Welcome to Hail To The District’s first-ever co-NBA Mock Draft.
Dash Kannan and I will mock out the results of the 2017 NBA Draft lottery picks. I was gifted the first overall pick — age before beauty, I suppose — and made all the subsequent odd-numbered choices, while Dash made all the even-numbered selections.
Us two “experts” — and we use this term as loosely as possible — made our picks based on a combination of who we think each team might take, and who they should take. Also, a major ‘hat tip’ to the folks at the phenomenal DraftExpress website for the highlight videos included below.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn via Boston) — Markelle Fultz, Guard, University of Washington.
Rajan: Now that the deal between Philadelphia and Boston is official: if you’re a fan of this deal — and if you’re a fan of the 76ers, you should be — then you have nobody but Sam Hinkie to thank for this deal.
The whole point of “The Process,” and all the asset he acquired over the years, was to renovate and rebuild the core of this team. The result? He’s secured the #1 overall pick in three of the last four drafts. If (or when) Philadelphia selects Markelle Fultz with the #1 overall pick, they’ll trot out a team with a nucleus of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, and Fultz. It’s obviously a projection, but tell me that group doesn’t steal the title of “Most Intriguing Young Team in the NBA” away from Minnesota?
I am fully on the record as being a “Hinkie-stan,” as the kids like to say. Hinkie wasn’t fired because the 76ers were losing games; that was the exact point of “The Process.” Hinkie was fired because NBA owners grew tired of Hinkie’s plan of taking three steps backwards, so that the franchise could someday take five steps forward. NBA owners — like all professional sports franchise owners — only care about one thing: give me lots and lots of money today. THAT’s why Hinkie got canned, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
As far as the pick itself: for all the pieces that Philadelphia had already acquired (thanks to Hinkie), they still lacked someone whose forte was simply putting the ball through the hoop. Fultz has shown the ability to get anywhere he wants on the court, shoot the ball effectively from nearly anywhere on the court, and also set up teammates with passes that arrive at the perfect moment when a play is developing.
To me, Fultz compares favorably to a thinner James Harden, although I do see the “poor man’s Tracy McGrady” reference that Bill Simmons mentioned. Either way, this is a phenomenal move for Philadelphia.
2. Los Angeles Lakers — Lonzo Ball, Guard/Big Baller, UCLA
Dash: Just like what happened with Boston’s pick, there are rumors circulating that Magic Johnson isn’t fully enamored with Lonzo Ball and that Josh Jackson could be in play. I don’t know how much I buy that, but I do know this pick is being shopped. Phoenix for sure is interested and I have heard a team in the teens is interested in trading up (but the chances of any team in that range having enough ammo to come up and steal the pick would be minimal).
Unlike Fultz who has been a perennial loser in college and on the AAU tour, Ball has been a winner wherever he’s been including revitalizing the Bruins program after a few lackluster years under one of the worst in-game coaches in Steve Alford. The Lakers should be very excited about taking Ball or trading out of the spots to accumulate more assets. This is a team that is not ready to win right now… until Paul George makes his way to La-La Land … with LeBron James joining up with him too.
3. Boston Celtics (from Philadelphia) — Josh Jackson, Forward, University of Kansas
Rajan: As of Saturday morning, I was sure that the “Danny Ainge loves Josh Jackson!” rumors were lame Hail Mary attempts to get some team to part with a smörgåsbord of picks, in exchange for #1 overall. Turns out, I was half right or half wrong, depending on how you look at it.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way: the Celtics look like they’re going to take Josh Jackson here. Danny Ainge and his staff might’ve actually enamored with Jackson all along. That’s not all that surprising, considering Jackson is a crazy athletic wing who brings everything to the table: he’s an excellent passer, a lockdown defender, shows a great basketball IQ, and while his jumpshot is inconsistent, it’s something that can be further refined at the next level. They could put Jackson in the frontcourt, along with Jaylen Brown and Al Horford, giving them an ultra-athletic small ball lineup.
On top of that, it makes Jae Crowder — one of the most overrated players in the NBA, who was a total no-show for the Celtics in the playoffs — an expendable asset, to try and swindle some team into taking.
But here’s the $64,000 question that a lot of people are rightly asking: three months ago, Ainge refused to deal this pick, when attempting to land Jimmy Butler. Now, Ainge deals this pick for #3 and either the Lakers pick in 2018 or the Sacramento Kings’ pick in 2019 (depending on where the Lakers pick falls next year).
In other words, did Ainge actually end up getting too little/not enough for this pick? If you’re a Boston fan, wouldn’t you rather have Butler in exchange for this pick, Crowder, and excess backcourt player X? Does Jackson, another lottery pick next year (or the year after that), and all the guys you currently have help you fare any better against LeBron James?
No, it doesn’t.
And that’s good news for fans of other teams in the Eastern Conference (like us Washington Wizards fans).
4. Phoenix Suns — De’Aaron Fox, Guard, University of Kentucky
Dash: In somewhat of a small surprise (but not really), Suns’ General Manager Ryan McDonough takes De’Aaron Fox, who I will go on record as saying will be the best player in this draft. Fox allows the Suns to move Eric Bledsoe to shooting guard or available for a trade and changes the style of play for a young, dynamic, up and coming team. With Fox, the Suns can find a nice backcourt partner for Devin Booker or play with a 3 guard lineup if Bledsoe isn’t moved.
The Suns also have Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Derrick Jones Jr., and Alex Len, along with draft picks and to perhaps pry a star player in the next few years. The issue with Phoenix isn’t the plan; it’s how long Robert Sarver will give McDonough and head coach Earl Watson to execute on the plan. Sarver has been shown to be impatient and could blow this up at any moment. It’s imperative that the Suns stay away from need and instead draft the best player available. How good can the Suns be if this core develops together? Apparently pretty damn good — several people around the NBA have told me that Bender is a special talent, but he’s just really young and raw.
This pick is the fulcrum of this draft. Who the Suns draft determines at least the next fifteen picks.
5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia) — Malik Monk, Guard, University of Kentucky
Rajan: Wait a sec… I get to pretend i’m Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac? Hold on, let me get into the right mindset.
[Taking a deep drag out a car exhaust pipe, then smashing my head against a concrete wall, and then finishing it off by chugging a pint of turpentine]
Ok, with the permanent and irreparable brain damage i’ve suffered, i’m now most capable of simulating what I think Vivek and Vlade — the Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn of the NBA — will do with this pick.
On one hand, I — representing the aforementioned dynamic duo of dimwits — am crushed that De’Aaron Fox is off the board. I know that Vivek and Vlade have a raging NBA Draft boner for Fox, getting plenty hot-and-heavy at the fantasy of pairing him with the new toy they acquired a few months ago in Buddy Hield. But, alas, i’m/they’re stuck with NBA Draft blue balls, with Fox off the board.
So with Fox gone, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to see Sacramento trying to outsmart everyone by taking Malik Monk with this pick. Their rationale: he’s the next best guard on their board (even if he’s really more of a shooting guard in a point guard’s body). In a league that’s so much more driven by offensive production, he might be the most gifted scorer in this draft. He’s someone that could’ve gone as high as #3 overall (if Philadelphia kept their pick), and nobody would’ve criticize the pick. He reminds them of Kyrie Irving, who might have been the third best player in the NBA Finals, behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He and Hield would be Vivek’s answers to “The Splash Brothers” (though only in Vivek’s head would this be true).
As the kids would say: Vivek’s gonna Vivek.
6. Orlando Magic — Jonathan Isaac, Forward, Florida State University
Dash: So let’s think this out. The Magic fired the old regime and bring in Jeff Weltman and John Hammond to make their basketball decisions. They have a roster of misfits and high draft picks who have not — and probably will not — turn into stars (that’s the issue with Boston accumulating more assets: what if they all become a bunch of Mario Hezonja’s?). I believe this will be a Hammond pick, and the Bucks have to put something around The Greek Freak so that he doesn’t bolt when it comes to free agency with the inevitable establishment of another 3 or 4 super teams.
Isaac is a player that looks really good on paper and the idea of him is probably better than he actually is. He’s a perfect fit in today’s league, but will those skills actually translate?
I think Jayson Tatum should be in consideration here considering Jabari Parker’s murky future as well as Filthy Frank from France who would take much of the ball-handling responsibilities away from Giannis Antetokounmpo, and also add another shooter on the floor. The Bucks are in a position — along with teams like the Wizards — where they may be left their dicks while the Cavaliers load up with another superstar (like Paul George?) and the Celtics/76ers are more equipped to win 3 years from now. Isaac fits Milwaukee mold … kind of. He’s a Greek Freak/Thon Maker type player where if you draft on potential; the chance of him becoming a super stud is always there, and it allows a GM to keep his job.
Speaking of which: how did John Hammond even get another job? He sucked at his old one. The Bucks were crap for years until he struck gold with The Greek Freak. Something about those ex-Bucks’ GM’s… they never go away.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves — Jayson Tatum, Forward, Duke University
Rajan: To start things off: I legitimately believed the Minnesota Timberwolves were going to win 50 games last year. Between the young nucleus of players they already had, the addition of a world-class, ass-kicking coach like Tom Thibodeau, and the fact that the bottom of the Western Conference wasn’t nearly as good as it had been in years past, the Timberwolves could’ve easily finished as one of the top six teams in the conference.
And then, Karl-Anthony Towns had a slow first half of the season, Andrew Wiggins looked more and more like a “good stats on bad team” guy all year long, Ricky Rubio and Zach Lavine still couldn’t shoot the basketball, and Thibodeau basically banished Kris Dunn — their lottery selection last year — to the very end of his bench (which might as well have been Siberia).
So now, Thibs’ job is to very quickly resurrect a team that ended up losing 50+ games last year. That’s why Jayson Tatum would make a lot of sense here. He’s a “contribute right away” guy; ESPN’s Chad Ford said that, among NBA scouts and GMs in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, he was actually the favorite to win Rookie of the Year in 2018. Just as importantly, his best ability is to put the ball through the hoop, something the Wolves really need within a lineup that’s filled with more facilitators than scorers.
Thibs would have to coax the “dog” out of Tatum more, as he can get a bit passive when out on the court, as opposed to trying to take over the game. But a lineup including Towns, Wiggins, Tatum, and whatever the hell they piece together in the backcourt could be even more promising.
8. New York Knicks — Lauri Markkanen, Forward, University of Arizona
Dash: Since Rajan gets to be the Kings, I get to be Phil Jackson. So, I’m just going to smoke for two hours, get high as fuck, and make this pick while cursing out Carmelo Anthony every two seconds.
The biggest issue facing the Knicks is that they still run the damn triangle offense. No one wants to play in the triangle. This isn’t 1997 any more. It’s 2017 and the NBA has changed. I don’t think Jeff Hornacek wants to coach the triangle because he’s never coached it. The players don’t want to play in the triangle because it allows for very little offensive creativity and in a fastbreak, spacing league, no one wants to play within the constraints of a system where everyone’s role is clearly defined.
As far as the draft, the Knicks should pick a point guard here. Frank Ntilikina (aka “Filthy Frank”) should be the pick. But, I think the Knicks pick will be indicative of how much longer Phil will be in the Knicks’ front office. If the pick is Ntilikina, then Phil is here to stay. If the pick is Dennis Smith, Hornacek is making the call and the Knicks are transitioning to a more normal offense. If the pick is anyone else, then it’s just a clusterfuck between everyone and there are no real decision makers (if this pick is anyone but Ntilikina, I am convinced that this is Phil Jackson’s last year.. which is probably two years too late).
I’m probably a slight bit higher on Markkanen than most other people, but I think this is a compromise pick for the Knicks. Maybe they trade back and pick up extra picks. Maybe when they (hopefully) unload ‘Melo, they’ll acquire a pick in the teens or 20’s. Regardless, Markkanen and Kristaps Porzingis opens up everything (assuming the latter is still on the team next year). The offensive potential is too much to keep the fans busy for a bit.
9. Dallas Mavericks — Frank Ntilikina, Guard, France
Rajan: Can I tell you how thrilled I am that Dash tapped into his inner Phil Jackson, and did something very “Phil Jackson in real life”-esque? I can’t wait to see how many kids at Madison Square Garden will be crying after Dash/Jackson makes the Markkanen pick.
With Frank Ntilikina still sitting on the board, i’m going to run — and not walk — to the podium, to make my selection (my usual disdain for European players, or anything generally about France notwithstanding).
Because, I want to live in a world where “Frank The Tank” (that’s the nickname i’m going with) is facilitating Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, and the legendary Dirk Nowitzki (Yogi Ferrell was a nice story last season, but i’m fine with making him more of a rotation/”microwave offense” guy).
If i’m the Mavericks, i’m going to take a player who’s basically the European De’Aaron Fox. Give me the guy whose maturity and poise exceeds the 18 years he’s been on this planet, whose speed and athleticism matches that of any guard in this draft, whose length and defensive prowess would allow him to guard at least three different positions on the court, and who’s looking to create for his team versus himself. Tell me how that wouldn’t fit in beautifully with the Mavericks of tomorrow?
I get that Ntilikina still needs to develop more of a jumpshot; in all honesty, how is he any different than all the other crazy athletes with suspect jump shots in this draft? I get that, at 6’5 he weighs only 180lbs; he’s only 18 years old, and it’s not like they won’t be able to feed him a sandwich or ten, and/or fatten him up with some delicious Texas barbecue, given that he’ll be living in Dallas.
Ntilikina is a cornerstone player the Mavericks could rebuild themselves upon. He’d be a great selection here.
10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans) — Dennis Smith Jr., Guard, North Carolina State University
Dash: First of all, I’m not sure Mark Cuban wants to actually rebuild in Dallas, and trade rumors for Ricky Rubio seem very very real.
For the second time in this draft, the Kings are devastated that they did not get the point guard they wanted. Now, luckily they have an Indian lunatic and a Serbian dumbass in charge to entertain us all again. The best player on the board who fits this team is Dennis Smith. The problem with that is, Smith made the worst of a bad situation last year at NC State when the team was absolute crap and Mark Gottfried got fired midseason. So, ideally, the Kings would not draft Smith.
But if this is in fact the way the draft shakes down, with Malik Monk already being taken by Sacramento with the 5th pick, the Kings can do no harm in continuing to draft anyone based on throwing darts at a dart board. Justin Jackson could be a really nice addition as a 3-and-D swingman, coming from the national champion Tar Heels.
Instead, stupid teams do what stupid teams do and Sacramento is no different. Even if new personnel overseer Scott Perry influences the pick here, at the end of the day, Vivek makes the decision. So, with that, the Kings take Smith and ruin his career as well. Terrific.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Luke Kennard, Guard, Duke University
Rajan: Honest question: if the Charlotte Hornets secretly disbanded the entire organization, and for some reason self-exiled themselves from the NBA, how long would it be before anyone noticed? It’d be more than a couple of months, right?
If you were a rival General Manager, is there a single player on the entire Hornets roster not named Kemba Walker that you’d have any modicum of interest in acquiring?
Here’s the problem with Charlotte: they have a bunch of random different pieces that don’t fit together. They drafted a bunch of unathletic white guy big men (Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky), they have a couple of long wings who can’t score (Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist).
I’m glad that Dash took the “shoot first and ask questions later” Dennis Smith off the board, because now i’m not saddled with trying to jam him into a lineup that already has the exact same type of player in Walker.
So instead, i’ll provide them with a little more offensive firepower in Luke Kennard. He’s basically the polar opposite of Williams and MKG: he lacks the length and athleticism that NBA scouts are so infatuated with, but shows an advanced basketball IQ and skillset as far as scoring and creating offense. For a team that was toiled in mediocrity as far as offensive production for all of last year, he’d be a solid boost for them, even as a rotation/off-the-bench guy.
12. Detroit Pistons — Zach Collins, Center, Gonzaga University
Dash: The way Stan Van Gundy teams are built are usually with smart, multi-faceted players who actually care. While Andre Drummond may be intelligent — I don’t know, he did go to UConn (kidding…) — he can’t hit free throws, and his offensive game has not developed like the Pistons would have hoped for.
Enter Zach Collins and his “intelligent, great basketball IQ, gym-rat” (read: white) self, who will listen to whatever the coach wants and play hard. Stan-the-man has had a shitty time building up the Pistons, first trading for Reggie Jackson (who is straight trash at point guard), and dealing with Drummond’s boneheadedness. While Andre may be a great fit on another team with good shooting around him so he can operate 1-on-1, he doesn’t seem like he, nor any of his teammates, have any idea what they are.
Last season was a big step back for the Pistons, not making the playoffs and sucking so hard that Drummond and Jackson were on the trade block for most of the season. If Stan wants to really build the team like he wants — and no, he isn’t replicating the 2009 Orlando Magic considering the Pistons have no shooters and a stupid point guard who has no idea how to work the pick-and-roll — Detroit would be better off trading Drummond and Jackson for draft picks, resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and rebuilding.
Basketball purgatory is not your friend.
13. Denver Nuggets — OG Anunoby, Forward, University of Indiana
Rajan: Here’s what was fun about the Denver Nuggets: the only teams who scored more points per game than them were the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets (also, everything about Nikola Jokic was incredibly fun, too).
Here’s what’s not-so-fun about the Denver Nuggets: the only teams who allowed more points per game than them are the three teams with the worst record in the NBA last season (Brooklyn, Phoenix, and the Lakers).
So, I think it’s safe to say that one of things need fixing. I’m no brain scientist or rocket surgeon, but i’ll go out on a limb and say it’s the latter. That’s why i’m taking Ogugua “OG” Anunoby with this pick.
He’s not even 20 years old yet, so i’m not all that worried about his recovery from the torn ACL he sustained in January. Once that knee is healthy, Anunoby will be a bona fide lockdown defender for Denver. He has the foundational tool set to be an elite defender (size, length, strength and mobility), he’s shown the fearlessness to defend literally all five positions on the court, and has that knack for getting making those plays that don’t appear on the stat sheet: engulfing defenders with his wingspan, getting in passing lanes, and closing out on shots with a startling quickness.
If the Nuggets do end up bringing back Danilo Gallinari (a free agent this offseason), Anunoby can make up for Gallinari’s defensive shortcomings. If Gallinari leaves town for greener pastures, Anunoby could step in as the team’s power forward of the future.
He probably won’t make up for Gallinari’s overall offensive game, but it would be a lot of fun to watch him make attack the rim (his forte) thanks to “The Joker” delivering him passes so beautiful that they’re practically basketball porn.
14. Miami Heat — Justin Jackson, SF, University of North Carolina
Dash: Pat Riley’s system and Erik Spoelstra’s magnificent coaching have the draw that every NBA free agent is seeking … and not to mention, Miami’s gorgeous weather and those women.
Shane Battier has taken a lead role in heading the analytics team for the Heat and he’d probably concede that a Justin Jackson-Justise Winslow-Hassan Whiteside front court would be damn near impossible to score on. The Heat will draft the best player available ,whoever it may be, and they will be just fine… especially because they’ll probably end up signing Blake Griffin in the offseason.
Justin Jackson improved as a shooter throughout his career at Chapel Hill, and his defense has always been a strong point — he often guarded the opposition’s best player during the ACC and NCAA tournament. He’s a winner, which Riley places a great emphasis on, and he seems like he’d want to work hard within the confines of the Miami facility.
Admittedly, Donovan Mitchell is probably a better “need” pick considering superstar/the best player in the NBA/legend Dion Waiters is a free agent and they need to replace his scoring. So, Mitchell could also get a look here.
Regardless, this is where we are in 2017: figuring out ways to replace Dion Waiters.
Thanks a lot, Donald Trump.