The NBA Draft combine and lottery have both concluded, meaning we are fast approaching the home stretch of the 2017 Draft process. The Dallas Mavericks now know they will be slotted ninth in a draft filled with several major high-risk, high-reward prospects.
I should note that most of the top players did not attend the combine this year. From what I’ve seen, the only member of my top 10 to even show up was De’Aaron Fox, who only did the measurement portion of the week’s events. As such, there isn’t much movement at the top of the MMB big board, but the back end does see some new names.
Again, this is not a mock draft, nor is this an attempt to rank the draft eligible prospects in a vacuum. Consider this list heavily influenced by the Mavericks’ current needs and general approach to team building. If your favorite center prospect isn’t here, it’s probably because Dallas isn’t going to draft a center in the first round.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
1. Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
There was a brief period—back in, say, late January—when people started to get bored of Fultz’s dominance and started looking at Lonzo Ball as a potential top pick. I think those days might be gone. Fultz has been atop my board since the beginning, and while I don’t know if Boston is the perfect situation for him, he’s simply too good for the Celtics to pass up.
2. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
LaVar Ball got what he wanted, I guess. While it wouldn’t completely shock me if the Lakers talked themselves into taking somebody else (maybe De’Aaron Fox), Ball should be the overwhelming favorite to go second. The Ball-detractors have come out of the woodwork lately to poke apart Ball’s game, which is a little unusual. Still, Ball could re-energize the Lakers with his unselfish play and flair for the spectacular.
3. Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
Jackson could be at the top of the board for a team that’s set at point guard. The do-it-all forward has superstar upside, and the only reason he might not go to Philly is because the Sixers really need perimeter shooters, which is Jackson’s weakest area. Phoenix fans might have been upset with the lottery results, but if Jackson lands in their laps, it will be a major coup.
4. Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
Smith’s stock remains somewhat volatile—at least for a top-10 lock—but I’m still firmly in his camp. It would have been great to see him do some athletic testing at the combine, where he could have really put on a show, but his game tape is still good enough to warrant a top-five selection despite the concerns about his shot selection and feel for the game.
5. Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
Isaac probably(?) won’t go this high, but for a team with vision and some guts, Isaac is the boom-or-bust guy you bang on the table for. Basketball doesn’t get any more “positionless” than with Isaac, who could conceivably play anywhere on the court other than point guard. There’s a non-zero chance he’s there when Dallas goes on the clock.
6. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
I’m relenting somewhat here. I’ve had Fox behind Ntilikina in the previous few editions of this big board, and while it’s still very close, I’ll give Fox the edge (for now) because I can see Dallas really valuing his leadership and locker room qualities. Fox didn’t have to show up to the combine, but I think his presence there while so many others were absent speaks volumes.
He measured at 6’3.25 with a 6’6.5 wingspan, almost identical to the measurements of Elfrid Payton, whom Fox may end up replacing in Orlando. Worth noting: Fox was 17(!) pounds below his listed weight at Kentucky at just under 170 pounds. He’ll need to add some bulk along with a jump shot to reach his potential.
7. Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg
On paper, I still think Ntilikina is a better fit in Dallas than Fox, and probably Smith, too. It’s just hard to feel immensely confident in a projection for a player about whom there is so little data. Can Ntilikina really run pick and rolls at an NBA level? Is he really a knockdown shooter? Does he really have a 7’0 wingspan? That last question we might have answered if he’d been able to attend the combine, but his pro league team’s schedule kept that from happening.
8. Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
There are lots of people who simply love Jayson Tatum. I don’t dislike the player at all, but I have him lower than most because I don’t love the fit in Dallas. The Mavs already have a pair of mid-post operators and really need shooters and passers more than pure scorers. Tatum will likely go well before this, possibly as high as No. 3 to the Sixers.
9. Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
I have Monk as the ninth guy on my board, but I’ll feel pretty happy if a team takes him earlier than this. Monk has a highlight reel worthy of a top prospect, but what’s his realistic NBA comp? I keep coming back to players like Ben Gordon and Jamal Crawford, a pair of very solid guards who were drafted high but weren’t major building blocks on a contending team.
10. Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Last month: 10
I have recently become aware that some people just can’t stand Markkanen being mocked to Dallas. Dirk comparisons would be terribly unfair to him, as they’d be to most any player, but Markkanen has athletic traits I wouldn’t ascribe to many of the recent “next Dirk” guys, like say Frank Kaminsky. Markkanen was one of college basketball’s most efficient half-court players and will enter the league as an NBA-ready stretch-four role player with a chance to grow into more.
11. Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Last month: 11
Collins was one of three seven footers at the combine, measuring 7’0 in shoes with a 7’1 wingspan. I’m not crazy about the idea of Dallas taking a center in this draft, given all their other needs and the talent available to address those needs. But Collins is the center I’d consider breaking the rules for.
12. Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina
Last month: 12
An older prospect with a good feel for the game and a versatile skill set? Jackson just seems like such a Mavs-y type pick, though I really doubt he’ll be their actual selection. As I’ve noted before, the quality of non-bigs drops off majorly here, and Jackson is the best of a middling crop of second-tier wings.
13. OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
Last month: 13
Anunoby is recovering from a major injury that could keep him out for a large portion of his rookie season, and he has almost no offensive game at this point. That he’s still a lottery prospect despite that is a testament to the kind of specimen he is, standing at just under 6’8, 232 pounds, with a 7’2.25 wingspan and eye-popping athleticism.
14. Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
Last month: 16
Ferguson isn’t super long, with a wingspan just shy of 6’9, but at 6’7 in shoes he has prototypical shooting guard height. When you combine that with the shooting and athletic traits he possesses, he’s a good mid-first gamble. He reminds me a little of Terrence Ross, in more than name.
15. Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
Last month: 22
Mitchell probably helped himself more than anyone at the combine. Though at 6’3 he’s on the shorter side for an off-guard, his wingspan was measured at a stunning 6’10 (he also tipped the scales at a muscular 211 pounds), and he posted a 40.5-inch vertical leap to go with the fastest 3⁄4 court sprint time this year. I still have doubts about him playing the point, but on the right team, it may not matter.
16. Rodions Kurucs, F, Barcelona
Last month: 17
The Latvian forward may not be ready to come to the NBA immediately, but I’m very intrigued by his upside. You see a complete package of size, athleticism, and good shooting mechanics, and he’s already playing against quality competition. He’ll probably go later than this, but he’s exactly the type of player I’d like Dallas to invest in.
17. Luke Kennard, G, Duke
Last month: 21
Kennard recorded one of the worst height-to-wingspan ratios in the history of the combine, but at 6’6.5 in shoes he’s still perfectly adequate overall. Kennard’s going to get drafted because he can shoot, and Dallas certainly needs that. If he continues to develop as a passer, he might have enough value to offset his athletic limitations.
18. Isaiah Hartenstein, F/C, Lithuania
Last month: 18
Hartenstein was measured at 7’1.25, 250 pounds at the Nike Hoop Summit, scary size for a player who only just turned 19. Hartenstein was discussed as a potential stretch five earlier this year, but impressed at the aforementioned summit games with his physical play down low. His shooting potential is largely still that—potential—but the German lefty has a lot of time to get better.
19. Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Last month: 14
Allen almost certainly deserves better than his placement here, but I’m assembling this board based on how these prospects fit theoretically as Mavericks, and I have a hard time seeing Allen in a Dallas uniform. With a 7’5.25 wingspan, Allen has the potential to be a major rim protector, but using a high pick on him seems foolish if you’re about to pay Nerlens Noel.
20. Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Last month: 15
Patton came in at just under 7’0 with a 7’3 wingspan and was lighter than I expected at 229 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see Patton’s burgeoning face-up game develop, but as with Allen, it is likely to happen elsewhere.
21. T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
Last month: 19
Leaf is a difficult prospect to get a handle on. At 6’9.75 and 222 pounds, he has good height but will need to bulk up to handle playing inside. When he has time to gather, he can really jump, but his lateral agility leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe his best trait is his shooting potential, but what’s the overall picture here? I like Leaf but don’t feel confident he’ll thrive in a league as demanding as the NBA.
22. John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Last month: 20
Like Leaf, the other Collins is an undersized player with defensive question marks. I was hoping Collins would measure a little longer than his 6’11.25 wingspan, but in the end, his measurements don’t alter his outstanding production on the glass and as a finisher inside. If he can develop a short jumper, I could see him as a stellar role player.
23. Ivan Rabb, PF/C, Cal
Last month: 23
Rabb was measured at 6’10 with a 7’1 wingspan, which would be big enough to play small-ball center if he can add weight to his 220-pound frame. It’s going to be really interesting to see where Rabb goes given all the big men currently projected in the 13-30 range.
24. Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State
Last month: N/A
I had Monte Morris of Iowa State as my next point guard for most of the last few months, but I’m coming around on the idea of Evans, who may be good enough to buck the recent trend of short college standouts struggling in the pros. Though Evans measured at 5’11.5 in shoes, his 6’5.5 wingspan is impressive, and he led one of the best offensive attacks in college via a heavy dose of pick and roll.
25. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky
Last month: N/A
It wasn’t clear if Diallo was even going to stay in the draft after practicing but not playing with Kentucky in what appeared to be an effort to circumvent the NBA’s ban on players entering the league straight out of high school. What I’ve seen of Diallo makes it clear he is incredibly raw as a player. BUT, the combine is the perfect place for Diallo, who measured at 6’5 197 with a 6’11 wingspan and a ludicrous 44.5 inch vertical. If he’s drafted, it will be the highest vertical ever recorded for a drafted player at the combine. Just don’t expect him to play soon.