NBA Mock Draft 2017: 1st-Round Predictions and Safest Prospects in Class

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2017

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 16: Draft prospects Markelle Fultz and Josh Jackson poses for portraits prior to the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery at the NBA Headquarters in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

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. CelticsMarkelle Fultz (Washington, PG, Freshman)
2. LakersLonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)
3. SixersJosh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)
4. SunsJayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)
5. KingsDe'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
6. MagicMalik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
7. TimberwolvesJonathan Isaac (Florida State, PF/SF, Freshman)
8. KnicksFrank Ntilikina (France, PG, 18)
9. MavericksDennis Smith, Jr. (NC State, PG, Freshman)
10. KingsJustin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)
11. HornetsLauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)
12. PistonsZach Collins (Gonzaga, PF, Freshman)
13. NuggetsOG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)
14. HeatJarrett Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)
15. BlazersLuke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
16. BullsIke Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)
17. BucksDonovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)
18. PacersJohn Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)
19. HawksJustin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)
20. BlazersRodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 19)
21. ThunderTerrance Ferguson (Australia, SG, 18)
22. NetsBam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
23. RaptorsIvan Rabb (California, PF, Sophomore)
24. JazzTJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)
25. MagicJawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)
26. BlazersIsaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 18)
27. NetsTyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF/SF, Sophomore)
28. LakersHarry Giles (Duke, PF, Freshman)
29. SpursSemi Ojeleye (SMU, SF/PF, Junior)
30. JazzFrank Jackson (Duke, PG, Freshman)
Picks by Andy Bailey


Safest Prospects

Markelle Fultz

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."


Jayson Tatum

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.


De'Aaron Fox

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:

Sports Illustrated @SInow

Heartbreak in the Kentucky locker room. (📹: @joe_mussatto) https://t.co/Vd3yzOje03

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.