The 2017 class of NBA rookies has shown the depth and potential to be a draft talked about for years to come. Let’s look at a way too early redraft of the top 5 picks from a year ago.
- Philadelphia 76ers – Jayson Tatum
This is a tough one, but knowing what we know now about Ben Simmons after his rookie year, Tatum is the choice. I wrestled with the idea of redrafting Mitchell to the 76ers, and he would be such a fucking amazing pairing with Embiid, but he’s better suited with the ball in his hands – a tough fit with Simmons. Tatum has shown the ability to score at all levels in the NBA and would be a fun fit with the 76ers young core. He’s shot the ball better in his rookie season than anyone would have predicted, converting over 43% from 3-point range. The Celtics have better Team Def Rating when Tatum is on the court than when he’s off, showing he’s not just making his impact on the offensive side of things. Tatum’s upside and versatility give him a slight edge in this redraft.
- Los Angeles Lakers – Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell has arguably been the best rookie this season. He’s been the driving force for a Utah team that was struggling with a 22-28 record on February 1, and is now sitting in the 6th seed in the West sporting a record of 44-33. Mitchell is averaging over 20 points per game and has provided much needed offensive playmaking for a Utah team that was slated to struggle to create following Gordon Hayward’s departure. Mitchell would provide the Lakers a better defensive option and a much higher scoring upside. On top of that, Mitchell has flashed Westbrook-like athleticism with a young Dwayne Wade scoring ability. Mitchell at 2 would be a steal for the Lakers, imagine getting him at 13…..
- Boston Celtics – Kyle Kuzma
If you no longer can have Tatum I guess Kuzma is a fine replacement. A steal for the Lakers at 27, Kuzma has shown the ability to be a go-to scorer as a rookie in the NBA. He’s an older rookie, which without a doubt has its benefits, but Kuzma’s stats are undeniable. He’s averaging over 16 points a game while shooting over 5 3’s per game, which if it’s almost any other season would garner rookie of the year considerations. He’s shown the ability to be an effective rebounder pulling down 6.3 per game, but has a ways to go defensively. Still, with the way the NBA is trending towards more 3 point shooting and positional versatility, Kuzma seems poised to be a star for years to come.
- Phoenix Suns – Lonzo Ball
Could Lonzo solve the problems with Phoenix? Probably not, but he’d be a great fit with Devin Booker – the only proven NBA star the Suns have. Lonzo is likely never going to be a dominant offensive option, but he’s shown the ability to play defense, rebound, and we already knew about his ability to get teammates involved long before coming to the NBA. He’d be a fun fit with the Suns, who seem to be a few pieces away from being a serious playoff team.
- Sacramento Kings – Lauri Markkanen
The Kings somehow seem to find a way to end every season without an identity. 2017-2018 appears to be no different. De’Aaron Fox has been fine, but they seem to have missed on a potential star in Markkanen. Scouts questioned Markkanen’s lateral quickness and toughness leading up to the NBA draft, but he’s shown he can hang in the NBA. Markkanen has averaged 15 points and over 7 boards a game, shooting a respectable 35% from 3 on 5 attempts a game. At 7 feet tall Markkanen appears to have two things that can’t be taught – size and skill. He’d give the Kings a much-needed building block that they’re so desperately searching for.