2017 NBA Draft Roundtable

Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers
Photo via: Sports Illustrated

As we gear up for the 2017 NBA Draft, several of our writers convened for a roundtable discussion about this year’s class, including who will end up having the best career and who is being overlooked. Our participants for this edition are:

1. It’s obviously hard to tell right now, but who do you ultimately think will be the winner of the Sixers/Celtics trade?

Cortes: The Philadelphia 76ers. They were able to get a generational guard in Markelle Fultz, while still having the possibility of landing the No. 1 pick in the next two NBA drafts. Genius move by the Sixers.

King: The Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge and the Celtics organization feel that they will still get the player they were going to select with the No. 1 pick. They were also able to find a way to successfully land another future first round pick in either 2018 OR 2019.

Kirkland: It depends on what the Celtics do with the No. 3 pick. Whether it turns into more assets or if they use a pick and get a high-end rookie out of it and topple the Cavs they win. They also gained another future pick. The rich get richer.

Allan: The Sixers definitely will come out as a winner of this trade. Ultimately, Philly made out very well because of the conditions around the pick they are trading. They only have to give up the Lakers pick if it falls between No. 2 and No. 5 and if not, they only give up the 2019 Sacramento Kings 1st round pick. Having to only give up one pick for Markelle Fultz is a steal.

Boyer: Regardless of what happens you’ve got to view the Sixers as the winners of this trade. The guard-starved Sixers were able to pilfer the No. 1 overall pick from the Celtics to not only get the best player in this draft class but address a glaring weakness as well. Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric represent hope for the future of Philadelphia and make for a core, barring any catastrophic injuries, that should claim king in the East in the near future. Even if Embiid’s career turns into an injury-marred mess, the Sixers still have Fultz as a safety valve. Those that have trusted the process are being compensated for their patience. As for Boston, they still have tons of assets to flip for what they want and are in a position that is envied by their counterparts. If any team could afford to miss out on Fultz, it’s them. 

2. Which lottery pick not named Markelle Fultz will prove to have the best career?

Cortes: Lonzo Ball’s style of play on the right team can lead to tremendous success. It seems popular to scrutinize the kid for some reason, but his game translates to prosperity for his team on the court. What team wouldn’t be better with a guy like Lonzo who can find the open man, hit the three, and finish around the rim? It’s no coincidence that UCLA suddenly became a great team once Lonzo joined them and although the NBA is a much tougher league, Ball can have that same impact, resulting in a potentially great career.

King: I am going to go out on a limb and say, De’Aaron Fox. Although he may not be viewed as a better prospect than Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, he has proven time and again that he deserves to be in that mix. It helps that he has proven it against Ball, as many saw in the Sweet 16 match-up as Kentucky handled UCLA with ease. Fox seems to have what every coach wants out of a guard. He can score in bunches, be unselfish and is okay with being the second or third option to score. Although not a strong defender, Fox’s length, and wiry frame make him capable.  I think the sky is the limit for Fox and if he can transfer his production from Kentucky into the pros then I see All-Star potential.

Kirkland: I think Lonzo Ball’s dad has him almost strangely underrated. His length and ability to distribute will keep him in the league for quite some time. He also has the tools to be a solid defender as well. He will operate immediately with the pressure and scrutiny of a star so if he can handle that the sky is the limit.

De'Aaron Fox, Lonzo Ball
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Allan: I would have to say, De’Aaron Fox. He really reminds me of John Wall, it’s scary. He honestly is not far off from a guy like Fultz because of what he was able to show in pressure situations, something Fultz couldn’t say at the Univ. of Washington. Fox held Lonzo Ball to both 10 and 16 points when they squared off and scored 39 on Ball in the NCAA Tournament. Fox has shown that he has that “dog” in him to become a leader of a team down the road.

Boyer: De’Aaron Fox. While there are many other worthy candidates of this nod, Fox’s combination of quickness, athletic ability, and fearlessness has me intrigued. He’s a high-character kid that can be coached, which is very important for a young guard bound to make mistakes upon his entrance in the NBA. His jumper will be tested early on, but if he can get it to a serviceable level, (cough, cough, John Wall), then his potential gets even scarier.  

3. Lonzo Ball, Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum: Who has the biggest bust potential?

Cortes: Malik Monk. Monk has shown that he can be a big-time scorer, but any team that drafts him would need him to be more than just a scorer. Would he be able to be a better playmaker or a better ball-handler? Monk needs to be more versatile if he truly wants to make a big impact for the team that drafts him.

King: Jayson Tatum. There is much to like about Tatum’s game when you put on the film. Flashes of his strength inside and touch from outside makes him an intriguing prospect. However, he is not dominant at either inside or outside scoring, which could make it hard to find his specific role in an offense. On the other side of the ball, his lateral quickness comes into question as his on-ball defense is not the best. For him to not be a bust he is going to have to work on whether he wants to be a stretch forward or more of a big man who does his work down low both on offense as well as defense.

Kirkland: I don’t get the love jones that people have for Fox. It is a three-ball league and he’s a sub-par shooter from range. His game is based on his tremendous speed and first step yet in the NBA those guards are better equipped to stay in front of him. I am not sure his game will translate to the next level.

Allan: Malik Monk. Monk has shown to be a shooter first and has some other parts of his game that are very solid, so I do not want to slight him, but all I really see him becoming is a shooter that comes off screens and won’t be able to create his own shot. That is not to say that type of game is bad, but I feel if that he goes between No. 4-8, he has to show the ability to manufacture his own offense, something we have not seen much of.

Boyer: Malik Monk. Monk’s shooting will translate to the NBA without a hitch, but the holes in the rest of his game have me concerned. He’s undersized for a shooting guard and doesn’t have the off-the-dribble sauce necessary to thrive at point. There are many questions surrounding the totality of Monk’s game, and if he cannot provide the answers early on in his career, he may find himself out of the Association sooner rather than later. 

4. Name a player that’s being overlooked throughout this draft process.

Cortes: Dennis Smith Jr., in my opinion, is being extremely overlooked during this draft process. He’s extremely athletic and can score on all three levels, making him one of the most talented prospects in this deep draft. Based on talent alone, he should go around picks five or six but some mock drafts have him going as low as nine. He definitely deserves to go no later than eight.

Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

King: Frank Ntilikina. With this draft being guard heavy a lot of teams are chomping at the bit to build up their backcourt. His game mirrors the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo who we have seen make his mark in the NBA. Ntilikina’s size and 7’0″ foot wingspan offer him the ability to be a versatile wing defender.  Although he still has to work on being the dominant ball-handler, his potential growth as a player is astronomical. He is on the fringe of being a top-10 selection, and if we look back on this draft class five years from now, the team that lands Ntilikina could’ve gotten a steal.

Kirkland: Caleb Swanigan out of Purdue falls into the “college veteran” pit like many who are not one and done players do. He is projected to go in the 30’s when he should be a top-20 prospect. He is an excellent rebounder (12.5RPGg) with an array of post moves and the added ability to hit from deep. What more can you ask than a big man who can bang the boards and stretch the defense?

Allan: Dennis Smith Jr. Smith came into this NCAA season in a very similar situation to Markelle Fultz. He had a coach that was on the hot seat at NC State, and he and the Wolfpack did not find themselves in postseason play. He was predicted to go top-three according to some experts in the beginning of the year, but that is because he has the speed and agility of some of the fastest guards in the NBA. His explosiveness reminds me of a pre-ACL injury, Derrick Rose. A team will be very lucky to have Dennis Smith Jr. as he can be a very solid NBA player for years to come.

Boyer: With the strong crop of guards featured in this draft, Dennis Smith Jr.’s name is being too nonchalantly glossed over. To me, Smith is a fusion of Kyle Lowry and to steal from my friend Kyle, pre-ACL injury Derrick Rose. With some good grooming, Smith can turn into a force at point guard in the NBA, which is why I’d love to see him in a setting such as Dallas. Rick Carlisle would work wonders for Smith’s career, and there is a certain veteran sharpshooting veteran taking residence in that locker room that Smith Jr. could extract a wealth of knowledge from. There are doubts if he falls that late, but regardless of placement Smith Jr. will thrive. 

5. Give a bold prediction regarding the draft.

Cortes: Not sure how bold of a prediction this is, but Jayson Tatum has a great chance of being selected before Josh Jackson. The Celtics have the No. 3 pick and it would be nice to use it on Tatum, who is a great fit for Boston with his polished offensive game. Boston could use another scorer besides Isaiah Thomas and Tatum fits that bill. Josh Jackson is arguably a better overall talent than Tatum, but Tatum fits better with Boston.

King: Somebody makes a deal with the Pistons to come into the Lottery at No. 12. The Pistons need help across the board and this would be the perfect chance for them to get more assets for moving out of the lottery. Assuming they can work out a deal to move back a few spots in the draft while also receiving a possible player they can add to their roster, the rebuilding of the Pistons could get a head-start. They are projected to get a player like Gonzaga big man Zach Collins at No. 12, but they need help at the guard position first and foremost. A player like athletic guard Derrick White out of Colorado could be wise.

Kirkland: I do not think the Celtics are going to keep the No 3 pick. It has been a crazy offseason so far and they have not added the second scorer they have desired. Unless they are willing to just take Gordon Hayward and run with it I would look for them to make one last push to move the pick.

Allan: Celtics do not take Josh Jackson and instead take Johnathan Isaac. Things are heating up with Josh declining to workout for the Celtics the day before the draft. With Boston looking for a long wing that can defend, a guy like Isaac comes to mind. He grew in the later part of his freshman year of college and his loads of upside make him an intriguing option for the Celtics.

Boyer: The Knicks snag a top-five pick by trading Kristaps Porzingis. The rumor mill was churning out tales of New York being interested in moving Porzingis, and these reports were proven to be true by Phil Jackson on Wednesday evening when he confirmed during an interview that New York had indeed been fielding trade calls regarding the seven-foot Latvian big man. Both the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns are potential trade partners, with the ability to offer a pretty package. Let’s see if the Knicks bite the bait or decide to hold on to their Unicorn. 

Kristaps Porzingis, Marqueese Chriss, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports


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