Tomorrow night, the culmination of years of hard work will finally become a reality for 60 lucky young men as their names will be called as draft picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.
This is an extremely top-heavy draft, one of the best in recent memory. There could be at least six or seven future All-Star caliber talents among these picks.
CiTLR’s resident draft guru Scottie and I break down our top 10 talents and include a couple of sleepers going into the festivities.
Diego – Markelle Fultz (Washington) – In a draft with an excess of top tier point guards (four in my Top 10), Fultz has the most NBA ready skill set. For a kid to be a virtual unknown until his senior season at Dematha (MD) to being the possible #1 overall pick says a lot about the kid and his perseverance. People would like to look at the team record at the University of Washington as an indictment of his abilities and I would tell you to know your role and shut your mouth because you didn’t watch that team play because you would know that the kid barely played the last month of the season. They were terribly out-coached (for almost a decade under Lorenzo Romar) and there weren’t enough talented players around him to make it easier for him to accomplish what Im sure he wanted to accomplish in one season, yet he STILL averaged 25, 6 and 6. He has the total package for today’s NBA lead guard…has the size, can shoot (41% from 3), and can distribute the ball.
Scottie – Markelle Fultz (Washington) – The bottom line is simple: Fultz has the highest floor of anyone in the draft in my opinion. As Diego stated, he’s got a full bag of offensive tricks. From watching him at Washington, he projects as a knock-down NBA shooter, he’s got the athleticism and size to get past opposing points and get shots off in the paint, he’s got solid vision and is a willing passer and seems like a quiet kid and a competitor. He played on a college team that wasn’t that good, and those who use their failures against him, that a kid this good couldn’t get a team to the NCAA tournament should tell you something. We all know I’m a homer, Prince George’s County stand up, but Fultz is REAL. I want to see him do better at staying in front of his man on defense but he’s smart and will learn how to work in a scheme. He also has active hands that will get him deflections, blocks and steals at the NBA level. Him going to Philly would be a DREAM because he can be so good off the ball…I can’t wait to see this kid at the next level, he’ll be “Markelle Unleashed”.
Diego – Lonzo Ball (UCLA) – Don’t let the antics of Lavar, Lonzo’s dad, deter you from the fact that Lonzo can play basketball…well. His game isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing unless you are a cerebral fan of the game. A player who has a innate second sense – The Passing Gene – Ball just makes players around him better. While playing on one season at UCLA, his passing exploits bring back memories of players like Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, LeBron James and others who seem to see “the play before the play”. People will focus on his funky jumpshot and the way DeAaron Fox thrashed him in the NCAA Tournament when all eyes were on that match-up to discredit what he can eventually become. He seems to be a true leader on the floor without saying much.
Scottie – Josh Jackson (Kansas) – So look, I’m a Lonzo Ball FAN (more on that later) and I’m certain he’s going #2 but I like Jackson just a bit better. As we’ve written on these pages many times, effort is a skill (so is athleticism) and what I see in Jackson is that “dog”. He’ll get better as a shooter, his mechanics aren’t awful and he seems to have good work ethic to get shots up, he’ll tighten his handle but he just KNOWS how to play. I also think he’ll be a solid defender from Day 1 (“Effort is a skill”). He could be average, but something in me says he’s a STAR, I think there could be five of them in this draft. He’s had a few incidents that I’ll attribute to immaturity and if he can stay in the clear, he can be a T-Mac/Pippen-type. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Diego – DeAaron Fox (Kentucky) – AH HA! Conventional wisdom be dammed! Unless Boston is packaging this pick for an established star, I can see Danny Ainge going for the gusto and choosing the point guard from Kentucky here. He kinda fits exactly what kind of player he likes…a pest defender, athletic wing with athleticism. I don’t see why they would double up with Josh Jackson when you just drafted Jaylen Brown #3 overall just last season at the same position.
Scottie – Lonzo Ball (UCLA) – Yup, he can flat out do it. Jason Kidd is my 2nd favorite point guard EVER, and Lonzo is the closest archetype I’ve seen since. He’s got great size, insane vision and FEEL, FEEL, FEEL. People love playing with him and he makes the game fun for guys. Also, his shooting scares people because his mechanics are so odd, but if he can get that jumpshot going over his right shoulder instead of to the left across his chest, he’s a knock-down guy within five years (my guy J. Kidd wasn’t quite yet). He plays with a quiet joy…he’s bigger than opposing points, he’s fast enough, athletic enough and competes on defense (which we saw against Kentucky is the biggest hole…however…EVERYBODY in the NBA struggles with super-athletic, fast, quick guards). Again, I’ve watched him more than any player in this draft and if he can get some Magic tutelage, I think he’s transcendent.
Diego – Jayson Tatum (Duke) – The most NBA ready player in the draft.
Scottie – Jayson Tatum (Duke) – I agree with my bro Diego here. Tatum has a DREAM of an offensive game. He’s not a super athlete, but it’s not a hole but again, he’s got feel for days and knows how to find a bucket. His jumpshot is a bit flat for me, but reps will help that. Melo/Jabari Parker comps are real, this dude can average 18ppg in the league right now. He’s got to play on a team with a ball-movement philosophy because he hasn’t shown himself to quite be a guy who makes plays for other guys but he’ll be fun to play with because of how he’ll abuse his defender and create space for teammates with match-up dominance. I like Tatum a lot.
Diego – Josh Jackson (Kansas) – I believe he becomes one of three NBA templates 1. Do everything Wing (25%) 2. 3 and D wing (50%) or 3. Ultra Athletic but never put it all together (25%). He still has enough ‘stiffness” in his overall game to easily see marked improvement in all areas. Could end up the best overall player in this stacked draft when it’s all said and done.
Scottie – Jonathan Issac (Florida State) – Persistence and patience pay off, and whoever drafts Issac will need to keep that in mind. I’m probably a bit higher on him than others especially given his relatively low production in college but he can be SCARY. Those who say he has the widest range in the draft would be correct…he’s not a Durant-type because he’s not a shooter but I think he’ll find a jumpshot that’s solid. He can handle it, pass it and get to the rim…but where he can be special is that he will be a terror on defense. He’s the prototypical guy who can defend “2 through 5” capably and will be able to switch onto 1’s. His length and hands will make him perfect to deploy the long wing scorers and stretch fours that the league is so in love with now. He’s not a lock, but he’s SO tantalizing, you might risk your job as a GM taking a shot on him.
Diego – Malik Monk (Kentucky) – Orlando needs scoring and nobody does it better than this kid. He’s a walking bucket and most importantly, not scared to be clutch.
Scottie – DeAaron Fox (Kentucky) – He destroyed the point guard I ranked above him in a game that matters, but we know one (or two) games does not a better prospect make. I like Fox a lot, he’s the latest in a long line of John Calipari guards who he’ll unleash on the league. I need to see a bit more vision-wise, but if you put him with shooters, he’ll make you really sorry because he’s relentless in getting to the rim and really tough on defense. Diego will kill me for ranking his guy lower but I really think he’s going to be a good NBA player, very little downside here.
Diego – Jonathan Issac (Florida State) – The Enigma…if he pans out he could be the best player in this draft….or the biggest bust.
Scottie – Dennis Smith, Jr. (NC State) – He’s got a Russell Westbrook kind of thing, relentless and will attack the rim at every opportunity. I don’t know if he’s got a true point mentality but he’s going to be exhausting for guards who can’t hand-check and won’t be able to deal with his quickness and first step. He’s going to fun to watch.
Diego – Dennis Smith Jr (NC State) – The last of the Four Horsemen of Pt Guards….If he lands in NYC, he will bring excitement back to the Garden
Scottie – Malik Monk (Kentucky) – MALIK MONK ALERT!!!!! He’s only the fourth guy in NCAA history I’ve given his own alert (Keith Veney, Jimmer Fredette and Buddy Hield are the others). This is maybe the only guy in the draft who can change a game with jumpshots. His range his unlimited, he loves the big moment and never met a shot he wouldn’t take, ala JR Smith. He’s a bit undersized for the two, but I think he’ll be fine on defense. I don’t see him as a point guard so I would play him next to another guard or forward who facilitated the offense. He can get to the rim, but his greatest contribution is as a shooter and he’s the best one since Hield. I can’t wait to see him pull up from the hash mark in the league, Monk is a solid, solid pick.
Diego – Lauri Markkanen (Arizona) – I hope he gains some upper body strength because for all the good things he showed at Arizona, he gets pushed around waaaay too much. I like the kid though.
Scottie – Harry Giles (Duke) – So bear with me….he hasn’t been the same since being injured in HS and was only a bit player last season in Durham, but if he lands with the right team and gets fully health, his talent is limitless. I’m rooting for this kid because I hate seeing guys have their trajectory altered by injury. He’s got great hands, he’s a pogo-stick jumper and he’s a guy who will develop skill-wise. If I’m at this point in the lottery, I take a chance with him because he’s got the potential of a top-three guy. Can’t wait to see if I’m prophetic here, Harry, prove me right.
Diego – Luke Kennard (Duke) – I like the kid. He will never be a star but he can fill a role for your team for years to come, whatever that role you may need…
Scottie – Justin Jackson (UNC) – Since I’m already out on a limb, I may as well jump out the tree. ESPN’s Big Board has him ranked at #26, and I’m pretty convinced that right now, he’s better than at least 16 of those guys. I’m a fan of guys I SAW with my own eyes get buckets in games that matter. He’s got great size, he’s going to continue getting better as a shooter, has amazing feel and will fit into any team’s scheme. Justin has lots of floaters and amazing touch around the rim, he’s a guy who will just find buckets in the league one way or another. Since GM’s are still in love with the unknown, he’s going to go later in the draft to a really good team and help from Day 1, but I’m sure he’s at least good enough to rank here. Call me crazy.
Diego – Tyler Dorsey (Oregon) – When Oregon lost their stud center Chris Boucher for the rest of the season in early March with a torn ACL, someone needed to step up along with All-American Dillon Brooks. Dorsey fit the bill by being one of the most dynamic talents in the Pac-12 Conference and NCAA Tournaments. At 6’4” he’s not very tall but shot over 40% from 3 during the season. I believe the confidence he gained during Oregon’s Final Four run could translate for a team needing scoring off the bench from their bench (Hello Wizards!)
Scottie – Josh Hart (Villanova) – Again, I’m a homer. Hart is a winner, good size at the one, has guts and knows how to use leverage and angles to get a bucket. He reminds me a bit of George Hill with a bit of Manu Ginobli’s sneakiness. He’s a leader and has been a killer in big moments for four years. Upside aside, I still think he’s got room to get better when he’s in NBA shape and if I’m a team in the 2nd half of the first round, there’s no way I let this kid get past me. 12-15 year productive NBA guy here. Book it.
*Editors note – We know most of these predictions are going to be wrong, but that is what makes the draft so awesome. So many different factors play into the development of a player, its gonna be fun to watch the process as always.