The 2017 NBA Draft only held one big surprise. This was Jimmy Butler and the rights to Justin Patton (Creighton) being traded to Minnesota in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the rights to Lauri Markkanen (Arizona). It is fair to say that Chicago just willingly entered a rebuild stage, while the Timberwolves became an immediate playoff team in the West. Other than that trade, there were no blockbuster deals involving top 10 picks and/or superstars.
This article will rank the top five drafts by teams. The criteria is: skill of players selected, amount of picks, value picks (players picked lower than expected), as well as picks that fill a position of need.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were able to significantly add to every dimension of their team. They added Point Guard Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Power Forward Kyle Kuzma (Utah), Shooting Guard Josh Hart (Villanova), and Center Thomas Bryant (Indiana). With three first round picks (selections 2, 27, and 30) and a second round pick (42), Los Angeles was able to maximize their talent through the draft.
Ball will start immediately, and Hart gives the Lakers an immediate boost off of the bench as a jack of all trades type Shooting Guard behind Jordan Clarkson. With Julius Randle and Brook Lopez both expected to become free agents after next season, Kuzma and Bryant give the Lakers good talent and potential at the 4 and 5. The talent acquired, along with the value of Bryant, the quantity of picks, and how well the Lakers filled their needs puts them at the top spot here.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers were able to draft the best prospect in Markelle Fultz (Washington) as well as acquiring other first round talent. They acquired the rights to number 25 overall pick Anzejs Pasecniks (Latvia) from Orlando in exchange for a future first rounder. The 76ers also snagged Power Forward Mathias Lessort (France) with the 50th pick in the draft.
The 76ers also got a solid ball handler in Fultz, who can play off the ball as Ben Simmons develops as a Point Guard. They also get two solid bigs to develop behind Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in Anzejs Pasecniks and Mathias Lessort. Not only did Philly improve their starting lineup with Fultz, they also helped their supporting cast behind Saric and Embiid, both of whom are 2017 rookie of the year candidates.
3. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers started out the night with three first round picks (selections 15, 20, and 26). Early into the draft, Portland traded picks 15 and 20 in exchange for pick 10 from Sacramento. With this pick the Blazers selected Center Zach Collins (Gonzaga) and with the 26th pick in the draft the Trail Blazers selected Power Forward Caleb Swanigan (Purdue). These were Portland’s only two picks for the entire draft.
Even though their amount of selections were limited, both players fill a major need as well as being solid first round talents. The Trail Blazers were 28th in the NBA last year in points generated by the frontcourt, as most of their offense came from Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. Besides injury-prone Jusuf Nurkic, the Trail Blazers have no quality players to start at the 4 or 5. Both Collins and Swanigan have good frames and physical abilities, that will allow them to be great starters for the Trail Blazers in a year or two.
4. Boston Celtics
The Celtics selected Jayson Tatum (Duke) with the third overall pick in the draft. The 6’8″ Small Forward will allow coach Brad Stevens to put him at the 4 while positions 1-3 are mixed and match with a slew of Celtics guards. The Celtics also picked Small Forward Semi Ojeleye (SMU), Point Guard Kadeem Allen (Arizona), and Shooting Guard Jabari Bird (Cal). Ojeleye was considered by most to be a top 25 pick, so him falling to the Celtics at the 37 spot is a great value pick.
It is always tough for a put together team that just recently had the best record in the Eastern Conference to actually improve in the draft and find players that will be all-stars for them in the future, though it did help that the Celtics occupied the 3rd overall pick from the Brooklyn Nets. Assuming that both Allen and Bird do not make a roster spot, Tatum and Ojeleye both give Boston first round talent with great shooting ability and physical traits.
5. Sacramento Kings
One of the youngest teams in the NBA just got a bit younger. They selected Point Guard De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Small Forward Justin Jackson (North Carolina), Center Harry Giles (Duke), and Point Guard Frank Mason III (Kansas). All of these picks were inside the top 34 selections.
This now means that 7 of the 60 of the first round selections the past two years are in Sacramento, as Fox, Jackson, and Giles join Buddy Hield, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, and Skal Labissiere. The Kings will have the most cap space of any NBA team this offseason as the 10+ million a year contracts of Small Forwards Rudy Gay and Tyreke Evans both expire. If Frank Mason III makes the roster, the Kings will have most of their roster (8 out of 15 spots) occupied by first or second year players.
What lands the Kings at this spot on the list is the young talent they have been able to acquire the past two years, as its quantity is very high on their roster. This draft also gives them significant depth and starters that have very high ceilings as prospects.