Ranking the Top 60 Prospects in the 2017 NBA Draft
Ranking prospects in a vacuum is always tough. While you’ll seldom get the exact numerical value correct, the separation of tiers is what one strives most to portray through each player’s rank.
This class proves exceptionally difficult in that regard, with the end of the first and beginning of the second round brimming with big men of similar talent levels.
The lottery may be just as difficult, with the depth of star-caliber upside potentially extending into the double digits. In an event with so little certainty, it comes down to an analysis of both upside and translatable production — then the determination of which players have the best combination of both.
Here are my top 60 prospects in the 2017 NBA Draft class:
1. PG Markelle Fultz, Washington
At this stage in the game, there’s no disputing Fultz’s placement at the top. Arguably the best point guard prospect since Kyrie Irving, the 6-foot-4 freshman boasts a combination of length, athleticism and skill that rarely manifests in the same 19-year-old. He scores well at all three levels, while his vision in the pick-and-roll and defensive upside should equate to excellent production in multiple facets for the foreseeable future.
2. SF Josh Jackson, Kansas
Jackson’s biggest hole is his shot. Already an elite athlete with a well-developed skill set, he has all the tools needed to evolve into a bona fide star. While his mechanics were iffy, he already has the versatility and consistent hustle needed to excel as a multi-positional defender at the next level. A solid passer, Jackson just needs to add that scoring touch to keep his ceiling as high as anybody outside of Fultz.
3. PG Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State
Arguably the second best talent, Smith’s size is what keeps him from the two spot. At just 6-foot-3, Smith lacks the length to compete defensively with the likes of Fultz and Frank Ntilikina, but has the offensive explosiveness and all-around skill set needed to offset that. His shot projects well from deep, while his ability to gain separation and find his own shot is important down the stretch of games.
4. PF Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
At 6-foot-11 with a 7’2 wingspan, Isaac fits the league best as a stretch four. He’s mobile enough to switch onto the perimeter defensively, while his length allows him to protect the weakside as a shot blocker. He won’t be a go-to threat offensively, but shoots well in spot-up scenarios and has moves that could blossom into a more complete arsenal when afforded more space to operate in.
5. PG Lonzo Ball, UCLA
A flawed but brilliant player, Ball’s NBA stock is difficult to gauge He’s a generational passer with a basketball I.Q. that’s rarely this advanced in a teenager. He plays well off the ball, while his passing and excellent sense of space allows him to keep the ball flowing like few guards can. He still struggles to create his own shot, though, and that shot — as well as his lack of burst and shake off the dribble — could cap his upside.
6. SF Jayson Tatum, Duke
A silky scorer with more of an old-school feel, Tatum has the talent needed to shoulder the bulk of a team’s scoring load from day one. His mid-range arsenal is Carmelo-esque, while his combination of post moves and a translatable stroke from deep allows him to exploit mismatches in a variety of ways. He needs to continue to improve his ball control and passing as he makes the leap to NBA basketball.
7. SG Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Mitchell has soared up most draft boards, and for good reason. A freak athlete, the 6-foot-3 combo-guard wields a 6’10 wingspan and core strength that should make him a viable defender at both guard positions. He also has a smooth stroke from deep that should only get more consistent with repetition and better looks once placed into an NBA system. His strong power moves to the rim and inordinate explosiveness gives him plenty of potential as a shot-maker in isolation.
8. SG Malik Monk, Kentucky
The best pure shooter in this class, Monk’s quick, concise release should allow him to bring space to any NBA offense. He didn’t get to show much off the bounce alongside De’Aaron Fox, but he has the quick first step and general bounciness needed to create space and excel in isolation when given the opportunity to do so. He also has some pick-and-roll potential, which could allow him to develop into a point guard if the system warrants it.
9. SF O.G. Anunoby, Indiana
Abnormally strong and boasting a 7’2 wingspan, Anunoby has defensive potential aplenty. He has all the physical tools needed to guard one through four with success, while his offensive improvements should make him serviceable on that side of the floor. He’ll find room as a slasher and showed a decent spot-up jumper, but improving that jumper’s consistency is likely his biggest hurdle at the next level.
10. PG De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Fox has a handful of flaws that could cap his NBA stock, but the upside remains. He’s the quickest player end-to-end to enter the draft over the past few seasons, while his quick first step gives him an almost immediate advantage over most defenders. He’s a poor shooter, though, and lacks the all-around polish displayed by the other guards mentioned above. His attitude and defensive hustle should make him a net plus regardless, though.
11. PG Frank Ntilikina, Strasbourg
Standing at 6-foot-5 with a 7’1 wingspan, Ntilikina’s length gives him some of the more promising defensive tools in the draft. While his frame is still filling out, the Frenchman can already cover both guard spots with success, leveraging his length in the passing lanes while showing excellent hustle and bothering shots at all levels. His offense is a work in progress, but he has a high I.Q. and improved shooting that should translate in time.
12. PF Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
In the conversation with Monk and Luke Kennard for best shooter in this draft, Markkanen is a true rarity at the power forward spot. His quick, high release point should allow him to bury defenses in the pick-and-pop, while his mobility allows him to handle and find his own shot on occasion. The main attributes holding him back are toughness around the rim and a stark lack of defensive awareness.
13. C Zach Collins, Gonzaga
A polished defender with excellent instincts offensively, Collins projects as a solid contributor from day one. He’s a bit thin as it currently stands, but his interior passing and excellent touch around the basket allows him to hurt defenses in multiple ways. He’s not a massive shot blocking presence, but he stays disciplined and alters shots at a high clip on that side of the ball. If he’s able to stretch the floor consistently at the next level, he should be the best center in this year’s class.
14. PF Isaiah Hartenstein, Zalgiris
A bit of a wild card at 14, Hartenstein has some underlying potential that many overlook. While his mechanics and general feel for the game leave a lot to be desired, his jump shot and athletic tools all project well in the NBA game. He’s a mobile 7-footer with the occasional flash of brilliance as a passer, while his offensive game should round out nicely with proper coaching and a thorough commitment to improving his game.
15. SG Luke Kennard, Duke
A defensive liability without the greatest of athletic tools, Kennard has catapulted himself into the lottery conversation on the basis of offense alone. He’s a knockdown shooter in the same vein as Monk and Markkanen, while his vision in the pick-and-roll makes for a strong secondary initiator on the offensive end. He should plug right into an NBA offense and find success.
16. PF D.J. Wilson, Michigan
17. C Jarrett Allen, Texas
18. PF Harry Giles, Duke
19. C Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
20. C Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
21. C Anzejs Pasecniks, Gran Canaria
22. PF John Collins, Wake Forest
23. C Justin Patton, Creighton
24. SF Justin Jackson, North Carolina
25. SG Terrance Ferguson, Adelaide
26. PF Kyle Kuzma, Utah
27. PF Jordan Bell, Oregon
28. PF T.J. Leaf, UCLA
29. SF Devin Robinson, Florida
30. PF Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
31. PG Frank Jackson, Duke
32. PF Johnathan Motley, Baylor
33. PF Ivan Rabb, Cal
34. PG Derrick White, Cologrado
35. C Thomas Bryant, Indiana
36. PG Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
37. PG Edmond Sumner, Xavier
38. PF Alec Peters, Valparaiso
39. PF Semi Ojeleye, SMU
40. PF Cameron Oliver, Nevada
41. PF Jonah Bolden, Radnicki Basket
42. SG Tyler Dorsey, Oregon
43. C Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
44. PF Tony Bradley, North Carolina
45. SG Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
46. PG George De Paula, Paulistano
47. PF Mathias Lessort, Nanterre
48. C Alpha Kaba, Mega Leks
49. SF Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State
50. PG Frank Mason III, Kansas
51. SF V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame
52. SG Damyean Dotson, Houston
53. SG Sterling Brown, SMU
54. SF Vlatko Cancar, Mega Leks
55. SG L.J. Peak, Georgetown
56. SG P.J. Dozier, South Carolina
57. SF Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
58. PG Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
59. SG Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
60. PG Kadeem Allen, Arizona