Markelle Fultz has been the projected first overall pick almost all season, but if Boston (or Brooklyn) does indeed win the lottery I think they'll select Ball over Fultz. Ball's shot looks ugly, but it's been effective to this point and the rest of his game is spectacular.
At 6'6 he's a menace on the defensive end and very difficult to stop near the rim, making him a great leader for the pick and roll offenses of today's NBA. His great size would allow him to play with Isaiah Thomas, at least better than Fultz would in my opinion.
With Ball continuing to lead UCLA deep into the NCAA tournament and Fultz dealing with knee issues, it's looking more and more likely Ball will be the draft's top pick come June. Danny Ainge also said he would never hold a players family against him if he liked the player, which everyone took as code for "If we want Lonzo, crazy dad Lavar isn't going to stop us"
The Lakers have been in all-out tank mode since Magic Johnson took over the team, because if they end up with a pick outside of the top 3, they will lose it to the Philadelphia 76ers. They also would then have to give up their 2019 first rounder to the Orlando Magic in a separate trade. If they stay inside the top 3, protection rules on draft picks being traded in consecutive seasons would give Philadelphia the Lakers pick next year while Orlando would only get two second round picks instead of a first rounder.
If this world were fair, the Lakers would fall to #4, lose this pick and their 2019 first rounder, and continue to suffer. Unfortunately, Magic Johnson has done the smart thing and we all know the NBA is going to make sure the Lakers fall inside the top 3* on lottery night.
Fultz is a dynamic athlete who had a remarkable freshman season. He's dealt with a knee issue lately which is worth keeping an eye on, but I can't imagine him falling further than #2. He might be an even better fit for the NBA game, however, as he seems to play even better with more talent around him.
Phoenix has had too many point guards for years, so it wouldn't surprise me if they shock everyone and draft another point guard. However, after drafting two power forwards (Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss) in last year's lottery, a wing like Jackson is a better fit and some scouts think he's got the most potential in the draft.
The KU freshman has had a terrible year shooting the basketball, which is worrisome from someone who is expected to be a wing player in the NBA, but his other skills are very good. He's a sensational athlete and has the tools to be a lock down defender. He could improve his ball handling but it's still effective and likely to improve over time. He's very good at finishing around the rim and his mid-range game is likely to improve as he makes better decisions with the basketball.
Thankfully for Magic fans, the teams struggles have put them within shouting distance of winning the lottery. Even if they're unable to recapture their lottery magic from the 1990's, landing a point guard like Dennis Smith would help expedite the rebuilding process.
Smith is a freakish athlete but a bit smaller than the drafts other point guards, although he isn't small at 6'2. Even if he ends up a tier below Ball and Fultz, he should still be a very good point guard in the future, and would likely be a long-term upgrade over Elfrid Payton. Adding this draft class's point guards to the already deep position in the NBA is going to create the best point guard play collectively the league has ever seen.
With an already deep and talented young core, the rich get richer with Malik Monk falling here. A young core of Ben Simmons, Monk, Super Dario and Joel Embiid is fantastic, with players like Jahlil Okafor still possessing some value as well. If Embiid (and Ben Simmons to a point) is able to stay healthy, which I admit is a huge if at this point, this team could contend for the eastern conference championship as soon as LeBron James starts to decline. Of course, at the rate LeBron continues to play, that might not be until 2040.
Monk has insane range on his jump shot, and when he gets hot he looks like another splash brother. He has fantastic handles, and is able to take over games because of his ability to handle the ball at times. He doesn't need to be set up to get his own shot, although he does seem to be at his best off the ball. Playing with natural passers like Ben Simmons and Dario Saric will only make Monk's job easier. He's an almost perfect fit in my opinion for the current 76ers roster.
This pick depends entirely on what the Knicks decide to do with Phil Jackson. He's been mediocre at best as an executive, and he's been feuding publicly with the team's best player basically all season. Knicks owner James Dolan can find better places to spend $12 million than on Phil Jackson, but that doesn't mean the team will make the right decision and move on.
If Jackson stays, I expect the team to take a player like Bridges, who has looked great in stretches this season and has the work ethic and explosiveness Jackson seems to like. Bridges is too small in my opinion to be a future star despite his great athleticism, but he should have a solid NBA career.
Bridges has seen his draft stock improve over the last month, and his shooting touch and athleticism should make him look great in individual workouts. Coupling this draft pick with a Carmelo Anthony trade would allow Bridges to fill Carmelo's role in time, although how realistic that is remains to be seen.
The Kings would have to be ecstatic if Markkanen fell to them on draft night. The Arizona freshman has been one of college basketball's best players all season, and would be a top 3 pick in most drafts. His ability to step out and shoot the ball has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki, although I think that's mostly because they're white, can shoot and both are from overseas.
Markinnen's a potential liability defensively at the next level, but he shows good instincts at times. He'll need to get stronger, which he will, and that should help him use his size more to his advantage. His offensive game is truly special, though, and the Kings would be wise to run their offense through him from day one.
The Kings owe the Bulls their first round pick if it falls outside the top 10. The 76ers also own the right to swap picks with the Kings inside the top 10. Neither happens in this scenario.
The freshman standout is a skilled player with several good tools that should project well to the next level. As he fills out, his defensive versatility should be a major asset, which is something the Timberwolves need badly.
He's a good shooter and athlete for his size, and he should only improve with more experience. Despite his size and considerable recruiting hype, Isaac to me has less upside than most other lottery picks, but a higher floor.
Isaac would basically be able to do all the things for the Timberwolves that Tom Thibodeau mistakenly seems to think Nemanja Bjelica already does. (Spoiler alert: Bjelica isn't very good)
The Kings acquired this pick in the infamous DeMarcus Cousins trade that already doesn't look nearly as bad as people first thought. The team has been drafting Europeans more frequently over the past few years, with limited success. However, Ntilikina is an elite prospect at the point guard position and he's only available at this point because of the unusual strength of the freshman point guards in college basketball.
The youngster from Belgium is a great play-making point guard with an exceptionally long wing span that allows him to be a major problem for opponents. His offensive game is similar to Ricky Rubio's when he came out of Spain, but he's a better athlete. He's known to have some flair in his passing game but his shot is a work in progress. The Kings will likely need to encourage him to shoot early and often to improve his jump shot, as Europeans seem to defer far more often than their US counterparts.
In what was ultimately a disappointing year for the Duke Blue Devils, Tatum's freshman season was a bright spot. A highly recruited player, Tatum has shown the ability to shoot from deep although he needs to make better shot choices.
Tatum would be able to learn from one of the greatest jump shooters in the history of the game for at least one season, and would have the potential to fill Dirk's role in the offense over time. He's unlikely to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, of course, but he could be a truly great player if he develops right. I do think Tatum's game is more similar to Dirk's than Markannen's, though.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has said that Fox might be even faster than John Wall, his former point guard at Kentucky. Regardless if he is or isn't, he's very fast and a great athlete. His ability to take the ball coast to coast is a joy to watch, although he'll need to be under control a little more often as he matures.
His shot is inconsistent but it looks smooth enough that it should improve over time. Fox isn't a great fit with Kemba Walker already in Charlotte, but he's simply too good of a player to pass on at this point. The two are both likely too small to play together, as they'd be a huge defensive liability, but their offensive games definitely compliment one another.
The former top high school prospect in the country, Giles has dealt with some serious knee injuries over the last three seasons dating back to high school. He hasn't looked anywhere close to the player he once was, which is concerning, but as an 18-year-old freshman there's plenty of time for him to get back into playing shape.
He had a less than impressive season, but his minutes did increase some in the second half. There's a chance Giles will stay at Duke to prove he's healthy next season, but if he's concerned about his knee issues at all he should leave as soon as he can and get that guaranteed money before his career is over.
However, despite the injury risk at this point, Giles potential is worth gambling on, especially for a team like Portland that can afford to wait on Giles development with other talented players to lead the team for now.
Ferguson is the latest high school All-American to decide to play overseas for money instead of playing in college for free. He wasn't a sure thing to be a one and done collegiate player, but he's expected to declare for the draft in the near future.
Stats are always sketchy to judge an international player on, especially a young American player who has to earn his role. Ferguson has played well lately, and has the size and length to be a very good wing player in the NBA. He's a great athlete with a solid shot, but his year in Australia has really helped his decision making more than anything. We'll have to see if that carries over into the much more selfish NBA game, but Ferguson has helped his draft stock by shunning college.
The Pistons don't seem likely to match a maximum salary offer for Kentavius Caldwell Pope this off-season, which means they'll likely lose him. Ferguson could grow into an even better player than Caldwell Pope, although that's going to take years of playing time. A KCP departure would give Ferguson solid minutes from day 1.
His individual workouts will play a major role in where he gets drafted, probably more than any other player.
Kennard had one of the best seasons in college basketball this year, which is amazing considering he was expected to be a bench player with limited minutes at best on a stacked Duke team. Instead, injuries allowed Kennard to show everyone just how good he was, and he emerged as the team's best player basically all season long.
He's unlikely to be a star at the next level, but his combination of shooting ability and basketball IQ make him at worst a very good role player. Kennard is exactly the kind of guard Fred Hoiberg loves to use in his offensive system, and his development would possibly allow the team to one day move on from Jimmy Butler, who is a great player but clearly doesn't like his coach.
Collins averaged a very impressive 19 points and 10 rebounds this past season for Wake Forest. He also shot a respectable 74.5% on free throws, and is a physical presence for teams to worry about on a nightly basis.
With the Nuggets looking for a long-term answer in the front court, Collins would be a great start. He reportedly won't sign an agent, meaning he can return to college, but I would expect that to change in the near future. Once Collins learns he's a surefire first round pick, he's going to want to hire someone to put in a good word for him to every team.
The "other" UCLA freshman, Leaf is having an outstanding season in Lonzo Ball's shadow. He's averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a block a game for the Bruins while providing a constant low post presence for the otherwise perimeter oriented UCLA team.
Leaf is a good shooter, a solid passer and a solid rebounder. He's a Kevin Love-lite, in my opinion, which would give him a long, useful career in the NBA. He has a little more athleticism than people give him credit for, but it still is going to be below average by NBA standards.
He'd be a very good fit on a suddenly good Miami Heat team, as he could in the future conceivably fill the role that Chris Bosh vacated when his health worsened.
Evans was one of the best point guards in the country all season, and despite only standing at 6 feet tall he should find himself in the first round of the draft. The standout sophomore averaged 19 points, 6.5 assists and almost 2 steals a game while leading Oklahoma State to the NCAA tournament and helping his head coach get a new job.
Paul George has openly complained about the Pacers space-eating big-heavy lineups this year. He's suggested he'd like to see the team use a small ball approach like so many successful teams in today's NBA. With George's free agency right around the corner, the Pacers will either need to start building a team he wants to play with or simply trade him this off-season. Adding a guard like Evans would be a step in the right direction to appeasing George and his small-ball preferences.
The redshirt freshman has emerged as a likely first round pick thanks to his size (7'0) and ability to be efficient around the basket. He's a solid shot blocker and rebounder, but what has scouts most excited about Patton is his improvement over just one year. If he can continue to improve at a rapid rate, scouts think he's only scratched the surface of his full potential.
The Bucks can take the best player available at this point as anyone taken here is unlikely to make a huge difference as a rookie, making need of minimal interest. Patton would have the time to grow and develop while playing behind veterans like John Henson and Greg Monroe. The team could also move one of them to ensure playing time for Patton and Thon Maker.
A likely lottery pick a year ago, Rabb decided to spend another year at Cal to try and improve his draft stock. After two collegiate seasons, scouts no longer view Rabb as a potential star, but rather a useful role player if he can improve.
The Hawks would be able to allow Rabb to learn and develop while playing behind Dwight Howard. That would alleviate the pressure he's undoubtedly felt over the last two seasons while being a highly regarded recruit at Cal.
The 7'2 center from France reminds some scouts of Rudy Gobert, as he's a great shot blocker and could grow into a defensive anchor in the future. It helps that he's also from France. He's got a great wing span and can really jump, which means he should be able to finish pick and roll alley oops in the right system as well.
If he's able to play with great guards like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, defense is really all they'll need from him anyway, and he projects to be a great rim protector some day.
Memphis only keeps this pick if they pick inside the top 5, which is nearly impossible at this point.
Finding players that play well next to Russell Westbrook is going to be crucial for the Thunder organization over the next few years. Going out and acquiring Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott was a great start. Westbrook's usage rate is so high that a player like Cameron Payne, who the Thunder gave up, would never have much value playing with Westbrook. Getting a defender in Gibson and a great spot up shooter in McDermott was a smart decision.
Allen's had a poor season for Duke and is reportedly a potential second round pick at this point. I think his competitive nature and his ability to knockdown three pointers make him a great Russell Westbrook counterpart. I understand lots of basketball fans hate Allen and think he's a dirty player, and that's justified. But watching someone stand up to the Warriors with Westbrook would be a welcomed site, and there's no doubting that Grayson Allen will ruffle feathers.
Toronto has a solid roster and plenty of depth, so they can afford to wait for Kurucs to come over if he doesn't come right away.
The 19-year-old forward is a very good all-around player, and has the potential to be a more athletic Tony Kukoc or Boris Diaw. He's a good jump shooter, with good ball handling skills and solid basketball IQ. He'd be a top 10 pick if he was an american playing college ball in my opinion.
Adebayo has two major influences working against him: He's a low post, slow prodding center in a league that is quickly moving away from those types of players and he went to Kentucky to play with two ball-dominant superstar guards.
The big man has great touch around the basket and has the ability to take over games for stretches, but it's gone largely unnoticed because of his star teammates. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but some of these five star recruits need to avoid Kentucky if they want to improve their draft stock. It's not because coach Cal is a bad coach by any means, but if there's too much talent NBA scouts miss guys. Devin Booker is a prime example.
Despite being the league's worst team, the Nets won't pick until the 20's at the earliest it appears. The team would be wise to target younger players with more upside, as they need to hope to hit a home run at some point in the next few years while they still owe draft picks to the Celtics.
Mitchell has improved considerably in his sophomore season, and at the very least should project to a "3-and-D" type wing in the future. However, his growth this season leaves the potential for him to grow into a more complete player, which could see him being this draft's Jimmy Butler.
The 6'9 sophomore decided to declare after his sophomore season, and is hopeful he can sneak into the first round. He's a solid all around player that should be able to carve out a role in the league if given an opportunity.
For the Jazz, Lydon could be Gordon Hayward insurance in the event he decides to head to Boston with his college coach Brad Stevens via free agency. Lydon is unlikely to ever be the kind of player Hayward has become, but even if he's a 20-minutes-a-night player, he'd give the team some lineup flexibility at the very least.
Hartenstein, like Terrance Ferguson, decided to forego playing college ball at home in the United States and instead went over to Germany to be paid for his bullshit NBA mandated year of development.
This would be an attempt at hitting a home run for Brooklyn, as little is known about Hartenstein. He was a highly regarded recruit before choosing to play in Germany, and was solid enough in his limited action in Germany.
Like Ferguson, his workouts with teams leading up to the draft will make a huge difference.
The glue of a sensational North Carolina team for what seems like a decade, Jackson is just the kind of player you love to have on your team. While he's willing and able to do all the dirty work that teams need to win close games, he's also skilled enough to take over games offensively at times as well.
A likely role player at the next level, Jackson's versatility would allow Portland to try several different lineup combinations to appease their two ball-heavy guards. Jackson's ability to make a difference without the ball would be a big help to Portland as well. He has one more year of eligibility, so he could return for another year, but I think now is the best time for him to leave.
The potential player of the year in college basketball, Swanigan had a great year and has really impressed scouts with his work ethic over the last two seasons. He's battled weight issues to become a chiseled monster that is almost unstoppable down low.
His game continues to grow and while he looks like a solid role player at this point, there's no reason to think he couldn't develop into a much better player than that with his work ethic.
The Lakers would love to have Swanigan behind Julius Randle, and if Swanigan does become a starting-caliber player the team could use Randle in a deal to get a more established veteran down the road.
The 7'5 monster isn't the most skilled player you'll ever see, as you'd expect from anyone that stands at 7 feet 5 inches tall. Despite his enormous size, Fusek is a very good athlete, something you rarely see from someone so large.
He has several NBA tools and his size can't be taught. He's likely to remain overseas for the foreseeable future, but he's exactly the kind of high upside, under the radar moves the Spurs are known for.
Trier is a true shooting guard in a league that lacks depth at the position, which should allow him to be a solid role player early in his career. The Arizona sophomore can shoot it from 3, but is also capable of getting to the free throw line and converting when he gets there. He'd benefit from being able to play almost exclusively off the ball, which he's likely to do in the NBA no matter where he goes.
The Jazz could groom Trier to be a poor man's George Hill over the next few years.
Thank you for checking out our 2017 NBA Mock Draft. We will update it periodically throughout the playoffs.
Special thanks to the Tankathon website who updates the NBA draft order every 10 minutes.