Most Ideal Landing Spots for 2017 NBA Draft's Top Prospects
Team fit can play a significant role in prospects' development fresh after the NBA draft.
Some players need immediate reps, while others require talent to play off of and time to learn from the bench. Prospects want to land on a roster that can hide their weaknesses.
A franchise gets the best of both worlds when the top player available also happens to fill a hole.
I projected the most mutually beneficial fits based on what each prospect needs to flourish, and what each team needs to improve their roster.
For the prospects, we only used teams that had realistic chances to draft that particular player based on where they are in the current standings.
10. Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman): Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks projected lineup with Lauri Markkanen:
PG: Yogi Ferrell (or free agent)
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: Nerlens Noel
Lauri Markkanen isn't the next Dirk Nowitzki, but at 7'0" with shooting range, perimeter scoring and just average athleticism, they're cut from similar cloths. With a matching skill set, Markkanen should slide right in once the legend calls it quits.
Even before, it could be time to move him to the bench with Dallas' future the priority. In the meantime, Markkanen couldn't ask for a more fitting mentor, given how Nowitzki managed to compensate for limited explosiveness.
Markkanen also needs to play alongside a defensive-minded big, having struggled in rim protection and only blocked 19 shots all season. Assuming the Mavericks try to re-sign Nerlens Noel, his athleticism around the basket and Markkanen's ability to play away from it would continue to give the Dallas frontcourt balance.
9. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman): Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers projected lineup with Malik Monk:
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: Malik Monk
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Dario Saric
C: Joel Embiid
Assuming the Philadelphia 76ers make Ben Simmons the team's primary ball-handler and playmaker, Malik Monk stands out as the ideal complement.
Given Simmons' struggles as a shooter, the Sixers should value Monk's shot-making, specifically his ability to knock down jumpers off screens, spot-ups and transition—not one-on-one dribbles. Meanwhile, Monk should benefit from Simmons' passing and all the attention Joel Embiid draws in the post.
The Sixers rank dead last in offensive efficiency, and Monk just averaged 19.8 points and 2.7 three-point makes. His perimeter-scoring ability can give the lineup an immediate boost.
8. Frank Ntilikina (France, PG/SG, 1998): New York Knicks
New York Knicks projected lineup with Frank Ntilikina:
PG: Frank Ntilikina
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Willy Hernangomez
If the New York Knicks are looking for a fit, Frank Ntilikina checks numerous boxes.
Defense stands out as an obvious selling point, given the team's No. 25 ranking in efficiency. Ntilikina, who's 6'5" with a reported 7'0" wingspan, can overwhelm opposing ball-handlers and guard multiple positions.
But he's also proven capable of playing both spots offensively; Ntilikina actually plays the 2 for Strasbourg IG. His versatility could allow the Knicks to target a free-agent point guard like Jrue Holiday without creating a logjam.
The fact that he's efficiently producing (47.6 percent FG, 41.1 percent 3PT) in an off-ball role suggests he can succeed in president Phil Jackson's triangle, which stays away from isolation and ball screens, instead valuing players who can make plays within a system or set.
7. Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman): Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks projected lineup with Dennis Smith Jr.:
PG: Dennis Smith Jr.
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Harrison Barnes
Yogi Ferrell was a nice pickup for the Dallas Mavericks, but he's not the full-time answer at starting point guard. Highly skilled and athletic, Dennis Smith Jr., who averaged 18.1 points and 6.2 assists per game, projects as more of a long-term cornerstone to build around.
With him and Seth Curry, the Mavericks' backcourt could quickly go from below average to dangerous.
Smith can get his own shot, convert from all three levels or set the table. His scoring and playmaking would go a long way for a team whose leading assist man is J.J. Barea (5.1 per game) and second-leading scorer turns 39 years old in June.
6. De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman): Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers projected lineup with De'Aaron Fox:
PG: De'Aaron Fox
SG: D'Angelo Russell
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Ivica Zubac
If you're a point guard expected to go top 10, the Los Angeles Lakers are your hope.
Coaches have already shown a willingness to move D'Angelo Russel off the ball, a move that clears the way for a rookie to potentially take over. And we just saw De'Aaron Fox experience great success playing alongside a volume perimeter scorer in Malik Monk. A Fox-Russell duo could put similar pressure on defenses, with Fox's athleticism and driving and Russell's perimeter shot-making.
Between Russell and Brandon Ingram, who should take a step forward next year as a shooter, Fox would also be surrounded by outside threats—key, given his suspect 17-of-69 three-point numbers.
For the team that ranks last in defensive efficiency, Fox's quick feet should be appealing as well. He'll need to get stronger, but he clearly has the chance to develop into a pesky on-ball defender.
5. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman): Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves projected lineup with Jonathan Isaac:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Zach LaVine (injured)
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Jonathan Isaac
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
With franchise cornerstones at the 3 and 5 and two notable point guards on the depth chart, the Minnesota Timberwolves have holes to fill at the 2 and 4 spots. Nobody fits easier into the team's lineup than Jonathan Isaac, whose strengths also fill needs.
If Karl-Anthony Towns has flashed weakness, it's on defense, where Isaac's pick-and-roll coverage shines. At 6'10", he's disruptive at the rim but also quick enough to switch onto wings and guards around the perimeter.
Offensively, Isaac has proven he can be effective without needing isolation touches or volume shots. With a small 20.3 percent usage rate, he averaged 18.3 points per 40 minutes on 50.8 percent shooting as Florida State's third option. That's more-or-less the same role he'd play in Minnesota behind Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
4. Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman): Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic projected lineup with Jayson Tatum:
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Vucevic
The Orlando Magic should be eyeing Jayson Tatum's scoring potential, given the team ranks No. 29 in the league in offensive efficiency.
Their current starting forwards, Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross, each average fewer than 12 points per game and struggle to create their own shots. Tatum, easily the most advanced one-on-one wing in the field, could give the lineup a much-needed go-to option.
Orlando also hasn't reached the playoffs since 2012 and isn't known for its free-agent recruiting. The fact that Tatum projects as one of the more NBA-ready rookies, based on his skill level, production and NBA tools, should look even more attractive to management.
On the other hand, Tatum should feel good about the available minutes he'd receive right away with the Magic.
3. Josh Jackson (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman): Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns projected lineup with Josh Jackson:
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Josh Jackson
PF: Marquese Chriss
C: Alex Len
Josh Jackson will be a target for the Phoenix Suns, even if they win the lottery and wind up picking No. 1.
He's at least put himself in the top-overall-prospect mix with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. And the Suns have needed to upgrade their wing for years. Their two starting guards each average over 21 points per game, and general manager Ryan McDonough just drafted two promising bigs in 2016.
The Suns, who rank No. 29 in the league in assists and No. 28 in defensive efficiency, should value Jackson's unique passing ability and quickness to guard the perimeter.
He'd fit seamlessly into the lineup and rebuilding plans, but it wouldn't be shocking if Jackson also developed into the best two-way player from the 2016 class.
2. Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman): Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers' projected lineup with Lonzo Ball:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: D'Angelo Russell
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Ivica Zubac
The Los Angeles Lakers have assets across the board, from the backcourt to the front. They'll call on Lonzo Ball to maximize all the talent, just like he did for the UCLA Bruins.
The Lakers have already begun to experiment with D'Angelo Russell playing 2-guard, where he can focus more on scoring and less on running the offense. The latter happens to be Ball's bread and butter. With his basketball IQ and floor game, his presence should help expedite the development of the younger prospects like Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle.
Between the spotlight L.A. provides and the supporting scorers in the lineup, the Lakers should also be an attractive destination to Ball, who's played both high school and college hoops in California.
1. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman): Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics projected lineup with Markelle Fultz:
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Markelle Fultz
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Al Horford
Having just gone through a depressing 9-22 season, Markelle Fultz needs to wash off the losing culture in a more positive, winning environment.
Any prospect would benefit from going to the Boston Celtics, who can offer time, talent to play off of and postseason experience.
Isaiah Thomas could ultimately help take pressure off Fultz, who'd just spent a year being the focal point of every opposing game plan. Together, he and Thomas would have the potential to overwhelm opponents with scoring and playmaking. And Fultz ultimately brings enough size, length and shooting to line up at 2-guard.
Advanced stats courtesy of ESPN.