone.
Or is it? There’s a chance that things don’t go as planned and one player falls. Here is my post-lotto mock draft.
#1 Boston Celtics – Markelle Fultz
The Celtics greatest need is a Power Forward. According to RealGM.com, Amir Johnson is the only starter not averaging double digit scoring. With Thomas at 21, Bradley at 15, Crowder at 12, and Horford at 16, Johnson’s 4 points per game doesn’t make the cut. In an ideal world, Boston drafts a star power forward. But, as luck would have it, there’s only one power forward in the top ten, and he doesn’t warrant a #1 pick, so look for Boston to either trade the pick or go with best available. If that’s the case, Boston selects Markelle Fultz and either Isaiah Thomas or Avery Bradley wind up on the chopping block. Thomas is a near MVP level, which you’d think would exponentially increase his trade value. But he also comes with a serious height disadvantage, being one of the shortest players in the league. So look for teams needing a point guard to be wary of whether he’ll fit their system.
Some people think Fultz can play shooting guard, so they imagine a dynamic duo of Thomas and Fultz. I’m not convinced, but it’s certainly a fascinating concept. Both can penetrate and create their own shots. Boston could really shake up this draft if they trade back or make a move for Jimmy Butler.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball
Magic Johnson wants to make the biggest splash possible now that he’s at the helm. Lonzo Ball is the biggest name and the biggest story in this draft. His dad, LaVar, poses a threat to team chemistry if he publicly chastises any of Lonzo’s teammates after a poor performance, but Magic is swinging for the fences on this draft, and Lonzo is the home run he’s been looking for. This pick makes De’Angelo Russell expendable. Look for Russell to get traded or shuffled on the depth chart.
#3 Philadelphia 76ers – Josh Jackson
This team is getting scary. Ben Simmons, Josh Jackson, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, and several other above average players make Philly the dynasty of the future. Saric might get traded to a team like Utah or Denver before all is said and done, but that won’t stop Philly from elevating to elite status within 3 years. Player health is the only potential roadblock in their way. Malik Monk would be an interesting pick here as well, given that he gives the 76ers a more balanced attack right away. But probably too high in the draft for him to go.
#4 Phoenix Suns – Jayson Tatum
Chad Ford of ESPN seems to think Phoenix will take De’Aaron Fox at #4. But with Tyler Ullis averaging 21 points per game and Eric Bledsoe is still on the roster. Jayson Tatum makes a lot more sense here. Positionally, Jonathan Isaac fills the greatest gap, but he’s probably a couple seasons away from being pro ready. Depends on where the Suns see themselves. With the emergence of Devin Booker at shooting guard, Isaac makes more sense to me, but Tatum contributes immediately.
You could make the case that Phoenix is prepared to clear the deck of point guards just like Minnesota, but that’s an awful lot of point guards floating around looking for new homes. I’m not sure there’s enough of a market for both teams to get market value for the point guards they might want to flush.
#5 Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox
What a get for Sacramento at number five! Fox and Hield combine to form a high octane back court. Fox can push tempo and Hield can spread the floor with outside shooting. A great combo to build upon.
#6 Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac
The Magic could take best available player and not blink, because there are no superstars on this team. But they’re weakest at small forward. Jonathan Isaac plays SF/PF, so he’s a solid fit here. Malik Monk might be best available, but Fournier has done a solid job at SG averaging 18 points and 2 assists per game, so not sure why they’d waste a #6 pick on a position of greatest strength.
#7 Minnesota Timberwolves – Dennis Smith
The Ricky Rubio experiment has ended. Everyone says he’s not the point guard Tom Thibodeau is looking for. Thibs already looked for a trade partner during the season, but no bites worth pulling the trigger. Rubio put up very good numbers after the All-Star break, garnering Thibs as much trade value as possible for this offseason. Where he ends up is anyone’s guess, but I have to think that Dennis Smith plays the kind of ball that Thibs likes, so I expect Smith to go at #7.
#8 New York Knicks -Frank Ntilinika
Phil Jackson will live or die by the triangle offense. I’m about 50/50 on this prediction, as Malik Monk is the pro-ready scoring 2 guard that keeps the Knicks from failing to be relevant in 2018. But Frank is a solid future move, and in the short term helps you tank for better picks next year (and probably the year after that). If Phil can keep his job long enough, drafting Frank Ntilinika could be the start of a legitimate post-Melo rebuild. Frank and Kristap could be the future faces of this Knicks franchise.
#9 Dallas Mavericks – Malik Monk
Dallas has their eye on Frank Ntilinika, but Phil Jackson may swoop in and take him at #8. Some think Lauri Markkanen will tempt Donnie with his non-Americanness. But I don’t see Lauri as a good fit for so many reasons, the most significant being that he too closely resembles Dirk, and that only makes his future failure to attain Dirkness that much more frustrating for the Mavs fan. Malik Monk comes in and provides instant offense and scoring ability. He’s not the selection Donnie wants, but he might just be the selection Donnie needs. With Monk at shooting guard, Dallas can move on fromWes if a trade is possible, or slide him down to small forward permanently. Seth Curry plays both point guard and shooting guard, so you have a pretty balanced roster, assuming Dallas re-signs Nerlens Noel.
The pessimist in me thinks Dallas will trade this pick for a player or future pick if Frank is gone, but Monk is too good to pass up. It may be a stretch to think Monk will fall to #9, but there’s a positional argument for each player selected before Dallas gets the ninth pick. Only time will tell.
#10 Sacramento Kings – Zach Collins
The Kings are suddenly on track to rebuild properly. With a core of Hield, Fox, and now Collins, this post-Boogie franchise is well on its way to recovery. Collins looks to have the highest ceiling of all remaining players, but will take a couple years to bulk up, learn how to handle the physicality, and adjust to the wear and tear of the season at the pro level.
Of course, one or more trades may happen on Draft Day. If that happens, this whole mock draft gets tossed out the window. I have a feeling this will be one of the least predictable drafts in recent history.
Best Case Scenario
Dallas trades #9 and some players with Sacramento at #5 or Orlando at #6. De’Aaron Fox is my target here. Dennis Smith is my consolation. Either one takes this Mavs franchise to the next level.
Worst Case Scenario
Dallas doesn’t get Ntilinika and in a fit of rage and insanity, trades #9 for a sub par package of current NBA players. I don’t think it’s likely, but I also wouldn’t have thought skipping Giannis was likely either. So we’ll see.