The 2017 NBA Draft brought promise to 29 teams that have been chasing Golden State for the past three years. And this summer’s draft was particularly deep, with a number of potential stars going in the first round.
But which teams upgraded their roster the most in the 2017 Draft? Let’s look at a few teams that benefited greatly.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Take Washington PG Markelle Fultz No. 1 Overall
Other Picks: Anzejs Pasecniks (C, Latvia) at No. 25; Jonah Bolden (PF, Australia) at No. 36; Sterling Brown (SG, SMU) at No. 46; and Mathais Lessort (C, France) at No. 50
Analysis: This wasn’t a hard pick because Fultz has been listed No. 1 on draft boards for the past year. His Washington Huskies team didn’t experience much success (9-22 record), but Fultz showcased all the skills he needed to in Seattle. The 6’4″ point guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds in his lone collegiate season.
Fultz’s only weakness is that he shot 64.9% from the free-throw line. But this can be overlooked when considering that he has the height and wingspan to defend both guard positions, along with the playmaking skills to be a true point guard.
Philly gave up this year’s No. 3 pick and LA’s top protected pick next year (or Sacramento’s 2019 pick) to get Fultz. But the price is worth it for the perfect compliment to 6’10” Ben Simmons, who’s best suited to be a playermaker in half-court sets. Both players will find Joel Embiid and Dario Saric for open looks on a consistent basis.
For good measure, Philly also added 7-footer Anzejs Pasecniks, whom they can stash overseas for a year or two until he’s ready.
2. Phoenix Suns – Take Kansas SF Josh Jackson at No. 4 Overall
Other Picks: Davon Reed (G, Miami) at No. 32; Alec Peters (PF, Valparaiso) at No. 54
Analysis: The Suns haven’t had a winning record in three years, and they haven’t made the playoffs in seven years. This team needed a strong draft, and they sealed it by getting Josh Jackson at No. 4.
The 6’8″ small forward gives Phoenix the wing they need to go along with the lineup of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender.
They also have T.J. Warren at wing, but he’s not a great defender. Jackson solves this problem because he brings immediate aggression to the position. In fact, he’s too aggressive sometimes, and must tone this down to prevent foul calls.
Jackson’s other weakness is that his jumper isn’t perfect. But the Suns are willing to take a chance on this improving based on the entire package – especially when some draft boards had him as high as No. 1.
The Suns also added shooting guard Davon Reed, a 6’6″ prospect with a 7-foot wingspan. They took a shot at No. 54 with Alec Peters, an injured stretch forward who can provide value here.
3. LA Lakers – Take UCLA PG Lonzo Ball at No. 2 Overall
Other Picks: Kyle Kuzma (PF, Utah); Josh Hart (G, Villanova) at No. 30; Thomas Bryant (G, Indiana) at No. 42; P.J. Dozier (G, South Carolina) signed as undrafted FA
Ball became a big name months before the draft, thanks to the antics of his father, LaVar Ball. But Lonzo has the skills to back his dad’s mouth up, averaging 14.6 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 6.0 RPG. His 274 assists during the 2016-17 campaign set a UCLA record.
The two knocks against Lonzo include his unusual jump shot and marginal lateral quickness. The latter could prove a problem, but Ball made over 41% of his three-pointers at UCLA. In any case, the Lakers couldn’t pass up his combination of height (6’6″) and excellent court vision. The latter has Ball being compared to Brooklyn Nets legend Jason Kidd.
LA made a trade to add more picks so they could draft Utah power forward Kyle Kuzma and Villanova guard Josh Hart in the first round. Kuzma averaged 16.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG, despite playing through an ankle injury. Hart was a key part of Villanova’s 2016 national championship run.
4. Dallas Mavericks – Take NC State PG Dennis Smith at No. 9 Overall
Other Picks: None
Analysis: Dallas has been toiling in mediocrity for the past few years. And the ping pong balls haven’t given them any great luck. But the Mavs may have gotten a gem at No. 9 with NC State point guard Dennis Smith.
At 6’2″, he’s not Lonzo Ball, but he’s got great explosion and is an excellent finisher. The one-and-done freshman turned these attributes into 18.2 PPG on 50.2% shooting.
The downsides to Smith include that he doesn’t have great size or wingspan (6’3″), nor does he shoot particularly well outside (35.9%). But the 19-year-old still has the quick hands to create lots of steals (1.9) on defense. Long story short, Dallas needed an injection of athleticism into their lineup, which Smith provides in spades.
5. Detroit Pistons – Take Duke G Luke Kennard at No. 12 Overall
Other Picks: None
But the Detroit Pistons didn’t draft the Duke product to be a defensive stopper or outstanding finisher – they drafted him to shoot.
The Pistons only made 33% of their three-pointers last season, which ranked 28th in the league. This makes it awfully hard to create room inside for center Andre Drummond, and driving lanes for athletic wings like Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Kennard helps in this aspect because he made 43.8% of his three-pointers at Durham. This is even more impressive when you consider that he took 5.4 treys per game, often with a hand in his face. Even when accounting for the NBA three-point line’s greater distance, these numbers will translate well to the pro game. Furthermore, it should make Detroit a more dangerous team overall.
And Kennard shouldn’t have trouble learning NBA playbooks if he can memorize every word to the Disney movie Frozen.