Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn, through Boston) – Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
The Process is now complete, and a new era has begun in Philadelphia. The Sixers badly needed a guard-sized ballhandler and paid the necessary costs to move up and land Fultz, who is one of the most complete scoring prospects in recent memory. Fultz is equipped with a similar on-ball skill set to Dwyane Wade, while having sexy modern twists like routinely splitting double teams with behind-the-back step through dribbles and a deadly accurate 3 point shot (41.3% from distance). The guard from Washington has a 6’10 wingspan and weighs a solid 195 pounds. Fultz averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his lone season at Washington, and looks to be a favourite to win Rookie of the Year along with teammate Ben Simmons.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell earlier this week, vacating the starting point guard role for the Lakers. In doing so, they were able to land big man Brook Lopez, who is still improving at age 29, having added a three point shot to his scoring arsenal this season. I like this trade for the Lakers, since they banished the awful contract of Timofey Mozgov (4 years, $65M) and brought another first round pick back (No. 27). This gives President of Basketball Operations and Laker legend Magic Johnson the cap space he needs to pursue a high profile superstar over the next few offseasons. Adding a polished big man like Brook Lopez should help open things up for top prospect Brandon Ingram and should help slow the game down for incoming UCLA standout Lonzo Ball. Even with Ball’s vision and size, he still has serious weaknesses he needs to address if he wants to forecast reign on the NBA, like a spotty, weird looking jumper and a weak left hand. Last but not least, let’s not forget he has to outgrow the mega-shadow of his all-world father…
3. Boston Celtics (from Philadelphia) – Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
I did not like the trade-down by Boston. I am a believer in Markelle Fultz and I felt that he could be used alongside Isaiah Thomas, and that Fultz provided the star power to make the Celtics a superpower in the East in a post-LeBron conference. However, they will be landing an immediate starter and should look to use Tatum as a stretch four in their modern system. The Duke product has exceptional footwork and great touch in the midrange. Tatum should be able to expand on his current weaponry and add a 3 point shot, which would make him an excellent fit in Boston by the end of his rookie contract. This is the safest route the Celtics could have gone and Danny Ainge will remain in a bifocal view to cash in on a superstar, or multiple top picks next summer (or both).
4. Phoenix Suns – De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
This pick will happen if Phoenix was able to find a suitor for Eric Bledsoe at some point on draft day (some intriguing names for a potential trade include: Dallas, New Orleans, New York, Utah). He signed a 5 year, $70 million contract before the 2014 season, and considering Derrick Rose might get that kind of money in free agency this offseason, teams will look to land Bledsoe as a potential asset. Insert Fox, a defensive stalwart with a lightning quick first step that makes him a perfect fit beside the finesse of Devin Booker. Fox roasted #2 pick Lonzo Ball twice last season in college, and walks into the NBA as one of the fastest players in the league. His body control and pace recognition are in the top tier of prospects in recent memory, and is arguably the most athletic point guard to enter the draft since John Wall. Accentuating scorers Devin Booker and TJ Warren will be the atop the list of tasks Fox must handle in sunny Arizona. The Katy, TX native should also look to improve on his jumper in the pros (24.7% from 3 in college). Fox averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and shot 47% from the field last year in his solo campaign at Kentucky.
5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia) – Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
The Kings have begun to build an identity. Jackson is an elite competitor with freakish athleticism, a perfect fit between the smooth playing styles of Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield. Kings GM Vlade Divac has two starting positions to fill, point guard and small forward, and I believe Jackson is the best option available and has the highest ceiling of any remaining prospect. The only way this pick happens is if no team is able to trade into the top 4 to take Jackson, and teams reportedly have the appetite to make that move (source: Adrian Wojnarowski). I believe that the Suns are more likely to find a suitor for Bledsoe than they would be to trade out of #4 for an established talent/lower pick. Jackson was Kansas’ second leading scorer last year beside Wooden Award winning guard Frank Mason, but proved to be just as much of the engine for as Mason. His defensive versatility and scoring potential make him a sure-fire top 5 selection.
6. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac, PF/SF, Florida State
Somehow, the Magic land the short end of the stick, and still end up with the player that best suits their needs. Jonathan Isaac would be landing in a defense first situation and could eventually expand into having a larger offensive role. The Florida State freshman is a 6’10 forward with ball handling skills better than most shooting guard prospects his age, and with his length and athleticism could play a few minutes at center down the road in this “small ball era”. Isaac disappointed some at FSU, he lacked the natural sense of aggression that most top prospects have, and failed to assert himself as the most talented player in Tallahassee. I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt – Seminole guards Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon pounded the rock to deflation before Isaac could have some fun. Isaac is a great fit beside the power and athleticism of Aaron Gordon and the slippery European game of Evan Fournier.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
The Finnish 7-footer brings one of the most defined talents into this draft – his jumper. At Arizona, Markkanen sunk 42.3% of his shots from deep, on a notable sample size averaging 15.6 points per game. Lauri is surprisingly strong with the ball in his hands, something that helps his fit in Minnesota beside an entire roster of budding stars still in the midst of figuring it out. A 7-footer that can attack and create for himself on occasion is something that doesn’t come along often, and the T-Wolves will have two such players. He becomes the perfect secondary weapon for the Wolves and stretches the floor alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
8. Charlotte Hornets (From New York) – Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
***TRADE: Hornets send #11 and #31 to New York for #8
The Hornets traded Marco Bellinelli, Miles Plumlee and pick #41 for Dwight Howard (yes, THAT sort-of-the-same Howard) and pick #31, massively upgrading their interior play and officially giving them the means to go out and get the prospect that best fits their needs. Bringing Monk off the bench for the first year of his career will help him find his niche as a sixth man before he totally explodes beside Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum in coming years. He was a ridiculous shooter at Kentucky beside #4 pick De’Aaron Fox and he is a great fit for the modern NBA. He may be an undersized combo guard at 6’3, but his length helps cushion the blow (6’6 wingspan) and he could be considered a feisty on-ball defender. Monk has his work cut out for him, but he also has a defined role on the Hornets.
9. Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith Jr., PG, North Carolina State
There were rumors that the Mavericks and T-Wolves were interested in swapping Ricky Rubio and Wesley Matthews along with their picks – but both teams would be much better off keeping their players and picks as they could likely land their desired prospects at their picks that fit their roster best. The Mavericks add a tough as nails guard in Smith Jr. who has the physicality of Derrick Rose and John Wall. He may struggle to finish at the NBA level due to subpar length (6’3 wingspan), but there’s no denying his creativity with the ball in his hands. He averaged 18.1 points per game at NC State.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (from New Orleans through Sacramento) – Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
***TRADE: Portland sends #15, #20, future 2nd round pick and Turner to Sacramento for pick #10 and Koufos
The Kings take on more salary and move down to better fill a need, realizing Frank Ntilikina might not be the best fit for this young roster. Evan Turner should have always been on a young team that lacks ballhandlers, so he can comfortably absorb minutes in the SAC lineup as a veteran leader.
The Blazers trade up to land the best prospect from the National Championship team – and a great fit to stretch the floor alongside the dynamic trio of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. His shot is still slightly inconsistent, but he will only continue to improve once dropped into the cutthroat culture of the Blazers.
11. New York Knicks (from Charlotte) – Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
***TRADE: New York sends #8 to Charlotte for #11 and #31
The Knicks land their future point guard. Ntilikina is a native of Belgium, but represents France in international play. Frank’s 7’1 wingspan opened the eyes of the scouting community, as the 6’6 Belgian is also a serious threat from outside, and while he may lack the first step to blow by defenders, his size might be enough to simply shoot over defenders. His feel for the game is developing, and playing with fellow European big men Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez would be a more than ideal fit for Ntilikina to step in and deliver immediately.
12. Detroit Pistons – Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Detroit adds shooting behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who could very well be handed a max contract this summer. The Pistons will be forced to match the offer, or let him walk… so it makes sense to draft his potential replacement at 12. Kennard has one of the smoothest strokes in the draft, and is a high character addition to a roster that lacked leadership last year. Kennard’s game is really similar to Devin Booker and could be considered a sleeper to outperform his draft position.
13. Denver Nuggets – Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
This would be a move for versatility in Denver, as Collins could play with Mason Plumlee or Nikola Jokic, or as the center with any of the stretch forwards currently in Denver. Collins is raw, but his prowess as a rim protector and shooting range make him a can’t-miss big man prospect. He came off the bench last year at Gonzaga and was a big reason why the Bulldogs made the national championship game.
14. Miami Heat – Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
There’s a chance that the HEAT struggle to retain Dion Waiters after his breakout season, and Tyler Johnson isn’t a full time starter at this point, so acquiring Louisville’s 6’3 Mitchell would be a great addition beside Goran Dragic. Mitchell is the perfect complement for Dragic as his 6’10 length can help make him a noticeable defender on the floor. His developing point skills could eventually make him somewhat of a Diet Dwyane Wade, but Mitchell is more of a role player at this point.
15. Sacramento Kings (from Portland) – Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
***TRADE Blazers send #15, #20, 2019 2nd round pick and Evan Turner to Kings for pick #10 and Kosta Koufos
Sacramento trades down to land the feisty, undersized guard from Oklahoma State. Evans could walk in as a rotation player early on, and while I don’t think he can start in year one, he can serve as a tough playmaker off the bench. Sacramento won’t let two great undersized point guards slip away from them and surely regret allowing Isaiah Thomas to leave a gaping hole at point guard that still exists.
16. Chicago Bulls – Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Patton is a 20-year-old one and done prospect who is still considered raw, which raises quite a few eyebrows on his NBA prospects. He turns 21 early in 2018, and his development was certainly stunted last year once Creighton teammate and point guard Mo Watson tore his ACL. He shot 72% with Watson, and 62% without, showing his need to play with a traditional point guard that bests suits his needs. Enter Patton in Chicago, where he’ll have a heyday catching lobs from Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls could let Cristiano Felicio walk this summer in restricted free agency, meaning drafting Patton could fill a huge need, and help sort out the long term plan in Chicago.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
Imagine Anigbogu and his 7’6 wingspan catching lobs from 6’11 point forward Giannis Antetokoumnpo? The Bucks would become the most versatile defensive front in the league if they could properly incubate the 19-year-old center from UCLA who struggled badly with foul trouble in college. To take Anigbogu at 17 may be a bit of a reach, but with the Hawks perched and ready at 19 after trading Dwight Howard, this may be Milwaukee’s only chance to land the defensive center they’ve yearned since signing Greg Monroe two summers ago.
18. Indiana Pacers – TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
The Pacers struggled at the 4 position last year, starting the “slightly under-qualified playoff starter” Thad Young after he put up big numbers on some bad teams. Adding Leaf into the mix throws a playmaking stretch 4 into the mix, something the Pacers have needed since the days of Roy Hibbert. Leaf surprised many and excelled in his freshman season at UCLA without the elite traits of other top prospects.
19. Atlanta Hawks – John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
The Hawks take a member of the league’s endangered species in John Collins, a true interior scorer with average size. Collins reportedly impressed many teams in workouts with his outside shooting, something he wasn’t able to display at Wake Forest under coach and former #1 overall pick Danny Manning. Collins would give the Hawks a better offensive presence than Mike Muscala and an underrated defender compared to incoming Miles Plumlee, meaning Collins could find big minutes from day one. He scored 19.2 points on 11.4 shots per game, with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 35.9.
20. Sacramento Kings (from Memphis thru Denver, Cleveland and Portland) – Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon
***TRADE Blazers send #15, #20, 2019 2nd round pick and Evan Turner to Kings for pick #10 and Kosta Koufos
The Kings land their next Reggie Evans. Bell’s stock has risen dramatically since his breakout performance in the NCAA tournament against Kansas where he blocked 7 shots. Bell is a great fit for a team like the Kings that has been recently considered dysfunctional, as the heart he can bring off the bench will suit what the Kings are looking to do – create a team that hustles.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Semi Ojeleye, SF, SMU
Oklahoma City can and SHOULD(!!!) let Andre Roberson walk this summer. Someone is bound to overpay for his services in restricted free agency. Roberson’s lack of a jumpshot killed the Thunder in the playoffs, as James Harden could let Roberson jack up as many open shots as he wanted with the same sad result. OKC needs to add a threat from the three point line in his spot, as well as an intense athlete, which are the two most obvious traits Ojeleye will bring out of SMU. He showed as the #1 option for the Mustangs that he can shoot the rock, and at the NBA Combine, the 6’7, 241-pound Ojeleye measured in having 5.5% body fat, a ridiculous number for a player at his weight. If he can become more limber and work on his handle, Ojeleye will become a great 3-and-D prospect.
22. Brooklyn Nets (from Washington) – Terrance Ferguson, SG, USA
Nets GM Sean Marks has added an elite prospect in D’Angelo Russell, and adds an unheralded shooter in Ferguson, who elected to play in Australia last year rather than at Arizona, where he originally committed. The 19-year-old struggled in a notoriously physical league due to his frail 185 pound frame but remains a worthy 3-and-D prospect.
23. Toronto Raptors – Devin Robinson, SF, Florida
The Raptors have a lot of money tied up in DeMar DeRozan and need to find a better fit beside him than DeMarre Carroll. Florida’s Devin Robinson is a junior, and has the polish to step in right away and contribute as a two way player. The 6’8 wing has a blazing fast first step and has great size (7’1 wingspan) that fits well on this Toronto roster, one lacking athleticism beyond their superstar.
24. Utah Jazz – OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
The Jazz are in danger of losing both Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles this offseason to other contenders, and desperately need to address the small forward position. If the Jazz were to take Anunoby and land Hayward back (a likely predicament), they could throw Anunoby down into the G-League while he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last season at Indiana. The physical forward projects as a bruising defensive forward that would fit well beside Rudy Gobert in a “Jazz-ified” small ball set.
25. Orlando Magic (from Clippers through Bucks and Raptors) – Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State
Orlando could use an upgrade over Mario Hezonja, who has been a complete and total bust, being drafted at #5 in 2015. Iwundu is a two-way player who could come off the bench and give valuable minutes for coach Frank Vogel.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (from Cleveland) – Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah
The Blazers find a true stretch forward to use instead of the problematically large (both in salary earnings and physically large) Meyers Leonard. Kuzma is a solid shooter and shows a natural feel for the game, and would become a cheaper option to deploy off the bench if the Blazers can find a suitor for Leonard.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Boston thru Brooklyn) – Harry Giles, PF/C, Duke
This is the pick that the Lakers just got for D’Angelo Russell, and they have no other option than to try and hit the home run. Giles was the #1 recruit in the country, and all last summer was considered a favorite to be selected early in the lottery. However, Giles struggled to see the floor all year and now projects as more of an energy player off the bench.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (from Houston thru Los Angeles) – Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina
***TRADE: Lakers send #28, Sixers send #36 and #46
The Sixers trade back into the first round to land Thornwell, a wing who plays with a ton of heart. The South Carolina wing led the Gamecocks to a surprise Final Four berth, and would bring much needed defense off the bench as another 3-and-D player in the Philadelphia rotation.
29. San Antonio Spurs – Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
The Spurs lost Dewayne Dedmon to an opt-out and they may not be able to retain him, so landing Adebayo would be a cost-controlled option and future starter once Pau Gasol’s career winds down. Adebayo was an incredibly reliable freshman at Kentucky, can fill the backup role and provide excellent defense. The Spurs find great value (yet again) at the back end of the first round at 29.
30. Utah Jazz – Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Germany
The Jazz could find themselves an upgrade over Jeff Withey at the 5 spot, and the 7’0 Hartenstein is a mobile, versatile option. Hartenstein’s draft stock has fallen over the last calendar year due to a lack of foot speed, but the Jazz would be ecstatic to bring in a smart, playmaking center behind cornerstone Rudy Gobert.