2017 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions, Prospects Who Are Safest Bets

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2017

Washington's Markelle Fultz in action against Arizona in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The 2017 NBA draft isn't too far away, waiting just on the other side of the Finals. With some quality prospects sitting in the draft pool, at least a few teams at the top are going to get legitimate difference-makers in June.

After Tuesday's draft lottery, we'll know which teams will be picking at the top. 

Of course, in order to actually win at the draft lottery, a team has to pick the right prospect with its top selection. Teams at the top are obviously looking for top-end potential and upside, but they're also looking for players who are safe and don't appear capable of becoming busts.

Here, we're going to examine the safest bets in the 2017 draft. We'll also run down the current draft order—based on records—and mock the first round based on factors like player potential and team needs.


2017 NBA Mock Draft

Round 1
PickTeamProj. Selection
1Boston Celtics (via Nets)Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
2Phoenix SunsJosh Jackson, F, Kansas
3Los Angeles LakersLonzo Ball, G, UCLA
4Philadelphia 76ersMalik Monk, G, Kentucky
5Orlando MagicJayson Tatum, F, Duke
6Minnesota TimberwolvesJonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
7New York KnicksDe'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
8Sacramento KingsFrank Ntilikina, G, France
9Dallas MavericksLauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
10Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans)Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
11Charlotte HornetsJustin Jackson, F, North Carolina
12Detroit PistonsDennis Smith Jr., G, North Carolina State
13Denver NuggetsIvan Rabb, F, California
14Miami HeatTJ Leaf, F, UCLA
15Portland Trail BlazersTerrance Ferguson, G, Australia
16Chicago BullsJustin Patton, C, Creighton
17Milwaukee BucksHarry Giles, F, Duke
18Indiana PacersDonovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
19Atlanta HawksIsaiah Hartenstein, F, Lithuania
20Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies)Luke Kennard, G, Duke
21Oklahoma City ThunderJordan Bell, F, Oregon
22Brooklyn Nets (via Wizards)Jawun Evans, G, Oklahoma State
23Toronto Raptors (via Clippers)Rodions Kurucs, F, Spain
24Utah JazzJohn Collins, F, Wake Forest
25Orlando Magic (via Raptors)Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
26Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers)Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
27Brooklyn Nets (via Celtics)OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
28Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets)Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
29San Antonio SpursRodions Kurucs, F, Latvia
30Utah Jazz (via Warriors)Derrick White, G, Colorado

Safest Prospects

Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

Washington product Markelle Fultz is as close to a sure-thing as we've seen in a few years. He combines freaky athleticism with a 6'4", 190-pound frame with room to grow. He's a capable defender who won't sacrifice on that end of the court in order to fill up the offensive stat sheet. 

Fultz is capable of racking up scoring stats, though. Last season, he made over 47 percent of his shots from the field and over 41 percent of shots from three-point range. If you're looking for a prospect with an NBA body, defensive talent and scoring ability—and every team should be—then Fultz is your guy.

"Markelle fits the suit," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said, per Adam Caparell of Complex.com. "He's got an NBA body. Long arms. Got good size. Markelle is a multidimensional scorer. He can really shoot it. He's got all the tools to be a really good shooter in the league."

If you're looking for a grounded prospect who is going to carry himself like a humble professional, then Fultz is also your guy.

"I like doing everything under the radar," Fultz explained, per Andrew Sharp of SI.com. "I don't like making a scene. As far as being cocky, I never want to put anybody below me. I've been at the bottom. I know what it feels like to work hard, and when somebody else tries to showboat, it just makes me want to work harder."

The only real negative with Fultz is that he didn't play for a winning program. When you're looking at the player and the person, though, Fultz is undoubtedly a safe prospect.


Josh Jackson, F, Kansas

Kansas' Josh Jackson is another prospect who brings talent to both ends of the court. He's a physical and aggressive 6'8", 205-pound prospect with enough athleticism and skill to play multiple positions if needed.

Jackson has the skills to be a quality scorer in the NBA. While he only averaged 16.3 points per game in 2016, Jackson did make over 51 percent of his shots from the field. Unfortunately, he isn't a consistent shooter and made just over 37 percent of his three-point attempts.

Still, Jackson appears to be a safe prospect when you consider just how much he can help a team at both ends.

"Jackson is an intriguing basketball prospect because he's the most versatile defender of any of the forwards available in this draft and is considered among the best two-way all-around players in the pool," Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com wrote.

Jackson is a high-floor prospect with the potential to develop into a legitimate star.

"He's a competitor with a great motor, and the rare type of guy who can create offensive out of defense," David Ray of NBADraft.net explained. "He'll need to work on his shot to take his game to the next level, but Jackson appears to have a high floor, as well as the ceiling of an All-Star level player"


Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Kentucky's Malik Monk isn't the biggest prospect in this draft class. He isn't the most athletic prospect either. However, we're considering Monk a safe prospect because he's an excellent scorer and shooter, and there's always room for one of those on an NBA roster.

Last season, Monk averaged 19.8 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from beyond the arc.

"Definitely buying into a shot-maker like that," one NBA scout said of Monk, per Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "If he was 6'5", everyone would say he's the potential top pick."

Monk isn't going to be the draft's top pick, and he might end up going after former teammate De'Aaron Fox because of Fox's potential athletic ceiling. However, a team can add Monk and feel good about adding a consistent and reliable point-maker.

As Fox recently pointed out, Monk is the type of shooter who can take over a game:

Jessica Camerato @JCameratoNBCS

De’Aaron Fox on Malik Monk: “Don’t let him get hot. If he gets hot, it’s over.”

Monk is the best shooting guard in this year's draft class and the safest prospect for teams looking to address the position.