NBA Draft 2017: Mock Draft Projections for Safest Lottery Prospects

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2017

Duke's Jayson Tatum (0) goes to the basket against Troy during the first half in a first-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Friday, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

There are a usually a couple different strategies teams take into the NBA draft.

The first, and most obvious, is to draft prospects with high ceilings who could become pro stars. The second is to draft high-floor players who may never become superstars but who aren't as likely to flop.

The draft with the first strategy is that every team that doesn't already have a premier player like a LeBron James or a Kawhi Leonard is looking for one. The problem is only a small percentage of high-potential guys become superstars. Many—like former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett—fall far short of expectations.

High-floor prospects can be attractive because they're considered relatively safe. They may never become more than high-level role players, but they aren't likely to set back the teams that are trying to build around them, either.

Here we're going to examine some of the potential lottery prospects who are considered safe in the 2017 draft. Consider them the anti-Lonzo Ball. While Ball has the makings of a star, his unorthodox shot delivery, inconsistent defense and potential family baggage also give him bust potential. Teams looking to avoid such possible issues will want to look instead at the players on today's list.

We'll also mock the entire first round based on factors like player potential and team needs.

      

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: TJ Leaf, F, UCLA

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis): Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: John Collins, F, Wake Forest

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): Isaiah Hartenstein, F, Germany

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: Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue

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

Safest Lottery Prospects

Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

There's a reason why Washington product Markelle Fultz is a serious contender to go first overall in this year's draft. There simply isn't a lot he cannot do offensively. He can shoot, he can handle the ball well and he can penetrate interior defenses.

While Fultz's 47.6 shot percentage from the field last season isn't as high as the percentages some players had, he typically has little trouble racking up the points. He produced 23.2 per game in 2016.

Size isn't a question mark for Fultz either. At 6'4" and with a nearly 6'10" inch wingspan, Fultz can grow into the body of a beast on the NBA court.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer believes Fultz is the best point guard prospect to come out of the draft since Kyrie Irving, and not just because of his size:

"He already knows how to harness his physical tools. Most young guards blessed with elite size and speed are like greyhounds, wanting to get out and run without thinking about the next move. It takes most players years to learn when and where to turn on the jets, and when to put it on cruise and glide to the open spot on the floor. Fultz is already at that point as a college freshman, and he plays with a preternatural calm."

Fultz is ready to come into the NBA and contribute immediately, and there really is little risk with him. Fortunately for whichever team drafts him, Fultz also has enough upside to develop into a true star.

     

Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

Duke's Jayson Tatum is a unique prospect. He's young and relatively inexperienced—he's a freshman, after all—yet he still has a lot of polish to his game. He can score, he can shoot and he can be a capable defender as well.

Tatum also has excellent size at 6'8" and with a 6'11" wingspan.

Mike Schmitz and Derek Bodner of DraftExpress had the following to say of the 19-year-old:

"Tatum remains one of the more unique players in this draft, with an advanced array of offensive moves, high skill level, and a physical profile that affords him considerable potential, and versatility, on the defensive end as well. While this keeps Tatum's floor relatively high, there's still some question about exactly what his role will be at the next level."

Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel believes Tatum can fill the shooter's role with the Philadelphia 76ers, who own the third pick in the draft. He said the following on 97.5 The Fanatic: "One of the things I think in watching Philly, you need shooting. When you look at the NBA right now, everyone is going to spread the floor. It's more of an open floor and you need shooting. And there are some guys in this draft—obviously Jayson. That's something he can do. He's a shot-maker."

Tatum did shoot relatively well at Duke—he made 45.2 percent from the field—and he should be a consistent scoring threat as a pro.

      

Josh Jackson, F, Kansas

Kansas forward Josh Jackson has to be considered a safe prospect for reasons other than Fultz and Tatum. While Jackson is certainly adept on the offensive side of the court—he scored 16.3 points per game last season—his biggest draw is defense.

While Jackson may never develop into a star, his ability fo impact both ends of the court cannot be understated. It makes him valuable and safe as an overall prospect.

"He's not the type of defender [who] merely hinders his opponents ability to score," David Ray of NBADraft.net wrote of Jackson. "He's deadly in the passing lanes and is aggressive trying to steal the ball and deflecting passes. This results in a lot of fast breaks, and easy transition buckets."

Former league MVP Charles Barkley called Jackson the best two-way player in the draft:

Jackson is yet another prospect who already possesses NBA size at 6'8" and 205 pounds.

When you can add a player who makes an impact at both ends of the court, you do so with little hesitation. Is Jackson going to light up the scoreboard and put a team on his back offensively? Probably not. Can he be a solid building block for the next decade? Absolutely.

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