Consider this the March Madness Eve version. Or whatever. Also, to mix things up a bit, I used the lottery generator courtesy of http://www.tankathon.com.
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|1. New York Knicks||Markelle Fultz, Fr||6’4, 195 lbs||Upper Marlboro, MD||PG/SG||Washington|
|2016-2017 Stats: 23.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.9 apg|
|Not a lot has gone right for the Knicks, so to land the top overall pick would be huge for the franchise and fan base.
It is a shame that Markelle Fultz was stuck on such a bad team. It would have been nice to see him go up against good competition in the tournament. Scouts will worry about his numbers on a team that went 2-16 in conference play, but that did not stop Ben Simmons from being the top overall choice in 2016. Fultz has a game tailor made for today’s NBA, thanks to his size and impressive catalog of offensive moves. Looking at the list of Knicks point guards the past two decades, they have never had anyone with near the ability of Fultz. Fultz and Kristaps Porzingis would give the Knicks two great player to build around. Now only if they knew how to do that “building.”
|2. Orlando Magic||Josh Jackson, Fr||6’8, 207 lbs||Detroit, MI||SG/SF||Kansas|
|2016-2017 Stats: 16.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.1 apg|
|Since trading Serge Ibaka and going with a more up tempo lineup, Elfrid Payton has flourished, which means Orlando will not have to reach for a point guard and can just take the best player available (which still will probably be a point guard.)
As far as the players available, Josh Jackson is the best fit and, in my opinion, is the top prospect regardless of position. Jackson has gained the complete trust of head coach Bill Self and has led the Jayhawks to 23 wins. He is scoring at a very high rate, and even when his shot does not fall, like during a 3-11 effort against West Virginia, he still contributes by rebounding and playing excellent on the ball defense. Jackson has shot the three pointer at a respectable clip, and if he can stay around that 35% mark, he has the chance to be an All Star and all NBA defender. Sure, he is not a great free throw shooter, but he has very little bust potential and can start right away.
|3. Boston Celtics (from Nets)||Lonzo Ball, Fr||6’6, 190 lbs||Chino Hills, CA||PG||UCLA|
|2016-2017 Stats: 15.0 ppg, 7.5 apg, 6.3 rpg|
|The Celtics will be rooting hard for the ping pong balls to land their way, because the top pick would be a lot more valuable in trade negotiations than the third overall selection.
The Celtics are set in their back court, but Lonzo Ball is the best player available. I am sure LaVar Ball will not be happy with his son being a backup, and will record a seven hour Netflix special to complain about it. Ball may be the best pure passer the college game has seen in a decade or two. He uses his height and uncanny court vision to find the open man. On top of that, he is a good scorer and shooter as well. Ball is not the most athletic but he knows how to play the game. Even if the Celtics do not use this pick to land a Jimmy Butler or Paul George, they should be able to get a very good veteran from a team looking for it’s point guard of the future.
|4. Philadelphia 76ers (from Lakers)||Jayson Tatum, Fr||6’8, 205 lbs||St. Louis, MO||SF||Duke|
|2016-2017 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.2 apg|
|Falling out of the top three would be absolutely devastating for a Los Angeles Lakers team that is in the middle of a massive tank job and in need of so much more talent. Conversely, the 76ers would be ecstatic and would have two top ten picks in a deep draft to move The Process along.
While fellow ballyhooed recruits Harry Giles, Marques Bolden and Frank Jackson have sputtered along, Jayson Tatum has carried the Blue Devils on his back to a number two seed in the tournament. He has shown great two way talent, with his ability to slash and score as well as play defense. Tatum has shown to be a better shooter than though, which should cement him as a top ten pick. With Ben Simmons expected to handle the majority of the point guard duties in Philadelphia, Tatum should settle in at small forward and become the 76ers best on the ball defender.
|5. Phoenix Suns||Jonathan Isaac, Fr||6’10, 210 lbs||Naples, FL||SF/PF||Florida State|
|2016-2017 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg|
|The tank is well underway in Phoenix, where the Suns have benched veterans Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight in favor of young players.
Jonathan Isaac would be a nice fit for what the Suns are trying to do. When he is on, he looks like someone who could be drafted first overall. Unfortunately, he has games where he disappears (a 2 point, 3 rebound stinker vs. Miami for example), confirming his project status. However, he has the shooting and defensive ability to develop into a top notch stretch four who can block shots, something every modern NBA team would love to have.
|6. Philadelphia 76ers||Dennis Smith Jr., Fr||6’3, 195 lbs||Fayetteville, NC||PG||North Carolina State|
|2016-2017 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.6 rpg|
|Like Markelle Fultz, Smith put up huge numbers on a bad team that did not make the tournament. And like Fultz, he really wore down as a long season of carrying the scoring burden came to a close. He has also been very inconsistent, mixing triple double performances with single digit scoring games. Still, there may not be a better pure scorer in the country. He reminds me of Damian Lillard. With Ben Simmons handling the ball, Smith can focus on scoring and defense.|
|7. Sacramento Kings||De’Aaron Fox, Fr||6’3, 187 lbs||Houston, TX||PG||Kentucky|
|2016-2017 Stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, 4.1 rpg|
|The flat out rebuild is well underway in Sacramento, and with the way the Pelicans are playing, two top ten picks looks like a given, which will help accelerate the rebuild.
If it was not for a terrible jump shot, De’Aaron Fox would be in the same class as the other point guards. He is big, very quick and a tremendous defender. However, it is hard for a point guard to succeed in the league today if his shooting cannot keep defenses honest. Still, his slashing ability, passing and defensive potential would make Fox a nice fit next to the numerous young athletes Sacramento is collecting. The Kings desperately need a young point guard of the future.
|8. Sacramento Kings (from Pelicans)||Robert Williams, Fr||6’9, 237 lbs||Vivian, LA||PF/C||Texas A&M|
|2016-2017 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg|
|Like Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith, Robert Williams is another top talent who will not be able to showcase his skills in the NCAA Tournament. Williams started his Aggies career as a 20 minute per game backup, but the coaching staff eventually realized he was their best player and gave him 30 minutes a night during conference play. Williams responded with nine double doubles (missed out on two more by a single point each) with great shot blocking numbers as well. Williams remains a project, but looks the part of a modern day NBA center and would give the Kings yet another interesting front court piece to go along with Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis.|
|9. Dallas Mavericks||Frank Ntilikina||6’5, 170 lbs||Brussels, Belgium||PG||France|
|2016-2017 Stats: 5.0 ppg, 1.7 apg, 1.9 rpg|
|Dallas seems to have reluctantly relinquished the 2016-2017 season and decided to develop some young players, though they still have a very small chance at the eighth seed.
Point guard would be the logical choice, and I am starting to come around on Frank Ntikilina as a lottery pick. His shooting leaves a lot to be desired, but he has star power thanks to his personality and flashy game. From judging his tapes and scouting reports, he reminds me of a taller Rajon Rondo with his wiry frame, long arms and ability to pass and pester opposing ball handlers. If his jump shot can improve, he could be a very good starter in this league. The Mavericks will see what they have in Yogi Ferrell, but he will likely settle in as a long term backup.
|10. Minnesota Timberwolves||Miles Bridges, Fr||6’7, 230 lbs||Flint, MI||SF/PF||Michigan State|
|2016-2017 Stats: 16.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 apg|
|After languishing in the standings for months, the Timberwolves are finally playing up to Tom Thibodeau’s potential, especially on defense, and are making a late push for that final playoff spot out West.
The Michigan State Spartans are having an average year by their lofty standards, but that is no fault of Miles Bridges, who has been as good as advertised. Bridges reminds me of Stanley Johnson with confidence and an ability to hit the three pointer. He is strong, a great rebounder and a natural born leader. Bridges might struggle to fit into a specific starting position, but he could be somewhat of a homeless man’s version of Jimmy Butler for Thibs.
|11. Charlotte Hornets||Malik Monk, Fr||6’4, 200 lbs||Lepanto, AR||SG||Kentucky|
|2016-2017 Stats: 20.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.5 rpg|
|Despite the same roster, things have fallen apart for a Charlotte team that was in the playoffs last year. The team’s offensive struggles continue, and that should be the focal point of this draft.
Malik Monk has not been asked to do much at Kentucky except score, but he has been remarkably consistent as a 20 point per game threat who is making nearly three 3 pointers per game. He has the ability to be a Bradley Beal like scorer in the NBA, and could back up both guard spots in Charlotte.
|12. Portland Trail Blazers||Lauri Markkanen, Fr||7’0, 230 lbs||Jyvaskyla, Finland||PF/C||Arizona|
|2016-2017 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.9 apg|
|The Jusuf Nurkic trade sure looks to be a steal for Portland. The Trail Blazers will want to add more offense, especially in the front court.
Lauri Markkanen started the season as the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, but hit a lull during conference play, failing to hit double digit scoring in four straight games. Fortunately, he snapped out of that funk in a big way with two straight double doubles against Washington schools and a 29 point effort in a win against UCLA. Markkanen is not a great athlete or even a good defender, but his stretch four ability on offense would be a nice fit next to the down low bulldog Nurkic.
|13. Miami Heat||Rodions Kurucs||6’8, 190 lbs||Riga, Latvia||SF||Latvia|
|2016-2017 Stats: 9.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 apg|
|The Heat continue to shake off a miserable 2016 as they make a push towards the playoffs. The core is in good hands with guys like Haason Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic.
Rodions Kurucs has slowly climbed up my board and now finds himself in the late lottery. He continues to get better and better for his Barcelona team, showing a fantastic ability to score, thanks to his length and great jump shot. The Heat have struggled to shoot, and Kurucs would be able to find quite a bit of open looks playing alongside Whiteside and Dragic.
|14. Chicago Bulls||John Collins, So||6’10, 235 lbs||West Palm Beach, FL||PF/C||Wake Forest|
|2016-2017 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg|
|The Bulls may sneak in to the playoffs, but this is a team that needs to rebuild in the worst way. We shall see if the front office can unite on a single vision.
Perhaps the most slept on player in college basketball is John Collins. Collins might be having the best season for any Wake Forest player since Tim Duncan. He leads the nation with an absurd 36.52 PER. Collins has scored at least 20 points in eleven straight ACC games, quite an accomplishment considering he is pretty much a one man show for an overmatched Demon Deacon team. Collins is close to unstoppable as a rebounder and post scorer, and has the touch to convert while facing the basket against NBA defenses. With an offensive game similar to a young LaMarcus Aldridge, Collins be a nice offensive power forward to build around.
|15. Denver Nuggets||Jarrett Allen, Fr||6’11, 235 lbs||Round Rock, TX||PF/C||Texas|
|2016-2017 Stats: 13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg|
|The Longhorns had a miserable season, but that is not the fault of Jarrett Allen, who really came alive during conference play, and continues to rise up my board. Allen’s signature performance was a 22 point, 19 rebound, 3 block performance against Kansas, the best team on Texas schedule. He is athletic, springy and would make an ideal big man off the bench for the Nuggets, though he may be a bit redundant if Mason Plumlee is resigned.|
|16. Milwaukee Bucks||Jalen Brunson, So||6’3, 190 lbs||Lincolnshire, IL||PG||Villanova|
|2016-2017 Stats: 14.8 ppg, 4.2 apg, 2.5 rpg|
|Despite the loss of Jabari Parker, Jason Kidd has the Bucks hanging around the .500 mark, which could be good enough for the 6 through 8 seed in the always top heavy East.
The Bucks have drafted very well, but there remains a hole at starting point guard. Jalen Brunson has flown a bit under the radar, but he is having as good of a season as any point guard in the country, especially when you consider how good Villanova has been. Brunson scores with great efficiency, and is strong and a solid ball handler as well. In any other draft, Brunson may well be the first point guard taken, and I would not be surprised if he works his way up into the top ten when all is said and done.
|17. Detroit Pistons||Bruce Brown, Fr||6’5, 190 lbs||Boston, MA||PG/SG||Miami|
|2016-2017 Stats: 11.9 ppg. 5.8 rpg, 3.2 apg|
|The Pistons are battling the Pacers, Bucks and Heat for the last three seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
I have had Bruce Brown in my first round all season, but it is time to move him up, yes, all the way into the teens. You can thank a 30 point, 4 rebound, 5 assist, 2 steal, 2 block, 4-6 from three point range and 10-13 from the line performance in a win against North Carolina for that. I have compared Brown’s game to a UCLA Russell Westbrook, and think he could be a similar (use similar in the loosest term as it would be blasphemous to say he will be as good as Westbrook) guard in the NBA. He fills up the stat sheet on both ends of the court and only turns the ball over 2 times per game. He is a project to be sure, but has the ability to be a better version of Reggie Jackson in Detroit.
|18. Indiana Pacers||Harry Giles, Fr||6’11, 227 lbs||Winston-Salem, NC||PF||Duke|
|2016-2017 Stats: 4.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.6 bpg|
|Harry Giles is being brought along very slowly at Duke, and it is beginning to look like he will never be a difference maker at the college level. However, a double double in only 17 minutes of action against Georgia Tech shows why he was the top overall recruit in the country. He also had an impressive 7 point, 6 rebound, 4 block performance in a March win over North Carolina. In most years, a player of his talent could still be taken in the top five or ten, but this is a ridiculously deep draft, and lottery teams will be very leery of passing up on a more productive player for the potential that Giles offers. If he can quickly realize his potential in Indiana, that could help entice Paul George to stay.|
|19. Atlanta Hawks||Ivan Rabb, So||6’11, 220 lbs||Oakland, CA||PF/C||California|
|2016-2017 Stats: 14.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg|
|While Ivan Rabb lacks the upside of many players picked ahead of him, he is a safe bet to come in right away and produce as a rebounder and weak side defender. Rabb’s production could have landed him in the top five of the 2016 draft, which is a testament to how ridiculously deep this class is. This is a great draft for those middling playoff teams like the Hawks who are too good to land a top player, but not good enough to refuse bench help. There will be quality rotation guys who have the potential to develop into starters well into the second round.|
|20. Portland Trail Blazers (from Grizzlies)||Aaron Holiday, So||6’1, 185 lbs||Chatsworth, CA||PG||UCLA|
|2016-2017 Stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.0 rpg|
|It is not often that a player loses his starting job and actually benefits, but Aaron Holiday has soared as Lonzo Ball’s backup. Despite playing five less minutes per night, he has improved in virtually every area, especially his scoring percentages. Other than elite size, there is little to dislike about his game. He can score, distribute the ball and is an underrated defender. He would reprise his role as backup for the Trail Blazers, who are locked and loaded with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.|
|21. Oklahoma City Thunder||TJ Leaf, Fr||6’10, 225 lbs||El Cajon, CA||PF||UCLA|
|2016-2017 Stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 apg|
|It seems the Sonics/Thunder have drafted 700 big men the past 20 years, and I have them going that route again. A team with Russell Westbrook dominating the ball the way he does can never have enough standalone shooters. TJ Leaf has been consistently solid all season for the Bruins. He is not the best athlete but is a good scorer with range on his jump shot, and the ability to rebound and pass as well.|
|22. Toronto Raptors||Caleb Swanigan, So||6’9, 250 lbs||Fort Wayne, IN||PF/C||Purdue|
|2016-2017 Stats: 18.5 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 2.9 apg|
|Caleb Swanigan is one of the very best players in college basketball, but his NBA prospects are murky, to say the least. Prospects with his body type and lack of quickness do not have a strong track record of NBA success. Swanigan’s ability to rebound should translate relatively well, but does he have the athleticism to make it? One plus is his ability to score out to the three point line, and he could be the Raptors new version of Patrick Patterson.|
|23. Orlando Magic (from Clippers)||Luke Kennard, So||6’6, 202 lbs||Franklin, OH||SG||Duke|
|2016-2017 Stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg|
|Luke Kennard does not seem like the type to leave college early, but he is playing huge minutes for a depleted Duke team, and is scoring at a very high rate, while showing the type of leadership and aggressiveness that would be attractive to the NBA. The Blue Devils should be loaded and healthy next year, so Kennard could strike while the iron is hot. The Magic need scoring, and Kennard will further fortify Orlando’s bench.|
|24. Brooklyn Nets (from Wizards)||Isaiah Hartenstein||6’11, 225 lbs||Eugene, OR||PF||Germany|
|2016-2017 Stats: 5.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.3 apg|
|Isaiah Hartenstein has lottery talent, but he has not shown much for his Lithuanian team, though that is common with European prospects. With proper development, he could become a starter in this league. He has the size, strength and rebounding ability, and it is not like minutes will not be there in Brooklyn. He could develop into a solid starter with the upside for more.|
|25. Brooklyn Nets (from Celtics)||Justin Jackson, Jr||6’8, 210 lbs||Tomball, TX||SF||North Carolina|
|2016-2017 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.7 apg|
|Justin Jackson has worked hard on improving from a skinny freshman with a terrible jump shot to one of the best scorers in college basketball as a junior. He is hitting the three pointer at a 40% clip, which would make him an ideal backup offensive small forward at the NBA level. Of course, since this is the Nets, he could wind up as a starter. He has some Tayshaun Prince to his game.|
|26. Utah Jazz||Edrice Adebayo, Fr||6’10, 260 lbs||Washington, DC||PF/C||Kentucky|
|2016-2017 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg|
|Edrice Adebayo started the season in my top ten, but now finds himself in the 20’s. That is more of a testament to this draft’s star power than the play of Adebayo. He has shown the ability to be a consistent interior presence for the Wildcats. Adebayo has the ability to rebound, block shots and score out to fifteen feet or so. A big men such as Adebayo is not in high demand these days, but he could still develop into a solid starting big man, and could push the underwhelming Derrick Favors in Utah.|
|27. Portland Trail Blazers (from Cavaliers)||Tyler Lydon, So||6’9, 223 lbs||Elizaville, NY||SF/PF||Syracuse|
|2016-2017 Stats: 13.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.0 apg|
|Like the Syracuse team as a whole, Tyler Lydon has been inconsistent as a sophomore. However, with games such as his 26 point, 7 rebound performance against North Carolina and a 14 point, 11 rebound, 7 block game against top ten ranked Florida State, he shows that he is a legit first round prospect. He is also clearly the leader of this Syracuse ball club, as the coaching staff has played him every single minute of twelve of the team’s past thirteen games. That includes two overtime periods. He “only” played 37 minutes during a blowout win. His inside/outside game could make him a rotation piece in Portland.|
|28. Los Angeles Lakers (from Rockets)||Cameron Oliver, So||6’8, 225 lbs||Sacramento, CA||SF/PF||Nevada|
|2016-2017 Stats: 15.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg|
|I really like Cameron Oliver’s game, and so far he has been able to hang around the tail end of the first round in my mocks. Oliver offers a nice blend of shooting, rebound and shot blocking. He has the athleticism to become a solid stretch four who can defend as well, and would make a nice backup front court piece for the Lakers.|
|29. San Antonio spurs||Josh Hart, Sr||6’6, 215 lbs||Silver Spring, MD||SG||Villanova|
|2016-2017 Stats: 18.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.1 apg|
|Villanova is not a team loaded with high draft picks, but thanks to great coaching and experience, several guys should find themselves on NBA rosters. Josh Hart has worked himself into first round consideration thanks to an NBA ready game that involves shooting, ball handling and defense. He has the chance to be an efficient bench scorer who could take over for Manu Ginobili in San Antonio.|
|30. Utah Jazz (from Warriors||Allonzo Trier, So||6’5, 205 lbs||Seattle, WA||SG||Arizona|
|2016-2017 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg|
|Allonzo Trier has bounced back from missing the beginning of the season, leading the Wildcats in scoring as they look towards an NCAA title. Trier remains a good scorer and three point shooter who chips in on other areas as well. In fact, with a big tournament, he could be selected in the teens and blow this projection away.|