- The Boston Celtics are officially on the clock. With the lottery order now set, we project the entire first round of the 2017 NBA draft. Will Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball go No. 1?
For all of the nervous energy in the room at last night’s draft lottery, reduced stakes by and large prevailed as the Celtics went home happy with the No. 1 selection, the Lakers held onto their pick (and moved up to No. 2) and the Sixers actually got to use one of those patented Hinkie pick swaps to move up a couple spots and draft third. Let’s not waste any more time—the draft order is fully set, the NCAA withdrawal deadline is less than a week out, and we can now gaze at a mostly whole portrait of what this thing is going to look like.
We’ve all waited months and months for this. Let’s mock the whole thing up.
1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz | G | Freshman | Washington
Finally, the C’s cash out in full on one of those Nets picks and spend the house money on Fultz, who’s not only the most well-rounded player in this draft, but fits with Boston’s needs as a versatile backcourt piece who will be able to handle early minutes without heavy pressure. Fultz has the size and skills to play alongside Isaiah Thomas and the playmaking ability to pair with Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley. Unless the Celtics opt to deal this pick—and knowing Danny Ainge, it’ll be very much in play—Fultz looks like both the best fit and best player available.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball | G | Freshman | UCLA
Get ready for a lifetime of Lonzo and LaVar (and maybe LiAngelo, and maybe LaMelo) in Los Angeles. There’s too much clamor surrounding this possibility to not pencil it in. In this scenario, the Lakers throw their chips on a kid with the playmaking talent to perhaps turn the franchise around, but who’s not without risk given his distinct strengths and weaknesses. He’s an outstanding fit for the way Luke Walton wants to play, and if L.A. puts the right parts around him, he could really blossom. Whether immediately or down the line, Ball may also displace D’Angelo Russell in the process.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jayson Tatum | F | Freshman | Duke
While Sixers fans rejoiced over this pick swap from the Kings conveying, the braintrust will have a difficult choice at No. 3. With a glut of big men in the fold and Ben Simmons set to take over ballhandling duties next season, Tatum will be able to handle some minutes early on and offer the team much-needed scoring help on the wing. His potential to become a quality jump shooter and perhaps a multi-positional defender makes him a great fit with what the Sixers are building. His fit alongside Simmons stands out from the pack in that regard.
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson | F | Freshman | Kansas
Well, the Suns should be giddy if they land Jackson here as a sidekick for Devin Booker. He’s one of the best defenders in the class, physically ready to contribute, and a consistent jumper away from growing into a tremendous player. After doubling down on big men a year ago, Jackson fills a hole for Phoenix at small forward and could give Booker quality defensive cover for the next decade. This feels like a natural fit.
5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox | G | Freshman | Kentucky
In Fox, the Kings finally nail a player capable of pulling all their disparate pieces together. Sacramento can take the best prospect on the board as well as fill their biggest area of need, landing a lead guard with the ability to bring the franchise back to relevance and who’s a jump shot away from being pretty frightening. Fox’s speed will be a game-changer regardless, and his contagious, breakneck nightly effort on both ends might be the shot in the arm the Kings have needed for years.
6. Orlando Magic: Dennis Smith | G | Freshman | NC State
More than anything, the Magic need a player they can count on to shape games offensively. Of the remaining players, Smith has the best chance to be what they’re looking for. His explosiveness and creativity with the ball, particularly in isolation, should in time give Orlando the necessary jolt to move back in the right direction. With his innate ability to generate offense and move the basketball, Smith is a serious upside swing they can afford here. He has a chance to be a star.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac | F | Freshman | Florida State
Thanks to their recent run of draft luck, the Wolves have the luxury of not needing another franchise-caliber stud. In Isaac, they get a player with a solid floor and the potential to bring great value. He’ll be the first to tell you he needs to pack on muscle, and Minnesota can bring him along slowly in hopes he’ll evolve into a floor-spacing, rebounding jack-of-all-trades that can give Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins plenty of space to operate.
8. New York Knicks: Malik Monk | G | Freshman | Kentucky
It would be pretty hard for the Knicks to pass on Monk’s starry upside in this scenario. He’s one of the best pure shooters in the draft and presents a ton of possibilities despite measurables that leave a bit to be desired. If Melo’s headed out of town, New York will need someone else to score the ball and would be justified in turning to Monk in hopes that he evolves into a lethal one-two punch alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Monk won’t be ready from day one, but would make an electrifying fit in the Garden if all breaks correctly.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina | G | 18 Years Old | France
Point guard has long been a position of need for Dallas, and Ntilikina (for the record, nee-lee-KEE-na) would give them a strong building block as the post-Dirk era looms. Taking Lauri Markkanen as his obvious heir would be tempting here, but it’s the other European guy who holds more appeal. Ntilikina has the physical gifts to become one of the league’s best two-way point guards in time, and his playmaking ability and burgeoning development a shooter also help him stand out.
10. Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen | F | Freshman | Arizona
Oh, how the Kings love their European big men. Markkanen’s calling-card—his shooting—sets him apart from the prospects Sacramento has already amassed, and on a roster rife with holes, his scoring potential makes for a nice investment. He’s not the most well-rounded big man in the class, but he enters with a rare, potentially elite specialty that they’ll hope blossoms into something more. With Fox already in the fold, the more shooters, the better.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins | F/C | Freshman | Gonzaga
Skill-wise, Collins is somewhat analogous to the bigs the Hornets have in tow, but his youth coupled with strong instincts as a rebounder and shot-blocker gives him the nod here. He’ll have time to grow into a great fit in Steve Clifford’s defensive-minded system and develop the skills to eventually play power forward or center.
12. Detroit Pistons: Justin Jackson | F | Junior | North Carolina
This may be a little early for Jackson, but the Pistons need shooting and Jackson profiles as one of the draft’s more NBA-ready wings. His long arms give him a chance to be a strong defender, and his combination of craft and spot-up comfort would let him slot nicely into Detroit’s rotation early on. The Pistons are financially invested in Andre Drummond and have assembled enough parts that it’s likely not worth blowing everything up and starting over just yet. Jackson might be able to make them better right away.
13. Denver Nuggets: Justin Patton | C | Freshman | Creighton
Denver is unafraid to stockpile talent and can afford to let a player with Patton’s considerable upside develop on their bench. He has an all-around offensive skill set and fluid athleticism for a 7-footer, and the fact that a prospect of his ilk might fall this far speaks to the quality of this lottery. In college, he thrived in a role functioning mostly away from the ball, running to the rim, catching lobs and occasionally spotting up for jumpers. He’s also a very good passer. Could he protect the rim and fit alongside Nikola Jokic in time? Absolutely.
14. Miami Heat: OG Anunoby | F | Sophomore | Indiana
Anunoby is one of the draft’s most physically intriguing prospects, with a good chance to become an incredibly versatile defender, but he has a ways to go in terms of offensive skill set. Miami could gamble here and line him up at forward alongside Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside, forming a nightmarish defensive frontcourt able to quell lineups big and small. The post-LeBron Heat have had a lot of success with player development, and this seems like a worthy gamble given the best-case scenario.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Ike Anigbogu | C | Freshman | UCLA
After appearing to strike gold with Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers can address some of their interior concerns on the other side of the ball with this selection. Anigbogu’s insanely young, but he’s a rare defensive prospect and explosive athlete who’s already adept at catching lobs and finishing. If Portland stays specific with his development, he could be readier to contribute as a specialist sooner than expected. You can look at the job Houston did with Clint Capela as a touchstone.
16. Chicago Bulls: Donovan Mitchell | G | Sophomore | Louisville
The Bulls have several needs to address this off-season and would instantly become more athletic in the backcourt by bringing in Mitchell, one of the most explosive players on the board. He’s still more of an idea than anything, but as a high-quality two-way specialist with a developing jumper, Mitchell is a pretty solid concept. His 6’10” wingspan and 40” vertical are off the charts, and if the Bulls’ current backcourt options stay in place, he won’t be tasked with heavy playmaking duties right away. Then again, this is a roster that could look very different in a couple months.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Harry Giles | F | Freshman | Duke
Giles and his balky knees carry more injury red flags than anyone in the draft, but teams are fully aware of his talent. As with any risk-reward proposition, a smart gambler is willing to hedge a bet at the right price. This is what the Bucks have done best over the last several drafts, and with a strong medical staff in the fold, they can continue to ease Giles back into basketball activity and play the long game. His touch, coordination and immense length and reach are still present if rusty, and even if his explosiveness doesn’t return in full, he could still become an outstanding player. He won’t have to be a superstar if the Bucks (and Giannis) continue on their present trajectories.
18. Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard | F | Sophomore | Duke
This pick will depend on what the Pacers decide to do with Paul George, but assuming he stays put, Indiana will need to find ways to get better as he enters his contract year. Kennard’s deep shooting ability and savvy decision-making could make him a usable player early on and make life easier for his teammates as Indiana tries to spread the floor. He gives them a nice combination of present and future utility in this spot.
19. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins | F/C | Sophomore | Wake Forest
Atlanta could use another ball-handler here, but as the guards start to thin out, it makes sense to address the interior with a developmental piece behind Dwight Howard. Collins displayed impressive offensive fluency and rebounding instincts during a breakout season, but lacks polish in terms of awareness and on the defensive end. The Hawks have been unafraid to try and mesh players with unique skill sets in the past, and Collins’s activity and scoring instincts are an interesting sell.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: Rodions Kurucs | F | 19 Years Old | Latvia
If the Blazers keep all three first-rounders they’ll likely have to stash someone, and Kurucs could be a candidate given his intriguing all-around offensive profile and relatively early stage of professional development in the Spanish B League. He’s versatile and has the makings of a useful player down the line. Portland’s situation could make him a fit.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Terrance Ferguson | F | 19 Years Old | Australia
Although the Thunder really need a secondary shot creator to anchor lineups when Russell Westbrook sits, that need could be tough to address in this spot. Ferguson’s an explosive leaper with a chance to become a dangerous shooter and could eventually become a worthy addition to OKC’s stable of specialists. He has a long way to go physically, as well as attacking off the dribble, but provides nice value here.
22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): Jarrett Allen | C | Freshman | Texas
Allen has a long way to go in terms of basketball comprehension, but he made some strides in his one year at Texas and possesses high-end length and defensive prospects. At this point, the Nets are still without much pressure to win and can afford to develop him into an impactful defender and finisher behind Brook Lopez. Brooklyn has been all about upside in recent drafts, and it’s the correct approach given the circumstances.
23. Toronto Raptors: T.J. Leaf | F | Freshman | UCLA
With Patrick Patterson’s expiring (not to mention Kyle Lowry's) and the Raptors positioned to make some changes, they can address the potential need for a stretch forward with Leaf, who’s a skilled scorer and passer and an energetic rebounder. If the Raptors want to evolve into a more modern offensive team, it doesn’t hurt to add a player with his versatility.
24. Utah Jazz: Ivan Rabb | F | Sophomore | California
Rabb has lost a bit of his luster but remains a solid prospect thanks to his commitment to rebounding the basketball. He has some work to do as a scorer, but he’s pretty talented and was often marginalized by a pretty poor offensive situation at Cal. The Jazz can develop him as a possible replacement for Derrick Favors.
25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto): Jonathan Jeanne | C | 19 Years Old | France
The Magic will be poised to draft two more solid prospects at 33 and 35, so they can take a chance here and invest in developing Jeanne and his lanky 7’2” frame. He stood out at the draft combine catching lobs and contesting shots thanks to his athletic advantages, and showed a decent shooting touch in drills. Jeanne is a rare physical specimen with tantalizing potential this late in the first round.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Isaiah Hartenstein | F/C | 19 Years Old | Germany
Hartenstein is an intriguing prospect with nice size, strength and agility and another player Portland can find room to bring along in hopes his scoring catches up. He has funky shooting mechanics but isn’t an awful shooter, either, which becomes more palatable if he can handle playing the five defensively.
27. Brooklyn Nets (swap with Boston): Hamidou Diallo | G | Freshman | Kentucky
Diallo’s insane athletic ability will keep him on the first–round radar, and again, Brooklyn’s in no rush. His actual basketball skills have drawn mixed reviews. He struggles as a shooter and all in all he’s a long, long way away. That said, if he stays in the draft, he’s the type of quick-twitch wing who could warrant guaranteed money in this range just in case he pans out.
28. L.A. Lakers (via Houston): D.J. Wilson | F | Junior | Michigan
If the Lakers indeed enter the Lonzo era, they’ll need athletic bigs who can run with him and space the floor. Wilson checks those boxes, and also possesses good mobility on the defensive end that makes him one of the more interesting stretch-four types in the class. In that respect his strengths are a little different from Julius Randle and Larry Nance, and he fits the mold of player L.A. should try and add into this mix.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Bam Adebayo | C | Freshman | Kentucky
Adebayo’s understanding of his own role as a bruiser on the interior makes him a nice fit for San Antonio as the Spurs continue to get younger and put role players around Kawhi Leonard. As a rim-runner and garbage man, Adebayo has a clear NBA fit. He’s extremely athletic and strong, which helps him project as the sort of switch-friendly defender that San Antonio could really use in lieu of plodding veterans.
30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Jawun Evans | G | Sophomore | Oklahoma State
Given that George Hill might not be back, Utah will need to address the point guard spot in some way beyond Dante Exum, and Evans is one of the better pure playmakers in the class, despite his smaller stature. His scoring ability leaves something to be desired at this stage, but he’s the type of hard-working, intelligent player that can make others better and become a fit with what the Jazz want to do in the halfcourt.
First five out: Rawle Alkins, Arizona; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; Derrick White, Colorado; Tony Bradley, North Carolina; Frank Jackson, Duke.