Downtown’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

1-147In the wake of the NBA Finals, it is evident that there is a clear distinction between the haves and the have-nots in the league.

Those that have multiple stars will contend, while those that boast perhaps just one All-Star or none are playing catch-up.

Without getting into the “super team” debate, it’s important to remember that the Warriors acquired three of their four stars via the draft, with Stephen Curry being the highest draft pick of that bunch at pick seven back in 2009.

The Cavs have had a little more luck, nabbing the number one overall pick four times in the past 14 years. That fortune was directly or indirectly responsible for LeBron James (drafted in 2003, returned in 2014), Kyrie Irving (drafted in 2011) and Kevin Love (traded for the rights to Andrew Wiggins in 2014).

Building through the draft works. Even if teams turn their picks into trade assets, if they use them wisely, it can be the most organic way to construct a winner.

This year’s draft is touted as a franchise-changer. It is widely regarded by draft experts (including this guy) to possess potential All-Star talent through the top 10.

With that in mind, what each team decides to do with their pick(s) is increasingly important.

Workouts are drawing to a close, but the rumour mill is just heating up.

Here to make sense of it all is Downtown’s final mock draft for 2017.

Before we get started, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to a few people, as this will be the last-ever Downtown article.

To the founders of the site, Liam Santamaria and Tommy Greer: Thank you for giving me my start, for supporting my creativity, and to Liam, thank you for always pushing me to be a better writer.

To the Locker Room guys, MJ and PV: Thank you for entertaining us all with the best basketball social media content around, thank you for the countless hours debating topics to find the right angles, and to PV, thank you for your tireless and first-class efforts in cutting video when needed to enhance the quality of the articles on the site.

To Collo, Jungfer, Lachlan, Max and Roy Boy: Thank you for contributing such great content to help make this site what it was.

To Mr. Alex Lyle, our current and departing editor-in-chief: Thank you for challenging me when it was needed, thank you for stepping up, and thank you for giving me the freedom to explore new avenues.

And finally to the readers, the followers, the supporters of the site: Thank you for being there and for giving us all a platform to do what we love—to promote this great game of basketball.

It’s been a pleasure.

Now to the mock draft…

Pick 1 – Boston Celtics (Needs: PF, C, backcourt size, depth)

Selection: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington (Rank in previous mock draft: 1)

The Celtics are yet to work out Josh Jackson (who cancelled his scheduled workout) or Lonzo Ball (who obviously wants to be a Laker), but while there was some talk of Boston not being locked on taking Fultz with the first pick and maybe considering Jackson, I’m putting that down to nothing but smoke and mirrors.

No, the real drama started Saturday morning Australian time with this:

Whoa! Danny Ainge is not messing around. He’s turning assets into assets into assets.

And if he really is enamoured with Jackson, then why not get a future first in the deal that allows the Celtics to grab him? He may be acquiring picks to work on a bigger deal for Jimmy Butler or another established star.

What it does confirm is that the player dubbed a “6-foot-3 Tracy McGrady” in Fultz, who has been atop draft boards for months, will be the number one pick in this draft. If Boston makes the pick, he would be a great fit next to Isaiah Thomas. If it’s the Sixers on the clock, then the combination of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Fultz could be one of the greatest young trios ever assembled.

Oh, and he also worked out for the Lakers recently and apparently had a 40-inch vertical and shot the ball very well.

It’s getting hot in here huh?

Pick 2 – Los Angeles Lakers (Needs: SG, C)

Selection: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA (Previous: 2)

He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me… Is this how Lonzo Ball feels about Magic Johnson right now? Every day, there’s a new rumour about why Ball will or won’t be a Laker on draft night.

De’Aaron Fox crushed him in the tourney… Lonzo was out of shape at his workout… The Lakers are considering trading down… LaVar is too much of a distraction…

The only distraction is the rumour mill. Ball is still the second-best player in this draft class. His size, his vision, his speed and his ability to lead are all qualities that make him special and the rest is just noise. Ignore it.

Pick 3 – Philadelphia 76ers (Needs: SG, SF, shooting)

Selection: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas (Previous: 3)

Jackson is getting some buzz at number one and number two, but as I said above, it’s just the typical pre-draft chatter that goes on to try to distract everyone from what’s really going on. Apparently Jackson’s workout with the Lakers was not great, so it’s unlikely he moves above the three pick.

Jackson may be my favourite player in the top 10 and the Sixers or the Celtics would be getting a two-way star if they’re able to land him with this pick.

Yes, his jump shot mechanics need some work, but his shot is far from broken and he’ll become a solid shooter with work. The rest of his game screams star potential and I see some Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard in him. Jackson could play shooting guard or small forward at the next level, which would give whichever team lands him some flexibility and a potential two-way star.

Pick 4 – Phoenix Suns (Needs: PG, C)

Selection: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky (Previous: 4)

Say what you will about that tournament game between Kentucky and UCLA and the Fox versus Ball battle, but to me it merely cemented that Fox was the best prospect on his team (i.e. over Malik Monk), as opposed to a better prospect than Ball.

Fox is going to be a great player, mostly because he has elite speed, athleticism and a desire to succeed. He’s a pass-first point guard who will be a bulldog defensively, and for all of those reasons, he’s going to get drafted somewhere in the top five.

However, his lack of shooting is the reason why I think he falls to fourth. Yes, like with Jackson it can be corrected over time, but the gap is wider for Fox. Put him on the Suns and it would be much less noticeable alongside Devin Booker than it would in Philadelphia next to Simmons and Embiid. Of course, the Suns could go with Jayson Tatum if they feel he’s an upgrade over T.J. Warren, but I believe Fox is their guy.

Pick 5 – Sacramento Kings (Needs: PG, SF)

Selection: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke (Previous: 5)

The more the pre-draft process has played, the more it’s become apparent that there is a clear top five in this draft, despite the All-Star talent being potentially eight or nine deep.

Tatum makes up part of that top five, and if Ball and Fox are gone when the Kings are on the clock, then barring a trade (the Kings are looking to package picks five and 10 to move up), Tatum is going to be their choice.

There are some who worry about his three-point range, but Tatum can attack in so many other ways, is a willing passer and utilises his footwork to create space or attack defenders who close out too far. At the moment he prefers attacking the rim, which with Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere to kick to is not a bad thing at all.

If Fox falls, the Kings will grab him and run for the hills, but if it’s Tatum, they’re still getting a great player with stud potential.

Pick 6 – Orlando Magic (Needs: SG, SF)

Selection: Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State (Previous: 6)

It’s been anything but magical in Orlando of late, but there’s a new front office in town that’ll be looking to set a different course.

GM John Hammond was most recently responsible for rebuilding the Bucks, including drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon. Along with team president Jeff Weltman (who was the GM in Toronto), the Magic will not be afraid to swing for the fences, which is why Jonathan Isaac is in play.

Isaac is long at 6-10 with a 7-1 wingspan, but has the skills of a wing after playing guard in high school. His shooting mechanics are solid and he’ll attack offensively as well as going after it on the defensive end. He sounds a little like Giannis, but his game is different. He doesn’t have that vision and is probably more of a scorer than a facilitator (think a longer version of Harrison Barnes or a younger Marvin Williams, but with more upside).

He is a bit of a risk, however if Frank Vogel can develop him the way he developed Paul George, the long-term benefits could be huge.

Pick 7 – Minnesota Timberwolves (Needs: SG, PF)

Selection: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona (Previous: 9)

As I wrote in Mock 1.0, with Zach LaVine on the shelf for a while, shooting guard could be a priority, but longer term, the Wolves need to find more size with stretch ability, so this pick comes down to Malik Monk or Markkanen.

If they take the longer-term view (post-LaVine’s recovery), then Markkanen should win out on draft night. The stretch four, who can also play some five, would be great either next to Karl-Anthony Towns or playing backup minutes at the four or five until he’s ready to step up.

With Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins both lacking consistent range from deep, Tom Thibodeau could use another talented player to stretch the floor, but one who can also operate well in pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop situations with Rubio.

Markkanen fits that bill, can hold his own defensively and on the boards, and with KAT’s support would have time to develop those areas more. Think Ryan Anderson to Dwight Howard in Orlando.

Pick 8 – New York Knicks (Needs: PG, SG, new GM)

Selection: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky (Previous: 7)

Even if Phil Jackson is stuck in the early 2000s and doesn’t realise the game has passed the triangle by, at least he’s no longer allergic to three-point shooting.

Monk may just be the best shooter in this draft class and despite being a little undersized at the two spot, he fills a major need for the struggling Knicks. At pick eight, he could be a steal, and boy could the Knicks faithful use some good fortune.

Monk has the ability to fill it up, which would be a major plus if Melo eventually accepts a trade out of Gotham. His shooting and knack for attacking the rim could help create space for Kristaps Porzingis and even Willy Hernangomez, while his ball handling is strong enough to where he could develop into a legitimate combo guard and play some point if needed.

Monk has some Lou Williams, young Ray Allen or even some old-school Jason Terry about his game, and the Knicks could use some excitement in the Garden alongside the Zinger.

Pick 9 – Dallas Mavericks (Needs: PG, PF)

Selection: Dennis Smith, PG, North Carolina State (Previous: 8)

The next phase of Mavs ball is officially underway, even though Dirk is still stroking mid-range jumpers for Rick Carlisle.

With Harrison Barnes happily playing small-ball four, the Mavs’ biggest weakness is point guard, so this pick falls at a nice spot to choose between Smith and Frank Ntilikina.

The Mavs can’t really afford to whiff on this pick, and while Smith is a more natural playmaker, he’s also the safer pick. His play at NC State was very efficient and his ability to push the pace and create off the dribble would mesh well with Barnes, Nerlens Noel and shooters like Wes Matthews, Seth Curry and the Diggler.

Smith’s jump shot is solid but far from elite and his mid-range game will need to improve, but his ability to attack and finish at the rim with explosiveness will keep defences honest, and would open up the floor for the Mavs’ shooters.

Pick 10 – Sacramento Kings (Needs: PG, SF)

Selection: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France (Previous: 10)

No movement here. If the Kings keep this pick, they’ll grab whoever is left out of Smith and Ntilikina. They desperately need an impact point guard and could bring Ntilikina along slowly behind a veteran like Darren Collison or Ty Lawson (if either returns).

Of course, handing the young Frenchman the keys alongside Hield, Labissiere and Tatum could accelerate this young core’s development, but it remains to be seen if Dave Joerger would go for that.

In any event, at 6-5 with a supposed 7-0 wingspan, he’s going to make an impact defensively right away while the rest of his game catches up.

Pick 11 – Charlotte Hornets (Needs: SF, PF, C)

Selection: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga (Previous: 14)

I know, I know. How many big guys can the Hornets draft in the lottery? Kaminsky, Vonleh, Cody Zeller. Well here comes another one.

Collins is being projected as high as ninth in this draft and his showing in the NCAA tournament has a lot to do with that. He showcased his “animal” nature, attacking the rim to draw fouls, rebounding like a man possessed as well as defending very effectively, both in the post and when switched out on wings or in pick-and-roll sets.

Collins did not play huge minutes in his one year with Gonzaga, but made an impact every time he stepped on the floor and has a stretch game that is coveted right now in NBA circles. He’s a rich man’s Jason Smith and a poor man’s Marc Gasol, so somewhere in between is an upgrade over Zeller.

Kemba Walker and Nic Batum will love playing with him, so next year, when they’re hopefully no longer in the lottery, they can draft a guard.

Pick 12 – Detroit Pistons (Needs: PG, SG, SF)

Selection: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville (Previous: no rank)

Mitchell seems to have cemented value in this range, projecting mostly between 11 and 14 on mock draft boards. He will ultimately be a combo guard and has a great combination of athleticism, aggression, shooting range and vision.

Defensively, he has the potential to be elite, is a great rebounder for his position and may turn out to be a better version of Avery Bradley.

The Pistons are not really sure what to do with Reggie Jackson. Even if they ultimately decide he’s their lead guard, Mitchell could play the two. If Jackson isn’t in Stan Van Gundy’s plans, then Mitchell could develop into a serviceable point with the ability to score.

Luke Kennard, Terrance Ferguson and Justin Jackson may also get a look here, but it seems Mitchell has leapfrogged them all right now.

Pick 13 – Denver Nuggets (Needs: PG, SF, PF)

Selection: Harry Giles, PF/C, Duke (Previous: 11)

The Nuggets could use an upgrade at point guard, but won’t be getting one at this stage of the draft. Instead, they can look to add depth to their nice young core that nearly made the postseason this year. Given the quality of that core, this pick gives them the flexibility to look at some guys that may need more time to develop than others in the lottery. OG Anunoby is one, as he’ll be recovering from a torn ACL for most of his rookie season.

But the ultimate upside guy, if patience is no issue, is Giles.

He was the number one ranked prospect on ESPN’s 100 coming out of high school, however further knee complications slowed his freshman season at Duke. His agility is still recovering, but even so, it’s better than most players his size.

Standing 6-foot-11 with a 7-3 wingspan, Giles can play the four or the five. His mobility and explosiveness as the roll man in pick-and-roll sets would work nicely with the likes of Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and the passing ability of Nikola Jokic.

He can be brought along slowly as he learns to trust his body again, and could form a formidable frontcourt with the Joker.

It’s a somewhat risky stash but getting a number one prospect at pick 13 is well worth the risk.

Pick 14 – Miami Heat (Needs: SG, PF)

Selection: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke (Previous: 12)

Kennard has been one of the surprises of the pre-draft workout circuit. He’s moved from a 20-something pick late in the NCAA season to almost a sure-fire lottery pick and has some buzz as high as eighth to New York.

That may be a stretch, but the reason Kennard has moved up is he’s much more than the one-dimensional shooter many thought he was. He can handle the ball, he has great passing vision, and his basketball IQ and desire when on the court separate him from others.

He may struggle some defensively, but with Hassan Whiteside there to help you out, that may not be so much of an issue.

The Heat were on the brink of the playoffs, so they can make incremental improvements, starting by adding multi-dimensional offensive talent. He would also give them flexibility at shooting guard should Dion Waiters or Josh Richardson not return this summer in free agency.

Next best: OG Anunoby (SF/PF, Indiana), Justin Jackson (SF, North Carolina), Jarrett Allen (C, Texas), John Collins (PF/C, Wake Forest), T.J. Leaf (PF, UCLA), Terrance Ferguson (SG, Adelaide), Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA), Anzejs Pasecniks (C, Spain), Justin Patton (C, Creighton), Jonah Bolden (PF, Serbia), Ivan Rabb (PF/C, California), Frank Jackson (G, Duke), Kyle Kuzma (PF, Utah)

The fun is just starting with potential trades likely to consume the pre-draft headlines from here on out.

At least we can be certain that the talent in this draft is worth the hype.

Tick, tock; Boston is on the clock…

Thanks for taking one final trip Downtown!


Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz

Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball