2017 NBA Draft
Top 30 Draft Board: Washington freshman Markelle Fultz has goods to be top selection
The NBA.com Top 30 Draft Board for the June 22 draft, based on conversations with executives and scouts.
1. Markelle Fultz | Washington | PG | 6-4 | 195
A still growing 18-year old, he possess the height for a point guard, has the ability to create space to get to the rim or pull up from the perimeter and has the lead-guard skills. Fultz has emerged from a tight pack at the start of the season to emerge as the consensus No. 1 for most of 2016-17. It’s his race to lose. Fultz has even shown three-point range, albeit, strangely, while also struggling from the line.
2. Lonzo Ball | UCLA | PG | 6-6 |190
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, speaking to a group of reporters on Feb. 3 as the hype machine overheated: “The last time I saw something like this was Magic Johnson with the Lakers.” It’s unfair to Ball, of course, and an overstatement, yet is another assessment of what some front offices, not just college coaches, see as massive potential. Not merely using his size to pass over defenses, Ball combines vision, unselfishness and passing skills into the kind of package that can translate into elite point guard.
3. Josh Jackson | Kansas | SF | 6-8 | 205
The Andrew Wiggins comparisons will inevitably come – Kansas, wing, athletic, one-and-done – but Wiggins was crazy athletic. Jackson has great size for a small forward, which along with the physical gifts may one day allow him to play small-ball power forward after getting older and getting stronger. And while he can become a great scorer in transition, he can also find the open man. Jackson did not shoot well from the perimeter the first half of 2016-17, with little three-point range and problems from the line as well.
4. Dennis Smith | North Carolina State | PG | 6-3 | 195
Good NBA defenders may have trouble staying in front of Smith as a rookie. He has that much explosiveness, with speed and leaping ability while constantly in attack mode, assets that allow him to break down defenses, get inside and play above the rim at 6-3. The lack of perimeter game, though, means the same defenses will be able to back off. Playing big minutes at a high level has been an especially important accomplishment after missing 2015-16, what would have been his senior season in high school, with a knee injury.
5. Lauri Markkanen | Arizona | PF | 7-0 | 225
The agile, fluid 7-footer is the latest European stretch four bound for the top half of the lottery, following Kristaps Porzingis and Dragan Bender. Markkanen, from Finland, will beat defenders down court on the break or pick them apart in half court with range that resulted in making 50 percent of his three-pointers into the first week of February for Arizona while attempting almost five per game. In a draft heavy with point guards, he is the big who stands out.
6. Jayson Tatum | Duke | SF | 6-8 | 205
The question is whether he can develop three-point range, and not just because it is important playing on the wing. It’s that if Tatum gets that part down as well, he will be close to a complete scorer, able to get points by constantly exploiting openings he finds in transition, with a mid-range game and from offensive rebounds. He has the size for the position.
7. Jonathan Isaac | Florida State | PF-SF | 6-11 | 205
That height plus a nine-foot reach creates a lot of possibilities on both sides of the ball, along with rebounding even while obviously needing to put on weight. It’s the ability to handle the ball and create that makes small forward an option. Isaac has already shown the quickness to play there, making the potential versatility as a combo forward an obvious plus.
8. De’Aaron Fox | Kentucky | PG | 6-4 | 170
Front offices love the speed and nonstop energy that comes across on defense as well as when he pushes the ball on offense, and that he’s not out of control in the process – his assist-to-turnover ratio as of the first week of February was 3-1. That’s a good look even if he is the envy of most every point guard in the nation with the typical glut of Kentucky talent on the receiving end of the passes. Don’t expect much consistency on the jumper, though, especially anywhere close to the three-point line.
9. Frank Ntilikina | France | PG | 6-5 | 170
If he is this poised and unselfish with the ball at 18, already 6-5 and with the chance to keep growing, with this much court vision, imagine the possibilities when he becomes an old man of 21 or 22 with NBA experience. Not merely the top all-international prospect, given Markkanen’s swing through the NCAA, Ntilikina clearly has a path to the top five and maybe even the top three if he has a big finish in Europe and blows teams away at individual workouts. That he isn’t the No. 1 prospect at the position now says everything about point guard this year.
10. Malik Monk | Kentucky | SG-PG | 6-4 | 185
A few things to counter concerns he is slightly undersized to become an impact shooting guard: That level of athleticism means he can play bigger than 6-4, he is 19 and could add an inch or two, and very good three-point range. And not just success behind the arc. Monk has stepped up in clutch situations as a freshman and will undoubtedly get more chanced in the tournament. The NBA loves to see that intangible.
11. Harry Giles | Duke | PF | 6-11 | 220
On talent, Giles is in the conversation for at least the top five and possibly even No. 1. But he tore ligaments in both knees in high school and missed the first 11 games this season while recovering from a third procedure, arthroscopic surgery on the left knee, meaning a general manager is really, really going to have to trust his medical staff before spending a high pick on Giles. He averaged 12.4 minutes without the consistent standout play front offices want to see from a lottery pick, but also with the understanding that he needs more time to get back in rhythm.
12. Bam Adebayo | Kentucky | C | 6-10 | 250
He can play with some power inside or use mobility to score in transition, complete with the leaping ability that could lead to finishing a lot of lobs. Beyond potential as a rebounder and the ability to play in open court, though, Adebayo is offensively challenged, getting most of his baskets on the run or from offensive rebounds while struggling when he steps out, from the line or as a passer. He would almost certainly have to be paired with a big who can hit a shot or score from the post.
13. Ivan Rabb | California | PF | 6-10 | 215
A non-freshman at last. Rabb is an old man compared to the rest of the class – a sophomore – who was a lottery candidate a year ago while playing with No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown and second-rounder Tyrone Wallace before returning to school. The decision does not appear to have dramatically impacted his 2017 stock either way. Rabb can score inside, either from the post with a nice touch or on the run with good mobility, and rebounds, but will need to improve to make an impact when he moves away from the paint.
14. Isaiah Hartenstein | Lithuania | PF | 7-0 | 240
The versatile offensive threat was born in Eugene, Ore., in 1998, moved to Germany in 2008 and joined Lithuanian team Zalgiris in 2016. He can score from different areas on the court, inside and out and also on the run, a sign of his mobility at that size while still growing at 18 years old. NBA teams would like him even more but are wondering about his attitude and whether bad body language and being taken out of his game by emotions is being a teenager or being a potential problem.
15. Robert Williams | Texas A&M | PF | 6-9 | 235
Raw, even as a freshman in a draft loaded with projected one-and-dones, but full of potential. Williams is a throwback power forward who will rebound and block shots with muscle and energy and leave the finesse to others. He could be an ideal selection for a team with a second pick late in the lottery or a playoff team that had previously traded into the middle of the first round and has the luxury of being more patient with a prospect.
16. Miles Bridges | Michigan State | SF-PF | 6-6 | 225
A mega-athlete who becomes a candidate for the dunk contest at All-Star weekend the instant he is drafted. Bridges will need to develop a perimeter game on offense to become a true threat on the wing – he was shooting 63 percent from the line as of Feb. 8 – but it is possible to imagine him being able to handle small-ball power forward even at 6-6. Leaping ability and strength will be a great equalizer.
17. Justin Patton | Creighton | C | 7-0 | 230
The redshirt freshman, originally not part of the discussion of the heralded first-year players, has surged to the forefront with athleticism to go with the size. The 18 points on nine-of-12 shooting plus eight rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes when Creighton played then-No. 1 Villanova on Dec. 31 was part of getting noticed, but not everything. The rest of the season has offered encouraging hints of Patton’s future.
18. Terrance Ferguson | Australia | SG | 6-7 | 185
The Dallas-area native made a big gamble by turning pro in Adelaide, Australia, rather than spending a freshman season at the University of Arizona with much better competition and playing for a coach, Sean Miller, with a record of developing NBA prospects. Ferguson needs to add to his game whatever the location. For now, he is essentially a spot-up shooter without much ability to handle or create an opening.
19. T.J. Leaf | UCLA | PF | 6-10 | 225
Nothing about Leaf jumps out as spectacular or lottery-worthy. The appeal is that he does a lot of things well, with moves around the basket, range out to the three-point line and passing ability, all the more impressive that it’s as a freshman. He was an important recruit a year ago but not compared to some of the elite high school seniors at the top of 2017 draft boards, and he is not close to the No. 1 prospect from his own school, yet Leaf could get in the lottery conversation. He has a big chance to benefit from the NBA eyes that have been on Ball and will continue into the tournament as Ball tracks to the possible first selection.
20. Tyler Lydon | Syracuse | PF | 6-10 | 205
Shooting 42.7 percent behind the arc the first 25 games, on 3.8 attempts per, makes him an ideal stretch-four candidate and also means he could handle some small forward on offense while getting stronger. Being able to defend both positions may be another matter. Lydon rebounded well against ranked Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, a sign he will be able to handle himself inside at the next level after adding weight.
21. Marques Bolden | Duke | C | 6-11 | 245
Bolden missed the first eight games with a leg injury and played with inconsistent energy once he did make his college debut, the bigger concern for scouts and executives. Better showings into the second half of the freshman campaign helped his standing, but Bolden is still a long-term project expected to be about potential, not immediate impact. Playing with intensity in the tournament is as important for his future as Duke’s present.
22. Jarrett Allen | Texas | C | 6-10 | 235
The size, the big hands, the long reach and wingspan – he will be ready physically. It’s just that Allen does not play physical, doing most of his damage running the court hard and finishing, and following offensive rebounds. Beyond that, his offense needs a lot of work. His level of agility and reach equals the potential to become a good shot blocker and rebounder, and the NBA is noticing as he strings good games together after a slow start, including the statement of 22 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks at Kansas on Jan. 21. Front offices love to see upward trajectory.
23. Luke Kennard | Duke | SG | 6-5 | 190
Kennard – not Tatum, not Giles, not Grayson Allen – had emerged as Duke’s most-dependable scoring threat by early-February, and one of the biggest three-point threats in the country. While that range is the obvious selling point, Kennard has a nice offensive game in general, including as a passer, as part of big improvements from his freshman campaign to the current run as a sophomore. The NBA generally does not see star potential, but can project a solid career at least as a contributor in the rotation.
24. OG Anunoby | Indiana | SF-PF | 6-8 | 235
Anunoby would have been an easy call as one of the top defenders available and a possibility for closer to the middle of the first round, until needing season-ending surgery on his right knee from an injury suffered Jan. 18 at Penn State. The health concern will obviously weigh heavily on the minds of front offices heading toward June. It could impact Anunoby’s thinking as well over whether to stay in the draft or return to Indiana for his junior year to show the NBA he could still be the same strong combo forward capable of defending multiple positions.
25. Jawun Evans | Oklahoma State | PG | 6-1 | 185
He should not be overlooked in a class with many other point guards rated higher and should not be lost in Oklahoma State’s bad start to conference play. Evans has the speed to compensate for any size concerns, handles the ball well, and would be coming out with two years of experience at a major program against tough competition. Teams could see a backup point guard of the future available late in the first round.
26. Jaron Blossomgame | Clemson | SF | 6-7 | 215
He is the rarity of a four-year player, from a prominent conference at that, but with mixed results. At a time front offices like the idea of power forwards and centers with shooting range, small forward Blossomgame went from 44.6 percent behind the arc last season to 26.5 as of Feb. 9. His free-throw accuracy also declined. The good news is that he plays physical, rebounds for his position and has shown range in the past.
27. Thomas Bryant | Indiana | C | 6-10 | 240
The decision to return to school to build on a good freshman season rather than coming out as a possible first-round pick does not appear to be paying off. Bryant is in about the same spot and has little chance, barring a late rocket ride up draft boards, to follow Cody Zeller (2013) and Noah Vonleh (2014) from Bloomington to the lottery. The appeal is a big who won’t need to grow into his body much more, plays hard and has a standing reach of 9-4, assets that add up to the possibility of rebounds and blocks as a pro.
28. Caleb Swanigan | Purdue | PF | 6-9 | 250
This is not the same Caleb Swanigan who declared for the 2016 draft, had a bad showing at the Chicago pre-draft camp, and wisely decided to return to school. The 2017 version, a sophomore, is much improved almost every way, from conditioning to approach to on-court execution. He suddenly has the look of a potential reserve big man, at power forward and possibly some small-ball center.
29. Alec Peters | Valparaiso | PF | 6-9 | 225
This is no mid-major prospect trying to generate attention. Peters is established on NBA fronts, after considering entering the draft a year ago before returning for his senior season, especially as a three-point threat and future stretch-four. But just in case anyone was concerned about being able to handle bigger stages, the 24 points at Oregon on Nov. 17 and the 25 at Kentucky on Dec. 7 were nice reminders.
30. Jonathan Jeanne | France | C | 7-2 | 190
Thin center, potential factor as a shot blocker and rebounder, a possibility for late in the first round, playing in France – he’s not Rudy Gobert, but the comparisons will come anyway. Jeanne obviously needs to get a lot stronger, or a lot anything at 190 pounds, but he’s fluid and has a 7-6 wingspan, so anything’s possible. The potential on defense alone means he will get long looks for the end of the first.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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