NBA Mock Draft: Fultz, Ball, Fox lead PG-heavy class
NBA Mock Draft
Teams in need of a point guard will be pleased at the crop of floor generals in this year's draft class. As many as five point guards could hear their names called in the lottery, led by Washington's Markelle Fultz and UCLA's Lonzo Ball.
1. Boston Celtics
Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington: The Celtics really don't need to overthink the first pick in the draft. Assuming they keep it, Fultz is the clear choice as the draft's best player and one who could potentially fill a future need; Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart will need new deals after next season. Fultz can play off the ball as well (he shot 41 percent from deep as a freshman) and a 6-foot-10 wingspan gives him elite defensive potential.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA: Magic Johnson breathed a sigh of relief when the Lakers not only landed in the top 3 of the Lottery, but actually moved up a spot. It puts them in prime position to take their match made in heaven, California native Lonzo Ball. The UCLA freshman was the country's best passer, he made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts and has the flare to succeed in the league's largest market. What the Lakers do with D'Angelo Russell remains to be seen, but drafting Ball here is another no-brainer.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky: The draft gets interesting after the first two picks, and the Sixers taking Monk here would qualify as a slight reach. But Brett Brown wants to try last year's top pick Ben Simmons at point guard, and the Sixers have a bright young frontcourt in Joel Embiid, likely Rookie of the Year Dario Saric, and Robert Covington. Philadelphia had the league's worst offense for a fourth straight season. They need a pure scorer, and Monk (19.8 points per game) can fill it up in a hurry.
4. Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas: Filling a need and securing the best player left on the board is an excellent combo, and it's what the Suns fall into here. They're set in the backcourt with Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis, while they spent two top-8 picks on forwards a year ago (Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss). There's a need at small forward, as T.J. Warren seems more fit for a second unit role. Enter Jackson, the draft's best small forward with plenty of upside.
5. Sacramento Kings
De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky: Like Phoenix, Sacramento also fills a major need with the best player available, taking the lightning-quick Fox with their first of two top-10 selections. The latest descendent of the John Calipari point guard tree, Fox had a brilliant freshman season, and while he'll need to improve his 3-point shooting considerably (24.6 percent on 1.9 attempts) the rest of his game is tailor-made for today's NBA. The Kings desperately need a point guard.
6. Orlando Magic
Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke: A foot sprain suffered in October simmered some of the hype surrounding Tatum's arrival at Duke. But once he returned in December and found a rhythm, he showed why he's worthy of a top-10 selection in June. Tatum was a force at the rim, averaged a respectable 34 percent from deep and even shot 85 percent from the stripe. He also averaged 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks in 33.3 minutes per game, and the 22.0 points he averaged in four ACC Tournament wins really helped his stock. The Magic need as much help as they can get, so taking the best player available is the way to go.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona: Standing 7-feet and making 41 percent of your 3-pointers is a solid way to have your named called in the top-10 of the draft. Markkanen was outstanding in his lone season at Arizona, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds as a stretch forward for Sean Miller. If he can hold his own defensively he'll carve out a role in the NBA for a long time. Minnesota would be a perfect landing spot, as he could play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and produce excellent high-low action on offense.
8. New York Knicks
Dennis Smith, PG, North Carolina State: Outside of a 7-foot-3 Latvian stretch forward, the Knicks check just about every box under the "needs" category. But with Derrick Rose hitting free agency and Phil Jackson having zero other true point guards on the roster, it's apparent the Knicks need to strongly consider the best remaining point guard at No. 8. In this scenario it's Smith, who had a monster under-the-radar year at NC State and should transition nicely to the NBA. He and Kristaps Porzingis could form a lethal 1-2 combo.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State: Expect restricted free agent Nerlens Noel back in Dallas, but there isn't a whole lot to be excited about in the frontcourt past him. Dirk Nowitzki probably has one season left, and Dwight Powell appears to have reached his ceiling of a solid, second team contributor. Isaac did a little bit of everything in his lone season at Florida State, and he's got great physical tools as a small/power forward hybrid at the next level. It'll be important for him to carve out a role early and focus specifically on certain aspects of his game, but his build and athleticism make him a solid bet to make in the NBA.
10. Sacramento Kings
Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga: The Kings hit on their Skal Labissiere pick last year, and Georgios Papagiannis will get a chance to prove himself this season. Willie Cauley-Stein also showed flashes of improvement after the All-Star break. But after nabbing Fox with the fifth pick the Kings should still look to improve that post-Boogie frontcourt. Collins had a monster showing in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 9.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He has so much potential and yet already has a defined game on both ends. His floor seems relatively high.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Jarrett Allen, C, Texas: The one-year Roy Hibbert experiment failed, and their frontcourt tandem of Cody Zeller and Miles Plumlee is hardly the answer. Allen would be both an upgrade on the second unit right away and a potential long-term starter. He's ready to play defensively right now and has a soft touch around the rim. A five-star recruit who had a monster showing in the Big 12 as a freshman, Allen is just scratching the surface of his potential. He could be the next DeAndre Jordan.
12. Detroit Pistons
Luke Kennard, SG, Duke: The Pistons could go a number of directions in the draft, but grabbing some outside shooting should be at or near the top of the list. Detroit attempted the fifth fewest 3-pointers per game last year, and their 33 percent clip was third worst in the league. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should be back as a restricted free agent, but Kennard would be a welcome additon on the second unit.
13. Denver Nuggets
Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina: The Nuggets seem to be building something significant in the Western Conference. Steve Kerr and the Warriors won't lose sleep anytime soon, but Nikola Jokic gives them a franchise piece surrounded by a number of young athletes with potential. With Danilo Gallinari entering free agency the Nuggets could look to replace him with a 3-point specialist on the wing, and Jackson fits that bill perfectly.
14. Miami Heat
Frank Ntilikina, PG, France: The Heat have plenty of versatility in the backcourt with guys like Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters (assuming he's back next season). But drafting a player with as much talent as Ntilikina could go a long way toward the future, when Dragic could become a free agent in 2019. The French point guard could certainly go much higher than No. 14. His length and court vision will serve him well at the pro level.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Harry Giles, PF, Duke: The Trail Blazers have three picks in the first round, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them to take a risk on a guy like Giles. The top recruit in the 2016 class, Giles has two ACL tears on his resume and missed time at Duke recovering from another knee surgery. Without the knee problems he'd be in the conversation as a top pick. Given Portland's history with debilitating injuries (Bowie, Roy, Oden) this may not be the best fit, but given their circumstances he's a worthy gamble outside of the lottery.
16. Chicago Bulls
Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia: The Bulls wanted to get younger and more athletic in 2016, and then signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. They also drafted Denzel Valentine, an older prospect with limited athleticism. Lucky for them, the players expected to go in the 10 to 20 range have plenty of bounce. Ferguson played a year in Australia instead of attending college, and his combination of outside shooting and leaping ability would give the Bulls instant offense, something they really needed and didn't get on their second unit. Ferguson has plenty of upside, and he's somewhat of an unknown compared to his fellow prospects who attended college.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville: Sometimes the rich get richer. In this instance the long get longer. Milwaukee's stifling defense consisting of abnormally long wingspans adds another one in Donovan Mitchell. The combo guard has drawn comparisons to Boston's Avery Bradley, and they're warranted. The 6-foot-3 guard touts a 6-foot-10 wingspan, was named First Team All-ACC Defense as a sophomore and can play either guard position. He would be a perfect fit in Milwaukee.
18. Indiana Pacers
OG Anunoby, SG, Indiana: A torn ACL cost Anunoby a shot at being a lottery pick, but there's still a lot to like about his game. A 7-foot-2 wingspan is going to make him a matchup nightmare on the defensive side of the ball, and he averaged 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks before the injury. He shot just 31 percent from deep as a sophomore, though he's a strong attacker at the rim. If the Pacers medically clear his knee they're getting a lottery talent in the middle of the first round.
19. Atlanta Hawks
John Collins, PF, Wake Forest: Collins very well could go earlier than No. 19 on draft night. He put up monster numbers in the ACC - 19.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks - against some steep competition and is probably this draft class's best post scorer. He said at the combine he wants to prove to teams he can shoot outside more than he did at Wake Forest, and that will be crucial to his development. There isn't much room for a one-trick pony in the post (see: Okafor, Jahlil). Still, there's enough talent here to warrant a top-20 pick. He could end up being a top-5 talent.
20. Portland Trail Blazers
Justin Patton, C, Creighton: Call this the Festus Ezeli do-over pick. Jusuf Nurkic sure looks like the center of the future, but Ezeli was one of the worst offseason signings a year ago. He's got one year left on his deal, and while Noah Vonleh and Myers Leonard are capable of playing center, neither are as talented as Patton. The redshirt freshman is an outstanding athlete who should be able to contribute immediately on offense. He shot 68 percent from the field in his lone year with the Bluejays.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Semi Ojeleye, SF, SMU: You may have heard that Russell Westbrook needs more help. He's got a pair of frontcourt studs in Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, but on the perimeter there's not much there in the wake of Kevin Durant's departure. Finding a wing who can score and hit 3-pointers should be priority No. 1. That's exactly what Ojeleye brings, as he averaged 19.0 points and shot 42.4 percent from deep for the Mustangs. The former Duke product would be a welcome addition on the perimeter.
22. Brooklyn Nets
Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky: No, they're not picking No. 1 overall. That's unfortunate in a class as talented as this. But the good news is the Nets still have a pair of first-round picks thanks to the swap with Boston and dealing Bojan Bogdanovic to the Wizards at the trade deadline. Because of that it might make sense to take a flyer on a mystery prospect with perhaps the most upside of anyone in his class. Diallo hasn't played competitively since December, and he's still incredibly raw. But he'll get opportunities to grow early in Brooklyn, and he's originally from Queens so there's a hometown connection here.
23. Toronto Raptors
Ivan Rabb, PF, California: Serge Ibaka and Patrick Patterson are both free agents, and general manager Masai Ujiri has said the Raptors are looking for a culture change. Their offseason will begin and end with whatever free agent Kyle Lowry decides to do, but adding a player like Rabb will help a frontcourt that will look much different next season. Rabb struggled in two seasons at Cal (relative to expectations set for him) but he's a player who could look better in the NBA than he did in college. Even if he never irons out his game he's an excellent rebounder with good length. He's a project, but well worth the risk this late in the first round. Rabb could have been a top 10 pick a year ago.
24. Utah Jazz
Frank Jackson, PG, Duke: A surprise winner at the NBA Draft Combine, Jackson signed with an agent and will keep his name in a talented pool of point guards. If he falls this far Utah would gladly swipe him up. George Hill and Shelvin Mack are free agents and Dante Exum has proven next to nothing in his first three NBA seasons. Jackson has superb athleticism and size. Rounding out his game will be important, but he's worth the gamble here.
25. Orlando Magic
T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA: The Magic were nearly unwatchable at times on offense this past year. They were 29th in efficiency, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Simply put, they need scorers. That's what they'll get in Leaf, who averaged 16.3 points on 62 percent shooting in his freshman season with the Bruins. His 2.4 assists were an added bonus, and if he can hold his own defensively he'll stick in the league. At the very least he'll contribute to a Magic offense that needs all the help it can get.
26. Portland Trail Blazers
Jonathan Jeanne, C, France: It's not a surprise to see a team with three first-round picks go after a player who needs to refine his game and add plenty of muscle. Jeanne weighed in at just 207 pounds at the Combine, but his 7-foot-6 wingspan and impressive showing in Chicago should make him a first-round pick. It won't yield results right away, but a team may wind up being very happy they took a chance on Jeanne in a few years time. He's not unlike Rudy Gobert in that sense.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Ike Anigbogu, PF, UCLA: Both Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker will be free agents after next season. While one or both could be back - who knows where the Nets are headed? - it'd be smart for Brooklyn to start looking toward the future. And while there is some young talent in the backcourt (Caris LeVert, Sean Kilpatrick, Isaiah Whitehead, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and in this mock draft Hamidou Diallo) they have next to nothing up front. Anigbogu is an elite rim protector with a lot of room to grow on offense. He's the kind of project (like Diallo) who could get valuable reps in Brooklyn.
28. LA Lakers
Tony Bradley, PF, North Carolina: Bradley could potentially return to UNC where he would join a loaded class looking to repeat as national champions. If he gets a first-round guarantee he'll remain in the draft. The Lakers have beefed up their backcourt with additions of Russell, Ball and Brandon Ingram the past three drafts. Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac are potential pieces for the future, but adding a player like Bradley would, at the very least, act as an upgrade over Thomas Robinson. Bradley has a lot of untapped potential, and won't turn 20 until January.
29. San Antonio Spurs
Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon: One of the NBA Draft Combine's biggest winners, Bell is shooting up draft boards for good reason. He's an elite rebounder with great athleticism and, in classic Spurs fashion, is a solid passer for a big man. With Pau Gasol and David Lee on the latter stages of their career, Bell could be an eventual replacement as the Spurs move forward with their youth movement.
30. Utah Jazz
Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky: After grabbing Jackson earlier in the round the Jazz opt for some Derrick Favors insurance in Adebayo. He didn't post massive statistics with the Wildcats but is one of the draft's best and most versatile defenders. At the very least Adebayo will be an upgrade as an interior defender over Jeff Withey, and he could eventually replace Favors or Boris Diaw, both of whom need contract extensions after next season. Adebayo is raw offensively, and if he ever develops there he could be a major steal.