It’s my favorite day of the year, the day of the NBA Draft. That means it’s time to predict which players selected in the lottery tonight will end up as booms and which players who sadly will bust.
I have been preparing for this day by going through the last 10 drafts and evaluating which prospects have been booms and busts, identifying 4 of each category. You can read those run-throughs, here, in Part 1 and Part 2. As the 4 booms and 4 busts in every draft seems to work out pretty well, I’m gonna do the same for this draft, starting with my first boom:
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA (Boom)
Clearly the most talked about prospect in this draft and it’s for good reason. Say what you will about his father LaVar Ball, but he has a lot to be proud about.
People tend to forget that LaVar didn’t really become a talking point until March this year. Before that, Lonzo was still the main attraction in college hoops this year. Lonzo Ball is a generational type of player as a 6’6 PG with tremendous passing ability and court vision that only a handful of players have ever had. His shot is wonky, but it went in 41.2% of the time from far behind the college 3 point line.
The best thing about Lonzo Ball though, is that he makes the whole team better. UCLA went from 15-17 to 31-5 after adding Ball. His fast paced and pass heavy playing style gets everyone involved and eager to run up and down the court. As a Timberwolves fan, I’ve seen how Ricky Rubio has had that effect on that team. Rubio has a pretty terrible jump shot to say the least, but he is still a good offensive player.
Lonzo Ball isn’t as good defensively though, which is where the Jason Kidd with a jump shot comparisons fall off a bit. Ball does have the potential to at least be an average defender, as he has good length for a PG. In addition, Lonzo Ball is a pretty good athlete, surely better than Rubio, which gives him yet another advantage.
Much was made out of LaVar Ball’s TV appearances and the way Lonzo went out of the March Madness tournament against fellow top 10 picks De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, but UCLA were overmatched and wouldn’t have been close to reaching the sweet 16 without him. The Lakers will likely pick Lonzo Ball at #2 and they know how to deal with the extra publicity. They also have a lot of young talent who I think will benefit greatly from Lonzo Ball joining them. With Paul George and possibly even LeBron James on the horizon for the Lakers, things are looking up for the NBA powerhouse and it all starts with picking Lonzo Ball at #2 in the 2017 NBA Draft.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky (Bust)
First of all, let me say that I really really hope I’m wrong.
I love De’Aaron Fox. He has the best personality in the draft, his favorite player is Kevin Garnett and he is freaky fast and fun to watch when his shots are falling.
Unfortunately, I just can’t look away from his flaws and I think he is going to be a bust. He shot 24.6% from 3, which will make every NBA athlete go under on pick and rolls. That might have worked against amateurs in college, but facing NBA athletes Fox will struggle to use his speed to get past opposing players as easily as he did for Kentucky.
Fox is also rail-thin and doesn’t really attack the rim with force like other suspect shooters tend to get by on offensively. This will also give him more trouble on the defensive end. Although Fox is a fierce competitor, which we saw when he completely outplayed Lonzo Ball during March Madness.
But in the NBA you have to beat a whole team rather than just winning a 1 on 1 battle, and Fox will struggle to do that on his own. Luckily, Fox is a pretty good distributor with the occasional flashy pass. He runs the pick and roll pretty well, making good use of his elite speed. He is freakishly fast and will probably work hard to improve his jump shot throughout his career, as he is said to be a gym rat.
Shooting 73% from the FT line is slightly encouraging at least. It might lend some credence to Fox’ claim that he hasn’t struggled shooting until his freshman year at Kentucky. Let’s hope that he is right and that he becomes a good NBA player. He has the personality to match a star player, but I still have to predict that he will bust.
Malik Monk, SG/PG, Kentucky (Boom)
While I think Fox might bust, his backcourt partner at Kentucky, Malik Monk, looks like a boom candidate to me. I mean… just look at his highlights:
Monk is a lights out shooter with elite athleticism and those guys don’t grow on trees. As you can see in the highlights he also has a good feel for the game. He is actually a pretty decent passer, despite his reputation as a gunner. Monk will get insanely hot when the first couple of shots fall in. He will at the very least have some lights out shooting performances once he steps on an NBA court.
The drawbacks are said to be his size for a Shooting Guard and his defence. I think he looks longer than what he is measured at though. That might just be because of how quickly and high he gets off the floor. While some claim that he is a terrible defender, he can actually hold his own in 1 on 1 situations and obviously has the athleticism to stay in front of his man. He needs to work on team defence for sure and not get lost on rotations or lose his focus. The NBA is ruthless, but those are things he can easily work on and fix with effort.
Madison Square Garden is going to be poppin’ if Monk ends up with the Knicks at #8, but I’m holding out hope that my Timberwolves might be able to draft him at #7. Like Bill Simmons mentioned on his latest podcast, there are some similarities to the Steph Curry draft, when the Timberwolves passed on Curry, while Knicks was 1 pick too late to get him. I’m not saying Malik Monk will turn out to become a 2 time MVP, but his can’t miss athleticism and microwave style shooting are good enough reasons to believe he is going to be a boom pick.
Jonathan Isaac, PF/SF, FSU (Bust)
Back again to the busts and yet again I am sort of hedging my bets here. If Jonathan Isaac is available when my Timberwolves are picking at #7, he is probably going to Minnesota. Which is sort of the reason why I think Isaac will bust.
Because I don’t think Isaac falls to #7, I think he goes to either the Phoenix Suns at #4 or Orlando Magic at #6. Isaac is a long, thin and laid-back guy, who has potential to be a beast defensively if he can work on his body. Offensively he is a jack of all trades, master of none type of player. He is not a vocal leader or an alpha male type of personality and with all of those qualities put together, he needs to be put in the right situation to succeed.
The Magic are the team the most heavily linked with Isaac at the moment, but they really need some offensive firepower. Isaac has gotten some criticism for being a bit passive and not getting involved enough in the game. With the Orlando Magic, he would probably be asked to do too much and is an awkward fit next to Aaron Gordon, who is a similar type of player.
Isaac has the tools be the a perfect glue guy and role player to complement an already settled starting 5. Unfortunately, at the top of the draft, those are not the types of teams you go to and that is not the role you are expected to go into if someone uses a top 5 pick to acquire you. I’m warning you NBA, let him slide to #7 for the Minnesota Timberwolves. There he’d be the perfect guy in between Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Otherwise prepare to see Jonathan Isaac bust. Or maybe he can shock us all after getting picked at #3 by contending team Boston Celtics. They could need his great rebounding ability.
Jayson Tatum, SF/PF, Duke (Boom)
The Boston Celtics also need another scorer to take some pressure off of Isaiah Thomas. So instead of picking Jonathan Isaac or even Josh Jackson, I think the Boston Celtics will pick Jayson Tatum at #3, which is something I can get behind, because I have Tatum pegged as a boom.
Tatum is not only the most NBA ready prospect in this years draft, he is also a super smooth scorer, with excellent footwork and a variety of moves, including the one-legged fadeaway made famous by Dirk Nowitzky. Tatum is a throwback player and could very well end up being the next Paul Pierce for the Boston Celtics. He also draws comparisons to Carmelo Anthony and Jabari Parker, meaning that he can score in almost any situation.
He also has terrific length, which includes a 6’11 wingspan that gives him defensive upside to go along with his already top notch offensive capabilities. To top it all off, everyone around him raves about his work-ethic. Including the standard clichés of “having a chip on his shoulder” and “first in the gym, last one to leave”.
The only negatives you hear about Tatum is that he still has a way to go to reach his potential defensively, that he is a ball-stopper who rarely passes and a ridiculous notion that he somehow doesn’t have as much upside as the guys drafted around his range, because he already is so NBA-ready.
Like most NBA rookies, Tatum will likely struggle defensively at first. However he has the physical tools to become a plus defender with time. He might be hogging the ball too much at this point as well. This stems from the fact that he has always been the best player on his team. I don’t worry about him hogging the ball. He has shown that he has good vision and can make the right pass. Tatum is a frontrunner for Rookie of The Year and I can’t see what holds him back from developing into a certified NBA boom either. If you don’t believe me, just watch the tape:
Lauri Markkannen, PF/C, Arizona and Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga… (Busts)
I’m sorry for lumping the tall white guys together, but unlike Porzingis 2 years ago, I just don’t see it.
Lauri Markkanen might be the best shooter in the draft and he is 7 feet tall… but that’s about it. He rebounds like a guard/wing, he can’t back you down in the post and he is slow-footed and doesn’t have a chance at guarding practically any backcourt player if he is caught in a switch.
Zach Collins has slowly been getting some draft buzz after his workouts. Scouts feel he might develop all the requisite skills that are perfect for a big man in today’s NBA. He has proven that he can block some shots in college, he might be able to guard the switches Markkanen can’t handle, with his decent foot speed and he has actually stepped beyond the 3 point line and put the ball in the net in a workout environment.
But I’ve seen this before with Noah Vonleh in the 2014 Draft. Just like what happened to him, I don’t see which NBA skill Zach Collins has already. Like Vonleh, he got limited playing time as a freshman in college, and there is probably a reason for that. He needs to have something to make him stand out in the NBA, but again, like Vonleh, he hasn’t and — like Vonleh — he will be a bust.
Markannen and Collins are both contenders to go to the Timberwolves, just like my other bust pick Jonathan Isaac. Meanwhile I think the Timberwolves might just pass on Malik Monk… Am I making it too obvious that I want us to draft Monk? 😛
Donovan Mitchell, PG/SG, Louisville (Boom)
Let’s end it on a high note, with a boom if you will. We’ll take a closer look at Donovan Mitchell of Louisville. Mitchell has shot up the NBA Draft boards during workouts. Looking at his stats, measurements and this workout/interview video, it makes a lot of sense.
There is something about him that I really like. He seems to have the right attitude and has a very mature approach to the whole draft process and what to expect for his rookie year. Add to that a gigantic wingspan of 6-10, considering he is only 6-3, and you have a guy who can defend the best opposing guard or even some small forwards.
Mitchell is also lightning quick, posting the best 3/4 sprint at the combine. He’s a flash up and down the court, with long arms and athleticism, reminding you of a less skilled D-Wade. He might not be a true PG in the NBA, but with his length he should be able to play both guard positions. At the very least he’ll be a perfect role-player, kinda like Avery Bradley.
Being a 2nd coming of Avery Bradley would be enough to be a boom in the late part of the lottery, but if he develops like he did between his freshman and sophomore season in college, he might become even better. I’ll leave you with this thunderous alley-oop of his, ask you to look up some more of his insane dunks and wish you a very very happy NBA Draft night!