The 2017 NBA draft was said to be full of future stars, but after a few months of their rookie season we are seeing that some have adapted to the NBA faster than others.
Lets take a look at the first 5 picks and see who was taken vs who probably should have been taken.
Philadelphia 76ers select: Jayson Tatum- Original pick Markelle Fultz
Danny Anige has already said that he would have drafted Tatum with the first pick anyway so being able to get him at three was perfect for them. Jayson Tatum is showing the league that he belongs by averaging 13.5 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and 44% from the 3 point line. Tatum has fit right in with the Celtics by showing his versatility at the forward position. He also plays defense which is a concept that many players his age have failed to grasp. The hardest part of this exercise is if he had been drafted by the sixers then he would have been thrust into a more prominent role and maybe his weaknesses would have been more on display. In Boston, with a more veteran roster, he is being nurtured and brought along more slowly. In Phila that would not have been the case.
Los Angeles Lakers select: Donovan Mitchell- Original pick Lonzo Ball
Now this pick is not an indictment on Ball because I believe he has a lot of potential and has shown so since he got in the league. Mitchell on the other hand is more NBA ready and his 19 points per game on 44% shooting from the field is proof of that. In Utah Mitchell has blossomed and at the tender age of 21 is showing the Jazz that the future is bright. He mostly plays at shooting guard but has the ball handling and game awareness to play at the 1. He has played big in big moments putting up 29 against OKC and scoring 19 points adding 9 assists in Boston.
Boston Celtics select: Lonzo Ball- Original pick Jayson Tatum
With Tatum now with the sixers, Anige could draft Lonzo and bring him along slowly as he is doing with Tatum. On a team that is loaded with talent the way Boston is, and with the natural gifts that he brings to the table, Ball would thrive on this roster. He is a great passer and is probably the most unselfish player in this draft. His ability to load up the stat sheet is documented as he is averaging 10 points 7 rebounds and 7 assists at the midpoint of the season. Dealing with Lavar would be a different obstacle for Anige, but because Boston is winning I don’t think he would criticize too much. His biggest problem seems to be his shooting as he is averaging a lower shooting percentage from the field 35% then the two players redrafted before him are averaging from the three point line. His shooting will get better in the future with work, and when it does look for his assists and PPG to increase as defenders will have to close in on him creating more passing lanes and opportunities to get to the basket.
Phoenix Suns select: Markelle Fultz- Original pick Josh Jackson
Fultz was taken first because of potential and that outlook has not changed. Ben Simmons has surely outshined him but again, the scouts were all thinking about the future and it isn’t here yet. He has only played in 4 games and didn’t start any of them. Fultz has had shoulder issues that have not allowed him to be able to shoot the ball. This could just be the sixer curse where all of their top picks have had delayed starts but things seem to be beginning to come together for them. By picking him fourth the Suns could bank on the future and continue to suck as they are doing right now.
Sacramento Kings select: Dennis Smith Jr- Original pick De’Aaron Fox
Dennis Smith is averaging 14.8 points per game shooting 40% from the field for the Magic or as a friend of mine use to say Magics. Smith is not afraid to shoot the 3 and can jump out of the gym. He like Ball has been given the keys to the team and runs the offense. Fox was drafted as a scoring point guard but is being outscored by his contemporaries. Now it is very early so we don’t know what will become of any of these players, but if the first half of their first seasons are any indication, I think it is certain that the there are some perennial all-stars in this group. Sacramento would allow Smith to play his game the same way Dallas has so I believe his stats would look very similar had the Kings taken him.