Cole’s (@TrashAsTweets) first 2017 NBA Draft big board. For Zak’s big board click here, and stay close for more content as the draft approaches.
The talent in this years draft is top heavy. It’s not as deep as once was thought of because of talents like Miles Bridges and Robert Williams opting to return to school. However, teams picking in the top ten will still be pleased with the star talent available to them and teams picking in the middle to late first round range will be excited with the role player potential with this years pool of talent. He are my top 14 players in the 2017 NBA draft as of April 22nd.
1) Markelle Fultz (PG, Freshman, Washington)
Markelle Fultz is the clear prize of this draft class. He is quite frankly in a tier of his own. If you were creating a point guard from scratch, you would end up creating Fultz. He has great size, standing at 6’4”, weighing 195 pounds with a 6’10’ wingspan. He’s not an elite athlete at the position, but he is a dang good one. Fultz greatest strength as a prospect is his ability to score at all three levels. He can get to the basket using his vast array of dribble moves, he can pull up and hit a mid-range jumper if a defender is sagging off, and he can hit the 3, in which he shot at a 41% clip in his lone season at Washington. He is a good passer and displays good vision. He dominates in the pick and roll, thanks to his ability to threaten the defense at all three levels, combined with his ability to whip passes to the screener or an open man on the perimeter. Although Washington’s defense this year was abysmal, it wasn’t because of Fultz. He was inconsistent on defense, but he has a ton of potential on that end of the floor because of his size, quick feet and length. Fultz is the clear-cut #1 prospect in this class.
2) Lonzo Ball (PG, Freshman, UCLA)
Lonzo Ball is an extremely unique point guard prospect. He is 6’6”, which is outstanding size for a two guard, let alone a point guard. Ball is a slightly above average athlete. He doesn’t have the foot speed to stay with good athletes at the position and must rely on his basketball instincts and size on that end of the floor. Although he’s not a particularly good individual defender, he is a pretty good team defender. He lets his instincts take over off the ball, flying in for steals and the occasional block. Ball’s best quality by far as a prospect is his passing ability. He is an elite passer with elite vision. He does a pretty good job attacking the basket and finishing at the rim thanks to his size. The biggest question with Ball is if his unorthodox shot will translate to the next level. He shot the 3 at a 41% clip at UCLA, whether that was in catch and shoot situations, or with his patented step back heave off the dribble. He was able to get his shot off at the college level, but playing against bigger and more athletic players in the NBA will leave him with an extremely small room for error shooting the ball. The team that ends up with Ball will be extremely happy to get a player of his caliber and his ability to transform an offense.
3) Jonathan Isaac (F, Freshman, Florida State)
Jonathan Isaac is the ideal stretch 4 that the NBA looks for. He has good size at the position at nearly 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan. He is a great defender with the ability to guard the 4 or the 3. He has quick feet, and can more than hold his own out guarding on the perimeter. He averaged nearly 2 steals and 2.5 blocks per 40 at Florida State. Offensively, Isaac can attack off the dribble due to his quickness and handle. He can shoot the 3, as evidenced by his nearly 35% behind the arc. He is extremely unselfish on offense, maybe a little too unselfish at times. He doesn’t go into a game thinking that he needs to “get his”. He lets the game come to him. He doesn’t really have any post moves at this point, and when he is in the post, he usually gets pushed off of his spot. He needs to get stronger to reach his full potential at the next level. Any team in the early part of the lottery looking for a stretch 4 with the ceiling of being an extremely good role player should look no further than Jonathan Isaac.
4) Josh Jackson (F, Freshman, Kansas)
The first thing that sticks out when watching Josh Jackson is his defensive ability. Jackson can stay with quick wings out on the perimeter and can bang down low with bigger players in the post. He displays good instincts on defense as shown by his 2 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40. He stands at 6’8” with a 6’10” wingspan. Jackson is a great athlete with extremely quick feet and strong body for someone his age. He is a great leaper, and will be able to catch any lobs thrown to him at the basket that are in his vicinity. Jackson is an ideal 3 at the next level, but can play some small ball 4 if needed because of his strength and rebounding ability. He is great at attacking the basket and finishing at the rim. He has rare vision for his position and he won’t hesitate in passing the ball. Jackson’s 3-point shot improved drastically over the course of the year, but his FT% remained very bad. His shot will be something to keep an eye on at the next level. The team that selects Jackson early in the draft will be pleased with his ability to guard the opposing team’s best player along with his skills attacking the basket and facilitating on the offensive end.
5) De’Aaron Fox (PG, Freshman, Kentucky)
De’Aaron Fox is a lightning quick player on both ends of the floor. He is extremely good athlete with good leaping ability. On offense, he is great at attacking the basket because of his great first step, but will struggle with length while finishing at the rim. He also will get pushed off his spot when attacking due to his lack of strength. He is a good and willing passer with an improving jump shot. He only shot 25% from 3 in college, but his shot improved throughout the course of the year. While statistically he wasn’t a good 3 point shooter, he was very good using a one dribble pull up. Defensively, Fox is an extremely fun watch. He is not scared to pick up the opposing team’s point guard full court and pressure him all the way up the floor. He is able to stay in front of nearly every single player he guards because of his elite foot speed. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if De’Aaron Fox turns out to be a better pro than Lonzo Ball. He put Ball in a blender in both of their matchups showing off his elite athleticism and outstanding on-ball defense.
6) Jayson Tatum (F, Freshman, Duke)
Jayson Tatum is aesthetically pleasing to watch. Just watching his his smooth movements on both ends of the floor is fun. Tatum comes in at 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan. He’s not super explosive, but he’s a pretty good athlete. Tatum is an extremely good offensive player that can score at all three levels. He is the best iso scorer in the draft, whether that be using his quick first step attacking the basket, using his ability to back defenders down and turn over either shoulder shooting the ball, or pulling up from 3 at a 34% rate while he was at Duke. Tatum doesn’t get the credit he deserves on defense. He is able to stay with most 3s, and can guard some 4s in small ball situations. He is a very good team defender and a very good rebounder for his position. Tatum can be a cornerstone piece to the team that selects him because of his elite scoring arsenal and underrated defensive ability.
7) Dennis Smith (PG, Freshman, NC State)
When watching Smith, the first thing that immediately stands out is his athletic ability. He is a very good athlete with an outstanding leaping ability in which he can be seen to to throw down highlight dunks. He is a tad undersized at the point guard position at 6’2”. He is a score first point guard but he is willing to pass the ball on offense. He is very effective in the pick and roll because of his ability to either attack the basket or shoot the 3, which he did at NC State at a 36% clip. He can be turnover prone on offense due to his bad decisions with the ball at times. Smith is very inconsistent on defense. He has the ability to stay with guards because of his athletic ability but didn’t do it enough in college. The team that gets Dennis Smith will be getting a player with elite athletic ability and the ability to score but a player that contains a lot of untapped potential if he buys in.
8) Lauri Markkanen (F/C, Freshman, Arizona)
Lauri Markkanen is the next European big man that can shoot the ball. He is a legit seven footer with unlimited range. He is a sniper on offense, shooting the 3 at a 42% clip at Arizona this past year. He has the ability to come off of screens and shoot the ball which is extremely rare for a player his size. I’m not sure if he’s a 4 or 5 at the next level, but whoever is guarding him will not be able to contest his shot due to his size and his slight lean back when shooting the ball. He is decent attacking off the dribble and has a couple of good post moves. He’s not a good passer and he doesn’t display good vision when attacking the basket or when facing double teams in the post. Markkanen improved defensively throughout the year but he still has a long ways to go on that end. He doesn’t have fast feet and will get pushed around down low. He is a decent rebounder but he offers no rim protection. I’m not sure he’s strong enough to guard 5s, or quick enough to guard 4s, which will obviously be a problem at the next level. The team that selects Markkanen early will love his shooting ability at his size with the hope that he can develop to an average defender on defense.
9) Malik Monk (G, Freshman, Kentucky)
Malik Monk gets buckets. He is a fantastic offensive player that can score in bunches. His size at 6’3” would suggest for him to be a point guard in the NBA, but he doesn’t display the passing ability or vision to be the lead ball handler full time. Due to that, he is an undersized two guard. Lucky for him, his freakish athletic ability helps compensate for his lack of size. Monk is an extremely good offensive player. He is best known for his three point shooting ability in which he shot at 40% at Kentucky, but he can also attack the basket and show off his very good leaping ability. He’s not very good as a defender right now, but he has the potential to stick with guards at the next level due to his athleticism. However, he will get bullied by bigger and stronger guards. If Monk isn’t scoring, he’s not impacting the game, which is why I think he is best suited as player who can come off the bench to provide a spark. Monk is a better prospect than Jamal Murray was last year, and the team that drafts him will be excited in his ability to immediately provide bench help.
10) O.G. Anunoby (F, Sophomore, Indiana)
OG Anunoby is a freak of nature. He is a 6’8” forward that weighs 230 pounds with a 7’6” wingspan. When watching Anunoby, his defense immediately sticks out. He is extremely quick for someone his size and is pretty strong. He has the ability to guard 2s, 3s or 4s, and probably some 1s and 5s at the next level. He is that good on defense. On offense, Anunoby is work in progress. He is a good straight line driver with rare leaping ability when attacking the rim. He has shown the potential to be able to knock down spot up 3s in which he shot at a 37% clip at in his two years at Indiana. However, he doesn’t have a good handle, can’t shoot off the dribble, and doesn’t have good vision. Anunoby is for sure a lottery talent, but his knee injury complicates things. The team that drafts Anunoby will first be hoping that he comes back fully healthy from his knee injury. If he shows signs of his old past, they will be ecstatic in his ability to immediately guard 1-5 at the next level with the hope that he can develop more on the offensive side of the ball.
11) Frank Ntilikina (PG, 19 y/o, International)
Frank Ntilikina’s size immediately sticks out as soon as you watch him. He has great size for the point guard position at 6’6” with a 7’ wingspan. His greatest strength as a player is his defensive ability. He’s a menace on defense. He uses his long arms to get in passing lanes and disrupt shots. He’s more of a fluid athlete with good body control compared to an explosive athlete. On offense he has a good handle with the ability to drive the ball and finish at the basket due to his length and body control. He is also a willing passer. His shot has improved greatly over the past few years and he has extended his range to behind the three point line. Ntilikina is a very good point guard prospect because of his size, length, defensive ability and offensive improvement. He will be able to play early on for the team that drafts him because of his ability to impact games defensively now, while continuing to develop his offensive game on the job.
12) Zach Collins (C, Freshman, Gonzaga)
Zach Collins is an intriguing center prospect. He has good size at 7’ and 230 pounds with room to add strength. Collins’ offensive and defensive ability stands out for someone his age. On the offensive side of the ball, Collins has shown the ability to execute different post moves down on the block, displaying nice touch with either hand. He does struggle with length at the rim and can get pushed off of his spot at times. He can also step out at and hit mid range jumpers, or step behind the arc and shoot 3s in which he did at Gonzaga at a 48% rate, albeit he shot less than one per game. Defensively, you notice Collins’ length immediately. He blocked an incredible 2 shots per game while playing only 17 minutes per game, which translates to around 4 blocks per 40 minutes. The team drafting Collins will get a player that will develop into an above average starter at the center position with the ability to protect the rim on defense and score the ball in multiple ways on offense.
13) Luke Kennard (G, Sophomore, Duke)
Luke Kennard was the unexpected second best player on Duke this year. He took a big jump from his freshman to sophomore season. Kennard is a 6’5” guard prospect with the ability to score at all three levels. He is an extremely good shooter, whether that be from downtown, where he shot at 44% this past year, or whether that be from the mid range, in which he shows craftiness as a ball handler and impressive footwork. He can drive the ball and score at the rim, but will struggle at finishing due to his average athletic ability and lack of length. Kennard is a good player in the pick and roll due to his threat to score, combined with his handle and passing ability. On defense, due to his lack of athletic ability, he has trouble staying in front of quicker guards. However, he is a good team defender. Kennard is probably best used as a scorer and facilitator off the bench at the next level. The team that drafts him will be getting a good scorer and playmaker on the offensive end and a willing defender.
14) Bam Adebayo (C, Freshman, Kentucky)
Bam Adebayo is an imposing physical specimen. He is a 6’10”, 250 pound center prospect with a 7’2” wingspan. Bam is a good vertical athlete and a pretty good lateral mover. He was the defensive anchor for Kentucky this past year. He is very strong, and due to his length and strength, it is hard to score down low on him whether that be a big man trying to score on him in the post, or a guard/forward attacking the rim. Bam is a very good rebounder and can contribute to an NBA team early next year if he remains a consistent rebounder. However, he’s not particularly a smart defender at this stage, as his off ball defensive awareness needs to improve. Bam improved vastly on the offensive side of the floor throughout his lone season at Kentucky. He has always been able to catch lobs at the rim and score off of offensive rebounds, but he showed a greater display of post moves as the year went on. He can step out a little bit and shoot, but that is not a consistent part of his game yet. Wherever Bam goes come draft night, the team that drafts him will be getting an immediate contributor to the defensive end of the floor as a rebounder and a good enough shot blocker with potential on the offensive end.