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2017 NBA Draft Re-grade: Western 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.

Los Angeles Lakers

Picks (Pick No.): Lonzo Ball (No. 2), Tony Bradley (No. 28)

Ball has struggled with injuries — he didn’t play more than 52 games in either of his first seasons. However, Ball is exactly what he was scouted to be coming out of UCLA. He’s a career 10.7 points, 6.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds player who has vastly improved his 3-point shooting since entering the league. He’s 22nd in games played out of this draft class but he’s second in assists and seventh in rebounds at the guard position. He wouldn’t be the No. 2 overall pick if this class was re-drafted, but if he stays healthy he’ll be a good point guard in the NBA for a long time. For what it’s worth, he’s been good enough to be a valuable piece in the trade that got Anthony Davis to LA.

Bradley was traded on draft night to Utah in a trade that brought Josh Hart to LA, another pick that was used to get Davis prior to the 2019-20 season.

Grade: B+ | The Lakers got a good player in Ball and Hart was also impactful. It’s not unimportant that both players were trade assets as well.

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Phoenix Suns

Picks: Josh Jackson (No. 4), Davon Reed (No. 32), Alec Peters (No. 54)

Jackson was a frequent presence in the Suns starting lineup as a rookie, earning all-rookie honors during his first season. However, he’s gone backwards since and only appeared in 22 games this season for Memphis. He began the year with the Hustle, Memphis’ G-League team and the team did not pick up the fourth year of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent following the 2019-20 season.

Reed and Peters combined for a total of 51 NBA games and both were out of the league by the end of 2019.

Grade: C | All you need to know is the Suns traded their No. 4 overall pick for Jevon Carter just two years after drafting him.

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Sacramento Kings

Picks: De’Aaron Fox (No. 5), Zach Collins (No. 10), Frank Mason (No. 34)

Fox has been one of the more exciting players since he entered the NBA. In 2019-20, he’s averaging 21.1 points and 6.8 assists along with 1.5 steals. He’s fourth in points and first in assists by a wide margin in this draft class. The Kentucky product is the best point guard in the 2017 draft class, which is fitting considering he made Ball look silly in the 2017 Sweet Sixteen in Memphis.

Unfortunately, the Kings have ended up on the short end of the trade that sent their No. 10 pick to Portland for the Blazers’ 15th and 20th picks. Portland ended up with Zach Collins, who will be an important part of Portland’s plans for the next several years, while Sacramento ended up with Justin Jackson, who is no longer a King, and Harry Giles, who struggles with injury among other on-court performance issues.

Grade: B+ | I really wanted to give the Fox pick an A, but the peripherals just aren’t quite good enough.

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Minnesota Timberwolves

Picks: Lauri Markkanen (No. 7)

Minnesota traded Markkanen along with Zach LaVine to the Bulls to acquire Jimmy Butler. In 2020, Minnesota would probably like to have the trade back. Butler only played 75 games in Minnesota before he was off to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia. Markkanen has developed into a good, young NBA player and LaVine exploded on the offensive end for the Bulls.

Grade: C+ | It’s not like they drafted a bad player, but they didn’t get to benefit from the pick, or the guy

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Dallas Mavericks

Picks: Dennis Smith Jr. (No. 9)

Dennis Smith was a really solid selection for the Mavericks. He’s 11th in points and fourth in assists for this draft class. He was good enough that he was a very attractive piece in the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. If you aren’t going to make a top 10 draft pick the center of your future, at the very least you need to trade him for someone who will be, and that’s exactly what Dallas did.

Grade: A- | Smith was a positive presence during 101 games in Dallas. His attraction as a trade asset was even more positive for the Mavs franchise.

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Denver Nuggets

Picks: Donovan Mitchell (No. 13), Vlatko Cancar (No. 49), Monte Morris (No. 51)

The Denver Nuggets traded the No. 13 overall pick to Denver for Trey Lyles and the No. 24 overall pick in the 2017 draft. That pick became Donovan Mitchell. Now, it’s not fair to criticize Denver too much. Nobody outside of the top five was all that attractive at the time in 2017, but Mitchell has been the best player out of this draft class since the night of the draft. He’s first in points by over 1,100 points, first in minutes played, third in assists and fifth in win shares. He would’ve been rookie of the year had it not been for Ben Simmons missing the first season after he was drafted.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for Denver fans, but Monte Morris has become a very important piece for a good Denver team. He’s the first guard off the bench averaging nine points and 3.5 assists per night. Is he a world-beater? No, but he’s much better than pretty much every other 51st pick.

Grade: C | It’s a tough pill to swallow, but you can’t really get anything higher than a C when you trade Mitchell away, even with the value of Morris at 51.

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Portland Trail Blazers

Picks: Justin Jackson (No. 15), Harry Giles (No. 20), Caleb Swanigan (No. 26)

Portland traded up to 10th on draft night and ended up with Zach Collins out of Gonzaga. Jackson has been a consistent NBA player but Giles continues to have injury issues like he’s had since high school. Swanigan was dominant at Purdue but the NBA game in 2020 doesn’t suit his strong suit of dominating the interior without much of a perimeter threat. In 2020, the Blazers have a player in Collins that is in their starting lineup and the same can’t be said for the teams that ended up with Giles and Jackson.

Grade: B | Collins has struggled with injuries a little, but the Gonzaga big is going to be a solid NBA player for a long time.

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Picks: Terrence Ferguson (No. 21)

Ferguson has been overwhelmingly average since entering the NBA. He’s lower than 21st in this class in points, rebounds and assists averaging just 4.9 points and 1.4 rebounds for his career. But clearly he’s doing something that the Thunder like, because he’s played at least 22.5 minutes per game for the last two seasons. He’s 12 in games played, so he stays healthy as a consistent bench player in OKC.

Grade: B | Overwhelmingly average, just like a B.

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Utah Jazz

Picks: Tyler Lydon (No. 24), Josh Hart (No. 30), Thomas Bryant (No. 42), Nigel Williams-Goss (No 55)

The Jazz didn’t have a pick inside the top 20, but they walked away with Donovan Mitchell who should’ve been rookie of the year and is one of just three all-stars in this draft so far. They traded Lydon and Lyles to the Nuggets for Mitchell and defined their franchise for the foreseeable future. Mitchell is first in points by some 1,100 points while also being first in games played and minutes played. He averaged 20.5 points per game as a rookie and averaged 24 in year three.

Grade: A+ | Mitchell has been the center of the Jazz franchise since he entered the league, and he was the 13th pick.

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San Antonio Spurs

Picks: Derrick White (No. 29), Jaron Blossomgame (No. 59)

In back-to-back drafts, San Antonio found their backcourt of the future with the No. 29 pick. They drafted Dejounte Murray in 2016 and followed it up with White a year later. White didn’t see the floor much as a rookie but has taken advantage of his transition into the starting lineup. In year three, he averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 assist and 3.3 rebounds. The numbers won’t blow you away, but White and Murray will be an interested backcourt to follow in the immediate future. A tip of the hat to the Spurs, you don’t go to 22 straight playoffs without performing well in the draft to keep things moving.

Grade: B+ | Don’t be surprised if this grade gets better with time.

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New Orleans Pelicans

Picks: Dwayne Bacon (No. 40), Edmond Sumner (No. 52)

It’s a shame neither of these players actually played in New Orleans because they’re both solid bottom 20 players in the NBA draft. They were both traded on draft night for cash. Bacon ended up in Charlotte and Sumner began his career in Indiana. Bacon’s been much better and had an easier time getting on the floor than Sumner but he’s been much better than most 52nd picks.

Grade: C+ | New Orleans acquired Frank Jackson along with the cash they got for Bacon. He’s been better than Bacon in two seasons, but that’s not saying much.

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Houston Rockets

Picks: Isaiah Hartenstein (No. 43), Dillon Brooks (No. 45)

Hartenstein played 51 games over two seasons in the NBA, but Brooks has turned into a 16 points per game scorer in Memphis. Houston traded him to the Grizzlies for a 2018 second round pick, De’Anthony Melton, who is also a Grizzly in 2020. Brooks has been good, but you can’t exactly give Houston credit when they immediately traded him for another pick.

Grade: C | Hartenstein was impactful and they sent Brooks away immediately, not a needle moving draft.

Photo by: Frenchieinportland / Wikimedia Commons

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