2017 NBA Draft: A look at where Triangle-area prospects could end up

David Welker, theACC.com

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Daniel Lacy, Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C – When at their best, Duke, UNC and N.C. State are among the premier programs in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) men’s basketball, and a big part of the history and foundation of the conference.

This sparks recruiting wars between the schools and as a result, top-tier talent comes and goes from each team, year in and year out.

With the 2017 NBA Draft coming up Thursday, here are three potential landing spots for each prospect as they start their professional careers.

Jayson Tatum, Small Forward, Duke

Best fit: Third overall to the Boston Celtics

Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are widely regarded as the top two picks in the draft, so the Celtics pick will likely come down to two small forwards: Tatum and Josh Jackson from Kansas.

The Celtics’ biggest needs are scoring from the wing and rebounding, something Tatum and Jackson both did well in college – Tatum averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

If the Celtics decide to go with Tatum, who they hosted for a workout Monday according to the Boston Herald, they would be getting one of the best scorers in the draft who could contribute off the bench behind Jae Crowder.

Another option: Fourth overall to the Phoenix Suns

The Suns and Kings are interchangeable here, as they both have needs at small forward, but the Suns have the advantage at picking one spot before Sacramento.

Additionally, barring a trade, Phoenix has two capable point guards in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, while they don’t have much depth outside of T.J. Warren at small forward.

With the Suns likely building the team around rising star Devin Booker, Tatum could pair with him on the wing and compete with Warren for playing time.

Dark Horse: Sixth overall to the Orlando Magic

Tatum is unlikely to fall out of the top five, as Sacramento also needs a small forward if Boston and Phoenix both pass on him.

However, if he does, the Magic will waste no time in scooping him up.

Orlando needs wing players, and Tatum would be the best player available at No. 6.

Dennis Smith Jr., Point Guard, N.C. State

Best fit: Eighth overall to the New York Knicks

While N.C. State’s 2016-17 season was nothing short of a disaster, Smith put together a solid individual season, averaging 18.1 points and 6.3 assists per game while earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors.

The Knicks are already thin at point guard and are in danger of losing starter Derrick Rose in free agency.

Even if New York can retain Rose, it wouldn’t hurt to add Smith, who would have the chance to learn behind a former MVP as well as getting better depth behind the injury-prone Rose.

Another option: 9th overall to the Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks only have one pick in this year’s draft, and point guard is by far their biggest need, with Devin Harris and J.J. Barea currently facilitating the offense.

Just like New York, Dallas is looking for a guy who can be its point guard of the future, and Smith is a tremendous athlete with a ton of upside who could potentially fill that void.

Dark Horse: 11th overall to the Charlotte Hornets

Smith is widely regarded as a top-10 pick, but if he falls, it would be hard for Charlotte to pass on him.

The Hornets need help all over the place in terms of depth, but especially behind rising star Kemba Walker.

Smith wouldn’t be the point guard of the future here like he would with the Knicks or the Mavericks, but he could earn minutes immediately in the rotation either in relief of Walker or alongside him, similar to the way Charlotte used Jeremy Lin in the 2015-16 season.

Luke Kennard, Shooting Guard, Duke

Best fit: 11th overall to the Charlotte Hornets

Kennard has dead-eye accuracy, shooting 49 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range in the 2016-17 season while averaging 19.5 points per game.

As previously mentioned, the Hornets are in desperate need of depth, and Kennard can contribute right away at shooting guard in a wing rotation that currently includes Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeremy Lamb.

Additionally, TNT’s David Aldridge reported Monday that the Hornets have narrowed their search to Kennard and Louisville shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.

Another option: 12th overall to the Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have a big need at shooting guard, especially if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope decides to leave in free agency.

With that being said, if Aldridge’s report is true, Detroit will likely pick whoever Charlotte doesn’t between Kennard and Mitchell.

Even if Caldwell-Pope stays, the Pistons are relatively thin on the wing and Kennard would be a nice offensive boost off the bench.

Dark Horse: 16th overall to the Chicago Bulls

In the scenario that Kennard falls into the mid-late teens, the Bulls are an option depending on what they decide to do with stars Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler.

Wade has a player option and Butler has been in the middle of trade talks, so if Chicago loses one or even both of them, it will need to restock on wing players quickly.

Justin Jackson, Small Forward, UNC

Best fit: 18th overall to the Indiana Pacers

Jackson brings a lot to the table – length, athleticism, gradually improved shooting and a winning mentality as the ACC Player of the Year on the Tar Heels, who also won the national championship.

The Pacers, meanwhile, are trying to trade superstar Paul George after he told the team he wasn’t returning after the 2017-18 season.

Add in the fact that C.J. Miles is also a free agent and the Pacers will be reeling for a wing player.

While Jackson won’t come in and start immediately, he could contribute early off the bench and eventually develop into a solid starter.

Another option: 16th overall to the Chicago Bulls

With the Bulls in danger of losing both Butler and Wade this offseason, they will be looking for wing players to compensate for it.

If Kennard doesn’t fall to them, which he most likely won’t, Jackson is a solid consolation prize who might actually have a higher ceiling than his former collegiate rival.

Dark Horse: 13th overall to the Denver Nuggets

Let’s face it, Jackson’s draft stock has been all over the place, but as time goes by, it has steadily improved.

With that being said, he could surprise everyone and go in the early teens to the Nuggets, who need a reliable three behind Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

Harry Giles, Power Forward, Duke

Best fit: 19th overall to the Atlanta Hawks

Giles is possibly the most high risk, high reward player in this year’s draft due to his injury history.

With Paul Millsap testing free agency this offseason, the Hawks will need to prepare for the case that they lose him by drafting his potential future replacement in the draft, as well as someone who can replace Dwight Howard, who was just traded to the Hornets Tuesday.

If he can stay healthy, Giles fits that bill.

He will likely need a year to learn the pro system due to his lack of collegiate experience, but he has the talent to be a star in the NBA if everything works out.

Another option: 20th overall to the Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers also have the 15th pick, so they could roll the dice on Giles earlier than expected as well.

However, if Giles lasts until pick 20, he will be too good for Portland to pass up.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Noah Vonleh primarily manned the power forward spot for the Trail Blazers last season, but both were inconsistent and could be replaced in the near future.

Dark Horse: 14th overall to the Miami Heat

The Heat has a rising star in Hassan Whiteside, but ever since Chris Bosh started having blood clot issues, they’ve seemingly lacked dependable bigs outside of Whiteside.

With a big need at the position, Miami could surprise people by taking an early risk on Giles.

Tony Bradley, Center, UNC

Best fit: 28th overall to the Los Angeles Lakers

After going one-and-done at UNC despite playing less than 15 minutes per game, Bradley is another high risk, high reward prospect.

After trading for Brook Lopez Tuesday, Bradley could learn from him while he learns the pro-level game.

Another option: 37th overall to the Boston Celtics

Like Giles, Bradley’s draft stock is all over the place due to his lack of experience at the collegiate level, meaning he could fall as low as 37, possibly even lower.

The Celtics would have a hard time passing up Bradley if he does drop, as they could use big depth behind Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk.

Dark Horse: 29th overall to the San Antonio Spurs

Pau Gasol will opt out of his contract, but is likely to re-sign with the Spurs for a more cap-friendly deal.

If that is the case, Gasol is a seasoned veteran and has an NBA Championship under his belt, making him a good player for Bradley to potentially learn under as he gives San Antonio much needed depth.

Frank Jackson, Shooting Guard, Duke

Best fit: 30th overall to the Utah Jazz

Jackson is an athletic, high-upside combo guard who is also projected to go in the late-first, early-second round after going one-and-done at Duke.

The Jazz is in danger of losing Gordon Hayward in free agency and would be wise to stock up on wing players to prepare for that loss.

Another option: 35th overall to the Orlando Magic

The Magic has four picks in this year’s draft, and could use its last on Jackson to bolster its bench.

Dark Horse: 32nd overall to the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix appears to be set at point guard, but Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are both very tradable assets, so depth never hurts.

Isaiah Hicks, Power Forward, UNC

Best fit: 57th overall to the Brooklyn Nets

Despite being a reliable sixth man for the Tar Heels for four years, Hicks has a reasonable shot at going undrafted.

However, if he avoids that fate, the Nets are in the middle of rebuilding their team and he would have a good shot to compete with the other young talent.

Another option: 58th overall to the New York Knicks

The Knicks lack depth at power forward behind Kristaps Porzingis, especially if they decide to trade him, so Hicks has a relative shot at making the roster in New York.

Dark Horse: 50th overall to the Philadelphia 76ers

These guys that are on the bubble of getting drafted sometimes surprise and get picked early, and the 76ers are known for gambling on young talent, so they could take a shot at the hard-playing Hicks.

About Peter Koutroumpis 1619 Articles
Peter Koutroumpis is an alumnus of the University of Toronto and Bowling Green State University. Living in the Raleigh area, he has been involved and employed in organized sport and competition as a player, official, teacher, coach, administrator, and volunteer. With more than 20 years of experience in sport event management and programming, as Owner and Managing Editor of the Triangle Sports Network, a set of online sports news sites, he provides a variety of perspectives on the amateur and professional sports landscape including the NCAA, NHL, NBA, PGA, and LPGA, and more.