The pingpong balls at the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night will determine which lucky team has the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
But that “lucky team” also might have a dilemma on its hands.
The 2017 draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory, with several players who arguably would have gone No. 1 overall in past years. Many believe Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a once-in-a-generation guard, while UCLA’s Lonzo Ball has been hailed as a transcendent playmaker. And we haven’t even gotten to college standouts like Josh Jackson and De’Aaron Fox.
Of course, only one guy will top the draft board on June 22. With the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers among those in the hunt for the No. 1 spot, let’s take a look at who that player could be.
Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
The majority of NBA mock drafts have Fultz going No. 1, and with good reason. He’s one of the most well-rounded players in the draft, combining elite scoring talent with excellent passing ability and an NBA-ready 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame. He can operate both on and off the ball, making him a good fit for pretty much every top lottery team, including the Celtics.
Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA
Yes, he has an unorthodox shot. Yes, his dad is super annoying. But draft experts have salivated over Ball’s superior court vision, and he still shot a very solid 41 percent from 3-point range last season. Ball also stands at 6-foot-6, and his potential as a franchise point guard very well could vault him ahead of Fultz at No. 1, especially if the Lakers land that pick.
Josh Jackson, G/F, Kansas
There’s a good chance a point guard goes No. 1, but if the top team doesn’t fancy a ballhandler, Jackson should be the first player off the board. The rangy, 6-foot-8 swingman averaged 16.3 points per game as a freshman and also pulled down 7.4 rebounds per contest. His versatility is valuable in today’s NBA, so don’t be shocked if a team like the Suns, who already have a young guard in Devin Booker, turn to Jackson at No. 1.
Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Tatum, a 6-foot-8 forward with the ability to score and rebound, shares many similarities with Jackson. But the 19-year-old boasts a better shot than the explosive Jayhawk and also proved his worth on the big stage with several clutch performances in this year’s ACC tournament. Tatum seems like a pretty safe bet to at least be a solid NBA contributor, and that low risk could convince a team to take him first overall.
De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
Speaking of late-season standouts, Fox vaulted himself into the top pick conversation by dropping 39 points in an NCAA Tournament win over Ball’s Bruins. According to ESPN Insider Chad Ford, Fox actually is ahead of Ball on some draft boards, bringing stellar defense to his dynamic scoring ability. Fox might be a long shot, but his stock is climbing rapidly.
Thumbnail photo via Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports Images