Lady luck favored the Boston Celtics in Tuesday’s 2017 NBA Draft Lottery, and they are now on the clock with the No. 1 pick in June’s draft. The Shamrocks cashed in on the highest odds (25 percent) to land the top slot, and they’ll soon add a young star to their already deep roster.
The pingpong balls also bounced in the Los Angeles Lakers’ favor. Tinseltown not only retained its top-three protected pick, but it bumped up a spot to No. 2. The Philadelphia 76ers also won the No. 3 pick via a pick swap with the Sacramento Kings.
This draft is stacked with fascinating point guard prospects at the top, and it also has several valuable big men in the middle tier. Teams like the Kings and Portland Trail Blazers have multiple picks and a chance to revamp their depth charts.
With the draft order finally set, let’s examine what each team should do with its first-round picks.
1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Markelle Fultz, Washington PG (6-4, Fr.)
The basketball gods smiled on Beantown Tuesday night. The Celtics have a chance to add a brilliant talent to their backcourt. There’s a strong chance they could trade the pick for a superstar, but for now let’s break down what Danny Ainge will do if they keep it.
They’ll take Fultz because he’s the most potent all-around threat with the highest offensive ceiling. The 6-foot-4 slasher already has a smooth command of inside-out scoring and pick-and-roll passing, and he’s just a teenager. As he refines his decision-making and fundamentals, he’ll grow into a nearly unguardable playmaker. Fultz has the potential to fill up the hoop from anywhere while simultaneously keeping his teammates involved.
He’ll gradually bring out the best in Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and the rest of Boston’s young core.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, UCLA PG (6-5, Fr.)
Ball’s outspoken father has ruffled some feathers, and he certainly could be a headache for whoever drafts him. Nevertheless, I don’t believe it will keep Rob Pelinka and the Lakers from picking him at No. 2.
He’s the most creative and polished passer in this draft, and his vision is complemented by an agile 6-5 frame and 3-point shooting prowess. Ball turned heads at UCLA because he zipped the ball all over the floor and made everyone better. He’ll put teammates like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle in great position to thrive.
The two areas to watch as he transitions to L.A.’s rotation: Can he create and make buckets in traffic with his unorthodox shooting release, and can he defend other slashers at a high level?
3. Philadelphia 76ers (via Sacramento Kings): Jayson Tatum, Duke F (6-8, Fr.)
This is a tough choice for Philly. Ideally, the Sixers should target someone who can score from the perimeter, but they shouldn’t reach. They’ll trust Tatum’s shooting mechanics and shot-creating skills more than Josh Jackson’s, and Tatum’s nearly as good in the other major categories as well.
His smooth, multidimensional scoring repertoire will greatly enhance Brett Brown’s offensive attack next to playmakers like Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. Tatum has both the dexterity and the footwork to score effectively from all three levels. He offered extended stretches of such brilliance during his freshman year at Duke. In the NBA, Tatum will connect as a face-up slasher, pull-up shooter and mid-post operator.
His quick feet and length could also translate to disruptive defense on the wing. Tatum might not have the defensive interchangeability of someone like Jackson, but he’ll guard the vast majority of forwards in the NBA.
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, Kansas F (6-8, Fr.)
The Suns will bolster their wing firepower by adding Jackson. His blend of smarts and explosiveness will boost them on both ends of the court.
Jackson will serve as a secondary offensive catalyst for Phoenix because he generates opportunities in a variety of ways. He’s an athletic weapon in transition and on off-ball cuts, and he also makes plays for teammates as a ball-handler. When he’s in scoring mode, he can throttle the rim or pull up for surprisingly deft floaters.
He’s even more versatile defensively. Jackson has the lateral agility, length and aggressive instincts to disrupt backcourt playmakers and wing slashers, and he’s also long enough to alter shots at the rim. Don’t be surprised if he checks three or four positions in Earl Watson’s schemes.
5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia 76ers): De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky PG (6-3, Fr.)
Fox might not be the perfect fit with Sac-town’s personnel. He’s a primary ballhandler who’s not guaranteed to help the Kings’ perimeter shooting shortcomings. However, Vlade Divac will select him because he’s the most electrifying player on the board.
What he lacks in elite size (6-3.25 in shoes, 169.6 pounds), he makes up for with slippery playmaking agility and tremendous burst toward the bucket. When he turns the corner on pick-and-rolls or isolation and gets downhill, it takes more than one player to stop him.
Fox brings astronomical value to Sacramento’s backcourt on defense as well. His speed and high motor stifled countless Kentucky opponents, and he’ll effectively challenge almost every point guard in the NBA.
6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, Kentucky SG (6-3, Fr.)
The Magic could use another long-range weapon to open up the floor and streamline the offense. Monk might be the best 3-point shooter in this draft class, and his quick trigger and accuracy will hold defenses accountable.
He had few volcanic eruptions last season, and he was also impressively consistent for a freshman. Monk sank multiple 3s in 26 different games last season, feasting off catch-and-shoot attempts and off-the-bounce creations.
Don’t expect him to do much else on offense other than a few mid-range buckets and transition drives. But that’s okay, because the Magic will find plenty of value in running him off screens and stretching the floor.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, Florida State F (6-11, Fr.)
Isaac is an upside and defense-based selection for the T-Wolves. Few humans on the planet have his combination of towering size (6-11, 7-1 wingspan), fluid athleticism and budding skills. He didn’t stuff the stat sheet for Florida State last year, yet he’s a mid-lottery pick because he has noticeable multi-positional traits.
He’ll give Tom Thibodeau lots of lineup flexibility because he can guard both wings and power forwards. In fact, there’s a great chance he’ll successfully guard small-ball 5’s and switch onto guards in pick-and-rolls.
While Isaac doesn’t have advanced ballhandling skills, he has a promising future in Minnesota’s system. He can attack closeouts, smoothly execute pull-up jumpers and of course finish way above the rim.
8. New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State PG (6-2, Fr.)
N.C. State had an unimpressive season and missed the NCAA Tourney, which might lead some to believe Smith doesn’t have the chops to run an NBA offense. That’s not true.
The Knickerbockers are actually getting a gifted playmaker. Smith not only weaves to the basket for his own scores, but he has great timing and touch on pick-and-roll passes and dimes to cutters. He made the most of the Wolfpack’s inconsistent lineup and lack of spacing last year.
His acceleration, scoring instincts and quarterback skills will give New York’s offense a new dimension for years. Smith will be a work in progress on defense because of a lack of length and lapses in effort, but perhaps Jeff Hornacek can maximize his physical tools.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, France PG (6-6, Fr.)
Frank Ntilikina will fulfill a lot of different tasks for Dallas in the backcourt. He’s tall enough and polished enough defensively to check both 1’s and 2’s, which should let Rick Carlisle deploy more switching schemes and different lineups. Ntilikina is also comfortable serving as playmaker off the bounce or as an off-guard.
The versatility is impressive, and it will make him a highly impactful role player at worst. The question is how assertive, creative and dominant will he become? I have questions about his on-ball shiftiness and handles. Either way, he’s a good risk for the Mavs to take at No. 9 to reload their backcourt.
10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans): Lauri Markkanen, Arizona PF (7-0, Fr.)
Armed with a 7-0 frame and streamlined jump shot, Markkanen instantly gives Sacramento a potent stretch 4 for the future.
During his freshman campaign at Arizona, the Finnish sharpshooter established that outside shooting was his greatest strength (44 percent from downtown) and defense/rebounding was his weakness. But there’s a lot more to his game than that.
He’s not lightning quick or spring-loaded, but Markkanen has the skills to attack off the dribble, make mid-to-close range buckets and find teammates. And though he’s not poised to be a stifling defender, he moves well for his size and is active and alert on that end.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, Gonzaga C (7-0, Fr.)
With a 9-3 standing reach and a soft scoring touch, Collins would give the Hornets a magnificent mix of skill and size in the frontcourt. Collins wasn’t a featured star for Gonzaga last year, yet he clearly has dynamic inside-out potential.
According to hoop-math.com, Collins shot 71 percent at the rim, 56 percent on 2-point jumpers and 47 percent from beyond the arc. Those are ideal numbers for a 7-foot freshman, and they bode well for his pick-and-pop potential in the Association.
Collins will bring interior defense to Charlotte as well. His timing and length produced 5.8 blocks per 100 possessions last season, including 20 during the Zags’ NCAA Tourney run.
12. Detroit Pistons: Jarrett Allen, Texas C (6-10, Fr.)
Stan Van Gundy and Co. will strongly consider Allen because he offers tremendous mobility and two-way athleticism at the 5 spot. He might have the highest ceiling of any prospect available, and he gives Detroit insurance if it wants to part ways with Andre Drummond.
Allen measured just 6-10.25 in shoes at the combine. Fortunately, he owns a 7-5.25 wingspan and tested well in every athletic category (including a 31.5-inch standing vertical leap and 35.5 max vertical leap).
He’ll be a pain to cover in the pick-and-roll because he has good hands and agility around the cup. Allen also has decent touch on hook shots and mid-range jumpers, which hints at his upside.
13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby, Indiana SF (6-8, So.)
Anunoby is likely coveted by Mike Malone chiefly for his defensive prowess. He seemingly glides from sideline to sideline while steering slashers away from the hoop, and he uses his 7-2 wingspan to redirect the shots of those brave enough to shoot.
The standout sophomore is also a lean 230 pounds, sturdy enough to compete against some NBA centers. He might not reach Draymond Green’s level as a small-ball 5, but even if he’s remotely in Green’s neighborhood, it will be a huge success.
Anunoby injured his right knee in January and missed the remainder of the 2016-17 season. Naturally, there are concerns about his long-term durability and elasticity. It shouldn’t be enough to deter Denver from selecting him and beefing up its defensive outlook.
14. Miami Heat: John Collins, Wake Forest PF (6-9, So.)
The Heat will gravitate toward Collins to bring more explosiveness to their forward corps. Even if he’s not as colossally productive in the NBA as he was in college, he checks off a lot of boxes for the 4 spot.
He’s 6-9.5 in shoes with a 225-pound frame. He’s quick off the floor with a 33-inch no-step vertical and a 37.5-inch max vertical. Most important, Collins has a great nose for the ball on rebounds and has fluid body control and hands near the rim in pick-and-rolls and quick post-ups.
As a bonus, Collins is expanding his shooting range. He flashed a few mid-range jumpers throughout the season at Wake Forest, but at the combine, he went 16-of-25 on spot-up 3-pointer drills from the NBA arc. And if Collins struggles a bit on defense, Hassan Whiteside will cover some of the deficiencies.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Justin Jackson, North Carolina SF (6-8, Jr.)
The Blazers know what they’re getting in Jackson. He excelled against the stiffest competition college basketball has to offer, proving to be a smart, athletic asset on both offense and defense.
He’ll probably only be Portland’s third, fourth or fifth scoring option, even in his prime. However, his all-around impact will be practically invaluable, because he has a knack for collaborating with teammates and making everyone around him more effective. Jackson’s smooth mid-range game and improved 3-point shooting (37 percent in 2016-17) will provide supplemental off-ball scoring.
His most valuable contribution to the Blazers might be his passing and rangy, high-energy defense. Jackson can guard wings at a high level, a trait Portland is thirsting for.
16. Chicago Bulls: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville SG (6-3, So.)
Coach Fred Holberg could use more speed and shooting in his backcourt. Mitchell will help in a big way, thanks to a fluid shooting stroke and great end-to-end athleticism. He drilled 80 triples in 34 games last season for the Cardinals.
Though he’s just 6-3, Louisville’s breakout star enhanced his draft value at the combine. Mitchell’s wingspan measured at 6-10, which eases concerns about him defending NBA 2-guards. He also jumped through the roof with a 40.5-inch max vertical leap.
Mitchell gives Chi-town a new long-range asset, and he’ll also make sporadic drives and connect with teammates. He dished 3.4 assists per 40 minutes last season.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton, Creighton C (6-11, Fr.)
The Deer will aim to replenish their depth and talent at center by taking a flyer on Patton. The 6-11 southpaw cruised through Big East foes with terrific mobility and an intriguing set of scoring skills.
He’ll contribute to Milwaukee’s attack by catching and finishing deftly around the hoop with his 9-3.5 reach, and he’ll sprinkle in a few jump shots as well. Patton hit eight triples from the college arc last season, and his mechanics suggest he’ll rapidly improve in that department.
I don’t anticipate him getting big minutes and heavy usage early, but he could develop into a key cog who gets 25-35 minutes per game and gets double doubles.
18. Indiana Pacers: Terrance Ferguson, U.S.A. SG/SF (6-7, 19 years old)
Ferguson is somewhat of a risk-reward pick for Indy. He didn’t hold a major role for Australia’s NBL club Adelaide, yet his shooting motion and vertical bounciness are begging to be used in the NBA.
It will take time for him to adapt to the NBA’s style and schemes, especially on defense. But a patient, methodical approach could pay off in a big way for the Pacers. He has a natural gift for catching and shooting over wing defenders, and he’ll stretch opposing defenders to give room for Paul George and Myles Turner to operate. If Ferguson learns how to hold his own defensively, he’ll have a long, productive career.
19. Atlanta Hawks: T.J. Leaf, UCLA PF (6-10, Fr.)
Atlanta could lose three or four power forwards in free agency this offseason. Leaf wouldn’t be able to compensate for the departure of someone like Paul Millsap, but he’d give Mike Budenholzer some skill at the 4.
Leaf’s strengths complement Dwight Howard’s superbly. He has a good scoring touch both near and away from the basket, and he’s a great passer for a power forward. Leaf went 27-of-58 (47 percent) from the college arc last season, and he chipped in 3.2 assists per 40 minutes. He also has a sharp feel for the game as an off-ball cutter and offensive rebounder.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies): Ike Anigbogu, UCLA C (6-10, Fr.)
After grabbing a gifted wing in Justin Jackson at No. 15, the Blazers will now add a thunderous defensive presence with their second first-round pick. Anigbogu’s greatest attribute is his defensive range, rebounding and aggressiveness around the hoop.
He played just 13.0 minutes per game last season, but packed tons of defensive juice and strong finishes into those short stints. He battled for position and used his freshly-measured 7-6 wingspan to contest shots and gobble up rebounds. Anigbogu averaged 3.7 blocks and 12.4 rebounds per 40 minutes and posted UCLA’s second-best defensive rating (98.4).
While he only offers the occasional glimpse of offensive potential, his defense is well worth the investment at No. 20. He’ll bring rim-protecting depth to Portland’s frontcourt.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Luke Kennard, Duke SG (6-5, Fr.)
As we’ve hammered home in previous mocks, the Thunder need shooting. They were in the bottom five in the in both 3-pointers per 100 possessions (8.3) and 3-point shooting percentage (32.7).
Kennard is a near-ideal option at No. 21 because OKC won’t have to reach to get a good shooter. He’s arguably the best player available on the board, and offers slick passing and mid-range finesse in addition to 3-point prowess. He’ll spread the floor for Russell Westbrook, collaborate with OKC’s bigs and excel in both catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble situations.
Billy Donovan might have to get creative to hide Kennard’s underwhelming defense in certain matchups. Fortunately, his overall value is worth a key role in Oklahoma City’s rotation.
22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards): Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky SG (6-5, Fr.)
I’m not going to pretend to know Diallo’s role, production and growth potential in the NBA. He’s unproven against top-shelf competition. But we know he’s a physical specimen with fascinating glimpses of scoring brilliance, and we also know the Nets will target players with high ceilings.
Brooklyn will rebuild via several avenues, including free agency and trades. Meanwhile, the draft is an opportunity for Sean Marks to take calculated gambles on youngsters with lofty upside, and Diallo is an exciting boom-or-bust option.
He enrolled at Kentucky this spring but didn’t play, so he’s essentially a none-and-done draftee. Diallo uncorked a ludicrous 44.5-inch max vertical at the combine, and his 6-11 wingspan is outstanding for the 2-guard position. The 18-year-old prodigy also owns jump-shooting and slashing dexterity that are begging to be developed by coach Kenny Atkinson.
23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers): Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany PF/C (7-0, 19 years old)
Masai Ujiri and the Raptors will likely need to tweak their frontcourt over the next couple of seasons. Hartenstein is a versatile prospect who could be an interchangeable component.
He has both the athletic gifts and budding skills to eventually play both the 4 and 5 spots. At 7-0 with good agility and stretches of interior defense, he looks defensively viable. And on offense, the lefty big man is a threat to drive or make plays away from the basket.
The idea here is that Toronto will acquire a power forward who’s compatible with centers like Jonas Valanciunas as well as stretch 4s like Serge Ibaka.
24. Utah Jazz: Jonathan Jeanne, France C (7-2, 19 years old)
Jeanne has been on the back burner of the NBA draft picture for the past year, and he’s now a real threat to land in the first round. After backing up towering measurements with promising skills at the combine, he looks the part of a worthwhile project.
The 7-2 teenager showed some perimeter touch during shooting drills, and he was an effective presence around the bucket during scrimmages. He still lacks crisp footwork, strength and positional savvy on defense, but he altered lots of shots with his length (7-6 wingspan).
Utah needs big-man depth behind fellow French center Rudy Gobert, and Jeanne could be the long-term answer.
25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors): Tyler Lydon, Syracuse PF (6-9, So.)
Orlando will begin to address its shooting woes at No. 25 by picking Syracuse marksman Tyler Lydon. He has one of the most fluid 3-point deliveries you’ll find in this draft, and the stats are convincing too. Lydon posted 98 triples and 40 percent shooting over two years with the Orange.
At 6-9.5 in shoes with a 7-0 wingspan, Lydon has a chance to play solid defense against NBA power forwards. He moved well in Syracuse’s zone and redirected a host of shots, yet the jury is still out on exactly how effective he’ll be in NBA schemes.
At worst, the Magic are getting a reliable outside shooter who sees the floor well and is active on defense.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Harry Giles, Duke PF (6-10, Fr.)
This is the Blazers’ third first-round pick, and it’s doubtful they will keep all three picks. But whether they keep the No. 26 slot or not, it’s hard to envision Giles falling much further than this. The mid-to-late 20s is the range where teams will consider scooping up the injury-plagued Blue Devil.
He was a high-lottery commodity during his high school career until he was interrupted by multiple knee injuries. A small role and insufficient sample size of playing time at Duke didn’t help his draft value either. However, he’s still a rangy forward with a 7-3.5 wingspan and good agility around the hoop. Portland will acquire this asset in hopes of an eventual payoff.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics): Rodions Kurucs, Latvia SF (6-8, 19 years old)
The Nets will invigorate their long-term small forward outlook with the addition of Kurucs. Not only is his athleticism appealing, but his skills and feel for the game reveal tangible role-player potential.
He possesses the size and aerial agility to generate successful forays to the rim, and Kurucs’ shooting dexterity could really expand his NBA role. He made just 32 percent from distance in Spain’s B level this season, yet his form looks clean and he has good mid-range footwork.
There’s also plenty to like about his defensive future. Kurucs’ combination of agility and awareness will empower him to slow down most middle-tier NBA forwards.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets): Ivan Rabb, California PF/C (6-10, So.)
Rabb didn’t enjoy a steep climb in skill development or production as a sophomore. He might not have the versatility to fulfill all the tasks of a modern-day power forward, which is part of the reason he’s not a lottery pick.
However, there’s no shame in being a solid combo big man and a potential small-ball center. Given Rabb’s size (6-10, 9-1 standing reach) and knack for rebounding on both ends, he could man the 5 slot off L.A.’s bench. Rabb also has some nifty pivot moves in his arsenal, along with a soft touch on baby hooks, push shots and turnarounds.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Semi Ojeleye, Southern Methodist F (6-7, Jr.)
Ojeleye backed up his breakout season at SMU with a strong performance at the combine. Not only did he shine during athletic testing, he was highly productive during both 5-on-5 scrimmages. He’ll be high on the Spurs’ wish list for a late-first round selection.
The Duke transfer unleashed explosive numbers in every athletic testing category: 10.58 seconds in lane agility, 3.07 seconds in shuttle run, 3.16 seconds in three-quarter court sprint, 35-inch standing vertical leap and 40.5-inch max vertical leap. All of those were top-10 marks except for the shuttle run.
More important, he made a noticeable positive impact on his teams during the scrimmages. He scored double figures and dished three assists in each game, and he proved he can shoot from the NBA 3-point arc.
30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State PG (5-11, So.)
The Jazz could use a shifty slasher to take some of the playmaking pressure off of Gordon Hayward and George Hill. Evans has the elite maneuverability required to navigate the pick-and-roll, attack the basket and also find pull-up jump shots.
He gave Oklahoma State a deluge of scoring and passing last season: 26.2 points and 8.7 assists per 40 minutes. While he won’t have a huge role in Salt Lake City, he’ll pack loads of plays in his modest role off the bench. Evans measured just 5-11.5 in shoes, but his 6-5.5 wingspan helps compensate a little bit on defense.