clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Grading the 2017 NBA Draft

The Process is coming ever closer to a result with Markelle Fultz, and the City of Stars will be adding one of its own in Lonzo Ball. Here is our assessment of the fit and value of all first-round picks drafted Thursday night.

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

For the third time in the last four years, the 76ers have walked away from the draft with the consensus top player available. Fultz is a do-everything guard who can run a team, score at all three levels of the floor, and (hopefully) play better defense than he did at Washington. He’s the final piece in what could be a dominant Big Three with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, although all of them are best with the ball in their hands. A pass-first guard like Lonzo Ball might have been a better fit, but Fultz provides first-option insurance in case either Simmons or Embiid goes down again. The Process faithful can bask in the #RTArmageddon tonight. They have earned it.

Value: A
Fit: B

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Say what you want about LaVar Ball, but he called his own shot. Magic Johnson drafted the eldest Ball son at no. 2 overall, the first step in creating a 21st-century version of the Showtime Lakers. At least in theory. Now Lonzo just has to cash the checks his father has written for him. Lonzo is one of the smartest and most entertaining prospects to come into the league in some time, and he would be a great complementary piece to some of the stars rumored to be coming to L.A. in the near future. The question is how he will fare if forced to be the primary option should none of those guys end up coming. Lonzo should make everyone on the team better next season, but it’s hard to say who that will be right now.

Value: A
Fit: A

3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

If it wasn’t clear already, Danny Ainge isn’t afraid of taking risks. He bucked the draft consensus by moving off the no. 1 pick, and people are going to compare Tatum and Fultz for the rest of their careers. Tatum is one of the best scorers in this draft, and he could become the no. 2 option the Celtics have needed to take pressure off Isaiah Thomas. Of course, that’s if he’s staying in Boston long term. If he does, given how many players the Celtics could be adding in the next few years, the key is developing the rest of his game so he can help his team if he’s not a primary option. It’s also unclear how his presence would impact the development of Jaylen Brown, the no. 3 pick in last year’s draft, since both players are inconsistent outside shooters who will need the ball.

Value: B
Fit: B

4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas

No player at the top of the draft had more rumors circling around them than Jackson, but he wound up going exactly where people expected at the start of the process. Jackson is a perfect fit next to Devin Booker in Phoenix, since he can take the tougher assignment on the perimeter, while Booker’s ability to space the floor will allow Jackson, who has a wonky-looking 3-point shot, to slash to the rim. While Jackson played as a small-ball power forward at Kansas, he will probably play more on the perimeter with the Suns, since they drafted Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender in the lottery last season. Phoenix has a lot of interesting young players; now it’s time for them to start winning games.

Value: A
Fit: A

5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Here’s a surprise: The Kings drafted a player from Kentucky. Even with DeMarcus Cousins now in New Orleans, Fox joins Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere as John Calipari–coached players plying their craft in Northern California. With two athletic, young 7-footers filling the lane with Fox, expect the Kings to run, run, and run some more. That will be good for Fox since his inability to shoot with range could be a huge liability for him in the half court. If he becomes even an average 3-point shooter in the NBA, this could be a great pick for Sacramento. The good news is he was a 74 percent free throw shooter in college. The bad news is he was in the 14th percentile in the entire country as a jump shooter, according to the tracking numbers at Synergy Sports. For Kings fans’ sake, let’s hope Vivek Ranadivé invests in a shooting coach.

Value: B
Fit: A

6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

New Orlando GM John Hammond loved long and athletic players when he was in Milwaukee, and now he’s taking that blueprint with him to the Magic. Isaac could be the best defensive prospect in this year’s draft, as he has the size and length of a big man and the speed of a guard. He’s also a good 3-point shooter, which will be huge for an Orlando team that has needed floor spacing for years. Isaac and Aaron Gordon should form a fascinating combo on the wings, though neither is much of a shot creator at this stage in their careers. The Magic could have drafted a point guard to replace Elfrid Payton, but his strong finish to last season has given him one more chance to run the show in Orlando.

Value: A
Fit: A

7. Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen, F/C, Arizona (Acquired From Minnesota)

Jimmy Butler is gone. No one the Bulls could have picked in this spot will come close to replacing Butler, either next season or anytime in the near future. It could be a long time before Chicago is a relevant team. Markkanen, the best shooter in this year’s draft, would have been an incredible pick-and-pop threat with Butler, and he might be able to breathe some life into the newly acquired Kris Dunn’s career by opening up space for him to get to the rim. A 7-footer with Markkanen’s perimeter touch will have a long career in the NBA, but he will need to diversify his game at the next level to be worth being taken high in the lottery. While defense will always be a struggle for him, he has plenty of room to grow as a rebounder, passer, and ball handler.

Value: B
Fit: A

8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg/France

For all the noise surrounding the Knicks in the last few days, they ended up staying put and taking the guy they had been linked to in most mock drafts for weeks. Ntilikina is probably the least explosive of all the point guards in this year’s lottery, but he’s also the best fit for the triangle. He’s a supersized guard with great length who takes care of the ball, defends multiple positions, and can shoot 3s. The Knicks have had a lot of success taking European players in the draft, and Ntilikina could be a solid complement to Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez, if either of them is even still in New York City in a few weeks.

Value: B
Fit: A

9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, North Carolina State

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Smith to the Mavs might have been the best match of player skill set and team need in the lottery. Dallas needed an explosive point guard who can score off the dribble, collapse the defense, and set the table for Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes, and Smith should thrive in all of the spacing that Rick Carlisle’s offense creates in the half court. A much bigger and more explosive version of Yogi Ferrell, Smith could be one of the front-runners for Rookie of the Year, if he can earn the trust of an old-school coach who has never liked playing rookies. Smith didn’t play much defense in college, and he will need to improve his effort and awareness at that end of the floor to live up to his considerable promise.

Value: A
Fit: A

10. Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Collins, F/C, Gonzaga (Acquired From Sacramento)

There was never much chance the Blazers would use all three of their first-round picks, so they packaged no. 15 and no. 20 to move up and grab their man, Collins. The Gonzaga big man never started a game in college, but his combination of size, skill, and athleticism shot him up mock drafts over the course of the season. However, while Collins has the speed and shooting ability to potentially share a frontcourt with Jusuf Nurkic, playing two 7-footers together in the modern NBA isn’t easy, and he may end up coming off the bench for a team that regularly played four perimeter players at the same time over the last few seasons.

Value: A
Fit: B

11. Charlotte Hornets: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

Some highly touted player was bound to drop out of the top 10 in a draft this deep, and that wound up being Monk, who could have potentially gone as high as no. 3. Monk has a rare combination of athleticism and shooting ability, and he should be able to earn playing time right away as a floor spacer and secondary scorer coming off the bench for Charlotte. While he will need to improve defensively to be in Steve Clifford’s good graces, this was as good an outcome as the Hornets could have expected at this spot. Monk didn’t have the benefit of playing with much shooting around him at Kentucky, and he could be an even better scorer in an NBA environment.

Value: A
Fit: A

12. Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard, G, Duke

It’s hard to avoid comparing Kennard to J.J. Redick, another elite 3-point shooter from Duke who was taken in the later lottery and had questions about his defensive upside when he came into the league. Redick is the best-case scenario for Kennard, but he changed his body in his first few seasons in the NBA and maximized every bit of his upside. It’s just as likely that Kennard becomes (former Piston) Jodie Meeks with less shot-creation ability. Stan Van Gundy’s teams always need 3-point shooting, so there should be playing time for the Duke product right away, but this might have been a situation where a coach/GM opted for immediate help rather than taking someone with more long-term upside.

Value: C
Fit: A

13. Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville (Acquired From Denver)

Utah jumped 11 spots in the draft to grab Mitchell and got rid of Trey Lyles, who fell out of favor this season, in the process. It will be an interesting transition for Mitchell, who goes from playing in an uptempo system in Louisville that gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted on offense to one of the NBA’s slowest and most disciplined offenses. If the improvement that Mitchell showed as a shooter this season is for real, he should be a nice weapon for a Jazz team that needs more creativity off the dribble on the perimeter. Mitchell could take Shelvin Mack’s job immediately, and he might end up being thrust into a much bigger role if free agency goes poorly for the Jazz.

Value: B
Fit: B

14. Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo, F/C, Kentucky

Everyone said the draft would open up after the first dozen picks were off the board, and the Heat made the first real shocker of the night when they selected Adebayo, who was seen as a late-first-round pick through most of the draft process. There’s no questioning Bam’s athletic ability: He’s light on his feet for a guy who is built like a tank. However, he will have to become more of a perimeter-oriented player in Miami’s pace-and-space system, especially with Hassan Whiteside taking up most of the minutes at center. There will always be a place in the NBA for a player with Adebayo’s size and speed, but big men who don’t protect the rim and can’t space the floor have become much less valuable in the last few years.

Value: C
Fit: C

15. Sacramento Kings: Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina (Acquired From Portland)

With their first-round pick in 2019 headed to either Boston or Philadelphia, Sacramento needs to stock up on young players this year and next, and Jackson is one of the safest selections on the board. The best player on UNC’s national title team, Jackson dramatically improved his 3-point shooting as a junior, and if he can maintain those percentages he will have a long career in the NBA. He has already mastered the in-between game with flip shots and floaters, but his lack of athleticism will put a ceiling on his upside on both sides of the ball. Rudy Gay’s departure means there will be plenty of minutes for Jackson, and he’s experienced enough to be able handle a role in the NBA right away.

Value: B
Fit: A

16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Justin Patton, C, Creighton (Acquired From Chicago)

The run on big men might have just begun. Patton is one of a glut of traditional centers expected to go in the middle of the first round, and he has an interesting combination of size, athleticism, and shooting ability, although he will need to get stronger and improve his overall defensive awareness to get minutes under Tom Thibodeau. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler means the Wolves are ready to win now, so even if Patton doesn’t end up getting moved in another deal for a veteran, he will likely be spending a lot of time in the G League.

Value: B
Fit: B

17. Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Prioritizing length has made the Bucks one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA, and they stuck to the blueprint with the 17th pick. Wilson is a 6-foot-11 stretch 4 from Michigan with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. There were concerns about Wilson’s toughness and rebounding ability in college, but he won’t be asked to do much more than space the floor for all the athletes they have in Milwaukee, and he should be a great fit next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The inability of guys like Mirza Teletovic and Spencer Hawes to move their feet was exposed against the Raptors in the playoffs, and Wilson projects as a much more athletic version of those players. Jason Kidd has shown that he’s not afraid to throw rookies into the fire, so don’t be surprised if Wilson is playing right away.

Value: A
Fit: A

18. Indiana Pacers: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

Lonzo Ball got most of the publicity for UCLA’s turnaround this season, but Leaf was just as important to their success. Leaf has the perimeter-oriented skill set that every NBA team is looking for in a power forward these days. He didn’t shoot a lot of 3s in college, but if he can extend his range out to behind the arc, he has the ball-handling and passing abilities to be a dangerous player. Defense will always be a concern for Leaf, who lacks great bulk or length, but playing next to a shot blocker like Myles Turner should alleviate some of those concerns. Just how much he ends up playing next season could depend on what Indiana does with Paul George, since last season’s starting 4, Thaddeus Young, could be following George out the door if the Pacers begin a full-fledged rebuilding project.

Value: B
Fit: B

19. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins, PF, Wake Forest

Collins is an interesting choice for the Hawks, who have emphasized 3-point shooting from their frontcourt in Mike Budenholzer’s offense. He was one of the most productive big men in the country at Wake Forest last season, but almost all of his offense came in the paint, and he lacks the rim-protecting ability to play as a center. With Dwight Howard in Charlotte and Paul Millsap entering free agency, Atlanta’s frontcourt situation is unsettled, so there will be minutes for Collins as a rim runner coming off the bench. The question is whether he can develop either defensively or as a shooter.

Value: B
Fit: C

20. Sacramento Kings: Harry Giles, F/C, Duke (Acquired From Portland)

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A team with three first-round picks was the perfect destination for Giles, who barely played at Duke last season while coming back from his already third serious knee injury. Giles was considered the best player in his class in high school, but he understandably didn’t do much in his only season in college, and the evaluation of him was as much about medical factors as it was what he did on the court at Durham. He may never be the player he was before all the injuries, but at a certain point in the draft, the reward more than outweighs the risk.

Value: A
Fit: A

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Terrance Ferguson, G, Adelaide 36ers/USA

Ferguson’s decision to skip college and play overseas in Australia ended up paying off for him, especially in comparison with his two fellow five-star wings (Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons), who went to Arizona and saw their NBA stock plummet in Sean Miller’s restrictive half-court offense. While Ferguson didn’t do much in his time in the NBL, he’s long, athletic, and has a smooth-looking 3-point shot. The Thunder desperately need two-way players on the perimeter, but Ferguson will almost certainly be spending some time in the G League before he’s thrown into the pressure cooker on a Oklahoma City team that’s ready to win now.

Value: C
Fit: B

22. Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Allen was seen as a possible lottery pick coming into the season, but an up-and-down year on a Texas team without a point guard or much 3-point shooting depressed his draft stock. Brooklyn may end up benefiting from Allen’s difficult college situation, as centers with his skill and athleticism (and a 7-foot-5 wingspan) are rarely available this late in the first round. While he will need to get stronger, develop his perimeter jumper, and learn to leverage his length on the defensive end of the floor, he has all the tools to be an excellent two-way center in today’s game.

Value: A
Fit: A

23. Toronto Raptors: OG Anunoby, F, Indiana

Anunoby may miss most of his rookie season while recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in college, which allowed Toronto to luck into a player with as much defensive upside as anyone in the draft. Anunoby has the physique you would expect for a guy whose older brother played in the NFL, and he has incredible lateral quickness and vertical explosiveness for a 6-foot-8 forward. His offense is still a work in progress, but his ability to match up with multiple positions should allow him to fit into almost any lineup once he gets healthy.

Value: A
Fit: A

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

24. Denver Nuggets: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse (Acquired From Utah)

Lydon’s breakout performance came in the 2016 NCAA tournament, when he led Syracuse on an unlikely run to the Final Four, but he slipped under the radar on an underachieving team that finished a disappointing 10–8 in the ACC last season. His main selling point is his 3-point shot, but it’s unclear what position he can guard in the NBA, especially after spending the last two seasons in a 2–3 zone. Lydon was a good rim protector in college, but it’s a lot easier to block shots in a zone, when you can stay in one place rather than chasing guys around a court. He may not have the foot speed to keep up with the smaller players who play at the power forward position in the NBA these days. That could be a tough sell next to Nikola Jokic, who isn’t exactly fleet of foot.

Value: B
Fit: C

25. Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, F/C, Gran Canaria/Latvia (Acquired From Orlando)

Even with Sam Hinkie gone, the Sixers still can’t get enough big men, as they traded a future first-rounder and second-rounder to get back into the first round and grab Pasecniks. One of the biggest risers in the predraft process, the Latvian started moving up draft boards after an impressive pro day, when he displayed uncommon agility for a 7-foot-2 player. He will probably stay in Spain next season, which is good since there won’t be any minutes for him at center, even if Embiid can’t stay healthy next season. While he has good touch for a big man, he doesn’t block a lot of shots and he will have to continue improving defensively before he comes over.

Value: B
Fit: C

26. Portland Trail Blazers: Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue

Portland is loading up on big men in this draft, grabbing Swanigan at the end of the first round after taking Collins in the lottery. Swanigan was one of the best players in the country this season, and he has uncommon ability to shoot 3s and rebound at a high level. That could allow him to stick in the NBA. The problem is that he’s really slow, and he will almost certainly have to play as a center, which is an issue on a Blazers team that has at least four other guys fighting for minutes at the position.

Value: B
Fit: C

27. Los Angeles Lakers: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

There are more than a few similarities between Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr., another skilled and athletic power forward who rose in the predraft process and was taken by the Lakers at the end of the first round. The key for Kuzma will be continuing to improve from 3, as he shot only 32.1 percent from deep this season. At the 4, he’s a jack of all trades, master of none, and he will have to specialize in one or two things to carve out a role for himself in the NBA.

Value: B
Fit: B

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

28. Utah Jazz: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina (Acquired From Los Angeles)

Bradley is one of the best offensive rebounders to come into the NBA in a while, and that skill alone should keep him in the league. He played only 15 minutes per game as a backup on UNC’s national championship team, but he was incredibly productive in his time on the floor and he could end up representing real value this late in the first round. While Bradley rarely ventured outside of the paint in college, he intrigued many executives with the shooting touch he displayed in his workouts. The Jazz have a lot of big men on their roster, so Bradley might spend a few years learning from the bench before he gets a chance to play.

Value: A
Fit: B

29. San Antonio Spurs: Derrick White, PG, Colorado

The Spurs did it again. White is a 6-foot-5 combo guard without any holes in his game besides a lack of elite athleticism, and his basketball IQ and shooting ability will make him a perfect fit in San Antonio. His path to playing time next season will depend on what happens to Jonathon Simmons and Patty Mills in free agency, and how much their longtime vets Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have left in the tank. In any case, he should be a nice long-term complement to Dejounte Murray on the perimeter. If there’s a Malcolm Brogdon in this year’s draft, it’s White.

Value: A
Fit: A

30. Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Hart, G/F, Villanova (Acquired From Utah)

Hart is one of the most accomplished players in the draft: He won a national championship at Villanova as a junior, and he was a first-team All-American as a senior. He’s a 3-and-D player who is more 3 than D, but he’s smart and athletic enough to survive on the defensive side of the ball in the NBA. Hart will look good running the break next to Lonzo Ball, and he should have a long career in the NBA as long as he knocks down open shots, which is all you can ask for in a guy drafted this late.

Value: B
Fit: A