The 2017 NBA Draft was all we were hoping for and more (for the most part). The big night itself didn’t give us the Paul George trade we were all expecting, but there was plenty of drama, plenty of excitement and a few surprises along the way.
Somewhat unsurprisingly Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball went first and second overall to the Philadelphia 76ers and L.A. Lakers respectively, whilst the Boston Celtics went with Jayson Tatum over Josh Jackson (who wound up in Phoenix) and the Sacramento Kings (yes, the Kings) snagged a new franchise cornerstone in the making in De’Aaron Fox.
And yet it was the Minnesota Timberwolves who stole the show, trading Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the No. 7 overall pick for Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 overall pick.
To find out what our contributors made of that and so much more read on…
Best pick: The best pick was Malik Monk by the Charlotte Hornets, as they got an absolute steal. Monk was my fourth best player in the draft and while this is probably too high for many, I feel he can become a combo guard at the next level. Him and Kemba Walker will absolutely terrorise defenses next season, and when you add Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard to that equation, the Hornets suddenly look like a good team thanks to their exploits last night.
Worst pick: The worst pick in the draft was Bam Adebayo by the Miami Heat, and I have absolutely no idea what they are thinking. The Heat already have an elite rim protector in Hassan Whiteside, and Adebayo does not have the range to become a stretch four, so he looks like a weird fit in Miami. I won’t doubt Pat Riley, but this pick has left a lot of Heat fans very confused.
Biggest surprise: The biggest surprise to me was how far Ivan Rabb fell in this draft. Rabb was projected as a lottery pick last year, and he probably should have gone a lot earlier than 35th overall. Rabb’s fall from grace was largely covered by the media before the draft, but I still thought that his reputation and upside would have gotten him selected inside the top 20.
Biggest steal: My biggest steal was Ivan Rabb, as I feel he is a great fit in what David Fizdale is trying to do in Memphis. Rabb was one of my favorite prospects, and I feel that an expansion out to three-point range is easily realistic for him as he has a nice mid-range stroke. Rabb was a player teams were clearly avoiding, but he will have a lot of space in Memphis due to the attention Marc Gasol draws, and he might become the replacement for Zach Randolph due to the Grizzlies perilous cap situation.
Personal highlight: The personal highlight for me was quite clearly my Timberwolves acquiring Jimmy Butler, and I am still in utter disbelief that we managed to get him. A lot of credit has to go to the late Flip Saunders, as he hit a home run with the selection of Zach LaVine, and this is what allowed us to acquire Jimmy Butler. I haven’t seen the Timberwolves in a playoff game in my seven years following them, and I am so happy that this is about to change.
Best pick: Markelle Fultz, as the Sixers seemingly never ending “Process” has reached a near conclusion and the team’s core is set for the future.
Worst pick: The Denver Nuggets selecting Tyler Lydon. I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. Someone please explain the thought process here in a logical fashion, because as far as I can tell there really ain’t one.
Biggest surprise: The Kings not being the Kings and doing something completely stupid.
Biggest steal: Malik Monk falling to the Hornets at that spot. Gives the Hornets the exciting, free scoring talent they sorely need.
Personal highlight: The Suns drafting Josh Jackson. He’s the perfect combination of best player available and best fit for the future of the franchise.
Overall winner: The Timberwolves for overall drafting and the absolute fleecing of Chicago to acquire Jimmy Butler. The Bulls entire front office should seek employment elsewhere.
Best pick: For me the best pick was undoubtedly Lonzo Ball to the Lakers. He has the most upside of any player in this year’s draft, he does pretty much everything well offensively and has arguably the best passing game to come into the league in at least the last decade. His presence and willingness to share the ball will elevate the play of teammates, plus he gets to learn from one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game.
Worst pick: I hate to say this being a Nuggets fan, but their selection of Tyler Lydon, having traded down and acquiring Trey Lyles, made very little sense. It has come to light that Nuggets president Tim Connelly had a trade agreed with Phoenix before they backed out (likely for Eric Bledsoe), and whilst I love getting Lyles from Utah, picking Lydon just added to an already crowded PF rotation of Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur and Mason Plumlee. It was a panic move in my opinion.
Biggest surprise: For me the biggest surprise was how expertly Vlade Divac and the Kings front office handled the draft. They selected De’Aron Fox at 5, then traded the 10th pick with Portland to acquire picks 15 and 20, which landed them Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. Both Fox and Jackson should immediately contribute to the Kings, Giles is a slight risk (given his health problems), but at 20, having already selected two lottery talent players, he was a risk worth taking.
Biggest steal: OG Anunoby HAS to be considered the steal of the draft. He was a guy who people projected to go as high as Denver at 13, yet somehow managed to slip to the Toronto Raptors at 23. Anunoby now gets to join a playoff team, sit on the bench and develop his offensive game. He basically allows the Raptors to let P.J. Tucker walk in free agency and spend that money elsewhere.
Personal highlight: If you follow me on Twitter or have heard me talk on the podcast, you’ll know I’m very much a fan of international prospects. So for me seeing so many Europeans selected to teams and situations where they could get minutes sooner rather than later was great. Markkanen and Ntilikina in the lottery was expected, but then seeing the likes of Pasecniks, Hartenstein, Cancar, Lessort, Vezenkov, Jaramaz and Kaba all being selected was worth staying up until stupid o’clock for.
Overall winner: I’ll keep this short and sweet: it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves. They managed to package the no. 7 pick with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and turn that into Jimmy Butler and the no. 16 pick. That’s as one-sided a trade as we’ve seen in recent years. Tom Thibodeau had himself a fantastic night. If the ‘Wolves aren’t your LeaguePass team this season, they should be.
Best pick: I was hot on Zach Collins on all year, and in a recent mock draft I took part in, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way for him to end up in Portland. When the Kings traded down for the 15th and 20th picks I was elated as Portland came away with a far better deal in my mind. Now my dreams are a reality, a frontcourt duo of Nurkic and Collins just looks way too good. Collins represents what today’s ideal stretch-4 should look like and brings some much needed rim-protection to Portland’s roster. It will be a lot of fun to see how he develops.
Worst pick: I’m sorry, but I don’t think there was a worse pick than the Bulls taking Lauri Markannen at no. 7. This is no attempt at scorn on Markannen’s part, as I think he has the potential to be great, but taking him so high was a bit of a reach considering who was still on the board. You also have to factor in that the Bulls traded away JIMMY FREAKING BUTLER and the 16th pick, for Lavine, Dunn and the draft rights to Markannen. The Bulls got absolutely fleeced.
Biggest surprise: As much as you could argue that picks 3-12 were anyone’s guess, Malik Monk dropping to 11 was a big surprise. The majority of draft boards had Monk going around the 5-8 range, so to see him slip all the way to the Hornets at 11 was not something we expected. In Bill Simmons podcast with Joe House, they talked about guys who were taken late in the draft going onto playing with a chip on their shoulder. Monk has something to prove and it’s likely he’ll carve out quite the name for himself in Charlotte.
Biggest surprise: On many mock draft boards, OG Anunoby was projected to be taken around the 15-20 range. The Raptors landing him at 23 was a great pickup, as he was undoubtedly the best player still on the board. Although an erratic shooter, Anunoby will slide into a role where he is not required to be relied upon for his offense. His defensive prowess will mean he will see quality minutes as a stopper for the Raptors. Still only 19, OG could in time become the 3-and-D guy that Toronto have been longing for.
Personal highlight: Love him or loathe him, you can’t say that Lavar Ball isn’t entertaining. I love Lavar just because his ridiculousness is exactly what we need at events such as these events. His donning a gaudy Lakers Big Baller Brand cap and announcing “I knew this was happening before it was happening!” after Lonzo was taken by the Lakers at no. 2, was my unrivaled highlight of the 2017 draft – never change Lavar!
Overall winners: The process is over. The 76ers got their “do everything” guard to team up with their already young core of Simmons, Embiid and Saric. The team’s development will be unquestionably reliant on the health of both bigs, but the pieces are now in place for the 76ers to finally start winning. Even if injuries do further derail the careers of Simmons and Embiid, the Sixers will still have Fultz as their cornerstone to pull the team out of the NBA’s no man’s land.
Best pick: In Markelle Fultz, Philly have drafted a guard who will serve as the ideal complement to what was seemingly an ever-expanding front court. Fultz provides the perfect combination of playmaking and scoring to support the existing young core of Simmons, Embiid and Saric. Factoring out injury concerns, the 76ers could have a basketball dynasty on their hands. Just don’t make me call them the ‘FEDS’!
Worst pick: While Michigan power forward D.J. Wilson should become a productive player in the league, Wake Forest’s John Collins may have been a better pick for Milwaukee at no. 17. One of the best big men in a guard-heavy draft, Collins posted averages of 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last year, and would have provided immediate production for the Bucks.
Biggest surprise: It’s a toss up between the Knicks not Knick-ing and the Kings making some solid draft selections. I’m going to go with Sacramento here. At no. 5 the lightning quick point guard De’Aaron Fox has franchise-altering potential. The Kings followed this with a surprisingly shrewd move – turning pick no. 10 into Justin Jackson and Harry Giles at no. 15 and no. 20 respectively. With Rudy Gay set to become a free agent this summer, ACC Player of the Year Jackson fills a hole at small forward, while Duke power forward Giles has shown occasional flashes of what made him the nation’s top-ranked high school prospect, and could be remembered as one of the steal’s of the 2017 draft if he remains healthy.
Biggest steal: OG Anunoby. While he may be a raw talent offensively, Anunoby has the potential to become the 3-and-D wing that Terrence Ross never was for Toronto. He will be able to provide an instant impact on the defensive end, using his athleticism, speed and 7’2” wingspan to slow down perimeter players and at 232 pounds, he’ll be able to hold his own in the post. Good luck scoring on this guy.
Personal highlight: Getting past pick no. 4 without seeing a Kristaps Porzingis trade. After a couple of Woj bombs, it looked increasingly likely that Porzingis would be leaving Madison Square Garden for Phoenix or Boston. It seems that Knicks President Phil Jackson’s asking price was too high, and rightly so. Look for Porzingis to make strides towards fulfilling his All-Star potential next season.
Overall winner: The Minnesota Timberwolves have added three time All-Star Jimmy Butler to their exciting young duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, forming one of the most exciting trios in the NBA. The T-Wolves will be strong contenders for the title of most-improved team next season.
Best pick: As it should be, the best pick in the 2017 NBA Draft was also the first pick in the in the 2017 NBA Draft. Markelle Fultz is a do-it-all guard who can score at all three levels and has the physical tools to become one of the top two-way players in the league. For the 76ers, Fultz may be the spark plug to really get the process going.
Worst pick: There must be something in the air up in the mile high city. The Denver Nuggets not only whiffed on their chance at nabbing one of the star players rumored to be on the block, but they also turned a lottery pick into Trey Lyles and Tyler Lydon. Not only do both of these guys bring similar tools to the table, they’re not particularly good tools. Stretch-4’s whose defense renders them unplayable in most crunch time scenarios.
Biggest surprise: After a tough start to the year Portland made a mid-season trade to bring in Jusuf Nurkic, who thrived as a playmaking center for the Trailblazers down the stretch. With an abundance of assets going into the draft and rumors of Damian Lillard urging the front office to make a splash, Neil Olshey made a move to get into the precious top 10, and selected Zach Collins. I’m a fan of Collins but his fit and value at no. 10 raise some eyebrows, with many mocks pegging him to be available with the Blazers original pick at no. 15.
Biggest steal: I reluctantly expected him to drop outside of the top 10, but the Charlotte Hornets got a top-5 talent in Malik Monk at no. 12. With his outside shooting and ability to get NBA Jam-level hot, at worst Monk projects to be an electrifying sixth man and in the infamous words of the GOAT himself, at best “the ceiling is the roof”.
Personal highlight: As the night wore on, I perked up in my seat and watched with excitement as my beloved Toronto Raptors selected OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick in the NBA Draft. The NBA Draft. A night where lifelong dreams are fulfilled with a simple call of a name by the Commissioner. After sharing a slightly awkward handshake with Adam Silver, OG walked off the stage to answer the first of many probing questions from the media: “What are you going to do now, how are you going to celebrate the rest of the evening?” So what does a 20 year old do following this life-changing moment? Party it up with friends? Drinks with Jay-Z? Late night shopping spree with your newly acquired millions? Without hesitation; “Get some cheesecake”. Never change OG!
Overall winner: Winner and Sacramento are not words an NBA fan expects to see in the same sentence, but the Kings suddenly have a clear direction and are clicking reset on the old Kings culture. Throughout the entirety of the Demarcus Cousins era, Sacramento has been a toxic dump of off-court issues. In De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson the Kings got two of the most likable high-character guys in the draft. Fox projects to be the franchise point guard that the team has been pining for since the glory of the early 2000’s and Harry Giles has shown just enough glimpses to get you excited for what promises to be a new era of Sacramento Kings basketball.
Best pick: I love that the Sacramento Kings finally got it right on draft night by taking De’Aron Fox with the 5th overall pick. Whilst he has problems with his shot, he’s an exciting, athletic player who will certainly push the pace in Sacramento. And he has the potential to become a franchise player, even if it does take a few seasons for that to happen.
Worst pick: I find it hard to believe that the Bulls took Markkanen at no. 7 after trading Jimmy Butler. That’s not to say he’s a bad player, in fact he’s a great shooter, especially for his size. But it feels as if there were better options on the table when they made their choice, even if those options (Dennis Smith Jr. for instance) felt like a bad fit with what they’d acquired.
Biggest surprise: It’s the Jimmy Butler trade, as whilst I saw him being moved, I didn’t expect to see him go to the Timberwolves. Especially not for pretty much the same package they offered last time they tried to prise him away fro Chicago. Whichever way you look at it the Bulls were fleeced, and it’s hard to believe they couldn’t have got a better package for him, even if that involved waiting until next season’s trade deadline.
Biggest steal: For me it has to be Malik Monk going to the Hornets at no. 11, as he could realistically have gone as high as no. 3. Monk’s athletic, can shoot and should be able to make an impact right away for Charlotte, most probably by coming off the bench.
Personal highlight: It has to be De’Aron Fox whipping open his jacket onstage to reveal the lining of his NBA Draft suit had been custom made with breast cancer awareness ribbons in honor of his mother Lorraine, a 21-year breast cancer survivor.
Overall winner: Given the depth of this draft there were so many, but it’s virtually impossible not to say the Timberwolves. They did, after all, add one of the league’s best two-way players to a roster that already features Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio. Whilst it’s way too early to make the kind of proclamations about this team people are already making the internet over, this team is going to be fun to watch next year and should make the playoffs – something ‘wolves fans have been waiting years for.
Sean is the site's resident hoops historian, exploring some of the NBA's most significant moments through the 'Step Back' series. He's also written for Fansided's Orlando Magic Daily and the Last Word on Sports network.