NBA.com mock draft proves food for thought | NBA Africa News | Kwese Sports

NBA.com mock draft proves food for thought

Mock drafts have been drawn up the world over, but here is the latest one from NBA.com. This looks at the first round for the June 22 draft, based on conversations with executives and scouts:

1. Boston Celtics

Markelle Fultz | Washington | PG | 6-4 | 195

Fultz is probably the pick for anyone else if Boston swaps the pick for a veteran. If the Celtics keep control of the board, it comes with the knowledge Fultz still fits because he can play off the ball with an All-Star at the point, Isaiah Thomas. Fultz’s size at point guard, and barely 19 years old with the chance to still grow, the ability to create space to get to the rim or pull up from the perimeter, the versatility to play some shooting guard as well – he has been the consensus top pick most of 2016/17. Fultz shot 41.3 percent behind the arc, although also just 64.9 from the line.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball | UCLA | PG | 6-6 | 190

While the Lakers are also looking hard at De’Aaron Fox and Josh Jackson, a majority of front offices think they will stick with Ball, and for more than the potential comedy value of watching the hype machine overheat. “He’s too good,” one rival executive said. “He’s too slick. He checks all the boxes.” Family issues are a non-factor because the Ball who will be drafted has shown himself to be grounded, relaxed and, more than anything, a team player with little interest in demanding the spotlight. He has great vision and is a pass-first point guard with the basketball IQ to deliver the ball at the right time and the right place.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Josh Jackson | Kansas | SF | 6-8 | 205

Philly needs shooting, and that’s not Jackson, who showed only occasional 3-point range and was just 56.6 percent from the line. But the 76ers also needs help at small forward along with defense at most any position, and that is Jackson. They’re looking at Malik Monk to boost the perimeter offense, but know No 3 is a bit of a reach. It probably comes down to a decision between point guards (Ball or Fox) or small forwards (likely Jackson, possibly Jayson Tatum). Jackson’s size for the position combined with physical gifts may allow him to play small-ball power forward after getting older and stronger.

4. Phoenix Suns

De’Aaron Fox | Kentucky | PG | 6-4 | 170

This is more about Fox’s high ceiling than an indictment of incumbent Eric Bledsoe, who still has value as a two-way player. Some clubs say they would strongly consider Fox at No 2, as the Lakers are actually, making him an especially good talent at No 4. Going more conventional, also a possibility, would mean Jackson or Tatum lands in Phoenix as part of the dramatic front-court renovation that started with the 2016 draft. It’s even realistic the Suns could have their choice of the small forwards.

5. Sacramento Kings

Jayson Tatum | Duke | SF | 6-8 | 205

The Kings have been considering a breakup with Rudy Gay since last June, when they headed into the draft considering the scenario of picking Jaylen Brown followed in the summer by a Gay trade. (Brown was off the board when Sacramento picked). Tatum, a nice prospect anyway, is especially appealing now that Gay is a free agent. If Tatum develops 3-point range, he has the chance to become a complete scorer, able to get points by finding openings in transition, off a mid-range game and from offensive rebounds.

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6. Orlando Magic

Malik Monk | Kentucky | SG-PG | 6-4 | 185

There is no track record to indicate the thinking of Jeff Weltman in his first draft as a head of basketball operations, only the fact that the Magic were 28th in shooting and 29th in 3-point percentage and now have Monk in front of them as an obvious response. A few things to counter concerns he is slightly undersized to become an impact shooting guard: that level of athleticism means he can play bigger than 6-foot-4, he is 19 and could add an inch or two, and has promising 3-point range after the 39.7 percent as a freshman.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Jonathan Isaac | Florida State | PF-SF | 6-11 | 205

It’s easy to see Minnesota loving the possibilities of Lauri Markannen paired with Karl-Anthony Towns as double bigs with range to twist defenses into knots while Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine streak to the rim. But Isaac’s height plus a nine-foot reach could create a lot of havoc on both sides of the ball, along with rebounding even while obviously needing to put on weight. It’s the ability to handle the ball and create that makes small forward an option. Isaac has already shown the quickness to play there, making the potential versatility as a combo forward an obvious plus.

8. New York Knicks

Frank Ntilikina | France | PG | 6-5 |170

If at age 18 the Frenchman is this poised, with great court vision and unselfish with the ball, already at 6-foot-5 and with the chance to keep growing, imagine the possibilities when he becomes an old man of 21 or 22 with NBA experience. Not merely the top international prospect, Ntilikina would have been one of the first five selections in a lot of other years. That he isn’t there already says everything about the point-guard depth in 2017. Some teams like his perimeter game enough to think Ntilikina could also play off the ball.

9. Dallas Mavericks

Dennis Smith | North Carolina State | PG | 6-3 | 195

Good NBA defenders may have trouble staying in front of Smith as a rookie. He has that much explosiveness, with speed and leaping ability while constantly in attack mode, assets that allow him to break down defenses, get inside and play above the rim at 6-foot-3. The lack of perimeter game, though, means the same defenders will be able to back off. Playing big minutes at a high level was an especially important accomplishment after missing 2015/16, what would have been his senior season in high school, with a knee injury.

10. Sacramento Kings

Lauri Markkanen | Arizona | PF | 7-0 | 225

The agile, fluid 7-footer is the latest European stretch four bound for the lottery, following Kristaps Porzingis and Dragan Bender. Markkanen, from Finland, will beat defenders downcourt on the break or pick them apart in halfcourt with range that resulted in making 42.3 percent of his threes while attempting 4.4 per game. In a draft heavy with point guards, he is a big who stands out.

11. Charlotte Hornets

Donovan Mitchell | Louisville | SG | 6-3 | 210

The Hornets would love to see Ntilikina or Smith drop a few spots to find a backup for Kemba Walker, but Charlotte have depth problems in general. Mitchell’s projected ability to play both backcourt spots would be a boost for the second unit and give him a chance to break into the rotation. He has the physical tools, with very good athleticism and strength at 210 pounds, both of which help compensate for being undersized for a shooting guard. But his game is inconsistent and lacks 3-point range, two obvious concerns for front offices. He did have some of his better showings against quality opponents.

12. Detroit Pistons

Zach Collins | Gonzaga | PF | 7-0 | 230

Collins had a fast climb up draft boards in the second half of his freshman season, even for someone prominent enough to be a major recruit for the Zags. Although front offices don’t want to overemphasize one game, the 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the national semifinals at the Final Four showed he can already handle the pressure moments. Collins averaged just 17.2 minutes on a team loaded with veterans, but that was enough to impress the NBA.

13. Denver Nuggets

Justin Jackson | North Carolina | SF | 6-8 |195

He can impact a game on both sides of the ball with energy, mobility and long arms. He finds openings on the defense to score in a variety of ways while his role has increased each of the last three years, to where Jackson was the leading scorer on a national champion. That’s the other thing: three years in an elite program with the added experience of back-to-back trips to the title game. He does not have 3-point range that will force an opponent to come out, but is improving.

14. Miami Heat

Harry Giles | Duke | PF | 6-11 | 220

On talent, Giles is in the conversation for at least the top five and possibly even No 1. But he tore ligaments in both knees in high school and missed the first 11 games this season while recovering from a third procedure— arthroscopic surgery on the left knee —meaning a general manager is really, really going to have to trust his medical staff before spending a high pick on Giles. He averaged just 11.5 minutes in 26 games without the consistent standout play front offices want to see from a lottery pick, but also with the understanding 2016/17 was a double transition as a freshman and working back from injury.

15. Portland Trail Blazers

John Collins | Wake Forest | PF | 6-10 | 225

He went from 7.3 points and 54.7-percent shooting as a freshman in 2015/16 to 19.2 and 62.2, respectively, this season while playing against the very good competition of the ACC. The offense, beyond scoring inside and capitalizing on offensive rebounds, is very much a work in progress. But defensively, although hurt by foul trouble, he is active and could develop into a rebounder and shot blocker in the NBA.

16. Chicago Bulls

Luke Kennard | Duke | SG | 6-5 | 190

Kennard – not Tatum, not Harry Giles or Grayson Allen with more publicity – was Duke’s most dependable scoring threat and also one of the biggest 3-point threats in the country. While that range is the obvious selling point, Kennard has a nice offensive game in general, including passing, as part of the big improvements from last season as a freshman. The NBA does not see star potential, but can project a solid career at least as a contributor in the rotation.

17. Milwaukee Bucks

Jarrett Allen | Texas | C | 6-10 | 235

The size, the big hands, the long reach and wingspan – he will be ready physically. It’s just that Allen does not play physical, doing most of his damage running the court hard and finishing, and following offensive rebounds. Beyond that, his offense needs a lot of work. His level of agility and reach equals the potential to become a good shot blocker and rebounder, and the Bucks need to improve on the boards.

18. Indiana Pacers

T.J. Leaf | UCLA | PF | 6-10 | 225

The appeal is that Leaf does a lot of things well, with moves around the basket, range out to the 3-point line and passing ability, all the more impressive that it’s as a freshman. He was an important recruit a year ago but not compared to some of the elite high-school seniors at the top of 2017 draft boards, and he is not close to the No 1 prospect from his own school, yet Leaf has jumped out. He benefited from all the NBA eyes on Ball.

19. Atlanta Hawks

Terrance Ferguson | Australia | SG | 6-7 | 185

He gambled big by turning pro in Adelaide, Australia, rather than spending a freshman season at the University of Arizona with much better competition and playing for coach, Sean Miller, with a record of developing NBA prospects. Ferguson counters that a season against adults and living on his own made him more ready for the leap to the NBA. He is essentially a spot-up shooter without much ability to handle or create an opening, but the Hawks need 3-point threats and, generally, anyone who can make baskets. “That kid is going to be the surprise of the draft,” one executive said. “He’s an outstanding shooter.”

20. Portland Trail Blazers

Bam Adebayo | Kentucky | C | 6-10 | 250

He can play with some power inside or use mobility to score in transition, complete with the leaping ability that could lead to finishing a lot of lobs. Beyond potential as a rebounder and the ability to play in open court, though, Adebayo needs to show he can expand his game on offense. He would ideally be paired with a big who can hit a shot or score from the post … or as part of a team with a dynamic set of scoring guards.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder

OG Anunoby | Indiana | SF-PF | 6-8 | 235

It wouldn’t be the first time Sam Presti went for a long-term investment in the first round. Anunoby would have been an easy call as one of the top defenders available and potential lottery pick until needing season-ending surgery on his right knee from an injury suffered January 18 at Penn State. The health concern will obviously weigh heavily on the minds of front offices. But if the reports from team doctors are good, a front office in the late teens or early 20s could consider Anunoby a steal, even with the uncertainty of when he will be back on the court.

22. Brooklyn Nets

Justin Patton | Creighton | C | 7-0 | 230

The redshirt freshman, originally not part of the discussion of the heralded first-year players, has surged with athleticism to go with the size. The 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting plus eight rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes when Creighton played then No 1 Villanova on December 31 was part of getting noticed, but not everything. The rest of the season offered encouraging hints of Patton’s future.

23. Toronto Raptors

Isaiah Hartenstein | Lithuania | PF | 7-0 | 240

The versatile offensive threat was born in Eugene, Oregon in 1998, moved to Germany in 2008 and joined Lithuanian team Zalgiris in 2016. He can score from different areas, inside and out and also on the run, a sign of his mobility at that size while still growing at 18 years old. NBA teams would like him even more but are wondering about his attitude and whether bad body language and being taken out of his game by emotions is being a teenager or being a potential problem.

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24. Utah Jazz

Anzejs Pasecniks | Spain | C | 7-2 | 230

The Latvian, a former teammate of Kristaps Porzingis on the U18 national squad, had a very good season in the quality competition of Liga ACB. The Porzingis connection carries through to style of play – a big who can shoot with range, smart – only without the same skill level. Pasecniks moves well for his size and should only get stronger while adding bulk to the 7-foot-2 frame. That could help him develop an inside game.

25. Orlando Magic

Ike Anigbogu | UCLA | C | 6-10 | 250

The numbers – 4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 13.0 minutes in a reserve role – don’t demand attention, and neither does playing on a team with Ball and Leaf both possibly heading to the top half of the first round. But Anigbogu has good size, agility, is a good rebounder in a limited role and is still just 18 years old. He has a long way to go, but also has a very good starting point.

26. Portland Trail Blazers

Ivan Rabb | California | PF | 6-10 | 215

Rabb is an old man compared to much of the rest of the projected draft class – a sophomore – who was a lottery candidate a year ago while playing with eventual No 3 pick Jaylen Brown and second-rounder Tyrone Wallace before returning to school. Rabb remains a candidate for the teens, with the ability to score inside, either from the post with a nice touch or on the run with good mobility, and rebounds. But he will need to improve to make an impact when he moves away from the paint.

27. Brooklyn Nets

Caleb Swanigan | Purdue | PF | 6-9 | 250

This is not the same Caleb Swanigan who declared for the 2016 draft, had a bad showing at the Chicago pre-draft camp, and wisely decided to return to school. The 2017 version, a sophomore, is much improved in almost every way, from conditioning to approach to on-court execution. He suddenly has the look of a potential reserve big man, at power forward and possibly some small-ball center.

28. Los Angeles Lakers

Jordan Bell | Oregon | PF | 6-9 | 230

The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year went from some very good moments in the tournament (eight blocks and 13 rebounds in the Elite Eight victory over Kansas) to the additional credibility boost of a nice showing at the Chicago pre-draft combine. Following that with more good days at individual workouts would solidify Bell’s spot in the first round. Teams already know his energy and athleticism mean the defense should translate to the NBA. He could also contribute on the boards.

29. San Antonio Spurs

Tyler Lydon | Syracuse | PF | 6-10 | 205

Shooting 42.7 percent behind the arc the first 25 games and 39.5 for the season makes him an ideal stretch-four candidate and also means he could handle some small forward on offense while getting stronger. Being able to defend both positions may be another matter. Lydon rebounded well against ranked Atlantic Coast Conference opponents and overall averaged 8.6 boards in 36.1 minutes, a sign he will be able to handle himself inside at the next level after adding weight.

30. Utah Jazz

Jawun Evans | Oklahoma State | PG | 6-1 | 185

Evans should not be overlooked in a class with many other point guards rated higher and was not lost in Oklahoma State’s bad start to conference play as part of a 20-13 season. Evans has the speed to compensate for any concerns, handles the ball well, and would be coming out with two years of experience at a major program against tough competition. Teams see a backup point guard of the future available late in the first round.

By Scott Howard-Cooper for NBA.com

First appeared on NBA.com Global