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2017 NBA Draft Re-grade: Eastern Conference

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

The top of the 2017 NBA Draft made a lot of waves in college. Specifically, Lonzo Ball from UCLA, along with his dad, was one of the more popular college basketball players of the decade and Markelle Fultz was a 6’3 point guard who did it all.

Three years later, this draft is defined by Jayson Tatum, the No. 3 overall pick, and a pair of players drafted at the end of the lottery, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo, who are already all-stars and one of the best players on their respective teams. 

Let’s regrade it. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Picks (Pick No.): Markelle Fultz (No. 1), Jonah Bolden (No. 36), Juwan Evans (No. 39), Sterling Brown (No. 46), Mathias Lessort (No. 50)

Another draft, another ridiculous number of picks for Philadelphia. This No. 1 overall pick didn’t work out nearly as well as Ben Simmons did. Fultz struggled with injuries and shooting stroke difficulties during his first two seasons in the NBA. He played a total 33 games for the Sixers before being traded to Orlando for Jonathon Simmons and draft picks. Fortunately, Fultz has found his footing in Orlando, but it certainly was a wasted No. 1 overall pick especially considering what the players drafted after him have turned into.

Brown is the only other player in this class to play more than 56 NBA games, but that No. 46 pick was traded to Milwaukee and Brown has come off the bench in Milwaukee since entering the NBA. All in all, the Sixers have very little to show in 2020 for their six picks just three years earlier. 

Grade: D+ | Fultz didn’t work out at all, but they are able to get picks for him in a trade. The other picks weren’t all that impactful either.

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Boston Celtics

Picks: Jayson Tatum (No. 3), Semi Ojeleye (No. 37), Kadeem Allen (No. 53), Jabari Bird (No. 56)

There aren’t many players in this draft who have superstar potential. The Celtics drafted one of them with the No. 3 overall pick. Tatum has turned into the go-to scorer for Boston and one of the more special young players in the NBA. He ranks second in this draft class in points per game behind only Donovan Mitchell and is currently averaging 23.4 points and seven rebounds per game in 2019-20. 

Ojeleye is the only other pick to play more than 47 games in the NBA. The SMU product has been an end of the rotation piece in Boston averaging 13.9 minutes per game and scoring 3.1 points on average. Nobody drafted after Ojeleye has played in more NBA games and only three players have more minutes played.

Grade: A | Tatum would be drafted top three again and Ojeleye is a consistent bench presence. I won’t dock the Celtics more missing on two players outside of the top 50. 

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Orlando Magic

Picks: Jonathan Isaac (No. 6), Anzejs Pasecniks (No. 25), Wesley Iwundu (No. 33), Ivan Rabb (No. 35)

Isaac is one of the bigger question marks out of this draft in 2020. He played just 27 games in 2017-18 before playing a full season in 2018-19. This season, Isaac injured his knee in January before coming back in the bubble only to tear his ACL on Aug. 2 against the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds this season while being a high-level defender like he was at Florida State, averaging 1.6 steals and 2.3 blocks. Orlando’s future will be dictated by how good Isaac can be, but, unfortunately, he hasn’t been on the floor enough to really see just how big of a piece he will be for the Magic.

Of the remaining three players, only Iwundu has played more than 85 games — he actually leads the Magic draft class in games — playing at least 50 in each of his three NBA seasons. 

Grade: Incomplete | There is real reason to believe Isaac can be a cornerstone for Orlando, but with injury keeping him off the floor, it’s unclear just how good this draft was for the Magic.

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New York Knicks

Picks: Frank Ntilikina (No. 8), Damyean Dotson (No. 44), Ognjen Jaramaz (No. 58)

Dotson is easily the best NBA player thus far out of this Knicks draft class. That’s not exactly a good thing when he was picked 36 spots after Ntilikina. He’s played in 13 less games and 400 less minutes but has more points and rebounds than the guard from France. However you feel about either of these players, one thing is indisputable: Ntilikina is not what the Knicks need from their No. 8 pick.

Grade: C+ | Dotson is good value at No. 44, but Ntilikina’s ceiling is about as high as a C+. 

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Charlotte Hornets

Picks: Malik Monk (No. 11), Frank Jackson (No. 31)

Monk has started just one game in Charlotte but has played in at least 63 games every year of his career, increasing his numbers in each season. The only issue is that Monk hasn’t been very good from the 3-point line at all and shot 28% on 3.7 attempts per game in 2019-20. He ranks 32nd in that category in this draft class and 20th in points per game. The 19.8 points per game scorer at Kentucky hasn’t quite translated to the NBA but he’s capable of giving a boost off of the bench. 

Frank Jackson was quickly traded to New Orleans for cash and didn’t play in 2017-18 due to a pair of foot surgeries. Since his debut, he’s been relatively healthy and playing 16 minutes per night for the Pelicans.

Grade: C+ | Monk’s value doesn’t add up to that of the 11th pick and the fact that Bam Adebayo and Donovan Mitchell went two and three picks later is hard to swallow.

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Detroit Pistons

Picks: Luke Kennard (No. 12)

In true Pistons fashion, Detroit picked maybe the most boring lottery pick of all time. It’s nothing against Kennard, but he was never going to be a cornerstone for the Pistons franchise. He had a phenomenal 2016-17 season at Duke but his ceiling was only so high and there were players with much more potential still on the board when he was selected. With that being said, Kennard had a respectable first three seasons in the NBA and made a jump from 9.7 points to 15.8 points from years two to three only to get hurt and play 28 games in 2019-20. 

One of these days the Pistons might be good again, but Kennard will be a high-level role player at best on a good NBA team, not a star. 

Grade: B | It’s not an exciting pick, but Kennard has been a respectable NBA player the last three seasons. 

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Miami Heat

Picks: Bam Adebayo (No. 14)

The two players taken last and second to last in the lottery have become a major part of the definition of the draft. One is Mitchell, the other is Bam Adebayo. Adebayo has been everything you want out of a lottery pick: impactful since day one, improves every year and is healthy. He’s played in at least 69 games every season since being drafted, gone from 6.9 points per game as a rookie to 16.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists in year three and has played 221 games already. 

Adebayo is now the focal point of Miami’s future. He’s arguably the best player on the team and will be the guy to guard the best player on every team he plays for a long time. That’s great value out of a top-five pick, much less the 14th overall pick.

Grade: A+ | Bam is one of three all-stars in this draft and the most important player on the Heat roster. 

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Chicago Bulls

Picks: Justin Patton (No. 16), Jordan Bell (No. 38)

On draft night, Justin Patton was traded, along with Jimmy Butler, to the Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen. Considering Butler didn’t spend much time in the Twin Cities, the Bulls won this trade. It looks like LaVine wants out of Chicago, but Markkanen is certainly part of a young group of players Chicago has gotten from the draft in recent years. And even though LaVine is no longer happy, he’s turned into a high-level scorer in Chicago. 

In a side-by-side comparison, Markkanen, who was drafted 7th overall in 2017, is a much better player than both Patton and Bell. He’s sixth in points, fifth in points per game and fifth in rebounds out of this draft class. Chicago hasn’t been great since the Derrick Rose days, but Markkanen has certainly been a positive presence for the Bulls.

Grade: A- | This is one of those times when the two names above aren’t actually representative of the Bulls draft class, but what they walked away with was very solid.

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Indiana Pacers

Picks: TJ Leaf (No. 18), Ike Anigbogu (No. 47)

The Pacers drafted two UCLA players in 2017 and neither player has been good in the NBA. Anigbogu only played in 14 NBA games. While Leaf is still on Indiana’s roster, he’s only averaging 8.6 minutes per game for his career and has never averaged more than 3.9 points per game. His 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in his single season at UCLA have not translated to the NBA.

Grade: C- | It never turns out well when a team drafts multiple players from the same team. This is another example. 

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Atlanta Hawks

Picks: John Collins (No. 19), Tyler Dorsey (No. 41), Alpha Kaba (No. 60)

John Collins might be the highest value pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s fifth in points, third in points per game and third in rebounds as the No. 19 overall pick. He, alongside Trae Young, has become a central piece of the Hawks rebuild. He averaged 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in his second season and, after serving a 25-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy, improved to 21.6 points and 10.1 boards in 41 games in 2019-20. 

Dorsey appeared in 21 games for Memphis in 2018-19, but was not on an NBA roster in 2019-20. He signed a contract through 2022 with Maccabi Tel Aviv and averaged 9.9 points on 38.9% shooting from deep for the club in 2019-20. 

Grade: A+ | The story here is Collins. He and Trae Young could be good in Atlanta for a long time. 

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Brooklyn Nets

Picks: Jarrett Allen (No. 22), Kyle Kuzma (No. 27), Aleksander Vezenkov (No. 57)

Kyle Kuzma was traded on draft night along with Brook Lopez in a trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn. Allen has been a starter since halfway through his rookie season, averaging 10 points and 7.8 rebounds for his young NBA career. He’ll be a part of a Nets team that fancies winning a championship with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2020-21.

Grade: A- | Allen leads this draft class in rebounds and is second in field goal percentage. 

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Toronto Raptors

PIcks: OG Anunoby (No. 23)

If Collins isn’t the highest valued player relative to his pick in the draft, then Anunoby might be, or at least he might end up being the highest valued. Anunoby didn’t benefit from Kawhi Leonard’s arrival in Toronto. He started 62 games as a rookie and 67 in year three but only started six games in Kawhi’s only year with the Raptors. Anunoby is the best defender on an elite defensive team and is a big reason why Toronto is a title contender again in 2019-20.

Grade: A | Give it a couple more years and this grade will be an A+.

Photo by: Erik Drost / Wikimedia Commons

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