FORTH WORTH, TX - When the Boston Celtics were awarded with the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, basketball fans across the nation accepted the inevitability of Washington’s Markelle Fultz donning a Celtics jersey in the 2017-18 NBA season.
Fultz himself believed the rumors, as well, telling Sports Illustrated reporter Andrew Sharp that the backcourt tandem of him and Isaiah Thomas “would be the craziest backcourt.” “The way he scores, the way I can pass, and the way I can score... we can switch between the one and two." Fultz toured TD Garden, the Celtics home arena, after his workout with the team. Fultz told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman during this tour he belonged in Boston.
Those rumors were pushed aside in the late hours of Saturday, June 17, when it was announced that the Celtics traded their top pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the No. 3 pick and the Lakers protected first-round pick in the 2018 draft. If the pick falls between No. 2 and No. 5, the pick will belong to the Celtics. This trade should be seen as a blessing for Fultz. Instead of having to worry about minutes with another ball-dominant guard in Thomas, Fultz will immediately become Philadelphia’s primary ball-handler and back-court scorer. The 76ers are in dire need of a true point guard to be competitive in the league, so this is a win-win for both parties. In time, the young core of Fultz, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons could be a force in the NBA.
While Fultz is the best overall player in the draft, Lonzo Ball, freshman from UCLA, is the player with the most to prove during his rookie season. This Isn’t because of anything he did, but because of his father Lavar Ball who has already placed the kid on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA greats, including the fact that Lonzo is already a better player than the reigning unanimous league MVP. Lavar’s most notable comment was about his son’s NBA future, telling ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that “Lonzo’s going to be a Laker.” Lavar Ball also told Shelburne that the Lakers, who have missed the playoffs four consecutive seasons, will “make the playoffs as soon as my boy gets there.” During the draft process, many skeptics of Ball’s dedication to the game arose after he arrived at a Laker’s workout out-of-shape. Additionally, with D’Angelo Russell already leading the offense as an established point guard for the Lakers, they would be taking a big risk to give Lonzo the reins of the offense or be openly scrutinized by Lavar. Lonzo’s path to the Lakers was paved on June 20 when the Lakers announced that D’Angelo Russell would be traded to the Brooklyn Nets. As the 2017 NBA Draft unfolded, the first two picks did not shock basketball fans across the country. Fultz was picked by the Sixers and Ball was drafted by the Lakers. The entirety of the draft itself went according to plan, and here are the winners and losers from the 2017 NBA Draft.
Philadelphia 76ers As previously mentioned, this is the best landing spot for Fultz, mutually benefitting both parties. Fultz is the perfect player for the Sixer organization. He brings athleticism, defensive and scoring expertise, and play making to a young, talented roster. Fultz is the kind of player that can get this team over the hump and into the playoffs, but the team needs to sign veteran leadership in the offseason. A team built around young talent is great, but the young guns will need veterans to lead them through the process, telling them how to practice, when to nap, and other small things that bring success over time. The only veteran the club has is Gerald Henderson, but if the Sixers could sign Andre Iguodala in free agency and bring him back to Philadelphia, the Sixers would be in a great position heading into next season.
Chicago Bulls The Bulls made the biggest news of the draft when they traded Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the No. 7 pick. With the No. 7 pick, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen from Arizona. Markkanen is a versatile scorer, has great ball handling skills for a big man, and can shoot the ball well, but he struggles defensively. Markkanen has a very similar game to Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, it will be interesting to see how the two play together. The Bulls are losers in this situation because they did not get enough in return for their star player, one who many believe is a top 15 player in the world.
Sacramento Kings The Kings entered the draft with two top ten picks, traded the No. 10 pick to Portland for No. 15 and No. 20, and drafted D’Aaron Fox from Kentucky, Duke’s Harry Giles, and UNC’s Justin Jackson. Fox is considered to be the second best point guard in the draft behind Fultz and is a true leader. He’s a vocal guard that’s quick and athletic. His shot needs work, but it’s not as important with speed like his. With Justin Jackson, the ACC Player of the Year, the Kings are getting a good shooter with a great floater, but is a bit small on NBA standards. Injury prone Harry Giles could have huge upside for the Kings. The top recruit coming into college tore his ACL which caused his lone season at Duke to be a little underwhelming. When healthy, Giles could be a valuable post presence for the Kings. Giles was an important player for the Blue Devils in their ACC Tournament run, a good sign for the Kings.
Boston Celtics Yes, the Celtics did draft Jayson Tatum at No. 3, but the Celtics should still be considered losers of the draft. Tatum is a great offensive player, easily the best offensive player in the draft, but the Celtics went into the offseason looking for players that could get them to compete with the Cavaliers. Both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James completely outmatched the Celtics, which makes it interesting that they didn’t go for Josh Jackson from Kansas. Yes, Jackson cannot shoot as well as Tatum, but he established himself as the best defender in the draft. In the short run, Tatum could be important for the Celtics, as the team could not create offense besides Isaiah Thomas, but passing on Jackson could hurt the Celtics in the long run.
Charlotte Hornets When Malik Monk fell to No. 11, the Hornets had no choice but to take him. A top-5 talent, Monk provides an immediate scoring impact for the team. He can create his own shot and score in bunches. Monk has the potential to be the best overall scorer in the draft, and a backcourt of Kemba Walker and Monk could be scary. The acquisition of Dwight Howard earlier this week makes the Hornets that much better.
Los Angeles Lakers With no surprise, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Ball is easily the best floor general in the entire draft, already drawing comparisons to Chris Paul and Jason Kidd. His ability to see the entire floor every play leads to the best pass, and his shot already has NBA range. It’s likely that Lavar will continue his act through Lonzo’s rookie year, one downside of drafting Lonzo. Additionally, Ball is a very quiet guy, and to be a great point guard in the league, Ball will have to become more vocal. If Ball can play in the NBA how he did at UCLA, he could take the Lakers back to the success the fan base is familiar with. The season before Ball, UCLA went 15-17 and many Bruins fans demanded head coach Steve Alford be fired. The year after, the Bruins went 31-4, led by freshman point guard Lonzo Ball. Ball’s ceiling is incredibly high, and if Lonzo is what his dad says he is, the Lakers could be back in playoff contention this season.