September 24, 2017

First 5: The NBA’s top draft picks and how they’ll fit with their new teams

2017/08/22 11:54 am 11:54 am11:54 am0 0 comments

Photo: ESPN.com

The 2017 NBA Draft is done with. The rookies now have their respective teams. They have signed their first NBA contracts and have had their first taste of NBA action in the Summer Leagues. We’ve seen the young guns play with tougher competition, heftier opponents and an NBA three point shot. However, their careers are not set in stone. Basketball is like a game of roulette. And placing a bet in an online roulette has a fifty-fifty chance and the same can be said for these potential stars. They still have a long way to go and a lot of hard work to do. So how are the Top five picks going to fit with their new homes? What role will they play with their new teams?

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Let’s take a spin at the prospects’ prospects for the coming NBA season starting with the #1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz.

1. The F.E.D.S. Are Coming Led by Fultz

Photo: clutch points.com

From ‘Trust the Process’ to ‘Completing the Process’. It’s been eons since the Sixers had a winning season and made the playoffs. Last year, the team showed signs of life under the leadership of Joel Embiid until an injury forced Embiid to finish the season on the bench again. With Embiid and last year’s #1 pick Ben Simmons now healthy, the Sixers look to finally put their pieces together and start winning ( at last ). Philly’s frontline is now stacked with Embiid, Simmons and Dario Saric but the backcourt was lean.

Last season, the starting PG spot was split between T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez. They were okay but agains the likes of John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry, their offense paled. The Sixers needed a boost in the backcourt so they needed to draft a PG who wasn’t just a playmaker but an excellent scorer as well. Obviously, the top candidate available was Markelle Fultz. So the Sixers traded up to pick him at #1 and so now the have the FEDS, according to Embiid: Fultz, Embiid, Dario ( Saric ) and Simmons.

Fultz has played 2 games so far in the Utah Summer League and put up averages of 20.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 3.0 APG. With the Sixers adding J.J. Redick in free agency, the FEDS are indeed coming.

2. The Future

Photo: SB Nation

Magic Johnson was so sold out on Lonzo ball that he traded D’Angelo Russell before draft night. When Johnson introduced Lonzo Ball to media, he talked about Lonzo breaking Lakers’ records and begged the rookie to leave him at least one.

The Lakers believe they have their next superstar in Lonzo Ball. Magic sees a lot of himself in the kid- the passing, the flare and the basketball IQ. Paired with now sophomore Brandon Ingram and a core completed by Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers have a bright future. Ball is the court general who could lead the team to another Showtime era. He has the tools. Now he has the platform.

Ball struggled miserably in his Summer League debut with 5 points ( 2-15 shooting ), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. But nobody is losing hope, at least not yet. Lonzo opened the Lakers’ season with an alley-oop pass to Brandon Ingram to the delight of the crowd. They hope to see more of that when the season begins. The next two games ended in triple-double stats.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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3.  Positionless Basketball

Photo: CBSSports.com

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens talked about positionless basketball recently. He said his team is down to three player classifications: ball handler, wing and big. The ability to have a versatile line-up is crucial in this era. The Golden State Warriors small ball and uncanny rotation has yielded in two NBA titles in three seasons. Not to say that the Celtics will be the next Warriors but they have assembled a team that can be as versatile as any franchise in the league.

The Celtics traded down to the 3rd pick. No problem. They didn’t really need a PG like Fultz or Ball because they have Isaiah Thomas. They picked the best wingman available in Jayson Tatum. Tatum has the has the offensive skills that Jaylen Brown lacks. Not to say Brown is now dispensable but if Stevens decides to go for more offense, he can insert Tatum. Or if he needs better defense, he can always go to Brown. Tatum can put the ball on the floor well for a kid his size.

Tatum averaged 18.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.0 APG and 2.3 SPG in three games so far in the Summer League. He’s shown the versatility that Stevens is looking for. Great pick by Danny Ainge and company. He’s going to thrive in Steven’s system.

4. A Rising Sun

Photo: KUSports.com

There’s a story before the draft that Phoenix kept Josh Jackson from working out with the Celtics. They denied the rumor but if they really did, I understand perfectly. Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson almost had identical collegiate stats. They are almost physically identical. But there’s one significant difference between them: defense.

Jackson is absolutely an excellent defender and great off the boards. He has the size, athleticism and defensive IQ to guard players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden. Well, not saying here that he’s going to shut down those guys. But what did Phoenix have last season to defend the elite players? None. They were 28th in the league in Defensive Efficiency at 109.3 points per 100 possessions.

The knack on his game is outside shooting but that can be developed over time. And besides, who needs outside scoring when you have the 70-point man Devin Booker firing away? Jackson does have good offensive skills and a decent mid range shot so he also takes some burden off Booker. Just what the doctor ordered for Phoenix, a rising Sun.

In 1 game so far in the Las Vegas Summer League, Jackson put up 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block.

5. The Kings Man

Photo: chatsports.com

The Kings were willing to trade up in order to ensure getting D’Aaron Fox but with the order, they were able to get their man at #5 and with no extra cost. Perfect.

Sacramento needed a point guard with a high ceiling and Fox was their man right from the start.  He’s super quick with the ball and at 6-4, he has NBA size. Pair him with Buddy Hield in the backcourt and you’ve got a dynamic duo in the mold of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Not the Splash Brothers but certainly a very exciting duo with All-Star potentials. Fox also liked the idea of playing in Sacramento because of the opportunity to be a ‘franchise-changer’. With the feeling mutual, this looks to be an exciting season for the Kings who have also acquired veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to help their young backcourt grow.

His Summer League Numbers? 18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals in his first game.

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