The NBA Draft is on the horizon and we can start to feel comfortable about the picks these teams at the top are going to make. The trade between Philadelphia and Boston changed the landscape, but the NBA has lost its collective mind and we can expect Thursday to be filled with a bunch of crazy rumors. The Lakers, Nets, Hawks and Hornets also made deals on Tuesday with D’Angelo Russell, Dwight Howard and Brook Lopez being the big names that changed teams.
Follow me on Twitter @C_Hira24 as I’ll be breaking all the news that drops this offseason.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Markelle Fultz, Guard, Washington (Freshman)
Markelle Fultz going first overall has been a foregone conclusion for quite some time now. Even though the Woj bomb dropped on Friday changed the expected destination for Fultz, it did not change the fact that he is still expected to be the No. 1 pick. Fultz really fits a need in Philadelphia due to their inconsistent guard play. T.J. McConnell is better served as a backup even though he made some clutch shots during the season.
The Sixers will likely start Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons in the backcourt for the 2017-18 season due to the emergence of Dario Saric at PF in the second half of season. Philadelphia will use Giannis Antetokounmpo as a blueprint for the type of player they want Simmons to develop into and use Fultz as the primary defender on the quick PGs that litter the NBA. Fultz will still get plenty of opportunities as the lead guard since we can expect Philadelphia to #TrustTheProcess and limit Simmons during his first season like they did with Joel Embiid.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball, Guard, UCLA (Freshman)
The Lakers might not have been blown away by Lonzo Ball’s workout, but that should be taken with a grain of salt. Ball has excellent court vision and Magic Johnson is not going to shy away from drafting a player that he can mold into this generation’s Magic. By bringing in De’Aaron Fox and hyping him up as a possibility at No. 2, it kept LaVar Ball quiet and kept the power in Magic’s hands. Then Magic flexed his muscles some more and traded D’Angelo Russell to the Nets along with Timofey Mozgov. Since it’s common knowledge that Paul George wants to come to Los Angeles, the Lakers now have the leverage and are offering the 27th and 28th pick in this draft and either Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle. By bringing in the expiring contract of Brook Lopez, the Lakers can work to offer Paul George a max deal after the season if they trade for him. It also opens up the possibility of bringing in another max contract player in the 2018 offseason.
3. Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum, Forward, Duke (Freshman)
The Celtics supposedly love Josh Jackson and had considered him with the No. 1 overall pick even though he has yet to work out for them. With Fultz being highly coveted and a glut of guards on the roster, it made sense for Boston to move the pick to Philadelphia. Considering Jackson is not working out with the team (due to his agent), it seems very likely that Jayson Tatum will go No. 3. Tatum had a nice workout with the team and has gained a ton of steam. Since Danny Ainge is in asset acquisition mode, does moving to No. 3 mean they will attempt to make a trade for Jimmy Butler? Can the Celtics trade for Butler and sign Gordon Hayward during free agency? All of this still does not address their biggest weakness which is rebounding. Jonathan Isaac could help the Celtics in the frontcourt and he is a dark horse pick to land this high. There is still so much that Danny Ainge can do before the draft, but we can feel comfortable that a forward will likely be drafted at No. 3.
4. Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson, Forward, Kansas (Freshman)
While I had the Suns taking De’Aaron Fox here, Josh Jackson falling to them at No. 4 will force them to take the best available player. T.J. Warren showed a ton of promise as the starting SF after P.J. Tucker’s trade, but he’s entering the final season of his rookie deal. Josh Jackson simply has too much upside for the Suns to pass on him here. Jackson’s shot is still a work in progress but he can take some time to develop behind Warren. Jackson won’t be asked to carry a huge offensive burden on a lottery team and that will allow him to flourish. He’s a player with a high motor and is the ideal fit in Pheonix. Since the Suns are still expected to be in the basement of the Western Conference next season, and Eric Bledsoe is signed for another two seasons, they can take Jackson and try to get a point guard in next year’s draft.
5. Sacramento Kings
De’Aaron Fox, Guard, Kentucky (Freshman)
This pick can go in a lot of directions. Jayson Tatum is pretty much the ideal SF of the future with Rudy Gay opting out of his contract. Tatum is a versatile scorer and could help carry the offensive burden next to Buddy Hield, but he likely won’t be available at No. 5. Their next best option is drafting De’Aaron Fox if ends up being available. Fox’s game is still developing but he can break down defenders with his quickness and create opportunities for others. The Kings need to rebuild their entire identity and having a quick point guard in today’s NBA can only help them. The Kings were one of the worst defensive teams last season and Fox’s length at the position could help keep guys in front of him. Fox can also ignite the fast break which will get Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein easy hoops in transition.
6. Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac, Forward, Florida State (Freshman)
The Orlando Magic should look to draft Jonathan Issac with the No. 6 pick in the draft. Aaron Gordon is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is likely to be a highly coveted asset. It makes sense to pay Gordon but it also makes sense for the team to trade him with a new GM in town. By drafting Isaac, Orlando can move Gordon and have his replacement on the roster. Isaac has one of the highest ceilings in the draft and is a perfect player for today’s NBA. Isaac does need to put on weight but projects to be an elite stretch four in the league. I expect Orlando to make a handful of moves this offseason with Elfrid Payton also up for an extension and Nikola Vucevic on a very cap-friendly deal. Isaac does not have the ability to carry a team at this moment but expect them to go into full rebuild mode very soon, allowing for Isaac to develop over time.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
Lauri Markkanen, Forward, Arizona (Freshman)
The Timberwolves are stacked every position expect PF. Gorgui Dieng is not a consistent shooter and bringing in Markkanen would really open up the floor for the rest of the team. By drafting Markkanen, Tom Thibodeau could use Dieng as the backup center. It would allow for Karl-Anthony Towns to remain fresh and not have to play 40 minutes a game. Markkanen is projecting out an elite stretch four, similar to Jonathan Isaac, but he has a slightly lower upside. The Timberwolves don’t need the Arizona product to lead the team in scoring, they simply need him to stretch the floor. With Zach LaVine making his way back from a knee injury, Markkanen has a shot at making an impact right away. If Ricky Rubio is still on this team in the fall, he’ll easily find Markkanen in the right spots. Opposing teams will likely attack Markkanen on the defensive end, but he has the length to be disruptive and the ability to close out on shooters. Since he could struggle on the defensive side of the ball, Tom Thibodeau could move this selection for a veteran or another pick. Markkanen is an ideal fit on the offensive end but we all know how Thibodeau likes his players.
8. New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina, Guard, France
The Knicks need a guard; it’s as simple as that. They could draft Dennis Smith, Malik Monk or Frank Ntilikina here. With that being said, I expect them to go with Ntilikina. The Knicks are still running the triangle and Phil Jackson needs a tall guard. Monk is better served as a shooting guard and Dennis Smith lacks a bit in the playmaking department. Ntilikina is a project and can be molded to run this offense. The fan base will likely boo this pick, but this is a selection with a look to the future. Carmelo Anthony is on his way out soon enough and building on the career arc of Kristaps Porzingis is the right move. The murmurs of Porzingis being shipped out of New York appear to be nothing but simple speculation. The only way Phil Jackson makes that mistake is if he’s offered multiple high first round picks.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith, Guard, NC State (Freshman)
The Mavericks really need to hit on this pick. The last time they drafted this high, they selected Dirk Nowitzki. It is unlikely that they will select a big man since they traded for Nerlens Noel at the trade deadline. Seth Curry really had a solid season, but he’s more of a shooting guard and Yogi Ferrell is better served as a backup. Dennis Smith fits perfectly even though he is not an elite passer. There are some concerns about his character but Nowitzki, Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban should keep him in check. Smith will attack the paint and this will open up the perimeter for all of Dallas’ elite shooters. His shot is still developing, but his greatest attribute on this team will be to collapse the defense. Smith is not a lockdown defender but he has the tools to control the opposition’s point guard. The Mavericks could select Frank Ntilikina here if he’s still available, but New York really seems to be moving in on him.
10 Sacramento Kings
Zach Collins, Center, Gonzaga
If the Kings select a guard with their fifth pick, this pick can really go a few different directions. That No. 5 pick will change the outcome of other teams and then this pick could end up being a big man. We could see Gonzaga’s Zach Collins selected here or Lauri Markkanen if he is still available. We can’t expect the Kings to do the logical thing, but we can be sure they’ll get at least one impact player out of their two selections.
I’m really looking forward to the draft and hope you can join myself, Adam Levitan, Julian Edlow and Brendan Glasheen on Facebook Live starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.