With the NBA lottery just a few weeks away, many are anticipating which teams will be drafting where, as well as where some of the nation’s best prospects will land. With the assumption that the teams in the top ten will land with the pick they’re projected to land, here’s a pre-lottery NBA Mock draft.
Pre-Lottery NBA Mock Draft
1) Boston Celtics – Josh Jackson
Back in the 2013 offseason, the Celtics agreed to a mega deal with the Brooklyn Nets which ultimately netted them the Nets 2017 first round pick. As a result of the Nets finishing with the worst record in the NBA in the 2016-17 season, the Celtics now have the best odds of winning the NBA lottery. With the pick they should select Kansas forward Josh Jackson.
Last year, Jackson put on a show for the Jayhawks. Averaging 16.3 points and 3.0 assists a game, Jackson helped lead the charge for Kansas throughout the course of his freshman year. Jackson though also contributed on the defensive end. Averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks, as well as racking in 7.7 rebounds a game, he was a force on the defensive end. His two way play will benefit any team he ends up with. Boston though may not let him slide past their draft spot.
Being that the organization is in a win-now mentality, the Celtics are likely to draft out of need, as opposed to best player available. That’s partly due to the fact that their star player (Isaiah Thomas) is a point guard, which another potential top pick plays. While drafting him may not be selecting a superstar though, Jackson would still benefit Boston in both the short and long term, given his two-way play.
2) Phoenix Suns – Markelle Fultz
While Jackson landing with the Celtics at number one, the best player in the draft will likely go to the Phoenix Suns in the second overall draft slot – Markelle Fultz. The Washington State product was exceptional on the offensive end in his freshman year.
Averaging an astonishing 23.2 points a game, Fultz put Washington on his back, carrying the scoring load. His scoring came from driving the rim at will, but also out on the perimeter; in the 2016-17 season, Fultz shot 41.3% from beyond the arc. Fultz though also made an impact on the defensive end.
In addition to his offensive prowess, Fultz made his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor. Averaging 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks a game, Fultz showed a willingness to compete on the defensive end. His two way play gives him the potential to be a superstar guard in the NBA.
Having the potential to grow into a perennial All-Star, Fultz could eventually form one of the best backcourt’s in the NBA with shooting guard Devin Booker and himself.
3) Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball
For the third straight year, the Los Angeles Lakers will be selecting in the top five. This year’s draft though offers them a chance to finally find their go-to star point guard, something D’Angelo Russell has been unable to do. Point guard Lonzo Ball may be able to though.
In his one year at UCLA, Ball played at a very high level. Averaging 14.6 points a game, he was able to be a leading scorer for UCLA night in and night out, but where Ball impacted them the most was as a facilitator. Averaging 7.6 assists, as well as 6.8 rebounds a game, Ball helped run the fast break, and was adept at finding his teammates in both transition and half-court sets; his court vision is very reminiscent of Jason Kidd. That skill set would be very beneficial to the young core the Lakers possess. The biggest liability for Ball’s career though is his father.
Ball’s father (Lavar) has been very vocal and opinionated about his son’s play, and has made some ludicrous remarks along the way. Ranging from him saying his son is on a higher level than Stephen Curry, to even saying that he himself would beat Michael Jordan one on one, Lavar Ball has not helped his son’s NBA future. That is a negative factor that any team who drafts him will have to deal with.
However, the Lakers are a team who the Ball family has said he’d love to play for, and the two could make for a great fit in the long haul. Controlling Ball’s father though will be the biggest challenge in it all.
4) Philadelphia 76ers – De’Aaron Fox
Out of everyone entering the 2017 NBA Draft, Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox is the most underrated player in the class.
Much like Fultz, Fox is a two way player. On the offensive end, he can carry the scoring load night in and night out, as he proved in his freshman year. Averaging 16.7 points a game, Fox helped lead the charge for the Wildcats alongside fellow guard Malik Monk, playing with an aggressive mentality. He even scored 40 points in the NCAA tournament versus UCLA. Fox’s defensive game gave off that same impression.
Averaging 1.5 steals a game, Fox showed off his ability to serve as a gnat on the defensive end. Fox’s ability to guard one one one, as well as out on the perimeter, coupled with his offensive game, make Fox a well balanced and fundamentally sound player.
With the 76ers, Fox would provide a much needed spark in their backcourt. With prized youngsters such as center Joel Embiid, as well as forwards Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, the 76ers are in dire need of a young point guard to help run their offense. Fox would give them just that.
5) Orlando Magic – Jayson Tatum
After a disappointing season under new head coach Frank Vogel, the Orlando Magic are going into the offseason with hopes of getting a young force, ideally on their frontline. With guards Elfird Payton and Evan Fournier likely set to start in the backcourt, the Magic will look to add a two way forward, who can be a piece going forward. Enter Jayson Tatum.
The Duke product Tatum had an impressive and productive freshman year. Playing alongside sharpshooter Grayson Allen, Tatum was a key component to Duke’s offensive output. Averaging 16.8 points a game, he helped lead the charge for the Blue Devils. He also contributed on the defensive end.
In addition to his offensive output, Tatum was a presence on defense. Averaging 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks a game, Tatum contributed plenty to the Blue Devils defensive attack. That same approach would fit in well with the Orlando Magic.
With freakish forward Aaron Gordon, as well as the consistent force at center that is Nikola Vucevic, the Magic have a solid frontline duo to work with. Adding Tatum to that frontline though, would also greaten its potential, and give them a great young trio to work with going forward.
6) Minnesota Timberwolves – Malik Monk
After a disappointing first year under Tom Thibodeau and winning a coin flip with the New York Knicks, the Minnesota Timberwolves are projected to pick sixth in the 2017 NBA Draft. With their pick, the Timberwolves would be wise to add a backcourt piece, especially at the shooting guard position. Kentucky’s Malik Monk would be that piece.
While Fox was the high flyer, and exciting player to watch, Monk was just as key to the Wildcats’ offense attack. In fact, Monk averaged more points than Fox. Posting 19.8 points a game, and shooting just under 40% from beyond the arc, Monk was the go-to scoring option for Kentucky. He was also a reliable product on the defensive end.
While the stat sheet doesn’t necessarily endorse Monk’s play, his gritty play does. By diving after loose balls and playing tight on-ball defense, Monk has developed a gritty go-get it personality on the defensive end, making him a highly thought of player.
The Timberwolves would plug Monk in at the shooting guard position, permanently moving Andrew Wiggins to the small forward position. Monk and what will be second year point guard Kris Dunn can potentially grow into a lethal backcourt duo if patience can be valued, to go alongside one of the NBA’s best big men in Karl-Anthony Towns.
7) New York Knicks – Dennis Smith Jr.
After a fourth consecutive losing season, the New York Knicks are yet again finding themselves in the NBA lottery; however, after losing a coin flip to the Minnesota Timberwolves, they’re projected to have just the seventh pick in the draft. With that pick though, they can still address the glaring hole on their roster – a starting point guard.
In what is a point guard heavy draft class, the Knicks should have still have options at number seven to find their new lead guard. Enter Dennis Smith Jr. In his freshman year at NC State, Smith lead the charge on the offensive end. Posting 18.1 points and 6.2 assists a game, Smith carried the scoring load for NC State, putting his ability to lead an offense on full display. He also showed a willingness to compete on the defensive end.
Recording just under two steals a game, Smith was able to force turnovers, leading to quick transition buckets. That gritty two-way play would bode well with the rebuilding Knicks, who are in search of a new leader.
8) Sacramento Kings – Jonathan Issac
After trading away longtime center DeMarcus Cousins at the NBA trade deadline, the Sacramento Kings have let it be known that they’re looking to turn the page as a franchise. They can make that next big rebuilding step by acing the NBA draft, in which they possess two picks in the top ten, one being the eight pick and the other the tenth. Drafting Johnathan Issac with the eighth pick would be a shrewd move.
Given that they’re likely to clear house with veteran free agents such as Darren Collison and potentially Rudy Gay, the Kings need to begin experimenting with some new faces. Isaac would be a wise project to take a chance on.
The 6’10” Issac plays on both ends of the floor. Last year with Florida State, he averaged 12.0 points a game on 50.8% shooting, making for efficient play. Defensively, Issac was just as impactful. Posting 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks, as well as racking in 7.7 rebounds a game, Issac was impactful on the defensive end. His two way play is a trait the Kings should covet.
Given their imbalance of offense and defense in year’s past, drafting Issac would give the Kings a two-way forward to begin building a well-balanced roster.
9) Dallas Mavericks – Lauri Markkanen
After a crazy and difficult 2016-17 season, the Dallas Mavericks are looking to draft a player to help pair with 2016 free agent signee Harrison Barnes (who played well last season) long-term. Selecting a big man with their pick would be wise.
With the future of Dirk Nowitzki in the air, in regards to whether he’ll retire or not, the Mavericks need to begin thinking about their future. Drafting Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen would be a wise move for the long haul.
The Arizona big man, in a way, resembles the way Nowitzki played in his prime. Serving as a seven foot threat form the outside, Markkanen shot 42.3% from the outside helping put forth 15.6 points a night. His ability to stretch the floor at his size makes him a valuable asset for any team that drafts him; however, the Mavericks have experience with a player like Markkanen in Nowitzki. Could the Mavericks turn him into Dirk 2.0?
10) Sacramento Kings – Frank Ntilikina
With the other pick they possess in the draft (10th), the Kings would be wise to draft a point guard. French point guard Frank Ntilikina will be their best option at ten.
While the French point guard is a bit of an unknown, given his lack of NBA experience, he does possess some valuable qualities which make for some intrigue.
Ntilikina is known for being a team first, passing guard, who can also handle the rock. The biggest question with that skill set though is whether he can carry it to the NBA? The Kings though are in just the position to take that gamble.
Given that there’s no game changing lead guard on their roster, the Kings would be wise to draft the best point guard available in the ten slot, which will be Ntilikina.