Given the plethora of talent within college basketball this past season, NBA franchises that are eligible for the lottery will look to acquire the next prominent super star. While the lottery is almost upon us, the big name players have been known for a few months now and the first overall pick could be any number of these prospective players. Like most draft scenarios, teams will have to be tactful in selecting either the best player available or filling a crucial need to take the next vital step towards winning.
1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 25%
While this picks technically belongs to the Brooklyn Nets, it was traded away a few years ago for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. As of now, that trade appears to have been a stroke of genius as the Celtics will once again be in a position to take best player available. Although the defensive capabilities and length of Josh Jackson would be a great fit here, the Celtics would be hard pressed to pass on Markelle Fultz.
A fantastic shot creator and ball facilitator, Fultz is the ultimate offensive weapon. His unselfishness as a passer makes him the ideal team player who can effectively diagnose any defensive scheme. What makes him such an intriguing fit for the Celtics is his ability to play alongside another talented ball handler in Isaiah Thomas. Given how fluid and determined Isaiah Thomas is as the point man for the Celtics, Fultz could be a tremendous asset in creating one of most dynamic offenses in basketball. While some pundits question Fultz’s effort level, his natural talent and feel for the game make him an exciting and easy choice here.
2. Phoenix Suns: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 19.9%
Despite having promising and deep guard play already, the Phoenix Suns will nevertheless view Lonzo Ball as a must have talent. With fantastic length and proven efficiency in transition, Ball has the skill set to contribute right away in a fast paced NBA. Defensively, Ball has the vigilance to force turnovers and the tenacity to play the defensive glass. The only downside to Ball’s game is his lack of physicality. He struggles to make plays in the paint, and is only consistent at getting to the basket when he builds up momentum in transition. Still, Ball is arguably the smartest and most refined athlete in the draft. As he continues to grow and mature, Ball has the potential to become one of the most essential pieces to any NBA franchise.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 15.6%
Assuming the Lakers do not fall out of the top three in the lottery and lose this pick to the 76ers, they will have some great options to flesh out their young roster. While there are several great pure shooting guards to select from, having a competitive hybrid forward in Josh Jackson would be the ideal fit. Jackson is a sensational two way player who is a absolute natural at shutting down defensive players. Although he may not be the most intriguing forward in terms of length, his anticipation skills and fearlessness more than make up for his physical shortcomings. His abilities as a shooter are streaky at times, but he was able to become a reliable catch and shoot player during the latter half of the college basketball season. If Jackson can work on his funky shooting mechanics, the Lakers will be getting a stout defensive player with a very high athletic ceiling.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 11.9%
Given how mightily the 76ers struggled on both defense and offense last season, this team could easily be content with taking the best player available. However, the prolific scoring ability of Malik Monk will be too hard to pass on. Arguably one of the most efficient scorers in college, Monk’s prowess as a jump shooter was what allowed him to score in bunches at Kentucky. Monk’s tremendous leaping ability is essential in him being able to hit shots from the perimeter, making him an exciting and aggressive contributor. While Monk will have to develop some independence in terms of creating his own shooting opportunities, his exceptional athleticism and ability as a shooter will make him a coveted prospect for the 76ers if he is available.
5. Orlando Magic: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 8.8%
Considering how dismal the Magic were on both defense and offense last year, it’s difficult to prognosticate which gifted prospect would fit their situation the best. However, Jayson Tatum is one of the most versatile players in the draft and can contribute right away as a consistent offensive threat. Tatum’s ability to make shots one on one against any defender shows a level of confidence that the Magic desperately need. His tremendous foot work and impressive dribbling will always keep opposing defenders on their heels. When Tatum has time on offense, he is extremely effective as a lights out perimeter shooter. While there is some concern about his overall strength, his exceptional form and intelligence will give Tatum the edge he needs to succeed at the next level.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 5.3%
Assuming the Timberwolves do not trade this pick, they would do well to take a lengthy defensive talent in Jonathon Isaac. Also a intriguing offensive weapon and effective rebounder, Isaac has the potential to be sensational on both offense and defense. He has the size and fluidity to play either forward position and has the quickness to get down the floor on fast break plays. Playing on the wing, Isaac can quickly move from the perimeter to the paint for an easy lay up. However, while Isaac can score consistently, he needs to work on his accuracy from beyond the perimeter to be a great forward in the NBA. With proper coaching, Isaac could become one of the more exciting two way players in the NBA.
7. New York Knicks: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 5.3%
From his immense size to his sheer quickness, De’Aaron is arguably the most explosive point guard in this draft when healthy. Although he has a wiry frame, Fox handles contact well for his size and his quickness allows him to blow past defenders so as to avoid any serious contact. While Fox’s insatiable need to make big plays can be to his detriment at times, his unconventional nature to find unique angles to get the ball to his teammates is something that could serve him well at the next level if fine tuned. While Fox needs to get stronger to be a viable NBA player, he has all the potential and current skills to be a franchise player.
8. Sacramento Kings: Dennis Smith, PG, NC State.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 2.8%
Given the lack of continuity the Kings have had at point guard, it seems logical that the discombobulated organization would select an all around productive talent in Dennis Smith. For any defender that has to contend with Smith, it will be an arduous task to keep the rookie from getting to the basket. His aggressiveness will allow Smith to get to the free throw line frequently where he excelled in college. Smith’s versatility when it comes to changing speeds will make it especially difficult for any opposing head coach to find a weakness in his game. Although Smith is great as an individual athlete, he needs to be more vocal on the floor while looking to pass the ball more frequently. If Smith can work on his leadership abilities, he has all the physical tools to be a fearless scorer and ball facilitator.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 1.7%
As the Mavericks currently lack a clear cut starting point guard on the roster, the Mavericks could feasibly take a promising international player in Ntilikina. Although he has a light frame now, Ntilikina has the maturity and basketball IQ to be effective in the NBA. He has a great feel for the pace of the game and as a result is a gifted passer. He can also create his own mid range jump shot and, while not consistent as a three point shooter yet, he has been working to improve this facet of his game. Although Ntilikina needs to develop more confidence when it comes shooting rather than passing, his size and intangibles make him both a promising point guard and an even better leader.
10. Sacramento Kings (Via New Orleans Pelicans): Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 1.1%
If the Kings can acquire a promising point guard with the eighth pick, they may have a chance of selecting the most talented big man in the draft with the tenth pick. Between his immense size and superb mobility for a center, Zach Collins has the potential to become the scoring threat that Demarcus Cousins was with the Kings. He can play consistently in the post and has a nice mid range jump shot that gives him a unique offensive skill set for a center. On top of his physical abilities, Collins is a fiery competitor who isn’t afraid to initiate contact and get to the free throw line. Although there is some concern regarding his lack of playing time in college (backed up Przemek Karnowski at Gonzaga), Collins is already a well developed athlete with fantastic intangibles.
11. Charlotte Hornets: TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 0.8%
While the Hornets were a all-around solid team statistically last season, they need another playmaking forward if they want to make a serious push for the postseason in 2018. Enter TJ Leaf. An extremely versatile offensive weapon that can play inside and out, Leaf is an ideal stretch forward. Although not the most athletic prospect in the draft, Leaf’s instincts and decision making skills are exceptional. As a result, Leaf made a name for himself in college as being a clutch player, especially when playing in some of the more intimidating environments in college basketball. Although Leaf needs to work on his strength to match his natural feel for the game, he has the mental make up and versatility to be a great NBA talent.
12. Detroit Pistons: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 0.7%
Despite being one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the Detroit Pistons only managed to compile a 37-45 record. At 6’10” and 235 lbs, Jarrett Allen is a rebounding machine that has the hands to catch incoming passes for either a dunk or layup. While Allen is hardly known for his flashy offensive output, he has an underrated shooting touch. This gives him the advantage of being a more unpredictable on the offensive end, considering most bigs rely on sheer athleticism to get buckets. Although Allen does not have the muscle to contend with the more physical centers yet, his frame will allow him to fill out over time and become truly formidable. While he may lack girth and lateral speed right now, his skills as a rebounder and underrated offensive capabilities will allow him to flourish in the NBA sooner rather than later.
13. Denver Nuggets: Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 0.6%
While the Nuggets have several versatile scorers on the their roster, none have the raw talent that Hamidou Diallo brings to the table. Going down the check list when evaluating a ideal shooting guard, Diallo meets nearly every criteria. Great speed? Absolutely. Effective in transition and half court? He’s a natural. Confident when it comes to crashing the glass? This kid is absolutely fearless. Now, with all of that being said, Diallo has two crucial areas that need a lot of improvement: consistency and discipline. Although Diallo’s unshakeable confidence is great, it can get him into trouble when he tries to drive to the basket. He relies more on his athleticism than his eyes as he attempts to out jump defenders rather than properly evaluating a situation before going all in. Still, even being as raw as he is, Diallo is a competitor that in the right system can excel and develop into a dynamic shooting guard.
14. Miami Heat: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina.
Chances of Obtaining First Pick: 0.5%
Although the Heat were wildly inconsistent throughout the regular season, there was one constant, which was being an efficient rebounding and defensive team. Therefore, it makes sense that the Heat would want to acquire a player that can maintain those respective attributes while giving them a nice offensive boost. With an already polished offensive skill set, Justin Jackson is a mature athlete with a well developed shooting stroke. Whether from mid range or outside the perimeter, Jackson is a fantastic spot up shooter that quickly releases the ball with impressive accuracy. His passing abilities are nearly as intriguing as his prowess as a shooter. His vision and size allow him to see the entire court, which gives him a distinct advantage over most small forwards who are unable to make the crucial passing plays that he can. While he may not be the biggest, toughest or most athletic prospect in the draft, his refined skill set on both sides of the court will give him a distinct mental edge over some of the rawer rookies in this class.