What better time to talk about the 2017 NBA Draft class than with tip off of the 2016-17 season almost upon us? Throughout the season I will keep a 2017 Big Board featuring my 25–everyone does 30, so I’m being distinctly different okay–favorite prospects collegiate and international players included!
Thanks to the powers of YouTube, and some kind fellow bloggers, I will be able to keep my eye on as much basketball from this upcoming crop of players as I can find.
With each release I will place the prospects into five different tiers to represent a further distinction of just how I am grouping these players above just ranking them from 1-25 (the names of the tiers might change depending on how witty I’m feeling when I punch away at my laptop that day, but if you are a fan of any name leave a comment and I’ll stick with it).
The 2017 class has already gotten loads of hype and discussion around it, and rightfully so. There are players in this group that have a chance to alter franchises for years to come–I’m looking at you Sacramento and Brooklyn–and they are accompanied by a great depth of talented future second bananas and role players.
Abroad and at home, here’s a look at my 25 favorite prospects as the official start of basketball rapidly approaches!
TIER 1: Creme de la Creme
- Dennis Smith Jr (NC STATE)
- This spot initially belonged to Harry Giles (#2), but after undergoing a second surgery on his left knee, medical red flags are racking up for the Duke big man. Smith is coming off his own knee surgery, but his play at Adidas Nations helped ease any injury concerns about the dynamic point guard. Smith will be the man for the Wolfpack this year and a big season in the ACC should have him sitting pretty atop many draft boards come June.
- Harry Giles (DUKE)
- As noted above, Giles will be sidelined most likely for at least the beginning of the season. He’s had three surgeries (two on his left, one on his right) since 2013. If he can get back to 100 percent he is the type of big man that has the versatility and skill to make a huge impact in the new-age NBA. The talent is there and more importantly, he’s shown that he’s the best player in this class before. I hope that he is able to get back on the court this season.
- Markelle Fultz (WASHINGTON)
- Markelle Fultz’s rise to the top of the class has been well-documented. From not making varsity as a sophomore to the DMV’s best player as a senior, Fultz has worked endlessly to become a better player. Washington losing Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss to the draft put a damper on the expectations for this year’s team, but Fultz already looks like a superior talent to the two first-round picks the Huskies had last season.
TIER 2: Prospect du Jour
- Josh Jackson (KANSAS)
- Josh Jackson has the best case for being considered one of the elite prospects in this group. He’s got the height/length/skill to be a do-it-all wing that are currently thriving in the NBA. However, Jackson’s inability as a shooter bring him down a peg compared to the Tier 1 players. The top three aren’t knockdown shooters, but their outside shots need to a least be respected. That isn’t the case yet for Jackson. Some fine-tuning to his game will have him bounce up a tier.
- Ivan Rabb (CALIFORNIA)
- The first returning player to make the list is Cal’s Ivan Rabb. Rabb had an up-and-down freshman season, but he still likely would have gone in the lottery had he entered the draft last year. Scouts now get another opportunity to pick at his strengths and weaknesses, but with the floor likely more open Rabb should have a greater impact as a sophomore for the Golden Bears.
- Lauri Markkanen (ARIZONA/FINLAND)
- Lauri Markkanen has been terrorizing his age group in FIBA events and has looked downright unstoppable at times. His play in this summer’s FIBA u18 tournament saw more of the same from the seven-foot-one forward. Markkanen has the ability to score from all areas of the court. If he can show he has the athleticism to hang with more athletic big men he could jump a tier as well.
- Jarrett Allen (TEXAS)
- Jarrett Allen looks like someone went into a lab and created the perfect center for today’s league. Allen isn’t a polished back to the back scorer, but possesses the speed and athleticism to make an impact just by being on the floor. He can beat guards running end-to-end. He will punish defenders that help late on his rolls to the basket. He has a knack for swatting any layup attempts back at the opposing player’s face. Shaka Smart’s system will really showcase his skills and keep him as a prospect to watch for all front offices.
TIER 3: Potentially Potent
- Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
- Jason Kidd and Jason Williams are beloved by many for their ability to see the floor and connect on jaw-dropping assists. Lonzo Ball has a similar type of flair and court vision to his game. Ball combines the size of Kidd, six-foot-six, with the gunslinger three-point shot selection of Williams. When surrounded by talent Ball has shown that he can defer to being a pass-first point guard. UCLA will certainly have talent for him to share the court with, but the big question for the Gatorade High School National Player of the Year is whether his uptempo style of play can translate to the NCAA game and beyond.
- OG Anunoby (INDIANA)
- OG Anunoby, or as I like to call him “Everybody’s favorite 3-and-D prospect” has done nothing to diminish the glowing reviews that he received at the end of his freshman season with the Indiana Hoosiers. If Anunoby can make a leap like former Hoosier Victor Oladipo did then the sky’s the limit in terms of what we can expect from him.
- Jonathan Isaac (FLORIDA STATE)
- Jonathan Isaac is probably the least publicized out of any player in my top 10, but he has the potential to be the most transcendent prospect in this class. He’s a six-foot-ten guard. He doesn’t quite have a consistent outside shot yet, but he takes jumpers very confidently. Having a player like Dwayne Bacon alongside him should help his transition to the college game, but he has the skills to end up as the better player of the two and is already the better prospect.
- Malik Monk (KENTUCKY)
- Our first Wildcat is none other than Malik Monk. For those expecting a different name, here’s why I went with Monk: buckets. In the wise words of one Uncle Drew, “this game has always been and will always be about buckets.” There isn’t a player more adept at putting the ball in the hole than Kentucky’s combo guard. However, at six-foot-three he is very undersized to play his true position. If all else fails, he could have a similar career to Monta Ellis. If he’s able to show that he can play as a primary ball handler than his stock should see a rise over the course of the season.
- Frank Ntilikina (STROUSBURG IG/FRANCE)
- Frank Ntilikina is a carbon copy of Rajon Rondo and Dennis Schroder, except he’s taller. Ntilikina checks in at six-foot-five and possesses an equally impressive six-foot-eleven wingspan. Also, unlike the two above mentioned players, Ntilikina is also a much more subdued player on the court. He’s a monster in the pick-and-roll and has a serviceable jump shot. The only worry is that Ntilikina doesn’t play against the best Europe has to offer playing for Strousburg IG’s club team in France’s LNB Pro A league.
- Isaiah Hartenstein (ZALGIRIS KAUNAS/GERMANY)
- Isaiah Hartenstein is another intriguing international prospect. The German forward is a versatile player that has shown the propensity to be effective on both ends of the floor. Like Ntilikina, his club team BC Zalgiris does not play in one of the elite leagues of Europe. Scouts will likely have to use the glimpses of EuroLeague action Hartenstein has as a parallel of what he could potentially do in the NBA. For what it’s worth, Hartenstein is Germany’s best prospect since a skinny Dirk Nowitzki went in the top 10 to the Dallas Mavericks in 1998.
TIER 4: Green Room Guests
- Thomas Bryant (INDIANA)
- Thomas Bryant was a bit of a surprise returnee to the college ranks. He showed flashes of promise his freshmen year, and could have likely been a lottery selection last draft. He displayed a soft touch in the paint and comfortability extending out to the perimeter. He’s a bit undersized to play his true center position, but a wingspan allows him to make up for being just six-foot-nine. The Hoosiers are shaping up to be one of the best teams in the NCAA and Bryant will have plenty of opportunities to show his growth from a season ago.
- Miles Bridges (MICHIGAN STATE)
- Miles Bridges is the next in line to play the Draymond Green/Denzel Valentine role for the Spartans. Whereas it took those former two players four years to show NBA promise, Bridges is a one-and-done candidate. At six-foot-seven and 240 pounds, Bridges can comfortably play either forward position. He’s a beast and easily finds his way into paint every possession. However, his outside shot remains a work in progress. If he can hit anywhere between 33-35 percent his abilities as an all-around player will keep him in the lottery discussion.
- De’Aaron Fox (KENTUCKY)
- There’s a chance that De’Aaron Fox is the most athletic guard that John Calipari has ever coached. The six-foot-five point guard is a force of nature with the ball in his hands, often getting the ball down the court before the defense can even think about getting set. He’s a bit of a bean pole at the moment, was measured at pounds at UK’s combine, and teams will surely hope he can fill out even more during his stint with the Wildcats. Fox’s outside shot isn’t broken per se, but it is a weakness currently. Where he really shines is on defense. He can guard and harrasas opponents 94 feet and has quick hands and feet to disrupt passing lanes.
TIER 5: Will Get GM’s Fired
- Marques Bolden (DUKE)
- Marques Bolden is often the after-thought in the Blue Devils 2016 recruiting class. However, with Giles being sidelined or at least treated with caution to begin the year it’s Bolden who has the biggest chance to be showcased. Bolden is a tried and true big man, preferring to play with his back to the basket than facing it. He is a strong and well put together prospect for being years old. If he can be an above average rim protector there will be teams that will have use for his skills in the NBA.
- Rodions Kurucs (FC BARCELONA LASSA/LATVIA)
- Rodions Kurucs is one of the most dynamic European wing prospects in recent memory. He’ll most likely play small forward in the NBA, but has shown the ability to play any spot on the perimeter. He is at his best though when scoring. He has microwave-like ability to heat up quickly. It isn’t unnatural to see him score in bunches when he’s on the floor. He’ll only be 19 by the time of the draft and may be more interesting as a draft-and-stash player.
- Edmond Sumner (XAVIER)
- Edmond Sumner is the most raw player in this list. At 20 years old, Sumner has become one of the most intriguing prospects in all of college basketball. He will be tasked with leading a very talented Xavier team and his play at the point guard position is the key to success for Chris Mack’s squad. Sumner is very Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams in terms of his play style. He’s a terror in transition and the open court, but he’s easier to handle when in half court situations. If Sumner can cut down on his turnovers and make teams respect his outside shooting he could make noise along with other top point guard prospects in this draft.
- Omer Yurtseven (NC STATE/TURKEY)
- Omer Yurtseven was a late addition to NC State–the Wolfpack are still awaiting word on if the NCAA will clear him to play or not–but his skill can not be denied. The Turkish big man is an offensive dynamo. He can score in a multitude of ways around the basket and already has an array of interior finishes in his arsenal. The biggest question with Yurtseven is if he can handle or at least show promise on the other end of the floor. He’s tall, seven-foot, yet he doesn’t really offer much defensively. He’s not strong enough to bang in the paint, he isn’t quick enough to stick with guards on the perimeter, and he’s not savvy enough to be a great help or off-ball defender. Hopefully the NCAA will allow him to play because Yurtseven will need the time to test his skills against his American peers in order to improve his draft stock.
- Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (KENTUCKY)
- Bam Adebayo likely won’t be this far down the big board for long. The athleticism and build is there to make front offices fall in love. Kentucky’s uptempo style will highlight his strengths and shade his weaknesses. His sheer will and effort will make him stand out amongst his peers. In short, he’ll be the type of player ever team wants. So why then is he starting the season this low? He doesn’t really have a defined skill set. He has the game of Kenneth Faried in Dwight Howard’s build. That certainly is a serviceable player, but it doesn’t put him on par to match the potential of others in this class.
- Grayson Allen (DUKE)
- Grayson Allen has steadily improved every year since he’s been in Durham. He entered college as a sharpshooting, athletic wing, known for his ability as a dunker more so than his overall game. He turned in a heroic performance to help Duke capture the national title as a freshmen. Then, he followed that up by being the Blue Devils go-to scorer despite Brandon Ingram being on the team as well. This year he watches another hyped group of freshmen come to Duke and must again adjust accordingly. If Allen proves that his efficiency of a year ago was now fluke he will all but sure up a spot in the first round.
- Borisa Simanic (CRVENA ZVEZDA/SERBIA)
- Borisa Simanic possesses excellent size at six-foot-eleven, especially since he is a real mobile athlete. He moves fluidly around the court and is capable of playing from the perimeter for long stretches. His ability to put the ball on the floor makes him stand out from other big men with similar style of play. He also looks like a natural whenever he’s on the floor, often makes the right play whenever he’s in the game offensively and defensively. Though the skill is there he has yet to put in into production on the court. Often will float around the perimeter waiting to shoot jumpers.
- Jayson Tatum (DUKE)
- Jayson Tatum is going to be a really really really good college basketball player. He’s a smooth wing with a polished and advanced game for a player his age. Coach K will be sure to highlight Tatum–especially with Giles going under the knife again. However, Tatum does not possess elite athleticism and when facing NBA caliber athletes some of his skills will be diminished. For all his prowess in the mid-range he is yet to show that he is an above average three-point threat. His handle is passable, but he’ll need to tighten it up if he hopes to be a secondary ball handler in the league. Tatum is going to have a great freshman year, but he might have already hit his ceiling as a prospect.
- Mikal Bridges (VILLANOVA)
- There are bigger names on the Wildcats roster, but Mikal Bridges is the most complete package in terms of pro potential. Bridges stands at six-foot-seven with a seven-foot wingspan. He is tailored made to be the next big three-and-D wing. While equipped to be a jack-of-all-trades type of player, he has yet to really nail down one specific area of his game. Like all players on this list, he’s shown instances of high-level play and if he can turn those into consistent play he’s just the type of player that will be sought after by every team now and in the future.
NEXT 25 (ALPHABETICALLY): Rawle Alkins (ARIZONA), Dwayne Bacon (FLORIDA STATE), Tyus Battle (SYRACUSE), Chris Boucher (OREGON), Jaron Blossomgame (CLEMSON), Trevon Bluiett (XAVIER), Dillon Brooks (OREGON), Jalen Brunson (VILLANOVA), Felipe Dos Anjos (OVIEDO/BRAZIL), Terrence Ferguson (ADELAIDE 36ERS/USA), Jessie Govan (GEORGETOWN), Josh Hart (VILLANOVA), Nigel Hayes (WISCONSIN), Justin Jackson (UNC), Jonathan Jeanne (LE MANS SARTHE/FRANCE), Alpha Kaba (MEGA LEKS/FRANCE), TJ Leaf (UCLA), Marcus LoVett (ST. JOHNS), Tyler Lydon (SYRACUSE), Shake Milton (SMU), Monte Morris (IOWA STATE), Kostja Mushidi (MEGA LEKS/GERMANY), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (KANSAS/UKRAINE), Cameron Oliver (NEVADA), Allonzo Trier (ARIZONA)