Utah Jazz: Redrafting the 2017 Donovan Mitchell draft lottery

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /

14. Malik Monk, Miami Heat

The recently acquired Los Angeles Laker was selected two spots ahead of Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell in 2017 with the 11th overall pick. So far, the talented off-guard has struggled to justify that selection. Across 233 games played to date, Malik Monk has started exactly once.

Nonetheless, he flashed some potential last season as an elite floor-spacer, drilling 40.1% of his 5.0 three-point attempts per game. An explosive guard with an elite burst and vertical, Monk can still carve out an impressive NBA career as a JJ Redick on steroids if he can establish that three-point efficiency as a new baseline.

13. Josh Hart, Utah Jazz

Uncharacteristically for a shooting guard / small forward, the most impressive element of Josh Hart’s game may be his rebounding. Last season, he pulled down 8.0 per game. That was the leading mark among all players listed as shooting guards, and it would have been the leading mark among small forwards (Hart’s secondary position) as well.

Otherwise, Hart is a solid defender and a multi-positional player who can man the 2, 3, or even small-ball 4 position given his aforementioned dominance on the glass. He does not project as a primary offensive creator in his career, so he’d definitely like to improve the 32.6% accuracy from deep he posted last season to a mark closer to his rookie efficiency (39.6%)

12. Kyle Kuzma, Detroit Pistons

If Instagram fame were a more desirable quality among NBA teams, Kuzma would rank a lot higher in this redraft. Those are the perks of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers for the first four seasons of your career (and, frankly, having a great sense of style to boot).

Unfortunately for Kuzma, front offices aren’t concerned with such matters in comparison to on-court production, whether they’re the Los Angeles Lakers or the Utah Jazz. Kuzma’s stock still rises in this redraft, from his original 27th overall selection up to 12th. He’s a talented offensive player, but his production has steadily dropped from the 18.7 points he averaged as a sophomore, down to 12.9 last season.

Perhaps a new role with the Washington Wizards will reinvigorate Kuz, and he’ll have an opportunity to post a VORP more inspiring than the 0.6 figure he posted last season.

11. Markelle Fultz, Charlotte Hornets

Selected with the number one pick in the 2017 NBA draft, saying that Fultz has disappointed in his NBA career to date would be like saying that movie critics liked The Godfather.

To his credit, his development has been stymied by a combination of health, team situation and potential psychological issues. Nonetheless, the 12.1 points and 5.1 assists per game he produced for the Orlando Magic in 2019-20 represent his best season to date, and are hardly befitting of the expectations of a number one overall pick.

His VORP has fluctuated within a narrow field, bouncing between 0.0 and -0.1  throughout his young NBA career. None of those are atrocious numbers, and with better injury luck, Fultz still has the possibility to enjoy a long career as a solid, rotational-level NBA guard.

The odds of him providing the type of play that’s typically expected of a number one overall pick, however, are beginning to look pretty slim. The Utah Jazz quite clearly landed a superior guard in Donovan Mitchell with their 13th overall selection.

10. Derrick White, Sacramento Kings

On that note: the San Antonio Spurs landed a marginally better guard than Fultz with the 29th overall pick as well.

An older rookie, White is somehow already 27-years-old, which does affect his stock in this redraft to some extent. Nonetheless, 15.4 points and 3.4 assists per game that he posted for the Spurs last season reflect a crafty, skilled combo guard who creates his own shot when necessary. His 0.8 VORP may not be awe-inspiring, but it is the highest figure produced by a player in this redraft thus far.

Given his age, it’s fair to anticipate that White may not have much room to improve, if any. That’s fine, because given Malik Monk or Markelle Fultz’s expected developmental curve, either guard would be lucky to produce at the level Derrick White did in 2020-21 at any point in their career.

9. Jarrett Allen, Dallas Mavericks

Interestingly, this recently extended Cleveland Cavalier’s advanced metrics have generally trended downward as his raw production and responsibility have trended up. By VORP, Allen’s best season to date was 2019-20, where he posted a fairly impressive 2.0 mark. That same year, he had a strong Defensive Rating of 106. In 2020-21, Allen played 30.3 minutes per game (up from 26.5 in 2019-20) and those figures dropped to 1.1 and 112, despite modest upticks in points, rebounds and blocks per game.

All of which may be much ado about nothing. Allen is still only 23: linear growth is not a fair expectation for any NBA player. As a non-switching, non-spacing, traditional center, Allen needs to continue growing in the areas that make him a bankable NBA player: rolling to the rim for dunks on offense, and protecting the paint on the other end.

Adhering to such an archetype may limit Allen’s ceiling, but it should also limit his floor. If he has more to his game, he should feel free to explore it, but even if not, he should enjoy a solid NBA career as a rotation big.

8. Lauri Markkanen, New York Knicks

A comparison between Markkanen and Allen holds interest for reasons beyond their recent pairing in Cleveland, and even beyond their shared place in the 2017 draft. It just makes for an interesting comparison in style.

Really, it’s a battle between the modern and traditional styles of basketball itself (just short of battle between good and evil, as existential conflicts go). Last season, Markkanen shot 40.4% from three-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. That blend of volume and efficiency from deep is almost solely responsible for his placement ahead of Allen.

Otherwise, the Finnish big man’s new teammate bested him comfortably in rebounds, blocks, Defensive Rating, and just about any measure besides points per game last season, which even then was a close content (13.6 vs 13.2 per). Still, the caveats about young careers and remaining potential apply doubly in comparing the two Cavaliers, and we’re banking on Markkanen having the potential to get back to the 18.7 points per contest he produced for the Chicago Bulls in his 2018-19 sophomore season.

The margins in this comparison are narrow, but in a make-or-miss league, Markkanen’s capacity to make from three-point range gives him an edge over his newfound teammate.

7. Jonathan Isaac, Minnesota Timberwolves

Some may balk at Isaac’s placement in these rankings. After all, the lanky New Yorker has appeared in a mere 136 games in his four seasons in the Association, having been forced to miss the entire 2020-21 season due to a knee injury.

Still, we’ll say the word once more: potential. Say it two more times in a mirror, and Jonathan Isaac may materialize in your bathroom.

The last time we got a glimpse at Isaac, the results were impressive. Over 34 games in 2019-20 (before those pesky knee troubles began) Isaac averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.6 steals. Those defensive numbers are particularly enticing. If he can stay on the floor, Isaac projects as a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate who moonlights as a tertiary offensive weapon as well.

His elite 105 Defensive Rating over his career backs up that assertion. A lengthy 6’11 and quick twitch 230 pounds, Isaac can guard any front court position, and protect the rim as well as the perimeter against a wide array of NBA players. He’s also a solid ball handler with the combination of size and speed to convert inside baskets, and his career 33% three-point accuracy is an acceptable mark for a player who does so much else.

Sure, we’re more invested in the idea of a Jonathan Isaac who can consistently play NBA games than we are in the actual player himself. We just happen to find that idea a little more enticing than any of the seven players listed before him in this redraft.