A MOVE UP, A SHAKE-UP?
76ers traded for top pick; trade of George could alter the league
A Paul George mega-deal could turn the NBA draft upside down if the Indiana Pacers trade him before or during Thursday night’s proceedings.
They’ve had discussions with multiple teams, including the Lakers, who feel as if they are in prime position to acquire George. The fourtime All-Star will be a free agent after the upcoming season, and his agent has informed the Pacers that George wants to return home to Los Angeles and is not willing to re-sign with another team that might try to strike a deal with Indiana.
When the week began, the Boston Celtics made the first bold move, swapping picks with the Philadelphia 76ers. Now, the 76ers are poised to take Washington point guard Markelle Fultz first overall.
The Lakers, who hold the second pick, are expected to select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball. The Lakers secured an extra pick later in the first round in a deal Tuesday that sent point guard D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn for center Brook Lopez.
The Celtics are expected to take Duke swingman Jayson Tatum third, with Phoenix selecting Kansas swingman Josh Jackson fourth.
Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox probably will go fifth, to Sacramento.
The most recent report was that no deal for George was imminent before the draft. That or any other deal could jumble the order of picks, but here is our current forecast for the first round:
1. PHILADELPHIA — Markelle Fultz, Washington, PG, 6-4, 190: The 76ers swapped picks with the Celtics to get Fultz. He’s considered the most NBA-ready player in the draft.
2. LAKERS — Lonzo Ball, UCLA, PG, 6-6, 190: He’s probably the most polarizing player in the draft because of his trash-talking dad, LaVar. But Lonzo can play, and is the right fit for the Lakers.
3. BOSTON — Jayson Tatum, Duke, SF, 6-8, 205: Celtics President Danny Ainge moved down from first to this spot because he said the player he wants would be available. Tatum is his guy.
4. PHOENIX — Josh Jackson, Kansas, SF, 6-8, 205: Jackson is probably the best athlete in the draft. He’ll give the Suns another very good wing player.
5. SACRAMENTO — De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky, PG, 6-3, 170: His speed and acceleration make him a good fit with sharpshooter Buddy Hield, which could give the Kings a nice backcourt.
6. ORLANDO — Jonathan Isaac, Florida State, SF/PF, 6-10, 210: Some scouts believe he has the most upside of any player in the draft. He is skilled. He just needs to put on weight and get stronger.
7. MINNESOTA — Lauri Markkanen, Arizona, PF/C, 7-0, 230: He has the ability to be another “stretch four” because he can shoot the ball from distance, making 42.3% of his three-pointers last season.
8. NEW YORK — Frank Ntilikina, France, PG, 6-5, 190: He’s a big guard who fits Phil Jackson’s mold of players for the Knicks’ backcourt. Ntilikina is mature and has a strong basketball IQ.
9. DALLAS — Dennis Smith, North Carolina State, PG, 6-2, 195: The Mavericks need a point guard in the worst way. Smith is an explosive athlete who has tremendous ballhandling skills.
10. SACRAMENTO — Zach Collins, Gonzaga, F/C, 6-11, 230: Collins has shown that he can score down low and step outside to shoot the jumper.
11. CHARLOTTE — Malik Monk, Kentucky, SG, 6-3, 200: Monk can score from all over the court. He has a nice outside shooting stroke from three-point range.
12. DETROIT — Luke Kennard, Duke, G, 6-6, 195: The Pistons need more consistent outside shooting. Kennard made 43.8% of his three-point shots last season for the Blue Devils.
13. DENVER — OG Anunoby, Indiana, SF/PF, 6-7, 235: Anunoby fits the bill for the Nuggets, especially if they end up losing small forward Danilo Gallinari during free agency.
14. MIAMI — Justin Jackson, North Carolina, SF, 6-8, 200: Jackson has a nice all-around skill set. He can score some and also plays solid defense.
15. PORTLAND — Justin Patton, Creighton, C, 6-11, 230: He’s a project worth taking here. His ability to shoot with some range and pass the ball are good assets.
16. CHICAGO — Donovan Mitchell, Louisville, PG/SG, 6-2, 210: Mitchell is a force on offense and defense. Scouts like his toughness.
17. MILWAUKEE — TJ Leaf, UCLA, PF, 6-10, 225: Leaf has a nice touch for a big man, showing that he can step out and shoot and also run the floor.
18. INDIANA — Jarrett Allen, Texas, C, 6-10, 235: Allen can be an inside presence for the Pacers. He has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and that will help him to score down low.
19. ATLANTA — Harry Giles, Duke, SF/PF, 6-10, 230: He has a nice NBA body. He’s a tremendous leaper and runs the floor well.
20. PORTLAND — D.J. Wilson, Michigan, SF/PF, 610, 240: Wilson is a good defender who can play multiple positions.
21. OKLAHOMA CITY — Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany, PF/C, 7-1, 249: He is versatile enough to play two positions. He is strong, can shoot the ball and passes it as well.
22. BROOKLYN — Ike Anigbogu, UCLA, C, 6-10, 250: Though he’s a project, scouts say he has great upside because of his size, athleticism and defensive motor.
23. TORONTO — Terrance Ferguson, Australia, SG, 6-7, 185: He demonstrated quickness and athleticism while playing in Australia’s National Basketball League last season.
24. UTAH — Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State, PG, 6-0, 185: Evans lacks size but can play both point guard and shooting guard.
25. ORLANDO — Ivan Rabb, California, PF/C, 6-10, 220: Rabb has some tools that enable him to score down low and rebound.
26. PORTLAND — Anzejs Pasecniks, Latvia, C, 7-1, 220: He needs to gain weight and become stronger, but he’s mobile and has some offensive skills.
27. LAKERS — Semi Ojeleye, Southern Methodist, SF/PF, 6-6, 240: He already has an NBA body. He can play two positions in today’s small-ball type lineups.
28. LAKERS — Jonah Bolden, Australia, PF, 6-10, 235: Look for the Lakers to stash the former UCLA player overseas so he can develop and because they don’t want too many rookies on the team.
29. SAN ANTONIO — Josh Hart, Villanova, SG, 6-5, 210: He has improved his game every season. And he is ultra competitive, making him a good fit with the Spurs.
30. UTAH — Tyler Lydon, Syracuse, PF, 6-9, 230: His shooting ability will make Lydon a “stretch four” in the NBA.
PAUL GEORGE (13) has told the Pacers he won’t re-sign with them, which could force the team to trade the four-time All-Star in order to receive some compensation.
LAURI MARKKANEN of Arizona is a 7-footer who can shoot from distance. He made 42.3% of his three-pointers for the Wildcats.
JONATHAN ISAAC of Florida State has the most upside of any player in the draft, according to some scouts.