The lead up to the 2017 NBA draft has been one of the most uncertain in recent memory. The Boston Celtics already traded out of the No. 1 overall pick and might be preparing for more moves, while there are a handful (if not more) of All-Star-caliber players being discussed in trades.
What we (think we) know: The Philadelphia 76ers will take Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick. The Los Angeles Lakers will select Lonzo Ball at No. 2.
After that? No one seems to know what’s going on. The Celtics could pick at No. 3, package that as part of a bigger deal for another player or trade back once again.
With so many young players in a relatively similar talent range, there’s also a lot of uncertainty about where players could fall. Most of the players in the top-10 range could see their names anywhere from No. 4-10, or even fall into the late lottery if things go poorly.
Let’s take a look at two notable selections from Chad Ford of ESPN’s latest mock and try to parse what’s going on.
3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
The Celtics hold all the cards after the top two picks but face something of a crossroads. They were not able to get Kansas’ Josh Jackson in for a workout, first because it appeared he had no chance to go No. 1 and then later because the timing never fit.
“They did a little bit of moving around with their pick,” Jackson said, per ESPN.com. “I felt like they made it pretty clear who they were going to draft with the No. 1 pick, so I didn’t really feel like it was worth either of our times for me to work out with them. But then when they, you know, did the flip and went to No. 3, by then it was too late.”
It will likely come down to the Celtics then picking Jackson sight unseen or going with Tatum, who might wind up fitting better in the long term. Jackson is a defense-first swingman who struggles to create his own shot and has an in-progress jumper—the exact same type of player Boston selected last year in Jaylen Brown.
Tatum, while not spectacular at any one thing, projects as a good offensive wing who can stretch the floor and score in bunches in certain situations. The Duke product will need to hit on better than 34.2 percent of his threes to really make an impact in the pros, but he’s a better fit offensively for a team that’s already packed with defense-first wings.
4. Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
The logical conclusion here would be that if Boston doesn’t take Jackson, then Phoenix would. That doesn’t appear to be the case, though, as Ford has the Suns passing on Jackson and taking De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky.
Fox has been a rising prospect on most draft boards since his spectacular March, which included a head-to-head waxing of Ball in the Sweet 16. He comes from John Calipari’s “Point Guard U”, which has produced an ever-growing list of NBA starting point guards.
One of those is Eric Bledsoe, the incumbent in Phoenix whose days would apparently be numbered upon Fox’s arrival. The Suns like second-year guard Tyler Ulis (another Kentucky product) as a backup and might look to trade Bledsoe and move forward with a Fox-Devin Booker (Kentucky again) backcourt.
Bledsoe averaged 21.1 points, 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. Still, he missed 16 games and has missed at least that many in three of his four years in Phoenix. With only two years remaining on his deal, the Suns might look to make a trade now and recoup some value before he hits free agency.
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
The Knicks have been nothing short of a mess over the last 72 hours, with the Kristaps Porzingis drama unfolding on almost a minutely basis. We have no clue at this juncture whether the Knicks will pick here, somewhere else or wind up with two top-10 selections.
If they stick here and Porzingis is still a Knick, Ntilikina feels like a fine fit from a talent perspective. It’s possible he winds up being the second- or third-best point guard in this class. He’s a pass-first point guard who can move with or without the ball, and, more importantly, seems to like the triangle.
“It’s a good system with a lot of rules and placement,” Ntilikina said of the triangle, per Scott Cacciola of the New York Times. “But the game I play with my team back in France is very similar to this game. I think it would be great for me to end up here.”
At this point, the Knicks should try to acquire anyone who is willing to fit in their system.
Chad Ford Top 20
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
4. Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
5. Sacramento Kings: Josh Jackson, F, Kansas
6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, G, France
9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith, G, N.C. State
10. Sacramento Kings: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
11. Charlotte Hornets: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
12. Detroit Pistons: Luke Kennard, G, Duke
13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anuoby, F, Indiana
14. Miami Heat: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
15. Portland Trail Blazers: Harry Giles, F, Duke
16. Chicago Bulls: John Collins, F, Wake Forest
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Etrice Adebayo, C, Kentucky
18. Indiana Pacers: Ike Anigogu, C, UCLA
19. Atlanta Hawks: Justin Patton, C, Creighton
20. Portland Trail Blazers: T.J. Leaf, F, UCLA
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com