Last Thursday, June 22, players in the most talented draft class that the NBA has seen since 2003 began their NBA journey. NBA teams who were looking to rebuild acquired young talent, while teams who were in dire need of a veteran leader traded their picks for such a player.
Boston Celtics: A
President of Operations Danny Ainge has claimed that the Celtics would’ve drafted the same man they would eventually take with the third pick if they kept the first overall selection. That man is Jayson Tatum. They traded their top pick to Philly to slide down two spots in the draft and get a future first-round pick. Tatum is a consistent scorer at the SF position, and is a perfect fit for the Celtics who were in dire need of both a forward and strong scorer. Boston used their 37th pick to draft Semi Ojeleye, who will bolster their bench, and will be sure to rack up of rebounds and points inside the paint. The Celtics also drafted guards Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird, who are both offensive threats.
Toronto Raptors: A-
The Raptors only had a single pick in this year’s draft and used that pick to draft OG Anunoby out of Indiana at 23. Anunoby is easily one of the best defensive players in the 2017 draft, and with a bit of fine-tuning, his outstanding athleticism and raw skill could potentially translate into a starting role at small forward. Anunoby’s ACL tear caused his draft stock to slide, but if he remains healthy, he could be the biggest steal of this year’s draft.
New York Knicks: C
Honestly, I agree with Phil Jackson. The Knicks must not have done any scouting going into this year’s draft. They passed on both Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk to draft Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick, which was a safe pick, but not one that will translate into any immediate success. They drafted a good shooter in SF Damyean Dotson with the 44th pick, but Malik Monk would’ve solved both of the Knicks’ problems: backcourt depth and shooting. 58th pick Ognjen Jaramaz has potential, but a successful future in the NBA isn’t very likely.
Philadelphia 76ers: A
No one was surprised when the Sixers picked Markelle Fultz with the top selection. Fultz is a phenomenal guard who is touted by some as a generational talent, and he was exactly what Philly needed to supplement their loaded frontcourt. Fultz shot the lights out at Washington and can score from anywhere on the floor. He is also a fantastic playmaker, and one of the better passers in the draft. Philly also used their other three picks wisely, drafting Anzejs Pasecniks (25, via Magic), Jonah Bolden (36) and Mathias Lessort (50).
Brooklyn Nets: B+
While many would argue that the Nets deserve a lower grade, I feel otherwise. Brooklyn traded away their 27th pick and Brook Lopez, their best player, to acquire D’Angelo Russell, the second pick in the 2015 draft. He was better than anyone the Nets could’ve gotten with their 27th pick and an aging Lopez, and could develop into a franchise player. The Nets also used their 22nd pick to draft center Jarrett Allen who has a ton of upside, and looks to fill the hole left by Lopez’s departure.
Cleveland Cavaliers: D
The Cavs had no draft picks this year, and weren’t able to use Kevin Love to trade for anyone. They needed to bolster their squad to appeal to LeBron James as he approaches free agency next offseason, and as they found out that their current team was not nearly enough to combat the Warriors, even at full-strength.
Milwaukee Bucks: B
The Bucks used the 17th pick to draft PF DJ Wilson, who will add to their already loaded frontcourt. Wilson might have been a bit of an overdraft, as his draft stock rose significantly as a result of Michigan’s unlikely postseason run. Wilson most likely won’t be a starter for the Bucks, given that Duke product and 2014 second overall pick Jabari Parker makes a full recovery. Sterling Brown was a decent pick, and is a versatile guard who will be able to play multiple positions, but neither player will make an immediate impact.
Indiana Pacers: C
The Pacers’ biggest need coming into the draft was a guard, but used the 18th pick to draft UCLA PF TJ Leaf and the 47th pick to draft center Ike Anigbogu. They finally drafted a PG in Edmond Sumner with the 52nd pick (via Charlotte), but he’s recovering from an ACL tear and was a risky pick. TJ Leaf is an athletic shooter, but will most likely just be a role player for Indiana. Anigbogu has upside and was originally projected to go in the late first round, but his draft stock fell amid rumors about his medical history. Anigbogu can prove to be a steal, but the odds are stacked against him.
Chicago Bulls: C-
It seems that the Chicago Bulls decided to take a page out of the Chicago Bears’ book, and completely botch the draft. Don’t get me wrong, Lauri Markkanen is an athletic big man who can spread the floor. He has already drawn many comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis, but is he and an injury prone Zach LaVine and a disappointing Kris Dunn really worth All-Star Jimmy Butler? The answer is no.
Orlando Magic: A-
The Magic used their four picks wisely, trading away two of them for future picks, and keeping the 7th and 33rd picks in the draft. Orlando used the seventh overall pick to draft Jonathan Isaac, a versatile combo forward who according to some experts, has one of the highest ceilings in the draft. Isaac is a defensive stud and can guard every position. He’s also able to create and shoot thanks to his impressive ball-handling skills and peak physical condition. He hasn’t established himself as a scorer just yet, but given his work ethic and potential, he can thrive on the Magic and develop into a star, Kawhi Leonard style. The Magic used their 33rd pick to draft Wesley Iwundu, another versatile offensive player.
Charlotte Hornets: B+
The Hornets drafted Malik Monk out of Kentucky with the 11th pick. Monk is a great shooter and ball-handler who fell a bit from where he was projected to go, but he lacks defensive stature and ability for his position. Fortunately, Monk’s speed and athleticism suggest that he has the potential to improve defensively, and that should be his main concern this season. The Magic also drafted Dwayne Wade – I mean Bacon – with the 40th overall pick, who will need to work on his jumper if he wants to succeed in the NBA. Malik Monk and Kemba Walker will make a strong back-court this season for the Hornets, and along with Dwight Howard and Nicolas Batum, they will guarantee a strong year for Charlotte.
Detroit Pistons: B+
The Pistons’ biggest draft need was a shooter, and Luke Kennard who the Pistons drafted with the 12th pick is just that. Kennard shot 43 percent from beyond the arc at Duke, and is an all-around offensive machine. He can shoot well off the dribble and can create shots thanks to his ball-handling ability. Kennard will work well with Andre Drummond and company, which points to an exciting season.
Miami Heat: C
The Heat used their sole draft pick to take Edrice “Bam” Adebayo 14th overall. This pick came as a surprise to many analysts, who projected him going later in the draft. Adebayo contributes nothing on the perimeter, but is a physical presence who dominates the paint. Still, there were better big men available when the Heat drafted Adebayo, and a big man was hardly their draft need with Hassan Whiteside down low.
Atlanta Hawks: B
The Hawks are undergoing a rebuild that has seen the departures of Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and most recently, Dwight Howard. Paul Millsap has also opted out of his contract, and will become a free agent this offseason. Being as such, the Hawks were looking for a good big man to replace Howard and Millsap, and used the 19th overall pick to do just that. John Collins is an athletic big who knows how to finish at the rim. Collins wasn’t the most skilled player available, but the Hawks played it on the safe side and drafted Collins. The Hawks drafted Tyler Dorsey out of Oregon, who’s a well-rounded player that led the Ducks to the Final 4. The last pick of the draft was Alpha Kaba, a big from France that looks to bring his athleticism to Atlanta.
Washington Wizards: B
The Wizards had no picks in the 2017 Draft, but traded their late-second round pick for G Tim Frazier from the Pelicans. Frazier is a strong passer and accumulated starting minutes for the Pelicans when Jrue Holiday went down with an injury. He is a solid backup for John Wall, and better than anyone they could have hoped to take at their draft position.
Utah Jazz: B+
The Jazz have a defensively-oriented playing style, so when it came time to draft players, they made selections who fit their model. The Jazz traded up to acquire the 13th and 28th picks, which they used to draft Donovan Mitchell and Tony Bradley. Mitchell is not only a flexible defender, but also an athletic marvel with a 6’10” wingspan in spite of a 6’3” stature. With some fine-tuning, he could also become a skilled scorer. Tony Bradley is a stretch four, as well as a reliable interior defender thanks to his 7’5 wingspan. He will make a good backup for Rudy Gobert. Jazz rookie PG Nigel Williams-Goss, the 55th overall pick, will serve as more of a role player and won’t get many minutes despite his NCAA tournament heroics with Gonzaga.
Golden State Warriors: A-
The defending world champs gave up $3.5 million to the Bulls to acquire the 38th pick, which they used to draft Jordan Bell. Bell is a multifaceted defender who’s able to guard almost every position. The Oregon PF is also an elite rebounder, which was one of the Warriors’ biggest needs.
Los Angeles Lakers: A
To no one’s surprise, the Lakers drafted UCLA PG Lonzo Ball with the second pick in the draft. Ball is a terrific passer, playmaker, and shooter. He’s one of the most unselfish players in the draft and will go a long way under Magic Johnson’s tutelage. Both Kyle Kuzma (drafted 27th) and Josh Hart (drafted 30th) are versatile players on both sides of the ball and are excellent picks. Thomas Bryant, who the Lakers picked up with the 42nd pick, will make a reliable backup center and was also a good pick for the Lakers. Overall, expect to see big things from the Lakers rookies this year as their young core expands.
Houston Rockets: B-
The Rockets used the 43rd pick in the draft to get PF Isaiah Hartenstein. Hartenstein has a lot of potential thanks to his athleticism and 7-foot frame. Many NBA analysts predicted that Hartenstein could’ve been a lottery pick in the next couple of years. He won’t contribute immediately to the Rockets, but could prove to be a valuable asset in a couple years after he’s refined his shot.
Oklahoma City Thunder: B
The Thunder needed a three-and-D type of player to help them progress in the playoffs because Russell Westbrook can only carry them so much. Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson has the capacity to be an elite wing scorer and shooter. His size and athleticism also mean that he could become a serious defensive threat. However, Ferguson needs to develop so that he can compete in a professional setting.
Los Angeles Clippers: B+
The Clippers acquired two picks in the second round through trades. They used the 39th pick to draft PG Jawun Evans out of Oklahoma State and the 48th pick to draft SG Sindarius Thornwell out of South Carolina. Jawun Evans is a playmaker not unlike a young Chris Paul who was projected to be a first rounder for many. He will step in to lead the offense if the Clippers fail to retain Paul. Thornwell averaged over 21 points a game and was able to lead South Carolina to a Final Four appearance, destroying brackets all around the country. Both players are proficient scorers who will make an impact this season.
Sacramento Kings: A+
You usually wouldn’t expect a lot of praise for the Kings, but they had a stellar night. They used the fifth pick in the draft to get De’Aaron Fox, the best two-way guard in the draft and a possible Rookie of the Year. Fox is already easily one of the best players on the Kings roster, and led Kentucky to the Elite Eight where they narrowly lost to eventual champions UNC. The Kings drafted NCAA champion Justin Jackson with the 15th pick, who is both a great shooter and defender. Sacramento’s night didn’t end there, as they also traded for the 20th pick which they used to draft Harry Giles out of Duke. Giles was the best high-school player in his draft class, and if he had remained healthy, he would’ve probably been a lottery pick. The Kings used their final, 34th overall pick to draft Frank Mason III out of Kansas. Mason played a significant leadership role on the Jayhawks and is another prolific perimeter shooter.
Denver Nuggets: D+
What was one thing the Nuggets didn’t need coming in the draft? A forward. What did they go ahead and draft? A forward. The Nuggets have a very crowded frontcourt with Nikola Jokic, Danilo Gallinari (assuming they come back next season), Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur and Juancho Hernangomez. Yet, they traded one of their picks for another PF and drafted Tyler Lydon with the 24th overall pick. By no means is Lydon a bad player, but he doesn’t really contribute much to the Nuggets frontcourt. They drafted yet another forward with the 49th pick in Vlatko Cancar, though he will probably stay overseas. The Nuggets also drafted Monte Morris with the 51st pick, but he won’t contribute much and has a very little chance of even making the team.
Minnesota Timberwolves: A
The Timbs were able to trade their seventh overall pick and a couple of other players to the Bulls to acquire 26 year-old All-Star Jimmy Butler, who was better than anyone they could’ve drafted with their pick. The trade also resulted in the 16th overall pick being sent to Minnesota which they used to pick center Justin Patton who stands at a tall 7’0”. Patton has proven that he has good instincts and is able to knock down 3’s, and will be a good backup for Karl-Anthony Towns, once he’s bulked up a bit.
Portland Trail Blazers: B-
The Blazers traded two picks to acquire the tenth pick from the Kings. They used this pick to draft Zach Collins, an interesting decision. While the Blazers were right in trying to improve their frontcourt, Collins demonstrates a very similar playing style to that of Jusuf Nurkic, the current Portland center. Collins is a good player, but is not the right pick for the Trailblazers, especially since they could’ve used the pick to draft a forward like Justin Jackson or Harry Giles. PF Caleb Swanigan, on the other hand, was a good pick for the Trail Blazers at 26. He is an elite rebounder, which is a big need for the Blazers, and possibly the hardest worker in the draft.
Phoenix Suns: A-
The Suns drafted an immediate starter when they drafted Kansas SF Josh Jackson. Jackson is an elite defender and, if he touches up his jump shot, a scoring machine. The Suns drafted another good shooter at 32nd overall in Davon Reed. Reed will most likely function as a 3-and-D type of guy if he lives up to his potential. Alec Peters, the 54th pick in the draft, has experience as a four-year college player and could provide some much-needed assistance to the Suns front-court.
Memphis Grizzlies: B
The Grizzlies drafted Ivan Rabb with the 35th pick in the draft and Dillion Brooks with the 45th selection. Rabb is a physical defender and rebounder and could potentially serve as a replacement for Zach Randolph if he signs with another team. Dillon Brooks is a decent offensive player, and could help rack up points and improve the Grizzlies bench.
New Orleans Pelicans: B
The Pelicans used the 31st pick to draft SG Frank Jackson out of Duke. NOLA arguably has the best front court in the NBA with two of the NBA’s best big men. That being said, their biggest draft need was a guard who can shoot, making Jackson the perfect prospect. He is a good shooter and ball-handler, but is coming off of foot surgery, making him a risky pick for the Pelicans.
Dallas Mavericks: A-
The Mavericks satisfied a gaping hole at point guard by using their ninth draft pick to acquire Dennis Smith Jr. out of North Carolina State, who was expected to be taken before they made their selection. Smith is exactly what the Mavericks need as an athletically gifted explosive guard. Despite being inconsistent, Smith will definitely help the Mavericks improve their weak offense this season and battle with rookie standout Yogi Ferrell for the starting position.
San Antonio Spurs: B
The Spurs made a smart decision (as usual) when they drafted PG Derrick White with the 29th pick in the draft. As Tony Parker nears the end of his NBA career, the Spurs must look for a good guard to replace him. White has the potential to become that replacement. He is an all-around offensive player who can create, shoot, and dunk, who will be a perfect fit for the Spurs’ system. 59th pick Jaron Blossomgame needs a bit of work with his shooting, but will definitely prosper under Gregg Popovich’s coaching.