Draft experts get their orders mixed up
Execs know top five but not when they’ll be taken. Celtics-76ers trade shuffles deck.
The consensus among many NBA executives is that the players who’ll be taken with the top five picks in Thursday’s NBA draft are a foregone conclusion.
The order in which these one-and-done collegiate players will be selected, however, remains less than certain.
One thing that executives who spoke to The Times agree on: The Lakers are expected to use the No. 2 pick on UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. The executives spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the draft.
With conviction, the executives view the top five, in no particular order, as Ball, Washington’s Markelle Fultz, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum.
“It’s going to be those five guys,” an NBA executive whose team has a mid-firstround pick said Friday. “But
[NBA, the order they are going to be in, nobody knows. Some teams are sending out smoke signals. And then there are these trade rumors that could have an effect on the draft order.”
The hottest of those rumors reportedly came to fruition Saturday night, introducing some clarity to the situation. Multiple outlets reported that Boston had traded the No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia for the 76ers’ third overall choice plus additional picks. The deal was to be finalized Monday.
The 76ers are expected to take Fultz, who worked out for the team on Saturday. The Celtics presumably would take Jackson third, if the Lakers took Ball at No. 2.
One executive explained why Ball, Fultz, Fox, Jackson and Tatum are at the head of the 2017 draft class.
“Those five guys have everything,” said the executive, whose team has a late lottery pick. “They have the skill level, the athleticism. They have the upside and they got the production right now. I think they have the whole deal.”
Some executives believe that Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac might have a small chance of moving into the top five. He’s 6 feet 11 with a 7-1 wingspan but weighs only 205 pounds. He averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds during his lone season with the Seminoles.
“Jonathan Isaac would be in that group if he was a little more developed and stronger,” one executive said. “He might have the best upside of all of them. So the draft is really good. It’s solid.”
The Lakers worked out Ball twice, and saw Jackson work out in Sacramento and at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
According to the executives, the Lakers were split over the two players.
“If I’m the Lakers, I take Josh Jackson because he’s so damn athletic and has a great upside,” said one executive whose team doesn’t have a lottery pick. “If you want to model after all those 6-9 wing players the Warriors have, you take Jackson and put him beside Brandon Ingram. Jackson and Ingram can be interchangeable parts just like the Warriors do with KD [Kevin Durant], Draymond [Green], [Andre] Iguodola and all their other players. But, the Lakers will take Ball.”
Here’s one NBA scout’s take on the group:
Fultz is a 6-4 point guard who can play some shooting guard. He averaged 23.2 points and 5.9 assists this season. “He is probably the best player in the draft.”
Ball is a 6-6 point guard. He averaged 14.6 points and an NCAA-leading 7.6 assists. “He could turn a team around with a Jason Kiddtype of effect.”
Fox is a 6-4 point guard. He averaged 16.7 points and 4.6 assists. “He could be a beast defensively.”
Jackson is a 6-8 wing player. He averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. “If he develops a three-point shot, he’d be unreal because he’s got everything.”
Tatum is a 6-8 wing player. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. “He is a prototypical NBA small forward.”
“With this group, I think there are some really talented players,” one executive said. “I just don’t know who is going to be a superstar.”
KENTUCKY point guard De’Aaron Fox’s impressive play in the NCAA tournament lifted his draft stock.
ONE SEASON at Duke established Jayson Tatum as “a prototypical NBA small forward,” one scout says.