Final 2017 NBA Mock Draft, first round

4 Comments

We’re just one week away from the 2017 NBA Draft.

So NBC’s Rob Dauster of CollegeBasketballTalk and myself put together our second — and final — mock draft of the first round. We hashed it out during a podcast, which you can listen to below (or find in all the usual podcast locations). Right now we feel confident about the first five falling this way, after that, it gets interesting (and, of course, there will be the unexpected trade on draft night).

Here’s how we see the first round going:

 
Celtics small icon 1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington. if there’s one certainty in this draft, it’s that the Celtics will draft Fultz No. 1. He can knock down threes, finish above the rim, play in transition, he’s strong on the pick-and-roll, hits midrange pull-ups, and great size for his position. The only questions are defense and how far he can lead a team.

 
Lakers small icon 2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA. We’ve all heard the rumors, and Ball has not pulled away as a clear second pick, but the Lakers likely pick him here. He has the gift of incredible court vision and passing, which he puts to use well, in transition. His shot is funky but it goes in consistently. The only questions are about him as a defender, and running slowed-down halfcourt offense.

 

 
Sixers small icon 3. Philadephia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas. He has the potential to become one of the better wing players in the league. Jackson has all the physical tools for a wing, he’s a strong defender who could become lock-down guy, great motor, but needs to improve his shooting (his form needs to be reworked, it’s all over the place).

 
Suns small icon4. Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky. He is moving up the boards and would make a great long-term fit next to Devin Booker. Fox has good size, great speed and athleticism, plus he’s strong defender and could be elite on that end. His shot needs a lot of work.

 
Kings small icon 5. Sacramento Kings: Jayson Tatum, Duke.: The rebuilding Kings need a guy to get them buckets, that makes this the pick. Phenomenal isolation scorer, he can face guys up or post up smaller players. Is he a small ball four, and where does he fit in Kings’ front line remains to be seen. That said, if he ends up on Kings he could get ROY with the numbers he’ll put up.

 
Magic small icon 6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State. This is a smart gamble by a team in need of a star. Isaac is maybe the best athlete in the draft, he’s long and has all the physical tools you want in a modern NBA big man, and he is already a strong defender with elite potential. However, he is incredibly raw on offense. Can Frank Vogel and the Magic develop him?

 
timberwolves small icon 7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen, PF/C, Arizona. Picture his as a backup to Karl-Anthony Towns who may also be able to play with him and help with floor spacing. Markkanen is a 7-footer who shot 42.3% from three, and not just spot-ups. Needs to be better defensively.

 
Knicks small icon 8. New York Knicks: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky. This would be a great get for the Knicks and would be a hit with the fan base. Monk just knows how to score, and he can get red hot for stretches. The question is what else can he do? Is he a future sixth man in the Jamal Crawford/Lou Williams mold?

 
Mavericks small icon 9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, N.C. State. He’s a strong playmaker, he doesn’t turn the ball over much, he’s strong in the open court, but had an up and down season where he didn’t seem consistently interested in defense.

 
Kings small icon 10. Sacramento Kings: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga. This is the pick the Kings got from the Pelicans in the DeMarcus Cousins trade, and with it they get go big. Collins had performances on big stage of NCAA Tournament, he can make threes, score in the post, blocks shots, and can rebound. He came off bench at Gonzaga and is still a work in progress, but if they can develop him the Kings may have something.

 
Hornets small icon 11. Charlotte Hornets: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France. He’s a tall, 6’5″ point guard who is a strong two-way player, someone with a lot of offensive potential. He can develop for a couple years behind Kemba Walker then take over (like Atlanta did with Dennis Schroeder).

 
Pistons small icon 12. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell, guard, Louisville. Mitchel is an incredible athlete who knows how to use that to defend (the 6’10” wingspan helps there, too). He can create his own shot but and will work off the ball, but his offensive game needs development. That said, he and Kantavious Caldwell-Pope could form a strong defensive pairing in Detroit.

 
Nuggets small icon 13. Denver Nuggets: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke. Efficient offensively, he can shoot, work off the ball, even get buckets in the pick-and-roll — you can see how he fits with Nikola Jokic. Real questions defensively (the area where Denver was weak last season).

 
Heat small icon 14. Miami Heat: John Collins, C, Wake Forest. A bit of a late bloomer (young for his grade,), he’s got good size at 6’11” and was an incredibly efficient scorer around the basket. He’s got to develop his game to do more at the NBA level — space the floor better with his shot, defend, rebound — but the potential is there.

 
Blazers small icon 15. Portland Trail Blazers: O.G. Anunoby, SF, Indiana. He has impressive physical tools for an NBA wing — 6’8″, athletic — who is already a good defender and can become elite on that end of the court (something Portland needs). He’s got a lot of work to do on the offensive end to better take advantage of that athleticism, he’s got to develop a more consistent shot from three, but lots of potential here.

 
Bulls small icon 16. Chicago Bulls: Justin Jackson, SG, North Carolina. Can shoot the three, and when he gets in the lane has a fantastic floater. That said, not great at creating his own shot. He has good size, but his defense has been inconsistent and needs to improve.

 
Bucks small icon 17. Milwaukee Bucks: Harry Giles, C, Duke. He’s had a series of knee injuries which have robbed him of some athleticism and development time. Is he finally healthy, or is he forever diminished (and if so how much)? This is a role of the dice for the Bucks (who like to take those risks), but if he’s healthy and can get back closer to his old self, and if the Bucks can develop him, this would be a steal.

 
Pacers small icon 18. Indiana Pacers:. Jarrett Allen, C, Texas. Not a position of need, but too much potential to pass up at this point. Allen has great size — 6’11” with 7’6″ wingspan — and he’s a tremendous athlete. He could develop into Clint Capella-style NBA big, but he’s got a lot of work to put in to get there.

 
Hawks small icon 19. Atlanta Hawks: Justin Patton, C, Creighton. He’s got a lot of potential, it just needs to be developed by the right team. Patton is a 7-footer with length, he can shoot from the outside a little however he needs shots created for him, and defensive tools need work.

 
Blazers small icon 20. Portland Trail Blazers: Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA. He’s got good size — 6’10” with long arms, he’s very 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, PF, SMU. Played as a stretch four last season and showed he has range as a shooter, but he’s undersized for that role in the NBA. Can he play the three? The Thunder will have to see where he fits, but he’s got a great build and looks like a guy who can play at the NBA level.

 
Nets small icon 22. Brooklyn Nets: T.J. Leaf, UCLA. He has great size at 6’10”, and is a fluid athlete who excelled in transition (with Ball feeding him the rock), and can shoot the three. He will get an opportunity to develop on the court in Brooklyn and show those transition skills next to Jeremy Lin, but needs to get stronger and round out his game.

 
Raptors small icon 23. Toronto Raptors: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia. A 6’6″ wing with insane athleticism, he’s shown to be good spot up shooter but still has work to do on both ends. Chose to play in Australia rather than college last season, which might have helped his development. He could get time off the bench in Toronto.

 
Jazz small icon 24. Utah Jazz: Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky. He’s going to play the four mostly at the NBA level but he has the athleticism to defend on the perimeter. He has a lot of work to do on his shot if he’s going to get consistent minutes. That said, not many places better to go to develop your game than Utah under Quin Snyder.

 
Magic small icon 25. Orlando Magic: Anzejs Pasecniks, C (played in Spain) . He’s a 7’2” center who played well and was very efficient last season in the second best league in the world. He moves well for a big man which makes him dangerous as the roll man. He’s got work to do on his outside shot, but there is potential there. He’s a bit raw but this could be steal this low.

 
Blazers small icon 26. Portland Trail Blazers: Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon. Long Beach’s own, the 6’9” power forward helped his cause at the combine by standing out defensively in 5-on-5 work, plus testing well athletically. His strength and energy lets him guard positions 3-5. He’s fantastic in transition and can finish lobs and plays around the rim, but is otherwise limited offensively.

 
Nets small icon 27. Brooklyn Nets: D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan. An intriguing stretch-four because there are stretches where he’s awesome, but he’s also very inconsistent. He’s 6’10” and has perimeter skills, plus defensively he can protect the rim (however he’s not much of a rebounder).Wilson is a late bloomer who battled injuries, how much can he improve?

 
Lakers small icon 28. Los Angeles Lakers: Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse. He can shoot the three and was a good rim protector (albeit in the Syracuse zone). Was a good stretch four in college but is undersized for that at the next level, still he could play that role off the bench in Los Angeles behind Julius Randle.

 
Spurs small icon 29. San Antonio Spurs:. Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, (played in Lithuania). Great size at 7’1″ and a solid athlete who can do a little bit of everything. He has to develop but this is the kind of guy the Spurs draft, keep under wraps for couple seasons, then suddenly he starts looking really good in key minutes for them

 
Jazz small icon 30. Utah Jazz: Derrick White, guard, Colorado. A great story, he was offered no D1 and just one D2 scholarships, but grew five inches in college and last year was an All Pac-12 player. He’s a good shooter, a solid playmaker, plus can defend at the NBA level. Could quickly become solid rotation player.

Doc Rivers: I told Steve Ballmer, if Kawhi Leonard signed with Lakers, Clippers moving to Seattle

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
1 Comment

We know what happened: The Clippers traded for Paul George, signed Kawhi Leonard and became championship favorite.

But at one point, Clippers coach Doc Rivers thought the George trade with the Thunder would fall through and Leonard could sign with the Lakers.

Rivers, via Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times:

“The day of the trade at 12 noon the deal was off,” Rivers said. “I was at home in Malibu and Lawrence called me and told me, ‘It looks like he’s either going to Toronto or the Lakers.’ The Lakers part just threw me over. I told him that can’t happen. … I remember I kept telling him, ‘We cannot allow that to happen!’

“I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle. It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”

Kawhi Leonard cost us the SuperSonics returning!

I don’t know how serious Rivers really was. Leonard joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on their cross-arena rival would’ve been disastrous for the Clippers.

I’m convinced Ballmer will keep the franchise in Los Angeles. Ballmer’s ties to Seattle through Microsoft are well-established, and he previously tried to buy the Kings to move them to Seattle. But I can’t see him moving the Clippers from such a prime market, especially after going so far to get a new arena built in L.A. At every turn, he has maintained he’ll keep the team in Los Angeles.

Then again, Ballmer also phrased that guarantee as, “I will die owning the L.A. Clippers.” Now, he’s open to changing the nickname. Hmmm…

To be clearer than Rivers: That’s a joke I’m not actually serious about don’t really believe.

Stephen Curry responds to Kevin Durant: We all want to iso, but I’d rather win titles

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

After the Warriors lost to the Jazz in December, Steve Kerr said his team didn’t move the ball enough. Kevin Durant said Golden State passed too much.

That public disagreement sure looks more significant now. Not only did Durant leave for the Warriors, he cited offensive style as a reason.

Durant, via J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal:

“The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point,” he says. “We can totally rely on only our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we’re going to have to mix in individual play. We’ve got to throw teams off, because they’re smarter in that round of playoffs. So now I had to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create my points for me.” He wanted to go someplace where he’d be free to hone that sort of improvisational game throughout the regular season.

Stephen Curry clearly viewed things differently.

Curry, via ESPN:

“Well, I don’t really care what plays we ran,” Curry said. “We won two championships. And at the end of the day, we had a lotta talent and there was an expectation of us figuring out how to balance all that. And we talked a lot about it throughout the three-year run. It wasn’t always perfect, but I think in terms of, you know, the results and what we were able to do on the floor, that kinda speaks for itself. We all wanna play iso-ball at the end of the day in some way, shape or form. But I’d rather have some championships, too.”

There’s truth to what Durant said. Defenses tighten deep in the playoffs, both because good defensive teams are more likely to advance and scouting committed to a single opponent tends to favor the defense. At that level, elite isolation scorers like Durant are particularly valuable. They can render schemes moot.

The Warriors learned that the hard way in the 2016 NBA Finals. They lost to the Cavaliers, who turned up their defense that postseason. Golden State scored fewer points per possession in its series against Cleveland than the Pistons did in the first round against the Cavs.

Adding Durant made the Warriors’ offense nearly unstoppable in every round. They leaned on their movement-heavy system when possible then turned to Durant isolations in moments of need.

Assessing playoff output is tricky because of varying opponents. But in three years with Durant, Golden State faced nine teams that played multiple postseason series. Eight of those teams had their worst defensive series against the Warriors, each by at least 2.6 points per 100 possessions. Only the 2019 Trail Blazers fared worse defensively against another team. They allowed just 0.2 more points per 100 possessions against the Nuggets than against Golden State.

Of course, Durant missed last season’s Western Conference finals against Portland. His absence was a big reason the Warriors’ didn’t meet their usual offensive standards.

Still, Golden State’s base offense was elite. Infallible? No. But it won multiple big playoff series before Durant arrived. He just took the Warriors to an even higher level.

Though he sometimes chafed at how the Warriors played, Durant also did his part to fit with them. He played his part in running Kerr’s preferred style.

It just seems Durant no longer wanted that safety-valve role. He holds immense respect for individual scoring as a skill. He’ll have a better chance to spread his wings in Brooklyn.

Durant will have a harder time winning a title without the incredible supporting cast he left behind. Curry might have wanted to point that out.

But everyone did their part in Golden State the last few years. That’s why they won those championships.

76ers once again overhaul around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there

Can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons coexist?

While I’ve wondered about that question, the 76ers have charged ahead with the pairing. Embiid and Simmons are the givens. The surrounding players change. In just two seasons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris have cycled through as starters.

The latest supporting starters: Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson.

This might be the last chance to find a trio that works.

Philadelphia has taken advantage of Embiid’s and Simmons’ low rookie-scale salaries, which was always a selling point of The Process. A roster loaded with cheap young players created a window to add more-expensive talent. Then, with everyone already in place, NBA rules generally allow teams to keep their own players.

But Embiid is already on his max contract extension, and Simmons just signed a max contract extension that will take effect next year. The flexibility is vanishing.

One last time, the 76ers made the most of it. They signed-and-traded Butler for Richardson and let Redick walk in free agency. That left enough cap space to sign Al Horford (four years, $109 million with $97 million guaranteed) and use Bird Rights to re-sign Tobias Harris (five years, $180 million).

That’s a lot of deliberate disruption for a team that was already good and rising.

The big question: Did it make Philadelphia better?

I just don’t know.

As fond as I am of Butler, I understand all the reasons to be wary of offering the 30-year-old a huge contract. But moving on from him to give a huge deal to a 33-year-old Horford? That’s curious. Then again, Philadelphia also added Richardson – a solid replacement for Butler on the wing – in the process.

The 76ers will miss Butler’s shot creation. He often took over their offense in the clutch during the playoffs. Harris can pick up some of the slack, but that still looks like a hole.

At just 27, Harris is young for a player who has already been in the league so long. That’s a big reason it was worth Philadelphia signing him to a sizable long-term contract.

Horford’s deal could age poorly, but he’s a winner still playing quality all-around basketball. If nothing else, the 76ers removed Embiid’s best defender from the rival Celtics.

Philadelphia filled its bench with several value signings – Mike Scott (room exception), James Ennis (minimum), Kyle O'Quinn (minimum), Furkan Korkmaz (minimum), Raul Neto (minimum) and Trey Burke (partially guaranteed minimum). However, sometimes teams need production more than cost-effectiveness. The 76ers’ bench struggled last season, and they devoted minimal resources to upgrading.

In the draft, Philadelphia traded the Nos. 24 and 33 picks for No. 20 pick Matisse Thybulle. That’s a costly move up, especially for a player I rated No. 34. Worse, it seemingly happened because Boston snuffed out the 76ers’ interest in Thybulle then leveraged them. That’s small potatoes, though.

Simmons (No. 9 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years) and Embiid (No. 11 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years) will likely define this era for Philadelphia. Embiid is on his way to becoming one of the NBA’s very best players. Simmons is so good, giving him a max extension was a no-brainer.

But they were already in place.

Harris, Horford and Richardson will define this offseason. I just can’t tell whether they made the 76ers’ promising future even brighter or slightly dimmer.

Offseason grade: C

Michelle Roberts says if you don’t like player movement blame owners, too

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
2 Comments

Last summer was one of the wildest offseasons in NBA history, maybe the wildest, and the headline was player empowerment. Anthony Davis pushed his way to the Lakers, Paul George forced his way out of Oklahoma City to go to the Clippers and join Kawhi Leonard, which soon had Russell Westbrook joining his old teammate James Harden in Houston. It led to frustration by some owners and changes in how the NBA will handle tampering.

Except, by choice is not how most players change teams. While AD or George has the leverage to make a power play — because of their exceptional talent — most of the time players are traded because the owner/team has all the power and can uproot players for whatever reason (basketball reasons sometimes, saving money other times). The stars have free agent options, rotation players much less so in that system.

Michelle Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players’ Association, wants you to remember that it’s not just player power that has led to the increase in player movement, as she told Mark Spears of The Undefeated.

Michele Roberts, told The Undefeated that she believes there is a “double standard” between how stars are viewed when they decide to move on compared with when franchises choose to make a major transaction, adding that team owners “continue to view players as property.”

“If you want to be critical of one, be critical of both,” Roberts said from the NBPA’s offices in Manhattan. “Those of us who made decisions to move, it’s really astounding to even consider what it feels like to be told in the middle of your life you are going to have to move. But that’s the business we’re in. …

“No one seems to spend a lot of time thinking about what it’s like to make those kinds of moves completely involuntarily. You volunteer to play or not play. But, yeah, if it’s still the case that if you think you’ve got to suck it up, player, then, hell, you’ve got to suck it up, team.”

She’s right. From Chris Paul to Blake Griffin, plenty of big stars have been moved against their will. The door swings both ways, but in those cases most fans tended to see why and like what the teams did. Those fans like it less when players do the same thing.

There’s also a classic labor vs. management angle to all this, which has political overtones.

For my money, how one views player movement tends to be part generational and part where you live.

Older fans remember days — or, at least think they remember days — when players stayed with teams for much or all of their career. It’s understandable, fans form a bond with players and want them to stay… while they’re still good and useful, after that fans beg ownership to get the “dead weight off the books.” Players before the late 1980s stayed with teams because they didn’t have a choice — for Bill Russell in the 60s or Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 1980s, free agency was not an option. And for every Kobe Bryant that did stay with a team, there were a lot more Wilts and Shaqs, who were traded several times and played with multiple teams.

Younger fans (generally, nothing is universal) are okay with the player movement, sometimes are more fans of a player than a team, and like the action and buzz of all the trades.

Location matters because if you’re in Oklahoma City there’s reason to not like what George did and the era of player empowerment. New Orleans fans can feel the same way (although part of that case is the “supermax” contract that owners wanted but really forced up the timeline on teams and players to make a decision on paying stars). But fans in Los Angeles or wherever players ultimately choose to go will feel differently. Fans want what’s best for their team, but there is no way in the star culture of the NBA to wash away the lure of big markets or of teaming up with another elite player.

The NBA dynamic is different from the NFL’s (for now), but it’s not changing. LeBron James helped usher in an era of player empowerment and it’s the new reality for the NBA, one the best franchises will adapt to rather than fight.