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The Prospect Post: First Round NBA Mock Draft

James Anderson

James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.

Nick Whalen

RotoWire's NBA Editor and award winning host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.

1. Boston Celtics (via Nets)


Markelle Fultz // PG // Washington


Nick Whalen: Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson still have time to close to gap, but as of late-March, Fultz remains the near-consensus No. 1 prospect, despite Washington’s struggles as a team. Fultz’s ability to get to the rim and finish in traffic, combined with his elite pick-and-roll skills, provide Boston with a compelling succession plan should Isaiah Thomas walk next summer as a free agent.

2. Los Angeles Lakers


Lonzo Ball // PG // UCLA


James Anderson: The Lakers love flash and offensive-minded superstars, and Ball has more name value than anyone else in this class, so he fits their qualifications perfectly. While it’s a pretty stereotypical fit, it also perfectly fits Ball’s skillset, as he needs to land somewhere where the offense is his to control. This would likely result in them shopping D’Angelo Russell pretty hard.

3. Phoenix Suns


Josh Jackson // SF // Kansas


Whalen: Phoenix could have its pick of Jackson and Jayson Tatum, two of the more well-rounded wing prospects of the last decade. While Tatum is a bit more polished offensively, Jackson isn’t far behind, and his combination of length, motor and quickness should make him a very good perimeter defender at the pro level right away.

4. Orlando Magic


Jayson Tatum // SF // Duke


Anderson: Tatum has the look of a No. 1 overall pick in a normal draft, but this is not a normal draft. Jackson is a better athlete, better defender and requires fewer isolation plays on offense. While both wings have to prove they can hit threes at a solid clip, Jackson can still be great even if he’s only a so-so shooter from deep. Tatum can be a dynamic iso scorer who averages 25 points per game sooner than later, but that might be all he contributes.



5. Philadelphia 76ers


Dennis Smith // PG // NC State


Whalen: At No. 5, Philly gets a player who would garner strong consideration for the first or second overall picks in many drafts, and Smith fills an area of immediate weakness. Ben Simmons will play some point guard next season, but the Sixers can’t pass up the last of the truly elite talents in the 2017 class.

6. New York Knicks


Lauri Markkanen // PF // Arizona


Anderson: The best big man in this draft class, Markkanen should easily land in the back half of the top-10, and he could land as high as No. 5 or No. 6. In this scenario he would provide the Knicks with a second stretch big that would allow Kristaps Porzingis to do more work close to the basket. Teams will be drooling over his size and shooting efficiency from everywhere on the floor.

7. Sacramento Kings


De'Aaron Fox // PG // Kentucky


Whalen: The Kings have needs all over the place, but finding a point guard of the future should be chief among them. Fox’s struggles as a three-point shooter are concerning, but that’s all that’s keeping him on a tier below Fultz, Ball and Smith.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves


Jonathan Isaac // PF // Florida State


Anderson: Minnesota remains the toughest team to project, because they need everything and nothing at the same time. They presumably don’t want another young score-first player who leaves a lot to be desired on defense, and Isaac offers the tools to defend on the perimeter and the wing, while also having a ton of long-term upside on the offensive end.



9. Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans)


Malik Monk // SG // Kentucky


Whalen: John Collins could be an option here by the time we get to June, but for now we’ll play with the idea of Sacramento keeping the dynamic Fox/Monk backcourt duo together. Monk is far from a perfect prospect, but not many 19-year-olds have his combination of breathtaking athleticism and an ability to make extremely difficult shots look routine.

10. Dallas Mavericks


Frank Ntilikina // PG // France


Anderson: Ntilikina could go as high as No. 6, and he should naturally pass Fox on many team’s boards as the draft process progresses. He lacks’ Fox’s glaring flaw (outside shooting) and has similarly impressive size and athleticism. He is the wild card of the lottery.

11. Charlotte Hornets


Justin Jackson // SG // North Carolina


Whalen: Coming back to lead North Carolina to the Sweet 16 was the best decision Jackson could have made after he nearly declared for the 2016 draft following the Tar Heels’ run to the National Championship Game. The former five-star recruit and reigning ACC Player of the Year is now firmly in the lottery discussion, due in large part to his massive improvement -- 29.2% on 3.0 3PA/G last season, 38.9% on 7.0 3PA/G this season -- as a three-point shooter.

12. Portland Trail Blazers


Harry Giles // PF // Duke


Anderson: This is the point in the draft where Giles’ upside outweighs the risk. He is sandwiched in between two steady, yet unspectacular players in Jackson and Collins. If Giles returns to form he’s a superstar, while the other players in this range would max out as quality starters.

13. Chicago Bulls


John Collins // PF // Wake Forest


Whalen: Collins has made a Marquese Chriss-like rise up draft boards over the last few months, and he could end up as a steal in the late-lottery. Chicago’s roster is a mess on several levels and could look very different by the time October rolls around, but Collins would represent a high-upside piece to rebuild with, as the Bulls seem to have cooled off a bit on Bobby Portis.



14. Detroit Pistons


OG Anunoby // SF // Indiana


Anderson: As with Giles at No. 12, there comes a point in the late lottery where Anunoby’s upside and tools really separate him from the other options, even when accounting for the significant injury-related risk. The Pistons might be nearing a time when they have to admit that they whiffed on Stanley Johnson.

15. Denver Nuggets


Justin Patton // PF/C // Creighton


Whalen: The freshman’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Patton fits the profile of a modern NBA center, both physically -- 7’0”, 230 lbs, 7’3” wingspan -- and skill-wise. Patton is an excellent athlete and rim-runner, and his smooth touch from outside, albeit over a limited sample (8-15 3PT), is an intriguing skill for a team with the patience to develop him.

16. Miami Heat


Miles Bridges // SF // Michigan State


Anderson: He could go in the late lottery, but there is a bad tweener vibe and some fit issues with the teams projected to pick there that could lead to him falling a bit. Yes, he is a great athlete, but Bridges feels like a shorter Rudy Gay, which is not a compliment.

17. Milwaukee Bucks


Ivan Rabb // PF // California


Whalen: In hindsight, Rabb’s decision to return to Cal will probably cost the sophomore 5-10 draft slots. Still, he’s one of the more polished frontcourt prospects in the class and has the skill set to step in as an immediate rotation player for the Bucks, who want to build a perennial playoff team around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

18. Indiana Pacers


Johnathan Motley // PF // Baylor


Anderson: Motley is someone who could climb seven or eight spots in mock drafts between now and the draft. His 7’3.5” wingspan is well-documented, and if he tests well in the lateral quickness drills, he will profile as a potentially elite defender, capable of guarding three or four positions. A team that takes him in the top-18 will need to be confident that they can improve his jump shot (just 25.8 percent from three-point range).



19. Atlanta Hawks


T.J. Leaf // PF // UCLA


Whalen: Leaf leaving UCLA after one season isn’t a lock, but the opportunity to go in Round 1 will be there if he so chooses. At 6’10”, Leaf can shoot over most defenders (45.6% 3PT), and he’s a much better athlete and passer (2.5 APG) than he’s given credit for.

20. Oklahoma City Thunder


Terrance Ferguson // SG // Australia


Anderson: Ferguson’s length (6’7”/6’9.5” wingspan), shooting potential and pedigree should allow him to land in the top-20. He is pretty raw, but he has the potential to be an average starting shooting guard in the NBA.

21. Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies)


Isaiah Hartenstein // PF // Germany


Whalen: With three first-rounders in this draft, the Trail Blazers will likely seek out a trade or take a draft-and-stash player like Hartenstein with one of those picks. On talent alone, Hartenstein could be a lottery prospect, but he’s still relatively unproven and carries some Jusuf Nurkic-like attitude concerns.

22. Toronto Raptors


Jarrett Allen // C // Texas


Anderson: Most of the big men in this draft are flawed in some way, but Allen’s 7’5.5” wingspan should be enough for him to go in the 15-25 range, if not higher. He can wow scouts with his shooting touch, given his size, and the ease with which he blocks shots, but he also appears to lack toughness or a killer instinct in the paint.



23. Orlando Magic (via Clippers)


Luke Kennard // SG // Duke


Whalen: While Kennard isn’t a lock to declare, it’s hard to imagine his stock climbing too much higher after putting together a First Team All-ACC sophomore season. Yes, Kennard is a white, Duke guard who shoots threes, but his offensive repertoire is craftier than his appearance lets on.

24. Brooklyn Nets (via Wizards)


Rodions Kurucs // SF // Spain


Anderson: Kurucs is somewhat reminiscent to Mario Hezonja as a prospect. He has excellent size (6-foot-8) and he looks like he should be able to be a knockdown shooter from deep. Whoever drafts Kurucs will likely stash him in Europe for a couple years.

25. Utah Jazz


Tyler Lydon // SF/PF // Syracuse


Whalen: This is a massive summer for Utah, which has some major decisions to make on a number of key players. Among them is Joe Ingles, who’ll be set for a raise as his contract expires. If the Jazz can’t find a way to keep Ingles, Lydon could be groomed as the replacement.

26. Brooklyn Nets


Caleb Swanigan // PF // Purdue


Anderson: It would not be surprising if a team fell in love with Swanigan in the 15-20 range, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if teams saw an undersized (6’9”) big man from the Big 10 and had flashbacks to D.J. White and Adreian Payne and let him slide in the first round despite his eye-popping production from this past season. His 7’3.5” wingspan and 43.2 percent shooting from three-point range give hope to the notion that he can make this unique profile work.



27. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers)


Jawun Evans // PG // Oklahoma State


Whalen: Evans officially declared for the draft just days after Oklahoma State was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Michigan. While his size (6’1”) prevents him from being mentioned with the elite point guards in the class, Evans is every bit as skilled, and outside of Ball he might be the best pure point guard in the draft.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets)


Bam Adebayo // PF // Kentucky


Anderson: Adebayo looks the part of a high-end frontcourt prospect, but he does not check the boxes NBA teams now look for in big men. He can’t stretch the floor and he doesn’t protect the rim at a rate that suggests he’ll be able to handle that role in the pros. His athleticism, size and finishing ability should prevent him from falling much farther than this.

29. San Antonio Spurs


Jaron Blossomgame // SF // Clemson


Whalen: A four-year college player with strong measurables, Blossomgame is the type of prospect who could contribute immediately off the bench for Gregg Popovich. However, he’ll need to prove his drastic regression from beyond the arc -- 26% 3PT as a senior; 45% 3PT as a junior -- was just a one-year blip.

30. Utah Jazz (via Warriors)


Zach Collins // C // Gonzaga


Anderson: As the sixth man on Gonzaga, Collins seems like a prime candidate to come back to school and become the offensive focal point next year. However, he continues to climb draft boards due to his offensive efficiency, rim protection and the ease with which he moves for a seven footer. He could even go in the late lottery if he tests well at the combine.