With the 2017 NBA Draft set to launch on June 22nd, the entire nation is curious about who will be selected by which franchise this year. With a multitude of controversies surrounding particular players, it seems to be a matter of speculation at this point on who will go where, as even NBA insiders are left puzzled. Based on recent events, as well as offseason projections, here is how I believe the first round will play out:
1. Philadelphia 76ers Select: Markelle Futlz (PG, Washington)
In a recent trade with the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers are now expected to invest the #1 overall pick in Fultz. With an average age of 24 on the 76ers roster, the 19-year old point guard will have a lot of responsibility placed on his shoulders. The franchise gave up a lot to get this pick, so expect Fultz to be the center of attention on draft night.
2. Los Angeles Lakers Select: Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA)
I stated that the Lakers need Lonzo Ball in order to reel in fan interest before, and I’ll stick by that for now. Even though Ball reportedly underwhelmed at his first workout with the Lakers, the UCLA stud has the most hype surrounding his name within this draft class. If Lonzo is half of what his father claims he’ll turn out to be, he will elevate the Lakers to a more promising future.
3. Boston Celtics Select: Josh Jackson (SG/SF, Kansas)
Moving down was great for Boston, as they came to realize that drafting another point guard was the least of their concerns. With the addition of Jackson, don’t be shocked if the Celtics don’t go all out for a free agent like Gordon Hayward. Jackson will need time to develop, but on a franchise like the Celtics, he should be viewed as one of the most promising prospects this upcoming season.
4. Phoenix Suns Select: Jayson Tatum (SF, Duke)
With an efficient guarding trio of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker signed through the 2018-19 season, it’s obvious that the Suns will be forced to select between Tatum and Jonathan Issac. With that, I think most NBA franchises will view Tatum as the better scorer, as well as the more efficient passer in comparison to Issac.
5. Sacramento Kings Select: De’Aaron Fox (PG, Kentucky)
With the contract of Ty Lawson set to expire this summer, I don’t expect the Kings to pursue the 29-year old veteran. Instead, the Kings should be aiming to select the best available player on the draft board, and at this stage, Fox is heads and shoulders above the other available guard prospects.
6. Orlando Magic Select: Jonathan Issac (SF/PF, FSU)
Due to lack of depth at the small forward position, SF Terrance Ross was forced to lead the team in minutes per game this past season with 31.2. With the addition of Issac, the Magic will receive a strong initial bench player, who may have the talent to develop into an efficient starter down the road.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves Select: Lauri Markkanen (PF, Arizona)
With Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine potentially signed through the 2018-19 season, the one area of weakness the Timberwolves contain is at the power forward position. I expect for the Wolves to invest in Markkanen here (assuming he falls), rather than opt to keep Jordan Hill with a price tag of $4.18 million next season.
8. New York Knicks Select: Dennis Smith (PG, NC State)
There is absolutely no chance that the Knicks will re-sign Derrick Rose in my mind, as he proved to be worth less than the $21.3 million he was making last season. On top of that, Brandon Jennings also has an expiring contract this summer, forcing the Knicks to select guards throughout the draft.
9. Dallas Mavericks Select: Frank Ntilikina (PG, France)
The only valuable point guards that the Mavs have signed through the upcoming season will be J.J. Barea and Seth Curry. While they have shown flashes throughout the 2016-17 campaign, neither are quality starters. For that reasoning, don’t be shocked if the first international player is selected at #9.
10. Sacramento Kings Select: Zach Collins (PF/C, Gonzaga)
If the Kings go ahead and select Fox at #5, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll select anything but a big man. Collins won’t start over names such as Willie Cauley-Stein or Skal Labissiere, but he will receive a handful of minutes off the bench. Collins is a prospect who can play at the center position, and he will be taken right above Jarrett Allen.
11. Charlotte Hornets Select: Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)
Considering I have Collins going at #10, I believe the Hornets will select the pure center from Texas. Outside of Kemba Walker and Nicholas Batum, the franchise doesn’t have much to work with. With that, by selecting Allen, you receive a big man with potential off the bench behind Cody Zeller and Miles Plumlee.
12. Detroit Pistons Select: Malik Monk (SG, Kentucky)
There is a high possibility that Monk gets selected within the top ten, but don’t expect for the Kings or Hornets to bite the bait. With the contracts of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Bullock set to expire (pending player options), Monk could potentially fixate himself in the starting lineup down the road. I believe Monk will see a lot of playing time with the Pistons, and if he falls, the franchise needs to pull the trigger on him.
13. Denver Nuggets Select: Justin Jackson (SF, UNC)
With the #13 pick in the draft, expect for the Nuggets to reach on UNC product Justin Jackson. Why? With Danilo Gallinari set to become a free agent this summer, the Nuggets will need all the help they can get at the small forward position. While Jackson isn’t necessarily the 13th best player in the draft, he is the best available small forward at this stage.
14. Miami Heat Select: Donovan Mitchell (SG, Louisville)
After the departure of future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, the shooting guard position was very thin for the Heat this past season. Heading into the draft, the franchise will likely look to create a sense of depth within the backcourt, and it could surround Donovan Mitchell, who I believe is highly underrated.
15. Portland Trail Blazers Select: Justin Patton (C, Creighton)
Last season, the only team that spent more money on players than the Trail Blazers ($119.7 million) happened to be the Cleveland Cavaliers ($128.4 million). If the Trail Blazers have any hope of making a run in the West, then their picks through the draft will be seen as crucial. The issue within the Trail Blazers rotation happens to involve their big men, so expect them to take at least one with their three total picks.
16. Chicago Bulls Select: Harry Giles (PF/C, Duke)
Pending any blockbuster trades, which could very well happen, the Bulls are going to be looking to draft big men to sit behind Robin Lopez, who is signed through 2018-19, and Nikola Mirotic, who may leave this summer if he does not accept the qualifying offer from the Bulls for $7.2 million. In case Mirotic doesn’t return, look for a prospect such as Giles to be viewed as his replacement.
17. Milwaukee Bucks Select: Luke Kennard (SG, Duke)
Kennard could very well be taken before this point, but with eight teams drafting guards up to this point, and eight drafting forwards, Kennard could be waiting until this stage to be selected. The Bucks do need some help within their guard play, as Tony Snell and Jason Terry haven’t done the position much justice.
18. Indiana Pacers Select: T.J. Leaf (PF, UCLA)
Paul George emphasized that he wants to continue to play in Indiana, but noted that management needs to bring in some more talent. While Leaf won’t turn out to be the immediate help George is looking for, he is a step in the right direction. Al Jefferson is now 32-years old, leaving Leaf to gather himself some minutes from the bench over time.
19. Atlanta Hawks Select: John Collins (PF/C, Wake Forest)
With Paul Millsap on the free agent market, and Dwight Howard viewed as a liability, the Hawks are going to feel the need to invest in a big man on Thursday night. Collins is a promising prospect, and I think he will be a great fit in Atlanta. If Millsap doesn’t return, and Howard continues to deal with injuries, Collins could see a fair amount of playing time this upcoming season.
20. Portland Trail Blazers Select: Terrance Ferguson (SG, USA)
Now that the Trail Blazers dealt with their need at the PF/C position, I believe they’ll balance their depth out and select at guard at #20. If not, don’t be shocked if the Trail Blazers move one of their picks away, due to their salary cap issues. I believe Ferguson will be a C+ player, but he is definitely a wild card in terms of where he will land.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder Select: Semi Ojeleye (SF/PF, SMU)
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a lot more work to be done than what meets the eye. Russell Westbrook, who will likely come away as the MVP, was only of the only bright spots on the roster last season. By selecting Okeleye, the team is receiving a player that could potentially be an upgrade from Andre Roberson.
22. Brooklyn Nets Select: Bam Adebayo (C, Kentucky)
At the start of next season, Brook Lopez is expected to make $22.6 million from the Nets. While he is a valuable center, I can’t say he is worth that load of money. The Nets have very little depth when it comes to big men, and Adebayo could be viewed as the heir to Brook Lopez, who is on his way to becoming a free agent after the 2017-18 season.
23. Toronto Raptors Select: Ivan Rabb, (PF/C, California)
Based on last season, the Raptors had the sixth-highest team payroll in the NBA. With Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka set to become free agents, don’t be shocked if the Raptors choose to replace Ibaka through the draft. There is an opportunity for a big man to play behind DeMarre Carroll next season, and if things go well, a prospect such as Rabb could see the starting lineup in a few years from now.
24. Utah Jazz Select: O.G. Anunoby (SF/PF, Indiana)
As time goes on, the chances that the Jazz re-sign Hayward as looking more and more slim. I fully expect for the Jazz to reach on the best available small forward, just as a precaution to Hayward leaving. Anunoby is just ahead of Tyler Lydon for me, as I view him as a better fit within Utah’s system.
25. Orlando Magic Select: Tyler Lydon (SF/PF, Syracuse)
With Jeff Green expected to become a free agent, and Terrance Ross only having two years left on his current contract, the timing is perfect for a prospect such as Lydon to come in and help out the Magic. I don’t expect the franchise to be very active through free agency, but by locking up a player like Lydon, he solves the Magic’s issues in terms of depth as the small forward and power forward positions.
26. Portland Trail Blazers Select: Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA)
This is the third and final pick for the Trail Blazers in the first round, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to build up more depth down low. Anibogu is one of the few pure centers being projected to go in the first round, but whoever the Trail Blazers select at #26 may be in for a rude awakening, as the team will only have a limited amount of open bench spots.
27. Brooklyn Nets Select: D.J. Wilson (PF, Michigan)
Although the Nets selected one big man already in the first round, I have them taking the Michigan forward here. It will be tough to pick between him and Kuzma, as both share similar skills on the court. In the end, I believe Wilson goes here, with Kuzma right behind him.
28. Los Angeles Lakers Select: Kyle Kuzma (PF, Utah)
Kuzma is a prospect that many have going way earlier than this stage. On draft day, anything is possible, and considering teams are going to be looking for a lot of guards or centers through the draft, Kuzma could fall into the Lakers lap. With a young and developing roster, Kuzma will fit right in with Lakers Nation.
29. San Antonio Spurs Select: Jordan Bell (PF/C, Oregon)
Listed as the third-oldest overall team in the NBA last season, the Spurs have remained to be one of the most competitive teams in the Western Conference. A lot of their stars, such as Tim Duncan, are projected to announce their retirement, leaving the franchise forced to rebuild in a way. I could see Bell going in the late first round, especially here to San Antonio.
30. Utah Jazz Select: Derrick White (PG/SG, Colorado)
With the last pick in the first round, don’t be shocked to hear Derrick White called upon. I had Anunoby going at #24 to the Jazz, and I think they’ll create a sense of depth at the guard position here. White could be selected a lot earlier than #30, making this a bargain that the Jazz can’t afford to pass up on.
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