Coming off a second championship in three years, the Golden State Warriors have changed the way the NBA game is played. Versatility and shooting are the becoming the most important factors in a prospect’s ceiling. With the NBA Draft just a day away, front offices need to adjust their board accordingly. Plodding big men and non-shooters will get played off the court in crunch situations, severely limiting their value to the team. With those aspects in mind, here is my big board for the 2017 NBA Draft.
- Markelle Fultz – Has such a natural feel for the game. He possesses great body control and change of pace. Fultz can shoot, pass, defend, has good size and a high IQ. He navigates the pick and roll with ease. He has a tendency to get lazy on defense, but his massive 6’9” wingspan and natural athletic prowess give him the tools to be successful on that end. Don’t let Washington’s underperformance fool you, Fultz did everything for that team and he should be able to do even more when surrounded by better talent.
- Jayson Tatum – Smart, smooth, versatile player who can swing between either forward spot. Has a vast arsenal of moves and excellent footwork with the ball. He will need to firm up his three point shot and add a notch to his explosiveness, but his consistent improvement in nearly every facet of the game over the course of his lone college season leaves nothing but optimism for his future.
- Lonzo Ball – Terrific passer, sees the game at a different level. Able to identify passing lanes before they even come open and then make the pass with either hand; he’s remarkable in the open court. He’s a finesse player though, who can struggle with size/athleticism around the rim. Defensively he has a hard time fighting his way through screens. His length allows him to make plays in the passing lanes, but quicker guards can blow past him one on one. The real question with him will be if his shot can stay consistent when stretched out to NBA distances.
- Josh Jackson – An elite athlete and a relentless defender with a nonstop motor, which allows him to impact the game in many different ways. He’s a good passer who can navigate the pick and roll. As with Ball, though, his shooting stroke will be the deciding factor on his ceiling. He shot a solid percentage from deep but his mechanics are flawed. He loads the ball low and doesn’t snap through his release. He shot a disturbing 56% from the free throw line, one of the strongest indicators of future shooting success. He’ll be great defensively and in transition, but could really struggle in half court sets.
- Dennis Smith, Jr. – Strong, physical presence with a quick first step and ability to finish way above the rim; absorbs contact well around the basket. Pesky defender when he wants to be. Plays an NBA style game. Smith’s biggest weakness is that he’s wildly inconsistent with decision-making, effort, and technique. If he can clean that up, he has the natural tools to be the best player in this draft.
- Jonathan Isaac – 19 year old who can hit threes on one end and block shots on the other. He has the potential to guard all 5 positions, an invaluable skill in today’s game. Isaac needs to add a lot of muscle and it will take some time for him to figure it all out, but you can’t teach the combination of tools and size that he possesses. He’s custom made for the modern NBA.
- Malik Monk – He’s the type of dude who can score 20 in a quarter. Can get his shot off, and make it, from anywhere. He shot nearly 40% on off-the-dribble threes, which should make him effective in the spread pick and roll as either the ball handler or floor spacer. Needs to add muscle and clean up his decision making, and he’ll never be more than an average defender, but he’ll be scoring in the league for a long time to come.
- De’Aaron Fox – Electric in the open court, plays his best in big games, and is an elite athlete. He can step in and defend from day one. But guards who struggle to shoot the ball tend to disappoint against NBA competition. Teams will go under picks and clog driving lanes against him. You’re hoping that Fox becomes John Wall, but it’s more likely he’s Elfrid Payton.
- OG Anunoby – An athletic freak; 6’8 with an unofficial 7’6 wingspan, can jump out of the gym. He’s quick enough and physical enough to guard all five positions. He’s very raw though, especially on the offensive end, where he can get lost and doesn’t always have a plan. It takes him awhile to get his shot off, but it’s not broken and he can make open looks. There just aren’t many players that offer his combination of size and agility. His upside is worth the risk.
- Frank Ntilikina – Can come in and defend opposing guards from day one; quick feet, good awareness, extremely long arms, and navigates screens well. He can make open looks, but needs time to load his long release. He lacks the initial burst to get around defenders, and has a high dribble that causes problems in tight spaces. Avoids contact around the rim, relying on his length instead. He’ll earn his playing time on the defensive end of the floor.
- Lauri Markkanen – He has a quick, high release with good footwork. He’s tailor-made for the pick and pop game. But that’s it. He gets pushed around under the basket too much and doesn’t have the quickness to guard on the perimeter at the next level. When games get tight, opponents will attack him in the pick and roll and play him off the floor.
- Zach Collins – Lacks the physicality to bang with bigs on the inside, but has good touch on his jumper and the mechanics to stretch his range out to the three point line. Shows good instincts in help defense, and enough agility to hinder guards on the perimeter. Pursues rebounds well but gets knocked off course by more physical players. If he can add enough strength to play center while keeping his relative quickness on the perimeter, he can turn into a very useful player.
- Donovan Mitchell – 6’3 with a 6’10 wingspan and a high motor gives him the opportunity to be a menace at the defensive end and in transition. He still needs to work on his decision making and shooting consistency, but he could be a nice fit on one of the many teams with a point forward who can take away some of the pressure of initiating the offense.
- Semi Ojeleye – Will fall to the back end of the first round, but he’s the type of guy you take a chance on. He’s big and physical but also comfortable playing on the perimeter, having made 42% of his 4.9 three pointers attempted per game. He’s already 23 years old, but he has all the characteristics of a rotational 3-and-D wing player.
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