We’re grading the entire first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft as it happens. Come along for the ride.
They say you can’t truly judge an NBA Draft for three, maybe four years. The apocryphal they are dull and boring. What is sports if not a safe space for wild speculation and rash judgment?
The NBA Draft twists that concept up to 11 — we’re trying to assess how 19- and 20-year-olds from colleges and countries most people can’t find on a map will do in a league with some of the best athletes in the world. We’re judging teams’ performances in this event without anything remotely close to perfect information — we can’t truly know what trades are out there, or what value certain slots hold this year. We don’t even really know what teams want to do here other than maximize their value. With NBA free agency around the corner, holes we find now may be fixed in two weeks.
Alas, the world demands judgment, and we shall give it. We are grading each pick (and by extension trades associated with picks) as it comes through for the entire first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Refresh as required.
Sixers fans are — and should be — dancing in the streets over landing Fultz. But it’s worth considering what a steep cost Philadelphia has paid to move up two spots through its weekend trade with the Celtics. Boston will either get a very good Lakers pick in 2018 and a likely-to-be very good Kings pick in 2019. Meanwhile, the Sixers could have gotten a highly rated point guard like De’Aaron Fox at No. 3 and retained that extra asset for another shot at a superstar (through using the pick or trading it).
Fultz is more of a sure thing than Fox, but is the gap big enough to justify giving up another top-5 pick? That the Celtics scooped up the deal so fast tells me at least one team is skeptical the Sixers properly valued those picks. Which front office do you trust more?
GRADE: [thinking face emoji]
Alright, this Ben Simmons to Joel Embiid alley-oop on the Balls changed my mind.
REVISED GRADE: Trust the Process.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
In what has seemed something like destiny since December, the Lakers land L.A.’s own marquee star in Ball. Having cleared the path by trading D’Angelo Russell to the Nets this week, the Lakers should give Lonzo every opportunity to bring his modern style of pace-pushing, three-jacking, Kiddian play to the NBA. It should mesh with what Luke Walton wants to see, and hopefully the other Laker youth — or the stars they are traded for — can benefit from Ball’s playmaking.
GRADE: Showtime 2.0
3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Boston drafted a defense-first bundle of fast-twitch in Jaylen Brown a year ago. This year, it’s the smoother, more refined natural scorer in Tatum. That seems like an appropriate combo, provided either can play power forward full-time in the NBA. In fact, with the league’s slow progression toward full-on smallball, you wonder how long it will be until Brad Stevens experiments with Tatum at the five and Brown at the four. (Especially if Gordon Hayward comes to town.) Just because the Celtics have a small point guard doesn’t mean they have to be small altogether.
Regardless of how Tatum fits with Brown, this pick will be graded based almost entirely on how good Josh Jackson becomes. That’s not fair to Tatum, but he can wipe his tears with one of his many millions of dollar bills. (Fact: NBA rookies get paid in crisp, impossible to separate one dollar bills. It’s in the collective bargaining agreement.)
GRADE: Thank you, Brooklyn
4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
Jackson was floated as a potential No. 1 pick at times this season, and plenty of watchers believed the Jayhawk was who Boston’s Danny Ainge had targeted when trading down to No. 3. Instead, it was Tatum.
So Phoenix, who has fallen out of top three two straight years, landed a top-3 talent in Jackson. The Suns have been passed around in trade rumors in the past week, but Jackson is probably worth keeping. He and Marquese Chriss could make a fearsome wing pair with stupendous athleticism and size.
Or they could be the new Michael Kidd-Gilchrists. We’ll see.
5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
Fox becomes the latest Calipari kid to land in Lexington West. With Darren Collison and Ty Lawson hitting free agency, Fox could start from Day 1 and make a run at Rookie of the Year.
The problem: can he shoot? Can point guards who can’t shoot work in the modern NBA?
GRADE: Go Big Blue
6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
Here’s the good news: the Magic have John Hammond, who drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo, in their front office. Isaac has been compared to the Greek Freak. Here’s the bad news: Jonathan Isaac is not Giannis Antetokounmpo. He doesn’t have the court vision, hands, or ball skills Antetokounmpo did at this age. But Giannis is super special. A poor man’s Giannis is darn good.
Those arms! Those legs! That motor!
GRADE: This is a team Dr. Frankenstein would love
7. Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
Let’s talk about the Jimmy Butler trade. The Bulls sent Butler and No. 16 to the Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and this pick. This is a good trade … if the Bulls are ready to build from the ground up and develop youth well. They developed Derrick Rose, Butler, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and others. But Fred Hoiberg hasn’t had much success with raw players. So we’ll see.
GRADE: Ha ha Dwyane Wade opted in for $24 million please don’t re-sign Rondo for the love of all that is holy
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, G, France
The New York Knicks did not trade Kristaps Porzingis.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith, G, North Carolina State
The Mavs earn a solid grade for two reasons. The first is that Smith looks legit; he’s the most exciting young guard Dallas has had since Yogi Ferrell wait Seth Curry hold on Jeremy Lin I mean Rodrigue “The Untouchable” Beaubois.
The second is that the Mavs kept this pick so close to the vest that ESPN’s live broadcast closed to within five minutes of the Twitter leakers (Shams Charania, in this case). Well done!
The Blazers, who began the night with three first-round picks, packaged Nos. 15 and 20 to move up to No. 10 and take Collins. This is exactly what teams with multiple bottom-half firsts and limited roster space need to do: package them and move up.
I’m just not sure Collins is a suitable modern NBA center.
GRADE: FREE MEYERS LEONARD!
So many hardcore NBA fans were wondering how in the world Charlotte would replace Marco Belinelli after the Hornets traded him in the Dwight Howard deal this week. Here’s your answer.
Stan Van Gundy realizes he never should have traded Kyle Singler for Reggie Jackson and rights his wrong.
GRADE: Where’s Grayson Allen tonight?
13. Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
The Jazz traded Trey Lyles and No. 24 to the Nuggets for this pick. Lyles didn’t seem to totally fit in with the Jazz — on paper it looked like a match, but in practice it wasn’t great. Mitchell will slide in among an unsettled backcourt that faces some free agency issues. But he’s a rangy grinder, which is so perfectly Utah.
GRADE: Pay Joe Ingles
14. Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo, F, Kentucky
Bam gave John Calipari yet another year with three lottery picks! He did it!
According to the ESPN broadcast, Bam (born Edrice) was given his nickname after flipping the coffee table while watching The Flintstones. GOAT?
GRADE: His name is Bam so A+ of course
15. Sacramento Kings: Justin Jackson, G/F, North Carolina
The Kings traded back and drafted a dude old enough to go
drinking gambling play bingo with Buddy Hield. Score!
The NBA’s 2017 Draft Baseball Caps
Y’all, these things are shiny. Baseball caps ought not to be shiny.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Justin Patton, C, Creighton
A kid from Nebraska is moving to Minnesota. News at 11. (He’s actually an interesting fit behind Karl-Anthony Towns.)
GRADE: Smiley emoji with the sunglasses
There had been rumors Wilson might have a first round promise in the late 20s. So much for that! Milwaukee’s rotation has space for yet another kid depending on whether Greg Monroe or John Henson (or both) get moved.
As someone who watched plenty of UCLA basketball (I did it for the Lonzo), I have absolutely no tether on whether Leaf can play in the NBA. High school All-Americans typically make it, but not always. And who knows where Indiana goes from here?
GRADE: Trade Paul George already
19. Atlanta Hawks: John Collins, F, Wake Forest
Not to be confused with Zach Collins, who went nine picks earlier! Zach won the Collins battle, but John may yet win the Collins war.
GRADE: Pay Paul Millsap
20. Sacramento Kings: Harry Giles, F, Duke
Say what you will about the Sacramento Kings. (Please, do.) But with Fox, Jackson, Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, perhaps Bogdan Bogdanovic, and now Giles? That’s at least a very good Summer League team. At least.
GRADE: Warriors of Vegas
Ferguson bypassed college basketball to play professional in Australia. It didn’t seem to help his draft stock too much — 11 one-and-done players went in front of him — but hey, he got paid! Over the table, even.
GRADE: Is Victor Oladipo trade bait?
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Jarrett Allen looks like he came out of a documentary on the ABA’s Nets and said he’s having the computer he built himself shipped to Brooklyn as soon as possible.
Anunoby and his short shorts will be starting by All-Star Weekend (provided he’s back from his ACL surgery). Book it.
GRADE: Masai Ujiri is great
24. Denver Nuggets: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
The Nuggets need defenders. They drafted a shooter.
GRADE: Shrug emoji
25. Philadelphia 76ers: Andzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
The Sixers bought this pick. The Kristaps Porzingis wooing begins!
GRADE: Latvian flag
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
Swanigan is one of my favorite stories in this draft. He’s already won.