1. Boston Celtics – Markelle Fultz (PG/SG, Washington) It looks like Avery Bradley will be traded to make room for more cap space. Fultz is an ideal replacement for the Celtics. An all-around guard with a great jump shot, superb athleticism, and incredible play making ability, Fultz is the entire package. The 6’5” guard has a wingspan close to seven feet allowing him to be a top defender in the NBA as well. Fultz will slot directly into the Celtics starting five if Bradley is to leave establishing a formidable all-Washington backcourt alongside Isaiah Thomas. I’ve heard many people state that Fultz will be the next big superstar in the NBA, and that is one thing that the Boston Celtics need. Fultz will give the Celts a second scoring option to compliment Thomas. The Celtics could possibly use the pick in a trade in order to acquire a superstar player such as Anthony Davis or Paul George, but it seems unlikely.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA)
This South California point guard will be staying local this summer. Ball stands 6’6” and possesses great athleticism with a vertical of over 40 inches. Ball was the best passer and playmaker in the NCAA last season and understands and sees the game better than anyone I have ever seen coming out of college. Although he has an unorthodox shooting form, Ball is lethal from long range. D’Angelo Russell is more than capable of playing shooting guard, and this will allow Ball to fit well into the Lakers lineup while learning the trade from GM Magic Johnson. His eccentric father Lavar Ball has even called his son “Magic with a jump shot.” The Lakers will be aching to draft him next month.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Jayson Tatum (SF, Duke)
Although the Sixers could very well be drafting a guard here, Tatum is too good of a talent to pass up. The 6’8” forward has the potential to be the best player coming out of this draft for the future. Reminiscent of a young Carmelo Anthony, Tatum can spread the floor with his sweet stroke and use his massive frame and decent ball handling ability to attack the basket and score inside. Tatum doesn’t necessarily have one major strength. He simply does everything “good” and nothing “bad.” If the Sixers choose to run Ben Simmons at point guard, there is a spot for Tatum to make an immediate impact on the surging franchise at small forward. Don’t count out them of trading down to draft Kentucky’s Malik Monk or De’Aaron Fox, two highly regarded guard prospects.
4. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson (SF, Kansas)
If he’s available, there is no doubt that the Suns will pick the 6’8” forward has astounding athleticism allowing him to be a force on the defensive end, something that the Suns desperately need to improve on. Jackson is a solid rebounder for his position, and he has worked to extend his shooting range over the past year adding a mid-range and three point game to his pre-existing slashing and inside scoring strengths. With Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker making up an explosive backcourt, the Suns will see Jackson as a vital team need. Note that if the Suns decide to put Bledsoe on the trading block, they may select De’Aaron Fox from Kentucky to take over at the point.
5. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox (PG, Kentucky)
Fox will enter the NBA as one of the fastest players in the league. The Kings, who are already in the search for a new point guard, as Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have been underwhelming, will be thrilled with the 6’3” point guard’s availability. Fox can attack the basket to score and drive the lane using his decent passing ability to find open men. His combination of speed and strength will allow him to succeed on the defensive end as well. Fox has also improved his jump shot greatly in college, a great tool to accompany his strong athleticism. Fox can team up with Buddy Hield to give the Kings a young and dynamic backcourt. Hopefully for them, Fox will be available as he is quickly rising in the ranks.
6. Orlando Magic – Malik Monk (SG, Kentucky)
The young guards out of Kentucky could very well be going one after the other. Had Malik Monk been a few inches taller than his height of 6’3”, he could have been the first overall pick. Still, Monk is arguably the best scorer in this draft class. He has a fantastic jump shot, probably the best in all of college basketball last year, and he can knock down shots from anywhere on the court. Monk also possesses great ball handling skills and a quick first step. Although he is not known as being a great defender, he has been steadily improving his on-ball and off-ball defending. The Magic, a team that struggled to put the ball in the hole last year would be a perfect fit for Monk who makes his mark through scoring. Plus, he’s a massive upgrade from Evan Fournier.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonathan Isaac (SF/PF, Florida State)
The Timberwolves have been in developing mode for many years, and they now have great young talent in Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Zach LaVine. Isaac could be the player to finally push the Timberwolves into the playoffs. At 6’10” with long arms, three point range, and good athleticism, Isaac is the perfect player to build around. He can use his strength and size to bully players at the small forward position, and he can also use his speed and shooting ability to stretch the floor at the power forward position. Isaac was known as one of the best shot blockers in the NCAA last season. It may take him a year or two to develop fully, but when he does, the sky is the limit.
8. New York Knicks – Dennis Smith Jr. (PG, North Carolina State)
Derrick Rose will not resign with the Knicks this offseason, leaving them with a vacant slot at point guard. Dennis Smith Jr., a player similar to Rose, will do more than simply fill the spot. Once considered a possible top pick, injuries have hindered the explosive point guard. Despite this, Smith has the ability to be an NBA all-star. Many know him for the powerful dunks he throws down with ease. However, there is more to him. Smith has great speed and stamina which allow him to operate at a high pace throughout the entire game. His playmaking ability allows him to be able to create his own shot and to use his explosiveness to drive the lane and kick out. Smith is highly underrated in his passing and shooting abilities, making him a threat from beyond the three point line, in the mid-range, and in the paint.
9. Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (PG/SG, France)
Will Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry be able to replicate their surprisingly solid forms of last season? The Mavericks will not risk finding that out without a backup plan. Ntilikina is regarded as a defensive specialist. He stands at 6’5” and has a wingspan of seven feet which causes him to guard multiple positions with ease. The young Frenchman also can shoot very well, including from three point land. Despite being only eighteen years old, he has experience playing professionally in Europe. Ntilikina is a low risk, high reward player. At the very least, he’ll be a solid D and three player in the NBA. And with the Mavericks success with Dirk Nowitzki, they will welcome the idea of drafting an international player. The Mavs could also consider taking Lauri Markkanen from Arizona as a replacement to the aging Nowitzki.
10. Sacramento Kings – Lauri Markkanen (PF/C, Arizona)
With the departure of Demarcus Cousins to New Orleans, the Kings will need improvement in their frontcourt. With a great jump shot and the ability to create good looks, the 7 foot center forward combo will be able to spread the floor well. Markkanen is also confortable putting the ball on the floor and scoring around the rim. Defense and rebounding are minor weaknesses of him, but he definitely has the body size and time to allow these aspects to develop. I’d say the floor for Markkanen is Kelly Olynyk while his celling is Dirk.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Zach Collins (C/PF, Gonzaga)
The Charlotte Hornets were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA this past season. Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, and Miles Plumlee have not gotten the job done on the glass causing the Hornets to be in desperate need of reinforcements of their frontcourt. Although he split time with fellow center Przemek Karnowski last year at Gonzaga, Collins was able to showcase his NBA potential. The seven foot center is mobile and can run the floor making him a threat in the open court. He has shot 47 percent from three point range, higher than Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, and can space the floor. His lack of physicality worries some teams, but Collins has proven to be an effective rebounder in college. At only nineteen years old, Collins will fill out in the weight room and work on reaching his high potential.
12. Detroit Pistons – Luke Kennard (SG, Duke)
How could the man who broke LeBron James’s AAU scoring record in Ohio not be a lottery pick? It is a great possibility that free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will depart from the Pistons this offseason. The 6’5” shooting guard can easily fill in the shooting and offensive game needed if Caldwell-Pope is to leave. Kennard was one of Duke’s standout players last season. Although he is not the best defender, nor the best rebounder, Kennard gets results. His is not the fastest or most athletic player, but the kid can put the ball in the hoop. He possesses the ability to score driving to the basket, taking contested mid-range shots, and, most impressively, is lights out from beyond the arc. He is one of the most underrated players in this draft class, and although he doesn’t look it, he is decently strong. I can see him becoming like fellow former Duke star JJ Redick.
13. Denver Nuggets – OG Anunoby (SF/PF, Indiana)
The Nuggets are expected to be very busy in this year’s offseason. With a lot of cap space, expect them to be in the hunt for some solid free agents. Because I believe they will try to make their mark in free agency, not the draft, the Nuggets will draft a project. OG Anunoby, the 6’8” forward from Indiana would fit their team very well. All signs point to starting small forward Danilo Gallinari leaving, so Anunoby could provide depth in the forward position. A great defender, Anunoby is comfortable guarding players of any size on the court. His speed, strength, size, and overall athleticism are top notch. One can easily find his poster dunks in college on YouTube. Scouts are concerned with his health, as he suffered a torn ACL in January, and his offense, but Anunoby has tools to grow fast. He has even developed a three pointer over the past year, and is capable of using his strength to score inside. The Nuggets are in the perfect place to take a risk on him.
14. Miami Heat – John Collins (PF, Wake Forest)
Many people know John Collins as the sole reason why Wake Forest snuck into March Madness last year. The 6’10” power forward has an NBA ready physique and the skills to match. Over the past year, Collins has extended his range, developing a solid mid-range game. And although he doesn’t take many, Collins can stretch the floor with three pointers. Luke Babbitt is currently the starting power forward for the Miami Heat. Let that sink in for a second. Chris Bosh’s departure has further weakened the power forward position as well. Collins will walk into the team as a starter. With great touch around the rim and a strong defensive presence, the Heat could be adding another double-double machine to their team (along with Hassan Whiteside).