2017 NBA Mock Draft: The Top 30 as Season's Second Half Begins
The midway point of the NBA season has arrived, and the theme of the draft has become crystal clear: It's all about guards and freshmen in 2017.
We now project the first three picks to be one-and-done lead ball-handlers.
Needs were taken into account for this mock draft, though talent still holds the most weight in determining what order the prospects get picked. Previous trades will also factor heavily into the lottery. If the current standings hold, two of the top six picks will be sent to other teams.
Draft order based on NBA standings heading into Monday, January 16, 2017. Draft-pick trades were accounted for.
1. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, 6'4", Freshman)
With 12 wins in 15 games heading into Monday, the Boston Celtics have jumped to No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. They've also become serious favorites to win the 2017 lottery.
Boston will swap picks with the Brooklyn Nets, who now have three fewer wins than any team in the league.
Needs won't factor into the discussion at No. 1 for general manager Danny Ainge—there won't be any power forwards worth taking anyway. And as desirable as UCLA's Lonzo Ball has become, his charm won't blindfold Ainge to Markelle Fultz's talent.
Long and athletic, complete with exciting playmaking ability and advanced scoring, Fultz is the full package at guard. He just hit the 30-point mark for the third time this season against Stanford on Saturday, and though Washington keeps losing, the Huskies' record shouldn't factor much into Fultz's long-term projection.
Look for the Celtics to try to build the NBA's most potent backcourt with Fultz and Isaiah Thomas. That could also mean moving Avery Bradley into a sixth-man role and trading Marcus Smart for a big.
2. Miami Heat: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, 6'6", Freshman)
In need of a jolt, the Miami Heat call on Lonzo Ball for a franchise jump-start.
Averaging 16.7 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 turnovers through six conference games, Ball hasn't had any trouble with Pac-12 competition either. Meanwhile, his three-point percentage (43 percent) refuses to dip. He's hit at least two triples in 14 of 19 games this season, demonstrating deep range and confident shot-making ability despite bizarre, unsettling mechanics.
In spite of questions over his scoring—he's made just one two-pointer all season that hasn't been a layup or dunk, per Hoop-Math.com—the Heat won't pass on his potential to help maximize the talent of Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Miami's roster overall.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dennis Smith Jr. (N.C. State, PG, 6'3", Freshman)
The Philadelphia 76ers will look at Kansas' Josh Jackson, but a questionable jumper and similar game to Ben Simmons should cause management to pass. Duke's Jayson Tatum would fill a need, but No. 3 looks like a reach—he's shooting 42.3 percent with limited finishing explosiveness and erratic shooting.
Conversely, Dennis Smith Jr. is starting to look like the surest bet outside of Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. At some point the Sixers need to start getting firepower from their backcourt.
Averaging 19.5 points and 6.2 assists, Smith would give Philadelphia a much-needed punch of scoring and playmaking. The Sixers can still run their offense through Simmons and Joel Embiid, but they'll have a lot more lineup balance and be tougher to defend with another ball-handler who can make jumpers and put pressure on the rim.
4. Dallas Mavericks: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, 6'10", Freshman)
Jonathan Isaac likely moved the needle for himself in a losing effort against North Carolina on Saturday, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
He flashed scoring potential with pull-up jumpers and a pair of threes, showing the ability to create his own shot on the perimeter and release right over his man. Though skinny compared to UNC's front line, he competed for loose balls and won against stronger, older bigs.
Converting at a 62.7 percent clip inside the arc on the year and averaging just 2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes, Isaac has shown the patience to play within the offense and wisely choose his spots. He's already ahead of Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum as a shooter, and his 6'10" size and two-way versatility help create a higher perceived ceiling.
The Mavericks will opt for the more efficient prospect who also appears to offer greater upside. They'll take Isaac here and play him alongside Harrison Barnes in the post-Dirk Nowitzki era.
5. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, 6'8", Freshman)
Josh Jackson jumps out as a strong fit for the Phoenix Suns' wing, particularly with P.J. Tucker set to enter free agency. Jackson provides a similar defensive presence and a lot more offensive versatility and upside.
Averaging 15.6 points and 3.0 assists, he generates offense by slashing, improvising in the lane and passing, having flashed some point forward skills with ball-handling and playmaking.
Early in his career, he'll earn minutes and love for his defensive competitiveness, athleticism and vision. Jackson will give the Suns maximum value at No. 5 overall if his jumper (9-of-36 threes, 57 percent free throws) ever comes around.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, 6'3", Freshman)
The Philadelphia 76ers should already be thinking about Malik Monk with their second first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers (top-three protected).
He'd give the Sixers a scorer and shot-maker who doesn't need dribbles and can play off Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the aforementioned Dennis Smith Jr. Monk continues to sink jumpers at a scorching rate (3.2 threes per game, 41.5 percent) while showing off his elite athleticism and transition attack.
While the height of his ceiling is debatable—given the fact he's a 6'3" 2-guard with limited playmaking skills—Philadelphia should value his potential to generate instant offense and pick up easy buckets. The Sixers will come out big winners on draft night if they can pad their frontcourt with Smith and Monk.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, 7'0", Freshman)
Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox is still on the board, but the Minnesota Timberwolves pass on adding yet another point guard who can't shoot. They should be drawn to Lauri Markkanen's versatility and potential to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns as interchangeable bigs.
Markkanen, a mobile 7-footer, ranks right there with Malik Monk among the top shooters in the draft. He'd been consistent hitting threes overseas before arriving at Arizona, where he's now connecting at a ridiculous 46.5 percent clip on 86 attempts.
He's even being used as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and has flashed glimpses of step-back and pull-up scoring off the dribble. Markkanen put up 30 points against Arizona State on Thursday and is quietly emerging as one of the top offensive prospects in the draft.
At the least, he gives the Wolves a convincing shot-maker and floor-spacer.
8. New Orleans Pelicans: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, 6'8", Freshman)
De'Aaron Fox would be an attractive play if the New Orleans Pelicans thought Jrue Holiday was leaving in free agency, but Jayson Tatum makes sense regardless of what their veteran point guard does.
The Pelicans have long needed a scoring wing, which will be Tatum's NBA label. At 6'8", he's an advanced ball-handler and shot creator capable of shooting over defenders and beating them to the basket. He's been inefficient (42.3 percent from floor) without a consistent jumper or explosive finishing ability, but Tatum's tools and high skill level should still translate to offense and defensive versatility.
The Pelicans could wind up using him at either forward position based on matchups; Tatum may be more effective as a quicker small-ball 4 next to Anthony Davis.
9. Denver Nuggets: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, 6'3", Freshman)
With either young talent or established veterans at every position, the Denver Nuggets won't draft based on need. They'll take the top player on their board, which at this point is likely to be De'Aaron Fox, who'll get top-five looks.
It will create both interesting debate and competition on the roster since Emmanuel Mudiay hasn't made much progress (37 percent FG) and has even regressed in a few areas. Fox doesn't help with perimeter scoring, but he projects as a better decision-maker and setup man for teammates, averaging 6.4 assists and just 2.2 turnovers per game. His defensive quickness and mentality are also big pluses.
Fox has the potential to impact games without needing to score 20 points.
It's not an ideal situation, but at No. 9 overall and with a potential quality starter on the board, the Nuggets will take Fox to collect assets (something they've been doing for years). They'll worry about fit or what to do with Mudiay later.
10. Sacramento Kings: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 6'5", 1998)
Frank Ntilikina brings poise and maturity to a franchise that isn't known for its discipline.
He helped himself with an MVP showing in December at the U18 European Championship, where he sank 17 of 29 three-point attempts.
At 6'5" with long arms and quick feet, he projects as a defensive asset capable of suffocating ball-handlers and guarding both backcourt positions. Ntilikina doesn't possess De'Aaron Fox's playmaking ability or Dennis Smith Jr.'s scoring potential, but his tools, skill level and versatility ace the eye test.
Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are free agents after the season, and it's time for the Sacramento Kings to draft a point guard, particularly one with a good head on his shoulders. The experience Ntilikina is getting in France's top league should only be viewed as positive, regardless of how little production he's putting up. Based on the U18 results, he's clearly ahead of the other prospects his age.
11. Orlando Magic: Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, 6'11", Sophomore)
At No. 11, the Orlando Magic won't find an immediate upgrade at any position. With Serge Ibaka's contract up after the year, though, frontcourt depth could be a priority.
Between Ivan Rabb's tools and production, he jumps out as a solid option once all the flashy top-10 names are off the board.
Rabb has been a force during Pac-12 play, averaging 17.3 points and 14.2 rebounds through six games. He's skilled in the post with advanced footwork and terrific hands. Even if his scoring fails to translate, Orlando should be able to bank on his finishing ability and relentless rebounding presence.
12. New York Knicks: Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF/C, 7'0", 1998)
The New York Knicks need to land and develop Derrick Rose's long-term replacement at point guard. Unfortunately for them, all the top prospects will be off the board by this point, and president Phil Jackson will be forced to test his luck overseas—again—this time with Isaiah Hartenstein.
The lanky big was excellent during December's U18 European Championship, where he showed off his scoring versatility, high-level passing and rebounding tools. He then returned to Zalgiris in Lithuania and had one of his best games as a pro in a 10-point, five-board effort January 2.
Hartenstein has the potential to give the Knicks physicality Kristaps Porzingis doesn't provide and offense Joakim Noah can't offer. He'll be an interesting frontcourt partner with the former, especially if Carmelo Anthony is out of the picture by next year.
13. Detroit Pistons: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, 6'7", Freshman)
The Detroit Pistons could use help in the backcourt, but no available guards are worth reaching on in the lottery. At No. 13, Miles Bridges should have established himself as the best available player. Since Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris are more skilled forwards, Bridges' explosiveness and bounce could work well off Detroit's bench.
He scored 24 points with four threes against Ohio State on Sunday during his first 30-minute game since returning from an ankle injury January 4.
His off-the-dribble game and shot-creation need work, but Bridges will earn his paycheck early on with easy buckets off transition, drives, cuts, putbacks and spot-up shooting chances.
14. Charlotte Hornets: Harry Giles III (Duke, PF/C, 6'10", Freshman)
At No. 14, Harry Giles III's upside becomes worth the risk that comes with his injury history and limited reps.
He hasn't done much through seven games this season, averaging just 13.3 minutes and 5.6 points. But as long as he stays healthy, Giles should be able to give the Charlotte Hornets easy finishes and high-energy rebounding. They'll hope that's a worst-case scenario—Giles has a ton of room to grow as a post scorer and shooter.
The Hornets will draft his tools and athleticism, betting that his durability and skills catch up over time.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Justin Patton (Creighton, PF/C, 6'11", Freshman)
Justin Patton is playing himself into the 2017 draft with consistent scoring that continues to strengthen his case.
It doesn't look fluky anymore: Patton, a redshirt freshman who dramatically improved his body and skills, is averaging 14.0 points on 73.7 percent shooting.
Athletic with 6'11" size, he's an enormous and effective finishing target at the rim, but also a nimble post scorer with both hands. Along with a developing back-to-the-basket game, he's flashed the ability to use the dribble and attack closeouts, finish on the move or find the open man.
With five three-point makes as well, there is too much upside, production and efficiency to pass on at No. 15. A year older than most in his class, look for Patton to test the waters and hear enough positive feedback to stay in the draft.
16. Chicago Bulls: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF/C, 6'9", Freshman)
The Chicago Bulls could retool up front as Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic enter free agency.
Robert Williams has emerged as a strong big-man prospect, rising for his shot-blocking potential (4.7 per 40 minutes), finishing ability (62.1 percent from the floor) and flashes of skill. He's now scored in double figures during 11 of 16 games despite averaging just 7.3 shots per contest.
The Bulls will take him for his offensive efficiency and rim protection, but with a jump hook and mid-range touch, there is more upside for Chicago's coaches to unlock.
17. Indiana Pacers: TJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, 6'10", Freshman)
Nobody has stopped TJ Leaf at the college level. The question is whether his success will translate given his lack of physical maturity and explosiveness.
It's worth finding out at No. 17 overall.
Highly skilled, from his handle and footwork to his jumper, Leaf averages 16.8 points by driving, shooting and crashing the offensive glass. Myles Turner's rim protection should help hide Leaf's defensive limitations with the Indiana Pacers. Regardless, he's sharp enough offensively with the energy and IQ to carve out a specialist role off the bench.
18. Milwaukee Bucks: OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, 6'8", Sophomore)
OG Anunoby hasn't made the offensive jump to justify lottery consideration, averaging 11.4 points. But the Milwaukee Bucks will covet his athleticism, length and defense at No. 18.
His position won't matter coming off the bench. The Bucks will use him to guard small-ball 4s, wings and big ball-handlers, hoping his jumper becomes reliable enough.
Unless Anunoby makes dramatic improvement to his ball skills, he isn't likely to offer great scoring potential. He'll fit in as a defensive specialist with a threatening three ball and the bounce to finish off cuts, drives and transition.
19. Washington Wizards: Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, 6'10", Freshman)
Even if his skills never catch up, Edrice "Bam" Adebayo can still bring effective athleticism in the form of easy finishes and rebounds.
An explosive leaper off two feet, he's a huge target for lobs and a high-percentage scorer around the basket. Adebayo consistently gets himself dunks by running the floor, crashing the glass and rolling off screens.
Any made post moves, jump hooks or short jumpers should be viewed as a bonus.
His role with Washington won't be much different from the one he has at Kentucky: Adebayo's calling card is energy and making plays without needing any run for him.
20. Denver Nuggets (via MEM): Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers, SG, 6'7", 1998)
Terrance Ferguson looked like a first-round pick before opting to play in Australia's National Basketball League.
The little production (5.1 points per game) he has to show for his time abroad won't destroy his stock. At 18 years old, Ferguson has held his own in a supporting role among pros overseas, where he's flashed the same athleticism and shooting stroke that fueled the hype out of high school.
Ferguson's lack of shot-creating ability knocks him outside the lottery, but his convincing tools and three-and-D potential win over the Denver Nuggets.
21. Atlanta Hawks: Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF/C, 6'10", Junior)
Johnathan Motley's ceiling isn't too exciting, but the Atlanta Hawks won't focus on upside at No. 21. They'll look for a rotation player who can contribute on a rookie contract over the few years. As Paul Millsap, Mike Muscala and Mike Scott enter free agency, the Atlanta Hawks may need to add frontcourt depth.
Motley is skilled around the basket with a 6'10", 230-pound frame and 7'3 ½" wingspan. The Hawks could call on him early for inside scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking.
The flashes of post moves, mid-range shooting and face-up drives help push Motley into the first round. Between his developing skills, tools and effectiveness at the rim, there is enough here for the Hawks to feel good about his carving out a role.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, 6'8", Junior)
Justin Jackson looks to have finally turned the corner, averaging 17.9 points and shooting 40.5 percent from downtown.
Jackson's jumper has clicked as he's found a rhythm from outside, and though not a dangerous shot creator, he's finding ways to score in volume with a small 24.1 percent usage rate. He's already hit 12 more threes than he did as a sophomore.
Creating off the dribble isn't a strength, but there is more to his game. Jackson has a soft floater, above-average passing ability for a forward and noticeably good body control in transition. The Oklahoma City Thunder need help on the wing and should value his shot-making ability and high-IQ offense.
23. Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort (France, PF/C, 6'9", 1995)
Mathias Lessort has made himself easy to identity with consistent activity and production, playing a significant role for JSF Nanterre in France's top league.
Per 36 minutes in LNB Pro A, he's averaging 17.2 points and 11.6 rebounds on 60.5 percent shooting. Lessort's 250-pound frame and foot speed stand out: He uses his strength to overwhelm around the basket, where he puts pressure on the offensive glass and scores with his back to the basket. But he's also mobile and gets himself buckets rolling off screens and running the floor.
In need of a center, the Jazz can add Lessort, who'll be 22 years old by next season, to compete for the backup 5 job.
24. Brooklyn Nets (via Celtics): Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, 6'10", Sophomore)
The Brooklyn Nets go after Tyler Lydon to help space the floor and knock down shots.
Lydon is making over 40 percent of his threes for the second straight year; his jumper and athleticism create coveted stretch-4 potential. Lydon hasn't shown much as a shot creator and doesn't offer physical rebounding or strong perimeter defense, but between his range and leaping ability, he'll give the Nets triples and dunks.
To Brooklyn, his fit and value as a big who can shoot are more attractive than his upside.
25. Toronto Raptors (via Clippers): Dwayne Bacon (FSU, SG/SF, 6'7", Sophomore)
Averaging 17.8 points, Dwayne Bacon gets into the first round with his scoring, tools (6'7", 221-pound size) and athleticism.
The Toronto Raptors will look to develop him into an offensive specialist whose job is to come in and make shots—the way Tim Hardaway Jr. does in Atlanta and Justin Holiday does in New York.
Bacon is shooting better than either this season, hitting 1.7 threes per game. He'll carve out a role by converting at a high rate in transition and knocking down enough jump-shot opportunities that find him within the offense.
26. Toronto Raptors: Cameron Oliver (Nevada, PF, 6'8", Sophomore)
Searching for a power forward with their second first-round pick, the Toronto Raptors could look at Cameron Oliver given the improvement he's made to his jumper.
He's hit 32 threes after knocking down 20 as a freshman. Between his shooting and three blocks per game, Oliver offers a unique, valuable mix of shooting and rim protection.
He is an explosive athlete, and the Raptors won't be turned off by his 6'8" size. Oliver will continue to fly below the radar, but he'll be a hot name during the predraft process when he's placed on a more equal playing field with other draft-eligible power-conference prospects.
27. Houston Rockets: Edmond Sumner (Xavier, PG, 6'5", Sophomore)
The Houston Rockets could use another ball-handler, and though Edmond Sumner's jumper still hasn't clicked, his size, athleticism, defense and room to improve are too enticing at No. 27.
Even if he never learns to shoot, he should be able to generate offense as a transition weapon, slasher and playmaker. The Rockets won't worry about his shooting this late. Instead, they'll covet his ability to get into the lane and put pressure on the defense off the dribble. Sumner took 13 free throws against Butler on January 14 and 17 against Georgetown on December 31.
He becomes a steal if he ever starts making outside shots.
28. Trail Blazers (via Cavs): Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, SF, 6'7", Senior)
The Portland Trail Blazers could look at Jaron Blossomgame as a small-ball 4, where his lack of shooting range won't hurt as much as it would from the wing position.
With a 6'7", 220-pound frame, he's explosive and physical enough to compete against power forwards. He'll also give them trouble with his quickness, driving and scoring improvisation in the lane and post.
Blossomgame has hit the 20-point mark in four straight games and continues to punish defenses without a jumper. The Blazers will value his ability to guard multiple positions and find ways to finish off action toward the rim.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Josh Hart (Villanova, SG, 6'6", Senior)
The San Antonio Spurs will likely value Josh Hart's toughness, basketball IQ and defense, but it's his improved offensive game that gets him into the first round. Averaging 19.3 points, 3.6 assists and 1.9 three-point makes per game, he's strengthened his scoring attack, playmaking skills and shooting.
Average athleticism for a guard suggests Hart's ceiling only goes so high, but his versatility should cover enough ground for him to earn a role and stick.
The Spurs are on the cusp of a backcourt overhaul, and stocking up on prospects to begin developing now is a great idea.
30. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): Alec Peters (Valparaiso, PF, 6'9", Senior)
The Utah Jazz draft Alec Peters for his shot-making and basketball IQ—strengths that should help him carve out a supporting role.
Complete with a three ball, mid-range game and post moves, Peters' skill level helps compensate for limited athleticism. He put on an offensive clinic against Cleveland State on Saturday with his third 30-point game of the season.
His volume scoring won't translate, but that's not what he'll be called on for in the pros. Peters will earn a spot by knocking down jumpers and opportunistically converting within the offense.
All statistics accurate heading into Monday, January 16, and are via RealGM.com or Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. All height and weight information via DraftExpress or school bios unless otherwise noted.
Jonathan Wasserman covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @NBADraftWass