The 2017 draft is an exciting time for tankers, as this year’s freshman class is full of all sorts of tanking prizes. It’s thin on upperclassmen and internationals, so its depth may be limited but the top 10 is particularly strong. Here are my lottery picks:
1. Markelle Fultz 6’4″ PG/SG Washington
Fultz has superstar written all over him, as he is long, athletic, and can do everything offensively. He also has potential to be good defensively, and he is one of the younger freshmen. He needs to continue to develop his outside shot and skill level, but there is little to dislike about him as he profiles as a more athletic D’Angelo Russell.
There is plenty of room for him to be unseated as the #1 pick by draft time, but as of right now he stands out as the only player in the class who is a strong bet to be an all-time great NBA player.
2. Josh Jackson 6’8″ SF Kansas
Jackson is an elite athlete who does everything off the ball that amounts to winning– rebounding, defense, passing, cutting. He also has potential as a scorer due to his elite athleticism, and overall it seems unlikely that he slides out of the top 5 based on how many things he does well. But there are concerns about his shot, he only has a 6’10” wingspan, and he is sophomore aged as he is 15 months older than Fultz. So it is possible that he develops into merely a great role player rather than a full fledged superstar.
3. Dennis Smith Jr. 6’2″ PG NC State
Smith appears to be a hybrid of Chris Paul and John Wall, as he offers the rare intersection of efficiency and athleticism. Offensively, his 3 point shot is unreliable but he is otherwise elite at creating high % shots for himself and others while maintaining a low turnover rate.
His wart is that he measured 6’1.5″ w/ 6’3″ wing at age 16. He should be bigger by draft night, but still will be small even for a PG and will likely struggle to switch onto SG’s. The mitigating factor is that he has a reputation of being elite defensively, and this is supported by stats as he has a great rebound rate and outlier good steal and block rates for a little guy. He plays much bigger than his size, and he has a good chance of nevertheless becoming a positive perimeter defensive player.
If his shooting and efficiency are lackluster, the height and length puts a damper on his draft upside. But if he shows shades of Chris Paul offensively, he can be an exciting candidate for #1 overall.
4. Lauri Markkanen 7’0″ PF Arizona
Markannen is 7’0″ with elite coordination, which is an overpowered combination of baseline traits. He shares this intersection of traits in common with the top 3 prospects of the decade thus far– Towns, Davis, and Embiid.
Of course that’s where the similarities ends, as all three are great rebounders and shot blockers and Markkanen is not. But Lauri has his own bag of tricks, as he has great mobility, an elite 3 point shot, and excels at putting the biscuit in the basket from all parts of the court. He was hyperefficient for Finland’s FIBA u20 team this summer in spite of playing with limited help:
He also led his team in rebounds, blocks, and steals– all by comfortable margins. His best game came in a win against eventual champion Spain. It was Spain’s only loss and Lauri scored 33 points using 21 possessions, and also had 5 steals and 2 blocks.
He accomplished this with elite shooting, touch, and footwork supplemented by a quick first step that enables him to attack off the dribble from the perimeter or the mid post.
The questions he will have to answer at Arizona revolve around his passing and defense. He only posted 7 assists for Finland, which isn’t the most concerning flag considering the disparity between his efficiency and that of his teammates. He seems to see the floor well based on his high steal rate and low TOV rate, but he still needs to prove that he could move the ball as a part of a more balanced offense.
Lauri lacks length, strength, and explosiveness, which limits him as a rebounder and rim protector. But he moves his feet well and can switch onto smaller players and force steals, so he nevertheless has upside to be a useful cog on this end– especially in a defense that switches heavily.
Frankly he has so much offensive upside he doesn’t need to play solid defense to be an exciting prospect. But since he does have a hint of defensive upside, he has a chance of entering the conversation at #1 overall.
5. Harry Giles 6’11” C Duke
Giles is an elite physical specimen, as his physical profile is similar to that of Dwight Howard. He also seems like a similar prospect to Dwight, as he uses his athleticism to rack up points and rebounds, but could stand to pass more often be more consistent on defense. It’s hard to say whether he will turn out closer to the Rockets version of Dwight or the Magic version, but that is nevertheless a compelling range of outcomes.
The lingering issue is that he already tore his ACL two times in high school, and recently had his knee scoped for a 3rd surgery and will miss the early part of the NCAA season. The injury frequency puts a dent in his prospect value, and may make GM’s squeamish about gambling on him early with so many other great players available.
6. Frank Ntilikina 6’5″ PG France
It’s hard to know what to think of Ntilikina since he is sheer potential. His prospect profile is similar to that of Dante Exum– his main tool is his combo of 6’5″ height with 6’11” length, and he is more of a smooth than explosive athlete. DX really gushes over his PG skills, vision, defense, intangibles, and also notes that he is a 85% FT shooter. Exum is a cautionary tale of overrating an unproven slashing wing with non-elite athleticism, but I do not recall any scouts writing as glowingly about his game like DX for Ntilikina.
Ntilikina predictably struggled badly as a 17 year old string bean PG in the French league. He appears to be improved in 15 mpg through his first 4 games of this year, and it will be interesting to see if he can supplement the scouting report with a respectable 18 year old season against professional adults.
7. Jonathan Isaac 6’11” SF Florida St.
Isaac is 6’11” with perimeter skill and the quickness to guard perimeter players, which gives him awesome upside. He is a notch down from the tanking tier because his production has not been as elite as the top players in the class, but with a strong freshman season at FSU he can ascend.
8. De’Aaron Fox 6’3″ PG Kentucky
Fox is a funky prospect– he has elite speed, quicks, defense, and has legitimate PG skills, but his rail thin frame and mediocre shot raise the valid question: can he score? Elite defensive prospects are often underrated, but he’s slightly small to guard SG’s and he needs to offer scoring upside to justify a top 10 selection. That said his athleticism gives him the possibility of such, and he becomes highly intriguing if he hints at a nice offensive upside.
9. Ivan Rabb, 6’10” PF California
Rabb is the lone upperclassmen who has a valid case as a lottery selection. He profiles similarly to Jakob Poeltl and the Zellers, as a elite complementary scorer on offense who has decent enough tools and smarts to be a solid defensive piece. He’s likely to be a quality NBA player, and the question for him will whether he has enough upside to sneak into the top 5.
10. Jarrett Allen 6’11” C Texas
Allen has all of the traits of a great role playing big– he can protect the rim, hold his own on switches, and has potential as a pick and roll finisher with soft hands and touch. He also is a giant at 6’11” with a 7’5.5″ wingspan and doesn’t turn 19 until April. He is not an elite athlete or shot creator, but he has the profile of a player who translates well to the NBA in spite of the current trend toward smaller lineups.
11. Lonzo Ball 6’6″ PG UCLA
Ball may be the weirdest prospect in the class. He has good height for a PG but is super skinny and lacks elite athleticism or scoring ability. But outside of athleticism and scoring he rocks at everything, as his elite vision and instincts causes him to stuff the stat sheet with assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals. He seems like a mini version of Kyle Anderson who moves at regular speed, and likely will be polarizing as his profile on draft night.
12. Jayson Tatum 6’8″ SF Duke
If you love Jabari Parker, then you will likely love Jayson Tatum too. They both specialize in isolation scoring with limited efficiency because they prefer to not take 3’s and can stunt the offense by stopping the ball and underpassing. Also while he has good enough instincts for decent steal and block totals, he is not a consistent defensive player. Further, he is more of a fluid athlete than an explosive one.
Unfortunately I do not love Jabari, and I am naturally skeptical of Tatum. He can prove me wrong by meshing with the Duke super team better than expected by moving the ball, attempting more 3’s, and playing solid defense. But until that happens I am a seller of Tatum as the clear fraud of the consensus top 5.
13. Marques Bolden 6’11” C Duke
Bolden profiles similarly to Jarrett Allen, as they have the same height (6’11”) and Bolden’s wingspan is just 0.5 inch longer (7’6″) and Bolden is 4 days older. They both project as rim protectors with capability to switch on pick and rolls, as well with soft hands and touch for finishing on offense. I slightly favor Allen because Bolden has rebounding and passing flags, and I am not sure consensus has it the other way around.
14. Rodion Kurucs 6’8″ SF Latvia
I’m running out of freshmen that I like, so let’s roll with an international that has stuffed the statsheet his his limited sample of overseas play, especially with steals and blocks.
Other freshmen of note:
Bam Adebayo 6’10” PF Kentucky
Bam is the one player who is a consensus lottery pick where I disagree. His physical profile is nice as he is 6’10” with great athleticism and strength, but he doesn’t seem to offer much outside of garbage play. His skill level is low, and his offense is limited to putbacks, transition, and bullying smaller players with his overdeveloped body.
Defensively he has the tools to be good, but lacks the reach to be a rim protector and the quickness to switch onto guards. Combined with questionable instincts and effort, he likely will be lackluster on this end in spite of his physical strengths.
He is a bit old for the class as he turned 19 in July, and seems to be the player who may struggle to translate up as his opponents become increasingly able to match up with him physically. It’s possible that his instincts are fine and he’s just a low skill albeit useful garbage man, but either way he does not inspire thrills.
Malik Monk 6’4″ SG Kentucky
Monk comes in the mold of JR Smith, as he is hyper athletic and elite at scoring, but has a reputation for playing lackadaisical defense. He did score high volume efficiently while being a willing passer in AAU, and if his offense translates well to the NCAA he could end up deserving a lottery selection.
Miles Bridges 6’6″ SF Michigan State
Bridges is a consensus late 1st rounder, and that seems about right as he could go either way between lottery and 2nd round. There are questions about his height, whether he has the skill to score efficiently, and whether he will play consistent defense. It is plausible he struggles on both ends and falls out of the first round.
But it is also plausible that he has more offensive polish than expected, and his defense could easily be good as he is a great rebounder and shot blocker for his size. He has clear two way potential, and can easily rise into the lotto with a strong freshman campaign.
Omer Yurtseven 7’0″ C NC State
Yurtseven is a Turkish import who has yet to be ruled eligible to play NCAA basketball this season. He is a smooth and skilled big man who is super young, as he turns 19 several days before the 2017 draft. He will likely not be a rim protector as he lacks length and explosiveness, but he is mobile and intelligent enough to hold his own on defense while contributing interior scoring and rebounding. I rate him worthy of a late 1st selection.
Rawle Alkins 6’5″ SG/SF Arizona
Alkins is the 5* recruit outside of draft radar most likely to establish himself as a 1st rounder. He offers a little bit of everything, and as far as I can tell does not have any glaring weaknesses. He is listed a 6’5″ 220 pounds and has great strength. He is a good but not great athlete, and overall seems physically comparable to Marcus Smart.
Statistically he profiles as above average but not elite across the board. He does a little bit of everything, and DX profiles him as a great defensive player.
His biggest weakness is that he does not have any one individual aspect about him that is elite, but other than that there are no immediately discernible flags in his profile. Alkins seems to be a solidly good player who has a myriad of subtle edges that up to more than scouts realize.
Terrance Ferguson 6’7″ SF Australia
Ferguson was a top 15 recruit who committed to Arizona, and then changed his mind to play professional basketball for Australia. His selling point is that he is a prototypical 3 + D wing, as his size, quickness, and athleticism gives him potential to be a defensive stopper.
The trouble with this narrative is that he is an especially weak rebounder. Between FIBA play, Adidas Nations, Hoop Summit, and his first 4 Australian games he has 57 rebounds in 639 minutes. This is a frighteningly low rate, as diminutive non-athlete PG’s such as Trey Burke, Tyus Jones, and Tyler Ennis posted higher rebound rates in their NCAA samples.
His lackluster steal and block rates do not assuage the rebounding concerns. The best defense is that he is young and only weighed 186 pounds at the Hoop Summit shortly before turning 18, and should improve as he ages and fills out his frame. But it is nevertheless difficult to envision any elite defensive player struggling so badly to corral rebounds, and in all likelihood his instincts and/or motor are broken to some extent.
Without elite defensive upside, he is not a compelling prospect. He is a good but not great shooter who scores low volume with poor efficiency inside the arc, rarely draws FT’s, and has as many TOVs as assists in spite of being largely a catch and shoot player offensively. His offensive limitations are extreme, and with such alarming defensive flags there is simply no justification for drafting him in round 1.
Deep Sleeper Freshmen:
All of the players outside of the top 25 are clear underdogs to become viable prospects, but here’s my quick hitting list of 4* recruits that could emerge onto draft radar if they perform above expectation:
De’Ron Davis is a 6’10” skilled PF for Indiana who uses his long arms to rack up steals and blocks and has a shot of developing into a stretch 4. He lacks athleticism and is sophomore aged, but is an intriguing prospect if he produces well.
Kevin Huerter is a 6’6″ Maryland SG who will still be 18 on draft night. He’s an elite passer and shooter, and has the physical tools to be hold his own on defense. He is not much of a ball handler and his 6’7″ wingspan inhibits his upside, but he has a great skill set for a role playing wing.
Trent Forrest is a 6’5″ Florida St. SG who turns 19 shortly before draft night. He is a good slasher, passer, rebounder, and defensive player whose big flaw is a lack of a jump shot. But if he shows flashes of shooting potential, he’s so young he becomes highly intriguing.
Robert Williams is a 6’8″ Texas A&M PF who uses his elite wingspan and athleticism to block loads of shots. Offensively he is raw, but has traces of passing and outside shooting ability which most pogo sticks normally lack. One caveat: I have no idea how old he is.
Tyler Cook is a 6’9″ athletic PF who appears to be a low post garbage player based on his AAU stats, but it sounds like Iowa intends to use him as point forward. If he shows legitimate perimeter skills, he will enter draft radar.
Let’s talk about Sophs
Outside of Rabb the class is thin with talent, but I will nevertheless highlight a few.
Edmond Sumner 6’5″ PG Xavier
At a glance it seems curious a former #140 RSCI who had a solid but unspectacular redshirt freshman season burst onto 1st round radar this offseason. But it’s easy to see why he fell through the RSCI cracks– he experienced a late 4 inch growth spurt in high school, and he was extremely thin as he measured 6’4″ 149 pounds. He redshirted his freshman year with knee tendonitis because of the growth spurt, so last season was the first time he was able to showcase his new body which is now 6’5.5″ 181 lbs.
He compares closely with Dejounte Murray, as they boast similar stats, bodies, and shiftiness. Murray has the key advantage of being 10 months younger, but Sumner is quicker and more athletic. If forced to choose I’d take Murray’s youth, but I like Murray and I believe Sumner is worthy of a first round selection. He has upside for one of the biggest leaps in NCAA basketball this season, and if he improves enough he could rise into the top 10.
OG Anunoby 6’8″ SF/PF Indiana
Anunoby is another RSCI whiff, as he was just #261. He is a young sophomore, as he will still be 19 on draft night, so his youth likely worked against him and he was perceived as a raw 6’8″ PF. And he was still raw as a freshman, as he was mostly limited to putbacks and transition scoring. He did make 13 of 29 3PA, but his low rate and 48% FT imply his 3P% is not nearly sustainable. He also was a non-passer, and his offensive limitations cast doubt in his ability to fit into an NBA offense.
But his defensive versatility is extremely tantalizing, as he is long, strong, and quick and fits great into a switching defense. He also had good steal and block rates as a freshman, implying that his instincts are likely good. He’s a great defensive prospect, the only question is whether he can avoid being an offensive disaster in the NBA. I don’t know the answer to that, but
Jawun Evans 6’0″ PG Oklahoma St.
Evans is just 6’0″ with a 6’4″ wingspan and lacks elite athleticism, which means he needs to be extra special at something to contribute value in the NBA. Based on his freshman year, his PG skills seem to be special as he showed excellent passer vision and was also stellar at creating his own shot at the rim. He used his shiftiness, handles, and ability to convert tough shots in traffic into creating a large volume of offense.
He also rebounded well for a freshman and played solid defense. He did not shoot a high volume of 3’s, but he made 19/40 of his 3PA and 83% FT to imply some level of shooting potential.
His NBA upside is heavily inhibited by his physical limitations, and it will likely keep him from getting picked in round 1. But he showed an impressive level of basketball skill as a freshman, and if he continues to improve as a sophomore it may be worth rolling the dice on him in the late first.
Kerwin Roach Jr 6’3″ PG/SG Texas
Roach is one of the most athletic players in college basketball, and has potential for a breakout sophomore season. His big warts are that he’s small for a SG and lacks true PG skills. Also his outside shot need improvement, and he was heavily foul prone as a freshman due to poor defensive fundamentals.
But he nevertheless showed a strong degree of potential. He showed the ability to create offense and finish in the paint, draw FT’s, and he had solid rebound, assist, steal, and block rates. He especially improved in the 2nd half of the season, when he cut down on his turnovers and started scoring higher volume with vastly improved efficiency.
Now with veteran PG’s Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix departed, the offense will run through Roach. He has a wide range of possible outcomes, but if he showcases improved shooting and better point guard skills than expected, he could skyrocket up draft boards.
Thomas Bryant 6’10” PF/C Indiana
Big man is a dying breed in the NBA, and the specific type that is dying the fastest is the Thomas Bryant type. He is efficient offensively, shows traces of a 3 point shot, and is a solid rebounder. But he can neither defend the perimeter nor protect the rim because he lacks quickness and explosiveness. His 7’5.5″ wingspan mitigates the problem defensively, but he is bad defensively and projects to be a major liability in the NBA.
1) NBA is trending toward heavily switching defenses– Bryant does not fit into such a scheme
2) Teams are learning to hunt weak links in opponent defenses. Kevin Love became unplayable in the finals because he was being so badly exploited on defense, and Kevin Love is an excellent offensive player.
Bryant was a super young freshmen, so it is possible he takes a sophomore leap. But even if his offensive game improves a boatload, he will never be better than Kevin Love offensively and most of the time he will be significantly worse. His defensive shortcomings are a significant achilles heel that prevents him from deserving a round 1 selection.
Dwayne Bacon 6’7″ SF Florida St.
DX currently has Bacon as their #40 pick and ESPN has him in the 31-35 range. I have two issues with this:
- He is already 21 years old
- He is not good at basketball
He was the #17 RSCI player, which in theory suggests he has upside for a big leap next year. He is a good athlete so this is plausible. But it is worth wondering whether his recruiting hype was due to him being more physically developed than his peers due to his age advantage. His tools are good but not good enough to be worth gambling on in spite of his poor production.
At the moment, Bacon is not a prospect and should be nowhere near draft radar.
Juniors and Seniors
This collection is also thin. They are all longshots to be lottery caliber:
- Luke Kornet
- Monte Morris
- Josh Hart
- Nigel Hayes
- Svi Mykhailiuk
- Keita Bates-Diop
- Jordan Bell
- Grayson Allen
- Devonte Graham
- Vince Edwards