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MMB Draft Big Board draft-week update

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A last look at the top players in NBA draft with a new wrinkle: dueling big boards!

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With the draft on Thursday, rumors of which team likes whom are flying fast and furious. Be prepared for a lot of crazy speculation and a lot of misdirection, because no smart team is going to broadcast their true intentions in this day and age.

For our final 2017 Mavs Moneyball Big Board, we’re trying something new: Ian Miller (whose previous incarnations you can find here, here, and here) is joined by fellow staff writer John Howe in a duel of the big boards. Each will present their thoughts on who the Mavericks should take based on overall talent and on-court AND organizational fit.

While this is not a mock draft, it’s clearer now than in previous boards who the Mavs are likely to have a chance at drafting (we all know where Markelle Fultz is headed), and we’ll focus most of our analysis on those players. For more a more detailed breakdown of each player, check out our April Big Board.

Ian Miller

1. Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

Last month: 1

Fultz is about as safe as a guard prospect gets. Assuming they can all stay relative healthy, a trio of Fultz-Simmons-Embiid should make the 76ers a playoff team at least by the 2018-19 season, and perhaps an Eastern Conference Finals contender not too long after that.

2. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Last month: 2

Ball will be heavily scrutinized wherever he goes, and fit will certainly matter for him. But given the right situation, I still believe Ball is going to be a sensational playmaker who will make his teammates better the way truly great players do.

3. Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas

Last month: 3

There’s some bust potential here, as Jackson needs to improve as a shooter and his foul rate is a little alarming. Still, his size and athleticism gives him an even higher upside than the two guys in front of him.

4. Dennis Smith, PG, NC State

Last month: 4

Smith may be the hill I die on, but I see an electric scorer and playmaker who rates well in analytic circles and possesses elite athletic traits. At this point, I guess there’s no sense hiding this is pretty much the guy I want Dallas to take, should he fall.

5. Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State

Last month: 5

I came very close to moving Isaac up, and I suppose what’s holding me back is that I’m not totally convinced Isaac is a first or second option. I do think he can be a terrific two-way player, though, and there’s a non-zero chance he ends up the best player int his draft.

6. Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg

Last month: 7

After moving De’Aaron Fox ahead of Frank last time, I’m going back to Ntilikina here. One can make the case that he’s the guard version of Isaac, and while I don’t know if he becomes a star, it’s hard to imagine how his length won’t make him at least a defensive specialist for a long time.

7. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

Last month: 6

This placement shouldn’t be viewed as an anti-Fox stance. Fox is a great prospect, but the fact that he barely ever bothered to try shooting from the outside is a red flag. With his slender frame, I don’t see him bullying his way to the paint. NBA teams will game plan to stop him in ways college teams couldn’t.

8. Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

Last month: 8

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that Tatum is the player I’m just not sure how to rank. I think his production and skill set keep him in the top eight (right before there’s a bit of a drop-off), but since he probably goes higher, there’s some major bust potential.

9. Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

Last month: 9

I’m looking for a player to slip in front of Monk here, but I’m just not seeing one, so I guess I’ll stand pat. I think Monk has NBA skills, to be sure, but I have major questions about what kind of role he can have on a good team.

10. Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

Last month: 10

Markkanen has taken his lumps from the draft punditry crowd, but really, for a 9/10/11 pick, Markkanen falls perfectly within the norms of talent and upside. The right coach can turn him into a serious weapon.

11. Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga

Last month: 11

If Noel wasn’t here, Collins would be at least three spots higher on this list. But it just doesn’t make much sense to take the latter when the former is about to get a $20 million-a-year deal.

12. OG Anunoby, F, Indiana

Last month: 13

There are risks involved, but without a truly inspiring offensive player in this range, let’s go with the premiere defensive standout: an athletic, unmolded ball of clay for Rick Carlisle to work with.

John Howe (@JohnHowe_NBA)

1. Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

Futz is the best. He has the fewest weaknesses, the most strengths, and great point-guard instincts. Philadelphia should enjoy his talents immensely.

2. Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

Isaac is my favorite guy in this draft. He’s a near-seven-footer with true wing abilities. He can shoot well from the line (nearly 80 percent in college) and pretty well from three (a little over 34 percent). Those figures project him as a positive influence on floor space as a pro.

He can also impact the game defensively, and as basketball becomes more and more positionless, he answers a couple key questions: Can he guard multiple guys? Yes. Can he space the floor? Yes. Can he score? That is the question.

Altogether, he’s the highest-upside guy I see, and the one I’d pick if I were betting on who would end up with the most All NBA selections in the 2017 draft class.

3. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Again, tons has been said for Lonzo. Why is he my No. 3? In large part because of Isaac’s tantalizing profile, but also because I’m worried about Ball’s shot. I just don’t think he’ll be able to get it off going to his right, and NBA teams will hammer that point home night in and night out.

4. Josh Jackson, F, Kansas and Jayson Tatum, F, Duke (TIE)

These two players are nearly interchangeable to me. They’re both 6’8” and just over 200 lbs, though Tatum has a longer wingspan. They’re both freshmen (Jackson is a year older). And, they both play on the wing and have ok vision.

Each has the potential to become a Paul George or Harrison Barnes type, but I struggle to see either becoming more than that. That would of course be an excellent outcome at the ninth pick, but not perfect.

6. Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg

Ntilikina has a lot of the things you’d want in a prospect—size, length, youth, athleticism, defense, awareness, command—though so do the two guard prospects I rank just below him. So what separates Ntilikina from the pack? The Frenchman’s physical profile fits that of an impact player, and an NBA staff can tighten his handle and work on delivering passes crisply.

7. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

Fox’s competitive fire and awareness are the reasons he ranks this highly, but although he matches Ntilikina in a lot of areas, Fox’s ceiling just doesn’t seem as high. I'm worried by his seeming lack of desire to shoot jump shots.

8. Dennis Smith, Jr, PG, NC State

Smith possesses a lot of the same intangibles as Fox—they shoot and see passes on similar levels—but at just 6’3”, Smith will have a tougher time in the NBA (it’s one thing if you have Chris Paul’s understanding of the game, but Smith doesn’t).

9. Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

Monk seems like an improved version of Monta Ellis: a two-guard style of play in a point guard’s body, albeit a much better shooter. I have him ranked higher than the two players below him primarily because the Mavericks need a guard more than they need a big man.

10. Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga

Collins plays well all around the basket and looks to have the makings of a little bit of touch from farther out. He could be a rim protector and a scorer in the right situation. He could also be Ed Davis.

11. OG Anunoby, F, Indiana

Anunoby’s injury issues make projecting him more difficult, but he looks like he could be a destructive defender, and his shot is smooth enough to be tantalizing. He, like both Monk and Collins, has high upside but a questionable floor.

12. Lauri Markkannen, PF, Arizona

Lauri Markkanen is not Dirk Nowitzki. He’s not the athlete the big German was, and he’s not the rebounder either. Markkanen has a tight handle and looks to be a solid offensive option, but where will he fit on an NBA defense? Teams should look to Kevin Love in Cleveland as the potential answer, and that may not be good on teams without LeBron James and Tristan Thompson to cover for him on defense.