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Re-drafting the 2017 NBA draft class poses some interesting questions.
How much stock should your general manager put into Donovan Mitchell’s hot start versus Josh Jackson’s early struggles? Is Kyle Kuzma suddenly a more valuable prospect than Jonathan Isaac?
When forced to make a decision, does a GM stick with his original scouting evaluation, or can two-and-a-half months of game film change his mind?
We took last year’s final first-round order (after trades) and re-drafted the class that originally featured Markelle Fultz going No. 1. Would he still go first if the Philadelphia 76ers had a do-over?
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Original pick at No. 1: Markelle Fultz
Fultz still could wind up being the top player from the 2017 draft class, but Jayson Tatum has already proved himself. And since Ben Simmons thrives as a ball-handler, it doesn’t make as much sense for the Philadelphia 76ers to add Fultz, who’s most effective and familiar at the point rather than standing around the arc.
Shooting 50.8 percent overall and 47.1 percent from three-point range, Tatum has shown he can adapt and score without needing to be his team’s focal point. He’s third on the Boston Celtics averaging 14.1 points, but he’s sixth in field-goal attempts per game.
The Sixers should be able to use Tatum and Robert Covington together at the forward positions. He’d start off playing a complementary shot-making role, but over time, Tatum could become the team’s featured wing scorer, adding more balance to the lineup while giving it a second go-to option behind Joel Embiid.
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Original pick at No. 2: Lonzo Ball
Given Donovan Mitchell’s hot start and explosive athleticism that points to even more upside down the road, many will be calling for the Lakers to select him here. But Markelle Fultz can’t be written off through four games, particularly since he was playing with a bum shoulder.
The only college player in 25 years to average at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds while shooting north of 40 percent from three, Fultz was the consensus top prospect entering the draft. He’s a complete package with even more playmaking potential to offer than Mitchell.
He also won’t turn 20 until the end of May, while Mitchell is already 21. And though Lonzo Ball looked more comfortable in December, there are questions about his upside as a scorer and how it can affect his value as a lead guard.
It’s premature to sour on Fultz after only 76 regular-season minutes. He physically hasn’t been able to use the top weapon in his bag. Assuming his shoulder pain subsides and his jumper returns, Fultz will stick above Mitchell and Ball on the Los Angeles Lakers’ re-draft board.
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Original pick at No. 3: Jayson Tatum
The Boston Celtics still pick at No. 3 in the re-draft after trading No. 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers, but Tatum isn’t available this time. Instead, they’ll grab Donovan Mitchell to pair with Kyrie Irving, forming one of the league’s most potent backcourts.
Already averaging 18.2 points with a high of 41 against the New Orleans Pelicans, Mitchell has been the talk of the 2017 class. He’s torching defenses with microwave shooting, nifty handles and drives and explosive finishes above the rim.
Seven other guards went before him in the real draft after he shot 40.8 percent as a sophomore at Louisville. He suddenly looks more comfortable with the NBA’s space and a green light from Utah’s coaching staff.
Brad Stevens likely would also find a way to get the most out of Mitchell, who’s a surprising yet legitimate competitor in the 2018 Rookie of the Year race.
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Original pick at No. 4: Josh Jackson
Despite shooting 34.9 percent entering the new year, Lonzo Ball won’t fall far down the Phoenix Suns’ re-draft board.
He’s looked more comfortable in December, averaging 12.2 points and shooting 37.7 percent from three-point range to go along with the six-plus assists and rebounds he’s consistently collected from Day 1.
The Suns would mostly value his mind and leadership at the point. And given Ball’s scoring limitations, Devin Booker would seem like an ideal complementary 2-guard next to him.
Josh Jackson hasn’t been convincing, posting a league-worst real plus-minus among 463 eligible players. Phoenix takes Ball to improve its 26th-ranked offense and help expedite the development of sophomore big men Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender.
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Original pick at No. 5: De’Aaron Fox
Fox could still blossom into a quality starter, but Kyle Kuzma already is one. He would also fill a position of need for the Sacramento Kings.
Averaging 17.5 points, Kuzma ranks among the top 40 league-wide in scoring, ahead of Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, Nikola Vucevic and Ben Simmons. He just hit the 38-point mark in his 28th regular-season game.
Everything about Kuzma’s start on offense—from his production to his versatility—has looked convincing. He’s fueling that success with sharp ball skills, footwork and shot-making ability.
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Original pick at No. 6: Jonathan Isaac
The Orlando Magic finally found their franchise power forward: Aaron Gordon. Knowing that, it makes sense to fill another hole instead of doubling up with Jonathan Isaac, who’s also best at the 4 and has struggled to stay healthy through three months.
Even with Elfrid Payton playing well, the 12.6 points per game for a fourth-year lead guard aren’t enough—especially with Dennis Smith Jr. available and Payton’s contract up after the season.
The light has flickered with Smith, but the big games—like his recent 21-point triple-double against the New Orleans Pelicans—are what Orlando buys into. Just 20 years old, Smith has already proved himself capable of going toe-to-toe with the big names at a star-heavy position.
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Original pick at No. 7: Lauri Markkanen
The Chicago Bulls won’t do anything different in a re-draft. They’ll take Lauri Markkanen again with the pick they received from the Jimmy Butler trade.
The emergence of Kris Dunn makes it less likely they’d take De’Aaron Fox or Frank Ntilikina.
Between his run-and-jump fluidity, spot-up shooting and ability to separate and convert off the dribble, Markkanen has fit in quickly. The fact that he’s averaging 14.7 points while shooting below 35 percent from three-point range speaks to his scoring versatility.
Even after 34 games, it seems obvious Markkanen’s three-point numbers will only rise from here. He’s on track to become a 20-point-per-game weapon after a few years in the league, which isn’t something Chicago will pass on at No. 7.
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Original pick at No. 8: Frank Ntilikina
Ntilikina is slowly earning approval in New York, but OG Anunoby would as well if the Knicks took him in a re-draft. He’d bring the same defensive potential, but with more athleticism and three-point shooting.
A wild card entering the real draft after having played so little as a freshman before hurting his knee last year, Anunoby has caught on quickly in the NBA. He has already established himself as a key player in the rotation for the East’s No. 2 team, the Toronto Raptors.
The major development: He’s averaging 1.3 threes per game at a 41.5 percent clip after he made just 27 total triples in 50 career games at Indiana.
Between Anunoby’s shooting improvement and defensive upside, which is powered by a remarkable mix of size, strength, length and quickness, the Knicks could use his three-and-D prowess between Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis.
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Original pick at No. 9: Dennis Smith Jr.
With Dennis Smith Jr. off the board, the Dallas Mavericks now look at De’Aaron Fox as their next starting point guard.
Compared to Smith, the bar should be set lower in terms of NBA-readiness. Fox has struggled to shoot and efficiently facilitate for teammates. But at No. 9, the gamble is still worth the risk, considering he’s only 20 years old and his speed and athleticism remain intact.
He has also had to adjust to three-guard lineups in Sacramento after running the show at Kentucky.
Playing for the 2018 lottery, the Mavericks exercise patience, grab Fox and bet on his long-term potential over Jonathan Isaac’s and Josh Jackson’s.
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Original pick at No. 10: Jonathan Isaac
Jonathan Isaac hasn’t been able to show much to date in his NBA career, as he’s been hobbled with a nagging ankle injury. But neither has the Portland Trail Blazers’ real pick, Zach Collins, who’s been healthy.
Originally the No. 6 pick, Isaac now falls to No. 10, where he becomes an easy buy-low play.
He’ll build up his value with defensive versatility, specifically his ability to make plays on the ball at the rim but also switch out and guard ball-handlers or wings for stretches of a shot clock.
And though he’s raw offensively, Isaac has a promising skill set that includes three-point range and pull-up shooting. He’s hurt and unlikely to offer much as a rookie, but Isaac’s appeal stems from his long-term potential two or three years down the road.
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Original pick at No. 11: Malik Monk
John Collins easily has been a top-10 rookie in 2017-18. The perceived upside of De’Aaron Fox and Jonathan Isaac allows him to slip again, this time in the re-draft.
The Charlotte Hornets will gladly take Collins over Malik Monk, who’s been benched, is shooting 34.6 percent and has struggled to defend.
Averaging 11.3 points and 7.2 rebounds on 59.7 percent shooting, Collins’ athleticism and motor have translated to efficient scoring and consistent activity. The big question revolves around the height of his ceiling, given his limitations as a shot-creator and shooter and questionable defensive awareness.
But at No. 11, the Hornets aren’t nitpicking. Collins would have a path to the starting lineup in Charlotte.
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Original pick at No. 12: Luke Kennard
The Detroit Pistons will buy low on Josh Jackson, whose value has taken a hit after a rough start in Phoenix.
Some of the blame goes to his fit with a Suns team that ranks 29th in three-point shooting efficiency and doesn’t have many available minutes at the wing positions. Jackson hasn’t had space or opportunities.
The Pistons should still see potential with his athleticism, scoring versatility and defensive energy, even though it will require a few years to come together. While Reggie Bullock is playing well as of late, Jackson is still the better long-term bet at small forward.
At No. 12, it’s worth finding out whether he can sharpen his ball skills and improve his decision-making and shooting over the next few seasons.
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Original pick at No. 13: Donovan Mitchell
Despite the flashes of defensive potential and offensive poise he has showed through the first few months of his NBA career, Frank Ntilikina falls in the re-draft. Without the ability to create his own shot or blow by defenders, it’s reasonable to question his upside.
But he has already proved to be a serviceable role player with his pick-and-roll passing, open shot-making and defense. And he’s demonstrated the toughness and unselfishness coaches should want from their supporting cast.
With Donovan Mitchell long gone in this re-draft, Dante Exum out for another season and Ricky Rubio having arguably his worst year, the Utah Jazz will grab Ntilikina to strengthen their depth at point guard.
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Original pick at No. 14: Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo quietly has been solid off the bench for the Miami Heat, so they’ll stick with him in the re-draft.
He’s been effective by playing to his strengths as a rim runner and finisher, averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds on 59.8 percent shooting in 20.0 minutes. But he has also flashed budding scoring ability with his post footwork and touch. And he has even impressed with his defensive quickness, as he looks capable of keeping opponents in front while guarding the perimeter.
Stacked with guards, Miami will pass on Malik Monk and Luke Kennard for Adebayo, who’s looking like a sure thing with strengths the Heat value.
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Original pick at No. 15: Justin Jackson
Jordan Bell has benefited from the perfect fit in Golden State, but that doesn’t make him any less attractive to the Sacramento Kings. They’ll value his energy, defense and accepted role-player mentality.
His minutes in Golden State doubled from November (10.0) to December (20.3). Last month, he averaged 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals for the NBA’s top team.
After taking Kyle Kuzma, who gives the Sacramento Kings a scorer at the 4, they can grab Bell to bolster their frontcourt depth, since Justin Jackson has been a disappointment and Malik Monk is too similar to Buddy Hield.
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Original pick at No. 16: Justin Patton
Only the New York Knicks make fewer three-pointers per game than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Luke Kennard gives their lineup a needed complementary shot-maker with a convincing track record.
He’s making 43.8 percent of his threes in Detroit, which is exactly what he shot last year at Duke.
Streakiness and inconsistency turn the Wolves off from Malik Monk. And though the injured Justin Patton may still be a good pick at No. 16, it’s already clear that Kennard can fill a need.
His arrow is pointing up after a 20-point game against the San Antonio Spurs to close out 2017.
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Original pick at No. 17: DJ Wilson
Already looking like a steal for the Brooklyn Nets after they got him at No. 22, Jarrett Allen should still offer strong value at No. 17.
Original pick DJ Wilson hasn’t shown anything yet, and he doesn’t have a clear path to the rotation. John Henson has been fine in Milwaukee, but Allen’s per-36-minute production is already similar to that of the six-year veteran.
The rookie is averaging 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in just 17.1 minutes, proving to be a high-percentage finishing target and rim protector. But he has also flashed glimpses of shooting touch, having hit two threes and 77.5 percent of his free-throw attempts.
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Original pick at No. 18: TJ Leaf
Even after an inefficient start, Malik Monk should still interest the Indiana Pacers, who could use more guard depth.
Victor Oladipo also stands out as the ideal mentor for an explosive, streaky scorer like Monk. He’s had trouble with consistency, but there is no debating his athleticism or shot-making.
The Pacers shouldn’t be expecting an immediate contributor this late, anyway. With Oladipo playing at an All-Star level, Indiana could take its time developing the rest of Monk’s game, including his defensive IQ and comfort level playing within the offense.
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Original pick at No. 19: John Collins
Unsurprisingly off to a slow start after playing just 17.3 minutes last year at Gonzaga, Zach Collins falls to No. 19 in the re-draft. The Atlanta Hawks need a center and should still have faith in Collins’ ability to strengthen his body and skill level.
In flashes, we’ve seen glimpses of post moves, shooting touch and shot-blocking. It just may take a few years, given how little he’ll wind up playing from 2016-18.
The Hawks don’t have compelling options at center, and considering they’re in a rebuilding season, they’d be able to give Collins the minutes and freedom he needs to play through mistakes.
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Original pick at No. 20: Harry Giles
Originally a second-round draft-and-stash pick of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jonah Bolden would have cracked the top 20 if teams were able to see six months into the future.
After a strong summer league with the Sixers, Bolden has played well overseas, earning a key role for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Euroleague. Averaging 1.4 threes, 9.7 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes, Bolden’s versatility should be a major draw in this re-draft.
He would also be a stash play for the Sacramento Kings, who’ve already taken Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Bell.
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Original pick at No. 21: Terrance Ferguson
Given how little he has played to date, TJ Leaf may be undervalued in a re-draft. The lack of minutes is mostly due to Domantas Sabonis’ breakout season and the presence of veteran Thaddeus Young.
The Thunder can throw Leaf into the G League and wait for him to become a stretch 4 who can shoot threes and attack closeouts.
Original pick Terrance Ferguson hasn’t done anything to justify first-round consideration in a re-draft. Leaf’s versatility makes him a more likely fit.
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Original pick at No. 22: Jarrett Allen
Offseason foot surgery has kept Justin Patton sidelined, which forces him to fall in the re-draft. That makes him an intriguing buy-low candidate for the Brooklyn Nets.
Patton was a breakout NBA prospect at Creighton, earning attention for his effectiveness at the rim and scoring versatility, which came in spurts. But he still flashed promising back-to-the-basket moves and capable shooting touch.
Between a lack of polish and late start, Patton could take years to develop. But the upside this late, knowing who’s left on the board, is the selling point here for Brooklyn.
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Original pick at No. 23: OG Anunoby
The Toronto Raptors look at Josh Hart here as the best player available and solid value in the 20s.
He closed out 2017 with a 26-point effort against the Houston Rockets, showing off improved three-point range and the ability to put pressure on the defense as a driver.
Though he’s a tough, four-year college player who’s willing to get physical and defend, Hart still finds himself falling into the 20s behind younger prospects with higher perceived ceilings. That once again makes him a steal in this January re-draft.
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Original pick at No. 24: Tyler Lydon
The Boston Celtics are too deep for Semi Ojeleye to receive consistent minutes. But he’s looked convincing when given time, even if his per-game numbers don’t reflect success.
Ojeleye has stood out for his defensive strength and quickness. At No. 24, the Denver Nuggets buy into them, along with his potential to spread the floor, shoot threes and add to his scoring skills over time.
A potential three-and-D forward in the mold of Jae Crowder, Ojeleye gives Denver a tough two-way role player.
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Original pick at No. 25: Anzejs Pasecniks
After missing his high school senior year with a torn ACL, Harry Giles then averaged just 11.5 minutes at Duke, missed summer league and sat out the first three months of his NBA career. And he’s still worth gambling on in the first round.
The Philadelphia 76ers already added a sure thing with Jayson Tatum in the re-draft. They could stick to Plan A and draft-and-stash Pasecniks, whose efficiency has fallen with CB Gran Canaria this season.
Or they can look to build the credibility of their training staff by putting it to work on Giles, a lottery talent held back by injuries.
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Original pick at No. 26: Caleb Swanigan
One of a few second-rounders to crack a rotation, Dillon Brooks has earned minutes for his scoring ability and toughness.
He’s averaging 7.7 points while shooting a respectable 44.7 percent overall and 36.4 percent from three-point range. Brooks doesn’t offer much versatility, but he’s jumped out as the type of role player who can make outside shots, get tough buckets and compete on defense.
The Portland Trail Blazers are weak offensively at the forward positions, so they could even re-draft Brooks to play right away.
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Original pick at No. 27: Kyle Kuzma
Justin Jackson hasn’t found his shot yet, a problem for a relatively one-dimensional player. He isn’t a playmaker, a one-on-one scorer or a high-level defender, so he needs his jumper to carry him.
But Jackson’s shot-making should return once his confidence starts to build. It took him three years in college to break out, and he may be looking at a similar timetable in the pros.
Jackson excels by working off the ball and shooting off spot-ups, screens and curls. He’d have a chance to earn a role as Brandon Ingram’s backup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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Original pick at No. 28: Tony Bradley
The Utah Jazz moved up in the real draft for Tony Bradley. They should still feel good about their decision based on his early play in the G League, where he’s averaging 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds.
Despite playing just 14.6 minutes at North Carolina, he still drew love from scouts for his NBA body, hands, basketball IQ and touch that he wasn’t able to showcase during games.
Rudy Gobert has had trouble staying healthy this season, so Utah needs depth behind him. The Jazz will stick to their original plan and patiently wait on Bradley to develop into a serviceable backup.
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Original pick at No. 29: Derrick White
Anzejs Pasecniks should offer more upside than White, who hasn’t had the chance to show much in San Antonio.
The Philadelphia 76ers originally traded into the first round for Pasecniks. While he’ll fall a few spots in the re-draft with so many rookies playing well, the Spurs won’t pass on the chance to draft-and-stash one of the more unique young bigs overseas.
He’s receiving 18.0 minutes per game this year in the Spanish ACB. And though he’s mostly a rim runner, finisher and clean-up man, Pasecniks is getting chances to shoot from outside or face up and make a play.
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Original pick at No. 30: Josh Hart
The No. 34 pick in June, Frank Mason III has already made a convincing case to stick as an NBA rotation player.
After drilling 47.1 percent of his three-point attempts last year at Kansas, Mason continues to shoot well, making 41.9 percent of his threes for the Sacramento Kings.
He still falls to No. 30 in a re-draft, lacking obvious upside due to age and limited athleticism. He’s had difficulty converting inside the arc and finishing, but between his jumper and playmaking, the Los Angeles Lakers could look at Mason as an upgrade over Tyler Ennis.