2017 NBA Re-Draft: Does Jayson Tatum or Donovan Mitchell Lead Strong Class?

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    In the instant-analysis culture of today’s sports media, many expect to know who won the draft the moment it’s over. NBA teams are immediately graded on every pick. 

    It’s the nature of the business, but everyone knows you can’t evaluate a selection until some time has passed. You have to see how the player and his team develop his game. You have to see how he’s utilized within certain schemes. In some cases, players still have plenty of physical changes on the way.

    For the 2017 draft class, we’ve now had four years to analyze those factors, and that analysis would certainly alter the order if that first round were held today.

    In an effort to determine a somewhat objective order for this re-draft, over a dozen numbers were considered, including rate (e.g., points per game) and cumulative (e.g., total points) catch-all metrics, shooting percentages and per-possession averages for basic indicators like points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

    But since there’s still some looking forward here, FiveThirtyEight’s individual player projections and a dash of subjectivity were also given consideration.

    One thing you won’t see weighted, however, is team need. We’re not going back in time as much as guessing where players would be selected if they were re-drafted now. So, each pick will be driven by a “best player available” approach.

    So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at how a 2017 re-draft might shake out.

    (And be sure to check out the 2016 re-draft here).

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    30. Los Angeles Lakers (via UTA): Jordan Bell (originally picked 38th)

    Jordan Bell’s total minutes have plummeted in each of his last three seasons, bottoming out at 82 in 2020-21. And though he’s a fringe NBA player right now, he’d probably still be worth a flier at No. 30.

    As a rookie, Bell was top 40 in box plus/minus (BPM is a “…basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court,” according to Basketball-Reference) and averaged 11.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.6 steals per 75 possessions.

    29. San Antonio Spurs: Harry Giles (originally picked 20th)

    Harry Giles was the No. 2 recruit in the 2016 class, but he’s struggled to live up to the hype ever since. He averaged just 3.9 points at Duke, missed all of what would’ve been his rookie campaign with an injury and averaged career-high of just 7.0 in 2018-19.

    Still, there have been glimpses of a playmaking big there who can swat the occasional shot away inside.

    28. Utah Jazz (via LAL): Frank Jackson (originally picked 31st)

    After missing all of what would’ve been his rookie campaign with an injury, Frank Jackson had disastrous back-to-back campaigns in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He shot 31.9 percent from three and ranked 378th among the 384 players with at least 1,000 minutes in BPM.

    Then, as a reserve for the Detroit Pistons, Jackson broke out with 9.8 points and a 40.7 three-point percentage in 2020-21.

    He still has a ways to go on defense, and another season with decent efficiency might suggest the last one wasn’t an aberration, but there are at least some encouraging signs now.

    27. Los Angeles Lakers (via BKN): Zach Collins (originally picked 10th)

    Availability has been a major problem throughout Zach Collins’ career. After missing all of 2020-21, he’s averaging just 38.5 appearances per season. But even when he’s healthy, Collins hasn’t shown a ton. He’s posted a below-replacement level BPM in two of his three seasons (and below average in all three).

    At this point, though, he still might be worth a shot. Collins is big enough to play the 5 and has hinted at an ability to both stretch the floor and protect the paint.

    26. Portland Trail Blazers: PJ Dozier (originally undrafted)

    It took PJ Dozier most of three seasons to find anything close to a consistent NBA role, but he’s been a helpful combo guard for the Denver Nuggets ever since.

    At 6’6″, he can guard multiple positions. He can create a bit for others and has shown an ability to get all the way to the rim. During his two seasons in Denver, the Nuggets are plus-5.9 points per 100 possessions with Dozier on the floor and plus-2.6 when he was off.

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    25. Philadelphia 76ers (via ORL): Dennis Smith Jr. (originally picked 9th)

    Dennis Smith Jr. was wildly inefficient in his first two NBA seasons when he averaged 14.5 points with a 48.4 true shooting percentage, but the volume was at least a bit encouraging.

    Since then, he’s struggled to get on the floor much at all, but there may be a heat-check reserve in there somewhere.

    24. Denver Nuggets (via UTA): Luke Kornet (originally undrafted)

    The sample size isn’t huge, but Luke Kornet averaged 15.0 points, 3.2 threes and 1.9 blocks per 75 possessions, with a 36.0 three-point percentage in his first two seasons.

    The last two campaigns may suggest the hot start was a bit of a mirage, but there may be some real three-and-D potential that can be recovered.

    23. Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein (originally picked 43rd)

    An inability to hit threes can limit a big man’s ceiling in today’s game, but Isaiah Hartenstein can still contribute as a backup rim runner and paint protector, thanks to wide-ranging contributions around the rest of the stat sheet.

    In 2020-21, Hartenstein averaged 15.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per 75 possessions.

    22. Brooklyn Nets: Tony Bradley (originally picked 28th)

    Like Hartenstein, Tony Bradley certainly doesn’t space the floor (he’s attempted just seven threes in his career). He’s also far from the most nimble reserve big.

    Simply being in the right spot and taking up space can go a long way for a player of Bradley’s size, though, and he does a decent job of that on both ends of the floor.

    21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Jackson (originally picked 4th)

    Josh Jackson has looked a bit better over his last two seasons, and he may still develop into a decent, multipositional defender. His nightmarishly bad shooting is the cause for this slide from fourth to outside the top 20, though.

    Jackson has attempted 3.2 threes per game during his career, but he’s hit just 29.8 percent of those attempts. A complete lack of consistency in terms of mechanics and release suggests improvement may be a ways off.

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    20. Sacramento Kings (via POR): Malik Monk (originally picked 11th)

    Malik Monk was a terribly inefficient scorer in his first three seasons, averaging 8.6 points in 17.2 minutes while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from three.

    His 2020-21 campaign suggested he can be a dynamic reserve scorer, though. He put up 11.7 points in just 20.9 minutes while shooting 40.1 percent from three, and his 37.2-percent mark on pull-up threes show’s he’s developed an ability to create decent looks for himself.

    19. Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks (originally picked 45th)

    Dillon Brooks has yet to post an above-average effective field-goal percentage or true shooting percentage, but his tenacity on the defensive end has made him a nuisance for opponents for four years.

    Whether he’s defending a point guard or a small forward, Brooks has a way of bothering his assignment, and that goes beyond contesting shots. If he can become a consistently above-average three-point shooter, he has a chance to be a dynamic three-and-D wing.

    18. Indiana Pacers: Markelle Fultz (Originally picked 1st)

    There is nowhere near enough room here for a deep dive on the long, strange trip Markelle Fultz’s career has been. Suffice to say, health, consistency and a broken jumper have been significant problems.

    Still, Fultz has shown some feistiness since joining the Orlando Magic before the 2019-20 season. He has decent size (6’3″) and athleticism for a point guard and may still be a plus playmaker for others.

    17. Milwaukee Bucks: Chris Boucher (originally undrafted)

    Like others on this list, it took Chris Boucher quite a while to settle into an NBA role. Once he did, though, he looked like one of the game’s more menacing three-and-D big men.

    Last season, he led the Toronto Raptors in BPM and averaged 20.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 2.2 threes per 75 possessions, while shooting 38.3 percent from three.

    And he wasn’t just collecting those swats standing in the lane. Boucher led the league in total blocked threes in 2020-21.

    16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via CHI): Thomas Bryant (originally picked 42nd)

    Good health has eluded Thomas Bryant for much of his career, but when he’s on the floor, he’s shown the potential to be a devastating offensive weapon.

    The 36.2 three-point percentage (including 41.1 percent over the last two seasons) is nice to get from a big, but what he does inside the paint might be even more impressive.

    Throughout his career, the only players who’ve matched or exceeded both of his marks for two-point attempts and two-point percentage are Dwight Powell, Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan.

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    15. Sacramento Kings (via POR): Josh Hart (originally picked 30th)

    Josh Hart hasn’t had an above-average three-point percentage since his rookie season. If he could recapture his form and consistency, he’d likely rise higher up future re-drafts.

    But even without high-end outside shooting, Hart has remained a positively impactful player by bearing down on defense, occasionally creating for others and being one of the game’s toughest rebounding guards. Last season, he averaged 10.1 rebounds per 75 possessions.

    14. Miami Heat: Luke Kennard (originally picked 12th)

    Fair or not, Luke Kennard’s career will likely always be measured against that of Donovan Mitchell. Going one pick before a star can be something of a curse. Just ask Sam Bowie or Darko Milicic.

    In a vacuum, though, Kennard has gotten off to a solid start. He’s a career 41.3 percent three-point shooter, with career highs of 15.8 points and 4.1 assists to his name. His ceiling is that of a high-end secondary playmaker, which is a good result for anyone picked outside the top 10.

    13. Utah Jazz (via DEN): Kyle Kuzma (originally picked 27th)

    Kyle Kuzma’s true shooting percentage has hovered just below average throughout his career. A little more rebounding and playmaking for others wouldn’t hurt, but in his four NBA seasons, he’s proven himself an adaptable scorer.

    Prior to the arrival of Anthony Davis, he put up 18.7 points in 2018-19. During the last two seasons, he’s willingly taken a step back offensively, and in 2020-21, specifically, he committed himself more fully to defense.

    12. Detroit Pistons: Monte Morris (originally picked 51st)

    Monte Morris has quickly developed into one of the game’s best backup point guards, thanks to a steady hand at the wheel and a consistent three-point shot.

    He has a career 5.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Among players with at least 100 assists, Tyus Jones is the only one with a better mark in the same span (and third-place Darren Collison’s 3.9 really isn’t close to the top two).

    Morris is also a 39.3 three-point percentage, which means he’s a reliable catch-and-shoot option when he’s not engineering possessions himself.

    11. Charlotte Hornets: Lauri Markkanen (originally picked 7th)

    As his role has been steadily reduced over his last two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Lauri Markkanen’s efficiency has improved. In 2020-21, he averaged a career-low 13.6 points, but he posted a well-above-average 59.4 effective field-goal percentage.

    If that mark is a sign of things to come, Markkanen can be one of the game’s more productive floor-spacing bigs. He’s a legitimate seven-footer, which forces the opposition to keep a big on him. And if he’s outside the paint, there’s naturally more room around the rim for slashers.

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $104.9 million

    Derrick White’s basic numbers certainly don’t leap off the screen. In 2020-21, when he logged a career-high 29.6 minutes per game, he averaged 15.4 points and 3.5 assists with a below-average effective field-goal percentage.

    What that may have proved is that White isn’t a second or third option. Instead, he’s perhaps a high-end glue guy who can guard a couple of positions, create a bit for others and hit open catch-and-shoot threes.

    The fact that he can do a little bit of everything, even if he doesn’t necessarily excel at anything, has made White a clear plus on an often underwhelming San Antonio Spurs team.

    He’s never posted a negative net rating swing—during his four seasons with San Antonio, the Spurs are plus-3.8 points per 100 possessions with White on the floor and minus-2.1 with him off.

    White is perhaps the prototypical low-ceiling, high-floor player of this draft, and at No. 10, he’d be a pretty good value.

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $65.9 million

    Injuries are a concern with Jonathan Isaac. He appeared in just 27 games as a rookie, had a pretty healthy sophomore campaign, then dealt with adversity in Year 3.

    A knee injury in January kept him sidelined for most of that season. When he returned in the bubble, a torn ACL in his second game cost him the rest of that campaign and all of 2020-21.

    Even with the troubling injury history, the Orlando Magic signed Isaac to a four-year, $69.6 million extension in 2020, and it’s not hard to see why.

    When healthy, Isaac has Defensive Player of the Year candidate upside. His profile on that end is Andrei Kirilenko-like. At 6’11”, he can protect the rim as a dedicated paint presence or a help defender coming out of rotations.

    He’s also nimble enough to take perimeter assignments, and his length there can be a major bother to guards and wings.

    If he can develop into an average outside shooter, Isaac can be one of the game’s better three-and-D players.

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $98.6 million

    His height and defensive upside aren’t quite where Isaac’s are, but OG Anunoby is much further along offensively.

    Playmaking and an ability to draw fouls remain areas for improvement, but Anunoby has averaged double-figures with a 60-plus true shooting percentage in each of his last two seasons. His 39.5 three-point percentage over the same stretch is solid evidence he’ll be a good floor spacer going forward.

    And even if he may not be quite as versatile a defender as a healthy Isaac, Anunoby has still derived much of his value from that end of the floor.

    At 6’7″, he can guard multiple positions, including at the point of attack, and a decent steal rate has generated precious extra possessions for his team.

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $65.9 million

    Dirk Nowitzki made outside shooting a much hotter commodity among big men. Nikola Jokic has done the same thing for passing. In today’s NBA, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for centers without those skills to earn significant roles.

    There remains at least one archetype that can impact the game without an abundance of guard or wing abilities, though. An athletic big man who protects the rim on defense and pulls defenders into the paint with aggressive rolls on offense can still move the needle in the right direction.

    And Jarrett Allen is exactly that type of big.

    Throughout of his career, Allen has averaged 15.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 75 possessions with a 64.8 true shooting percentage.

    If you have a guard or wing who can hit shots dribbling off a ball screen, Allen can be a valuable 5. An ability to create extra shots with offensive rebounds helps too.

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $116.0 million

    In 2020-21, De’Aaron Fox quietly had one of the most productive and unique seasons any 23-year-old point guard has ever had.

    On the production front, Fox is one of just seven players in league history to average at least 25 points and seven assists in an age-23 (or younger) season.

    As for the uniqueness, he piled up those numbers in a way that most guards and wings can’t dream of. Fox shot 76.2 percent on shots within three feet of the rim in 2020-21. Among seasons with at least as many attempts as Fox from that range since 1996-97, Fox’s mark ranks 23rd, and there isn’t a single guard in front of him.

    Perhaps even more impressive, just 17.7 percent of Fox’s makes there were assisted. If you combine the 22 seasons ahead of Fox’s on that list, 60.3 percent of their makes were assisted.

    An ability to create that many layups from scratch make Fox one of the game’s most dynamic creators.

    He has a long way to go as a shooter, and his size will always be a problem for his defense. But he’s still just 23—there’s plenty of time to develop.

    The fact that he’s outside the top five is a testament to the rest of this draft class.

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $106.3 million

    Coming out of Wake Forest, John Collins looked like he’d be a dynamic, high-flying rim runner and rebounder. In just 26.6 minutes as a sophomore, he averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 62.2 percent from the field.

    Then, somehow, he slid all the way outside the lottery to the Atlanta Hawks, a development that was described as “downright theft” by Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal.

    If it was the lack of threes in college that moved Collins down draft boards, several teams that passed on him are likely kicking themselves now. Collins was 0-of-1 from three in his two college seasons. In his last two NBA seasons, he’s attempted 3.4 threes per game and hit 40.0 percent of those attempts.

    And when you combine the three-point shooting with the rebounding and interior scoring he brought to the NBA, Collins is a devastating offensive player.

    Kevin Love, Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic are the only other players in league history to average at least 20 points, three offensive rebounds and one three per 75 possessions through their age-23 seasons.

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $143.3 million

    For the first two years of his career, the almost constant refrain for analysis of Lonzo Ball went something like this: If only he could shoot.

    Pretty much every other box was checked, though. At 6’6″, Ball could defend multiple positions. He was one of the game’s best hit-ahead passers. His vision was way better than his experience level suggested it should be. He was even a plus rebounder for a guard.

    If only he could shoot.

    Then, following a trade to the New Orleans Pelicans, Ball seemingly rectified that issue. In his two seasons with the Pelicans, Ball attempted 7.2 threes per game and shot 37.6 percent from three.

    He’ll never be a Duncan Robinson- or Joe Harris-level three-point shooter, but being above average opens up the rest of Ball’s well-rounded game. Now that defenders have to honor his range, he’ll be able to attack off the dribble a bit more and set up teammates with kickouts and dump-offs.

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $101.3 million

    If he ever adds a semi-reliant three-point shot, Bam Adebayo may very well be the prototypical center for the next era of NBA basketball.

    With that lone exception, he truly does a bit of everything. At 6’9″, he has the size and athleticism to dominate as a rim protector and rim runner, but he’s also quick enough to defend wings on the perimeter.

    He’s also a good (though maybe not great) rebounder. And last season, he shot 79.2 percent on shots within three feet of the rim.

    What’s perhaps most encouraging, though, is the passing. Over the last two seasons, Adebayo has averaged 5.3 assists, a mark that trails only Jimmy Butler among Miami Heat players.

    And Adebayo isn’t just making run-of-the-mill kickout passes from the post (though even those take some skill against NBA defenses). He’s passing on the move, from the elbow, out of drives, you name it.

    Having a center who can run possessions can work wonders for everyone else on the roster. Those extra off-ball possessions increase efficiency for guards and wings, and forcing bigs to defend a variety of actions in space can wear them out or get them into foul trouble.

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $136.4 million

    Donovan Mitchell burst onto the scene in 2017-18, averaging 20.5 points and leading a playoff team in scoring as a rookie. He also set the record for most threes in a season by a rookie.

    And even if Mitchell had stayed around his rookie-level production over the next three seasons, he would have moved up from No. 13 in this re-draft. But that’s not what happened.

    Mitchell has steadily improved throughout his career, reaching a regular-season peak with 26.4 points, 5.2 assists, 3.4 threes and a 38.6 three-point percentage in 2020-21.

    But what really sets Mitchell apart is the heights he has hit in the playoffs.

    In 2020, he opened the postseason with a 57-point performance against the Denver Nuggets. He topped 50 twice in that series and averaged 36.3 over those seven games.

    Then, in 2021, while playing much of the playoffs on an injured leg, Mitchell averaged 32.3 points and 5.5 assists.

    Throughout his playoff career, he’s put up 28.8 points in 33 games. Michael Jordan and Anthony Davis are the only players in the three-point era who scored more in their first 33 playoff games.

    Of everyone in this class, Mitchell may very well have the highest ceiling as a scorer.

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Projected Five-Year Market Value: $217.9 million

    Jayson Tatum checks a lot of the same boxes Mitchell does, and he’s seven inches taller. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

    With combo forward height and guard skills, Tatum is an ideal leading man in the positionless era. He can switch all over the floor on defense, has improved as a playmaker and is one of the game’s best tough-shot makers.

    In 2020-21, Tatum averaged 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.9 threes and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 38.6 percent from three.

    Thanks in large part to those wide-ranging contributions, Tatum is forecast for 10.4 wins above replacement player in 2021-22. Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid, Paul George and Damian Lillard are the only players projected to have more.

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