Top-5 NBA draft predictions

Top-5 NBA draft predictions

By Tom Burton

DeKalb — The NBA Draft is approaching as struggling franchises have the opportunity to change their future, for better or for worse, with one draft selection. The NBA draft will take place 6 p.m. Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Philadelphia 76ers will have the first overall selection after a trade with the Boston Celtics Saturday.

In a trade with the Boston Celtics that finalized Saturday, the 76ers will receive the No. 1 overall pick from the Boston Celtics in exchange for the No.3 overall pick and first round picks in the 2018 and 2019 drafts. The 76ers have already announced they made this deal with the intent to select Markelle Fultz, University of Washington guard, with the first overall selection, according to Bleacher Report June 17.

In most drafts, there’s always one player who separates himself from the rest of the draft class. This year, that player is Fultz. In one season with Washington, Fultz appeared in 25 games and averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. The Washington Huskiesfinished with an overall record of 9-22 and 2-16 in the PAC 12, but it was not because of Fultz’s production on the court.

Fultz will be an interesting addition to a 76ers team who is on the rise with talented young players like center Joel Embiid, forward Dario Saric and forward Nerlens Noel, along with guard Ben Simmons, who will be returning from injury.

With Simmons back in the lineup as the likely starting point guard, Fultz should compliment him well in the backcourt. The 76ers are trending upward, and Fultz is the latest piece to the rebuild process.

Pick No. 2: Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball, guard, University of California-Los Angeles

One organization will have to deal with the risk-reward of Lonzo’s father, LaVar, when drafting Lonzo, but it is a risk that Magic Johnson, Lakers President of Basketball Operations and head coach Luke Walton will have to deal with. LaVar has proven he can be an off-court distraction with the things he has publically vocalized. However, Lonzo Ball is about as good as they come on the basketball court.

Ball led the UCLA Bruins to a 31-5 overall record and a trip to the sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament, as they fell to the University of Kentucky Wildcats 86-75 Mar. 24 to end their season. In one season with the Bruins, Ball averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 assists per game.

The Lakers will have to decide on a rotation with Ball as a member of the roster. Third-year guard D’Angelo Russell’s future remains the biggest question as to whether they should play him alongside Ball, bring him to the bench or trade him.

Both Lonzo and his father have repeatedly expressed interest in Lonzo joining the Lakers since before the UCLA season ended. Ball had a pre-draft workout with the Lakers and ‘didn’t blow them away,’ according to a June 12 Bleacher Report. The Lakers are hoping Fultz falls to them in the draft, but they’ll most likely settle for the consolation prize in Ball, considering the 76ers have announced they intend to select Fultz.

Pick No. 3: Boston Celtics* – Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas University

This is the point of the draft where things start to get interesting. Selections from this point will be based on team needs and best fits. In this case, an athletic forward like Jackson is a good fit for the the Celtics to go along with first-time all-star Isaiah Thomas and center Al Horford.

Boston is acquiring this pick from the 76ers in a trade that finalized Saturday. Jackson is one of the most versatile players in the draft on both ends of the floor. His athleticism allows him to create shots and driving lanes for himself. Even though he shot a respectable 37.8 percent from the 3-point line last season, his shooting can be improved on. Given this weakness, he is well suited to draw attention and create open shots for Boston’s plethora of shooters.

With the Celtics winning the Eastern Conference last season, adding a player like Jackson will make things interesting for them. The skilled roster they already have allows Jackson more time to develop under head coach Brad Stevens and it may be a few years before he becomes an impact player for the Celtics.

In 35 games with the Jayhawks, Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and led the team to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament, eventually losing to the Oregon Ducks 74-60 Mar. 25.

Pick No. 4: Phoenix Suns – Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke University

Tatum is similar to Jackson, with Jackson being slightly more NBA ready. Both players would fit well with either the Suns, but Tatum will likely find a home in the valley of the sun. Tatum appeared in 29 games for the Blue Devils and averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in an under-achieving season that saw Duke lose to South Carolina the NCAA tournament.

With a team that consisted of Tatum, freshman forward Harry Giles, junior guard Grayson Allen, among others, Tatum had a talented roster around him. However, he missed games due to injury in the beginning of the season and the team was never able to reach their full potential.

Tatum will fit nicely in Phoenix with their talented guards in Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, along with their center Alex Len. Phoenix is a young team with young players who need to develop, and Tatum fits that bill. He will likely need two or three years to grow his game to be NBA ready but has a high upside that the Suns should look forward to.

Pick No. 5: Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox, guard, University of Kentucky

Fox played in 36 games for the Wildcats and averaged 16.7 points and 4.6 assists in a season that saw them finish 29-5 and lose to the North Carolina Tar heels in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. Kentucky has arguably not seen a point guard with the playing style of Fox since Washinton Wizards guard John Wall in 2010.

Fox has a similar play style and draft profile as Wall did coming out of Kentucky – an explosive, versatile two-way player who struggles with his jump shot. Defenses had to respect the shooting of freshman guard Malik Monk and sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe, which gave Fox driving lanes to convert at the rim. Fox shot just under 25 percent from the 3-point line last season.

Wall got his 3-point percentage up to 35 percent in two seasons after shooting just over 29 percent in his rookie season and just over 7 percent in his sophomore season. If Fox builds on his weaknesses like Wall did, he is a solid pick and good for the Kings

The Sacramento Kings are moving on from the DeMarcus Cousins era after trading him to the New Orleans Pelicans. The best case-scenario for the Kings would be to get younger and start building through the draft, and Fox is a gamble and a good start to that process.