With the NBA season near its end, the draft is fast approaching. This year, there are plenty of colorful prospects to pick from: Lonzo Ball, for example, has his own licensed shoes and a loudmouthed father known for favorably comparing himself to Michael Jordan. As always, the draft is littered with quality collegiate players, such as Markelle Fultz and Josh Jackson, as well as international stars, like Frank Ntilikina, who are pursuing success here in America. So without further ado, here are some of the picks you can expect to see made in this June’s draft.
CELTICS (via Nets): Markelle Fultz (Washington) – As Boston looks to add talent to make a push for a championship in the near future, Markelle Fultz is a player who can create an immediate splash without overly disrupting the formula that got the Celtics to the top seed in this year’s Eastern Conference. Fultz has demonstrated great offensive skill, especially in his ability to create shots for himself, which are usually made; at Washington, he hit 42 percent of his pull-up jumpers. He has also shown fantastic ball control and footwork, and knows how to distribute the basketball to teammates for easy shots. Markelle Fultz is simply too big of a talent to pass up with the first pick of the draft.
LAKERS: Lonzo Ball (UCLA) – With Markelle Fultz already taken, the clear choice with the 2nd overall pick is Lonzo Ball. Ball is a transformative point guard who can fire from deep and dish with extraordinary court vision and precision. During his time at UCLA, he showed his ability to win games with a less-than-stellar supporting cast, and has made a compelling argument to be the second best player in the 2017 draft. Ball should develop as a great player for Los Angeles, as long as his head doesn’t get too big; after all, despite not yet being drafted, he has already released branded shoes priced at $500 a pair.
76ERS (via Kings): Jayson Tatum (Duke) – The Philadelphia 76ers finished last in offensive efficiency during the 2017 regular season, and thus are in need of an offensive punch. Jayson Tatum is an excellent isolation and midrange scorer with great athleticism and length, which is exactly what the 76ers need in order to bring their offense back from the dead. With Ben Simmons moving to the point, Tatum is a no-brainer at #3.
SUNS: Josh Jackson (Kansas) – The Suns already have a good level of depth at their guard positions, so rather than picking another to further muddy the situation, it would be in their best interest to take Josh Jackson with the fourth pick in the draft. Phoenix clearly needs some help on defense; after all, they narrowly avoided finishing worst in the league when it came to defensive efficiency last season. Luckily for them, Josh Jackson is a great athlete and player whose size and instinctual play can combine to make a big improvement to Phoenix’s defense.
KINGS (via 76ers): Frank Ntilikina (Strasbourg, France) – The Sacramento Kings don’t seem to have the makings for a playoff run anytime soon, so this is the time to start adding complements to what they already do have; right now, that’s essentially Buddy Hield. Especially at the point guard position, the Kings are generally lacking, and Darren Collison isn’t much of a long-term solution. Therefore, Sacramento should go for point guard Frank Ntilikina, who has shown impressive leadership and skill (particularly on defense). As the Kings look to rebuild, Ntilikina can provide a sense of stability for the team as they head into coach Dave Joerger’s second year.
MAGIC: Zach Collins (Gonzaga) – Of course, we can’t go through a whole mock draft without a single bold pick. Despite having quite a few good players in the paint, Orlando’s post defense was atrocious for most of the season. So, why not take a shot at fixing it with Zach Collins? Collins impressed many with his play at Gonzaga, where he helped lead his team to the NCAA Championship Game. While Collins is lacking in bulk, he more than makes up for it with his instinctual play and shot-blocking ability.
TIMBERWOLVES: Lauri Markkanen (Arizona) – Currently, the Minnesota Timberwolves have an up-and-coming point guard in Kris Dunn, who is arguably the league’s best center in Karl-Anthony Towns, and a phenomenal scoring wing in Andrew Wiggins. Lauri Markkanen provides a massive upgrade at the power-forward, as he hit on more than 50 percent of his three-point shots in college and is a great rim protector. Unlike fellow ‘Tall-European-Dude’ Kristaps Porzingis, Markkanen is an overwhelming force in the post at 7’0” 255 pounds and can actually play perimeter defense. He is the best pick for the Tims at #7.
KNICKS: Jonathan Isaac (Florida State) – With Carmelo Anthony most likely on the move after being forced out by Phil Jackson, a replacement for him on the wing will be needed, and the Knicks are desperate for a defensive improvement. Jonathan Isaac, who possesses the speed, ball handling, and range of a point guard at the height of 6’10”, has the potential to be a defensive stopper and an offensive force in the NBA. Despite being extremely raw, a project that the Knicks can possibly develop into a Kawhi Leonard–Kevin Durant hybrid three to four years down the road is exactly what they need.
MAVERICKS: De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky) – Mark Cuban, the multi-billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, tends to get what he wants, and in this offseason, he has stated that his goal is to improve with a traditional pass-first point guard. The prospect who best fits this job would be De’Aaron Fox, who qualifies as ‘pass-first’ mainly because his shooting off-the-dribble is nowhere near where it should be. Although Fox won’t be able to make long-range shots, he has an athletic playing style similar to that of John Wall, but with a little less size and a little more speed. Overall, De’Aaron Fox fits Mavericks’ needs perfectly, and can make a positive impact without being a long-range shooter.
KINGS (via Pelicans): Malik Monk (Kentucky) – Contrary to what Kings owner Vivek Ranadive might tell you, Buddy Hield is not the next Steph Curry. In fact, Hield will most likely progress into an average starter at best. Vlade Divac should draft Malik Monk out of Kentucky, a scoring force who averaged 20 points a game in college. The Kings are a lost organization without any good young prospects, and need a player to build around for the future. Monk, who nearly has the potential of Steph Curry, is the player that the Kings need as their cornerstone, not Buddy Hield.