1. Markelle Fultz- Point Guard for The University of Washington
Most Likely Destinations: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Bradley Beal
Markelle Fultz is most likely going to be the #1 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft regardless of who has the pick. The three teams that are most likely to get the pick are the Boston Celtics (via the Brooklyn Nets), the Phoenix Suns, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Fultz will undoubtedly be a star no matter where he ends up, which is why his worst-case NBA comparison is still a very good player in Bradley Beal. However, I see a lot of Dwyane Wade in Markelle Fultz, including his explosiveness, defense, basketball IQ, and overall ability to score the basketball. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the NBA, but I am confident that Fultz will be a bonafide star.
2. Lonzo Ball- Point Guard for UCLA
Most Likely Destinations: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Jason Kidd
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Stephon Marbury
As you might have noticed, my expectations for Lonzo Ball are just as high as they are for Markelle Fultz. There is no scenario where I see Lonzo Ball being a bust, which is why his worst case scenario is someone who was magnificent during his career, but whose career was short-lived, Stephon Marbury. However, if everything turns out as it is supposed to for Lonzo Ball, he will end up being a player that is very similar to Jason Kidd. Lonzo will be a triple-double machine at the NBA level just as Jason Kidd was, and his basketball IQ is also on that Jason Kidd level which is well above the average NBA player. He will most likely be taken 2nd overall in the draft, so his possible destinations are the same as Fultz, the Celtics, the Suns, and the Lakers.
3. Josh Jackson- Small Forward for The University of Kansas
Most Likely Destinations: Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Paul George
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Gerald Wallace
Josh Jackson is an extremely talented and versatile prospect, but his future in the NBA is unpredictable. Many believe that Jackson’s defensive ability and insane athleticism will carry him to greatness in the NBA, but I am not so sure that he is a guaranteed star like Ball or Fultz. Jackson lacks the ability to score at will due to his lack of consistent three-point shooting. However, no prospect in this draft is athletic as Jackson, and he is likely the best defensive player in this class as well. Therefore, I think his ceiling is Paul George, while his floor is Gerald Wallace. Wallace was an amazing defensive player that had a few successful seasons on the offensive end, but was not an offensive star like Paul George is. Offense is the difference maker for Josh Jackson’s transition to the NBA, but I think he has the ability to make it happen. Also, he must end up in the right situation in order to produce profoundly, which is why the Suns and Sixers would be suitable landing spots for him to succeed. He would play a lot with them, whereas with the Lakers he might not have as big of a role due to their surplus of young talent already on the team.
4. Malik Monk- Shooting Guard for The University of Kentucky
Most Likely Destinations: Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Ray Allen
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Lou Williams
Malik Monk has the potential to change the future of an entire franchise and lift them from a sub-par team to a championship contender. His skilled shooting ability along with his knack for highlight plays game after game is the reason that I could see him becoming a player at the caliber that Ray Allen once was. However, even if Monk does not reach his full potential as an all-around player, his scoring ability will never vanish, which is why Lou Williams is his worst-case scenario in my opinion. Also, the perfect fits for Monk is the Sixers and the Timberwolves, although he may also end up with the Kings, Mavericks, or Magic. The Sixers and Timberwolves are stacked with young talent, but they would both be able to use Monk in such a way that he would be starting and an immediate difference-maker for the team.
5. Dennis Smith Jr., Point Guard for North Carolina State University
Most Likely Destinations: Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Damian Lillard
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Damon Stoudamire
Dennis Smith Jr. rounds out the top five prospects and he is just as talented as the other four on this list. Smith Jr. is an average sized point guard at 6’2″ 190lbs and he reminds me a lot of a point guard on the Portland Trail Blazers by the name of Damian Lillard. Smith Jr. has the explosive ability and athleticism that Lillard has as well as the natural ability to score the basketball. However, Damon Stoudamire comes to mind as some else who Smith Jr. can be compared to if he does not live up to the expectations. Stoudamire was a solid NBA player, but he was injured often and only had a few good seasons. There are a lot of teams that need a point guard like Smith Jr., but the best fits for him are the Magic, Mavericks, and Kings. All three teams lack a point guard that can truly run an offense and score the ball the way that Smith Jr. does. The Sixers also come to mind as a possible landing spot, but they are not in need of a playmaker as much due to the presence of Ben Simmons, a ball-handler and playmaker himself.
6. Jonathan Isaac, Small Forward/Power Forward for Florida State University
Most Likely Destinations: Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Kevin Durant
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Maurice Harkless
Jonathan Isaac has the prototypical body of an NBA star, but there are some flaws in his game such as strength and the limited use of his off-hand that leave people wondering if his skills will translate to the NBA level. Isaac attempts to model his game after Kevin Durant, much as Kobe did with Jordan, so if Isaac is successfully able to replicate the moves and skills of his idol, then he will be a great success in the NBA. However, he can be as bad as Mo Harkless if he does not maximize his length, versatility, and potential. Isaac’s ideal landing spot would be in Sacramento due to the fact that they likely have two top-10 picks and are missing a star at just about every position. Getting picked by Sacramento would allow him to team up with another rookie and hopefully lift the organization up into the playoffs.
7. Jayson Tatum, Small Forward for Duke University
Most Likely Destinations: Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Paul Pierce
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Harrison Barnes
Jayson Tatum is an interesting prospect as he has one skill that separates him from all other prospects, isolation scoring. Tatum is much like the Celtics’ legend Paul Pierce in that he takes people one-on-one and has the ability to shoot as well as drive to the basket to get his points. Even if Tatum does not develop into something as great as Paul Pierce, he will likely be an average starter who is not quite good enough to make the all-star team like Harrison Barnes. Tatum’s isolation skills will always be displayed even on the NBA level, which is why a quality isolation player such as Harrison Barnes is his worst-case comparison. Tatum’s clear best fits are the Trail Blazers and Kings because they are both missing long-term small forwards and a dominant scorer would be a huge help for their teams. Tatum has the potential to lift a franchise up much like Paul Pierce did with the Boston Celtics.
8. Lauri Markkanen, Power Forward for The University of Arizona
Most Likely Destinations: Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Dirk Nowitzki/Kristaps Porzingis
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Boris Diaw
Lauri Markannen is the biggest draft enigma since Kristaps Porzingis. There is a chance he could become a legend like Dirk due to his unique size and shooting skills, but there is also a chance that he could become a versatile role player such as Boris Diaw. Markkanen, if placed in the right situation like Porzingis was, could become the next “Unicorn” per say. Markkanen has risen in value due to his magnificent play at Arizona where he has displayed his insane shooting ability and unique guard-like skills. Markannen is a huge question mark in this draft, which is why I believe location matters and the Trail Blazers would be the best place for him to go. Pairing Markkanen with Lillard and McCollum would be interesting and that is undoubtedly the best situation for him to end up out of all possible scenarios.
9. De’Aaron Fox, Point Guard for The University of Kentucky
Most Likely Destinations: New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Rajon Rondo
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Michael-Carter Williams
De’Aaron Fox is the only prospect thus far that I can guarantee will not be a game-changing superstar. Fox has the ability to pass and rebound effectively as well as drive and finish layups. However, he can not shoot the ball well which is why the best I can compare him to is Rajon Rondo. Rondo made an all-star game in his career and I think Fox has the potential to eventually reach that point, but neither Rondo nor Fox are game-changing players. Rondo could not command a team on his own, but his ability to see the floor and pass the ball was unmatched for many years. The worst-case comparison of Michael-Carter Williams is because of the possibility that the rebounding and passing do not translate the way that people are anticipating and the possibility that he does not score at an efficient rate. The best situation for him to end up in would be Dallas due to the fact that they already have established talent for him to work with and he could fit right in with their offense. Fox can be a quality starting point guard in this league, but he will never be a game-changer or bonafide star.
10. Frank Ntilikina, Point Guard Strasbourg IG in France
Most Likely Destinations: New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat
Best-Case NBA Comparison: Mike Conley/Avery Bradley
Worst-Case NBA Comparison: Dante Exum
Frank Ntilikina is the only prospect in the top 10 that we have not seen all that much of due to the fact that he plays in France. Ntilikina is a player that has a decent jumper, can get to the basket, has swift handles, and plays lock-up defense. The route that he can take with all of the skills that he has are either in a direction of Mike Conley or Avery Bradley. Conley can score at a high magnitude and is a solid defensive player, and his jumper has developed over the years. Bradley is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game of basketball, and Ntilikina’s length and quickness allows him to guard people the same way that Bradley does, by harassing them while they have the ball. However, he could become a player like Dante Exum who never quite became the player that he was expected to become and is barely hanging on to a roster spot at this point. The best destinations for Ntilikina would be the Heat, Kings, and Knicks as they all lack a point guard and could use someone with the unique skills that Ntilikina has.
Bonus: Mock Draft and Early 2018 ROY Prediction
- Celtics(via Nets)- Markelle Fultz
- Lakers- Lonzo Ball
- Suns- Josh Jackson
- Sixers- Malik Monk
- Magic- Dennis Smith Jr.
- Kings- Jayson Tatum
- Mavericks- De’Aaron Fox
- Trail Blazers- Jonathan Isaac
- Minnesota- Lauri Markkanen
- Kings(via Pelicans) – Frank Ntilikina
2018 Rookie of the Year Prediction
*I am not including Ben Simmons although he will be eligible for the award*
Dennis Smith Jr. of the Orlando Magic will win the Rookie of the Year Award for the 2017-2018 season as his role with the team will be tremendous and he will be the player that everyone in Orlando hoped that he would be. He will end the season with averages of approximately 17.1 Ppg, 3.9 Rpg, 6.4 Apg while leading the Magic to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.