Philadelphia 76ers own NBA Draft's top pick yet again, this time after a trade with Boston to move up into No. 1 spot, where Washington's Markelle Fultz is expected to be top choice. (Photo by the Seattle Times)
The NBA Draft returns to Brooklyn later tonight, and all indications are that the twists and turns surrounding the first pick and subsequent selections thereafter will rival those of the Cyclone of nearby Coney Island.
For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia 76ers will start the proceedings at Barclays Center, but unlike last season; when the first overall pick was their reward for winning the draft lottery, this year's efforts were the result of a trade with the Boston Celtics on Monday. The Sixers are expected to take University of Washington point guard Markelle Fultz with the pick, joining a core of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid as former general manager Sam Hinkie's vision reaps yet another part of the process in the City of Brotherly Love.
Following Philadelphia and Fultz, the Los Angeles Lakers are in the No. 2 spot for a third straight year. The new regime of franchise legend Magic Johnson and rookie general manager Rob Pelinka will be trusted to add the latest piece to a budding young roster, and all indications are that UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball will remain in the City of Angels, especially now that Los Angeles traded incumbent floor general D'Angelo Russell to Brooklyn on Tuesday. After that, however, is when the draft truly becomes interesting.
The Boston Celtics are picking third once again, having been in that spot last year when Jaylen Brown was the choice made by Danny Ainge. There are mounds of options at No. 3, and we will attempt to prognosticate how each pick will play out in our annual precursor to the draft festivities, which will once again feature our traditional live blog later tonight. Until then, though, let this be a guide to the opening round.
1) Philadelphia 76ers (from Boston Celtics) - Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
Regarded as the best player in the draft, Fultz is the man Bryan Colangelo feels is the best choice to bring the Sixers to the next level. In his lone collegiate season, the former DeMatha standout averaged over 23 points per game while also pulling down nearly six rebounds and six assists per contest, providing a well-rounded game that will need to be on display early and often in Philadelphia.
2) Los Angeles Lakers - Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
Say what you want about Ball and the off-court drama caused by his father, LaVar, but do not overlook his talent as a ball handler and pure scorer. Ball's defense is a cause for concern, but one would be hard pressed to find a player in Division I who was more responsible for making his teammates a better collective unit on the floor. His court savvy and ability to run an offense will pay dividends instantly as he remains close to home.
3) Boston Celtics (from Philadelphia 76ers) - Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
Just as it was last year, this is where the draft truly begins. In this spot a year ago, many assumed that Danny Ainge would draft Kris Dunn and solve his point guard dilemma; but, as mentioned before, Jaylen Brown ended up being the selection here. Now with Isaiah Thomas firmly entrenched as the man with the keys to the car, Ainge instead opts for the best potential talent in the draft with Jackson, whose 6-foot-10 wingspan will make him an intriguing piece to the puzzle for Brad Stevens as the Celtics seek their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
4) Phoenix Suns - Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Tatum could slide a few spots past Phoenix if they opt for DeAaron Fox instead, but Tatum's explosiveness and ability to play both forward positions makes him a more valuable option on a perimeter sorely lacking a second scoring presence next to Devin Booker. If taken by the Suns, Tatum would need no more than a year to become their best swingman since Shawn Marion.
5) Sacramento Kings - DeAaron Fox, G, Kentucky
The streak of John Calipari having a player picked inside the top eight selections in each year since he assumed the reins in Lexington will certainly continue with Fox, who will benefit from having a pair of experienced veterans in Darren Collison and Ty Lawson to show him the ropes. Fox will also join Willie Cauley-Stein, a fellow Kentucky alum, in Dave Joerger's lineup, giving the coach an upgrade in the backcourt. If Fox is off the board, Tatum, or even Lauri Markkanen, would be the selection here.
6) Orlando Magic - Dennis Smith, G, NC State
Word around the NBA is that the Magic are not enamored with Elfrid Payton, which raises the possibility of a point guard being the pick here. Orlando desperately needs to remedy its shooting woes, so it will likely come down to Smith or Malik Monk, and with Monk's athleticism being questioned in inner circles, Smith could very well be the more pro-ready prospect, which would fill an immediate need for the Magic.
7) Minnesota Timberwolves - Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
Tom Thibodeau will likely get a third big man to join Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and Isaac's freakish length and athleticism positions him to possibly become the next Kevin Garnett if he develops properly. Isaac's floor game is something he does not get nearly enough credit for, and is also something that will be augmented with Ricky Rubio feeding him inside and on the perimeter.
8) New York Knicks - Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
The latest hoopla surrounding the Knicks is the rumored trade talks that Phil Jackson has allegedly made concerning Kristaps Porzingis. However, nothing has materialized just yet, and the beleaguered residents of Madison Square Garden can ill afford to botch this pick. Monk makes the most sense assuming that a Porzingis deal does not happen, as he is able to play on and off the ball with equal aplomb. His adaptability to the triangle offense, however, remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it is a can't-miss scenario if he is still on the board when the Knicks are on the clock.
9) Dallas Mavericks - Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
Just as Aaron Rodgers was a steal for the Green Bay Packers and was able to learn from Brett Favre before becoming a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in his own right, Markkanen can do the same under the learning tree of a veteran Dirk Nowitzki. Logic would dictate that either Smith or Frank Ntilikina would be the choice here, but if Markkanen is still there for the Mavs, it is impossible to ignore his potential impact.
10) Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans Pelicans) - Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
Receiving this pick as a result of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, Sacramento gets their second lottery selection and uses it to bolster the front line with Collins, a burgeoning big man who was perhaps the best frontcourt player among this past season's Final Four teams, no easy feat having to defend Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks in the national championship game. Regardless, Collins possesses the skill set and statistics that had scouts salivating from the middle of the season to the present moment, and could grow into a future star for years to come with the proper seasoning.
11) Charlotte Hornets - Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
Mitchell and Kemba Walker would create an all-New York backcourt in Charlotte, a unit that would be able to complement one another and make them both better players. Walker has already reached the stratosphere, while Mitchell's growth in just two years under Rick Pitino has positioned him into one of Louisville's better pro prospects in recent seasons.
12) Detroit Pistons - Luke Kennard, G, Duke
Detroit can go a number of ways with this pick, but will settle for a shooter to pair with Reggie Jackson. If Donovan Mitchell gets past Charlotte, general manager Jeff Bower will likely pull the trigger, but if not, Kennard would be an equally satisfactory option.
13) Denver Nuggets - Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina
Jackson is the epitome of the new rule that allows players to go through the pre-draft process, having used the feedback he got after his sophomore season to become a more complete player and better three-point shooter en route to winning a national championship at North Carolina. With a glaring need for perimeter shooting, Denver would be wise to consider the native Texan to eventually replace Wilson Chandler at the small forward spot.
14) Miami Heat - John Collins, F, Wake Forest
Miami will almost certainly be bringing in a big man with the last pick in the lottery, and Collins, a first team all-ACC talent last season, can make an impact right away in a barren frontcourt for Erik Spoelstra.
15) Portland Trail Blazers - Justin Patton, C, Creighton
The Blazers already have one former Big East Rookie of the Year in their lineup with former St. John's star Maurice Harkless, and Patton would be a perfect complement to the one-time Forest Hills High School dynamo. A seven-footer with an efficient shot and unmatched floor game, Patton on the receiving end of Damian Lillard would create excitement in Portland and instill an even greater fear from their opponents.
16) Chicago Bulls - Frank Ntilikina, G, SIG Strasbourg (France)
Ntilikina could be long gone by the time Chicago gets on the clock, as both the Knicks and Mavericks are widely expected to take the French point guard in the top 10, but if he is still around for the Bulls, John Paxson need not look any further. At the present moment, it is still up for debate as to whether or not Chicago will pick up Rajon Rondo's option, and should they decline, it leaves a gaping hole next to Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. Ntilikina is a rare international prospect who can step right in and fill the void, and would be able to be more than just a serviceable NBA guard in the process.
17) Milwaukee Bucks - Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
One of the few no-brainers in this draft, Allen slides right in between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker to create a bruising and formidable front line for Jason Kidd's Bucks, who should be a top half team in the Eastern Conference next season.
18) Indiana Pacers - OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
In a similar vein to Dallas drafting for the future by taking Lauri Markkanen, Anunoby; a semi-homegrown talent that played his college ball in the Hoosier State, the Pacers have their bases covered for Paul George's inevitable exit. Whether George waits a year before departing, most likely for the Lakers if recent reports are accurate, or not, Anunoby is a dynamic scorer and freakish athlete that will be heard from early and often once he is 100 percent recovered from his torn ACL.
19) Atlanta Hawks - Ike Anigbogu, F, UCLA
Lonzo Ball's teammate is the second of three Bruins that will go in the first round, filling a need down low in light of the recent trade of Dwight Howard to Charlotte. Albeit a minimal contributor in box scores last year, Anigbogu's 7-foot-6 wingspan will be a nightmare for opposing teams to solve, and a boon for Mike Budenholzer.
20) Portland Trail Blazers (from Memphis Grizzlies) - T.J. Leaf, F, UCLA
The run on UCLA talent continues with the Blazers, who double down on their front line after taking Justin Patton five spots earlier. Patton, Leaf and Harkless, coupled with Noah Vonleh, will give Terry Stotts one of the deeper interior units in the Western Conference.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder - Terrance Ferguson, G, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Ferguson is somewhat of an enigma, but his stock is rising so much so to where he might even be picked just outside the lottery. Nevertheless, Sam Presti would be fortunate to land him in this spot, as he would be a refreshing change of pace on the wing next to Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo.
22) Brooklyn Nets - Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
With Brook Lopez now a Los Angeles Laker, finding his replacement will be the top priority for general manager Sean Marks, who finds his man in Adebayo. Having averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game in John Calipari's system, the 6-foot-10 North Carolina native provides double-double potential for a front line bereft of a true rebounding presence.
23) Toronto Raptors - Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
If Lydon stayed one more year for Jim Boeheim, he would be a lottery pick next season. Nonetheless, Toronto gets a potential home run with his selection in this spot, as Lydon's two-way play and deceptive shot makes DeMar DeRozan an even greater weapon.
24) Utah Jazz - Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
Ojeleye may have been the most underrated player in college basketball last season, as the former Duke transfer was the biggest catalyst behind SMU reaching the NCAA Tournament and nearly defeating USC. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound former Duke transfer is capable of averaging at least 15 points per game instantly in the NBA, something Quin Snyder will be grateful for as Ojeleye joins Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert up front.
25) Orlando Magic (from Los Angeles Clippers) - Tony Bradley, F, North Carolina
Orlando passed on a forward with their first pick, and it proves to be a blessing in disguise as they get tremendous value on Bradley, the second member of North Carolina's national championship team to hear his name called by Adam Silver. Bradley is a true post player, a throwback of sorts, and should be able to carve out his own niche rather quickly in the Magic Kingdom.
26) Portland Trail Blazers (from Cleveland Cavaliers) - Anzejs Pasecniks, F, Gran Canaria (Spain)
With their third pick in the first round, the Blazers opt to stash the 7-foot-1 Latvian, a fast riser on draft boards drawing comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis. If he does come stateside early, the 21-year-old becomes a focal point just off his size alone.
27) Los Angeles Lakers (from Brooklyn Nets) - Kyle Kuzma, F, Utah
In the first of back-to-back selections at the end of the first round, the Lakers bolster their front line with Kuzma, an all-Pac-12 talent who averaged close to a double-double at Utah, and one who will have more than his fair share of opportunities inside next to Julius Randle and newly acquired Brook Lopez, moving Brandon Ingram into the backcourt in a bigger lineup.
28) Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston Rockets) - Derrick White, G, Colorado
The Lakers go for another Pac-12 player here with White, a combo guard who averaged 18.3 points per game for the Buffaloes last season, one who will see playing time right away with uncertainty abound at the shooting guard position behind Nick Young.
29) San Antonio Spurs - Josh Hart, G, Villanova
The Spurs always draft to fit their system, much like the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League. With that said, who better to bring into their unmatched culture of winning than a proven winner in Hart, who won 129 games and a national championship in four years at Villanova? With Manu Ginobili on his way out and Tony Parker not far behind, Hart can sit and learn for his first year or two before continuing the rich tradition for Gregg Popovich in what will be a win-win situation for all parties involved.
30) Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors) - Edmond Sumner, G, Xavier
Utah closes the first round with a bit of a wild card, taking a defensive hawk and equally proficient scorer in Sumner, who was playing at an all-Big East level before suffering a torn ACL midway through the conference season. At 6-foot-5, Sumner is a game-changer on both ends of the floor, as both a taller point guard than the conventional norm and a versatile defender that can alter a game plan regardless of the scheme his team employs.