With the 2016-17 NBA season rolling toward completion, focus for most franchises has already shifted to the offseason and this summer's draft.
Kevin Durant took the Golden State Warriors to an entirely different level, but the 73-win incarnation of the squad was built mostly through the draft.
Teams looking to climb the hill for a shot at the Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping this year's class may one day yield similar results.
There are different approaches for getting to those results. You can swing for the fences on high-risk, high-reward prospects. Or you can go the safer route and select a guy who may not have quite as high a ceiling but also doesn't have as low a floor.
The latter is what brings us here today. And some of the safest prospects in the 2017 NBA draft class will be profiled below the mock draft:
|2017 NBA Mock Draft|
|1. Celtics||Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, Freshman)|
|2. Lakers||Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)|
|3. Sixers||Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)|
|4. Suns||Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)|
|5. Kings||De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)|
|6. Magic||Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)|
|7. Timberwolves||Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, PF/SF, Freshman)|
|8. Knicks||Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 18)|
|9. Mavericks||Dennis Smith, Jr. (NC State, PG, Freshman)|
|10. Kings||Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)|
|11. Hornets||Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)|
|12. Pistons||Zach Collins (Gonzaga, PF, Freshman)|
|13. Nuggets||OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)|
|14. Heat||Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)|
|15. Blazers||Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)|
|16. Bulls||Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)|
|17. Bucks||Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)|
|18. Pacers||John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)|
|19. Hawks||Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)|
|20. Blazers||Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 19)|
|21. Thunder||Terrance Ferguson (Australia, SG, 18)|
|22. Nets||Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)|
|23. Raptors||Ivan Rabb (California, PF, Sophomore)|
|24. Jazz||TJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)|
|25. Magic||Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)|
|26. Blazers||Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 18)|
|27. Nets||Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF/SF, Sophomore)|
|28. Lakers||Harry Giles (Duke, PF, Freshman)|
|29. Spurs||Semi Ojeleye (SMU, SF/PF, Junior)|
|30. Jazz||Frank Jackson (Duke, PG, Freshman)|
|Picks by Andy Bailey|
Because of his size (6'6") and elite vision and passing, Lonzo Ball may have more long-term potential than any guard in this draft. But Washington's Markelle Fultz wouldn't be far behind, and his worst-case scenario is probably still a solid all-around player.
Fultz's basic stat line this past season was absurd: 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. On top of the raw production, he did it efficiently, shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three.
"Overall, Fultz is the best player in the draft not only due to his uncommon strengths but also his lack of true weakness," Sam Vecenie wrote for Seth's Draft House. "It's hard to see how he fails in the NBA."
Josh Jackson has All-Defense potential, but there are question marks on offense (particularly a shooting form that could use some tightening). Jayson Tatum, another combo forward who could go in the top five, has question marks on the other side.
But the latter's offensive ceiling is near the top of this draft. Tatum is a fluid athlete who can outsize or outmuscle wings while being able to blow by big men if that's the game plan the opposition employs to slow him down.
"Tatum is a very smooth athlete at 6'8", with a wide array of moves and footwork well beyond what you would typically expect from a prospect who just turned 19," Derek Bodner wrote for DraftExpress. "Tatum has a full assortment of effective jab steps, crossovers, turnarounds, fadeaways and in-and-out dribbles to get his defender off balance and create separation."
That sort of ability at that size makes Tatum the kind of player you could build an offense around. If he heads to a solid coaching staff that can apply some of his gifts to the defensive end as well, he's almost a can't-miss prospect.
This is a strong, point guard-heavy draft. Fultz, Ball, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith and De'Aaron Fox all have their strengths. And arguments for any of the latter three could be made for his being this class' third-best 1.
But when you're trying to determine which player cares enough to put in the work to get better, scenes like this one shared by Sports Illustrated go a long way:
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder often cites "care factor" when talking about his All-NBA center Rudy Gobert. And Fox clearly comes in pretty high on the "care factor" scale.
That, in addition to his explosiveness, makes him a pretty safe pick.