Welcome to the 2017 edition of the FanRag Sports NBA Franchise Player Draft. In this draft, 10 FanRag Sports contributors will select a starting five of current NBA players based on the idea that we’re starting the league from scratch and crafting teams with both short- and long-term excellence in mind. Age, injury history and roster construction are to be considered, but current contract situation is not.
41. Kelly Scaletta — Avery Bradley
The one thing missing on my team is a top-tier, on-ball defender. My last position I need to fill is shooting guard. Who better to do that with than Avery Bradley? With Bradley on my team, I don’t have to worry about anyone shutting down Kyrie, either. In addition, Bradley shot 39 percent from deep last year, so as another court stretcher, he fits offensively.
So my starting five is Irving, Bradley, Durant, Horford and Gasol. Everyone can shoot, pass and put the ball on the floor. While I don’t have any elite rebounders, the overall team rebounding is fine. The only real defensive liability I have is Irving and the rest can more than compensate for him. And with all the shooters surrounding Durant and Irving (who also stretch the court for one another), this is a team that’s going to be very difficult to defend.
I’m pretty comfortable with my squad. I think a lot of the teams are built to win later. They can have their rings in four or five years. But at least the next three are coming here.
First-round pick: Kevin Durant | Second-round pick: Kyrie Irving | Third-round pick: Marc Gasol | Fourth-round pick: Al Horford
42. Andrew Bailey — DeMar DeRozan
This pick was agony. Curry, Lillard, Cousins and Griffin are all either just shy of their prime or right at the start of it. But it still felt like this group could use some youth and defense on the wing. A super-small forward in Marcus Smart was considered. And even rookie Josh Jackson got a long look. But in the end, this team’s theme of all-offense, no-defense ruled the day once again.
With perimeter defenders having to face-guard the likes of Curry and Lillard all over the 3-point line, and Cousins and Griffin hammering the rim (those two may be called on to stretch the floor too), there should be plenty of space right in the mid-range for DeMar DeRozan.
First-round pick: Stephen Curry | Second-round pick: DeMarcus Cousins | Third-round pick: Damian Lillard | Fourth-round pick: Blake Griffin
43. Tom West — Gary Harris
Gary Harris may not be the best player remaining right now, but I wanted to go younger with this pick, even with my two best players (Kawhi and Gobert) being 26 or younger. At just 22 years old, Harris has shown significant improvement over each season of his career to become a fine young guard already, one who perfectly fits what my team needs at the 2 and one who has obvious room to keep growing.
He made jumps from 12.3 points and 1.9 assists per game in 2015-16 to career-highs of 14.9 and 2.9, respectively, in 2016-17, developing tremendous off-ball movement alongside Nikola Jokic (working with Conley’s playmaking and the post passing of Love for cuts, not to mention the play of Kawhi, should make Harris feel more than comfortable). Harris is a terrific cutter and will fit into my team’s load of 3-point shooting so effortlessly as he buries catch-and-shoot opportunities and runs off screens to find good looks. That’s just what I need from him, and his stellar efficiency helps reinforce how good he is already: 50.2 percent shooing overall and 42 percent from 3! With the ability to attack the rim a bit too and beat closeouts, whether he drives or makes the extra pass, he’ll do more than enough to ensure the offense keeps moving.
Along with the promise he’s shown to keep growing defensively (he’s not great off the ball and doesn’t offer much versatility, but he’s shown some solid play on the ball and potential), he has the exact skill set I want to complete my starting five. And the fact that he’s not near his prime yet makes things even better.
First-round pick: Kawhi Leonard | Second-round pick: Rudy Gobert | Third-round pick: Mike Conley | Fourth-round pick: Kevin Love
44. Nekias Duncan — Robert Covington
I know I wanted a forward for my last spot, but I was torn on what type I wanted to pair with Giannis. I nearly went with Serge Ibaka as a shot-blocking, 3-point shooting big; ultimately, I chose RoCo to maximize my defensive versatility.
Per-game numbers don’t do RoCo justice. He’s shot under 40 percent from the field in each of his last three seasons, while his 3-point percentage has flirted with the league average over that same span. Playing for the tank-tastic Sixers devoid of shooters or playmakers tanked his numbers (pun intended).
Covington has been able to showcase value on both ends despite his situation. He can cash in 3s when he’s open, and has hit a fair amount when he hasn’t been. On the other end, he’s one of the three or so best defenders at his position, able to toggle between guarding either forward spot and some guards.
On my team, he’ll finally be able to breathe. He’ll benefit from the rim-rolling of DeAndre Jordan, the perimeter gravity of Klay Thompson, the court vision and playmaking of Chris Paul, and the attention that Giannis will draw. RoCo will get more open looks than ever before while adding more versatility to a stifling defense.
First-round pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo | Second-round pick: Klay Thompson | Third-round pick: DeAndre Jordan | Fourth-round pick: Chris Paul
45. Shane Young — Brandon Ingram
I believe Bryan was aiming to snag Ingram with his next pick, but it was my duty to take him off the market. Ingram has more to prove than anyone in this draft, as his rookie season wasn’t very attractive. Yes, he was among the worst players in RPM and BPM last year. Do I think he’s going to blossom into a formidable small forward right away? No. In fact, it may take him until he’s 23 or 24. But with the current team I have, luckily he doesn’t have to be a franchise player immediately.
We’re going to mold him into that KD comparison everyone loved to offer during the 2016 Draft, and remain optimistic that he can shoot 37 percent or better from 3 over the next few seasons. What I love about Ingram now, however, is that he’s the furthest thing from a selfish player. You would think being drafted second overall and a college basketball star would make him desire a larger spotlight, but that isn’t the case. He’s quiet, humble, and willing to fill any role our coach needs — learning under Coach K and Luke Walton will create that. It’s the perfect fit for this roster. Harden and Wall will demand so much attention, Ingram should have open shots and cutting lanes.
Can you imagine high pick-and-roll with Millsap setting a screen for Wall or Harden, the ball handler operating downhill, with Turner on the baseline/low block and Ingram posted in the corner? I can — it’s what I dream about at night. Our guards are going to force defenders to collapse once they’re penetrating, which will pull opponents away from the corners and wings. Turner will be a lob threat, while Ingram is available for the dish out. I’m making this pick with full belief that Ingram will end up a better player than Ben Simmons throughout the next 10 years.
First-round pick: James Harden | Second-round pick: John Wall | Third-round pick: Myles Turner | Fourth-round pick: Paul Millsap
46. Keith Smith — Ben Simmons
Shane passed up Simmons, but I’m jumping on him. Ingram might end up a better player, but Simmons is going to a better fit for the roster I have built. Sure, he hasn’t played an NBA game. Sure, he can’t shoot. But his ball handling and passing are elite for his size and I’ve got enough shooting elsewhere to make up for it. Simmons also fits the versatility I want. He can play at least 2-4 and possibly even the 1 and the 5. Along with Gordon Hayward, Simmons can free up Russell Westbrook when he needs a break from the play making duties. He should pair well with Anthony Davis in the frontcourt, as well. It means Davis has to play center more, but that just makes him a matchup nightmare for most opposing 5 men.
The overall roster might be lacking a bit on the defensive end, but I feel like this group is going to be very hard to stop offensively. With rules favoring the offense more and more, that is a trend this group can take full advantage of.
First-round pick: Anthony Davis | Second-round pick: Russell Westbrook | Third-round pick: Gordon Hayward | Fourth-round pick: Bradley Beal
47. Jack Winter — Steven Adams
This team needs toughness, and few players in the league personify that trait like Adams. He sets crushing, nuanced screens, is a scheme-consistent defender and made mostly unnoticed strides last season with the ball in his hands on the roll. He isn’t an elite rim protector and lacks the shooting ability that would make him an ideal fit for this team, but Adams is as comfortable doing all the dirty work as any player in the league – and still has room to grow on both ends of the floor.
First-round pick: LeBron James | Second-round pick: Paul George | Third-round pick: Andrew Wiggins | Fourth-round pick: Lonzo Ball
48. Bryan Toporek — Rodney Hood
Since Shane sniped Brandon Ingram, I’m throwing a curveball with my last pick and taking Rodney Hood at No. 48. While Hood may look like a reach here after his disappointing 2016-17 campaign, he’s poised to take a major leap forward this year with Gordon Hayward no longer in Utah. Since neither Kemba Walker nor Devin Booker project as above-average defenders, I’m banking on Hood to become a 3-and-D weapon capable of going off for 20-plus points on a given night. He’s only 24, too, which puts his developmental curve in line with those of Towns, Porzingis and Booker.
The likes of Jaylen Brown and Josh Jackson were tempting here, but I couldn’t pass up Hood’s long-term upside. In a few years’ time, my squad will be a fully armed and operational battle station.
First-round pick: Karl-Anthony Towns | Second-round pick: Kristaps Porzingis | Third-round pick: Devin Booker | Fourth-round pick: Kemba Walker
49. Jared Johnson — Josh Jackson
With the way the NBA is heading, I’m thrilled to have Jimmy Butler, Josh Jackson and Otto Porter as the 2-3-4 combination for my team. It doesn’t really matter who plays where on any given night, because there’s a whole bunch of athleticism and versatility in that group. All three are good and, more importantly, willing players off the ball, which is huge considering their teammates are Markelle Fultz and Nikola Jokic — both of those guys are special with the ball in their hands.
Jackson’s obvious weakness is right now is shooting, though I’m intrigued by him still being able to make a 3-pointer per game on 37.8 percent shooting at Kansas despite suspect mechanics. With some tweaks, he can be a serviceable shooter. Of course, he’ll be a defensive menace from Day 1, and he’ll also be great as a cutter and transition finisher.
My team will be decent in the short term because of how well the players fit together on the court, but I what I’m really looking forward to is the future. I have two amazing rookie prospects who are both No. 1 pick-caliber players and three younger guys who have all made huge year-to-year leaps at various points in their NBA careers, which is a testament to their respective work ethics. The stock arrow is pointing straight up on this squad.
First-round pick: Nikola Jokic | Second-round pick: Jimmy Butler | Third-round pick: Markelle Fultz | Fourth-round pick: Otto Porter
50. Zach Harper — Dion Waiters
Let’s round out the draft with a bit of a gamble. I thought about a few options here. I thought about Carmelo Anthony because asking him just to snipe and letting everybody else handle spreading the floor, ball movement, and having Embiid-Middleton-Draymond cover defensively seemed like a nice spot for him. This team believes in science, so I thought about either Jabari Parker or Zach LaVine here to add a bit more scoring punch. Danilo Gallinari was considered because of his playmaking and versatility. I even considered Aaron Gordon, hoping he’d become a two-way guy.
However, in the end, I decided I wanted someone with the onions to take over. At just 25 years old, Waiters still has a long time to add to his game and improve. I’m buying into the idea of him playing the next few years like we saw in the second half of 2016-17 when he nearly pulled a mostly bad Miami Heat team into the playoffs. Waiters isn’t afraid of the moment. He can make plays for others and he became a monster in the pick-and-roll. Play him off the ball or on the ball next to C.J. McCollum. Spread the floor with Middleton, who can also attack of the catch against a closeout. And put Waiters or McCollum into pick plays with either Draymond or Embiid. Good luck deciding where your defensive attention will go as you scramble and rotate.
We believe in science. We believe in embracing the big moments. Nobody on this team is over 27 years old. And you will never get a quiet moment on the court with JoJo, Draymond, and Dion letting you know that you can’t do anything to stop this team. Good luck to you all in your future endeavors. Enjoy the city.
First-round pick: Joel Embiid | Second-round pick: Draymond Green | Third-round pick: Khris Middleton | Fourth-round pick: C.J. McCollum