With the 2017 NBA playoffs rolling toward the conference finals, the eight remaining teams will soon be whittled down to four. That means the majority of the league's teams and their fans are already focused on the upcoming draft.
This year's class is star-studded, particularly at the top. There, point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball have commanded most of the headlines, but combo forward Josh Jackson is threatening to crash their party.
Plenty of solid options can be found throughout the rest of the lottery. And there should be a few sleepers late in the first round.
Predictions for all 30 picks can be found below, followed by analysis of the top three:
|2017 NBA Mock Draft|
|1||Celtics||Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, Freshman)|
|2||Suns||Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)|
|3||Lakers||Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)|
|4||76ers||Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)|
|5||Magic||Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)|
|6||Timberwolves||Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, PF/SF, Freshman)|
|7||Knicks||Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 18)|
|8||Kings||De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)|
|9||Mavericks||Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)|
|10||Kings||Dennis Smith, Jr. (NC State, PG, Freshman)|
|11||Hornets||Terrance Ferguson (Australia, SG, 18)|
|12||Pistons||Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)|
|13||Nuggets||OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)|
|14||Heat||Zach Collins (Gonzaga, PF, Freshman)|
|15||Blazers||John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)|
|16||Bulls||Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)|
|17||Bucks||Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)|
|18||Pacers||Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)|
|19||Hawks||Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)|
|20||Blazers||Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 19)|
|21||Thunder||Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)|
|22||Nets||Bam Abedayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)|
|23||Raptors||Ivan Rabb (California, PF, Sophomore)|
|24||Jazz||Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 18)|
|25||Magic||Semi Ojeleye (SMU, SF/PF, Junior)|
|26||Blazers||Harry Giles (Duke, PF, Freshman)|
|27||Nets||Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF/SF, Sophomore)|
|28||Lakers||Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)|
|29||Spurs||T.J. Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)|
|30||Jazz||Frank Jackson (Duke, PG, Freshman)|
|Picks by Andy Bailey|
Fultz has been at the top of most draft boards for the vast majority of this season. And it's not hard to see why.
He had a productive freshman campaign, averaging 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. He shot 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three.
And at 6'4", Fultz has the size to play either a backcourt spot, which should be particularly attractive to the Boston Celtics, who already have All-Star and fellow Washington alumnus Isaiah Thomas.
If he's sharing a backcourt with Thomas, he has the size to defend most shooting guards (something Thomas can't do) and the playmaking ability to allow the incumbent to continue to dominate as a scorer.
Ball is often described as the better creator of these two prospects, which may be true, but Fultz had a higher assist percentage and a lower turnover percentage, per Basketball Reference.
One school of thought in drafting is essentially take the best player, regardless of team need, and work things out later.
For a lot of people, the best player available here would be Ball. But the Phoenix Suns are loaded with young talent in the backcourt.
Devin Booker had a 70-point game and took on more of a distributor's role in Year 2. Tyler Ulis may be diminutive at 5'9", but he averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 assists over his past 20 games. And Eric Bledsoe, who's still just 27, just had arguably his best season, posting career highs in both box plus-minus and player efficiency rating, per Basketball Reference.
Phoenix could probably get a decent return in a trade for Bledsoe, but if it feels set there, Jackson could be a perfect addition.
He can play the 3 or the 4, allowing him to be on the floor with Bledsoe, Booker and T.J. Warren. Throw in one of the Suns' athletic young bigs at the 5, and you have hints of the positionless basketball that's taking over the league.
To play that style, you need more than one versatile player who can shoot, pass, defend all over the floor and run a pick-and-roll. Jackson could fit that bill.
And even if he doesn't right away, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress still thinks Jackson could make an impact:
"Every NBA team would love to bring into their organization an athletic, unselfish, competitive two-way player who loves to do the little things to help win games and makes teammates better. ...
"This is a trait that NBA teams love about him, as is the fact that he isn't reliant on his scoring ability in order to contribute. Even if his offense isn't there on a given night, he always gives you the defense, hustle, rebounding and passing component, which is attractive alongside the right type of players. Jackson has a very high floor, and plenty of upside to grow into given his athleticism, basketball IQ, versatility and competitiveness, which should all but guarantee him a spot in the top five of this year's draft."
That sounds like a perfect fit alongside the natural scoring of Warren and a ball-dominant backcourt that includes Booker and Bledsoe.
If the draft lottery goes chalk and the Los Angeles Lakers wind up with the third overall pick, Ball might be relieved to see the Suns take someone else at No. 2.
In March, Ball told ESPN's First Take that he'd consider it a "blessing" to end up with the Lake Show. And more recent reports suggest the feeling is mutual.
According to ESPN.com's Chad Ford: "The Lakers appear to be enamored with Ball, a local product who could add star power to a team desperately in search of it. But they'll likely have to land in the top two to get him."
It's not hard to connect the dots here. Magic Johnson, who recently took over L.A.'s front office, was a big (6'9"), pass-first point guard. Sound like anyone else?
While not quite as tall, the 6'6" Ball is arguably the best passer in the draft. And his creativity and smarts in both the half court and transition should make him a good fit next to D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram.
The Lakers seem open to the impending positionless revolution as well. They experimented with Russell off the ball late in the season and played the 6'9" Ingram as a backup point guard for much of the year. Ball is another guy who should be able to settle into basketball's newest position: player.