2017 NBA Mock Draft: Pre-All Star Game Edition
Movement in the NBA standings has led to changes on the pre-All-Star Game mock draft board.
The Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves have dropped into the top five, while the Philadelphia 76ers are now at No. 6. And for the first time in 2017, the New York Knicks are projected to pick in the top 10.
While Washington's Markelle Fultz misses games to nurse a knee injury, UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Kansas' Josh Jackson continue strengthening their stock by playing some of their best ball of the year.
Two breakout juniors have quietly crept up the board to No. 15 and No. 19, respectively. And with a few teams having already made trades to acquire multiple first-round picks, more international players could jump into the first round as draft-and-stash plays.
Draft order based on NBA standings heading into Tuesday night's games. Draft-pick trades were accounted for.
1. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, Freshman)
As the Boston Celtics inch closer to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the standings, they're running away as the favorites to win the 2017 lottery. The Brooklyn Nets, who'll swap picks with Boston, now have eight fewer wins than the Phoenix Suns, the second-worst team in the league.
General manager Danny Ainge will consider UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Kansas' Josh Jackson here, and he'll entertain the idea of trading the pick for a star if one became available, too.
But at this point, Washington's Markelle Fultz remains the consensus answer for the nation's top prospect. If Ainge is in that camp and no trade scenarios emerge, he'll take Fultz and pair him with Isaiah Thomas to form one of the league's most dynamic offensive backcourts.
Washington's floor general has been as good (if not better) than advertised, despite what the team's 9-16 record might suggest. Athletic, unselfish and skilled, from his handle to his passing, shot-creating and shooting, Fultz projects as a full-service scoring playmaker with enough size, length and versatility to log minutes at either backcourt position, which is important for Boston.
2. Phoenix Suns: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)
Given the Phoenix Suns' need for a wing, Kansas forward Josh Jackson will be attractive at No. 2. But unlike UCLA's Lonzo Ball, Jackson doesn't have the potential to immediately change the identity of a franchise or help maximize the talent on the roster.
Though Phoenix's backcourt logjam would again become somewhat unsettling, it's not enough to make general manager Ryan McDonough pass on the opportunity to add a one-of-a-kind lead guard.
Ball's size, athleticism, unteachable vision, IQ and winning track record set him apart. The lights-out shooting (43.2 percent from three-point range) has been an unexpected bonus that's only helped alleviate scouts' concerns over his scoring.
A lineup with Ball at the point, Eric Bledsoe at the 2 and Devin Booker at small forward could be explosive. Phoenix will draft Ball and figure out how to handle the rotation and roster later.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman)
Josh Jackson and Brandon Ingram would work as interchangeable wings in Los Angeles. Kansas' star freshman may even be earning himself No. 1 overall looks with his recent play.
Jackson's offense has started coming together, as he's averaging 20.4 points on 13-of-25 shooting from behind the arc over his last seven games. He's suddenly hitting jumpers, which, given how dangerous he is attacking the basket, has led to a more balanced attack over the past month.
Jackson's ball-handling, passing and defensive versatility should ultimately allow him to log minutes at the 2 alongside Ingram. The Lakers could also experiment with Jackson at the 3, Ingram at the 4 and Julius Randle at the 5 in a small-ball lineup.
Either way, Jackson has established himself as a best-player-available option for the Lakers if the Phoenix Suns don't take him at No. 2. If they did, Lonzo Ball would then likely become the default pick for L.A.
4. Orlando Magic: Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)
Dennis Smith Jr. should attract an Orlando Magic team ranked 29th in offensive efficiency, per ESPN.com.
He makes sense for Orlando both in terms of need and talent, which is strong enough to earn consideration from every team in the lottery.
Smith is known more for his scoring (18.7 points per game), but he puts pressure on the defense and rim with change-of-speed drives and pull-up jumpers. He's also tied for fifth in the nation in assists per game.
Third-year floor general Elfrid Payton is currently coming off the bench in Orlando, and though he's made progress, his ceiling doesn't touch Smith's.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)
Upside at both ends will force the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic to give Jonathan Isaac legitimate consideration. He could easily be the Minnesota Timberwolves' best available player at No. 5, but his fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is a big plus as well.
The T-Wolves should value Isaac's defensive versatility as a forward who can block shots (1.5 per game) and move his feet to guard the perimeter.
They won't be turned off by his lack of offensive production compared to other elite prospects, considering Florida State uses him in just 21.4 percent of its possessions (when he's on the floor) and he only attempts eight shots per game.
Unselfish yet capable of taking over, Isaac has flashed impressive shooting range and the ability to create his own shot with drives, step-backs, pull-ups and fallaways out of the post. He's the only freshman to rank top 10 nationally in box plus-minus.
6. Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Given the Philadelphia 76ers' need for guard play and shot-makers, Kentucky's Malik Monk will likely be one of their targets entering the draft.
The fact that Monk scores off spot-ups, screens and transition without needing many dribbles makes him a strong fit in a lineup alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Monk is prone to the occasional off game, which is the result of a jumper-heavy shot selection. And those off games will likely follow him to the pros. But the Sixers should value his ability to catch fire, take over for stretches and bail out the offense.
He'd be a good bet to offer Philadelphia instant scoring as a rookie, even if it comes in spurts.
7. New Orleans Pelicans: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman)
In Jayson Tatum, the New Orleans Pelicans finally get the scoring wing they've needed for years.
He's demonstrated high-level shot-creating with nifty footwork and ball-handling, and though his three-ball needs work, Tatum's jumper and off-balance shot-making skills have looked encouraging. The fact that he's a smooth athlete with 6'8" size suggests his offensive game can translate.
New Orleans could even try playing Tatum at power forward, where he's been most effective for Duke, using his quickness and perimeter game against slower bigs.
Averages of 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks highlight defensive playmaking ability as well. Pelicans coaches will just need to work with him on sharpening his shot selection, long-range shooting and pick-and-roll offense.
8. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)
The Dallas Mavericks could plug Lauri Markkanen right in for Dirk Nowitzki if this turns out to be the Big German's final season.
Arizona's big man has already solidified his reputation for being an elite shooter, having knocked down a remarkable 47.2 percent of his 123 three-point attempts. Between that and the fact he converted 40.6 percent of his three-point attempts during 33 FIBA games dating back to 2013, his long-range success at Arizona appears legitimate.
More than just a spot-up threat, at 7'0", Markkanen has shown he can handle the ball over screens and even create his own shot off the dribble around the perimeter.
Questions remain about how his ceiling, given his defensive limitations (11 blocks and nine steals all year) and uninspiring 14.1 rebounding percentage. But the Mavericks will be zeroed in on Markkanen's unique skill level and offensive fit in today's NBA.
9. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 1998)
New York Knicks team president Phil Jackson won't be hesitant to draft an international prospect after striking gold with second-year big man Kristaps Porzingis in 2015. Frank Ntilikina, the MVP of December's U18 European Championships, will attract Jackson with his defensive upside, maturity and offensive versatility.
Ntilikina is a point guard, but at 6'5", he has experience playing off the ball and is shooting 38.2 percent from three. He should wind up being interchangeable in the backcourt, which gives the Knicks flexibility when looking to build in free agency.
Defense may be Ntilikina's most compelling selling point. He's suffocated opposing ball-handlers with his length and lateral foot speed, but he can also guard multiple positions.
Even if Ntilikina's ceiling doesn't scream All-Star, his floor says high-end NBA role player.
10. Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
The Sacramento Kings will look to add a second cornerstone from Kentucky if De'Aaron Fox is still available at No. 10. Chances are, one of the top point guards will be.
Fox's poor shooting could cause him to slip, but not past the Kings, who could use a new lead guard with Darren Collison and Ty Lawson each set to become unrestricted free agents in July.
Fox's ability to set up teammates and apply defensive pressure are major selling points to Sacramento. Quick and shifty, he makes things happen off the dribble, both as a scorer in the lane and passer.
At No. 10, the Kings will value his two-way playmaking potential and hope his jumper becomes good enough.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)
There is still talent left to unlock in Jusuf Nurkic, whom the Portland Trail Blazers just acquired via a trade with the Denver Nuggets, but Justin Patton's upside is greater.
Athletic and coordinated, Patton is shooting 70 percent from the floor while averaging 21.6 points per 40 minutes. Between his 6'11" size and bounce, he's an enormous target at the basket, where he consistently picks up easy buckets off dump downs, dives and rim runs.
Patton has also demonstrated a high skill level with post footwork, counter moves and shooting touch out to the three-point arc. He's looked comfortable putting the ball on the deck and making a play on the move.
The concerns with Patton stem from a lack of toughness and power inside, but his offensive development and potential are too intriguing for Portland to pass up at No. 11.
12. Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 1998)
The Miami Heat won't be worried about Isaiah Hartenstein's limited production with Zalgiris in Lithuania. He strengthened his draft case—which he'd built up over the years at FIBA tournaments and Eurocamp—in December at the U18 European Championships, where he averaged 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in fewer than 26 minutes per game.
The Heat should be drawn to Hartenstein's offensive skills at power forward, where his shooting potential and passing would complement Hassan Whiteside.
Strong under the boards with scoring ability around the block, plus a jumper and handle in the works, Hartenstein's physicality and offensive upside jump out.
13. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Freshman)
With one of the weaker offensive frontcourts in the league, the Charlotte Hornets should have their eyes on Miles Bridges at No. 13.
He packs explosive power and leaping ability around the rim, where he consistently gets easy finishes off drives, transition, lobs and putbacks.
Whether he can bust through his ceiling will come down to his perimeter ball-skill development and shooting. Bridges isn't the sharpest shot-creator, and though he's knocking down rouhgly 40 percent of his threes, a 61.7 percent free-throw clip suggests to be wary.
Still, late in the lottery, it's worth betting on his handle and jumper catching up to his tools and unique athleticism.
14. Milwaukee Bucks: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF, Freshman)
Robert Williams has put himself in the mix as the draft's top defender, thanks to a monster 7'4" wingspan, 4.2 blocks per 40 minutes and a top-20 defensive plus-minus in the country, per Sports-Reference.com.
His offensive game is behind, but it's coming together, with Williams having hit the 18-point mark in three straight games, showing off a budding mid-range jumper.
The Milwaukee Bucks target Williams for his rim protection, high energy under the boards and offensive efficiency around the rim, but also for his potential to improve as a shooter and low-post scorer. He's a high-floor big with major upside.
15. Denver Nuggets: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)
Justin Jackson has played himself into the first round by averaging 18.7 points and 2.6 threes per game while shooting 39.5 percent from deep.
Along with the improved long-range efficiency, he's also become a more well-rounded scorer with floaters and a tougher off-the-dribble game, while his high-IQ passing has always remained a strength.
If Danilo Gallinari gets traded in the next week (which is a distinct possibility, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein) or opts out after the season, the Denver Nuggets could use Jackson's skill set on the wing. To go at No. 15, he may need a big March for North Carolina, though that hasn't been an issue for him over the past two years.
16. Detroit Pistons: John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)
Make that eight straight 20-plus-point games for John Collins, one of the country's breakout stars.
At No. 16, he'd give the Detroit Pistons some extra bounce at power forward alongside center Andre Drummond. Collins has consistently picked up easy buckets for Wake Forest by beating teams down the floor and backdoor for lobs.
Defense and basketball IQ aren't strong suits for Collins, but that won't matter outside the lottery. An exciting athlete, lively rebounder and developing shooter in the mid-range, he has emerged as an enticing mid-first-round option.
17. Chicago Bulls: Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, Sophomore)
The Chicago Bulls have gotten little out of Bobby Portis. Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic will be free agents after the season, and Robin Lopez has already been involved in trade rumors, per Basketball Insiders' Michael Scotto.
After two productive years at California, Ivan Rabb could potentially play minutes right away in Chicago.
He's averaging a double-double despite drawing a lot more attention from opponents. Rabb hasn't blown up as a scorer, but his post game still commands double-teams, and he's consistently won the battle under the boards.
He'll settle into Chicago as a finish-and-rebound big man, capable of opportunistically scoring when the ball finds him isolated one-on-one.
18. Indiana Pacers: Harry Giles III (Duke, PF, Freshman)
With three knee surgeries under his belt and an average of just 5.0 points per game, Harry Giles III will have a tough time selling himself as a lottery pick.
The Indiana Pacers could end his fall at No. 18, where his upside becomes worth the risk.
Giles has given Duke a finisher, active rebounder and capable option around the block. And if his explosiveness returns, with his tools (6'11", 7'3" wingspan), he should be able to give the Pacers the same contributions.
But to come anywhere close to meeting the hype he generated out of high school, Giles must make signifiant strides as a post scorer and mid-range shooter. The Pacers will be patient in hopes of grooming him into their long-term answer at the 4 next to Myles Turner.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder: Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF, Junior)
Already equipped with NBA tools, including a 230-pound frame and 7'3 ½" wingspan, Johnathan Motley has developed into a skilled scorer.
Averaging 22.4 points per 40 minutes, he's improved his footwork, touch with both hands and mid-range jumper. In doses, we've seen him face up, attack and finish off one foot on the move. An 18.9 rebounding percentage is also assuring, as is the gradual progress he's made since arriving at Baylor.
Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder likely did with Domantas Sabonis, they'll value Motley for his role-player floor, not an All-Star ceiling.
20. Toronto Raptors: Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers, SF, 1998)
Terrance Ferguson remains quiet overseas in Australia's National Basketball League, but the eye test and his high school results should help secure first-round looks.
Athletic and quick with 6'7" size and a shooting stroke, he jumps out as a three-and-D player at baseline with room for his offensive skills to improve.
21. Atlanta Hawks: T.J. Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)
With Paul Millsap potentially leaving (either in free agency or via trade) and Mike Muscala, Mike Scott, Kris Humphries and Tiago Splitter all in the final year of their respective contracts as well, the Atlanta Hawks should look to go big at No. 21.
NBA teams will covet T.J. Leaf's shooting and playmaking potential from the stretch 4 position, where he's converting 45.8 percent of his three-point attempts and averaging 2.7 assists for UCLA.
Leaf's lackluster defensive abilities may limit him to part-time minutes in the NBA, but at this point in the draft, the Hawks will just be looking for a rotation player. His offensive versatility and high energy should be enough for him to contribute and stick in a supporting role.
22. Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies): Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
With their second first-round pick, the Portland Trail Blazers look to Luke Kennard for shot-making and high-IQ offense.
His 20.0 points per game and 45.9 percent three-point shooting this season are obvious selling points, but Kennard's ability to handle the ball and pass highlights a well-rounded offensive attack.
If he can hold his own defensively and cleanly separate from his man—challenges that will be present due to a lack of quickness and athleticism—Kennard's shooting and vision should give him role-player value.
23. Utah Jazz: OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)
Unless doctors hint at OG Anunoby's season-ending knee injury presenting long-term complications, his draft stock isn't likely to tank. Someone is bound to gamble on his athleticism returning, defense translating and shooting improving.
Regardless of how much Anunoby's offense develops over the next few years, scouts still feel good about his potential to guard multiple positions. Assuming he gets back to full strength, his first step and leaping ability will lead to finishes off drives and transition.
He'll give the Utah Jazz lottery value if he adds a consistent three-ball. Anunoby was 27-of-74 from behind the arc in 50 career games for Indiana.
24. Washington Wizards: Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, Sophomore)
Tyler Lydon's shooting (42.3 percent from three, 81.6 percent from the free-throw line) will fuel first-round interest. He isn't a physical rebounder or threatening shot-creator, but at 6'10" with lively athleticism and deep range on his jumper, the Washington Wizards will look to tap into his stretch-4 potential.
Lydon has improved his ability to attack closeouts and put the ball on the floor. Adding playmaking to his skill set takes his value to an even higher level.
Either way, he gives the Wizards shot-making, spacing and bounce around the rim that Andrew Nicholson doesn't offer off the bench.
25. Orlando Magic (via Raptors, via LAC): Kostja Mushidi (Germany, SG, 1998)
With the second of their two first-round picks, the Orland Magic will use the draft-and-stash approach.
Kostja Mushidi jumps out as a first-round talent in need of seasoning. He'll get it in Serbia for Mega Leks—at 18 years old, he's already playing 23.3 minutes per game, averaging 9.2 points and 1.8 made three-pointers.
Mushidi's physical tools and athleticism pass the eye test, while flashes of shot-creating, shot-making, playmaking and defense will help lead to first-round looks. After hitting a rough patch, he combined for 28 points and six threes over his two most recent games in February.
Mushidi isn't ready for the NBA, but neither are most of the upperclass NCAA options available this late. He'll be a boom-or-bust option worth gambling on in the 20s if he chooses to declare.
26. Brooklyn Nets (via Celtics): Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
The Brooklyn Nets would look at Bam Adebayo as the best player available after a slide to No. 26.
The reason for the fall: He's been a below-average rebounder (13.3 rebounding percentage) and shot-blocker (5.6 block percentage) for a center who doesn't project as a scorer or shooter. His explosive athleticism for a 260-pounder could still hold value, though.
Adebayo's speed, leaping ability and coordination lead to easy buckets off rim runs, pick-and-rolls, catch-and-finishes and putbacks. Brooklyn will hope those are baseline contributions he can build on with post-skill development and improved mid-range touch.
27. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers): Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 1998)
After an early-season knee injury, Rodions Kurucs has re-entered the 2017 draft discussion with a productive January and February.
Playing for Barcelona's B team in Spain's second division, he's averaged 13.5 points while shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range over his last eight games.
At 6'9", Kurucs is an excellent athlete with a projectable jumper and the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim in straight lines. Armed with three first-round picks, the Portland Trail Blazers will draft-and-stash using their third.
28. Houston Rockets: Jordan Bell (Oregon, PF, Junior)
Jordan Bell has emerged as a star role player for Oregon, shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and averaging 11.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.9 steals per 40 minutes. The Rockets could buy into his potential to succeed playing that same role in Houston.
Bell, whose defensive box plus-minus ranks fifth in the country, is an active, explosive athlete who taps into his leaping ability and motor to make plays around the basket. Though he's not an advanced scorer, the mid-range touch he's flashed could be enough.
The Houston Rockets will grab Bell and call on him to finish, crash the glass and disrupt defensively.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Josh Hart (Villanova, SG, Senior)
By improving his playmaking and shooting, Josh Hart has strengthened his NBA case this year as a potential role player.
Age and average athleticism limit him to late first-round looks, but alongside veterans in San Antonio, Hart fits playing a jack of all trades off the bench.
A tough defender who's taken his scoring to another level, averaging 18.8 points and 2.0 three-point makes per game, he checks enough boxes with the tools to compete.
30. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)
The leading scorer for a Top 10 team, Donovan Mitchell has become a fascinating talking point in the 2017 draft discussion.
Mitchell has more than doubled his scoring output to 15.2 points per game while already tripling last year's three-point total with 58 makes. The fact he's averaging 2.2 steals per contest and is ranked sixth in the country in box plus-minus only strengthens his pitch.
The Utah Jazz will overlook his 6'3" size at No. 30 because of his explosive athleticism, playmaking skills (2.7 assists to 1.8 turnovers) and a newfound jumper.
Stats accurate heading into Tuesday's games 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