We don’t know much about the class of 2017, seeing as it hasn’t played a minute of NBA basketball yet. However, NBA Summer League and free agency have a way of altering how we view these prospects, and it is never too early to overanalyze.
NBA draft picks reveal themselves over time. It takes a year or two to know if a player is worth their selection, and oftentimes more than that. Like humans, however, NBA babies develop most rapidly in their infancy.
The first six weeks of professional basketball life are as critical as any. In summer league, players are exposed to NBA schemes, rules and opponents for the first time. Free agency can shake up rosters in a way that can alter a rookie’s career path before it even starts—just ask Andrew Wiggins.
We still don’t know so much more than we do know. If every rookie-to-be was thrown back into a pool and re-drafted today, plenty of teams would wildly miss, while others would strike gold. Some general managers would overvalue summer league, just as some overvalue college basketball, pre-draft workouts and prospect interviews.
With that said, we do know more than we did six weeks ago. That makes now—the doldrums of the NBA offseason—the perfect time for an early re-draft of the 2017 class.
- I am the GM of every team. While I am factoring in realism, these are the picks I think should happen, not necessarily what would happen.
- Trades can be pulled from existence at my discretion. We don’t know the exact timing of these trades or the knowledge GMs had at the moment of consummation, but we can use common sense. It is unlikely that the Utah Jazz trade up to No. 13 if Donovan Mitchell is off the board, but still likely that the Bulls trade Jimmy Butler for No. 7 whether or not Lauri Markkanen is available (and oh my, is he ever).
- No new trades can be made.
1. Philadelphia 76ers- Markelle Fultz, PG. Fultz followed in the footsteps of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid before him, suffering a lower body injury before his rookie season. When he did play in summer league, he was equal parts scintillating and inconsistent. His ankle seems fine, and he’s still the prize of this class. Given his relative rawness and youth, even a less-than-stellar rookie season won’t change that.
2. Los Angeles Lakers- Lonzo Ball, PG. This may seem like a backhanded complement, but bear with me: Ball plays like a point forward in a point guard’s body. His hit-ahead passes are rivaled only by Kevin Love, and his grab-and-go game only by Draymond Green and LeBron James. Of course, part of this is due to Ball being 6’6″. So really, he plays like a point forward in a point guard’s body, in a shooting guard’s body. After signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ball’s fit with the Lakers is even better.
3. Boston Celtics- Dennis Smith, PG. Jayson Tatum had a fine summer league, but suffers from the Wiggins syndrome here: After the Celtics landed Gordon Hayward, Tatum’s future role became much murkier. Smith was third on my board entering the draft, and above both Fultz and Ball as a pure scoring point guard. After showcasing more court vision, outside shooting and defensive upside than he did at NC State, he has a case for No. 1.
4. Phoenix Suns- De’Aaron Fox, PG. I had the Suns taking Fox before the draft due to his fit as a defender and penetrator next to Devin Booker. Perhaps Ryan McDonough would come around to this position after summer league. Josh Jackson was just about what he was expected to be, but Fox impressed as a midrange jump shooter and transition force.
5. Sacramento Kings– Jayson Tatum, SF. Missing out on Fox would hurt. He fits next to Buddy Hield in a similar was as he does to Booker, and the Kings’ trade-down from No. 10 to No. 15 and No. 20 makes less sense if selecting a forward here. Still, Tatum impressed as an isolation scorer this summer and gives the team a go-to-guy of the present and future. The George Hill signing marginalized Fox’s early-career role, anyway.
6. Orlando Magic- Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF. Isaac was the second-best player available at No. 6 on draft night. With Smith off the board in the re-draft, he’s an easy pick. His summer league was brief and inconsistent, but he showed flashes of shot creation to go along with stellar rebounding and impactful defense.
7. Chicago Bulls– Donovan Mitchell, SG. Entering the draft, Mitchell was one of the most physically gifted prospects with one of the least-apparent NBA roles. At a fundamental level, this is still true. It’s just that now, the former is known to be so overwhelming that the latter hardly matters. Whether he is an undersized 3, a streaky-shooting 2 or a playmaking-challenged 1, he’s going to impact the game in so many other ways that his deficiencies are worth it. Considering how bad Chicago is, he can even try power forward and center.
8. New York Knicks- Josh Jackson, SF. With Phil Jackson gone, Frank Ntilikina doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He should become a good defender who can handle secondary playmaking duties on a good team, but so should Jackson. The difference is that Jackson is almost guaranteed to be a good defender, and has a nice role-player floor due to his tremendous athleticism. His fit at the 4 next to Porzingis is intriguing, and this is all true even if he never learns to shoot.
9. Dallas Mavericks- Frank Ntilikina, PG. The biggest losers of this re-draft, the Mavs are harpooned with doing what the Knicks did voluntarily back in June. Ntilikina instead of Smith is tough to accept, but it is a sounder move than trying to replace Dirk Nowitzki with Markkanen or grabbing a big and playing hardball with Nerlens Noel. The anticipated point guard dearth in 2018 and 2019 only enforces Dallas’ mandate to draft a 1 here.
10. Sacramento Kings- Malik Monk, SG. With Tatum in the fold, dropping down to No. 15 to grab Justin Jackson or another wing makes less sense. Can Hield, Tatum and Monk all play together? Probably not, but it’s unlikely that all three become starters, anyway. Monk raises Sacramento’s ceiling, and Vince Carter should be a solid mentor for the sweet-shooting, high-flying young guard.
11. Charlotte Hornets- Luke Kennard, SG. Monk falling to No. 11 was a dream for Charlotte, but Kennard is a solid fallback. The skill level that was a hidden jewel in the eyes of his supporters and fool’s gold according to his skeptics appeared to be real, at least against summer league competition. Will it translate against NBA athletes? Maybe not, but he’s a bona-fide rotation wing on Day 1 if it does. That’s a worthwhile gamble for fairly thin team locked into its core.
12. Detroit Pistons- Lauri Markkanen, PF/C. What a dream for Stan Van Gundy, lover of all 4s that stretch. Markkanen had an atrocious summer league, but a lot of that had to do with him missing shots that he will soon start making. Andre Drummond is an ideal frontcourt mate for him, making up for his extreme lack of rebounding while benefitting from his theoretical spacing. Markkanen would still have to improve as a switch guy to make this work, but at least Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson can soften his burden.
13. Denver Nuggets- O.G. Anunoby, SF/PF. First of all, the Jazz don’t move up if Mitchell—and every other lottery-level guard, for that matter—is gone. Secondly, Denver does not fear Anunoby’s knee with Paul Millsap in the fold. Should he work out, he is a steal even at No. 13 due to his tremendous defensive upside and modern-4 projectability. Should he not, Denver can afford to blow a pick after so many recent hits. Given their roster size, they would almost welcome a whiff.
14. Miami Heat- Bam Adebayo, C. The single most surprising skill that summer league revealed was Adebayo’s handle. It isn’t that he’s the second coming of Anthony Davis, but he’s also not Bismack Biyombo, as many had him figured coming out of Kentucky. That he goes No. 14 again is simply based on the needs of teams picking earlier; he is No. 9 on my re-draft big board.
15. Portland Trail Blazers- Zach Collins, PF/C. Collins makes so much more sense for Portland as the first of three post-lottery swings than as a prize to trade two of those swings for. He has real upside as a switchy big who can protect the rim, while both spacing the floor and pressuring the cup on offense. There is a lot to like. He doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on the Blazers’ roster, but no one worth taking here really does.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves- Kyle Kuzma, PF. Were Kuzma’s 21.9 points a game on 51.4 percent shooting summer league numbers real? Look at them again; of course not. Still, the simple fact that he showcased NBA range and the confidence to shoot makes him worth a top-20 pick. If any of the passing and defense he brandished carries over, that’s a bonus. For a team that needs a shooting 4, this is a perfect chance to make up for the inexplicable Justin Patton pick.
17. Milwaukee Bucks- John Collins, PF/C. The Bucks would come for the bounce. Collins leapt off the floor both literally and figuratively this summer, and it was hard for me to have teams pass on him in several earlier spots. He isn’t getting by a Milwaukee organization that fetishizes athleticism, but his real value to the Bucks is as a rebounder. He’s prolific on both the offensive and defensive glass, making him the perfect guy to both spell and play alongside Thon Maker.
18. Indiana Pacers- Jordan Bell, PF/C. Who better to complement Myles Turner than an ace-switching, weakside shot-erasing, short roll-passing, rebound-inhaling dynamo? He struggles only to shoot, score and guard traditional big men, all strengths of Turner’s. It is both unclear and irrelevant who would be the 5 and who would be the 4 here. What is clear is that T.J. Leaf would be neither.
19. Atlanta Hawks- Jarrett Allen, C. Allen missed summer league with a hip injury, but moves up from No. 22 to No. 19 due to Atlanta missing out on John Collins. Allen was considered by most to be the higher-upside prospect entering the draft, and he provides the pick-and-roll finishing that the Hawks are set on acquiring here. He is likely less NBA-ready than Collins, but if anything, that only helps Atlanta’s draft pick.
20. Portland Trail Blazers- Justin Jackson, SF. The irony of Portland staying put, landing Zach Collins at No. 15 and landing the player Sacramento actually landed at No. 15 at No. 20 is not lost here. It isn’t as if the Blazers could have pulled this off back in June, but it has to sting that it would be possible six weeks later. Jackson had a shaky summer league, but Portland suddenly needs wing depth after trading away Allen Crabbe.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Terrance Ferguson, SG. Ferguson to OKC was the easiest post-lottery pick to predict on draft night due to the team’s blatant need for a 3-and-D off-guard and Ferguson’s guaranteed availability at No. 21. After trading Victor Oladipo—the team’s only shooting guard under contract—for Paul George, the pick is even more obvious.
22. Brooklyn Nets- Justin Patton, C. The Nets swap one injured big for another. Allen went higher in the re-draft due to the seemingly more mild nature of his injury, but Patton makes more sense for Brooklyn as a long-term play. He’s more skilled and switchable, while providing similar rim-running juice.
23. Toronto Raptors- Semi Ojeleye, SF/PF. After Dallas, the Raptors would be the second-biggest losers of this re-draft if not for Ojeleye. A poor man’s Anunoby in terms of upside, Ojeleye’s health and terrific summer league make him the safer pick. He seems like the rare rookie who is already a plus defender, and has no qualms about firing from 3. If they ever start falling, he’ll be a starter.
24. Utah Jazz- Jonah Bolden, PF/C. Bolden looked awesome in summer league, and it may be surprising to see him below other Round 2 risers like Bell and Ojeleye. “Looked” is the operative word here, though. Bolden makes highlight-reel plays, but he was ambitious and reckless in a way that only summer league allows for (also, his actual numbers in Vegas were quite pedestrian). That he is already 21 and has a year of professional experience also takes away some of the shine. With that said, he’s a special talent, and the Jazz may be getting the steal of this re-draft just as they did in the real one.
25. Orlando Magic- Harry Giles, C. That Giles did not play in summer league is a bad sign. The former top-five lock fell to No. 20 on real draft night, and falls farther here given that he has done nothing to counteract concerns about his health. For the Magic, this would be a blessing. They have no extreme needs, but also no positions of fortitude. Giles is a high-upside swing. There’s a less-than-five percent chance that he, Isaac and Aaron Gordon all work out, but imagine if they did.
26. Portland Trail Blazers- Josh Hart, SG. Hart played sparingly in summer league before hurting his ankle, but he should have never gone No. 30 to begin with. Portland did add wing depth in Justin Jackson, but still has no reliable ball handling behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. As nice as Caleb Swanigan looked this summer, his NBA role and upside remains murky—particularly in Portland’s overcrowded frontcourt.
27. Los Angeles Lakers- Caleb Swanigan, PF/C. Swanigan’s big body, prolific rebounding and summer league dominance give him the feel of a win-now prospect. For the Lakers, this pick is about the future. With Ball, Brandon Ingram, Caldwell-Pope and possibly Paul George or LeBron James moving forward, talent, length and athleticism will be abundant. Why not add a bruiser, particularly one who has flashed three-point range and passing feel?
28. Los Angeles Lakers- D.J. Wilson, PF. The Lakers end up keeping this pick. Hart is off the board, and Utah is less high on Tony Bradley after summer league. Also, Wilson is available. He was underwhelming in Vegas, but does not deserve to drop from No. 17 to No. 28. His fall was due to the rise of guys at his position—Kuzma, Bell, Ojeleye, Bolden—more than anything, though his combination of rawness and age (21) is slightly off-putting.
29. San Antonio Spurs- T.J. Leaf, PF. San Antonio has no real needs, but also no real strengths outside of Kawhi Leonard. Derrick White made sense as a win-now fourth guard on a team that upgraded in the backcourt, but the Spurs missed on Chris Paul and lost Jonathon Simmons. Leaf is redundant with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol as an offense-only stretch big, but he’s the best player available for a team that desperately needs upside.
30. Utah Jazz- Derrick White, PG/SG. After missing out on Mitchell, the Jazz recover quite nicely. They add the high-upside Bolden, the NBA-ready White, and still have Trey Lyles as a trade chip. White did not look great this summer, but he is a ball mover, active defender and capable shooter—all perfect traits for Quin Snyder’s scheme.