Re-Drafting Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and the 2017 NBA Draft 2 Years Later
A re-draft of the hyped 2017 NBA draft class would look significantly different than the original order after two seasons.
Star-caliber players have emerged—just not the the ones who the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers or Phoenix Suns expected. Those three teams have already traded their respective top-five picks: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson.
However, some youngsters who have struggled deserve a pass and more patience given their ages, roles and roster situations. Scouts frequently like to remind us not to write off a player too early in their careers.
Check out this re-draft of the 2017 first round, which mostly went with a best-player-available approach unless a player fit too well with the team on the clock.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Celtics): Donovan Mitchell
A time machine would give the Philadelphia 76ers a chance to go back and decline trading up for Markelle Fultz.
Heading into 2019-20, De'Aaron Fox suddenly has a case for best prospect from the 2017 draft after making significant jumps last year as a playmaker, shooter and scorer. But since the Sixers' offense runs through Ben Simmons, they would have trouble resisting Donovan Mitchell and his fit at shooting guard.
Playing in the West, Mitchell averaged 23.8 points and 4.2 assists in his second NBA season. He needs to improve his shot selection and finishing at the rim, but the 22-year-old still has plenty of room to grow.
Mitchell is already a top-15 NBA scorer. Fox would be in the mix for the No. 1 pick if evaluated in a vacuum, but adding an explosive shot-maker like Mitchell could put the Sixers over the top and into Finals next year.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: De'Aaron Fox
Whoever the Los Angeles Lakers would have taken second in 2017 likely would be in New Orleans right now.
Regarding L.A.'s initial evaluation, it should have put more stock into Fox's 39-point game against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.
Fox has quickly surpassed Ball as the best point guard prospect in the class. He's vastly improved his passing and shooting, while his speed with the ball and defensive quickness out of college have been equally effective against NBA opponents.
A complete player who's able to score, distribute and apply pressure defensively, Fox might rise above Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and everyone else from 2017.
3. Boston Celtics (via 76ers): Jayson Tatum
The Boston Celtics get Jayson Tatum back in a re-draft after originally moving down to take him at No. 3.
Tatum didn't make the sophomore jump that Fox made. But the 21-year-old is one of the league's youngest advanced shot-creators, and his three-level scoring ability fuels his All-Star upside.
Tatum needs to develop his shot selection and off-the-dribble shot-making after his mid-range field-goal percentage fell from 43.7 percent to 36.6 percent last season. He took two more pull-ups per game (35.7 percent) than he did as a rookie (40.4 percent).
Aside from the addition of Kemba Walker and subtraction of Kyrie Irving, Boston lost Terry Rozier, Al Horford and Marcus Morris, creating a big opportunity for Tatum this year. He'll look to establish himself as one of the NBA's most productive wing players, not just a promising wing prospect.
4. Phoenix Suns: Lauri Markkanen
The Josh Jackson pick is haunting the Phoenix Suns. They could have had a De'Aaron Fox-Devin Booker backcourt. Even Jonathan Isaac would have been a solid pick.
With Fox off the board in a re-draft, Phoenix would want to target Lauri Markkanen, who just averaged 18.7 points and 2.3 threes, albeit in only 52 games due to injuries.
For a Suns team that finished last in three-point shooting percentage in 2018-19, he'd be an easy fit next to Deandre Ayton.
Markkanen needs to prioritize adding strength to finish more effectively inside the arc (47.9 percent last year) moving into his third season.
5. Sacramento Kings (via 76ers): Lonzo Ball
The Sacramento Kings should show interest in Lonzo Ball now that Fox is gone by No. 5.
The original No. 2 pick was hurt by injuries, roster turnover and an uncooperative three-ball through his two seasons in L.A. But finding the right fit could help Ball unlock his ability to impact games with his pace, passing and streaky shooting.
In the meantime, his basketball IQ and defensive anticipation will continue to result in winning plays the box score won't always reflect.
Over time, Ball could help to optimize Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and Harrison Barnes by giving them the ball in high-percentage scoring situations, his signature strength. His jump shot, a major swing skill, could ultimately come around once he's able to stay healthy and build more rhythm.
6. Orlando Magic: John Collins
Jonathan Isaac still has exciting two-way potential, but John Collins is too far ahead of him after two seasons for the Orlando Magic not to prefer him at No. 6.
The explosive big man averaged 19.5 points on 56.0 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds with the Atlanta Hawks last year, and he still has plenty of room to improve as a one-on-one scorer and shooter.
While Nikola Vucevic gives Orlando offensive versatility from the center spot, Collins would bring the power and bounce for easy baskets inside.
Collins has to become a better defender to avoid empty-stat criticism down the road. Regardless, he is a near lock to average a 20-10 double-double in his prime.
7. Chicago Bulls (via Wolves): Bam Adebayo
Re-drafting Bam Adebayo at No. 7 means believing there is more to his game than what he's shown in Miami behind Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk.
Adebayo made a strong impression last season with his finishing (68.8 percent shooting in the restricted area), rebounding (11.2 per 36 minutes), passing (3.5 per 36) and defensive versatility.
Moving forward, we should start to see more flashes of ball-handling, scoring moves and shooting touch that raise his perceived ceiling.
Adebayo might not ever average as many points as Kyle Kuzma, but he can be a greater-impact player based on his efficiency and defensive upside, which Kuzma lacks.
8. New York Knicks: Jonathan Isaac
Looking for a defensive-minded player whose offensive outlook seems brighter than Frank Ntilikina's, the New York Knicks should be drawn to Jonathan Isaac.
Isaac is still in the early stages of his development after he played only 27 games as a rookie. But last year, he took a promising step forward with per-36-minute averages of 1.6 threes, 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals.
He's flashed signs of shooting improvement to go with the defensive versatility that made him an enticing draft target. We've also seen sporadic signs of ball-handling and one-on-one shot creation.
Isaac will continue to generate optimism with his switchability, defensive playmaking and spot-up shooting. But he could elevate his ceiling by rounding out his offensive game.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma's value has become difficult to assess. He averaged an impressive 18.7 points per game last season, but he went from shooting 36.6 percent from three-point range as a rookie to 30.3 percent as a sophomore, and his defense remains suspect.
His scoring outweighs the question marks for the Dallas Mavericks at No. 9.
Kuzma has developed into a versatile shot-creator and shot-maker working on and off the ball. And despite his decline in three-point accuracy, he did make 1.8 threes per game after averaging 2.1 as a rookie.
How much he improves his three-ball and defense next season could determine the price of his second NBA contract. In the meantime, he'd likely work well in Dallas alongside Kristaps Porzingis up front.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (via Kings): Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen has established himself as a quality starter thanks to his easy-basket scoring potential, rim protection and rebounding. He'd go No. 10 as the best player available to the Portland Trail Blazers.
As a sophomore, Allen averaged 10.9 points on 59.0 percent shooting, 8.4 boards and 1.5 blocks in 26.2 minutes with the Brooklyn Nets. He might never be a dangerous half-court scoring threat, but he can still be effective playing to his strengths around the basket, using his size, length and timeliness at both ends.
Moving forward, Allen needs to improve his mid-range and free-throw touch (70.9 percent last season).
Re-draft aside, Allen is the future (and perhaps the present) at center in Brooklyn even after DeAndre Jordan signed with the Nets this summer.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Derrick White
White seems poised for a breakout after averaging 15.1 points during last year's playoff series with the Denver Nuggets. From junior college to Colorado to San Antonio, he continues to make strides as a shot-creator and scorer with crafty drives and a mid-range game. Signs point to a consistent three-ball arriving at some point.
12. Detroit Pistons: OG Anunoby
The addition of Kawhi Leonard and emergence of Pascal Siakam limited Anunoby's opportunities as a sophomore. But the long-term lens still loves his three-and-D potential. He has a body built to guard opposing top scorers and multiple positions, plus a projectable set jumper and enough athleticism and coordination for slashing and finishing.
13. Utah Jazz (via Nuggets): Dennis Smith Jr.
Flash plays have kept hope alive for Smith, a top-10 talent whose suspect decision-making and shooting have led to frustrating inconsistency. His explosiveness and skill level still hint at star potential, which continues to buy him time after two up-and-down seasons. His hesitation drives, shot creativity and passing continue to excite. At No. 13, it's worth finding out if he can raise his court awareness, concentration and three-point percentage above 35 percent.
14. Miami Heat: Monte Morris
Morris has become a premier backup point guard in Denver, but he could eventually become a starer for the Heat with the 33-year-old Goran Dragic entering the final year of his deal. The original No. 51 pick totaled 297 assists to only 52 turnovers while shooting 49.3 percent and 41.4 percent from three this past season.
15. Sacramento Kings (via Blazers): Luke Kennard
At 40.3 percent from three through two NBA seasons, Kennard looks like the same deadly shooter he was at Duke. After averaging 15 points in Detroit's playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, he figures to start showing more as a scoring and playmaking creator once his touches and usage spike. Kennard's defense is a bigger concern than his pedestrian 9.7 points per game as a sophomore.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach Collins
Collins hasn't been able to carve out a big role in Portland, averaging fewer than 18.0 minutes per game in both seasons. He's still only 21 with interior skill, developing outside touch and shot-blocking ability, though. And he adds some extra value with the versatility to play both the 4 and 5. His numbers after the 2019-20 season should finally resemble a starter's output if his minutes spike.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Josh Hart
Hart didn't take off as a sophomore the way his 2018 summer-league showing suggested he would. He still possesses untapped potential thanks to his well-rounded scoring skill set, secondary playmaking and defensive chops. A change of scenery and a more defined role should benefit Hart.
18. Indiana Pacers: Terrance Ferguson
Ferguson started 74 games last year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, working as a spot-up shooter and wing defender. The 21-year-old is still behind offensively in the creation department, but if he continues to build on his three-point accuracy (36.6 percent last season) and reputation as a two-way wing, Ferguson figures to develop into a fine three-and-D role player worth re-drafting in the mid-to-late first round.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Thomas Bryant
After underachieving through two seasons at Indiana and mostly working in the G League as a rookie, Bryant revived his stock last season in Washington. He averaged 18.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, and he hit 33 three-pointers and shot 78.1 percent from the free-throw line.
20. Sacramento Kings (via Blazers): Markelle Fultz
Fultz's downfall from No. 1 overall ranks with the most bizarre in league history. It's still worth buying this low to find out if he's capable of moving on from his shoulder issues and can build back confidence in his jump shot. Between his athleticism, creation and playmaking abilities, he'll offer enough offensively to crack a rotation even without the three-point shooting. But he'll need to stay on the floor as opposed to popping in and out of the lineup.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Frank Jackson
Jackson isn't as proven as some other names left on the board, but his upside is more enticing. He scored 30 points during his only summer-league action in July, and between his athleticism and confident shot-making, Jackson could become a potent bench scorer.
22. Brooklyn Nets (via Wizards): Damyean Dotson
Dotson has quietly been building a case for himself in New York, giving the Knicks a shot-maker who competes defensively. He settles for tough jumpers too often, but that's also a result of having to step outside his wheelhouse on a young team lacking stars and veterans. Dotson would be an interesting addition to a more proven roster looking for a three-and-D role player.
23. Toronto Raptors (via Clippers): Justin Jackson
Jackson looked more comfortable last season in Dallas, where he shot 48.4 percent overall and 37.2 percent from three. He might not offer much shot-creativity or playmaking, but Jackson will continue to carve out an NBA role if he can shoot at a high enough level off spot-ups and screens.
24. Denver Nuggets (via Jazz): Frank Ntilikina
Ntilikina's predraft concerns have come to life in New York, where his lack of burst has caused him to struggle creating separation and finishing at the rim. He still possesses promising defensive ability and passing skills suited for a backup or supporting role. He'll need his spot-up and pull-up jumper to become more reliable threats, however.
25. Philadelphia 76ers (via Magic): DJ Wilson
Wilson occasionally proved to be useful last season with his three-point shooting and defensive versatility. He's limited offensively once inside the arc, but he could carve out a regular role by becoming a reliable spot-up shooter, assuming he continues to look capable guarding in space and switching.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavs): Jordan Bell
Even after a disappointing second season, Bell still goes in the first round because of his energizer potential. His decision-making and effort can be frustrating at times, and he may never be a starting-caliber player due to his offensive limitations. However, the right team could see value in his ability to use athleticism for making off-ball plays as a finisher and shot-blocker.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (via Nets): Malik Monk
A 2019-20 season without improvement would push Monk into the second round of a re-draft held next summer. Despite his limited playmaking and defensive abilities, Monk's athleticism and shot-making still hold value in the right specialist role.
28. Utah Jazz (via Lakers): Josh Jackson
The Suns gave up on Jackson after two seasons of inefficiency and off-the-floor issues. He's too talented to slip into the second round of a re-draft, and we have seen some encouraging flashes of shot-creation and perimeter shot-making. His decision-making and maturity continue to be major concerns, however.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Luke Kornet
Kornet has turned into a legitimate NBA player, finishing last year ranked 80th in ESPN's real plus-minus. He averaged 3.2 threes and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes for the New York Knicks. Even with no athletic ability or shot-creativity, he's become valuable for his floor-stretching three-ball and reaction in rim protection.
30. Los Angeles Lakers (via Jazz): Harry Giles
Giles appeared in 58 games last year after missing his entire rookie season. Enough promising offensive sequences earn him a spot in the first round of the re-draft. He'll look to build on the flashes of post moves and mid-range touch, although staying healthy and finding easy baskets and rebounds should be the priority.