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2017 NBA Draft Eastern Conference Recap

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Editor Dakota Schmdt recaps how each Eastern Conference team did during the 2017 NBA Draft.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Press Conference James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks:

John Collins, PF, Wake Forest (Round 1, Pick 16)

Tyler Dorsey, SG, Oregon (Round 2, Pick 41)

Alpha Kaba, PF, Mega Bemax (Round 2, Pick 60)

In the days leading up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft, one of the biggest moves involved the Hawks trading Dwight Howard and their 31st overall pick to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee and the 41st overall pick. At first glance, this trade just simply looks like the Hawks doing what they can to not have to pay Dwight Howard more than 50 million for the remaining two years of his contract.

However, it also represents the organization potentially going into a rebuilding phrase as 4x NBA All-Star Paul Millsap opted out of the final year of his contract and is now an unrestricted free agent. With Millsap’s departure, Kent Bazemore stands as the only player over the age of 25 on their current roster that actually played more than twenty minutes.

That youthful nature will only increase with their selection of former Wake Forest power forward John Collins. In an ideal world, John Collins would stand as a solid replacement for Millsap, as both players spend time at power forward. Initially, that might seen kind of reasonable as Collins stood as arguably the most efficient scorer in college hoops as he put up 19.1 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game (3.8 offensive) with an impressive 67% True Shooting Percentage. Collins due to his great work as a low-post scorer and resilience as an offensive rebounder.

Collins is probably start the season as the team’s starting power forward, however still has a lot of work to do before he even thinks about being on the same level as Millsap. A lot of that work for Collins will need to come on the defensive end. As good as Collins may be on offense, he might be as bad or even worse on the other side of the court.

Whether he was working as a pick-and-roll defender or inside the paint, Collins just regularly lost track of his positioning on the court. That low defensive IQ ultimately pushed Collins to foul the opposition, as he averaged 3.0 fouls in only 26 minutes per game. That ain’t good.

Outside of Collins, the Hawks used their 2nd round picks to select Tyler Dorsey and Alpha Kaba. For Dorsey, the 6’4Oregon alum stands as a pretty good value pick due to him shooting 42% from beyond the arc on 5.3 perimeter attempts per game which usually came from him working off-the-dribble. Alongside that, he’s a capable ball-handler that can cut to both the left and right side of the paint. Although he’ll definitely need to improve on the defensive end, Dorsey could receive some immediate playing time on a rebuilding Hawks squad.

Grade: C+

Boston Celtics:

Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke (Round 1, Pick 3)

Semi Ojeleye, SF, SMU (Round 2, Pick 37)

Kadeem Allen, PG, Arizona (Round 2, Pick 53)

Jabari Bird, SG, California (Round 2, Pick 56)

After weeks of speculation that revolved around them trading for either Jimmy Butler or Paul George, the Celtics decided to stay silent on draft night as they used their 3rd overall pick on Jayson Tatum. In terms of this year’s draft class, Tatum might actually stand as the most NBA-ready player. That status is due to how polished of an offensive weapon that Tatum actually is.

Despite having the body of a power forward, as he stands 6’8 and 205 pounds with a 6’11 wingspan, Tatum really has the moves of your average point or shooting guard as he can shake off opponents with an assortment of moves which include crossovers, jab steps and in-and-out dribbles to get the opposing defender off-balance. Those moves allowed him to shine in a variety of different ways from mid-range shooting to driving to the rim. As a mid-range shooter, Tatum just shined as he can create separation from his opponent by hitting step-back jumpers. As an on-ball, Tatum shined as he shot 62% from around the rim, according to hoop-math.com.

Although he’ll definitely need to become more efficient, as he maintained a 56% True Shooting Percentage, I believe Tatum has the potential to make yearly trips to the All-Star game. Because if he can be this polished as a 19-year-old player, what could happen when he has years to grow from both an on and off-court perspective? Who knows, but it could be very exciting.

To start their trifecta of 2nd round picks, the Celtics selected former SMU forward Semi Ojeleye. In a similar way to their selection of Guerschon Yabusele in last year’s draft, Ojeleye stands as as a strong 6’7 forward with a smooth outside touch as he shot 42% from beyond the arc on 4.9 perimeter attempts per game. Outside of that, the SMU stands as a solid offensive rebounder as he grabbed 2.3 boards per game in 34 minutes per game.

With their final two picks, they grabbed senior guards Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird. The 24-year-old Allen basically got picked because he was such a strong defensive player during his time at Arizona, as he was able to lock up the likes of Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz. Meanwhile, Bird stood as a solid shooting guard at California as he shot 36% from beyond the arc and maintained a 56% True Shooting Percentage. He’ll probably stand as the Maine Red Claws starting shooting guard.

Grade: B+

Brooklyn Nets:

Jarrett Allen, C, Texas (Round 1, Pick 22)

Aleksander Vezenkov, SF, Barcelona (Round 2, Pick 57)

Trading Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.

No matter what the Nets did on Thursday night, nothing would match up to the surprise of them trading Brook Lopez and their 27th overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey “Tim” Mozgov. By acquiring D’Angelo Russell, the Nets get the starting point guard that could push the Nets from the cellars to a potential playoff contender, if they play their cards right.

In the first move after that trade, the Nets picked former Texas center Jarrett Allen with the 22nd overall pick. This selection stands as a low-risk/high-reward move as Allen has the kind of frame that would make Jay Bilas drool. Standing at 6’11 and 224 pounds with a 7’6 wingspan, Allen is a quick big that can hustle his way down the court that can also crash the boards. His quickness allowed him to be a solid pick-and-roll man as he can quickly motor his way down the paint. Transitioning to his work as a rebounder, Allen grabbed 3 offensive rebounds per game, which put him as the fourth best rebounder in this year’s draft class.

Looking away from his physical traits, Allen has shown signs of being able to work inside the low-post and mid-range shooter. Although he just currently as an incredibly raw player, Allen could definitely develop into the kind of big that can be D’Angelo Russell’s best friend.

Grade: B

Charlotte Hornets:

Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky (Round 1, Pick 11)

Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida State (Round 2, Pick 40)

Honestly, I don’t think there was a team that left Thursday night happier than the Charlotte Hornets due to them selecting Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick. In the lead up to Thursday night, Monk was widely-regarded as perhaps the best scorer in this year’s draft. That high praise definitely made sense as Monk put up 19.8 points on 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 6.9 perimeter attempts per game. On the surface, those numbers seem really good but it gets even better when you realize that he was doing this in the best conference in college basketball.

As evident from those numbers, Monk stands as an outstanding perimeter shooter. Whether he’s working off-the-dribble or through catch-and-shoot, Monk can just light it up with range that spreads from well behind the NBA three-point line. Outside of his perimeter shooting, Monk showed flashes of being a decent driver.

Although the coaching ideology of Calipari basically forces players to stay within their lane and not experiment, Monk did show those rare flashes of on-ball brilliance. Monk can work his way past opponents with a quick first-step and then end things with a jaw-dropping dunk. His work as a perimeter shooter and driver should allow him to be a nice partner to All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.

The Hornets continued building their backcourt during the draft by using their 2nd round pick on former Florida State guard Dwayne Bacon. The 6’5, 205 pound guard really stood out as this strong presence that can rebound and also use his frame to muscle his way to the paint. Outside of his strong build, Bacon stands as more of a question mark due to his inefficient play, as he shot 33% from beyond the arc and maintained a 54% True Shooting Percentage.

Grade: B+

Chicago Bulls:

Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona (Round 1, Pick 7)

Traded Jimmy Butler and 17th overall pick to Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and 7th overall pick

To be honest, I have no idea about what Bulls GM Gar Forman is doing. Although the Bulls probably needed to trade Jimmy Butler, because they were barely a playoff team with him, Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo, I don’t think they could’ve done much worse. Among the assets that they received, Zach LaVine probably stands as the best option as he’s really developed into a strong offensive weapon that’s a good perimeter weapon that can also dunk like nobody’s business.

However, he’s currently recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in early February. Although some players seem to recover nicely from torn ACL injuries (i.e Paul George), it seems really risky to have this guy as the top asset that you receive after trading a superstar guard. Alongside LaVine, the Bulls received 6’4 guard Kris Dunn. Just one year after going 5th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, Dunn’s value has just plummeted after an atrocious rookie season where he averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 assists with a 42% True Shooting Percentage in only 17 minutes per game. That poor production pushed Dunn to slide behind Tyus Jones as the Timberwolves 3rd-string point guard.

I suppose the bright point of the night was them selecting Lauri Markkanen with the pick that they received from Minnesota. Unlike some naysayers that peg Markkanen as a stretch big that really can’t do anything else, I actually think that the 7-footer can turn into a really solid player. Outside of his shooting, Markkanen is a pretty solid ball-handler that really take it to the rim. Alongside that, he stands as the type of big that can defend guards from the perimeter to the paint. Although he still needs to refine his all-around game, I’m optimistic that he can turn into a solid front-court player.

However, that might not happen as Gar Forman is a guy that likes to trade 2nd round picks for cash even though the Bulls are currently rebuilding. They also have a G League team which is a perfect place to grow a potential diamond in the rough. But of course, that wasn’t meant to be.

Grade: D

Umm... they have no GM and LeBron James is bald again. I don’t even think Dan Gilbert knew that the draft was happening.

Grade: N/A

Detroit Pistons:

Luke Kennard, SG, Duke (Round 1, Pick 12)

Just one year after making their way to the playoffs as an 8th seed, the Detroit Pistons took a small detour during the 2016-17 as they finished with a 37-45 record. The Pistons decline was largely due to their lackluster offense that averaged only 101.3 points per game, which placed them 26th in the NBA. A large reasoning behind that was due to their perimeter struggles as they shot 33% from beyond the arc on only 23.4 perimeter attempts per game. Those numbers described the fact that the Pistons were an extremely inefficient squad from beyond the arc that didn’t shoot a lot of attempts.

To help fix those perimeter shooting woes, they used their 12th overall pick on former Duke guard Luke Kennard. With Malik Monk off the board, Kennard was a pretty decent alternative when it came to looking for a perimeter marksman. As a sophomore, Kennard shot 44% from beyond the arc on 5.4 perimeter attempts per game, which placed him as the 4th most efficient perimeter shooter in this year’s draft class.

Coinciding with those perimeter skills, Kennard is just a versatile offensive threat that can work around off-ball screens, break down his opponents with tight dribbles or utilize the kind of footwork that you usually see for a 10-year NBA veteran. Those tools pushed Kennard to put up 19.5 points per game with a fantastic 63% True Shooting Percentage.

Although he might not be the sexiest prospect, Kennard should definitely come in and shine as a solid rotation player with the Detroit Pistons. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will still start the season as the team’s lead shooting guard but Kennard could fit right in as a leader of their 2nd unit.

Grade: A

Indiana Pacers:

T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA (Round 1, Pick 18)

Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA (Round 2, Pick 47)

As the Indiana Pacers inch closer to a potential post-Paul George era, the organization will need to find players that can represent their new generation. The Pacers definitely tried to do that during this year’s NBA Draft as they selected the UCLA duo of T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu.

For T.J. Leaf, he stood as one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft class due to him standing as a 6’10 forward that’s extremely athletic and has a bevy of potential as a perimeter shooter. In terms of that first aspect, Leaf really stands as the prototypical pick-and-roll big as he can quickly work his way to the paint and just crash the rim with reckless abandon.

Throughout his lone season with UCLA, Left was slamming down alley-oop feeds from current Lakers guard Lonzo Ball. Alongside his regular alley-oop slams, Leaf was a workhorse inside the paint as he collected 2.2 offensive boards per game. That chemistry with Ball and offensive rebounding led to him putting up 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds with a 66% True Shooting Percentage.

Outside of those traits, Leaf is a pretty raw talent. On the defensive end, Leaf is a huge question mark as he struggles against bigs inside the paint and can be lackadaisical as a pick-and-roll defender.

As for his UCLA teammate Ike Anigbogu, he’s probably going to spend most of his rookie season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, their G League affiliate. At this point, Anigbogu basically stands as this athletic rim-runner that stands at 6’11 with a 7’4 wingspan. Aside from that, he’s incredibly raw as he can’t do much else on offense besides crashing the offensive glass and running to the rim.

Although Leaf and Anigogu both played just one season in college before entering the NBA Draft, they’re at completely different tiers when it comes to their development. On a rebuilding Pacers team, Leaf could probably play about 15-20 minutes per game due to his skills as a pick-and-roll big that can also hit the occasional mid-range or perimeter jumper. However, Anigbogu is extremely raw and will need an ample amount of time in the G League before he can even think about cracking the Pacers rotation.

Grade: B

Miami Heat:

Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky (Round 1, Pick 14)

Despite not making the playoffs, the Miami Heat still left the 2016-17 season as one of the league’s more pleasant surprises. That was due to how they transitioned from an Eastern Conference cellar-dweller to one of the hottest teams in basketball in just a span of two months. Led by Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside and a slew of NBA D-League alums, the Heat ended the season on a 29-11 run which was headlined by a 13-game winning streak. They were able to finish so strong due to being able to defend as a collective as the Heat held opponents to 102.1 points per game, which was the 5th lowest average in the NBA.

The Heat looked to improve their defensive unit by adding former Kentucky big Bam Adebayo. At first glance, Adebayo seems like the perfect prospect to add to a defensive-minded squad as the 6’10 and 250 pound prospect is strong enough to guard the low-post while having enough mobility to switch on-ball screens and stay in front of cutting guards.

In either area, Adebayo has frequently showcased the ability to defend the rim as he blocked 1.5 shots per game during his time at Kentucky. Although there are moments where he’s not that engaged, Adebayo definitely has the potential to be the kind of versatile defensive weapon that can easily slide into a top-notch defensive team like the Miami Heat.

Grade: B

Milwaukee Bucks:

D.J Wilson, SF, Michigan (Round 1, Pick 17)

Sterling Brown, SG, SMU (Round 2, Pick 46)

In the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, Bucks fans were losing their minds due to the sheer fact that they didn’t have a GM until around 72 hours before Thursday night. After former GM John Hammond left to join the Orlando Magic, it seemed like assistant GM Justin Zanik would take over that job considering how that was the plan when they hired him last offseason. However, Bucks ownership took a complete 180 as they pushed Zanik away to promote president of basketball operations Jon Horst.

Fortunately, the Bucks organization were quickly able to move on from that craziness to have a solid draft. With their first round pick, they selected former Michigan forward D.J Wilson. During his first two seasons with the team, Wilson pretty much stood as a benchwarmer as he didn’t average more than seven minutes per game. That status quickly changed during his sophomore season as Wilson quickly shot up Michigan’s rotation to the point where he as their lead scorer during the Big 10 and NCAA Tournament.

During the Big 10 tournament, Wilson put up 15.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 60% from the field. His success carried over to the NCAA Tournament where he put up 16 points and 4.3 rebounds per game on 46% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc.

Probably the main reason behind his quick progression is the fact that Wilson has really become comfortable with being a 6’10 forward that plays more like your average wing. Alongside that developing perimeter jumper, Wilson can drive to the rim whether he’s work on or off-ball. Although he’s comfortable in both areas, Wilson is probably best as an off-ball cutter as he’s quick and has good hands that allow him to make tough catches around the rim.

This selection represents the Bucks’ continued pursuit of long, lanky and athletic forwards that can potentially develop into versatile players. While it may be too much to compare Wilson to someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo, he could potentially work alongside Jabari Parker and Thon Maker as the team’s front-court of the future. Although Wilson stands as a pretty versatile player, the 21-year-old prospect still needs to gain more experience as a player as he’s only had like 15 games where he played major minutes for any kind of team that wasn’t in high school hoops.

Following the Wilson selection, the Bucks actually traded up in the draft to select former SMU guard Sterling Brown. This could really turn into a solid selection for the Bucks as Brown was a knockdown shooter at SMU as he shot 45% from beyond the arc on 3.9 perimeter attempts per game. Outside of that great perimeter stroke, Brown stands as a versatile guard that can defend multiple positions due to him standing at 6’6 with a 6’9 wingspan.

Grade: B+

New York Knicks:

Frank Ntilikina, PG, SIG Strasbourg (Round 1, Pick 8)

Damyean Dotson, SG, Houston (Round 2, Pick 44)

Ognjen Jaramaz, PG, Mega Bemax (Round 2, Pick 58)

Just one year after trading for former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, the Knicks entered the NBA Draft looking for another point guard. While former NC State guard Dennis Smith was still on the board, the Knicks decided to Europe by taking French point guard Frank Ntilikina. While the 6’4 guard stood as a relative unknown to most basketball fans, he actually stood as one of the more intriguing players due to his 6’10 wingspan and mastery of the pick-and-roll. To learn more about him, make sure to read Harrison Rahajason’s piece on him from early June.

The Knicks stuck with their backcourt during their 2nd round as they selected former Houston guard Damyean Dotson. Dotson is actually a lot like Sterling Brown as he stands as a 6’6 combo guard that can just light it up from beyond the arc. As a senior, Dotson shot 45% from beyond the arc on 7.5 perimeter attempts per game. While the 23-year-old Dotson might stand as the older prospects in this year’s draft which takes away some intrigue, he could still come in and immediately be a contributor for this team.

Orlando Magic:

Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State (Round 1, Pick 6)

Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State (Round 1, Pick 33)

Since they traded Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2012 off-season, the Magic have been in basketball purgatory. The Magic’s situation is so dire that they haven’t even won more than 35 games since the 2011-12 season. While they just brought on John Hammond to take over as the team’s GM, a role that he was in for eight years with the Milwaukee Bucks, it’s still tough to remain optimistic about a team that’s just struggled for so long.

However, the new leadership attempted to bring some hope back to the Magic as they selected Jonathan Isaac with the 6th overall pick. During his lone season at Florida State, Isaac put up 11.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game on 51% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 2.8 perimeter attempts per game.

As those numbers might tell you, Isaac stands as a pretty efficient offensive player that has some versatility on the defensive end due to his work as both a rim protector and ball-hawk. To learn more about Isaac’s work on the defensive end, make sure to read this great piece from contributor Francis Adu.

The good picks continued during the second round as the Magic selected Wesley Iwundu with their 33rd overall pick. With the selection of Iwundu, the Magic receive a solid 6’7 wing with a strong 7’1 wingspan. That great frame allowed Iwundu to be a versatile defender that can defend a multitude of different positions from point guard to power forward.

Coinciding with that great work on the defensive end, Iwundu is able to help his team out in a variety of different ways from working as a drive-and-dish facilitator, offensive rebounder, mid-range shooter, and budding perimeter marksmen. Those traits pushed Iwundu to average 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1 steals per game on 48% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 2.4 perimeter attempts per game. That type of efficiency allowed him to maintain a 59% True Shooting Percentage during his senior season.

Grade: A-

Philadelphia 76ers:

Markelle Fultz, SG, Washington (Round 1, Pick 1)

Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Gran Canaria (Round 1, Pick 25)

Jonah Bolden, PF, Radnicki Basket (Round 2, Pick 36)

Mathias Lessort, PF, Nanterre (Round 2, Pick 50)

The Process reached its apex on the Monday before the draft as they acquired the first overall pick in a deal with the Celtics where they send the 3rd overall pick and the Lakers 2018 1st round pick that will be top-five protected. The 76ers used that first round pick to select former Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. This pick surprised absolutely nobody as Fultz has been slated as the top player in this year’s draft class since before the NCAA Tournament actually started.

That praise is warranted as Fultz just stands as a phenomenal player that plays with the poise and skill-set of an NBA All-Star rather than a kid that just turned 19. Although he played for a fledgling Washington Huskies squad, Fultz just shined during his lone college season as he put up 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game on 48% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc.

While there’s some concern regarding him shooting 65% from the free-throw line, Fultz should be able to contribute as a facilitator or driver if he does have some struggles as a shooter. To read a more thorough overview of Fultz’s all-around game, make sure to check out our piece on him from early March.

After starting the draft off on a high note with the selection of Fultz, the 76ers decided to simmer down by selecting Latvian big Anzejs Pasecniks with their late first round pick. Pasecniks definitely stands as an intriguing prospect as he’s a 7’2 big that can hit the perimeter jumper and can just speed his way down the court. However, it might be a while until we see Pasecniks on the 76ers rotation as he just needs time to fill out his slender 229-pound frame.

The 76ers continued their pursuit of mobile bigs during the 2nd round as they took Jonah Bolden and Mathias Lessort. Bolden really has the skill-set to be a solid stretch four in the NBA as he shot 40% from beyond the arc on 4.2 perimeter attempts per game during his initial season at FMP Beogard. Coinciding with that, he’s pretty damn athletic as he can repeatedly attack the rim for alley-oops or put-back slams. To learn more about Bolden, make sure to read an interview with him that was done last December with David Hein.

Grade: B+

Toronto Raptors:

OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana (Round 1, Pick 23)

With their lone 1st round pick, the Toronto Raptors selected former Indiana guard OG Anunoby. This selection makes a ton of sense for the Raptors as Anunoby stands as the type of player that every NBA team are just hungry for. Standing at 6’8 and 215 pounds with a 7’2 wingspan, Anunoby has shown the ability to defend a multitude of different positions from point guard to power forward. That mobility really isn’t hyperbole as Anunoby has locked down a variety of elite college scorers during his career, which included him holding current Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to only scoring 16 points on 39% shooting during the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

However, those defensive showcases have been limited due to Anunoby prematurely ending his sophomore season due to a knee injury. While Anunoby doesn’t have an extensive history of injuries, this drawback was still enough to push one of the best defensive players in this year’s draft to be a late 1st round pick. While he probably won’t be ready to go until after the season starts, Anunoby could become a dangerous weapon for the Raptors once he steps back onto a basketball court.

Grade: B+

Washington Wizards:

Traded 52nd pick to New Orleans Pelicans for Tim Frazier

Although they didn’t make a single pick, the Wizards still did a great job this week. Honestly, it was impressive for them to trade a late 2nd-round pick for Tim Frazier, a solid backup point guard that maintained a 3.25 Ast/TO during the prior season.

Grade: A