One of the biggest questions we had heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft — whether the Celtics would deal the No. 1 overall pick — was answered Saturday night whenin exchange for Philly’s No. 3 overall pick this year, plus the Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder if it falls between No. 2 and No. 5 overall, or the Kings’ 2019 first-rounder if it doesn’t.
We were also wondering who would, in fact, go No. 1 overall.
That will be Markelle Fultz to the Sixers.
After that, this draft is starting to look more and more wide open, with no real consensus picks after Fultz to Philly. Let’s examine some of the biggest questions surrounding the NBA Draft.
1. What will the Lakers do at No. 2?
The likely answer to this question remains draft Lonzo Ball, but it’s not a slam dunk. The Lakers reportedly weren’t sold on Ball after his first workout,, and have since been . On Sunday, it was reported that the to Ball that they’ll take him. There is a growing contingent of experts who rank Fox ahead of Ball as a point guard prospect (our Reid Forgrave has the Lakers taking Fox in his ), and Jackson has been rising of late as well. In fact, Boston’s well-chronicled interest in Jackson is believed to have played a role in its willingness to deal the top pick, likely because the Celtics expect Jackson to still be there at No. 3. That only happens, of course, if the Lakers don’t take him No. 2.
There is another possibility here, which is that the Lakers could still move this pick. The reports that came out Sunday indicatingare big here. George is heavily linked to the Lakers, and if the plan is to build around him starting in 2018, perhaps you don’t need your franchise player from this draft and could instead benefit from adding more picks.
In that case, L.A. could potentially get involved with the Kings, who have the No. 5 and No. 10 pick this year. If the Lakers could, say, send the No. 2 pick to Sacramento as part of a package that would get them those two later lottery picks in return, you’d have to think L.A. would consider that. At No. 5 and No. 10, you’re still in play for a couple really good players to put next to a star like George. Malik Monk, Jonathan Isaac, potentially Jayson Tatum, all of these guys could be available at No. 5.
Again, chances are the Lakers take Ball and keep it simple. But there’s potentially room for a bigger play here.
2. What does Boston do at No. 3?
If Josh Jackson is still available, Boston almost certainly takes him. If he’s not there (which would mean the Lakers took him), it gets interesting for Ball, because Boston’s loaded back court is believed to have played a role in Danny Ainge’s willingness to pass on Fultz. It would seem strange if Boston passed on Fultz only to take Ball.
It was reported Saturday that theare Fultz, Jackson, Ball and Jayson Tatum, who’s a really intriguing player as an athletic three with stretch-four abilities. If Fultz and Jackson are both gone, there’s a decent chance Boston would pass on Ball, which would presumably bring Tatum into play. That is, if Ainge doesn’t make another huge trade, which is definitely a possibility.
Remember, the Celtics still have the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which could easily be in the top five. In the trade with Philly, they landed a second potential top-five 2018 pick. All told, they have six combined first-round picks in 2018 and 2019. By continuing to stockpile these picks, Ainge has positioned Boston to be able to make a big deal, perhaps with Chicago for Jimmy Butler, without giving up this year’s No. 3 selection. That is sheer general managing brilliance if it plays out that way
The question is this: If Chicago puts Butler on the table but demands the No. 3 pick this year in return, will Ainge pull the trigger? One one hand, Ainge has probably given himself a deep enough reservoir of high-leverage picks to go after a second star next to Isaiah Thomas without giving up this year’s pick. On the other hand, if Chicago is firm, and simply won’t play ball for Butler without Boston’s pick this year being involved, you would have to think, at some point, Ainge is going to have to be willing to part with a major asset for a player that can truly take the Celtics to another level in the near term.
3. What is the farthest Lonzo Ball will fall?
He likely doesn’t get past the Suns at No. 4. Yes, Phoenix already has Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker under contract for the next two years, but the prospect of Bledsoe or Knight becoming a franchise point guard has long since flown out the window. Booker has looked like a future star at times, but there’s still way too much unknown there to pass on Ball.
Plus, Bledsoe, who could really help a lot of teams, has a pretty moveable contract at less than $30 million over the next two years. Knight has an extra year on his deal, through 2020, that might be an issue on the market, but he’s making reasonable money, too, at less that $15 million per year over the next two seasons, roughly the same as guys like Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford.
Ultimately, don’t let the talk of the Lakers being shaky on Ball’s workout, or the possibility that the Celtics, if put in that position, might pass on him, too, fool you into thinking Ball isn’t the same potential star he’s been tagged as pretty much since he stepped foot on the floor at UCLA. Phoenix could put him alongside Booker for a sort of NBA version of what Ball and Bryce Alford were at UCLA, with Ball taking over the ball-handling and team-running responsibilities, thus allowing Booker to benefit from his vision and just concentrate on shooting. Phoenix would be thrilled to land Ball — his loud father and crooked jump shot notwithstanding.
4. What do the Knicks do at No. 8?
. Gary Parrish . Knicks fans should be pretty pumped if they land Monk, who, in addition to being a crazy athlete that can defend, is probably the most electric scorer in this draft. At the same time, they need a point guard, and Monk isn’t that. There has been talk of the Knicks trying to trade for a second first-rounder, and there is always a possibility that Carmelo Anthony ends up in draft-night trade talks (there’s a strong possibility he gets moved before next season, after all). But more than likely, none of these scenarios will involve the Knicks moving this No. 8 pick. It’s just a matter of who they get, and whether they trade back into the first round later on.
Hopefully it works out better than the last time the Knicks picked No. 8 in 2009, when they missed out on Stephen Curry, their target from the start, by one pick, and getting Jordan Hill instead.
5. Who are the under-the-radar picks to watch?
This depends how you define unexpected, but indeed, there’s a handful of players that have been projected anywhere from the late lottery to mid-to-late first-rounders who could jump up in the draft, and ultimately, make a bigger impact than you might expect. Notably:
- Luke Kennard (Duke)
- Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
- Josh Hart (Villanova)
- Zach Collins (Gonzaga)
None of these guys are flashy picks. They could all go just about anywhere from No. 10 to No. 20 and it wouldn’t be that big a surprise. Wherever they go, nobody is going to be hooting and hollering when their names are called. That could change when we look back at this draft a few years from now.
— Luke Kennard
For his part, Kennard, whose stock may have suffered some early this year as he played in the background of his more celebrated Duke teammates, put on a shooting display at his pro day.
Kennard is everything you think of when someone says, “that guy is just a solid player.” He’s smart, shoots both off the dribble and the catch, and he showed time and again at Duke that he’s not afraid to put an offense on his back for stretches.. He could also go in the late teens or early 20s. He will help someone immensely.
— Justin Jackson
Jackson is a bit more of wild card than Kennard, but his ceiling is also probably higher. He can shoot and he’s really athletic at the three spot. Parrish has him going, sliding into the hole they have at small forward, but it wouldn’t be a shock for someone to take a chance on him earlier than expected, and that could really pay off given the moderate risk of a mid-first-rounder, only a handful of which end up becoming All-Star players anyway.
— Josh Hart
Hart, like Kennard, is just a ballplayer., and let me tell you this: You put a smart, winning player like Hart in that San Antonio system, and watch out. Danny Green was cut twice and was looking at a career overseas. Now he’s a core player with a championship ring making $10 million a year. Hart is one of those picks you could look back on in a few years and wonder how in the hell so many teams passed on him, but this is particularly true if he actually does end up in San Antonio.
— Zach Collins
Collins is my personal favorite of these four players. His numbers were terrific in his lone season at Gonzaga, but with Collins, it’s more than the numbers. This guy, again, just has a feel for the game. His footwork on the block, his touch around the rim, his instincts as a shot blocker, these are all things you can’t really teach. On top of all that, he’s a 7-footer who shot nearly 44 percent from three in college. I would be surprised if he gets past No. 13 to Denver,. He’ll be really good for a long time.