In an SI feature, top NBA draft prospect Markelle Fultz lets us in on what makes him tick, from his budding rivalry with Lonzo Ball to the varsity snub that drives his greatness to how he still wrestles with his mom.
The NBA draft unfolds June 22. For the Suns, who have missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, this one is big.
For now, the Suns are guaranteed a top-five pick. The selection order will be locked in during the draft lottery May 16. Phoenix has a 19.9 percent chance of landing the top pick.
How will the first round turn out?
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azcentral sports’ Doug Haller presents his first mock draft:
1. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)
Markelle Fultz, PG, 6-4, 195 pounds, 18 years old, Washington
The Celtics need more scoring and Fultz is a score-first point guard. Early last season, Cal State Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor – a former Arizona State assistant under Herb Sendek – said Fultz is as close to James Harden as anyone he’s seen. “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical. He’s athletic as hell,” Taylor said. “But he’s just like James in terms of his pace. He never hurries, never looks like he’s going hard, but he’s always in attack mode.”
2. Phoenix Suns
Lonzo Ball, PG, 6-6, 190, 19, UCLA
Given the Suns’ defensive issues, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox might make more sense, but Ball moves the ball better than anyone who’s entered this draft in years. At this point, his star potential trumps his unorthodox shot and his father’s nonsense. That could change.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Josh Jackson, SF, 6-8, 203, 20, Kansas
Given his length and defensive potential, Jackson would make sense for the Suns as well, but the guess here is he slides to Los Angeles. Like Phoenix, the Lakers this season ranked near the bottom in most defensive categories, so Jackson’s size and competitiveness would offer immediate assistance. Offensively, Jackson knows how to score, shooting 54.9 percent from inside the arc last season and 37.8 from outside.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
De’Aaron Fox, PG 6-4, 171, 19, Kentucky
After facing Kentucky in December, ASU coach Bobby Hurley said the left-handed Fox reminded him of Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton. That’s high praise. Like Payton, Fox is defensive-minded and he excels in the open court. He also torched Ball and UCLA for 39 points in an NCAA Tournament win. Biggest concern is shooting.
5. Orlando Magic
Jayson Tatum, SF, 6-8, 204, 19, Duke
Tatum is one of four or five in this draft who could end up at No. 1. A skilled scorer, he’s mature for his age and versatile in the mid-range. He also rebounds well for his position. After missing eight games with an ankle injury to start the season, Tatum lived up to high expectations, averaging 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
NBA DRAFT LOTTERY: Where will the Suns pick?
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
Lauri Markkanen, PF, 7-0, 225, 19, Arizona
In most drafts, Markkanen would be a top-three lock. You just don’t find many his size with this kind of shooting touch. In his only year in Tucson, Markkanen shot 54.5 percent from 2-point range, 42.3 from 3 and 83.5 from the foul line. On top of that, he just understands how to play.
7. New York Knicks
Dennis Smith, PG, 6-3, 195, North Carolina State
This is a draft rich in point guards. Smith wouldn’t rank as the best playmaker of the bunch, but his explosiveness might be unmatched. He’s got a little Russell Westbrook in him, right down to the triple-doubles. Smith had two during his freshman season, both coming against ACC schools.
8. Sacramento Kings
Jonathan Isaac, SF, 6-11, 205, 19, Florida State
Isaac has size, skill and upside. Like most in the draft, he just needs time to develop. In his only college season, Isaac grabbed 25 percent of defensive rebounds when he was on the court and blocked 6.2 percent of 2-point shots. On the other end, his shooting percentage (59.3 percent from 2, 34.8 from 3 and 78 from the foul line) projects well.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Malik Monk, SG, 6-4, 197, 19, Kentucky
For combine interviews, Monk simply should make copies of the Dec. 17 Kentucky-North Carolina box score and hand it out. In that contest, he scored 47 points, shooting 18 of 28 from the field and 8 of 12 from 3-point range. Interview over.
10. Sacramento Kings
Frank Ntilikina, PG, 6-5, 170, 18, Strasbourg International
Eight international players (those who did not play college ball in the States) have gone in the lottery over the past three drafts. This year, Ntilikina is the best bet to join them. Scouts like his size and potential to become an effective two-way player. Sacramento could use the backcourt help.
NBA DRAFT LOTTERY: Where will the Suns pick?
11. Charlotte Hornets
Justin Patton, C, 7-0, 226, 19, Creighton
Hard to believe Creighton red-shirted Patton as a freshman. “He did not understand the discipline it takes,’’ coach Greg McDermott said. “He didn’t understand nutrition. He didn’t understand strength and conditioning and the effort it takes to develop your body. And he also didn’t understand that you need to have a work ethic every single day.” After one year on the court – in which he averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds, shooting 67.6 percent from the field – Patton figured it out and turned himself into a potential lottery pick.
12. Detroit Pistons
T.J. Leaf, PF, 6-10, 220 , 20, UCLA
The Ball hype has dimmed the spotlight around Leaf, but maybe it shouldn’t. Leaf was one of the nation’s more efficient players last season, posting an effective field-goal percentage (which accounts for the extra value of a made 3-pointer) of 65.2, which ranked 14th nationally. Detroit — 28th in the league in 3-point shooting — could use the offensive boost.
13. Denver Nuggets
O.G. Anunoby, SF, 6-8, 215, 19, Indiana
Anunoby’s sophomore season was cut short to an ACL injury. When healthy, he’s a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. In other words, he’s someone many teams, including the Nuggets, should covet.
14. Miami Heat
Zach Collins, PF, 7-0, 230, 19, Gonzaga
The first one-and-done player with the Zags, Collins was among the best players at the Glendale Final Four, making an impact on both ends. He has all the big-man qualities. High motor. Rebounds well. Protects the rim. And a nice shooting touch.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Tyler Lydon, SF/PF, 6-10, 225, 21, Syracuse
Lydon has what teams look for in stretch forwards. In addition to his size, he was a 40-percent 3-point shooter in two college seasons. He’s also an above-average athlete, reflected in his 8.65 rebounding average, fifth-best in the ACC. He could be ready to produce sooner rather than later for Portland, which has three first-round picks.
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16. Chicago Bulls
John Collins, PF, 6-10, 225, 19, Wake Forest
After averaging just 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman, Collins positioned himself for the draft with surprising production (19.2 points and 9.7 rebounds) as a sophomore. He finished as a first-team All-ACC selection and was voted as the conference’s Most Improved Player.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
Jarrett Allen, C, 6-11, 224, 19, Texas
With a 7-5 ½ wing span, Allen produced 13 double-doubles during his only college season. Overall, he was most effective at close range, averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. An issue: Allen shot 56.4 percent from the foul line.
18. Indiana Pacers
Terrance Ferguson, SG, 6-7, 186, 18, Adelaide.
Instead of playing for Sean Miller at Arizona, Ferguson opted to play professionally in Australia, where he averaged 4.6 points and 15.1 minutes in 30 games. He’s known for his athleticism and shooting touch, qualities the Pacers could use.
19. Atlanta Hawks
Harry Giles, PF, 6-11, 222, 19, Duke
A year ago, Giles was the top-ranked player coming out of high school, but because of knee issues, his freshman season didn’t turn out as planned. In 26 games, he averaged just 3.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 11.5 minutes. A healthy Giles is a top prospect. Problem is, he’s had three knee surgeries since 2013.
20. Portland Trail Blazers
Ivan Rabb, PF, 6-10, 215, 20, California
Rabb could’ve been a first-round pick after his freshman season, but he returned for one more year in Berkeley, averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds. For a post player, he wasn’t real efficient, shooting 48.4 percent. He also didn’t finish well, averaging 10.8 points and 9.4 rebounds, shooting 31.9 percent over his final five games. Rabb missed Cal’s NIT contest because of a reported foot injury.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Justin Jackson, SF, 6-8, 193, 22, North Carolina
Coming out of high school, Jackson was labeled a can’t-miss recruit, but it took time for him to ascend to such a level. In his third college season, he got there, leading the Tar Heels to the national championship, finishing as an All-American. At 22, he could be among the oldest first-round selections.
22. Brooklyn Nets
Caleb Swanigan, PF, 6-9, 247, 21, Purdue
Swanigan checks a lot of boxes. A first-team All-American, he led the country with 28 double-doubles. He shot 44.7 percent from 3-point range and was one of the Big Ten’s top passers, averaging three assists per game. At the same time, he’s not quick or explosive, two essential NBA ingredients. Still, the guess here is he’ll go earlier than projected.
23. Toronto Raptors
Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, 7-0, 225, 19, Zalgiris International
Size. Shooting touch. Decent off the bounce. But needs time.
24. Utah Jazz
Josh Hart, SG, 6-6, 204, 22, Villanova
Hart could be this season’s Malcolm Brogdon – a player who slips past everyone simply because the draft has become so much about potential and not reality. The reality here is Hart can play, which is reflected by his trophy case. Last season Hart was both the Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He should be a rotation player for many years.
25. Orlando Magic
Jordan Bell, PF, 6-9, 215, 22, Oregon
Bell might be remembered for two missed blockouts in the final seconds of Oregon’s Final Four loss to North Carolina, but until that point, he was a star of the NCAA Tournament. A gifted shot blocker, fierce rebounder and underrated passer, Bell can have an impact on the game without scoring, a rare quality.
26. Portland Trail Blazers
Donovan Mitchell, SG, 6-3, 210, Louisville
In addition to earning first-team All-ACC honors, Mitchell was a first-team all-defender, which shouldn’t be a surprise. If you don’t defend at Louisville, you don’t play. Overall, Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Jawun Evans, PG, 6-1, 177, 20, Oklahoma State
Evans last season was called college basketball’s best-kept secret and at times drew comparisons to Chris Paul. While he may not reach that level, Evans averaged 19.2 points (second in the Big 12) and 6.2 assists (first). On March 4, he flashed his potential with 22 points and 15 assists in a loss to No. 1 Kansas.
28. Los Angeles Lakers
Ike Anigbogu, C, 6-10, 230, UCLA
Anigbogu – who could be the third first-rounder from UCLA – averaged only 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds. In 29 games, he scored in double figures only once. He never grabbed more than nine rebounds. At the same time, his rim protection and potential captured the attention of NBA scouts. On Dec. 3, he changed the game in a win over then-No. 1 Kentucky.
29. San Antonio Spurs
Luke Kennard, SG, Duke, 6-6, 202, 20
Kennard was supposed to play a supporting role last season for Duke. Instead he starred, averaging a team-high 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
30. Utah Jazz
Bam Adebayo, C, 6-10, 250, 19, Kentucky
While the NBA trends toward versatile, long-range shooting big men, Adebayo is an old-school post player. An advantage: He already has NBA size and athletic ability. A disadvantage: His offensive game is limited.