Feb 24, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) in action against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
If the San Antonio Spurs trade into the NBA Draft with LaMarcus Aldridge, how could the top 10 look?
The San Antonio Spurs have the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but they could add another first-round selection. That’s according to Sam Amico of FOX Sports, who says LaMarcus Aldridge is being shopped for a pick in the top 10, with the Sacramento Kings as a team to watch.
If Aldridge gets the Spurs into the top of the draft, then it changes the outlook of Thursday night. It’s an unexpected shakeup for not only San Antonio, but the teams picking before and after.
In this mock draft, let’s go with the Spurs dealing Aldridge to the Kings in a deal that involves the No. 10 overall pick. Who would they select? What about the players that go beforehand?
Jan 25, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz (20) dribbles the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half at Wells-Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils won 86-75. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz PG
When the Philadelphia 76ers traded up to No. 1 overall, all signs pointed toward the pick being Markelle Fultz. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion, as Fultz even spoke about what he’ll do when the Sixers pick him, according to CBS Philadelphia.
Fultz has long been the player projected to be the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s a point guard from Washington, who should step in as the starter from his first day. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and other rising young players will join him.
Fultz has the ideal size of a point guard, standing at 6-foot-5. A 6-foot-10 wingspan will help him on the defensive end, overwhelming opposing players. Those arms will also be passing to the previously-mentioned players.
There’s plenty to like about Fultz’ shot, too. He shot 47 percent in college and 41 percent from beyond the arc. That’s only a general outlook, as Fultz can score from any part of the floor and be a leading point-man for Philadelphia.
The Spurs will be far away from Fultz, so there’s not much to worry about him wreaking havoc on the Western Conference. He’ll attack teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors in the East and potentially be the next top guard in the NBA.
Next: Los Angeles Lakers
Mar 24, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) drives to the basket past Kentucky Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox (0) in the second half during the semifinals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Lonzo Ball PG
Lonzo Ball in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform has been a popular idea from the start. He’s from Southern California and LaVar, his outspoken father, expressed a desire for Lonzo to be a Laker for a while.
The recent trade of D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets may have guaranteed that the Lakers draft Ball, or at least pick a point guard. ESPN’s Chad Ford outlined this likely scenario below:
“Sources in L.A. say that the Lakers have been moving closer and closer to selecting Ball in the past 48 hours. More than ever, he’s the heavy favorite to get his wish to play for his hometown team.”
Ball received comparisons to Jason Kidd throughout his one year at UCLA. He’s an exceptional passer that makes his teammates better, with a high basketball IQ with the ball in his hands. Anyone from Brandon Ingram to Julius Randle, or even Paul Goerge could be a recipient of Big Baller-branded passes.
Also in Ball’s favor, is his defensive ability. His 6-foot-9 wingspan will cause problems for the smaller point guards of the league, leading to him forcing turnovers and wreaking havoc on the defensive end.
Unlike Fultz, this is a player the Spurs will have to worry about for years to come. If Ball develops, this could be a player Kawhi Leonard is defending.
Next: Boston Celtics
Mar 19, 2017; Greenville, SC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts during the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jayson Tatum SF
Jayson Tatum doesn’t seem like the ideal fit for the Boston Celtics. They drafted Jaylen Brown — a fellow small forward — with the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. While Brown didn’t have a spectacular rookie season, he showed enough promise to be a keeper for the next few years. However, General Manager Danny Ainge is unpredictable and reportedly leaning toward taking Tatum.
Celtics finally received Josh Jackson's medicals, but he still won't workout for Boston. C's still debating but appear to be leaning Tatum
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 21, 2017
Tatum looks a bit like a tweener. He stands at 6-foot-8, with a solid outside shot and an ability to score in the post. The former Duke star doesn’t do either exceptionally, which is a product of just about every part of his game.
Not standing out for anything isn’t a flaw. Tatum could succeed in multiple areas of his game and if possible, can break out into a scorer like Danny Granger, who NBADraft.net compared him to. With the way he broke out in the second half of the season for Duke, it’s a possibility.
Tatum could challenge for a wing spot for years to come, battling for minutes with Brown or finding a way to play these two together, as starting lineups continue to get smaller. It’s a unique pick, but that’s what this Boston front office has become known for.
Next: Phoenix Suns
Mar 26, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox (0) drives against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Theo Pinson (left) in the first half during the finals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
De'Aaron Fox PG
Unlike Fultz, the Spurs will be close to the Phoenix Suns. In this scenario, they would select De’Aaron Fox, a point guard from Kentucky.
Fox was dynamic in his lone season in Lexington, KY. He put up 16.7 points and 4.6 assists, displaying lightning quick speed to the basket and being a quality defender. It only helps that Fox is one of the best passers in the NBA, so there’s somewhat of an all-around skillset that would come to the Suns.
Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are already in place at point guard. However, Knight only started five games last season, playing just over 21 minutes per game and averaged 11 points. Bledsoe is still producing, but he could be close to his peak season in his late 20’s and may become a trade chip, especially with two years and $29.5 million left on his deal.
A Fox-Devin Booker combination at guard could be lethal. Booker is one of the league’s best shooters, while Fox isn’t but makes up for it in every other facet of his game. He can dish the ball to Booker for years to come and form a pairing that complements each other.
Next: Sacramento Kings
Mar 23, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Josh Jackson (11) reacts during the second half in the semifinals of the midwest Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Jackson SG
Josh Jackson is the cutoff for the players seemingly in the top five of this NBA Draft. The Sacramento Kings also keep the No. 5 pick in this scenario, too, unloading its next pick to the San Antonio Spurs. Jackson wouldn’t make much sense to them anyway, given Kawhi Leonard’s hold of the small forward position.
The Kings haven’t shied away from shooting guards in recent years. They picked Ben McLemore in 2013 and Nik Stauskas in 2014. Staukas was traded a few years ago and McLemore’s contract is up, so picks at this position haven’t turned into long-term success.
Now, Sacramento has Buddy Hield at the two-guard spot, coming over in the DeMarcus Cousins trade. He showed promise and could use someone to team with him at small forward, especially if Rudy Gay is officially done with the team.
Jackson can complement Hield’s shooting, with being an effective one-on-one defender and slasher to the basket. If Jackson’s shot improves, then there’s the chance of him being one of the top all-around players in the NBA. If not, he’ll be a quality starter for years to come.
Next: Orlando Magic
Feb 25, 2017; Clemson, SC, USA; Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) looks to take the shot during the first half against the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Isaac SF
Jonathan Isaac would make some sense for the San Antonio Spurs, with his ability to stretch the floor at 6-foot-10. Isaac’s athleticism and 7-foot wingspan also show off attributes that will work in his favor as an NBA defender, which will likely be enough to push him into the top eight of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Essentially, Isaac possesses the ability to do just about everything. It should be enough for the Orlando Magic to take him at No. 6 overall.
The Magic — a team that once tried stockpiling assets in the draft — is back trying to construct a team with high picks. Wing players like Mario Hezonja and Aaron Gordon haven’t proven to be wild successes yet, especially the former, and Terrence Ross may only be a stopgap option, after getting acquired at the trade deadline.
Isaac will step in as a fresh face under a new regime. He has more upside than Gordon and Hezonja when they entered the league, showcasing some guard-like abilities for a player at almost 7-foot. It’s freakish upside that may translate to at least being a quality starter, with superstar potential if everything comes into former.
Next: Minnesota Timberwolves
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) moves the ball against the Saint Mary’s Gaels during the first half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Lauri Markkanen PF
The Tom Thibodeau era is still developing in Minnesota, with the Timberwolves unleashing young players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, while developing that hard-nosed identity that Thibodeau had in Chicago.
Towns is already the all-around big man who can score from distance if needed, but needs someone to compliment him. Jonathan Isaac is already off the board, but Lauri Markkanen of Arizona isn’t.
Markkanen is a 7-foot sharpshooter, whose size and ability to stretch the floor could make him matchup nightmare. It’s reminiscent of Kristaps Porzingis or a young Dirk Nowitzki, the usual comparison for an international big man that can shoot. However, what this Finnish player displayed in college is on par with the expectations.
Markkanen would bring a scoring presence to a Timberwolves team that needs it, along with allowing Towns to settle into the block more, something he already dominates. The former Wildcat can open the door for Wiggins and lurk for passes from Ricky Rubio or Kris Dunn, whoever the starting point guard is next season.
This may not be a bad pick for the San Antonio Spurs, if Markkanen makes it all the way to No. 10. However, with teams like the Wolves and others ahead of them that need a stretch four, the Spurs may be watching this player shoot of them for years to come.
Next: New York Knicks
Mar 27, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks general manager Phil Jackson laughs during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Ntilikina PG
The New York Knicks are all over the place. Kristaps Porzingis is reportedly on the block, so the player once thought to be a franchise cornerstone may not even be in the Big Apple by the end of Thursday night.
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There are team needs, though, which start at the guard position. They could use help at either spot, but with Derrick Rose potentially leaving in free agency, it may be best to turn to point guard first. If it will be a triangle-centric pick, then Frank Ntilikina makes the most sense.
Ntilikina is an unknown commodity. He’s 6-foot-5 with a wingspan closing in on 7 feet, so the abilities of a future star defender are there. However, it’s anyone’s guess how well the Frenchman’s offensive game will translate to professional basketball.
Ntilikina is an unselfish guard, as NBADraft.net notes, and will likely make his teammates look better. His court vision is fantastic and has the athleticism that will help him move around to find open teammates.
The shooting game is a mystery. Ntilikina shot 48 percent in the 2016-17 season, while going 43 percent from long distance. Those are good numbers in a professional league, but no guarantee to translate to the NBA, something that’s been the case with plenty of previous imports from Europe.
If the Spurs aren’t confident enough in Dejounte Murray, then Ntilikina would be an interesting fit to at least share minutes at point guard. However, it’s more likely they scoop up someone in free agency.
Next: Dallas Mavericks
Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (5) reacts after a three-point basket against the Wichita State Shockers during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports
Malik Monk SG
Malik Monk may be the best shooter in the 2017 NBA Draft, and the best shooting guard of everyone in this class. Given the teams ahead focused on other positions, however, it leaves Monk to the Dallas Mavericks at No. 9.
Wesley Matthews hasn’t worked out since signing in 2015. He’s failed to shoot above 40 percent in both seasons and averaged just 13 points per game. The Mavs still owe him $36.5 million over the next two years, but it may not hurt to bring in his potential replacement.
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Monk projects to have a sweet stroke from three-point range, with the ability to score off the dribble and spot up. He complimented De’Aaron Fox well with this at Kentucky, making for one of the nation’s best backcourts. That kind of fit may not be there in Dallas, unless they get a pass-first point guard, but for the time being, Monk can be a shooter off the bench.
At just 6-foot-3, Monk will need to be able to work around the taller two-guards of the NBA. Others have succeeded at his size, though, like Eric Gordon and Ben Gordon, so the book isn’t out on if the Arkansas native can’t go against bigger players.
Monk makes sense for the Spurs, with Danny Green reportedly on the block. However, with multiple top-10 teams in need of scoring, they’ll likely miss out on him.
Next: San Antonio Spurs
Apr 1, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Zach Collins (32) is defended by South Carolina Gamecocks forward Maik Kotsar (21) in the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Collins C
To close the top 10 picks of the 2017 NBA Draft, it’s time for the San Antonio Spurs’ selection from the Sacramento Kings. With big men Jonathan Isaac and Lauri Markkanen off the board, it should lead to the Spurs taking someone to at least cover for some of the size lost in the trade. The best available big man is Zach Collins, who would make sense in this spot.
Collins is a 6-foot-11 center, with the NBA body (230 pounds) to fight inside. He’s also athletic for his size, having an ability to run the floor to the post or get open for a mid-range shot. It fits in with the modern-day look of the league.
Collins can work around the rim, with improving post skills on the offensive end and a tremendous shot-blocking ability on the other side of the court (he averaged 1.8 blocks in 17.3 minutes per game). Couple this with the decent outside game, and there’s the chance of this Gonzaga product immediately earning a backup spot — starting in his rookie year may not be out of the question, either.
There’s a lot to like about Collins. He may need to adjust after receiving limited playing time in college, along with maturing against the NBA’s big men, but the upside is there for the next double-double machine in San Antonio.