Let the mock drafting begin!
With the 2017 NBA draft lottery coming and going Tuesday night, we now know the order of June's draft. The Celtics, thanks to the Nets, will possess the No. 1 pick on the heels of a deep playoff run. The Lakers, with new management in town, get a chance to select a new franchise star at No. 2. And The Process will get to add another prospect to the cupboard with the No. 3 pick.
But what about the rest of the lottery—including the Knicks at No. 8?
With the cement still wet from the lottery, The Crossover's NBA staff offers its Instant Mock Draft, a quick-hitting look at how the first 14 picks could play out. Although NBA fans have five weeks to study these prospects endlessly, we've provided analysis from Jeremy Woo's latest Big Board of each prospect below.
Without further ado, here's our 2017 Instant Mock Draft.
1. Markelle Fultz
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 1
Fultz stayed the course at No. 1 all season, and is highly likely to remain there as we enter the last leg of the draft cycle, offering a great blend of ceiling and floor, high-caliber bounce and quickness, and the ability to score, run the team and make others better. He’s not a perfect prospect — he’ll need to up his commitment on defense, continue to improve his jumper and corral his turnovers. Washington should have been better last season, but a new environment and NBA caliber teammates should allow Fultz’s gifts to pop even further. He checks all the major boxes for a lead guard and has a strong chance to become the best player in the class when it’s all over.
2. Lonzo Ball
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 6
Ball's Big Board ranking doesn’t mean he's going to be a bad NBA player—on the contrary, he’s likely to be a pretty good one. But it does express some doubt over whether his ceiling is remotely as high as the overall narrative around him suggests. With his unorthodox release and trouble creating separation against top athletes, Ball is going to have some trouble creating his own shot. Even if he grows into a more assertive player on a nightly basis, it doesn’t mean scoring will suddenly come more easily to him. There are no questions about his unique playmaking gifts, but a ton of those “wow” moments came in transition, and when you boil things down to crunch-time, halfcourt situations, it’s fair to think Ball may not be the guy that gets you over the hump. He’s going to help his team win and make his teammates a lot of money, but there’s enough going on here to warrant some critical evaluation, at minimum.
3. De'Aaron Fox
RECORD: SI Big Board 3
Admittedly, this isn’t as much reflective of Fox’s stock rising as it is a major shift in opinion that was partially influenced by his stellar play down the stretch. When it comes down to positional size and strength, end-to-end speed, defensive instincts and highlight-reel talent, Fox may be tops in this draft class. He’s extremely competitive, aggressive and shone as Kentucky’s best player in the second half of the year. He’s offered plenty to suggest that he’ll be highly impactful regardless of the questions about his jump shot — which to his credit, doesn’t look broken, but will need addressing. Fox was not always an efficient scorer and is less polished offensively than Fultz and Smith (who also favor driving off the bounce), but in terms of pure malleable talent, there is a case for him to be selected even higher than this. The shooting issues give him a slightly lower floor, but the ceiling is massive.
4. Josh Jackson
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 4
Jackson is clearly the most well-rounded wing in the draft at this stage, and did his best to try and assuage some concerns about his jump shooting in the second half of the season. His strength and explosiveness allowed him to get where he wanted in college, and his calling card strength is first and foremost his defensive ability. Everyone needs two-way wing players, and Jackson has shown some ability to create his own shot while closely guarded and is a strong passer in transition. Nobody’s convinced he’s going to be a consistent NBA shooter yet, and he’s not built particularly well to keep playing prominently as a small-ball four at the next level. The overall package here is attractive, and like Fox, is tied to his jumper long-term. He can certainly impact the game without scoring, but Jackson also may never be a guy who carries your offense.
5. Malik Monk
RECORD: SI Big Board 7
Monk is the most polished perimeter scorer in this class, and his ability to get hot, stay hot and alter a game from three is as rare as it comes. His top-end athletic ability gives him an extra element of growth potential, and he’s got a more diverse skill set than what he was able to show at Kentucky. The issue remains how he helps you when he isn’t scoring, and as the season went on, we got a better idea of what Monk’s average nights look like. His lack of ideal size limits his ability to impact the game defensively, and that counts for something. It seems preordained that he’ll be fun to watch, but whether that’s as someone’s leading scorer or as a crucial bench player the question.
6. Jayson Tatum
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 2
Tatum’s play over the back end of Duke’s season re-affirmed his pedigree: he’s the most developed scorer in the draft at this stage and made some strides in diversifying his skills and playing unselfishly. His ability to create workable looks for himself in tough situations stands out — we’ve seen players in this mold succeed before, and he’s big and long enough to play a bit of both forward spots. Tatum’s quickness allowed him to exploit mismatches, his skill level helps him to create separation, and his polish should help him make an impact early in his career. The knock here is that he’s not a Grade-A athlete or ball-handler, which may limit him attacking the rim and requires some smoothing over. He tends to be a ball-stopper and will have to be extremely efficient to warrant that type of usage and help his team win while doing it. Tatum’s overall profile leaves room for optimism.
7. Lauri Markkanen
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 11
Difference of opinion on Markkanen is in most cases tied more to his floor than his ceiling — his ability to shoot the basketball at his size (and do it in a variety of situations) gives him a ton of long-term upside. Talents like that are hard to find. For what it’s worth, he seriously faded shooting the three-ball down the stretch, which maybe had something to do with Allonzo Trier’s return altering the offense a bit. Some of those performances shed light on what he does when not sinking threes, and the answer wasn’t usually pretty — he doesn’t block or alter shots on a regular basis, was not as consistent a rebounder as you’d like for a 7-footer, and has a high center of gravity that makes it difficult for him to stay with athletic forwards. He’s not strong enough right now to bang consistently with bigs. The player you’re getting is likely somewhere in the middle, able to change games as a scorer but vulnerable in certain defensive situations and an occasional liability on the glass.
8. Frank Ntilikina
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 12
French Frank looks to be right there with this crop of lottery point guards, as an extremely well-built playmaker and the top overseas import in the class. His massive wingspan will let him stick different positions and his size allows him to see over defenses and facilitate. He’s an aggressive defender who loves to poke around for steals and understands how to leverage his length. His jumper looks to have improved some and he recently moved into the starting lineup for Strasbourg. There are very few questions about his tools, and he could become a strong two-way player at the next level. Ntikilina’s relatively small production sample size and questions about exactly how much he’ll be able to score in the NBA are the big issues for now.
9. Jonathan Isaac
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 10
In terms of pure talent and best-case projection, Isaac is up there with the best in this class. He’s a solid shooter with an ideal frame to handle the four who rebounds, blocks shots and doesn’t need the basketball all the time to be impactful. Isaac’s game-to-game scoring left a lot to be desired, though, and his desire to make an impact night to night has come into question. The role he carved out as a stellar complimentary player for the Seminoles (who featured ball-dominant guards) feels similar to how he might be utilized in the NBA if he’s unable to add and leverage strength and assert himself as a face-up scorer. He doesn’t scream superstar, but his all-around contributions and room for growth make him an attractive prospect.
10. Justin Patton
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 8
The key to understanding Patton’s appeal this high is watching his early-season tape, which was full of eye-popping offensive moments and easy buckets that took place just outside college basketball’s biggest spotlight. Even with his (and Creighton’s) second-half regression, Patton’s offensive efficiency numbers remained among the best players in the country. His fluidity, touch, shooting potential, passing and shot-blocking are all off the charts for a guy his size. He’ll have to improve as a rebounder and embrace the rigors of the NBA regimen to maximize his talent, and though his growth curve is long, the potential reward here is tantalizing. Among players that can truly be classified as projects, Patton is the best one in the draft.
11. Zach Collins
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 9
After showcasing a diverse, efficient game all season, Collins’ play down the stretch spoke volumes as he became more and more invaluable to Gonzaga’s impressive tourney run. He’s proven he belongs in the top tier of big men in this class, with a good sense of what to do around the basket, frame that should fill out nicely, and an extremely promising future on the defensive end of the ball. It also helps that Collins is far more athletic than he looks. He has most of the elements you want in a modern center, and his consistently focused play in March offered a wildly impressive glimpse into his two-way potential. His offensive ceiling isn’t as high as the other bigs in this tier, but he’s likely to be the best defender of the bunch, and is the easiest to project as a high-level starter.
12. Dennis Smith
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 5
Smith might be the best one-on-one scorer in this draft — he was absolutely dominant efficiency-wise in isolation situations this season, and is built to attack the basket, draw fouls and help shoulder somebody’s offense. He’s also an exceptional playmaker off the dribble. Although he’s garnered less buzz than the other top point guards, these factors give him star potential, and he’s athletic enough to cut it on defense when it counts. It’s fair to wonder why NC State wasn’t more successful, but not as fair to hang that all on Smith’s shoulders. A better question is how he’ll fare against defenders who can match him step for step, and how consistent a jump shooter he’ll be. Smith should more than fill a need for someone and has a chance to be one of the best players in the class if it breaks correctly for him.
13. Harry Giles
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 14
After three knee injuries in high school hampered the early stages of an extremely promising career, Giles chose to turn pro and take his chances while healthy, and who can blame him? He showed flashes of the player he was pre-injury as the season wound down, and remains a good rebounder and shot-blocker despite limited playing time. He should regain his offensive touch in time, if not all of his explosion and lift. Although Giles’ performance alone this season doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, if his knees check out, it’s easy to see a team gambling on his potential. His draft range is wider than most and highly dependent on his medicals, but on talent alone, he remains among the best in this class. Go watch some of his high school tape and you’ll see the full picture.
14. Terrance Ferguson
RECORD: SI Big Board No. 13
Ferguson’s deep shooting ability as a traditional two-guard sets him apart among a relatively thin positional crop. He’s long, bouncy and profiles as a useful piece that most teams can fit into a rotation, a la Tim Hardaway Jr., provided his jumper grows more consistent. He’s still pretty skinny and will struggle defensively early on against stronger players. The questions many have are tied to a lack of productivity in Australia, which is understandable after skipping college entirely and learning to fill a pro role right away. He did develop some mid-post skills, and with his gift for scoring the basketball should benefit from workouts.