Well that didn’t go quite as we hoped! At least the draft has a distinct shape now. It may still change with teams jockeying for position and possible trades. I figured it’s a good time to revisit our mock draft from a couple weeks ago. So much has changed. Yet the rich still manage to get richer.
Stingy Mock Draft Lottery v2.0:
- Boston Celtics (projected #1, via Brooklyn): Markelle Fultz, Washington - As desperately as Danny Ainge wants to take Lonzo Ball and shake down the Lakers for all their unproven young talent and the second pick. He decides to play it safe and just make sure he boxes out and grabs the best player on the board. Fultz complements any roster and will make an impact right away. This also, in one direction or another, makes it more feasible for the Celtics to snag a veteran that’s in their prime if they think that’s the best option.
- Los Angeles Lakers (3): Lonzo Ball, UCLA - Magic Johnson isn’t going to upset the dramatic effect of bringing in a gunslinger like Lonzo Ball and his cleverly strange dad, Lavar. No harm here because this is what the Ball’s want and Lonzo is a sensible pick. Worst case scenario this opens up some interesting trade avenues to improve the team rapidly. Best case, Luke Walton’s motion offense hits the next gear and the pill starts popping all around as the scary young Lakers start to click.
- Philadephia 76ers (5, via swap with Sacramento): Malik Monk, Kentucky - The Sixers actually fell backward one spot. Yet because they held swap rights with the Kings they were able to slide up the ladder. Philly needs as much shooting as they can to unlock the floor for some of their big kids that need the ball. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor will all require some touches and only Embiid can unplug the middle at all. Monk has proven he can extend the defense without dominating the ball. He should also be a sneaky good pick and roll player, either setting the table or catching on the swing and turning the Sixers into a raucous tilt-a-whirl.
- Phoenix Suns (2): Josh Jackson, Kansas - With their backcourt situation somewhat figured out, the Suns look to the wing and grab a bouncy two way small forward. Possibly the highest upside after Fultz and Ball. He won’t get in the way of Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe and he might even be able to start immediately if they push TJ Warren up to the four spot. His defensive versatility could open up a world of possibility.
- Sacramento Kings (3, via swap with Sixers): De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky - Will this be the Wildcat that finally settles this bewildered franchise? Or will Fox be the next victim of a young player being developed into disfunction? It seems unlikely that he’ll be able to step in and change the whole franchise but he might have the chutzpah to galvanize this ensemble and help establish the team’s (new) identity. He’ll have to work out some of the kinks on his shot but he has proven to be a solid scorer in the half court and a tenacious defender that will deserve minutes straight away simply based on his effort. Jayson Tatum is probably the best player available but Vivek Ranadive might think this team needs a floor general to weaponize Buddy Hield. And Vivek gets what Vivek says he wants.
- Orlando Magic (5): Jayson Tatum, Duke - No brainer here, easily the best player available. The Magic have a ton of length, athleticism and youth. What they lack is any reliable scoring. Fournier is ok, but don’t try to google him looking for charts and graphs that depict his capabilities. Tatum should be able to come in and provide some inside-outside dexterity that should help emphasize Aaron Gordon’s smart cutting and Terrance Ross’ corner pooping. All the while allowing Fournier to maintain his grip on the steering wheel. Still a lot of space to improve in Orlando but this is a steal for the Magic.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (6): Jonathan Isaac, Florida State - Isaac is still a couple years away from being able to muscle a sugar wafer but he should be able to step in and be lanky enough to spell Gorgui Dieng or speedy enough to spell Andrew Wiggins for short stints. With the right amount of seasoning he’ll be able to set up alongside Karl-Anthony Towns on the front line and help the Timberwolves make their way to the playoffs. I don’t think he’ll ever be an All Star but he should sniff success as a glue guy. He’s my favorite to become one of those unlikely Knick-killers. If Tom Thibodeau doesn’t kill him first. Speaking of Knick-killers, the Knicks are the self-inflicted wound of NBA franchises (the Kings, by the way, are just a die-easy John McClane)...
- New York Knicks (7): Oh lord, here we go. No solid answers and no clear-cut questions just yet. Even the brightest spot on the roster (Kristaps Porzingis) presents a bit of a quandary. Is he playing the right position? Is the offense hindering his overwhelming potential? Is everything OK? He seemed mad last time he was in town. Don’t be upset, Kristaps, it’s not our fault and we need you here. Is the marquee player (Carmelo Anthony) a lame duck? Is Derrick Rose destined to be re-signed and overpaid? Should the Knicks keep the pick or package it in a trade? Do they want to win now or develop over time? With so much up in the air, the answer should be to take the best player available. Whether they can soundly judge that is up for debate, but the track record is reasonably solid. Since I think the Knicks are not going to be competitive in 2017-18 I’m hoping they will try to take the guy with the highest ceiling. And I have to believe it’s the kid from France. So with the 8th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft the New York Knicks (might) select...
FRANK NTILIKINA! From France.
Congrats, Knick fans! You may have the point guard of your future. Ntilikina increases the team’s length, which should actually fit in really smoothly with the modern NBA and even the way the Knicks play defense. He could theoretically be the best fit available at guard for the stuffy Triangle offense with smart cutting and a penchant for moving the ball and himself rapidly. The best bet is that Ntilikina helps propel Porzingis’ and Willy Hernangomez’s success while making steady contributions and improvements but the Knicks still stink enough to grab a high lottery spot next season. And in 2018 they snag Luka Doncic. Otherwise what’s the point of drafting 8th? Maybe they’ll trade down or acquire some tiresome vet that wants to be in New York but not because of basketball. Until next time, crime stoppers!