By Ryan Decker
With the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA Finals for the second time in the last three seasons, this year’s NBA campaign is officially over, and all attention in the Association can turn to the draft.
The general consensus is that Washington guard Markelle Fultz will be the No. 1 pick to the Boston Celtics, with UCLA star Lonzo Ball going soon after, and likely staying in LA.
That’s not how I see it, though. Here are my predictions involving Ball, Fultz, and other draft picks.
Boston Celtics trade the No. 1 overall pick
Fultz will probably be the first player taken in the draft. He may even be taken by the Celtics.
He won’t wear a Celtics jersey, though.
Boston will either trade the rights to their first pick, or make the selection and then trade the player, in a deal that involves a current NBA star.
Whether it’s to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler, or to the Jazz for Gordon Hayward, or to a team for a player that hasn’t been heavily rumored, that’s the destination where Fultz – or whoever gets taken No. 1 overall – will play his first NBA season. Not in Boston in TD Garden, but for one of the other 29 teams.
This brings me to another prediction…
Markelle Fultz is not the No. 1 overall pick
When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reads the card with the name of the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Fultz’s name will not be what he’s reading.
I’m not saying that’s the right decision – remember, Anthony Bennett was the first pick a few years ago – but it’s what will happen.
Maybe a team falls in love with Kansas forward Josh Jackson. Perhaps a team far enough away from LA moves up to take Ball, knowing his outspoken father, Lavar, won’t be as big of a distraction.
Maybe the Bulls, Jazz, or another team looking to make a trade with the C’s tells the Boston front office to take another player in order to get the deal done.
Regardless, Futz won’t go No. 1, which has a big impact on what happens next.
Lonzo Ball will not be a Laker
Similar to what’s going to happen with Fultz, who’s presumed by many to go first, Ball is presumed to go with the next pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.
But that’s not going to happen, either, for one of three reasons.
1. Trade the pick: The Lakers, following suit of the Celtics the pick before, trade the pick (or the rights to the pick) to another team in exchange for an All-Star-caliber player, and your guess is as good as anyone’s as to who that player would be – the LA Laker lore, plus Magic Johnson running the show, could be enough to make any star player jump ship in his current city and demand a trade to the west coast.
2. Look elsewhere: Magic, who knows talent, sees more potential in another player, or a more-developed player, than what he sees in Ball and takes the calculated risk. Or maybe Magic decides after a few months of weighing his options that the “Lavar Ball” show isn’t what he wants his newest tenure in LA to be remembered by.
3. Pass him up: With Fultz not going first (as stated above), he’s there prime for the picking. LA picks Fultz, and Ball slides down a pick slot or two further in the draft.
Jayson Tatum and Malik Monk steal the show
They likely won’t go one or two overall, and maybe only one of them will go in the top five, but Duke forward Jayson Tatum and Kentucky guard Malik Monk will be the best players in this year’s draft.
Tatum missed the first games of the season for Coach K due to injury, but was a focal point after he return to the rotation.
Monk was the focal point for Day 1 in Lexington for John Calipari.
Monk is lean, and reminds me a little of college-aged Kevin Durant – long, lean, and a scoring machine. The biggest difference being that Durant was a much better shooter than Monk is currently.
Tatum is extremely dynamic, built well, and is going to be fun to watch at the next level.
Obviously the jury will be out on this prediction until well after the draft concludes, but remember this in 2024 when either one of them is hoisting the NBA title.
Minnesota doesn’t use its first pick
The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the youngest teams in basketball, why do they need a 19-year-old?
The last thing this team needs is another project.
Trade the pick (and Ricky Rubio) for a player that can help this team succeed and live up to the potential that a number of NBA analysts see.
The 2017 NBA Draft is is set for June 22 at the Barclays Center in New York.