The NBA Draft Combine will begin in Chicago on May 9, 2017. The NBA Draft Lottery will take place on May 16, 2017. And the actual NBA Draft will be held on June 22, 2017. Below is my first round mock draft.
1. Boston Celtics – Markelle Fultz (Washington G): Fultz was one of the best freshman in the country, but went largely under-the-radar because his team was simply bad. However, his 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game, is hard to ignore. He will be a top-3 pick, and would fit in nicely with the Celtics backcourt alongside Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. He was also on the top spot in my NBA Mock Draft Version 1.0.
2. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson (Kansas F): Jackson came into the season as one of a handful of players that were considered to be possible No. 1 overall picks, and he is still near the top of the board. Jackson was able to stay focused after struggling for the first few weeks of the season, and finished with 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. A dynamic duo of Devin Booker and Jackson? Yes please.
3. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (UCLA G): Just imagine it now … LaVar Ball going from Chino Hills High School to watch LaMelo play, then to UCLA for LiAngelo, and finally to Staples Center to see Lonzo play. In all seriousness though, Ball is a terrific talent, averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 assists in his lone season for the Bruins. Although, if he was drafted by the Lakeshow, they would likely move either D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson.
4. Orlando Magic – De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky G): Fox is already a great passer, if he can hit outside shots consistently in the NBA, he’ll be a big-time player. Since his Sweet Sixteen game against Ball and UCLA, in which he dropped 39 points and four assists, he has shot up the draft boards. Orlando would be lucky to get the lengthy point guard.
5. Philadelphia 76ers – Malik Monk (Kentucky G): Monk is one of the premier scorers in the nation at the college level and if it can translate to the league, he should fit in nicely. However, his on-ball defense needs improvement. Philadelphia needs a pure scorer to go along with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
6. New York Knicks – Jayson Tatum (Duke F): I’m not a NBA general manager, but if I was, I’d take Tatum a lot higher than his stock suggests. He already has a NBA-type body and range. This makes even more sense for New York if Carmelo Anthony is cut or traded, which continues to make even more sense for both parties.
7. Sacramento Kings – Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State G): Smith Jr. was at No. 4 in my last Mock Draft, but because of the rise of De’Aaron Fox, the NC State guard has slid a bit. But his 18.1 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.6 rebounds is good enough to nab a top-1o pick. The Kings NEED a point guard since Darren Collison is a soon-to-be free agent, and Smith Jr. fits the bill.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen (Arizona C): Markkanen is athletic, long, and can shoot from outside. Minnesota needs a ton of help because clearly Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins can’t do it by themselves. The Arizona product could add some scoring and help on the glass.
9. Dallas Mavericks – Jonathan Isaac (Florida State F): Isaac put up solid numbers during his freshman year in Tallahassee, but the potential upside is what has NBA executives salivating. He is 6’10, 210-pounds, and has the ability to stretch the floor which is becoming more and more necessary in today’s league.
10. Sacramento Kings – Jarrett Allen (Texas C): If you watched Texas play during the first month of the season, you’d be questioning this pick, but in the last three months of the year, Allen was a force to be reckoned with. He had two of his better performances against the top of the Big 12, with an average of 19.8 points and 12.3 rebounds against Baylor and Kansas, spanning over four games.
11. Detroit Pistons – Zach Collins (Gonzaga F): Collins’ draft stock increased exponentially in the Final Four matchup against South Carolina where he went for 14 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocks. It was enough to make him leave for the big time after just one year in Spokane.
12. Charlotte Hornets – Frank Ntilikina (France G): Ntiliknia is a solid point guard, but I’m not sold on his potential translating to the NBA game. There are a ton of signal callers in front of him but he should be the fifth point guard selected, which will most likely be in the lottery.
13. Miami Heat – T.J. Leaf (UCLA F): Leaf’s most effective asset is his rebounding, which can contribute to a lot of NBA teams. He is relentless on the boards, can stretch the floor, and would work well with Hassan Whiteside in the paint.
14. Denver Nuggets – Justin Patton (Creighton C): Patton exploded on to the scene during his freshman year on an overachieving Creighton team. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds over 25.3 minutes per game.
15. Portland Trailblazers – John Collins (Wake Forest C): Collins has exploded over the last couple of months playing for Danny Manning at Wake Forest, and would play behind Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard, which could help his skills improve even more.
17. Chicago Bulls – Luke Kennard (Duke G): Kennard went from a secret on Duke’s team of All-Americans, to the leader of the pack. He is a great scorer at the college level, but likely would not see a lot of minutes for a few seasons in the NBA. He has the talent but his decision to forgo his junior and senior seasons confused me a little.
18. Atlanta Hawks – Ivan Rabb (California F): Rabb was extremely well-known during his high school years but after an up-and-down freshman season, some people gave up on him. Rabb still has a lot of potential and would have room to grow in Atlanta. He averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds during his sophomore campaign.
19. Milwaukee Bucks – Harry Giles (Duke F): Giles was the No. 1 recruit coming into 2016-17 but after multiple ACL injuries and struggling to fit in with the Blue Devils, he has a long way to go. Although, if he can reach his full potential, Giles is an All-Star. The 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds is kind of hard to ignore, though.
20. Portland Trailblazers – Terrance Ferguson (U.S. G): Ferguson is a bit of a mystery, like many players that decide to spurn college and play overseas are, but he has an immense amount of talent which will attract several suitors.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Dwayne Bacon (Florida State F): Bacon can score with the best of them, and if his effort level increases, he will find minutes. At his best, he reminds me a lot of Paul George, and the Thunder may be looking for a new forward if Andre Roberson leaves during free agency.
22. Toronto Raptors – O.G. Anunoby (Indiana F): Anunoby had so much potential until he went down with a season-ending injury against Penn State on January 18. His 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds is enough to get drafted in the late first round.
23. Orlando Magic – Rodions Kurucs (Latvia F): We’ll see if Kurucs’ game can work in the league, but Orlando needs help at pretty much every single spot on their roster. So, why not take a chance on the skilled forward?
24. Brooklyn Nets – Tyler Lydon (Syracuse F): Lydon showed during Syracuse’s 2015-16 run to the Final Four as a No. 10 seed that he can play in the post as well as step outside and knock it down from anywhere on the floor.
25. Utah Jazz – Justin Jackson (North Carolina F): What’s the best way to go out? On top. Jackson led the Tar Heels to the championship and now he is taking his talent to the NBA. He averaged 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds en route to an appearance on most All-American teams. His range will be key in finding minutes.
26. Brooklyn Nets – Johnathan Motley (Baylor C): Motley hasn’t yet decided if he is going to officially enter the NBA Draft, as he will participate in the combine and then make a final decision, but he showed everyone that he is one of the most talented bigs in the country this past year.
27. Portland Trailblazers – Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State G): Evans had two really good years for the Cowboys, leading them to the NCAA Tournament during his sophomore year, and averaging 19.2 points and 6.4 assists per game while doing so.
28. Los Angeles Lakers – Semi Ojeleye (SMU F): Ojeleye is 6’7, 235-pounds. Yes, I think he is ready to go up against other NBA players. He started his career at Duke but after transferring to SMU, Ojeleye really broke out, going for 19.0 points a night while earning American Player of the Year rights.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina F): Just ask Kemba Walker how well a successful Final Four run can help a draft stock. Thornwell won’t jump all the way to the No. 9 selection like Walker did but his 21.4 points per game and SEC Player of the Year trophy should be enough to land a spot on the Spurs’ roster.
30. Utah Jazz – Caleb Swanigan (Purdue F): BIGGIE! This man has exception skill on the offensive end. He dominated Big Ten opponents in his sophomore campaign, using his body and soft hands on the block, on his way to averaging 18.5 points and 12.5 (!) rebounds per matchup.
Photo Credit: College Basketball News and USA Today.