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
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) /

6. OG Anunoby, Orlando Magic

While Jonathan Isaac may be more concept than reality at this stage of his NBA career, OG Anunoby has already turned in one NBA season as an elite defender, and one as a valuable offensive player. In 2019-20, the young English ex-pat turned in a stout Defensive Rating of 104. Last season, he substantially increased his points per game from 10.6 to 15.9 per game, but that same Defensive Rating dropped equally significantly to 112.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that Anunoby suffered some defensive slippage with such a leap forward in his offensive production. If he can put both together at the same time, however, the rest of the National Basketball Association may be forced to run for the hills.

As it stands, Anunoby is something of a 3-and-D plus: his 39.8% conversion rate on three-point attempts last season is indicative of a large chunk of his offensive value, but the young wing does have some of the requisite ball-handling and athleticism to function as a primary creator.

A certain comparable, large-handed NBA superstar whom Anunoby has already won a Larry O’Brien trophy playing alongside took a major leap forward in his fifth NBA season. We’re not saying OG projects as a likely match for Kawhi Leonard, but if he can make a similar leap next season, he’ll comfortably surpass this placement in our 2017 redraft.

5. Lonzo Ball, Sacramento Kings

The margin between Ball and Anunoby in this redraft may be the thinnest between any two players listed. VORP does vindicate our decision, as Ball’s 1.6 mark from 2020-21 bests Anunoby’s 1.1.

To say that Ball’s game improved last season may be a stretch, but it certainly evolved. His widely beloved passing ability took a backseat, as his assists per game dropped from 7.0 to 5.4. On the other hand, his scoring (and more specifically, three-point shooting) took a leap forward. Making the jump from 11.6 points per game to 14.6 is impressive enough, but Ball’s improvement in three-point shooting between his rookie season and his fourth campaign is staggering.

As a rookie, he shot 30.5% on 5.7 three-point attempts per game. Last season, the man raised by a human megaphone shot 37.8% on 8.3 attempts per.

It’s been such a remarkable transition that its led some pundits to question whether Ball is something closer to a 3-and-D with playmaking ability rather than a pure point guard. Ball’s passing in the open floor is beyond reproach, but his limited athleticism and bag of offensive tricks have hampered his ability to create for himself and others in half court sets throughout his career thus far.

We’ll see how a change of scenery in Chicago affects the young man’s malleable game.

4. De’Aron Fox, Phoenix Suns

Lady luck gave the Sacramento Kings a rare nod of approval in the 2017 draft. While the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers used picks 1 and 2 on point guards in Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, the best point guard in the draft remained available when the Kings selected at the fifth overall position.

De’Aron Fox has not managed to best the VORP of 2.3 he posted in his sophomore campaign, but his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) has steadily risen since, from 18.1 to last season’s 20.7. That’s a mark that puts him in some elite company, hovering around guards like CJ McCollum, Chris Paul, and (you guessed it) Utah Jazz draft mate Donovan Mitchell.

Stardom feels like a likely outcome when you’re potentially the fastest player in the NBA, and an above average ball handler to boot. Fox would have an opportunity to launch into an even higher stratosphere if he could improve his three-point shooting: his career 32.6% accuracy begs for improvement.

Ultimately, though, if surrounded by proper spacing, Fox may get to that point anyway. He’s still only 23-years-old, and his per game averages of 25.2 points and 7.2 assists from last season are the envy of most NBA players.

3. Bam Adebayo, Boston Celtics

Recently, we ranked Bam “Bam Bam” Adebayo one spot below Rudy Gobert on a list of the NBA’s best centers. Here, we’ll be placing him below a member of the Utah Jazz once again. If any readers are taking this as a slight against the former Kentucky big, they’re dramatically misinterpreting our intention.

Adebayo is a beast, and by far the best center selected in this draft. He doesn’t shoot 3s, but compensates by providing solid positional playmaking (5.4 assists per game last season) and exceptionally versatile, switchable defense, as his career 106 Defensive Rating will attest to.

His VORP was a robust 3.6 last season, and his basic counting stats of 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.2 steals (to go with those 5.4 assists per contest) belie a player who, beyond three-point shooting, is without flaws.

He simply isn’t as dominant an offensive weapon as the two players ranked ahead of him in this redraft, but make no mistake: Bam Adebayo is a star. His 14th overall selection in 2017 would have made him the steal of the draft, if not for the next player to be listed.

2. Donovan Mitchell, Los Angeles Lakers

Analytic-driven observers may disagree with Donovan Mitchell’s placement over Adebayo: his VORP of 2.5 last season was solid, but not nearly as impressive as Bam’s figure.

Well, we like analytics too, but Mitchell just clued up a campaign averaging 26.4 points per game as the main offensive hub on a contending Utah Jazz team. We’re comfortable with his placement.

His PER of 21.3 also puts him near the top of this draft class. Mitchell uses a wide array of clever dribble moves and head fakes to substantiate his considerable athletic gifts, making him one of the Association’s most gifted scorers. He’s also an apt playmaker, as his 5.2 assists per contest from last season can attest to. He is a true offensive hub, and given that the Utah Jazz selected him with the 13th pick in the 2017 draft, that is not something to be taken lightly.

Defensive improvement may be the next step for Spida to take in order to achieve truly elite status in the league. That would be wonderful, but Coach Snyder will live with his mediocrity if he continues to produce at his current offensive level, let alone exceed it. Mitchell climbs 11 spots in this 2017 redraft, and his Utah Jazz end up with one of the best value 13th overall picks in NBA history.

1. Jayson Tatum, Philadelphia 76ers

If there’s one player Utah Jazz fans may covet over Mitchell from the 2017 draft, it’s Boston Celtic Jayson Tatum. The gap between them is actually fairly narrow, as each scored an identical 26.4 points per contest last season. Furthermore, Mitchell paced Tatum in assists per game, as the talented Shamrock wing posted 4.4 per contest last season.

Partially, a bet on Tatum is a bet on potential. It’s easier to envision the 6’8 wing developing into the type of player who competes for the league’s scoring crown than it is the 6’1 Mitchell. Furthermore, Tatum has been a considerably stronger three-point weapon so far in his career, as his 39.6% accuracy on 5.2 attempts per game overshadows Mitchell’s career figures of 36.2% on a (higher) 7.2 attempts per.

Each player also posted an identical PER last season, at 21.3 (side note: is this getting a little eery?), but Tatum’s VORP of 3.3 exceeds any mark that Mitchell has met in that metric to date.

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All told, the Utah Jazz guard and Tatum are separated by something closer to a hair than a gulf, but the point remains: in redrafting the 2017 NBA draft, Jayson Tatum earns the number one overall selection.