Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The 2017 NBA draft is now only days away—June 22, to be exact—and the mounting excitement is palpable. It’s looking like Washington product Markelle Fultz is going to be the first overall pick in the draft, but beyond that, there is drama aplenty.

Will the Los Angeles Lakers pass on high-profile prospect Lonzo Ball? Just how high will defensive standout Josh Jackson go? The only thing we know for sure is that the drama, storylines and rumors are only going to heat up as the draft approaches.

We’re here to break down some of the latest draft-related storylines, along with our predictions for the end results. We’ll also mock the entire first round based on factors like prospect potential, team needs and team fits.

          

2017 NBA Mock Draft

1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Boston): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA

3. Boston Celtics (via Philadelphia): Josh Jackson, F, Kansas

4. Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky

5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia): Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

8. New York Knicks: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona

9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., G, NC State

10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans): Frank Ntilikina, G, France

11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga

12. Detroit Pistons: Harry Giles, C, Duke

13. Denver Nuggets: Ivan Rabb, F, California

14. Miami Heat: Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina

15. Portland Trail Blazers: John Collins, F, Wake Forest

16. Chicago Bulls: Luke Kennard, G, Duke

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

18. Indiana Pacers: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

19. Atlanta Hawks: TJ Leaf, F, UCLA

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis): Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, F, Indiana

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): Isaiah Hartenstein, F, Germany

23. Toronto Raptors (via LA Clippers): Jordan Bell, F, Oregon

24. Utah Jazz: Justin Patton, C, Creighton

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto): Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue

26. Portland Trail Blazers: (via Cleveland): Josh Hart, G, Villanova

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston): Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston): Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

29. San Antonio Spurs: Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Frank Jackson, G, Duke

               

Latest Buzz

76ers to Trade up for Fultz

We mentioned that Fultz is expected to be the first overall pick in the draft. However, it appears Fultz won’t be drafted by the Boston Celtics—who own the No. 1 pick as of this writing—but by the Philadelphia 76ers.

According to TNT’s David Aldridge, the 76ers and Celtics are set to finalize a trade that will give Philly the top selection:


According to Aldridge, the 76ers will take Fultz. This makes sense, as Fultz is the type of young, offensive talent that can help support the pieces the team already has in place. If young players like Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can reach their full potential, the 76ers could have a dangerous roster moving forward.

As Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer recently explained, Fultz is the perfect complement for Simmons, in particular:

“For this year’s draft, the Sixers needed a player who could offset Simmons’s weakness by providing another source of playmaking while also offering spot-up shooting ability and versatile defense. Fultz does all of that in ways no player available at the third slot could; that’s why losing one of their two valuable future firsts is worth it.”

Philadelphia has essentially spent the last few years tanking in order to set up the type of roster the team wants. Now with this trade, the 76ers are in position to complete the rebuilding effort. Don’t be surprised if the addition of Fultz is enough to set the Sixers up as a playoff team within the next couple of years.

Philadelphia and Boston might not be done making moves before the draft either. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, the deal is being done now so that the teams can potentially make more moves before the draft:


         

Are the First Five Players Set?

It certainly appears that the 76ers are set to make Fultz the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. After that, though, we don’t know which players are going to be drafted—or do we?

According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, NBA executives believe the first five picks will be Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and Duke’s Jayson Tatum. It’s only the draft order that has to play out.

“It’s going to be those five guys,” one NBA executive said, per Turner. “But 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.”

According to Turner, league executives also believe that Ball is destined to go to the Lakers at No. 2.

Now, no one should be surprised if these are the first five players taken in the draft, as they’ve all been considered top prospects throughout much of the process. However, it also shouldn’t be a surprise if a shooter like Kentucky’s Malik Monk or a big like Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac cracks the top five.

We should be equally unfazed if the Lakers end up passing on Ball. While the two parties have seemed destined to unite, questions about the union have begun to creep up.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders believes the Lakers aren’t sold on Ball:


My guess is that if the Lakers aren’t truly locked in on Ball, they’ll try trading away the pick rather than simply selecting a different player at No. 2. If L.A. believes a guy like Fox or Tatum is a safer pick, the team may be able to move down a few spots and still get their guy.

Of course, if the Lakers are sold on Ball, they could be creating doubt in order to get something in return from the Celtics—who appear to want Jackson. The Lakers could try selling the idea that they’re zeroing in on Jackson in an effort to trade back a spot with Boston.

Ultimately, I don’t think we’re done seeing moves made inside the top five.

          

Kurucs Withdraws from Draft

International player Rodions Kurucs was looking like a possible first-round pick heading into the draft. However, the Barcelona player appears headed back to international play for at least another season.

According to Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk, Kurucs has decided to withdraw from the draft.

Kurucs has good size at 6’8″ and 200 pounds. He is also a versatile athlete who can play multiple positions on the floor. The problem is that Kurucs has already experienced a couple of major injuries in his career and he is still developing as a player.

“[He] hasn’t really be tested against elite competition,” Stefanos Makris of NBADraft.net wrote of Kurucs. “He really needs to add some muscle, since he barely weighs 200 pounds. He might not [be] afraid of contact, but he can’t really absorb it at the moment.”

Since Kurucs is an international player and not bound to NCAA rules, so he can try entering the draft again next year. He’ll likely spend the next year building up his body and showing that past injuries shouldn’t be a concern for NBA teams.



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