Now that the NCAA tournament has started we can go ahead and really start focusing on the NBA Draft considering that it only took a day or two to bust our brackets. Okay, you can watch how the tournament plays out; I’m just bitter I guess.
There’s always the chance that another star will go on some amazing run throughout their region, playing as if they were virtually unstoppable, proving their worth to scouts, and giving fans of NBA franchises hope. A perfect example would be Stephen Curry in 2008 for Davidson. That pick obviously worked out great for the Golden State Warriors. However, it also showcases highly-touted talent from big name programs, the recruits from the year before who made it perfectly clear they would be one and done.
Here is the problem: one and done doesn’t always work out. In fact, it rarely does if you consider how great the player actually thinks he is and how much pressure is put upon him by the media, owners, and fan bases. You know what is a great cure for that? Freakish athleticism and talent like LeBron James or experience like Tim Duncan. Not everyone has the former, but everyone can receive the latter. Some say no one is truly ready for the NBA out of college; I agree, but experience helps a player develop sooner, and if something happens then you have a degree to fall back on. If you’re one and done and don’t develop as hoped, then you’re in a pretty bad life position.
Let’s look at it this way: how many real superstars are there in the league compared to how many other players are on the team plus the amount of athletes who have passed through during those stars’ respective tenures. Feel free to do the math and research, but the percentage of picking a game-changer in the draft is not that high. Therefore, wouldn’t it be better for a player to be drafted based on where his talents fit best rather than being picked because he’s the best overall athlete, but never gets to play?
Since not everyone can play for the San Antonio Spurs and become a contributor no matter what, let’s take a look at the best fit for the top 15 draft choices (by projected draft order).
1. BOSTON CELTICS: JOSH JACKSON
The Boston Celtics are good. Why do they have the number one pick then? It’s because the New Jersey Nets are awful at basketball and putting together trades. The Celtics are in an incredible position, but almost all expert analysts have them selecting Markelle Fultz – except this one. Just kidding, I’m not an expert, but there is only one reason the Celtics should select Fultz and that is to trade him away – or even use their position as a bargaining chip. You see, everyone is looking for the next Isaiah Thomas right now, but the problem is that Isaiah Thomas already plays on the Celtics… as well as three other fairly decent point guards. Fultz is the overall best talent in the draft, but that doesn’t mean he will be a good fit for the Celtics. Josh Jackson would because he brings great perimeter defense to a tough-nosed squad, and can contribute on the offensive end. The freshman is averaging over 16 points a game – as long as he doesn’t get suspended again, he is the most-fitting number one pick if Boston chooses to keep the spot.
2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL
Lonzo Ball isn’t the best draft choice in the draft – or in the world no matter what his father believes. Come to think of it, because this is bound to be said soon, but, no, Mr. Ball, your other sons cannot enter the NBA draft yet. With that being said, the Los Angeles Lakers would be a great fit for the eldest Ball boy. First, the Lakers are a mess, so even if he doesn’t perform there will be distractions and people will direct their criticism elsewhere (cough cough, the front office). Second, Ball doesn’t play like a true point guard, and considering D’Angelo Russell doesn’t either, the two can develop together into a formidable backcourt – as long as their coached well, and as long as Russell isn’t traded. Third, Ball still gets to be close to his insane father in case he becomes homesick and misses the overwhelming encouragement that could very well ruin his career and life. Actually, I feel bad for the youngest Ball boy – just saying; you’ll see.
3. PHOENIX SUNS: MARKELLE FULTZ
Finally, the number one pick is taken off the board, just three spots too late. There’s no denying the fact that Markelle Fultz is an extraordinary talent; however, if a player is put into a position where he doesn’t fit, then that talent can potentially be wasted. It happens more times than none. The Suns need a floor general, and Eric Bledsoe has consistently not proven his gigantic worth over the years. The great thing about Fultz is that he’s a scoring point guard. Great, big whoop, so is every other point guard in the NBA for the most part. However, the difference is that he actually passes the ball as well which – and this is sad to have to say this – is what a point guard is supposed to do. He averages six assists a game, and if surrounded by NBA talent, his numbers will surely increase. My recommendation to Fultz, watch how John Wall plays the position and you should be fine – as will Phoenix.
4. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK
You know what’s pathetic? The Philadelphia 76ers have had lottery picks for what seems to be a good part of a decade and they still need a whole lot of help. Maybe if they stopped drafting centers because they’re the best available then they could possibly get somewhere worthwhile. How about someone who could score from the perimeter, create his own shots, and pass the ball inside. That player is Malik Monk. The NBA is a guard’s league – or a forward who can play like a guard’s league. The 76ers are in desperate need of a dynamic player who can stay healthy. Though I can’t guarantee his health, the Kentucky freshman can certainly score – averaging over 20 points a game – and he can step up when needed. Of course, a little more experience would be ideal, but that isn’t the 76er way. With that being said, Monk may be a good fit in Philadelphia.
5. ORLANDO MAGIC: DENNIS SMITH
The Orlando Magic need a lot, but it starts at the guard position. Aaron Gordon is a great player and fun to watch, but kind of in a Blake Griffin sort of way. In other words, he needs someone to make him look like a complete basketball player instead of just a highlight reel. Dennis Smith is a solid point guard: he’s strong, in control, and averages over 18 points and six assists a game. There will be a learning curve, and a few kinks to work out, but he will be ready to play. You know what would help with that? A couple more years in college playing in arguably the best conference, but hey, what do I know. The common denominator with the top five picks so far is that a point guard or shooting guard is needed – the exception being the Boston Celtics. I wonder why? Well, they have both, and they’re also contenders. Funny how picking players who fit your system works.
6. SACRAMENTO KINGS: JAYSON TATUM
The Sacramento Kings made a great decision at the trade deadline this year to send DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans. First off, the star power-forward is a nuisance. Second off, they pretty much received a lottery pick for him… in addition to this one. Jayson Tatum would fit great in their system, and they are in need of a lanky forward who can score and create shots like a guard. Tyreke Evans isn’t a true small forward and Rudy Gay is unfortunately aging as is Arron Afflalo. They already have guards on their roster who can play, and the addition of Tatum will help build a core nucleus with Willie Cauley-Stein in the middle. They may not be there at the moment, but two lottery picks will quickly bring success back to Sacramento like the days of J-Will, Bibby, Webber, Peja, and Divac. Man, it was heartbreaking those teams never went to the finals. Stupid Lakers.
7. NEW YORK KNICKS: JONATHAN ISSAC
The New York Knicks are as messed up as the Los Angeles Lakers at the moment. Well, let’s not go that far. At least the Knicks are probably one or two players away from making the playoffs… and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it will happen without Carmelo Anthony. Okay, it could happen without him, but we know he likes playing in New York, but we also know he likes money. It’s becoming Kristaps Porzingis’s team and eventually Anthony is going to need to be replaced. Jonathan Issac may not fill the void right away, but can develop into a key contributor for the Knicks. He only averages about 12 points and over seven rebounds a game, but he’s lanky and a force at the small forward position. The dynamic is changing in New York, and the players need to keep Spike Lee happy. Is it time to move on from Melo and give Porzingis some valuable role players?
8. SACRAMENTO KINGS: DE’AARON FOX
Okay, we mentioned that the Sacramento Kings have a plethora of guards earlier (not in those words), but maybe a true young point guard wouldn’t be a bad thing here. If teams focus on what they need instead of what they want then De’Aaron Fox should fall right into this spot (if the pesky Knicks don’t go the route of a point guard of course – which they very well could). Fox is a solid floor general, and tall for the point guard position, standing at 6’4”. He’s already a scorer, but if he can hit the gym and work on his distribution skills then the Kings will be in very good shape. The nice thing about a group of young guys (this sentence could totally go in an inappropriate direction) is that they can develop together. Unless you’re the Philadelphia 76ers of course. If the cards align for the Kings then the West better be on high alert in the near future.
9. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: FRANK NTILIKINA
Frank Ntilikina (or however you say his last name) is a 6’5” point guard from Brussels, and if he falls this far in the draft then the Minnesota Timberwolves should think about snagging the international standout. Didn’t they do that recently? Yes, but has Ricky Rubio really been the answer in Minnesota? They’ve surrounded him with talent, but they just can’t get over that hump. That’s nothing against Rubio, but perhaps it’s time to move on because the process has taken too long. Ntilikina is a lanky scorer who can play great defense as well. Of course, there is always a learning curve moving from international play to the NBA, but if a player is put in the right system at the right time then a lot of good things could happen. The Timberwolves are also about a player away from making the playoffs in the loaded West so this could be the start of something great. Will we ever see a Kings-Wolves Western Conference Final? Maybe, who knows? I think it would be pretty cool.
10. DALLAS MACERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN
Umm, duh. Isaiah Hartenstein is a 7-foot German dude and we know how much the Dallas Mavericks like that sort of player. Dirk Nowitski is a Hall-of-Famer when he hangs his shoes up without a doubt, but he is aging and his play is declining. Essentially, the Mavericks need to draft his replacement now. Hartenstein isn’t the most well-known player in the draft, but he is a solid international player. He plays great in the post and above the rim, but creates incredible matchup problems for players on the perimeter. I know, I know, we’ve heard this description about players in the past who haven’t panned out, but the forward is very strong and solid. He needs some coaching and maturity, but if approached in the right way, he could develop into a star. However, it could backfire. It’s a gamble (draft lottery, I get it), but if he were to succeed somewhere, it would be in Dallas.
11. CHARLOTEE BOBCATS: ROBERT WILLIAMS
The Charlotte Hornets are another team that is a player away from becoming a nuisance in the East. I wouldn’t say a contender as of yet, but definitely a club that can cause some problems. They have great guard play led by Kemba Walker and are young in the frontcourt. Robert Williams would fit great in this spot. The power forward – though undersized – is solid and physical. He may be a good strong small forward in the NBA that can create some mismatches though; however, that also applies to him. If the Hornets can get a little bigger on the block and on the wing then that would be a great move in the right direction for a team ready to blossom. The pressure playing under Michael Jordan’s watch is intimidating, but it could also be flattering to be selected, claiming that he wanted him the most. Whatever helps you sleep at night, but make sure you perform on the court. Expectations are high in Charlotte… that’s why they stole their name back.
12. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: MILES BRIDGES
What happened to the Portland Trail Blazers this year? They are currently on the outside looking in regarding the Western Conference playoff picture, but even if they claim the eighth spot they will be rewarded with the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs. “Thanks a lot,” says no one without sarcasm. They have one of the best backcourts in a the game with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, so a solid forward is needed and Miles Bridges fits perfectly if he falls into their laps. His athleticism will bring an immediate impact, as will his rebounding and kick-outs to the two terrific guards running up the court. Like Robert Williams, he could be a matchup problem for a smaller guard, or he could be matched-up poorly with a bigger forward. He does go to Michigan State as did Draymond Green. Perhaps he can turn into a clone of his fellow Spartan.
13. CHICAGO BULLS: LAURI MARKKANEN
Remember earlier when I said it was a guard’s league? And then remember when I recently just started listing forwards to draft? Well, it either shows that maybe it’s actually not a guard’s league or that it is and teams are just set at that position. Or you just didn’t remember or notice me mentioning or doing any of that nonsense. Either way works for me. Lauri Markkanen is from Finland, but plays at the University of Arizona. He’s a 7-footer who can stroke the 3-ball, and he leads the nation in half-court scoring efficiency. He struggles a tad in the post, but can stretch the defense. The Chicago Bulls have some decisions to make regarding Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo, but perhaps it’s time to officially make the team Jimmy Butler’s and provide him with some young players that will unselfishly work with the All-Star. Can he be considered a foreign bust even though he plays college ball in the United States? The point is moot because he may not be a bust.
14. MIAMI HEAT: JUSTIN JACKSON
With Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters in the backcourt, and Hassan Whiteside in the middle, the Miami Heat are in a good position to become contenders in the near future which shows how well the front office has done with the transition from the Big 3. A swing-forward such as Justin Jackson would be great in this spot. The North Carolina junior has done the smart thing by staying in school and developing his game under great coaching and competition in the ACC. The Heat can always find another guard later in the draft to back up their backcourt stars. Jackson can immediately have an impact off the bench or perhaps even in the starting lineup with his perimeter shooting, scoring ability, and high basketball-intelligence. See, it pays to stay in school. Maybe if he stayed for his senior season he could add a little muscle, but if he does decide to leave for the NBA he would be a great fit in South Beach.
15. DENVER NUGGETS: TERRANCE FERGUSON
The Denver Nuggets don’t need any more players to develop, but unfortunately, you have to do something with your draft choices. Of course, they could trade it away, but why not just overflow your system? It’s the NBA; everyone makes bad decisions. If they were to choose someone then Terrance Ferguson would fit well with this mid-round pick. He’s an international player, but American-born. He’s kind of the reverse of Lauri Markkanen. Considering most players in the Nuggets’ system seem to be foreign then this fits the bill. Ferguson is still a risk because his decision to forego college ball is just one step worse from one-and-done, but he has good size for his position, has a deadly jump shot, and can play outstanding defense. Fortunately, the Nuggets need all of those attributes. They’re kind of an enigma: they shouldn’t be in the playoff picture on paper, but they are, so they’re building a core that works well together. You know how else does that? The Spurs. You know what’s crazy? Comparing the two without laughing.