NBA Mock Draft 2017: Last Update Before the Combine
With the 2017 NBA Draft Combine running May 9-14 in Chicago, prospects are preparing for the dozens of coaches, general managers and scouts who line the courts and fill the gym.
It's an opportunity to move the needle, not just during five-on-fives or athletic testing, but in interviews, when teams are meeting players for the first time.
The lottery follows on May 16 and prospects start working out for teams.
With a week to go before the combine, the draft board remains fluid but still dominated by point guards at the top.
1. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, 6'4", Freshman)
It wouldn't be surprising to eventually hear trade rumors involving the No. 1 pick and Paul George or Jimmy Butler, stars for teams in position to rebuild. Adding one of them would presumably strengthen the Boston Celtics' chances of reaching the NBA Finals in 2018.
However, general manager Danny Ainge could see more value in adding Markelle Fultz on a rookie contract while also preserving cap space for free agency.
His scoring and playmaking should carry right over, given his tools, his athleticism, his skill level and his monster production. Fultz would give Boston another immediate source for offense, but at 18 years old, he also offers as much long-term potential as any young guard in the league.
2. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)
Slotting Josh Jackson at No. 2 means predicting the Phoenix Suns won't rank Lonzo Ball in a separate tier. Fit will play the tiebreaker here, making Jackson the more attractive choice for a wing-needy team that's already set in the backcourt.
Adding Ball could mean having to trade Eric Bledsoe, and with one year left on general manager Ryan McDonough's contract, there may not be great incentive to give away his 27-year-old second-leading scorer.
Having finished No. 28 in defensive efficiency (109.3 points allowed per 100 possessions), the Suns could favor Jackson, who, at the least, can apply pressure and bring toughness.
But his offensive upside is the big selling point. An elite athlete and a playmaking forward with a developing one-on-one scoring attack, Jackson could easily be viewed as the best player available.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)
Unless Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox changes minds during workouts, Lonzo Ball should be the pick for the Los Angeles Lakers, who'd land the hometown kid and only prospect capable of helping them turn things around and change the culture.
He won't be showing up at the combine, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania. And given his public comments expressing a desire to stay in L.A., it wouldn't be surprising if Ball turned down workouts for every team but the Lakers.
Last year, the franchise finished No. 6 in pace, a style that would play right to their new rookie's strengths.
Adding Ball would mean sliding D'Angelo Russell to the 2 and Jordan Clarkson to sixth man with Brandon Ingram at the 3 and Julius Randle at the 4.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)
The Philadelphia 76ers will likely look at a few players at No. 4, including Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. But Fox's ball-dominant style and poor shooting would clash with Ben Simmons, who also needs the rock and doesn't take jumpers.
And though Monk fits on paper at No. 4, the Philadelphia 76ers should figure Jayson Tatum could offer similar scoring firepower and greater upside, given his 6'8" size, his 6'11" length and his potential to defend.
Skilled with strong tools and enough athleticism, he'd give the Sixers an additional shot-maker and secondary option to feature in the half court.
5. Orlando Magic: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
With room to upgrade every position, the Orlando Magic won't be looking to fill a specific need. They'll take the best player on their board as if they're starting a team from scratch.
That makes all available point guards fair game, despite Elfrid Payton's semi-rise in 2017. He only averaged 12.8 points on 27.4 percent from deep last season in his third year in the league, and he hasn't made a strong enough case to justify signing long term.
De'Aaron Fox vs. Dennis Smith Jr. should stir up good war-room debate. But after carrying Kentucky to postseason wins and improving his shooting along the way, Fox could have moved ahead of Smith, who failed to show in multiple big games and couldn't reach the NCAA tournament.
It's worth noting that Fox shot better than Smith on two-point jumpers and free throws, stats that suggest his perimeter game isn't too far behind.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)
Malik Monk will look enticing with Zach LaVine recovering from a torn ACL. But the Minnesota Timberwolves already get plenty of offense from Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Jonathan Isaac's defensive versatility in between could win the Wolves over.
He is an asset in pick-and-roll coverage, and his ability to contest shots around the basket and switch around the perimeter should hold extra value in Minnesota.
But at 6'10" with smooth shot mechanics (31 threes, 78 percent FT) and promising handles—he shot 59.3 percent inside the arc—he offers enough offensive upside to justify taking over Monk.
7. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina (France, PG/SG, 1998)
In desperate need of a guard, the New York Knicks could be deciding between Dennis Smith Jr., Malik Monk and Frank Ntilikina.
Unless they see one prospect being significantly better than the rest, fit could play a role in their decision. And there's no question Ntilikina fits best based on his offensive versatility for the triangle, his defensive potential and his maturity.
At 18 years old in France's top division, he's also shooting 54.7 percent inside the arc and 40.5 percent behind it, a tribute to his knack for capitalizing on what the defense gives him playing on and off the ball.
With Ntilikina's season still in session, the Knicks will have to wait on bringing him in for workouts and interviews.
8. Sacramento Kings: Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)
The Sacramento Kings can't pass on the chance to add a quality point guard in the draft, given the trouble they'll have acquiring one during free agency.
Smith would bring both needed scoring and playmaking to Sacramento, where he'd likely see big minutes right away.
He was inconsistent at North Carolina Sate, though highly productive. And Smith flashed the athleticism, skill level and takeover ability that screams NBA.
He'll slip because of questions over his potential to lead, but they won't bother Sacramento. The Kings should grab their point guard first and take whoever is left over between Malik Monk and Arizona's Lauri Markkanen at No. 10.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)
With De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr. off the board, the Dallas Mavericks will settle on Lauri Markkanen, arguably the draft's most accurate shooter.
The parallels to Dirk Nowitzki can't be ignored. The Mavericks have the perfect player to mentor Markkanen, another 7-footer who compensates for average athleticism with a deadly jumper and a high offensive skill level.
Assuming the team can bring back Nerlens Noel, it'd also have a defensive-minded big to help hide Markkanen's struggles in rim protection.
10. Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans): Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
No. 10 is Malik Monk's draft floor, which he could fall to if the New York Knicks opt for fit, the Sacramento Kings fill a hole (point guard) and the Dallas Mavericks view Lauri Markkanen as the superior prospect.
Despite all the production, he also cooled off during the second half of the year, having shot 37.7 percent from the field over Kentucky's final 16 games.
The Sacramento Kings wouldn't mind him slipping, despite Buddy Hield's improved play during the second half of the year. Without an identity or any stars, the Kings will just be looking to stockpile assets.
Monk's athleticism and his shot-making should hold enough value alone. The real upside kicks in if he develops his ball-handing and playmaking skills.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)
At No. 11, with no perceived sure things on the board, this is a good spot for the Charlotte Hornets to reach for upside.
It came in flashes as opposed to consistent occurrences, but Justin Patton gave scouts glimpses of post moves, ball-handling and three-point range. And though he didn't dominate, he didn't miss too many shots either, having converted 67.6 percent of his field goals.
He's likely to help himself during workouts with his tools, his mobility and his stroke.
Patton could use some reps in the NBA Development League, but few prospects outside the top 10 appear NBA-ready anyway.
12. Detroit Pistons: Zach Collins (Gonzaga, C, Freshman)
Regardless of what the Detroit Pistons think about Andre Drummond, they'll see Zach Collins as the best player available at No. 12.
Though highly productive and efficient facing West Coast conference opponents, he strengthened his credibility with big performances in the NCAA tournament, most notably in the Final Four against South Carolina (14 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks).
At 7'0", 230 pounds, he's light on his feet with a back-to-the-basket game, shooting touch and shot-blocking instincts. The Pistons could use a backup center anyway, though Collins' ceiling reaches starter potential.
13. Denver Nuggets: Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers, SG/SF, 1998)
After a quiet year in Australia's National Basketball League, Terrance Ferguson should regain support during workouts, where it will be easier for him to sell his athleticism, his shooting stroke and his maturity.
The Denver Nuggets won't put much stock into his little production overseas. They'll value the eye test and Ferguson's three-and-D foundation, and they'll bet on his ball skills improving over time.
With Danilo Gallinari a likely goner in free agency and Denver having finished No. 29 in defensive efficiency (110.5 points allowed per 100 possessions), the Nuggets will be candidates to gamble and reach on Ferguson in the lottery.
14. Miami Heat: John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)
Without much room for a wing, assuming the Miami Heat will want Justise Winslow to eventually take off, the team could look to fill a hole at power forward.
UCLA's TJ Leaf makes sense on paper, but John Collins' superior athleticism, scoring and rebounding could give him the edge at No. 14.
Collins has an NBA body (6'10", 218 lbs) and exciting explosiveness and had consistent volume production (20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 63.9 percent FG) against quality ACC opponents. His defensive struggles won't alarm Miami, particularly with Hassan Whiteside at center and Winslow at the 3.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)
Loaded with guards and wings, the Portland Trail Blazers will look to go big at No. 15. They could easily view Jarrett Allen as the best player available, given his ridiculous tools, his mobility and his developing offensive game.
He averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds during conference play, looking more comfortable with his back to the basket and shooting mid-range jumpers. Allen isn't the flashiest athlete, but between his wheels and his enormous 7'5½" wingspan, he covers ground and picks up easy buckets inside.
Using their first of three first-round picks, the Blazers could see Allen here as a safer option they can count on for depth. Portland can gamble later at No. 20 and No. 26.
16. Chicago Bulls: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)
In recent years, we've seen the Chicago Bulls favor experienced, productive college players in the draft, including Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine. Justin Jackson falls under the same umbrella, having helped lead North Carolina to a national title during a breakout junior season.
He drilled a Tar Heel record 105 threes in 2016-17. Chicago could view Jackson's shooting, his size (6'8") and his basketball IQ working in a complementary scoring role.
They'll need bigs, but without any exciting ones left on the board, the Bulls will look to fill out frontcourt holes in free agency. Wings are always tougher to find.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)
OG Anunoby fits the description of a typical Milwaukee Bucks pick.
General manager John Hammond hasn't shied away from drafting prospects with little production to show for their potential. Just like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker did, Anunoby should sell the Bucks this late with his athleticism, his length and his room to improve.
His medicals will have to check out—Anunoby is still recovering from a season-ending knee injury and won't be ready to play at the combine. But assuming doctors expect a full recovery, the Bucks could fall for Anunoby, whose quickness, bounce and wingspan create sky-high defensive upside.
18. Indiana Pacers: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)
Looking for some explosiveness to boost their backcourt, the Indiana Pacers could go after Donovan Mitchell, who brings athleticism their current guards can't match.
But he also offers scoring and shot-making, having hit 80 threes for the season and the 20-point mark during nine of Louisville's final 21 games.
His game reflects more of a sixth man's, given his tougher shot selection and his ability to catch fire. But this late in the draft, being able to improve its bench with a No. 18 pick would be a win for Indiana.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Anzejs Pasecniks (Latvia, C, 1995)
Already one of the Spanish ACB's breakout young players, Anzejs Pasecniks may have moved the needle for himself with 24 points in 21 minutes April 23.
Difficult to miss, standing 7'2", he's quick off the ground with soft hands around the basket, shooting 66.2 percent on the season.
With his campaign still going and NBA teams looking for last-minute sleepers, contagious interest could make Pasecniks a candidate to rise this month, particularly if he can build on last week's performance. Turning 22 years old in December, he's automatically eligible for the draft.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies): TJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)
Given how little production the Portland Trail Blazers got from their power forward spot, TJ Leaf's offensive versatility could earn him support at No. 20.
He isn't the quickest or most explosive, but as a bench big, his skill set directly complements Al-Farouq Aminu's.
A face-up scorer with shooting touch, ball-handling and passing ability, Leaf could give the Blazers a high-energy, role-playing stretch 4.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
The worst three-point shooting team in the league catches a break here with Luke Kennard, who drilled 88 triples at a 43.8 percent clip.
He'll slip due to questions concerning his athleticism and defense, but enough size, elite shot-making ability and basketball IQ should keep him afloat. Kennard finds sneaky ways to use footwork, fakes and counters to compensate for limited quickness and explosiveness.
Given how effective he was running pick-and-rolls at Duke, the Thunder could even let him handle the ball for plays off the bench.
22. Brooklyn Nets (via Wizards): Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 1998)
The Brooklyn Nets should have their homework done on Isaiah Hartenstein. Assistant Chris Fleming has coached both Germany's U20 and national teams.
Hartenstein was up and down at the Nike Hoop Summit, finishing with 10 points and two blocks while missing his only three-pointer and five free throws. Still, since returning to Lithuania, he's had a number of strong performances, having scored in double figures three times from April 12-26.
He earns praise for his defensive foot speed and scoring at the rim, but it's the flashes of ball-handling, passing and shooting that will help him draw first-round interest.
23. Toronto Raptors (via Clippers): Harry Giles III (Duke, PF, Freshman)
At No. 23, without any must-have prospects on the board, Harry Giles' long-term potential could be worth the risk his knees present.
He wasn't given much of a chance to play big minutes or gain momentum, having joined Duke's lineup late and been stuck behind Amile Jefferson and Jayson Tatum.
Giles still possesses tremendous tools and competitiveness, and assuming his athleticism mostly returns, he should be good for easy baskets, offensive rebounds and overall activity in the paint. The Raptors get a steal if he remains durable and begins to improve his post game and outside touch.
24. Utah Jazz: Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)
The Utah Jazz could view Ike Anigbogu as another rim-protecting center to back up Rudy Gobert.
He didn't see many minutes at UCLA, but scouts picked up on his tools and athleticism, which highlight terrific strength, length and quickness for a 5.
Adding Anigbogu would mean having strong interior defense in Utah for 48 minutes. But like Houston Rockets anchor Clint Capela, he'll also give the Jazz a giant lob and finishing target for easy baskets.
25. Orlando Magic (via Raptors): Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
An elite athlete with 260-pound size and encouraging quickness, Bam Adebayo can sell the Orlando Magic on his offensive efficiency and defensive versatility.
Even if his skills never develop, he'll still provide his guards with a high-percentage target off dump downs, lobs and pick-and-rolls. And though he'll need to improve his awareness, he's flashed the foot speed to switch and the physical presence to disrupt shots inside.
The Magic won't be looking to fill a need at No. 25 when prospects become hit-or-miss. They'll take the best player on their board and hope he pans out, regardless of his position.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers): Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 1998)
The Portland Trail Blazers aren't likely to add three first-round rookies to next year's roster. They'll look to draft-and-stash at No. 26 with Rodions Kurucs available.
His season is still going and he won't be able to participate at the NBA combine, but Kurucs has been on scouts' radars playing for Barcelona II in Spain's second division.
With two-way wings always in demand, his tools, athleticism and scoring instincts should draw interest from all teams drafting in the 20s.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Celtics): Mathias Lessort (France, PF/C, 1995)
Mathias Lessort continues to strengthen his draft case late in the season, having just gone for 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting Saturday. Coming in, he'd finished with at least 20 points five times over his last 12 games.
One of the most productive young players overseas, Lessort's strength, athleticism and motor pass the test as well.
He clearly has some limitations, undersized for a traditional center without the skill set of a 4. But in an energy role that calls for him to run the floor, crash the glass, finish inside and defend, his weak jumper and 6'9" height won't hold him back.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets): Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, Sophomore)
At No. 28, the Los Angeles Lakers will just be waiting to see who falls into their lap. In 2017, it could be Ivan Rabb, who'll slip after failing to show anything new or consistently dominate as California's top prospect.
Still, with 6'11" size, terrific hands, impressive footwork and sharp instincts, he's a good bet to stick in an energy role that asks him to finish, rebound and score opportunistically in the post.
Through two years, we've seen flashes of mid- to long-range shooting. He becomes a lot more valuable if he starts consistently sticking those catch-and-shoot or short-corner jumpers.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Wesley Iwundu (Kansas State, SG/SF, Senior)
The San Antonio Spurs could view Wesley Iwundu as a sleeper.
Athletic with NBA-caliber tools for a wing, he averaged at least 3.5 assists in back-to-back seasons, which points to his unique passing and playmaking. But in 2017, he eased some concerns over his shooting, having hit 32 threes at a 37.6 percent clip.
Quick and strong enough to defend, Iwundu's two-way versatility could entice. He'll have the chance to improve his stock further at next week's NBA combine.
30. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)
Jawun Evans can sneak into the first round with a strong performance during five-on-fives at the NBA combine.
Quick and shifty, known for breaking down defenses, he'd give the Jazz change-of-pace playmaking that Dante Exum hasn't been able to offer.
One of two players in the country to average at least 19 points and six assists, Evans will look to carve out a role as a pick-and-roll specialist and bench spark.
Jonathan Wasserman covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @NBADraftWass.