Written By: Brandon Gordon
With the finals coming to an end we can now truly say that the draft season is upon us! For many of us, including myself, this is the best time of the year to be an NBA fan. With both the early-entry deadlines for college and international players in the rearview mirror the 2017 field is officially set.
Here is a look at who I believe all fourteen lottery teams should take!
1. Philadelphia 76ers (Via Celtics): Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, Freshman)
The process in Philadelphia is coming to it’s close. Markelle Fultz fit with Sixers seems almost too good to be true. Not only does he does he fill the teams biggest need, he is the best prospect in the draft. He has all the tools develop into a James Harden like player. He can do anything you’d need from a point guard and can also play shooting guard. 2016 first overall pick Ben Simmons can slide to the power forward positon and operate as a point forward while allowing Fultz to take full reign as the teams primary floor general. It’s going to be exciting to watch both Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz compete for rookie of the year next season.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)
At the end of the day, Lavar Ball gets what he wants; his son in a Laker uniform. Lonzo to the Lakers doesn’t just make sense in his fathers head, it makes sense for all parties involved. Sliding D’Angelo Russell to the shooting guard position and anointing Ball as the point guard of the future would give the Lakers a young dynamic backcourt to build around for years to come. While De’Aaron Fox or Josh Jackson might be tempting here, they both don’t offer the franchise changing ability that Ball comes with. His insane basketball IQ and passing would spark the Laker’s offense who ranked 26th in team assist during the 2016 campaign.
3. Boston Celtics (Via 76ers): Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)
Let be honest, Markelle Fultz fit with the Celtics was always questionable. Danny Ainge knew this from the start and took a kings ransom from the 76ers to drop two spots. At the end of the day the Celtics may still end up with the number one overall prospect on their draft board. Jackson’s potential seems almost limitless. His elite athleticism, passing IQ and defensive versatility scream NBA superstar. If his shooting ever catches up with the rest of his game the rest of the league better watch out. His elite two-way ability will pair perfectly with point guard Isaiah Thomas.
4. Phoenix Suns: Johnathan Isaac (Florida State, SF, Freshman)
The Sun’s roster is budding with promising young talent at just about every position except the small forward spot. Jonathan Isaac’s potential as a two way player is just as, if not higher than any player in the draft. Isaac posses guard like handles, a sweet shooting stroke and insane defensive versatility at 6’10. All of these traits suggest that Isaac can eventually blossom into a Kevin Durant-like player. Being compared to KD sets the bar extremely high for Isaac however the Florida State prospect showed enough promise during his time in Tallahassee to suggest he will have no problem reaching his sky high potential.
5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
The Kings have a really strong interest in point guard De’Aaron Fox. So strong that they are considering packaging the fifth and tenth pick in a deal to move up to snag Fox. It would be a dream come true for owner Vivek Ranadivé & GM Vlade Divac if Fox fell to the fifth spot. Fox’s pure talent alone could easily allow him to go second or third so getting him at this spot would be a steal. Taking Fox will allow Sacramento to fill their biggest need as well as draft the best player available. His explosive playmaking ability would pair nicely with premier perimeter threat, Buddy Heild.
6. Orlando Magic: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)
The Orlando Magic can go a few different ways with their pick. Continuous inconsistent play from recent high draft picks like Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja might cause the Magic to look to upgrade one or both backcourt spots. Orlando is missing a go to scorer at the three and Tatum can be just that. His skilled inside-outside game would give the Magic a dimension to their offense they so desperately lack. His value here is too high and in a deep draft full of versatile guards they could look to address that position with their other first round pick.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
With Zach LaVine coming off a torn ACL, Malik Monk could be on the Timberwolves radar. The Wolves have ranked in the bottom half of the league in team three point percentage as well as catch and shoot percentage for the past three years. Monk would step in from day one and help the young Wolves in both those categories. The Kentucky guard shot 40% from beyond the arc during his lone year at college and would fill Minnesota’s need for perimeter shooting. He could play along side any of the guards Thibodeau uses in his rotation and has all the tools to develop into a dynamic scorer.
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 1998)
Frank Ntilikina and the New York Knicks have been linked together for months now. Between his 6’5″ size, explosive athleticism, and monster defensive upside, his fit with the guard-needy Knicks is beyond obvious. There isn’t a better guard in the draft that could run the triangle offense like Ntilikina can. After striking gold on international star power forward Kristaps Porzingis, Dolan and Knicks wouldn’t hesitate on taking a flyer on the kid from France. Ntilikina and Porzingis could become the lone bright spots for the organization even with all the Phill Jackson drama going on in the Big Apple.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith JR (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)
In another draft, Dennis Smith Jr. would be long gone by the ninth pick. One player is bound to slip a little further than expected and I see that player being Smith. His greatest strengths are his ability to break down defenders and get to paint whenever he wants while also dishing out accurate passes. These tools suggest that the freshman point guard from North Carolina state will thrive in Rick Carlisle’s pick-and-roll heavy offense. Adding Smith to a roster will give the Maverick’s a young promising building block in preparation for the post Dirk era.
10. Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)
After snagging De’Aaron Fox with their first of two lottery picks the Kings will be looking to add some shooting with their second selection. While the kings have several talented and young big man on the roster, none of them offer the spacing Markkanen brings. The Finnish big shot 42% percent from three during the 2016 collegiate campaign and could immediately help balance out Sacramento’s roster. With a need for a wing player, we could see the King’s experiment with Markkanen at the small forward spot. His unusually high mobility for 7 footer could allow him to be a serviceable three.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins (Gonzaga, C, Freshman)
The Hornet’s pick comes down to whether or not the franchise wants to draft according to need or the best available player. If they choose to draft by need expect a combo guard or some wing depth. If they choose to draft the best available player then there is no doubt Collins will be the pick. While center isn’t a need for Charlotte, Collin’s star potential will be hard to leave on the board. The former Gonzaga freshman can make threes, score in the post, blocks shots, and rebound. All of these raw tools make the center a project but in a few years Collins could be one of the top big men in the league.
12. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)
The Pistons came into this season with high expectations after making the playoffs last year. After failing to make the playoffs this year, expect some major personnel changes. I, along with the Pistons themselves, expect Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to bolt town and explore greener pastures elsewhere. Mitchell comes in at 6’3″ and with an immense wingspan of 6’10” and a knack for playmaking. Taking Mitchell would also give the team options at the point guard spot with Reggie Jackson’s surprising regression.
13. Denver Nuggets: Jarret Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)
Over the second half of the season, the Mike Malone lead Nuggets morphed into the leagues third ranked offense. Their defense however plummeted all the way to the twenty seventh ranked unit in the league. Defense should be the Nuggets top priority headed into June 22nd and Jarrett Allen should be at the top of their wish list. Allen remains one of the drafts best defensive prospects at 6’11” with a tremendous 7’5″ wingspan. A center rotation of offensive star Nikola Jokić and Allen would give the Nuggets a balanced duo capable of excelling on both ends of the floor.
14. Miami Heat: Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)
At the end of the lottery there aren’t that many prospects to choose from that offer star potential; that’s why I have the Heat selecting Creighton’s center Justin Patton. Patton put up huge numbers in very limited playing time in college. The Heat do not have a reliable back up for Hassan Whiteside and could look to the 6’11” freshman to fill that need. With the release of Chris Bosh, the Heat also have a need at the four spot. After showing some range at Creighton (8 for 15 on three pointers), Patton’s offensive potential suggest he’d be able to play some power forward. At the end of the lottery, Patton is as good as it gets.