Pre-Lottery NBA Mock Draft (6 through 10)

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The 2017 NBA Draft has been hyped for a while as a stacked class. Before the basketball gods inflict their wrath — NBA Draft Lottery takes place on May 16 — here is how I think the 2017 Draft will shake out, with picks six through 10. For the first five, click here.

No. 6: Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen, PF

This draft selection will be crucial to suring up the Timberwolves’ identity. With Karl-Anthony Towns holding down the interior and beef jerky market, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine on the wing, and Kris Dunn serving as the distributor, the Wolves need another big man. Drafting a guard muddies the plan for last year’s fifth overall pick (Dunn) and delays the team’s development further. Lauri Markkanen gives them a 7-foot shooter to pair with KAT and doesn’t admit failure with last year’s top selection.

No. 7: New York Knicks – De’Aaron Fox , PG

The Knicks need someone who can defend and distribute. De’Aaron Fox excels at both. He has explosive speed, which will help New York on the fast break — they ranked 24th in the league in fast break points this year and dead last in 2015-16.

No. 8: Sacramento Kings – Jayson Tatum, SF

Jayson Tatum solves a bevy of problems for the Kings. He’s a versatile scorer and fits the mould of a small-ball power forward. His confidence with the ball is years ahead of many 19-year-olds. It will be interesting to see how he develops against elite talent. A lot of years, his potential would make him a Top-3 pick, but this is guard-heavy class.

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No. 9: Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith Jr., PG

Lauri Markkanen going to Dallas would be a great story; he could develop under Dirk Nowitzki before assuming the throne when Dirk retires. But the narrative doesn’t work out this time. Dennis Smith Jr. is an absolute playmaker who will provide a spark to an NBA offense. Injury concerns might have him fall to this spot, but he is still a high-reward talent.

No. 10: Sacramento Kings – Frank Ntilikina, PG

Someone will need to take a chance on the mysterious Frank Ntilikina from France. Still only 18 years old, Ntilikina is a lanky guard with plenty of room to develop. He averaged 3.2 steals per game during the 2017 FIBA Europe U18 Championships, so defensive potential is definitely there.

Pre-Lottery NBA Mock Draft (first five picks)

uw_mbk_colorado_0034The 2017 NBA Draft has been hyped for a while as a stacked class. Before the basketball gods inflict their wrath — NBA Draft Lottery takes place on May 16 — here is how I think the 2017 Draft will shake out, starting with the first five picks. For six through 10, click here.

No. 1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets) – Markelle Fultz, PG

It’s a bizarro version of Robin Hood in which he steals from the poor to give to the rich. The Celtics are both in line for the Brooklyn Nets’ first overall pick and the top seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge turned Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and 27th pick in 2017 into James Young, Jalen Brown, the first pick in 2017, and a 2018 pick (plus guys like Gerald Wallace).

They’ll use that first overall pick to select Markelle Fultz, a 6-foot-4 guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. His player efficiency rating during his freshman year at Washington was 27.9, which fits on the “Strong MVP Candidate” tier of John Hollinger’s scale.

No. 2: Los Angeles Lakers (via Phoenix Suns) – Lonzo Ball, PG

Take Lavar Ball and the ZO2S out of the equation — admittedly hard — and Lonzo Ball is a top three pick on merit. The UCLA freshman guard is a refined passer who has been compared to Jason Kidd (presumably not the version with blond hair). Public comments from both the Balls and Lakers President Magic Johnson make it seem like they’re destined for each other.

As for the Suns, who are currently slated to pick at No. 2, they should try to use that to their advantage, opting to trade down to No. 3 in return for something juicy from the Lakers.

No. 3: Phoenix Suns (via Los Angeles Lakers) – Josh Jackson, SF

Josh Jackson is an explosive small forward from Kansas, who can take some of the load off shooting guard Devin Booker’s shoulders. Combine Jackson with Booker, Marquess Chris and Dragan Bender, and the Suns have a nice little nucleus to develop.

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No. 4: Philadelphia 76ers – Malik Monk, SG

The Sixers apparently want 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons to be the primary ball-handler, in the vein of Giannis Antetokounmpo. So the franchise will need shooters. Kentucky guard Malik Monk is far and away the best shooter among the remaining top guards.

No. 5: Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac, SF

The Magic can use a lot of pieces, but it feels like it’s too early to give up on Elfrid Payton and draft another point guard. Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac has a near 7-foot frame and the ball-handling skills of a guard. With long-term development, his size could make him an excellent foundation and stretch four for the Magic.