The 2017 draft class is absolutely loaded with top end talent. There could be as many as five candidates for the top overall selection. The class is also very deep, especially at the point guard position, where as many as five point guards could be picked in the top 10. College basketball starts in less than a week, so let’s take a look at the top options that will be balling across the nation this year.
*note- the draft order is based off the Preseason Power Rankings*
- Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)- Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
I would love to see Harry Giles in green and white, but his knee injuries are cause for concern for any team in the top five. One of the last things the Celtics need is another guard, but they don’t have one with as high of a ceiling as Fultz (featured). At 6’4” with plenty of athleticism to spare, Fultz can play either guard spot.
Fultz didn’t play varsity ball until he was a junior in high school, but blew up last summer with his play in the Hoop Summit, FIBA Tournament and Jordan Brand Classic. Despite the logjam at the guard positions for Boston, Fultz would play a ton of minutes alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart.
- Philadelphia 76ers- Dennis Smith Jr. PG, North Carolina State
Philly needs a point guard, plain and simple. And while Dennis Smith is recovering from a knee injury, I expect him to make a full recovery and show off his skills in a likely one-and-done year at NC State. He’s hands down the most athletic and explosive guard in the class, Smith excels at getting to the basket where he can finish with either hand or put a defender on a poster. If he can learn how to control his game better and become more consistent, especially with his jumper, he could become an All-Star for a very long time.
Getting a point guard to distribute the rock to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor should be the biggest of priorities for the 76ers.
- Los Angeles Lakers- Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Lakers fans everywhere are hoping LA stays inside the top three, because if they don’t, the 76ers get their pick. And while Giles’ knees are a huge red flag, his game and ceiling are that of Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber. His physical traits and build immediately jump out, as does his mobility. It’s unfair that a man who is 6’11”, 230 pounds can move like he does.
Giles makes the game look effortless, and can do a bit of everything. His 7’3” wingspan makes him an intimidating force on defense. On the offensive end, he can knock down mid range shots or post up.
Jullius Randle is a nice piece, but nobody in this class offers as high an upside as Giles does.
- Sacramento Kings- Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas
Teach Josh Jackson how to shoot and you will have a player who can be a building block alongside DeMarcus Cousins for the next 10 years. Jackson is a great athlete with serious above the rim hops. He’s at his best in the open court where he can take it himself but is also more than willing to pass it up for a better look.
Jackson is tough on defense, and while he doesn’t have great length for his 6’7” body, he makes up for it with insane instincts, awareness and lightning quick hands and feet.
- Phoenix Suns- Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Harry Giles isn’t the only stud freshman on a supremely talented Duke roster that is favored to win the national title. Jayson Tatum is a highly skilled wing that could lead the ACC in scoring as a freshman. He has a host of polished moves in one-on-one isolation situations.
Tatum isn’t much of a creator for others, but if you need a bucket, he’s your go to guy. He’s not a standout athlete, but he is smooth and his game is reminiscent of Paul Pierce’s (play style, not ceiling). He needs to work on his range from three, but his mechanics are smooth so his range should develop as the rest of his game does.
Tatum could slide right in between Dragan Bender and Devin Booker to form a formidable young trio.Tatum injured his foot, but if he heals and performs as expected, it shouldn’t drop his stock at all.
- Minnesota Timberwolves- Lauri Markannen, PF, Arizona
Originally from Finland, Markannen is coming across the Atlantic to play college ball for Sean Miller. Markannen is not quite your stereotypical European import. The thing that separates him is his athletic ability. He’s an outstanding shooter with an unblockable jumper that has a high and quick release. He drills threes (41%) and has outstanding mobility and can finish over the top of a defense.
Markannen isn’t an elite rebounder or shot blocker, but as he gets stronger his numbers should only get better on the defensive end.
For a team like Minnesota that desperately needs shooting, Markannen could give Karl-Anthony Towns more room to operate on the post.
- Denver Nuggets- Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
With power forward size (6’10”) and the skills of a guard, Jonathan Isaac is one of the most intriguing prospects in the class. He needs to put on some weight, only 205 pounds, to become a complete offensive player, but the potential is sky high. He’s deadly off the dribble, whether it is with pull-ups or taking it to the basket, where he can finish over the defense.
Isaac also projects as a solid defender, with his 7’1” wingspan and foot speed. It’s easy to see Kevin Durant comparisons, due to his length, skill set and lack of muscle, but let’s pump the brakes for now and wait for his game to really develop.
Pairing Isaac with a skilled passer in Emmanuel Mudiay and shooter in Jamal Murray along with Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic could give Denver the best collection of young talent in the NBA.
- Orlando Magic- Ivan Rabb, PF, California
The first non-freshman off the board, Ivan Rabb surprised many people with his decision to return back to Cal. He’s the go-to option this season for the Golden Bears, after they lost their top three scorers from last year. Rabb doesn’t have the most polished low post game, but he’s a good rebounder and rim protector. He’ll sell teams on his athleticism and motor before his skills.
The Magic have a logjam in the frontcourt, but can take time to develop Rabb. Also, will Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green being free agents at the end of the year and being potential trade chips, minutes could come early and often for Rabb.
- New Orleans Pelicans- De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
The name of Fox’s game is speed. An absolute blazer with the ball in his hands, Fox is unstoppable in the open court, where he shows good vision and poise when either taking it himself or dishing to a teammate. Fox’s hands are also extremely quick, and it shows in his steal numbers (3.6 steals in Nike EYBL). Fox has good height at 6’4”, but is only around 175 pounds.
If he can knock down his jumper with more consistency and add some muscle to his frame, we could be talking about a special point guard in the future.
The Pelicans are in need for a point guard with Jrue Holiday’s free agency and injury problems. Fox can be a great setup man for both Buddy Hield and Anthony Davis.
- Milwaukee Bucks- Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
I know the hype around Giannis Antetokuonmpo running the point is exciting, but Lonzo Ball isn’t a bad backup plan if it doesn’t work out. And while he’s exactly like Michael Carter-Williams, who they just shipped out, point guard is the most important position in the game. While a wing player would be ideal, there isn’t one worth reaching for at 10.
Ball had a ridiculous senior season at Chino Hills (CA), and is expected to be the lead guard for a UCLA team that will surprise a lot of people this year. His 6’6” size is unmatched at the point guard position, as is his passing ability. Ball has a funky release on his shot, which causes it to be inconsistent.
- Dallas Mavericks- Frank Ntilikina, PG, Belgium
How the Mavericks continue to make the playoffs with the talent they have blows my mind. They’re certainly in a position to go “best player available”, and at 11, German point guard Frank Ntilikina is the best option. The rebuild has to begin somewhere, so why not go back to where you started your last one in 1998 (technically didn’t pick him but whatever).
Ntilikina has great size and passing ability for the point and plays a very smart game on both ends of the floor. Like a lot of young players, especially in this draft, the 6’5” guard needs help with his shot from distance. Teams will overlook that deficiency and look has his two-way play, size and instincts.
- Washington Wizards- Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Allen is a tough player to project in the future. He has good length, but isn’t an exceptional leaper and doesn’t have great size for a center. He’s a pretty solid athlete and protects the rim well, but isn’t the strongest rebounder. His post moves are solid, but still developing. He’ll be the go-to big man for the Longhorns and should get plenty of touches. His floor is high, but his ceiling isn’t the highest.
The Wizards need to move on from Marcin Gortat and have to get someone who can actually move on the court.
- New York Knicks- Terrance Ferguson, SG/SF, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
The one time Alabama and Arizona commit finally decided on playing overseas in Australia to get some money for his family. Ferguson is an explosive athlete who also possesses a very fluid jump shot. However, his jump shot has to get more consistent and needs to work on his game in the half-court.
Ferguson also projects as an above average defender with his length and speed. Adding some muscle to his skinny 6’7” 190 pound frame would help him on both ends of the court.
The Knicks need a young player with actual big time upside and need to take a risk. Ferguson will definitely need some seasoning (maybe even in the D-League) but should be groomed as Carmelo Anthony’s successor.
- Chicago Bulls- Marques Bolden
Bolden will likely get caught in the shuffle of a loaded Duke roster, but his numbers shouldn’t dictate his potential. Bolden is a huge human being at 6’10”, 254 pounds with a 7’4” wingspan. Bolden works with his back to the basket, where he can bully defenders and has soft touch.
Despite not being an explosive athlete, Bolden looks to be the part of a future anchor on the defensive end.
Robin Lopez was brought in during the offseason, and Lopez can teach Bolden the tricks of trade before his contract is up in 2019.
15. Miami Heat- Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany
Miami needs to get some frontcourt help ASAP. Chris Bosh is done in Miami and Josh McRoberts has a team option at the end of the year. The only other options in the frontcourt are Derrick Williams and Udonis Haslem.
Isaiah Hartenstein is an offensively gifted power forward, with good size and athleticism. He loves to score, but at 6’11”, he loves to shoot rather than work in the paint. He’s a strong rebounder, but doesn’t provide much in terms of defense or playmaking ability for others. Hartenstein’s game seems to be a good compliment to Hassan Whiteside, who is known more for his defensive abilities than his offensive ones.
- Charlotte Hornets- Bam Adebayo, PF/C, Kentucky
A lot of people may have Adebayo higher on their radars, but with a loaded frontcourt and not much skill, I think he could fall pretty far. With Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminksy and Roy Hibbert being the only centers on the roster, and with neither of them being great defenders or rim protectors, Adebayo’s minutes could come earlier than some people think.
Adebayo will never be a go-to scorer in the NBA, and will get a lot of his points off of put backs, lobs and hustle plays around the rim. He’ll make his money with his energy, mobility and defensive prowess, much like Bismack Biyombo has become for the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic.
- Memphis Grizzlies- Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Monk doesn’t fit what Memphis does in terms of play style, but they need some youth and explosiveness in their backcourt. Monk is an absolutely absurd athlete; with plenty of above the rim hops. Monk excels at creating his own shot off the dribble. He can score at all three levels with ease, and was very impressive in an intersquad scrimmage, where he showed off his excellent offensive ability.
Mike Conley and Tony Allen are both on the wrong side of 30, and don’t have the offensive abilities that Monk could bring to a Grizzlies team that doesn’t have a go-to scoring option down the stretch.
- Utah Jazz- Edmond Sumner, PG, Xavier
The front line for the Jazz is set in stone for the next 10 years, as is the wing position. This team has a young core that many people think can lead this team to the playoffs, but this is a point guard driven league, and the Jazz don’t have that. Dante Exum is still very young, but has been less than impressive when he’s healthy.
Edmond Sumner is very much like Exum, where both are tall but skinny and aren’t the sharpest of shooters. Sumner is a great athlete and has outstanding two way potential. He’s still quite raw and relies on his size and physical tools to be one of the best players in the Big East. If Sumner continues to refine his game, he could move up into the lottery.
- Detroit Pistons- Tyler Lydon, SF/PF, Syracuse
Tyler Lydon was never supposed to be projected as a first round pick going into his sophomore year of college. He was highly overlooked as a prospect, but opened the eyes of NBA and college fans with his athleticism and shooting touch. The 6’8” forward shot 40% from three for Syracuse, and should see his role expand this season with a lot of roster changeover.
Lydon is the prototypical stretch four each team is looking for in today’s NBA. He won’t do a lot of damage in the paint, where he lacks strength to battle with the true big dogs, but he’s a mismatch waiting to happen.
Andre Drummond rules the paint in Detroit, and bringing in a sharpshooting floor stretcher is just the thing Drummond needs to give him more space to operate on the block.
- Houston Rockets- Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson
Jaron Blossomgame is one of two seniors in this first round, and he has been on NBA radars for a couple years, but he certainly had his questions. The loudest of those questions was could he knock down jump shots on a regular basis. Last year, Blossomgame seemed to answer those questions after shooting 44% from deep with three attempts per game.
Blossomgame is an impressive athlete and projects as a decent stopper on the defensive side of the ball. The Rockets are an explosive offensive team that loves to shoot threes but doesn’t play much defense outside of Patrick Beverley and KJ McDaniels. Blossomgame not only fits the offensive game plan, but can improve this team defensively as well.
- Indiana Pacers- OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
Projected to be one of the biggest risers of the 2016-2017 season, OG Anunoby is more hype than production. He played only 13 minutes per game and only scored 4.9 points per game, but has stupid athletic with a long wingspan and tons of potential. He, along with Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon provide a dynamic trio for the Hoosiers this year. If Anunoby can improve his numbers while not seeming much dip in efficiency, he’s almost a lock for the lottery.
Indiana doesn’t have much defensive presence outside of Paul George and Myles Turner, and Anunoby’s defensive potential and versatility should make him a natural fit for the Pacers.
- Atlanta Hawks- Bennie Boatwright, PF, USC
Boatwright was productive as a freshman last year for the Trojans, chipping in 11 points per game and bringing in five rebounds a contest. At 6’9″, Boatwright has good size for a power forward.
Boatwright excels at running the floor and can spot up for three, where he knocked down 35% of his shots. He’s not very lanky with just a 6’9″ wingspan, and that affects him at the defensive level, as well as finishing over defenders around the rim.
The Dwight Howard signing has worked wonders for the Hawks so far, and adding another shooting big man to groom under Paul Millsap and give Dwight room to operate on the post seems like a move for Atlanta.
- Portland Trailblazers- V.J. Beachem, SF, Notre Dame
V.J. Beachem is knockdown at Notre Dame. He has shot over 40% from downtown in each of the last two seasons for the Irish and possesses good size at 6’8” for the small forward position. He’ll likely become the go-to option for Notre Dame following the loss of Demetrius Jackson.
After having few options off the bench last year, the Trailblazers have done a nice job of adding quality pieces, and an addition of another sharpshooter off the bench could only help this team contend with Golden State and San Antonio.
- Oklahoma City Thunder- Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
A highly touted recruit out of high school, Miles Bridges is a freak athlete who can jump out of the gym. He’s listed as a small forward, but at 6’6” he’s short for the position and doesn’t shoot very well. He’s more of a small ball four, and even in today’s position-less NBA, that will drive his stock down.
He’s not much of an offensive presence, but his defensive outlook looks promising. With Andre Roberson and the newly acquired Jerami Grant having the same type of game, this could be a redundant pick, but there’s no one left with the upside that Bridges has.
- Toronto Raptors- Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
He might be the best player in the NCAA, but Allen’s NBA outlook is clouded. He’s a sharpshooter and an outstanding athlete coming off a year at Duke where he scored over 20 points per game. His numbers will likely take a hit with the inclusion of a phenomenal freshman class and Luke Kennard, but he still holds NBA value as a potential spark plug off the bench.
He’ll likely never be a great defender, but his energy and offensive punch off the bench will make him a first round pick. Kyle Lowry is a free agent this year, and will command tons of money. While Allen isn’t a point guard, he could be capable of running an offense in a pinch, and minutes will be available in Toronto’s backcourt.
- San Antonio Spurs- Monte Morris, PG, Iowa State
Projecting what the San Antonio Spurs are doing on draft night is virtually impossible, but I’ll give it my best shot. Monte Morris is the best passing point guard since Rajon Rondo. He averaged 6.9 assists per game while just turning over the ball 1.6 times per game. He’s the lead option this year for the Cyclones who lost a lot of talent over the offseason.
Tony Parker is getting up there in age with no replacement in store. Morris would have an easy job under coach Popovich: give Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge the ball and get out of the way. Something he’s done for three years at ISU with Georges Niang.
- Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)- Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona Trier
The Nets need to go with the best player available at #27. Trier would have tested NBA waters last season if he didn’t get hurt halfway through the year. Trier knows how to get buckets, and that’s pretty much it. He’s not much of a distributor, rebounder or defender, but his spark plug potential off the bench at 27 should appeal to a Nets team that needs talent at every position.
Minutes should be available from day one for him, as the youth movement in Brooklyn is well under way. If he can continue to improve as a scorer, a Jamal Crawford type role could be in the cards for Trier.
- Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers)- Dwayne Bacon, SG/SF, Florida State
Dwayne Bacon reminds me of Nick Young. He loves to get buckets, but not much else. Also, inconsistencies plague his game from all three levels. There’s no doubt he has the talent to have a long career, he just needs to put it all together.
Bacon is also a sparkling athlete in transition and can finish above the rim with ease. He has a good amount of offensive potential, but needs to improve his all around game to have a long career in the NBA.
He’ll likely be destined for the D-League or a small role off the bench to start off his career as he develops.
- Cleveland Cavaliers- Jonathan Jeanne, PF/C, France
The Cavs have virtually no needs, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them move this pick for a player during the season as they look to repeat. They’ll go for the draft-and-stash option, and Jeanne is the best international player left on the board.
It’s incredible to see a man 7’2” run and jump like Jeanne does. He’s only around 200 pounds and needs to put on some weight to become a force inside offensively, where he doesn’t possess polish or moves. On the defensive end, he should be a stopper down low with the agility to switch onto smaller big men.
- Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)- DJ Hogg, SF, Texas A&M
Utah has plenty of pieces, but don’t have many shooters. Hogg projects as one of the better shooters in the class with a clean shooting stroke. He’ll be one the breakout candidates after playing just 18 minutes per game as a freshman for the Aggies a year ago.
He may have only shot 33% from deep last year, but more consistent touches should see his confidence and numbers increase. He’s more of a catch and shoot player than a creator, but he’s still improving his game. At 6’9” he has intriguing potential as a small ball four if he can put on a few pounds and become more of a threat inside the arc.
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