The NBA has reached a unique inflection point. On one coast lies the Golden State Warriors, a “superteam” (yes, Draymond) seemingly poised to become unequivocally the greatest team ever. Catastrophic lower leg injuries, the San Andreas Fault, or an unexpected Klay Thompson ego explosion could disrupt this pattern, but let’s be honest, envisioning the 2014-2022 Warriors as basketball’s eternal gold standard of excellence isn’t difficult.
The NBA has long struggled with competitive balance, but Golden State represents a whole new challenge to this perceived inefficiency. The Bulls are contemplating trading Jimmy Butler. For what? The low probability that eventually Jayson Tatum will be at Jimmy’s level as the Warriors start to decline in five years? You don’t trade Jimmy Butler until you hear from his own lips that he plans to leave Chicago.
The inevitable Bay Area dynasty is disorienting organizations. The Knicks have one legit commodity, their beloved 7’3 Kristaps Porzingis, and reports indicate that Phil Jackson is exploring his trade value in regards to Thursday evening. Porzingis was born three months after myself, and as I scrap around looking for my first job, the Knicks are actively looking to move their emerging centerpiece out of his. Phil Jackson is a “Porzingis for the 4th pick” trade from being the worst GM in NBA history. Let’s move on.
The top of this draft is impressive. There aren’t any LeBron/KD/Anthony Davis franchise altering guys necessarily, but there might be a dozen impact pieces that’ll play key roles in big moments over the next 15 years. I personally see a slight drop-off after Fultz, Ball, and Fox. Those three have All-NBA potential by the end of the decade in my estimation. Fultz and Fox are surefire studs, while Ball possesses the greatest potential to directly fuel team success. I have strong reservations regarding his work ethic, but in a vacuum his skill set is a breathtaking match with the modern game. It looks like Ball will be granted his wish to play for the Lakers. Luke Walton is the perfect coach for him.
I’m also extremely high on Malik Monk and Frank Ntilikina, both expected lottery selections. The Magic should pull the trigger on Monk at 6. Monk’s shooting stroke is the most aesthetically pleasing motion to enter the league since Klay Thompson’s. My comparison for Monk has shifted from Bradley Beal squarely to JR Smith, who sneakily has been really relevant for over a decade now! Monk’s value will lie in his ability to nail timely shots, occasionally erupt for 20 points in a quarter, and always being a threat as the shot clock dwindles. Those attributes alone aren’t central components to winning, but on a formidable team those ingredients become irreplaceable. I’m getting a Monk jersey.
Ntilikina is a mix between a taller Pat Beverley and a more assertive Khris Middleton, capable of hitting outside shots and guarding multiple perimeter positions. His defensive awareness and anticipation skills are incredibly advanced at his age. You can tell he was coached the right way. The honorable European emphasis on the nuances associated with defensive stance and positioning stick out on his tape. You can tell Frank avoided the bad habits inherent in the AAU circuit on this side of the Atlantic.
On the flip side I have serious concerns about Josh Jackson‘s skill level, especially his shaky shooting and ball handling. Those deficiencies might force him to the 4-spot, where I question his physicality and toughness. Wing prospects that previously relied heavily on their athleticism struggle to find their footing in a league full of world-class athletes. The offensive versatility needs to catch up. Perry Jones III, Al-Farouq Aminu, Wesley Johnson, and more recently Stanley Johnson have discovered this the hard way. Fellow about-to-be lottery pick Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State falls in the same boat. I was higher on Justice Winslow coming out of Duke than I am of Jackson right now, and Winslow went 10th back in 2015.
Without further ado.
2017 NBA Mock Draft – lottery teams
- Sixers – Markelle Fultz
- Lakers – Lonzo Ball
- Celtics – Jayson Tatum
- Suns – Josh Jackson
- Kings – De’Aaron Fox
- Magic – Jonathan Isaac
- Timberwolves – Malik Monk
- Knicks – Dennis Smith Jr.
- Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina
- Kings – Zach Collins
- Charlotte – Donovan Mitchell
- Pistons – Luke Kennard
- Nuggets – OG Anunoby
- Heat – D.J. Wilson