NBA Draft 2017: First-round picks still fighting for position in latest prospect rankings
With NBA Draft day on June 23 (AEDT) quickly approaching, members of the talented 2017 draft class have limited opportunities left to prove they are worth a first-round selection.
While top players like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball are likely locks for top-five picks in some order, pre-draft workouts and interviews will still be valuable for many with questions left to answer. Here’s how version 7.0 of Sporting News’ Big Board prospect rankings looks with less than a month to go until NBA commissioner Adam Silver starts announcing draft picks.
NBA Draft 2017: Prospect rankings 7.0
1. Markelle Fultz, G, Washington (previous: 1): Fultz is in a tier by himself in this draft. Not only does he have elite scoring ability, but his vision should allow him to be a top-shelf lead ball handler in today’s NBA. The lack of a clear weakness stands out in a crowded group of at least slightly flawed players at the top of the draft.
2. Jayson Tatum, F, Duke (previous: 2): Once you get past Fultz, there is a wide variety of directions you can go. I choose to go with Jayson Tatum, for the simple reason that finding players who can create efficient shots and knock them down from the wing are incredibly valuable. You may quibble with the efficiency part of that equation due to Tatum’s developing jumper, but his ability to create separation is strong, and his work ethic is even better.
3. Josh Jackson, G/F, Kansas (previous: 3): Jackson is an elite athlete with a competitive drive to match. The key for him will be the jump shot. If the numbers from this season hold true, he’ll be an All-Star. If the mechanics are more indicative of long-term problems, he’ll have some issues to overcome in the spacing-oriented NBA.
4. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA (previous: 4): Ball is an analytics darling, but you need to look deeper than the numbers to see the totality of his game — both positively and negatively. On the plus side, he creates a culture of unselfishness for a team. On the downside, a lot of his points came off the ball this season, and he’s a limited creator for his own offense right now. There’s a lot to like, and a lot to question with his game.
5. Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State (previous: 5): Isaac has some questions offensively — namely in terms of confidence, passing and shooting consistency — but there’s a lot of upside there. However, where he already shines is on the defensive end. He’s long, athletic and switchable, plus has a nose for the ball both when protecting the weak side of the rim and rebounding.
6. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky (previous: 6): Fox is an excellent worker, which makes many around the NBA believe that he’ll be able to put on strength in order to rectify some of his weaknesses. But even if he physically needs to add to his frame, he’s already the quickest player in the draft. His ability to score in the pick-and-roll as well as defend at the point of attack will make him intriguing to teams.
7. Dennis Smith, G, NC State (previous: 7): Smith is as explosive as any guard in the draft athletically, and his ceiling is as high as anyone’s not named Fultz. He can score at all three levels, create for others and has good defensive instincts when he gives effort. Still, teams will eye his medical reports closely, and they wonder why NC State wasn’t better this season than its 15-17 overall record.
8. Malik Monk, G, Kentucky (previous: 8): Your opinion of Monk depends on how much you believe in his jump shot. If you think this elite athlete is also the elite jump shooter that he was at Kentucky this year, you believe he can average 20 per game in the NBA. If you think he’s more of a good, but streaky shooter, you think he’s more of a bench player at the next level due to the rest of his game.
9. Frank Ntilikina, G, Strasbourg (France) (previous: 9): Ntilikina is a long French guard with the potential to become a lead ball handler, but he’s not quite there yet. He’s a good shooter and strong defender, but he needs to improve his overall physical profile as well as take a leap athletically in order to get into the lane consistently. A good developmental team with a strong strength and conditioning program would really help him.
10. Lauri Markkanen, C, Arizona (previous: 10): Markkanen might enter the NBA as the best shooter in the entire league at his position. However, what else does he bring beyond his scoring ability? He’s a below-average rebounder, not a great passer and his defensive tools leave something to be desired. Still, in a spacing-oriented NBA, he’s going to have tremendous value as a knockdown shooter and scorer who can get his shot off in a variety of ways.
11. Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga (previous: 16): Collins is a skilled big man who measured with a 9-foot-3 standing reach. He has terrific post moves, a good shooting stroke and was a strong rim protector for Gonzaga who learned a lot mechanically from their coaching staff. The questions are with his overall feel for the game — given that he has played less basketball than the other elite players — and his physical strength. He might end up being a steal at this spot, but there’s more uncertainty with his…