2017 NBA Mock Draft: Conference Tournament Edition
Conference tournament play is underway, which means each NBA team has scouts spread out across the country evaluating for the draft.
This is a big week for all prospects, many of whom could see their seasons end with losses. The year for Washington's Markelle Fultz, our projected No. 1 pick, is officially over.
With back-to-back picks in the lottery, the Sacramento Kings have suddenly become one of the more interesting teams to follow. But the big shakeup in this mock draft edition involves the order.
For the first time, the Los Angeles Lakers are now projected to pick No. 2 overall.
1. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, 6'4", Freshman)
By the time draft night rolls around, the Boston Celtics will have already forgotten about Washington's record and all the losses. The team's performance shouldn't have any impact on the way general manager Danny Ainge scouts Markelle Fultz, an obvious star talent who didn't have much support in college.
Fultz, who's 6'4" and has the shooting stroke to play off the ball, should work just fine alongside Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics could unload on teams with backcourt scoring and playmaking firepower.
The Celtics could look to trade this pick for a star, but if it's going to cost them Fultz plus multiple players in the rotation, odds are Ainge keeps it. There will be more value that comes with Fultz on a rookie deal.
Assuming the knee issue that's forced him to miss the last four games of Washington's season isn't anything serious, Fultz shouldn't fall from the No. 1 spot, regardless of who wins the lottery.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)
After their eight straight losses, the Los Angeles Lakers leapfrogged the Phoenix Suns to the No. 2 spot on the mock draft board. That puts them in position to grab Lonzo Ball, who'd give the lineup a different brand of floor leadership from what D'Angelo Russell brings.
There isn't one player on the Lakers roster who averages at least five assists. Ball can come in and change the team's identity, flow and offensive efficiency, which currently ranks No. 25 in the NBA, per ESPN.
Coach Luke Walton could start Ball at the point, Russell at the 2—where he can focus more on scoring, his greatest strength—Brandon Ingram at the 3 and Julius Randle at the 4.
3. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)
It's tough to find a better fit for the Phoenix Suns than Josh Jackson, who also jumps out as the best player available at No. 3.
Lonzo Ball would have been interesting, but Jackson allows Phoenix to keep its exciting backcourt intact. He'd give the Suns' wing Andre Iguodala-like versatility with his unique passing (3.1 assists per game) and quickness to guard multiple positions.
Jackson has at least flashed the potential to improve in the one key area he's clearly behind. Now shooting 37.7 percent from three, he's demonstrated enough shot-making ability for teams, including Phoenix, to overlook questions about his jumper.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)
Kentucky's Malik Monk makes the most sense for the Philadelphia 76ers based on fit, but Jayson Tatum has separated himself as the best player available once Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson are off the board.
And the Sixers still can't afford to pass on talent, just because another player fills more of a need.
The big games from Tatum seem to outweigh the off ones. He just put on a one-on-one clinic against Clemson before hanging 25 points on Louisville in the ACC tournament, but he also now has at least four assists in three of Duke's last six games. He's flashed the potential to become more than just an isolation scorer.
Assuming the Sixers make Ben Simmons their primary ball-handler—and they should, otherwise there was no point in selecting him No. 1 overall—Tatum could slide nicely onto the wing and give the lineup another shot-creator who can generate his own offense.
5. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)
The Orlando Magic will think long and hard about Dennis Smith Jr., but with Elfrid Payton showing signs of life and the team likely anxious to finally move up the standings, replacing Payton with a rookie point guard isn't ideal.
They'll stick with their current backcourt and add a scorer on the wing. Jonathan Isaac, a 6'10" face-up mismatch, offers the Magic shooting, versatility and a lot more upside than current starter Terrence Ross.
Kentucky's Malik Monk could also get a look here, but Isaac, whose defensive potential is almost as appealing as his offense, stands out as the more complete, all-around prospect. The fact that Orlando is missing a sure thing at either forward position could make Isaac even more attractive to the Magic.
6. Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans): Dennis Smith Jr. (N.C. State, PG, Freshman)
As long as they don't pull a 2009 Minnesota Timberwolves and draft two consecutive point guards (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn), the Sacramento Kings should be thinking best-available-player with back-to-back lottery picks.
Without an identity or young players who've really proven themselves, they need to keep stockpiling assets.
Chances are they will target one point guard at No. 6 or No. 7. And despite an ugly last game against Clemson in the ACC tournament, Dennis Smith Jr. will still enter the draft viewed as a top-five-caliber talent.
Explosive with high-end scoring and playmaking potential, Smith can give the Kings lineup much-needed firepower and a floor general to build around.
7. Sacramento Kings: Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
The acquisition of Buddy Hield won't stop the Sacramento Kings from taking Malik Monk at No. 7 with their second lottery pick.
They'll just be looking to stockpile assets, and Monk looks like an exciting one they can bank on.
Averaging 21.2 points, shooting 46.3 percent and 40.9 percent from three with elite-level athleticism to back up the numbers, he projects as a microwave, streak scorer at the least.
Hield and Monk could compete for the starting job in Sacramento. The loser would ultimately seem like a textbook sixth man to bring off the bench.
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG/SG, 1998)
Frank Ntilikina continues to build a top-10 case for himself overseas, averaging 14 points during Strasbourg's last three games.
The New York Knicks have to be watching, given the team's need to build its backcourt. Ntilikina's versatility, shooting, defense and maturity should be specific selling points to president Phil Jackson.
Ntilikina's game doesn't scream superstar, but it does say "likely to translate," between his size, length, ball skills and efficiency at 18 years old against pros in France.
With the ability to slide off the ball, which is where he plays in LNB Pro A, the Knicks could select Ntilikina and still go after a lead ball-handler like Jrue Holiday in free agency.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF, Freshman)
The Minnesota Timberwolves could have trouble passing on the draft's most interesting defensive big man. Robert Williams will have an edge at No. 9 if the team puts any stock into fit and need.
Williams, who's swatted 11 three-pointers and averages 3.9 blocks per 40 minutes, covers ground with his wheels, 7'4" wingspan and explosive leaping ability. In terms of filling a hole, his particular strengths sound ideal between Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
He's even scoring at a strong rate despite lacking skills or polish. Williams just went for 20 points against Kentucky on Saturday and is now averaging 15.1 points over Texas A&M's last nine games.
10. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)
With 7'0" size, a money shooting stroke and face-up scoring potential, the Dallas Mavericks could grab Lauri Markkanen and groom him to replace Dirk Nowitzki, an ideal mentor for the Finnish stretch big.
For continuity purposes, Markkanen would be a fitting addition, assuming the end is somewhat near for Nowitzki. The Mavericks could build with Markkanen playing either center or power forward, given his quickness and ability to play around the perimeter.
He's actually cooled off over the last few weeks and he won't add much to Dallas' defense. But between FIBA play and the first three months of his freshman season, Markkanen could afford a rough stretch. At the least, he'll give the Mavericks an additional shot-maker and space.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, PF, Freshman)
Arguably the top prospect on the board, Miles Bridges could give the Portland Trail Blazers a more explosive two-way punch from the power forward spot.
One of the top athletes in the draft, Bridges has earned attention with his insane leaping ability and quickness for a 230-pounder. But he's flashed some intriguing skills to go with it, including a 40.8 percent three-point stroke, slashing and passing.
With foot speed and a strong, wide frame, Bridges could actually win coaches over with his defensive versatility.
Even with questions concerning his NBA fit, his ceiling reaches another level compared to Maurice Harkless' or Al-Farouq Aminu's. The upside is worth the risk at No. 11 for Portland.
12. Charlotte Hornets: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
The Charlotte Hornets don't need a point guard, but they also wouldn't have expected De'Aaron Fox to be there at No. 12.
Top-10 teams could shy away from taking Fox, a non-shooter, and making him their new primary ball-handler. But in Charlotte, the Hornets could use him as a defensive-minded backup behind Kemba Walker.
His lack of shooting early on won't hurt the team in a smaller role off the bench. Fox could ultimately play to his strengths as a two-way playmaker in Charlotte. Worse-case scenario, he winds up becoming a potentially valuable trade chip later on.
13. Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)
The Milwaukee Bucks have shown a willingness to take on projects with early picks, from Giannis Antetokounmpo to Thon Maker. They'll be too enticed by Justin Patton's upside at No. 13.
Patton, an athletic, 6'11" center, came out of nowhere this season with flashes of post scoring, ball-handling, shooting and shot-blocking.
He's unsurprisingly struggled since veteran point guard Maurice Watson went down with an ACL tear, but scouts will recognize the significance of that loss when analyzing his dropoff in production.
Greg Monroe isn't the likely long-term answer in Milwaukee. With Maker and Patton, the Bucks could have two exciting, versatile young bigs to develop.
14. Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 1998)
The Miami Heat will go abroad for Isaiah Hartenstein, a skilled, versatile power forward with 230-pound size and athleticism.
He'll be in the lottery mix for other teams as well. Hartenstein had a strong U18 European Championships and a few big games since returning to Zalgiris in Lithuania.
With three-point range, some handles, high-level passing and scoring ability on the block, there is an enticing amount of upside for Heat coaches to unlock. Miami could use his inside-out offense between Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside.
15. Denver Nuggets: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)
Consistency has made Justin Jackson's big numbers and breakout season easy to buy.
The Denver Nuggets should be drawn to his scoring (18.3 points per game) and shooting (2.7 threes per game) from the wing, given the likelihood of Danilo Gallinari opting out of his contract.
More than just a shot-maker, Jackson has made improvements to his handle and creating ability, while his basketball IQ regularly shows on high-level passes.
The Nuggets will just have to put him on a strict weight-training program upon his arrival. Otherwise, Jackson's skills look lottery-sharp.
16. Chicago Bulls: Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF, Junior)
Nikola Mirotic's impending free agency and the Taj Gibson trade could mean the Chicago Bulls will be looking for bigs in the draft.
They'll have to consider Johnathan Motley, one of the class' top rebounders (10 per game) and improved scorers whose tools and athleticism pass the NBA eye test.
His floor is more attractive than his ceiling. Motley doesn't project as a high-upside player, but the Bulls can't reasonably expect to find that at No. 16. He'd give Chicago an active presence in the paint and a hopeful pick-and-pop mid-range option.
17. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)
Donovan Mitchell's breakout year, which isn't over yet, could propel him into the 2017 top 20. An abundance of big men left on the board could also benefit Mitchell, an explosive athlete, scorer and tough perimeter defender.
He's somewhat streaky, but he has a game built for the sixth-man role. And the Pistons backups behind Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are underwhelming for a playoff team.
The predraft process should only help Mitchell, who possesses workout-friendly leaping and shot-making ability.
18. Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
There will be general managers hesitant on Luke Kennard, given his glaring lack of athleticism. But one is bound to overlook limited burst for his shooting, IQ and craftiness.
At No. 18, it's worth finding out if he can compensate for suspect tools and no explosiveness with a high skill level and feel for the game.
Lights out from deep, making 2.4 threes per game at a scorching 44.1 percent clip, Kennard gives off the impression he can lean on his jumper to stick. But his 20.1 points per game reflect sneaky shot-creation and difficult shot-making ability off pull-ups and runners.
Without an exciting 2-guard to build with, the Indiana Pacers can take Kennard, who could settle in as an offensive specialist in a bench role at the least.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder: Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide, SF, 1998)
With the obvious talent drying up in the late-first round, the Oklahoma City Thunder could look to gamble at No. 19. Terrance Ferguson didn't have the most convincing one-and-done season in Australia's National Basketball League, but he was also a teenager among pros.
The potential he flashed out of high school should be intriguing enough for the Thunder, who could really use an additional wing.
Ferguson, an athletic shooter with promising defensive quickness, will look to sell himself as a three-and-D swingman during the predraft process.
20. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)
John Collins should attract the Atlanta Hawks with his flashy athleticism and major production. He struggled defensively in the ACC tournament, but the 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds he's averaged on the year help buy him wiggle room.
Collins has consistently dominated opposing front lines, seemingly just with his natural ability alone. He still lacks polished skills, but he's shown enough promise as a post scorer and mid-range shooter to suggest there will be more to his offensive game.
The Hawks have four big men entering free agency and should look to restock in the draft after taking two wings in 2016.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies): Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 1998)
The Portland Trail Blazers aren't likely bringing in three rookies with their picks at No. 11, No. 21 and No. 28. They'll draft-and-stash with one of them. Instead of taking the chance and waiting, Portland could grab Rodions Kurucs now, even if it's a reach, given the lack of convincing NCAA options this late in the first round.
Kurucs, one of Europe's higher-profile up-and-comers playing for Barcelona's junior team, has earned attention for his 6'9" size, athleticism, shooting range, scoring ability and overall two-way upside.
The Blazers will let him stay in Spain and hopefully earn minutes next year in the competitive Spanish ACB.
22. Toronto Raptors (via Clippers): Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, Sophomore)
Ivan Rabb looks poised to slip, having shown little year-to-year improvement. At No. 22, that won't bother the Toronto Raptors, who'll just be looking for a body to contribute on a cheap rookie deal the next few years.
The fact that his offensive game hasn't blown up won't matter in the role Toronto would give him. Rabb's job will be to rebound, which he does at a strong rate (13.1 per 40 minutes), finish and score in the post when fed in isolation.
His 8-of-18 mark from three also creates some hope for his shooting potential. Rabb becomes a steal this late if he can emerge as a reliable pick-and-pop option to complement his inside game.
23. Orlando Magic (via Raptors): TJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)
The Orlando Magic will continue building their frontcourt without reliable depth behind Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon.
TJ Leaf brings offensive versatility to the stretch 4 spot, where he's flashed three-point range, ball-handling and face-up scoring ability. He projects as a specialist to bring off the bench. Defensive limitations will prevent Leaf from being able to play full-time minutes, but his shooting and playmaking potential from the power forward position could cause problems for opposing backups.
Leaf will have the chance to rise further up boards during the NCAA tournament with UCLA in position to make noise.
24. Brooklyn Nets (via Wizards): Harry Giles III (Duke, PF, Freshman)
With two first-round picks and so little talent, the Brooklyn Nets should be looking to swing for the fences in the 20s. They're just the team to gamble on Harry Giles III, who'd arguably become the roster's highest-upside prospect.
However, he's barely playing at Duke and hasn't impressed when given time. Still, Giles has made his presence felt on the offensive glass, where his tools, coordination and motor take over. Offensively, Giles hasn't shown much at all, but he also hasn't been given the chance to build his confidence or skills with reps and touches.
The Nets could give him an opportunity in a no-pressure situation for a team outside of the spotlight. With nothing to lose, Giles is a gamble worth taking for Brooklyn this late.
25. Brooklyn Nets (via Celtics): OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)
If Harry Giles III doesn't work out for the Brooklyn Nets, maybe OG Anunoby will. They might as well keep swinging, hoping to land a stud with one of their two first-round picks.
Anunoby had generated lottery buzz prior to his season-ending knee surgery. Assuming doctors believe there is no long-term damage, the Nets could make a similar move as last year, when they took Caris LeVert, who'd also missed the final half of the season with an injury.
Before going down, Anunoby had established the reputation for being a defensive specialist with shooting potential. He looks the part with 6'8" size, long arms and elite athleticism. The Nets could get strong value here if Anunoby returns to full strength and gradually improves his capable jumper.
26. Utah Jazz: Kostja Mushidi (Germany, SG, 1998)
With the Utah Jazz suddenly in win-now mode, this pick at No. 26 doesn't help them in 2017-18. They can use it to invest in a long-term project who'll develop overseas.
Kostja Mushidi fits the bill, given his youth, lack of polish and two-way potential, which is worth chasing with a first-round pick.
He's been hot over Mega Leks' last four games, averaging 12.5 points on 10-of-24 shooting from three. With strong defensive tools, athleticism, range and ball skills, Mushidi has a lot of loose, promising parts.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets): Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
The Los Angeles Lakers could target Bam Adebayo's explosiveness around the basket, which they don't get from Ivica Zubac or Tarik Black.
He'll fall to the late-first round without versatile skills or convincing rebounding/shot-blocking numbers. But there is still value tied to the easy buckets his speed, power and bounce lead to off lobs, dump downs and transition.
After seemingly wasting $64 million on Timofey Mozgov, the Lakers will look to add another center in the draft without having to spend more in free agency.
28. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers): Jordan Bell (Oregon, PF/C, Junior)
Whomever the Portland Trail Blazers take at No. 28 will likely play most of their first season in the Development League.
They could see value in Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
He doesn't offer much scoring upside, but he's a tremendous athlete and active leaper at the rim, where he finishes, blocks shots and rebounds.
Bell may be a second-round talent, but his strengths seem likely to translate in a smaller energy role off the bench.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Josh Hart (Villanova, SG, Senior)
The San Antonio Spurs could view Josh Hart in the same light the Milwaukee Bucks saw Malcolm Brogdon last June. A jack-of-all-trades guard, Hart could thrive in a smaller role that allows him to play to his strengths, which include open shot-making, driving and passing—not creating.
Hart has taken each aspect of his game to another level in 2017, most notably his shooting (2.1 threes per game, 40.4 percent) and playmaking (3.2 assists per game).
Carrying Villanova to another deep run in the NCAA tournament could help improve Hart's stock even further.
30. Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort (France, 6'9", PF/C 1995)
It wouldn't be surprising if the Utah Jazz trade their second first-round pick. Either way, Mathias Lessort will be in play, and maybe as an option to bring right over.
He'll be 22 years old next season, and he's producing at a high rate overseas, particularly as of late. Lessort, an athletic, mobile 250-pounder with a live motor, is averaging 11 points and 10.7 rebounds over his last three games.
If the Jazz do keep this pick, they could actually let Lessort compete for the backup center position. Having a fellow Frenchman like Rudy Gobert to learn under couldn't hurt, either.
Stats accurate heading into Thursday's games and are via RealGM.com, Hoop-Math.com and 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