The Chronicle's 2017 NBA Mock Draft

With Thursday night's 2017 NBA Draft approaching, four of The Chronicle’s editors in the sports department share their thoughts on landing spots for the top four Blue Devil prospects in this year’s draft class, as well as their predictions on how the lottery selections will shake out later this week in Brooklyn.

Hank Tucker

V.113 Sports Editor and V.112 Blue Zone Editor

Duke’s Picks:

Jayson Tatum: 4th, Phoenix Suns. Rumor has it that Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge traded down from No. 1 to No. 3 because he is keen on Josh Jackson and would have considered taking him first overall. If that is true, Jackson will go to Boston at No. 3 and Tatum will still be on the board for the Suns. Phoenix could use some depth on the wing—T.J. Warren started most games at small forward last season and scored effectively but didn’t provide much else—and Tatum could become a franchise cornerstone alongside guard Devin Booker.

If the Suns go in a different direction and pick a point guard like Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, I can’t see Tatum slipping past the Sacramento Kings at No. 5.

Luke Kennard: 12th, Detroit Pistons. Kennard is a safe bet to go somewhere in the late lottery as the best shooting guard to come out of Duke since J.J. Redick was drafted 11th in 2006. I doubt Kennard will develop into an All-Star due to his defensive limitations, but I think he will turn his ability to space the floor into a solid, lengthy career in the NBA. He’s the type of scorer the Pistons could use to play with an elite rim protector and rebounder in center Andre Drummond.

Harry Giles: 19th, Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have a decision to make with power forward Paul Millsap entering free agency and potentially commanding a max contract this summer. If they don’t want to take that risk on a player potentially nearing the end of his prime, they could take another risk on a 19-year-old with All-Star potential but a history of knee injuries. Giles would fill the void as a stretch four if Millsap leaves in free agency and could be the key to propel the Hawks back toward the upper tier of the Eastern Conference.

Frank Jackson: 30th, Utah Jazz. I can’t see Jackson going much higher than this, but I also can’t imagine him declaring for the draft after one year if he didn’t think he would at least get first-round consideration. He impressed in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the NBA Draft Combine a month ago, and although he has been unable to work out for teams since having foot surgery shortly after the Combine, I think the Jazz pick him up with their second pick of the first round, earning him a critical guaranteed contract.

The Lottery:

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn via Boston): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
  3. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia): Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
  4. Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
  5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia): De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
  6. Orlando Magic: Lauri Markkanen, F, Kentucky
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
  8. New York Knicks: Dennis Smith, Jr., G, N.C. State
  9. Dallas Mavericks: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
  10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans): Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
  11. Charlotte Hornets: Frank Ntilikina, G, France
  12. Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard, G, Duke
  13. Denver Nuggets: John Collins, F, Wake Forest
  14. Miami Heat: Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina

Mitchell Gladstone

V.113 Sports Managing Editor

Duke’s Picks:

Jayson Tatum: 4th, Phoenix Suns. Honestly, it’s hard to see a bad spot for Tatum to go in the top five of this draft. With the dust now settled on the swap between Philly and Boston, the top three selections seem to be settled, and I don’t think at this point Tatum will go higher than four, although he certainly is as pro-ready as anyone in the top tier.

That being said, the Suns very well may be getting a steal if the St. Louis native picks up right where he left off in his lone season with the Blue Devils. Phoenix has a nice young core that features the backcourt pairing of Booker and Eric Bledsoe along with big man Marquese Chriss. Add Tatum into the fold, and the Suns have all the building blocks of a positive future.

Luke Kennard: 11th, Charlotte Hornets. Can former Tar Heel Michael Jordan swallow his pride and pick a Blue Devil? Before last season, Charlotte had selected inside the top-10 for five straight years, but the Hornets have turned just one of those players into an All-Star—Kemba Walker. The Hornets have no real stars other than Walker, and they could desperately use the 3-point firepower that Kennard would add.

Harry Giles: 20th, Portland Trail Blazers. It’s reasonable to see why this could be a scary selection for fans in the Pacific Northwest. Ten years ago, the Blazers took Ohio State big man Greg Oden one spot ahead of Kevin Durant, and he will likely go down as the biggest bust in NBA history. Oden sat out his first season, played 61 games in 2008-09 and then appeared in just 44 more contests in his entire career. Giles is not going to be taken No. 1 overall like Oden, but the knee injuries, the size and the pre-collegiate hype are eerily similar. With three first-round selections for Portland, however, Giles is absolutely worth the risk here.

Frank Jackson: 35th, Orlando Magic. There are so many good spots for Jackson, it’s hard for me to name just one. I don’t think he goes in the first round—unless maybe San Antonio or Utah at Nos. 29 and 30, respectively, decide his upside is just too much to pass up. Realistically, Jackson is an early second-rounder with a lot of offensive potential and I could see Philly, Boston or Chicago taking him between 36 and 39. But Orlando has no real guard presence outside of Elfrid Payton, so adding Malik Monk at No. 6 and then Jackson here would give the Magic a boatload of scoring to go with its talented frontcourt.

The Lottery:

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn via Boston): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
  3. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia): Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
  4. Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
  5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia): De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
  6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
  8. New York Knicks: Dennis Smith, Jr., G, N.C. State
  9. Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
  10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans): Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
  11. Charlotte Hornets: Luke Kennard, G, Duke
  12. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
  13. Denver Nuggets: Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina
  14. Miami Heat: John Collins, F, Wake Forest

Sameer Pandhare

V.112 Sports Managing Editor and V.111 Blue Zone Editor

Duke’s Picks:

Jayson Tatum: 3rd, Boston Celtics. The Celtics will certainly entertain the idea of taking Jackson here, but the team’s difficulty getting the Kansas freshman in for a workout may suggest that Tatum has the upper hand. On the court, Tatum would provide a much-needed isolation scoring option for a Boston team with an offense predicated on movement and launching from beyond the arc. The forward also showed his ability to rebound at the college level, and that will be crucial as he heads to a team that was near the bottom of the league on the glass.

The Celtics have more questions to answer than perhaps any other team in the league with general manager Danny Ainge hoarding both assets and cap space. But landing in Boston with the services of a top-notch head coach in Brad Stevens would put Tatum in a position to succeed from day one.

Luke Kennard: 12th, Detroit Pistons. With incumbent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope set to become a restricted free agent, the Pistons could find a cheaper and potentially more gifted alternative in Kennard. The sharpshooter will fit head coach Stan Van Gundy’s vision of playing shooters around a big man in Drummond and provide a needed scoring punch for a team that was bogged down on offense far too much a season ago.

Kennard’s severe limitations on defense could be masked by third-year forward Stanley Johnson and help the former Blue Devil see substantial time on the court as a rookie. Considering the Pistons’ position in the NBA no-man’s land, Kennard would be a safe pick that could swing the team closer to contending for a spot in the playoffs.

Harry Giles: 17th, Milwaukee Bucks. Giles can expect to hear his name get tossed around near the back end of the lottery, but the big man will need a team with a substantial risk appetite to bite on him. Enter the organization that has opted for the unheralded Giannis Antetokounmpo and YouTube highlight-reel specialist Thon Maker in recent drafts. The Bucks have proven they’re willing to take a shot in the dark when it comes to the draft—expect them to give Giles serious consideration.

With forward Greg Monroe’s status up in the air, Giles would provide an alternative in the post in case Monroe decides to cut bait with the team. Considering the team’s glut at the forward position, Giles would not be forced onto the court right away, which should allow him time to continue getting back into game shape. The Bucks have showcased their ability to develop players, and Giles could be their next project.

Frank Jackson: 38th, Chicago Bulls. The point guard surprised people when he decided to enter the NBA Draft and may not get the result he imagined come Thursday. Although Jackson’s explosive first step and ability to hit 3-pointers make him an attractive prospect, the guard is physically limited at a time when 3-and-D players are growing more and more valuable. Jackson also enters the draft with considerable questions about his level of experience and could face a steep learning curve against more talented NBA defenders.

Landing with the Bulls would give Jackson the opportunity to learn from some of the best guards in the game in Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. Chicago showed its inability to stretch the floor a year ago, but adding Jackson could aid some of those concerns and give the team another skilled ball-handler to rely on.

The Lottery:

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn via Boston): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
  3. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia): Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
  4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
  5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia): De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
  6. Orlando Magic: Dennis Smith, Jr., G, N.C. State
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
  8. New York Knicks: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
  9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, G, France
  10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans): Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
  11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
  12. Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard, G, Duke
  13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
  14. Miami Heat: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

Ben Leonard

V. 113 Blue Zone Editor

Duke's Picks:

Jayson Tatum: 3rd, Boston Celtics. Even with Lonzo Ball still on the table after the Lakers make a surprise move and select Jackson, I think the Celtics will take the safer pick with Tatum. With reports that Los Angeles raised questions about Ball's conditioning, I see them jumping ship for Jackson’s defense—and ruining Boston’s plans to select Jackson.

The Celtics already have Isaiah Thomas at point guard, so the pick in this scenario has to be Tatum. Picking Tatum, a small forward, would allow Boston to trade for the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler because it would make Jae Crowder expendable—he was reportedly the "sticking point" in a potential deal in February. With Tatum pairing up with Butler and Thomas, Boston would have a young, athletic backcourt primed for a run at the NBA Finals.

Luke Kennard: 12th, Detroit Pistons. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting free agency, the Pistons need a scorer—and they'll look no further than Kennard. He’ll be a strong scorer in Detroit’s offense along with Andre Drummond, giving the Pistons much more upside at a lower cost than Caldwell-Pope.Even if they decide to keep Caldwell-Pope, he could be a strong weapon off the bench.

The Pistons need some offensive firepower in their backcourt—and they’ll be willing to avert their eyes from Kennard’s perceived defensive shortcomings to get it.

Harry Giles: 14th, Miami Heat. Given Giles’ checkered injury history, this pick might surprise Heat fans. But according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, Giles was "very impressive" in a workout last week in New York, showing "no real ill effects from his knee injuries."

Miami is looking for a piece to build around for the future alongside center Hassan Whiteside and will harp on Giles’ upside—even though he didn’t exactly impress in his lone season in Durham. His athleticism is what limited him at Duke—and since that’s reportedly back, it’s hard to see Miami passing on Giles.

Frank Jackson: 30th, Utah Jazz. A graduate of Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah, Jackson seems like a great fit for his hometown team, the Jazz. His stock has risen after a very impressive showing at the NBA Draft Combine, and his athleticism and scoring ability could be a boon for Utah. Although he started in less than half of Duke’s games last season, he could develop into a solid NBA player.

The Lottery:

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Brooklyn via Boston): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
  3. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia): Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
  4. Phoenix Suns: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
  5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia): De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
  6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
  8. New York Knicks: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
  9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith, G, N.C. State
  10. Sacramento Kings (From New Orleans): Frank Ntilikina, G, France
  11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga
  12. Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard, G, Duke
  13. Denver Nuggets: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
  14. Miami Heat: Harry Giles, F, Duke

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