Each NBA Lottery Team's Draft Whiteboard

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 18, 2017

Each NBA Lottery Team's Draft Whiteboard

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    Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    With the 2017 NBA lottery complete, teams can officially start building their draft boards and strategies. 

    Preparation for the big night is key. Every general manager needs to enter June 22 with a target or goal, backup plan and thought-out trade opportunities to explore.

    Teams lay out different scenarios with counters for reach so that they're ready when the inevitable draft-night surprise arrives.

    We devised a game plan for each team selecting in the lottery based on who's expected to be available when they're on the clock.

Boston Celtics

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    Draft Pick: No. 1

    Plan A: Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

    By June 22, the Boston Celtics' whiteboard should only have one name on it.

    The scouts' consensus top prospect in the draft, Markelle Fultz has separated himself from the pack. He's the only player in the past 25 years to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 40 percent or better from three, and his tools and athleticism should translate well to the NBA.

    Highly skilled, both as a scorer and playmaker, Fultz shouldn't have any problem fitting in next to All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas.

    There's already talk about whether the Celtics should move the pick for a veteran better suited to help them win now. But Fultz can give this roster an immediate source of offense while being signed to a rookie deal for the next four years, allowing general manager Danny Ainge to preserve cap flexibility. 

    Fultz helps the Celtics next year and improves their chances of staying atop the Eastern Conference standings once Thomas slows down or departs in free agency.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Draft Pick: No. 2

    Plan A: Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Fultz versus Lonzo Ball should create some interesting debate among teams. But the former is clearly the most complete guard and bigger scorer, and though Ball is known for passing, Fultz's playmaking potential is equally exciting. 

    Fultz should be the Los Angeles Lakers' Plan A because he projects as the more dangerous NBA player given Ball's scoring limitations and inferior athletic ability.


    Plan B: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)

    Ball will help turn things around for the Lakers quicker than any other prospect not named Fultz. The offense would be in better hands with him running the show.

    His presence should help expedite the development of youngsters D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, as he can make the game easier for teammates with high-IQ passes and quick decisions.  

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Draft Pick: No. 3

    Plan A: Trade out or down

    Even though they moved up to No. 3, the Philadelphia 76ers are in a tough spot if Fultz and Ball go first and second.

    The Sixers already have Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, raising questions as to how much room there is for forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum. Similar to Simmons, De'Aaron Fox is a player who needs the ball but isn't a serious shooting threat. 

    Ideally, the Sixers trade this pick for an established star who fits and helps speed up their ongoing rebuilding process. 

    A more realistic option, though a debatable one, is trading down for Malik Monk and an additional asset. Monk, a shot-maker who doesn't need the ball or dribbles, fills an obvious need in Philadelphia's lineup.

    This idea would only be worthwhile if the 76ers received a relatively significant asset in exchange for moving down the board. But it's also only worthwhile if management sees little to no difference between Monk, Jackson, Tatum and Fox.


    Plan B: Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)

    If the Los Angeles Lakers pass on Ball, the 76ers will pounce. Between Ball and Simmons, you won't find a better pair of passers on one team. Ball would also give them much-needed shot-making, which Simmons doesn't offer.


    Plan C: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)

    Athleticism, versatility and production at Kansas make Jackson stand out as the best available prospect after Fultz and Ball. He doesn't fit perfectly, but he's too talented to overthink. The Sixers will value his defense and secondary playmaking to start, but if his scoring and shooting continue to improve, Philadelphia adds another star to its core.

Phoenix Suns

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Draft Pick: No. 4

    Plan A: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)

    Wings should be the Phoenix Suns' focus at No. 4. A good one is nearly guaranteed to be there for them, assuming Fultz and Ball both go within the top three. 

    Jackson's fit in Phoenix couldn't be better. He'd give the Suns' 28th-ranked defense quickness and ball pressure, while the team's second-ranked pace would suit Jackson's open-floor explosiveness.

    Between Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Jackson, Phoenix could wind up with one of the most athletic young cores in the league.


    Plan B: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)

    If the Philadelphia 76ers take Jackson, that leaves Jayson Tatum, who'd give the Suns another dangerous scorer to pair with Booker on the wing. Tatum is nearly a year younger than Jackson but should enter the league with more offensive polish.

Sacramento Kings

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    Draft Picks: No. 5 and No. 10

    Pick No. 5, Plan A: Get your point guard

    The Sacramento Kings likely aren't going to sign a high-profile floor general in free agency. And they can't take the chance of there not being one available at No. 10. Though Frank Ntilikina could still be on the board then, he's not an ideal lead ball-handler.


    Pick 5, A1: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

    Fox would give Sacramento a point guard to build around and would be a strong fit alongside Buddy Hield, who would cover his shooting woes. The Kings could fill a significant hole with perhaps the top player left on the board.


    Pick No. 5, A2: Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina, PG, Freshman)

    Dennis Smith Jr. likely won't be there at No. 10. It's worth taking him at No. 5 and pairing him with a wing or a big five picks later. He'd start right away in Sacramento and would immediately become the franchise's top overall prospect. Smith gives the Kings a much-needed scoring punch and playmaking at the point.


    Pick No. 10, Plan A: Grab the player who slips

    At No. 10, the Kings should take whichever player is left over from Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum, Fox, Monk, Smith, Ntilikina, Jonathan Isaac and Lauri Markkanen.

    Getting Fox at No. 5 and then Isaac or Markkanen five picks later sounds ideal. 

Orlando Magic

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Draft Pick: No. 6

    Plan A: Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)

    With Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon, the Orlando Magic get little offensive firepower from their forwards. Tatum stands out as the top scoring wing on the board. He'd give the Magic a go-to option capable of creating his own shot against a set defense, and he'd be someone they could feature alongside Nikola Vucevic in the half court.


    Plan B: De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

    The Magic wouldn't have to commit to Elfrid Payton long term if they can add Fox. A two-way playmaker, Fox would bring offensive explosiveness and defensive quickness to Orlando's backcourt. Since he's just 19, his shooting concerns shouldn't set off any alarms in Orlando. 


    Plan C: Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Adding Monk should help raise Orlando's 28th-ranked three-point percentage. He'd also inject much-needed athleticism to a backcourt that starts Payton and Evan Fournier. If the Magic commit to Payton to avoid taking a step back, a microwave scorer and shooter like Monk would be the ideal type of 2-guard to pair him with.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Draft Pick: No. 7

    Plan A: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Isaac could win the best-player-available argument at No. 7, but his fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves couldn't make more sense. 

    He'd give the team much-needed defensive versatility between Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. And with two 20-point scorers already in the lineup and Zach LaVine expected back from a torn ACL at some point in 2017-18, Isaac's unselfishness and high-percentage shot selection should improve the lineup's balance.


    Plan B: Frank Ntilikina (SIG Strasbourg, PG/SG, 1998)

    No. 7 may sound early for Ntilikina, but Monk offers exactly what LaVine brings, and Minnesota is already committed to Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn at the point.

    Ntilikina has proved to be effective playing off the ball in France, where he shoots 40 percent from three—key for a Wolves squad that made fewer threes per game last season than any team in the league. But he's also in the discussion for the draft's top perimeter defender. That should be his big selling point to coaches in Minnesota, who already have plenty of offensive weapons.

New York Knicks

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    Draft Pick: No. 8

    Plan A: Trade up 

    At No. 8, the New York Knicks are looking at the second-tier talent in the draft. They need to move up into the first.

    Even jumping three spots to No. 5 could be a big difference. One of Tatum, Jackson or Fox would be great in New York, but No. 8 plus Willy Hernangomez likely isn't a strong-enough package. 


    Plan B: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Isaac could be viewed as Carmelo Anthony's eventual replacement, but he could also play between Melo and Kristaps Porzingis. Putting Porzingis and Isaac at center and power forward respectively could be tough defensively between the former's shot-blocking and the latter's pick-and-roll coverage.


    Plan C: Frank Ntilikina (SIG Strasbourg, PG/SG, 1998)

    Ntilikina doesn't scream NBA star, but his fit in the triangle is obvious. He plays within the offense, making open shots and good decisions. His claim to being perhaps the draft's top perimeter defender may enhance his appeal to the Knicks.


    Plan D: Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)

    Smith would go top five in most other years, but he should be available at No. 8 because of the strength of the 2017 class. His isolation and ball-screen-heavy game don't fit the triangle offense, but talent alone should earn him consideration.                                                  

Dallas Mavericks

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Draft Pick: No. 9

    Plan A: Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)

    With Fox's late rise, Smith could have suddenly become undervalued.

    He should be the Dallas Mavericks' top target at No. 9, as they're in desperate need of a lead guard. Smith's ceiling may be higher than any other player's on the roster.

    For Smith to be available here, the Mavericks would likely need Isaac and Ntilikina to go within the top eight, but that does seem possible. 


    Plan B: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

    It comes down to personal preference between Isaac and Markkanen, but the former's defense should give him the edge. Between his 6'10" size, shooting and ball-handling potential, he touts exciting offensive upside for coaches to unlock.

    Isaac and Harrison Barnes could work as interchangeable forwards.


    Plan C: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)

    With Dirk Nowitzki's career winding down, the Mavericks could draft Markkanen to eventually replace him. He's not the next Nowitzki, but his size and skill set are similar. Markkanen may also be the top shooter in the draft, which could make him a worthy target at No. 9.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    Draft Pick: No. 11

    Plan A: Catch someone who slips

    There appears to be a consensus top 10 (in any order) in this draft: Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum, Fox, Isaac, Monk, Smith, Markkanen and Ntilikina. The Charlotte Hornets pick at No. 11.

    If one team in the top 10 makes an out-of-the-box selection, the Hornets must be prepared to draft whichever player falls into their lap. Any of the aforementioned stars would offer value at No. 11 regardless of position.


    Plan B: Best player available

    No one rookie will fill a specific hole in Charlotte and suddenly turn the team around. The Hornets just need talent, whether it's at guard, small forward or up front.


    B1: Zach Collins (Gonzaga, C, Freshman)

    At 19, Collins' ceiling skies over Cody Zeller's, even though Zeller made strides in 2016-17. Scouts just saw the Gonzaga big man go for 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks against South Carolina in the Final Four.

    He's also one of the draft's top rebounders, having averaged 13.6 boards per 40 minutes as a freshman. The Hornets finished last in the league in contested rebounding percentage this past season.


    B2: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's perimeter game hasn't taken off. Jeremy Lamb's overall game never took off, either. The Hornets could use Jackson's offense and shot-making, even if it's off the bench.

Detroit Pistons

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    Draft Pick: No. 12

    Plan A: Best guard/wing available 

    The Detroit Pistons' draft strategy should be simple: Take the best available guard or wing on the board. They're already set up front with Andre Drummond, and no big at No. 12 stands out as must-have.

    The Pistons lack point guard stability, 2-guard depth and upside at small forward. Head coach Stan Van Gundy also reduced the minutes of 2015 No. 8 overall pick Stanley Johnson last season. Detroit must come out of this draft with either a 1, 2 or 3.


    A1: Frank Ntilikina (SIG Strasbourg, PG/SG, 1998)

    Ntilikina could be the best player available at No. 12, but his shooting (40 percent from three) and defensive versatility are also selling points. At 6'5", he plays both backcourt positions in France. He could feature alongside Reggie Jackson or Detroit could view him as insurance if Jackson can't get back on track.


    A2: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)

    The Pistons finished 28th last season in three-point shooting, and Jackson just set the North Carolina record for made threes in a season. He's improved dramatically, not just with his jumper but his overall scoring ability. 


    A3: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)

    Darrun Hilliard and Reggie Bullock aren't playoff-caliber backups. Mitchell would give the Pistons a shot-making sixth man who can score in bunches and put pressure on opposing defenses.

Denver Nuggets

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    Draft Pick: No. 13

    Plan A: Trade up for a forward 

    With depth across the board and Danilo Gallinari opting out to become a free agent, acquiring a star forward in the draft would be a dream scenario for the Denver Nuggets. They have a handful of young prospects and assets to include in a deal, including Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez.

    If one or two of them (plus Denver's pick) could help the Nuggets move up to grab either Duke's Tatum or Florida State's Isaac, they'd come out big winners.


    Plan B: Target defense 

    The Nuggets finished with the 29th-ranked defense last season. It would be wise for them to think about that when selecting a prospect they'll eventually want playing at least 20 minutes per game. 


    B1: Frank Ntilikina (SIG Strasbourg, PG/SG, 1998)

    They'll need Ntilikina to slip, but it's possible. He's still playing overseas and isn't likely to meet with every team. Quick and long, the 6'5" Ntilikina could be the top defensive guard in the draft. Denver could play Jamal Murray at point guard and Ntilikina off the ball.


    B2: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)

    Scoring is still Mitchell's calling card, but he's in the best-player-available debate at No. 13, and he's flashed enough promise with his foot speed and strength. He also averaged 2.1 steals per game, the most of any first-round prospect.


    B3: OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)

    OG Anunoby brings little offensively, making him a questionable fit next to Kenneth Faried. But Anunoby's defensive potential holds extra value in Denver. They could even take Anunoby, play him as a small-ball 4 next to Nikola Jokic and look to move on from Faried.

Miami Heat

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    Draft Pick: No. 14

    Plan A: Trade up for Lauri Markkanen

    The Miami Heat pick at No. 14, and Markkanen likely won't be there. It's worth exploring what it would take to trade up for him.

    Markkanen, a 7-foot stretch big who shot 42.3 percent from three and holds his own guarding the perimeter, stands out as a perfect fit alongside Hassan Whiteside, who'd help hide his struggles in rim protection.


    Plan B: Best player available

    With Luke Babbitt and James Johnson entering free agency, the Heat have a need at power forward. Wake Forest's John Collins, Zalgiris Kaunas' Isaiah Hartenstein, Duke's Harry Giles, California's Ivan Rabb and UCLA's TJ Leaf will likely be available.

    However, there could be better options still on the board at different positions. The Heat shouldn't pass on talent for need. They should worry about filling the 4 spot in free agency and taking the best available player at No. 14.


    B1: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)

    Josh Richardson went backward and Dion Waiters is likely opting out. Even if Waiters returns, Mitchell would give Miami another source of scoring and shot-making. 


    B2: Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)

    Wings are always in demand, and though Miami has Justise Winslow, it could try moving him to the 4 and playing Jackson at small forward. He just canned 105 threes as a junior.


    B3: John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)

    If Mitchell and Jackson are gone, Collins looks strong, athletic and skilled enough to justify best-player-available consideration at No. 14.


    All stats courtesy of ESPN.comSports Reference and RealGM.