2017 NBA Mock Draft: Pro Comparisons and Predictions for Elite Guard Prospects

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2017

Washington guard Markelle Fultz (20) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona defeated Washington 77-66. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

There are plenty of quality prospects available in this year's NBA draft. Teams looking for help at specific positions—regardless of which they are—should be able to find a player or two who can help fill the right roster holes.

However, teams looking for guard help could be in the most luck. Some of the draft's best prospects, like UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Washington's Markelle Fultz, are guards. These are prospects who can certainly help a team in multiple phases and can provide a boost running the offense.

We're going to examine some of the draft's top guard prospects and provide some early-career predictions and pro comparisons. We'll also mock the full first round based on factors like player potential, team need and team fits.

      

2017 NBA Mock Draft

1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, F, Kansas

4. Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia): Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

6. Orlando Magic: De'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

8. New York Knicks: Harry Giles, F, Duke

9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., G, NC State

10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans): Frank Ntilikina, G, France

11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga

12. Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb, F, California

13. Denver Nuggets: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona

14. Miami Heat: Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina

15. Portland Trail Blazers: Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia

16. Chicago Bulls: OG Anunoby, F, Indiana

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

18. Indiana Pacers: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

19. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins, F, Wake Forest

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis): TJ Leaf, F, UCLA

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan

23. Toronto Raptors (via LA Clippers): Jordan Bell, F, Oregon

24. Utah Jazz: Justin Patton, C, Creighton

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto): Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue

26. Portland Trail Blazers: (via Cleveland): Josh Hart, G, Villanova

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston): Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston): Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA

29. San Antonio Spurs: Isaiah Hartenstein, F, Germany

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Rodions Kurucs, F, Latvia

          

Elite Prospects

Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

If Washington's Markelle Fultz isn't the top pick in this year's draft, he's probably one of the first two players taken. He has good height at 6'4", and he's an extremely smooth operator on the offensive end of the court.

While Fultz wasn't able to lift Washington to wins on a consistent basis, he was able to consistently lift the offense. He averaged 23.2 points and 5.9 assists per game last season while shooting 47.6 percent from the field.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has Fultz as his top prospect, believing his continued improvement should lead to early NBA success.

"Given Fultz's volume production and efficiency at Washington, scouts haven't soured on him despite the Huskies' lousy record," Wasserman recently wrote. "Long and athletic, having consistently improved with every season, Fultz should see his elite scoring and playmaking carry over."

William Desautelle III of NBADraft.net likens Fultz to Houston Rockets star James Harden. While I don't believe Fultz will be a terribly prolific a scorer out of the gate, I do find this to be an apt comparison. Much like Harden did with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Fultz will likely begin his career as a role player.

As a rookie, Harden averaged 9.9 and 3.2 rebounds per game. If Fultz lands with a team like the Boston Celtics, where he would be a role player, these are probably realistic numbers for him. Should he land with a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, where he may be asked to be more of a centerpiece, Fultz would probably see better numbers but possibly also a slower development.

Given a chance to blossom over the next few years, Fultz could become a Harden-like star.

        

Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Ball is another guard prospect who may end up going No. 1 overall in the draft. The UCLA product combines solid shooting—he made 55.1 percent of his attempts from the field last season—with great offensive floor vision and tremendous transition ability.

At 6'6", Ball also has ideal height for the point guard position.

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd believes Ball is the guy the Celtics should take to kick off the draft.

"Markelle Fultz doesn't make players better," Cowherd said. "Couldn't in college, wouldn't in the pros. Not his game. If you really want to make that jump on this old Cleveland team that's not getting younger and defensively is going to deteriorate pretty rapidly, Lonzo Ball will make guys better."

Because of his ability to score in transition, make the tough shot and to see the court, Ball has drawn comparisons to former NBA star and current Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd:

I don't necessarily agree with this comparison, however, as Kidd was actually known as a strong defender for much of his career. Ball's biggest weakness may be his defense, though his ability to move in transition sometimes makes up for it.

While I don't think he'll be nearly as much of a scorer in the NBA, Ball actually reminds me a bit more of OKC star Russell Westbrook—a quick, athletic offensive force with no time for true physical defense.

Given the fact Ball is likely to be the centerpiece of a team early on, I wouldn't be surprised to see him average close to 15 points and seven assists per game as a rookie—right alongside the numbers he averaged this past season.

     

Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

Teams looking for more of a wing player should have their eyes firmly set on Kentucky's Malik Monk. While he isn't getting the attention of guys like Fultz and Ball, Monk is a scorer who can immediately help a team from the shooting guard spot.

Last season at Kentucky, he averaged 19.8 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field.

At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Monk isn't going to dominate with size alone. However, he has rarely had to. He has enough handle to create his own shot opportunities, and he's even more efficient when setting up off the pass.

If Monk lands with a team boasting an offensive attention-grabber, he can thrive. Michael Visenberg of NBADraft.net compares Monk to San Antonio Spurs guard Eric Gordon. It wouldn't at all be a surprise to see Monk with Gordon-like production—16.2 points, 2.5 assists in the 2016-17 season—as a rookie.

Whichever team drafts Monk isn't likely to ask him to run the offense. This should put him in a position to do what he does best—score. Don't be shocked if Monk ends up being one of the most prolific rookie scorers in the Association next season.

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