2017 NBA Mock Draft: Very Early Look at All 30 Projected 1st-Round Picks
College basketball is underway at last. That means the 2017 NBA draft discussion can officially begin.
This year's debate already sounds more exciting than last year's: There are tight positional battles, international wild cards, breakout players and key injuries to dissect from opening night. We could also be looking at three to four prospects who will eventually be considered No. 1 overall options.
The mock draft order is based on the NBA standings as of November 11. We also took into account future trades.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, 6'4", Freshman)
The 2017 draft brings the Philadelphia 76ers the lead guard they've been waiting for.
Markelle Fultz looks poised to separate from the pack with volume production, next-level athleticism and coveted scoring ability for a primary ball-handler. North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr. will also get a look from the Sixers, but questions surrounding his perimeter game and decision-making will ultimately turn them off.
Unselfish with the shot-making ability to connect in bunches, Fultz gives Philadelphia both firepower and a floor general capable of running the offense.
Just as management ignored LSU's lack of success when evaluating Ben Simmons, a disappointing season for the Washington Huskies won't knock Fultz down Philadelphia's board.
2. New Orleans Pelicans: Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, 6'3", Fr.)
Outside of Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans' No. 28-ranked offense in efficiency, per ESPN, has been a disaster. To be fair, they've played middle-of-the-pack defense early on (No. 14 in efficiency).
With the team in need of scoring and playmaking—and Jrue Holiday entering the final year of his deal—the Pelicans won't pass on the chance to land a star floor general.
"Best point guard in the draft," one scout said of Dennis Smith Jr. "He has the opportunity to be an All-Star in the future. You rarely see college guys with such a killer instinct."
Smith looked fully recovered from last summer's torn ACL during the Wolfpack's Tuesday exhibition game in which he posted 24 points, four assists and six steals. Explosive and highly skilled, Smith puts pressure on defenses with breakdown penetration, using change of speed/direction and burst.
Erratic shooting, shot selection and turnovers work against his case for No. 1 overall. But everything about Smith's physical profile, game and confidence say future NBA starter.
3. Dallas Mavericks: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF, 6'10", Freshman)
Jonathan Isaac won't be as consistent as other top-10 picks, but tantalizing long-term potential buys him a pass.
He's going to wow with guard skills for an athletic 6'10" forward; he handles the ball and creates one-on-one opportunities by using nifty drives and pull-back jumpers.
The Dallas Mavericks grab him at No. 3, slide him to the wing and move Harrison Barnes to power forward permanently.
He needs to add strength and all-around polish, but the Wolves will buy into Isaac's Brandon Ingram-esque package of size, length and face-up scoring.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SG/SF, 6'8", Freshman)
Josh Jackson could easily wind up No. 1 on multiple NBA draft boards by June. But with point guard-needy teams picking first and second in this simulation, the Minnesota Timberwolves luck out.
Arguably the best defender in the draft, Jackson has the potential to lock down and score, which earns him the title of top two-way prospect in the class.
He'll turn heads with explosive transition play, improved ball-handling, impressive passes and capable shooting. His skills aren't razor-sharp, but they cover ground and look poised to continue improving.
5. Washington Wizards: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, 6'8", Freshman)
The improvement of Otto Porter won't factor into the Washington Wizards' draft plans. They'll take Jayson Tatum—whose ceiling is higher—if he establishes himself as the top available talent.
Based on his skills, size and versatility, Tatum is a player whom coach Scott Brooks can move around the lineup.
He possesses go-to potential with the ability to create and hit jumpers from all over the floor. At 6'8", he mixes combo forward size with guard-like ball-handling and shot-making ability.
Tatum isn't known for passing or lockdown defense, but he has the chance to emerge as a top scoring option to feature in half-court sets.
6. Miami Heat: Harry Giles (Duke, PF, 6'10", Freshman)
With so many quality options at the top, five teams play it safe and avoid the risk that comes with Harry Giles' knees. At No. 6, that risk is worth taking for the Miami Heat, who will gamble on his indisputable talent and hopeful durability.
He'll start the season on the injury shelf, but over the long term, it's easy to salivate at the potential that Giles' elite athleticism, length and developing skills fuel.
Even if he sits out the entire year as a precaution, so long as doctors hold onto their red flags during the predraft process, Giles will earn consideration from the majority of general managers in the lottery.
At full strength, he would look like a textbook fit between Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside.
7. Phoenix Suns: Marques Bolden (Duke, C, 6'11", Freshman)
An unspecified lower-leg injury knocked Marques Bolden out early in the season, but it's premature for any draft-slide talk. He'll start the year as the No. 1 pure 5-man prospect in the country.
Bolden aces the NBA eye test with 6'11", 250-pound size and 7'6" length, per DraftExpress. And though not particularly explosive, he's nimble and coordinated with just enough bounce.
He looks poised to develop into a strong back-to-the-basket post scorer. Bolden uses his powerful body and legs to carve out space and gain position, and he's flashed fluid footwork and moves that lead to high-percentage shots in the paint.
So long as he protects the rim, he'll be the first true center taken, even if his physical tools still remain far ahead of his skills.
8. Orlando Magic: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 6'5", 1998)
The Orlando Magic may not enter the draft looking to replace Elfrid Payton, but there is a decent chance the best player available when they are on the clock will be a point guard.
Frank Ntilikina continues to play well in LNB Pro A (France's top division), where the 18-year-old is averaging 14.1 minutes and shooting 68.2 percent through seven games.
Playing some 2-guard for Strasbourg, he's showing off versatility and the ability to contribute within the offense regardless of what position he's assigned. Ntilikina has always come off as a point guard with 6'5" size, tight ball skills and facilitating instincts.
Between Pro A and three Basketball Champions League games, he's also made nine of his first 18 three-point attempts.
A sound defender with the size, length and quickness to guard ball-handlers or wings, Ntilikina's two-way potential and tools mirror Dante Exum's. Ntilikina is on his way toward building a top-10 draft case overseas.
9. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, 6'11", Sophomore)
The Boston Celtics grab the most productive big man on the board.
Ivan Rabb could have been a few weeks into his NBA rookie season. Instead, he's back at California and primed for a monster year as the new focal point of the Golden Bears offense.
He'll look to build up his post game with more featured touches in 2017. Rabb has nifty footwork and counters while playing with his back to the basket. Plus, he's a threat to face up and attack from the short corners or knock down the mid-range jumper.
But he took only 7.7 shots per game last year. His increased volume efficiency and defensive attention are question marks.
Already a convincing rebounder and competitor, Rabb locks himself into the top 10 so long as he emerges as a consistent offensive force and go-to scorer.
10. New York Knicks: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, 6'3", Freshman)
Regardless of what the New York Knicks do with Derrick Rose, De'Aaron Fox should be a target.
His pitch starts on defense, where he brings pressure and forces turnovers with excellent quickness and can't-teach anticipation.
A playmaker at both ends of the floor, he also thrives as a setup man in the half court and transition. Fast and shifty off the dribble, Fox creates scoring chances with his ability to push the tempo and break down defenses.
His perimeter game is behind that of the other elite point guards, but his jumper works. There is some star potential with Fox, depending on how much he improves his one-on-one shot-creating and three-point shooting.
He's the perfect kind of point guard for the Knicks.
11. Denver Nuggets: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, 7'0", Freshman)
The Denver Nuggets won't draft based on need, given their young talent and depth at every position. Lauri Markkanen's 7-foot size, shooting, face-up drives and low-post game fuel versatility that should light up NBA scouting departments.
He's the prototypical stretch 4 or 5 with a smooth three-point shot and the ability to attack closeouts and score on the move.
Markkanen doesn't offer much rim protection, and he's bound to struggle in perimeter defense—weaknesses that damage his overall value.
But there is an appealing level of certainty tied to the Finnish big man's shooting, skill level, athleticism and fit. He looks like a solid bet to go somewhere in the 2017 mid-first round.
12. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 6'11", 1998)
A known talent among scouts, Isaiah Hartenstein has looked good during limited playing time with Zalgiris. He went for 12 points on two three-point makes in less than 14 minutes against Juventus on November 6.
Hartenstein has unique skills for a 6'11", 230-pounder. Along with promising shooting potential, he's also a threat to face up and attack, create out of the post and make the highlight pass.
Physical tools, scoring versatility and rebounding help Hartenstein stand out overseas through NBA scouting goggles. He'll just need to show he can contribute within the offense when he isn't the featured option.
13. Sacramento Kings: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, 6'6", Freshman)
Lonzo Ball would give the Sacramento Kings across-the-board production, flashy passing, 6'6" size and bounce. That's great for another point guard-hungry team.
He's an assist machine with a nose for the ball off the glass, so bank on at least one triple-double this season. He'll slip outside the top 10 because of questions over his perimeter scoring and skinny frame, but there's no doubt about Ball's transition game, facilitating and rebounding.
Erasing concerns over his scoring potential, shooting mechanics and decision-making will be Ball's ticket toward the top of the draft.
14. Denver Nuggets (via Grizzlies): Miles Bridges (Michigan St., SF, 6'7", Fr.)
The hype is building around Miles Bridges after he totaled 50 points through Michigan State's first two exhibition games.
He even shot 8-of-10 from three.
Bridges' explosive athleticism and 230-pound frame have always stood out. He combines bounce and power, but the glimpses of shooting, driving and passing take his stock and ceiling to new heights.
They will help diminish concern over his NBA position: At 6'7", he's undersized for a traditional 4. With consistent flashes of the jumper, floater and other methods of face-up scoring, Bridges strengthens his case as a future mismatch on the wing.
15. Indiana Pacers: Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, PF/C, 6'10", Freshman)
Bam Adebayo won't have to flash great skill to draw NBA interest. He'll create buzz with high energy, effortless athleticism, a grown man's body and easy buckets.
A lock to lead Kentucky in dunks—thanks to an unmatched mix (among first-round prospects) of size, power and bounce—Adebayo could make a living off transition rim runs, finishes and offensive rebounds.
The late lottery could even be too late for him if the flashes of post footwork and mid-range touch become frequent occurrences.
He doesn't stretch the floor at power forward and is slightly undersized for an NBA center, but the details concerning his position won't matter as much in today's league.
16. Milwaukee Bucks: Frank Jackson (Duke, PG/SG, 6'3", Freshman)
Frank Jackson isn't grouped with the expected one-and-done big-name point guards, but he should be by midseason.
It won't take long for Jackson's explosive athleticism, shooting stroke and defense to attract NBA attention. And though he's not a natural facilitator, scoring ball-handlers are in vogue these days.
At 6'3", he's undersized for a pro 2 and lacks exciting playmaking ability. But if he's effective in pick-and-rolls and a threat to drive and dish, questions concerning his NBA position will start to sound irrelevant.
17. Detroit Pistons: Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers, SF, 1998)
Terrance Ferguson has remained efficient, playing within the Adelaide 36ers offense and taking what the defense gives him in Australia's National Basketball League.
His role overseas is to spot up around the arc, cut to the basket and defend.
Ferguson isn't an adept shot-creator or playmaker, but his shooting stroke is pure, while his athleticism translates to strong finishes at the rim.
From an NBA perspective, his 6'7" size, jumper, quickness and bounce highlight three-and-D potential. He'll draw first-round interest so long as he keeps splashing threes at a 41.2 percent clip.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Kostja Mushidi (Germany, SG, 6'5", 1998)
It's too early to guess whether Kostja Mushidi declares for the draft, but there will be first-round interest when he does.
A strong, athletic 18-year-old 2-guard, he's playing 20.8 minutes per game in the Adriatic League, where he's been productive but inefficient.
It speaks to both his talent and the fact he's still a major project, which should make him an interesting draft-and-stash option for a Toronto Raptors team that's already deep and competitive.
Mushidi wows with shot-creating, difficult shot-making and defensive energy. He's a future steal outside the lottery if he eventually ties everything together.
19. Portland Trail Blazers: Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, 7'0", Freshman)
Jarrett Allen should be good for frequent double-doubles and a field-goal mark above 50 percent. He does most of his damage as a rim runner, finisher and offensive rebounder, making plays without needing any drawn up for him.
But the Portland Trail Blazers grab Allen for his defense and rim protection. Though not an explosive athlete, he's mobile, exceptionally long (7'5 ½" wingspan, per DraftExpress) and active.
Allen's stock isn't likely to skyrocket or plummet throughout the season. With limited skills yet terrific NBA tools and a clear-cut role in the league, he's expected to remain in the mid-first-round discussion as a low-risk, low-reward big man.
20. Utah Jazz: Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, 6'3", Freshman)
Malik Monk's lack of size and length (for an off-guard) may bother teams in the lottery. There are questions as to how efficient he'll be offensively and how effectively he'll defend.
But the Utah Jazz won't nitpick at No. 20. Monk, who's arguably the most explosive athlete in the draft, will lead Kentucky in scoring and enter the league with a dangerous jumper.
At the least, his transition game and shot-making ability appear guaranteed to translate. He's an easy-bucket getter in the open floor and will make defenders pay for giving him room to shoot.
Playmaking skills—to help earn the combo label—help maximize Monk's stock, value and potential.
21. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, 6'9", Sophomore)
With Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic in the final year of their deals, the Chicago Bulls will draft a potential replacement for one of them.
Tyler Lydon looked physically stronger during the preseason, having added some weight to a frame that struggled down low. It could be a key development: With his ability to shoot threes, attack closeouts, play above the rim and block shots, the glaring hole in Lydon's profile centered on rebounding and physicality.
A projected stretch 4 in today's league, he'll likely play minutes at all three frontcourt positions for Syracuse.
Lydon isn't a shot-creator, but it's easy to envision his versatility, athleticism and instincts working in a complementary role.
22. Houston Rockets: Edmond Sumner (Xavier, PG, 6'5", Sophomore)
This is a good spot for the Rockets to gamble on upside, given the limited available talent and the fact Houston could always use another point guard.
Athleticism, size and length for a ball-handler drive up Edmond Sumner's ceiling. Explosive in the open floor with exciting playmaking ability in the half court, he is a jump shot away from really taking off.
Whether Sumner blows up in the pros will likely come down to how much he improves around the perimeter, where he shot 30.1 percent from three and showed little confidence in the pull-up game last year.
This pick would be a steal if his skills begin catching up to his physical tools and burst.
23. San Antonio Spurs: Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, SF/PF, 6'8", Senior)
The big knock on Jaron Blossomgame is age—he turned 23 years old in September.
Nevertheless, he still looks like a convincing NBA player based on his physical tools, athleticism and production. Blossomgame, who has gradually improved each season and averaged 18.7 points per game last year, appears one step away from cementing a spot in June's first round.
He's still more of a 4 with a small forward body, but his wing skills—particularly shooting and general perimeter play—continue to show signs. Considering he doesn't offer much as a playmaker, Blossomgame will look to build on last year's 45 three-point makes and showcase a more advanced one-on-one scoring arsenal in the 15- to 25-foot range.
Think Wilson Chandler when projecting his NBA potential.
24. Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, 6'8", Sophomore)
If preseason was any indication of what's to come, OG Anunoby is set to fly up 2017 draft boards.
An athletic, high-energy wing, he's already made a name for himself on defense, where he's erased scoring guards with his quickness and length and has also matched up against bigs.
Having played only 13.7 minutes per game last year, Anunoby will look to take the next step offensively in a larger role. And after teasing scouts with a tiny sample size of freshman shot-making (13-of-29 from three), he just knocked down seven of 11 threes and 16 of 20 total field goals during Indiana's two exhibition games.
Expecting high-level scoring and shot-creating is ambitious, but three-and-D could be Anunoby's floor so long as he continues to make strides as a shooter.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, 6'5", Junior)
The Oklahoma City Thunder grab Grayson Allen to bring athleticism, shot-making and energy off the bench.
OKC won't ask him to create like he does at Duke, which will make his scoring average somewhat insignificant. His shooting percentage will be the number to watch: Allen should lock himself into first-round discussions by repeating last year's success from beyond the arc (41.7 percent).
Trouble with defense and length suggests his ceiling stops short of starter potential. But in a reserve role, his ability to attack the rim and catch fire from outside should bolster the Thunder's second unit.
26. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Bradley (North Carolina, PF/C, 6'10", Freshman)
Tony Bradley won't finish the season with typical first-round production, but it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes per game for NBA potential to show.
At 6'10", 240 pounds, he has a strong body and touch with both hands around the basket. And he's a threat to knock down the mid-range jumper. Between pick-and-rolls and post touches, Bradley should give North Carolina a solid source of offense off the bench.
Playing behind Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, he may benefit from a second year at school.
But come May, it wouldn't be surprising if he draws enough first-round interest and declares earlier than expected.
27. Golden State Warriors: Rawle Alkins (Arizona, SG, 6'5", Freshman)
It may expose some weakness, but the extra time and touches should improve his ability to make an impression.
Athletic, physical and skilled, Rawle is a scorer with a confident stroke as well as the ball-handling and strength to attack through contact.
His percentages may not be great as a freshman, but inefficiency won't negate eye-test results that suggest Alkins has the game, tools and competitiveness to generate offense at the NBA level.
28. Charlotte Hornets: Omer Yurtseven (North Carolina State, C, 7'0", 1998)
Missing the first nine games due to an NCAA suspension won't help Omer Yurtseven get acclimated. But scouts have been tracking the 7-footer who was excellent over the summer during European Championships.
He's a project with NBA physical tools, mobility and soft hands around the basket. Flashes of back-to-the-basket scoring and the occasional mid-range jumper highlight his offensive potential.
Still, finishing off dump-downs, pick-and-rolls and putbacks remains Yurtseven's bread and butter.
It will take him some time after serving his suspension, but looking two to three years into the future, it's easy to see him becoming a useful backup.
29. Toronto Raptors (via Clippers): Cameron Oliver (Nevada, PF, 6'8", Sophomore)
Cameron Oliver's big freshman season slid under the radar. A heavier dose of explosive finishes, volume rebounding, rim protection and shooting should lead to more draft buzz for him in 2017.
Oliver, who averaged 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in just 29.4 minutes, returns as an obvious breakout candidate. He compensates for below-average power forward size with athleticism and motor that translate to easy buckets off transition, catch-and-finishes and putbacks.
But he's also quick enough to face up and attack; after knocking down 20 threes, he has shooting potential to unlock.
A versatile defender with extreme bounce, a nose for the ball and developing jumper, Oliver checks the right boxes. There should be enough for teams to view him as a late-first-round talent and future role player.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: V.J. Beachem (Notre Dame, SG/SF, 6'8", Senior)
With the last pick of the first round, the Cleveland Cavaliers add a shooting specialist.
V.J. Beachem, an athletic, 6'8" wing, knocked down over 40 percent of his threes in back-to-back seasons. His jumper is pure from 25-plus feet, and while he doesn't create, Beachem's ability to make shots while playing off the ball gives him a chance to stick in a supporting NBA role.
As Notre Dame's top projected option, he'll use his final year to strengthen his defense and all-around scoring attack.