It doesn't get much more entertaining than this—days before the 2017 NBA draft, reports surfaced suggesting the Boston Celtics moved the top selection.
This year's draft had its interesting narratives before the apparent blockbuster. A point-heavy class does wonders when it comes to shaking up league hierarchy. Lonzo Ball's drama is Lonzo Ball's drama. Historic franchises like the Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks residing in the top 10 makes for a good time.
These narratives go on and on, yet none can beat the Celtics bowing out of No. 1 by trading it to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for No. 3, according to TNT's David Aldridge. According to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, Philadelphia gives up a whopping three first-round picks to move up and predictably select Markelle Fultz.
Below, the updated mock will reflect the trade set to get finalized Monday. After, we'll look at some of the ramifications and other noteworthy items perhaps getting lost in the background.
2017 NBA Mock Draft
|1. 76ers (via BOS*)||Markelle Fultz, G, Washington|
|2. Lakers||Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA|
|3. Celtics (via BKN, PHI*)||Josh Jackson, F, Kansas|
|4. Suns||Jayson Tatum, F, Duke|
|5. Kings (via PHI)||Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State|
|6. Magic||De'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky|
|7. Timberwolves||Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga|
|8. Knicks||Frank Ntilikina, G, France|
|9. Mavericks||Dennis Smith Jr., G, NC State|
|10. Kings (via NO)||Malik Monk, G, Kentucky|
|11. Hornets||Harry Giles, F, Duke|
|12. Pistons||Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona|
|13. Nuggets||Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia|
|14. Heat||OG Anunoby, F, Indiana|
|15. Trail Blazers||Ivan Rabb, F, California|
|16. Bulls||John Collins, F, Wake Forest|
|17. Bucks||Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina|
|18. Pacers||Jarrett Allen, C, Texas|
|19. Hawks||Isaiah Hartenstein, F, Lithuania|
|20. Trail Blazers (via MEM)||Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina|
|21. Thunder||TJ Leaf, F, UCLA|
|22. Nets (via WAS)||Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville|
|23. Raptors (via LAC)||Rodions Kurucs, F, Spain|
|24. Jazz||Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA|
|25. Magic (via TOR)||Jordan Bell, F, Oregon|
|26. Trail Blazers (via CLE)||Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State|
|27. Nets (via BOS)||Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina|
|28. Lakers (via HOU)||Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue|
|29. Spurs||Frank Jackson, PG, Duke|
|30. Jazz (via GSW)||Luke Kennard, G, Duke|
|Author's projections. *reported trade.|
Notable Updated Projections
3. Celtics (via BKN, PHI*): Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
So where do the Celtics go from here?
Team president Danny Ainge has a perceived habit of gaining asset after asset without actually making a big splash, a thought process which applies to free agency and the draft. His last few "big" moves certainly apply—signing Al Horford last year and this trade don't exactly have the immediate high impact fans want.
But Ainge's willingness to trade this specific pick in this specific class could hint at how the coaching staff feels about the Isaiah Thomas-led backcourt. With Fultz and Ball surely off the board, which Ainge understands well enough, it's easy to imagine the Celtics going a different direction.
Kansas' Josh Jackson is quite a different way to go. The 6'8", 202-pound forward is the draft's best two-way player, putting elite athleticism to use by being a quality on-ball defender and slasher with a high motor.
Ainge himself hasn't been shy about Jackson lately, as the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach noted:
Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach
Danny Ainge earlier on Josh Jackson: "We’re trying to get to see him & Lonzo Ball, are two guys we haven’t seen that we’d like to see."2017-6-18 02:59:37
The Celtics getting a better look at Jackson in the coming days won't overly impact the team ending up drafting him. Another two-way player to run with Thomas is nothing short of a good thing, though it does create some interesting situations with Jaylen Brown already on the roster.
Ainge, at worst, already has a sooner-than-expected contender on his hands thanks to MVP-esque play from Thomas. Jackson improves depth in the short term and in the longer outlook grows alongside Thomas and another crop of incoming first-round picks.
4. Suns: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
The Phoenix Suns really like Ball, or at least one could get such an idea based off a quick Google search.
In the mock above, though, the Lakers aren't passing on the California kid who just so happens to be one of the best pure passers to enter the league in a long time.
Rather than settling for lesser value at the point, the mock has the Suns rolling with Duke's Jayson Tatum, who remains neck and neck with Jackson as the best forward in the class.
Where Tatum falls a bit behind Jackson is shooting, but we're still talking about a guy who averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the floor.
CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein pointed out an upside-minded thought making the rounds when it comes to the former Duke star:
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
One consistent thought on Duke's Jayson Tatum from NBA guys: Was ACC's best player at end of season and didn't play with a consistent PG.2017-6-16 12:49:12
The Suns aren't exactly getting consistent play at the point either, which is why some believe the team will draft a guard. But this is a deep class, and putting a sheer scorer, elite transition presence and solid wing defender next to Devin Booker could work wonders for both Booker and Tatum.
And here's a caveat—the Suns adding a potential star like Tatum next to one of the league's budding stars like Booker puts the Suns in an interesting position in free agency, where over the next couple of years some noteworthy names at the position will hit the open market.
In an even shorter-term outlook, keep in mind the Suns own Miami's 2018 and 2021 first-round picks, assets the front office could dangle to get back in the mix for a top point guard this year.
8. Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, G, France
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Now for the Knicks.
It stinks to take a somber tone with one of the Association's most important franchises, yet Phil Jackson and the Knicks have found a way to fall into the background of the conversation despite sitting at No. 8.
The general consensus is the Knicks will take French point Frank Ntilikina. This has been a common line of thinking for a while now, but a recent note by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News says it all:
Frank Isola @FisolaNYDN
The Knicks have had a scout in Europe babysitting Frank Ntilikina. As of now, he's their man.2017-6-15 20:48:44
Look, the Knicks taking a prospect who isn't a household name isn't the end of the world. And it's about a million times (roughly) better than taking another ill-advised quick fix like Derrick Rose.
But Ntilikina is all of 18 years old and a slim 6'5" and 180 pounds. As a recent ESPN.com scouting profile notes, his stock could be more of a positional thing than anything else: "Other teams worry that he's moving up the board based on his position and not his talent. But I'll be surprised if he's still on the board at pick No. 10."
But as the old cliche goes, there are two sides to every coin. The scouting report makes a point to highlight the Dallas Mavericks' interest at No. 9, which is saying a lot considering that front office has one of the best international scouting staffs on the planet.
For the Knicks, Ntilikina isn't an immediate upgrade by any means. But he represents the future and can develop alongside Kristaps Porzingis while the front office figures out what in the world to do with the rest of the roster.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.