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2017 NBA Mock Draft, the first round

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Tuesday, myself and Rob Dauster from NBC’s College Basketball Talk talked through a first round 2017 mock draft. You can listen to how we came to these conclusions (also at the bottom of this post).

Teams tend to take the best player on the board, but if it’s close between guys — and in spots this draft is very bunched up — teams take need and other factors into account. We looked at it the same way, and here is what we projected.
 
Celtics small icon 1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, Washington. The top player on nearly everyone’s draft board because he can do it all: Make threes, finish above the rim, play in transition, elite on the pick-and-roll, hits midrange pullups, great size for his position. The only questions are defense and how far he can lead a team.
 
Suns small icon 2. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, Kansas. Great physical gifts for a wing, strong defender who could become lock-down guy, great motor, needs to improve his shooting but form is strong.
 
Lakers small icon 3. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, UCLA. Fantastic court vision and high IQ, incredible in transition. Can he score in half court (he mostly dished on P&R)? Shooting motion is odd but the ball goes in.
 
Sixers small icon 4. Philadephia 76ers: Jayson Tatum, Duke.: Phenomenal isolation scorer, he can face guys up or post up smaller players. How will his game translate to NBA where everyone has size and athleticism? Is he a small ball four?
 
Magic small icon 5. Orlando Magic: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky. Good size, speed, and athleticism, strong defender and could be elite on that end. Has a lot of work to do on his shot.
 
timberwolves small icon 6. Minnesota Timberwolves:
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona. He’s a 7-footer that shot 42.3% from three, and not just spot-ups. Floor spacing backup behind Karl-Anthony Towns.
 
Knicks small icon 7. New York Knicks: Malik Monk, Kentucky. Guy just knows how to score, and can get red hot for stretches. Not fantastic at anything else. Future sixth man in the Jamal Crawford/Lou Williams mold?
 
Kings small icon 8. Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Isaac, Florida State. One of the best athletes in the draft and already a strong defender with elite potential. Very raw on offense.
 
Mavericks small icon 9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State. Strong playmaker, good handles good in the open court, but was up and down and didn’t seem consistently interested in defense.
 
Kings small icon 10. Sacramento Kings: Frank Ntilikina, France, Tall 6’5″ point guard who is a good two-way player, someone with a lot of offensive potential.
 
Hornets small icon 11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, Gonzaga. Fantastic performances on big stage of NCAA Tournament, he can make threes, score in the post, blocks shots, rebound. Came off bench at Gonzaga, still a work in progress.
 
Pistons small icon 12. Detroit Pistons: Terrance Ferguson, Australia. A 6’6″ wing with insane athleticism, good spot up shooter but has work to do on both ends. Chose to play in Australia rather than college last season.
 
Nuggets small icon 13. Denver Nuggets: O.G. Anunoby, Indiana. Great physical tools for an NBA wing, 6’8″, athletic, can be impressive defender, needs to work on his shot and handles.
 
Heat small icon 14. Miami Heat: Justin Jackson, North Carolina. Can shoot the three, and when he gets in the lane has a fantastic floater. Not great at creating his own shot. Good size, but will he defend at next level?
 
Blazers small icon 15. Portland Trail Blazers:
Jarrett Allen, Texas. Great size — 6’11” with 7’6″ wingspan — and he’s a great athlete. Could develop into Clint Capella like NBA big, but will he put in the work to do it?
 
Bulls small icon 16. Chicago Bulls: Luke Kennard, Duke. Incredibly efficient offensively, he can shoot, work off the ball, even get buckets in the pick-and-roll. Real questions defensively.
 
Bucks small icon 17. Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton, Creighton. A lot of potential, he’s a 7-footer with length, can shoot some but needs shots created for him, and defensive tools needs work.
 
Pacers small icon 18. Indiana Pacers: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville. Big time athlete and can use that to defend. Can create his own shot but will he work off the ball well.
 
Hawks small icon 19. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins, Wake Forest. A bit of a late bloomer (young for his grade,), he’s an efficient scorer but will he pass? 6’11” but how will he defend, rebound at the next level.
 
Blazers small icon 20. Portland Trail Blazers:
Ike Anigbogu, UCLA. He’s got good size — 6’10” with long arms, strong — and is quick off the floor, which helps with rebounding and shot blocking, but the rest of his game needs polish.
 
Thunder small icon 21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Semi Ojeleye, SMU. Played as a stretch four last season and showed to be a good shooter, but he’s undersized for that role in the NBA. Can he play the three?
 
Nets small icon 22. Brooklyn Nets: Isaiah Hartenstein (played in Lithuania). Great size at 7’1″ and a solid athlete who can do a little bit of everything.
 
Raptors small icon 23. Toronto Raptors: Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky. The most explosive athlete in the draft, fantastic physical tools, but very raw and is a real project. Never played for Kentucky.
 
Jazz small icon 24. Utah Jazz: T.J. Leaf, UCLA. Great size at 6’10”, fluid athlete who excelled in transition and can shoot the three. Needs to get stronger and round out his game.
 
Magic small icon 25. Orlando Magic: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse. Can shoot the three and was a good rim protector (but in the Syracuse zone). Was a good stretch four in college but is undersized for that at the next level.
 
Blazers small icon 26. Portland Trail Blazers:
Ivan Rabb, California. Would have gone a lot higher last year, but returned to college for a season. Put up better numbers this season but was less efficient.
 
Nets small icon 27. Brooklyn Nets: Harry Giles, Duke. Was the top of this class early in high school then injuries robbed him of some athleticism and development time. Is he past that, or is he forever diminished (and if so how much)? Good roll of dice this late in round.
 
Lakers small icon 28. Los Angeles Lakers: Bam Adebayo, Kentucky. Will be more of a four, he can defend on perimeter and is good athlete, but not a shooter. Could be a Julius Randle backup?
 
Spurs small icon 29. San Antonio Spurs:. Rodions Kurucs, Barcelona. Athletic wing with good size out of a top European program. We won’t hear from him for two or three years, then Gregg Popovich will put him in and he’ll be fantastic. Because that’s what the Spurs do.

James Harden: Media narrative contributed to Giannis Antetokounmpo winning MVP

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James Harden scored 36.1 points per game last season, the highest-scoring season since Michael Jordan. Harden’s 32-game 30-point streak was the second-longest streak ever. He scored 30 points against every team besides the Rockets.

My favorite Harden stat is just looking at the highest-scoring games of the season:

1. James Harden 61

1. James Harden 61

3. Kemba Walker 60

4. Devin Booker 59

5. James Harden 58

5. James Harden 58

7. James Harden 57

7. James Harden 57

9. LaMarcus Aldridge 56

10. James Harden 54

This was a special season.

So, why did Giannis Antetokounmpo win Most Valuable Player?

“Politics” was suggested to Harden.

Harden on 97.9 The Box:

I think the same way you think.

I think once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and run with it the entire year.

I don’t want to get into details. But all I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. You know what I’m saying?

The season, there’s probably only a few seasons where anybody’s ever done that before.

People were tuned in onto how many points that I was going to score the next game. You know what I’m saying? It was a thing.

Harden is right. Narrative factors way too much into MVP voting.

Michael Jordan lost 1997 MVP to Karl Malone due to voter fatigue. In 2011, everyone was so mad about The Decision, voters picked Derrick Rose (and Dwight Howard) over LeBron James for MVP. Those results didn’t reflect what actually happened on the court.

As Houston started slow last season, Antetokounmpo became MVP favorite. That early inclination probably had an anchoring effect for final voting.

The most important step in eliminating biases is acknowledging biases. I have railed for years against letting narrative affect award voting. I think MVP should honor the player who had the best season. Nothing more, nothing less. When analyzing candidates, I make a concerted effort to separate superfluous factors like narrative.

I favored Harden a huge chunk of the season. I entered my final review expecting to pick Harden. But I ultimately landed on Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo was excellent offensively – not as good as Harden, but close enough to offset the massive defensive difference. Caught up in Harden’s scoring brilliance, I hadn’t properly appreciated Antetokounmpo’s defense until late in the process.

Harden had a great year. It was widely judged to be the second-best year in the entire NBA. He should be proud of that.

It’s unsurprising he answered this way, though. After all, he he has been enabled by a general manager who once said Harden’s previous runner-up MVP finishes meant maybe the award shouldn’t exist at all.

Kings’ De’Aaron Fox: ‘I don’t crave to be in a big market’

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De'Aaron Fox was the breakout star of the Kings’ breakthrough season. The future looks bright in Sacramento.

But we’ve seen this story play out so many times. A young player excels in a small market then eventually moves to a more desirable destination. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George.

Will Fox be different?

Fox, via Corban Goble of ONE37pm:

“I don’t crave to be in a big market,” he says. “After last season, there was a buzz in Sacramento. Everyone in Sacramento is a Kings fan. If we start making the playoffs, or if we become a championship contender, the entire city is going to go nuts. That’s the difference between a big market and a small one.”

I’m glad Fox is happy in Sacramento. He had minimal say in getting there. The Kings picked him in a draft that gives teams massive control over top young prospects. That he landed somewhere he likes so much was largely coincidental. He could’ve easily wound up with Boston, Phoenix, Orlando, Minnesota or any other team picking in that range.

Some of this is Fox’s attitude. I suspect he would’ve found joy nearly anywhere. Now, he’s with the Kings and feeling positively about them.

They’ll have to continue to keep him happy as he approaches free agency. Unrestricted free agency is still several years away. A lot can change between now and then.

But Sacramento ought to feel good about Fox’s outlook now.

Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.