NBA Draft 2017: Stock Reports for Top Prospects as Conference Play Winds Down
Opinions on NBA draft prospects are becoming more solid as we move into February.
Scouts are now looking at a 20-plus game sample size to evaluate, and a number of breakout prospects have helped validate their hot starts with consistent production three months into the season. That list includes Creighton's Justin Patton, Wake Forest's John Collins, Texas A&M's Robert Williams and Baylor's Johnathan Motley—four surprise names who started the year outside the top 30.
As some rise, of course, others must fall. And as we head into the final stretch of conference play, there are a few high-profile prospects who still have plenty to prove.
20. Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, 6'11", Freshman)
Stock Report: Regaining steam
Averaging 16.1 points (and 10.4 rebounds) during conference play, Jarrett Allen has shown noticeable offensive improvement since November and December. He's looked more decisive with his footwork and hook shots in the post; though not a shooter yet, he's flashed fluid range out to 18 feet.
Allen's signature game of the season came against Kansas on January 21, when he went for 22 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. He's been up and down since, combining to shoot 5-of-20 against Oklahoma (January 23) and Georgia (January 28) before totaling 41 points and 17 rebounds against Texas Tech (February 1) and TCU (Saturday).
But at 18 years old with a 7'5 ½" wingspan, mobility and budding skills, Allen's strong games outweigh the weak ones in terms of assessing his development and potential.
He still lacks polish (20.1 turnover percentage) and explosiveness—weaknesses that hint at a lower ceiling. That could limit Allen to mid-to-late first-round looks if he chooses to declare in 2017.
19. T.J. Leaf (UCLA, PF, 6'10", Freshman)
Stock Report: Rising credibility
After a quiet January averaging 13.7 points, T.J. Leaf opened February by combining for 52 points, 24 rebounds and six assists against Washington State (Wednesday) and Washington (Sunday).
Scouts saw an offensive showcase of skills and versatility, though he's consistently delivered all season. Among freshmen playing at least 20 minutes a game, Leaf ranks behind only Washington's Markelle Fultz, Creighton's Justin Patton and Florida State's Jonathan Isaac—three prospects ranked in our top seven—in player efficiency rating.
Modern NBA teams are looking for shooting and playmaking power forwards, so Leaf stands out as an obvious fit. He's hit 21 of 45 threes and is averaging 2.7 assists, showing the ability to attack closeouts and either pass or score off the dribble.
He's even surprised with the occasional showtime dunk, demonstrating better-than-advertised athleticism and coordination.
Leaf lacks obvious muscle definition and doesn't offer much defensively, which are reasons to doubt upside worth reaching on. But as a potential role player, he's built a convincing case with production, polish, energy, IQ and strengths the NBA covets.
18. Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF, 6'10", Junior)
Stock Report: Creeping upward
Johnathan Motley had become a name to follow even before he went for 32 points and 20 rebounds against Texas on January 17. He went to town on future first-round center Jarrett Allen, who was overpowered and outmatched by Motley's footwork, pump fakes and ball skills around the key.
Since then, Motley has finished with at least 15 points and eight rebounds in each of Baylor's last five games, and though he has the tendency to drift, his production and offensive progress are too encouraging.
He's raised his rebounding rate to a terrific 19.3 percent, and he's already made 15 more free throws than he did through 34 games as a sophomore.
The eye test, which picks up his 6'10", 230-pound size and 7'3 ½" wingspan, confirms NBA physical tools. Bigger numbers, softer touch and an enhanced post game say NBA player.
17. John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, 6'10", Sophomore)
Stock Report: Soaring
Seven straight games with at least 20 points has caused John Collins' stock to spike.
He's certainly made himself easy to identify: The ACC's leader in field-goal percentage and player efficiency rating, Collins' athleticism and scoring ability around the key have consistently overwhelmed opposing front lines.
His agility and bounce regularly lead to easy finishes off pick-and-rolls, lobs, dump downs, cuts and putbacks. He's also impressed with sporadic back-to-the-basket moves, mid-range jumpers and short fallaways.
Collins' 21.1 rebounding percentage ranks first among the top-20 prospects.
It's worth noting his struggles against Florida State (two points, three rebounds) on December 28 and North Carolina (six points, three rebounds) on January 11—two teams with NBA-sized front lines. But Collins has done too much damage in the ACC. Volume production, exciting explosiveness, shooting touch and one-on-one flashes have helped launch him into the first-round discussion.
16. Harry Giles III (Duke, PF, 6'10", Freshman)
Stock Report: Slipping
It's now been 12 games for Harry Giles III, who's still fighting to justify regular rotation minutes. He's played fewer than 10 in three of Duke's last five contests, struggling with foul trouble (8.6 per 40 minutes) and generating scoring opportunities.
We also haven't seen the explosive leaping ability (36.4 percent on putback chances) that helped create so much hype during high school and FIBA play.
On the bright side, Giles' competitiveness and activity have been consistent. He's crashing the glass, pulling down 14.8 rebounds per 40 minutes and making himself available for catch-and-finishes. But it's easy to see the unsettling 5.3 points per game and three knee surgeries scaring general managers with valuable lottery picks—regardless of how much upside Giles is perceived to have.
He'll have to show more than just rebounds, uncontested dunks and energy to make teams overlook his injury history with a high selection.
15. Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, 6'11", Sophomore)
Stock Report: Standing still
Ivan Rabb isn't playing poorly, but given the strength of this year's draft competition, he hasn't done enough to make a top-10 push.
Still, his physical tools, strong 18.5 rebounding percentage and low-post game should lock him inside the top 20. He's coming off three straight double-doubles and now has 12 on the year. If there is one area he's shown improvement, it's been as a passer, having already surpassed last year's assist total while receiving a lot more attention from opposing defenses.
Rabb doesn't block many shots (1.4 per 40 minutes) and isn't laterally quick when guarding the perimeter. And unless the jumper becomes a reliable weapon, his offensive upside will only go so high.
It's possible a team looking to play it safe—uninterested in reaching on a younger project—could target Rabb late in the lottery as a role-playing energy big. But to leapfrog some of the one-and-done freshmen, he'll need to take over a few more games during February and March.
14. Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF/C, 6'9", Freshman)
Stock Report: Steady
Robert Williams hasn't cooled off since introducing himself early as a surprise breakout freshman.
He continues to strengthen his reputation as the most exciting defensive big in this year's class. Averaging 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes with his giant 7'4" wingspan, Williams leads the SEC in block percentage and is second in defensive plus-minus.
Having gone for at least 15 points during three of Texas A&M's last five games, he's also been more active offensively, though his tools and athleticism are still behind most of his scoring production. Williams does his damage by finishing above the rim and crashing the glass.
He's missed all nine of his three-point attempts and only shoots 59.4 percent from the line, so he'll likely have to make significant offensive strides to justify being taken in the lottery. But Williams should get someone to bet on his physical attributes, defense and room for improvement by the mid-to-late first round.
13. Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF/C, 7'0", 1998)
Stock Report: In position to rise
Isaiah Hartenstein hasn't done much offensively since rejoining Zalgiris after the U18 European Championship, where he averaged 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
The lack of production in Lithuania won't stop NBA teams from showing interest, however.
An obvious talent who's been on the radar for years, Hartenstein stands out with 7'0" size, mobility and face-up ball skills, including a jumper that's shown three-point range. His performance at the U18s just helped confirm he's worth looking into with a first-round pick. From there, Hartenstein should be considered a strong candidate to rise further during workouts.
12. Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, 6'6", Freshman)
Stock Report: Regaining steam
Except for a rare off day against Indiana on January 21, Miles Bridges has been strong since returning from a seven-game absence in December (ankle injury). A 33-point, seven-rebound, four-block line against Purdue especially recaptured everyone's attention on January 24.
Bridges has also knocked down 15 of his last 33 threes over a six-game span. It wouldn't be shocking to see him get drafted earlier than expected by a team that buys into his jumper.
Already one of the most explosive leapers in the field, a combination of elite athleticism and shooting fuel enticing upside.
On the other hand, a 63.0 percent free-throw clip warns of a potentially fluky 40.5 percent three-point mark. And though he's putting up 16.2 points per game, handling the ball in traffic and creating his own shot aren't strengths. Per 40 minutes, Bridges averages 3.6 turnovers and only gets to the line 3.4 times.
Still, the eruption against Purdue probably wasn't his last—more of them are bound to enhance the intrigue over Bridges' potential as a small-ball 4 mismatch.
11. Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, 7'0", Freshman)
Stock Report: Safe, but losing steam
With just a pair of field goals combined during Arizona's last two games, Lauri Markkanen has finally cooled off. He's still converting at a ridiculous 48.7 percent clip from three, however, so even a lengthy cold streak isn't likely to damage his shooting numbers or credibility.
A 7-footer, Markkanen has a pure, fluid stroke that's been on display overseas since 2013. He clearly has some ball skills as well, having shown the ability to handle it over screens and occasionally knock down shots off the dribble.
The questions stem from a lack of explosiveness and how much it will limit Markkanen's efficiency and defensive effectiveness: He's converting at an uninspiring 53.2 percent inside the arc. Meanwhile, his 9.7 rebounds per 40 minutes are relatively low, and he's totaled just 11 blocks and eight steals through 739 minutes this season.
Size and a lights-out stroke create a high floor for Markkanen, who isn't likely to slide far. But suspect athleticism and toughness inside raise doubt over the height of his NBA ceiling.
10. Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF/PF, 6'8", Freshman)
Stock Report: Steady, but vulnerable
Jayson Tatum has done a better job lately of picking his spots and playing within the offense. He's attempted fewer than 10 shots in three of Duke's last five games, showing more willingness to take what the defense gives him rather than hunting for scoring chances.
He's also started seeing more minutes at power forward, where his quickness creates mismatches. Tatum has given Duke a consistent source of offense, having finished with double figures in all but one game.
There aren't any doubts concerning his talent—he aces the eye test with textbook tools and advanced skills.
But there are reasons to hesitate when projecting his NBA fit and potential. Tatum hasn't excelled in any one area, shooting just 36.2 percent on two-point jumpers and 31.4 percent from three. He also lacks explosiveness around the basket, where he's converting a well-below average 50 percent of his shots at the rim in transition.
Throw in 3.7 turnovers to 2.5 assists per 40 minutes, and it's fair to question how efficient he'll be in an NBA offense. He won't slip far in the draft, but a few other prospects could leapfrog Tatum.
9. De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, 6'3", Freshman)
Stock Report: Steady
Battling an illness, De'Aaron Fox showed some toughness while playing sick against Florida (19 points) on Saturday after missing a week of practice. He'd been terrific the first three weeks of January, having averaged 19.6 points and 4.8 assists during a five-game stretch.
The report on Fox is fairly clear: He's an exceptional athlete with breakdown speed and handles, bounce, setup ability and a struggling jumper. Of his 128 made field goals, 87 have come at the rim. He's shooting 29.1 percent combined on all other shots away from the basket, which include runners, floaters, two-point jumpers and threes (8-of-44).
Teams will ultimately value Fox's ability to generate easy offense in transition, penetrate and kick, facilitate pick-and-rolls, put pressure on the rim and defend the ball.
Given where his shooting is and the fact his future value in the pros will likely come down to how much his perimeter game develops, the late lottery seems more realistic than the top five.
8. Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 6'5", 1998)
Stock Report: Steady
Frank Ntilikina's MVP showing during December's U18 European Championship secured his spot in this year's lottery discussion. But there is only so much he can show with Strasbourg IG in France's top division, where his minutes and playmaking touches are limited.
For the most part, he's still capitalizing on his opportunities, primarily as a shooter (38.9 percent from three) and defender. Ntilikina had arguably his best LNB Pro A game of the season on January 23, when he scored 15 points and knocked down three triples.
It's not crazy to think teams could look at Ntilikina—who's 6'5" and versatile with long arms and pro experience—and rank him higher than Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox, a ball-dominant nonshooter.
Ntilikina could be a sneaky top-five candidate, but he's more likely a mid-to-late lottery option.
7. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, 6'3", Freshman)
Stock Report: Steady
Malik Monk's current scouting report looks similar to the ones put out earlier in the season.
His ability to catch fire and make jumpers in bunches has consistently led to in-game scoring spurts. At one point against Georgia on January 31, Monk hit five straight threes using two total dribbles.
He gets open by leaking out in transition, running off screens and spotting up deep behind the arc. And Monk has the confidence to sink challenged shots, as well as the skill and athleticism to separate from defenders by escaping into step-backs or elevating into pull-ups.
But Kentucky has actually struggled despite Monk hitting the 25-point mark in three of the team's last six games.
He doesn't get to the basket often, having converted just three unassisted field goals at the rim (that aren't putbacks) in the half-court all season. Along with fast-break opportunities, Monk still relies heavily on his jumper and tough floaters, which suggests he could fall under the streak-scorer umbrella once he settles into the pros.
Regardless, elite athleticism and shot-making keep him safe from falling in the draft; Monk has likely locked himself into the No. 4 to No. 10 range.
6. Justin Patton (Creighton, PF/C, 6'11", Freshman)
Stock Report: Rising and gaining credibility
Justin Patton is turning heads with consistent production and flashes of upside.
Creighton is bound to struggle down the stretch after losing Maurice Watson (the nation's leader in assists) to a season-ending injury. But Patton looks poised to continue strengthening his case and showing the hot start wasn't a fluke: He's averaged 14.0 points and 2.5 blocks in the four games since Watson went down.
Patton immediately stands out with 6'11" size and athleticism, but it's his blossoming low-post game, shooting and passing potential that will help draw top-10 looks in June.
A high-percentage pick-and-roll target, both above the rim for lobs and below it, where he's demonstrated impressive body control as a finisher on the move, Patton has also developed nifty footwork and soft touch. He's even hit six threes, and though the jumper isn't an everyday weapon, you get the sense it could be down the road.
A lack of strength down low remains the scariest blemish on Patton's scouting report. Opponents easily play through him, and he registers a below-average 13.8 rebounding percentage.
5. Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, 6'8", Freshman)
Stock Report: Strong and steady
Josh Jackson's draft case has peaked, and though it won't be enough to sway the lottery winner, he's put himself in the mix as a No. 2 overall candidate. He has now finished with at least 20 points in three of Kansas' last five games and hit 13 of 24 threes since January 21.
He's still converting just 54.3 percent of his free throws, and given his unsettling shot mechanics, questions remain over his shooting and scoring potential. But Jackson checks too many boxes when you account for his athleticism, driving, vision, improvisation, defense and production (16.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 50.0 percent FG).
Together, they help create the perception that Jackson's floor is high. At this point of the year, teams should feel good about his transition attack, passing and slashing all translating.
Whether Jackson takes his game to All-Star-caliber heights will come down to how much he improves as a one-on-one shot creator and shooter, and if he can convert his quickness and competitiveness into consistent lockdown defense.
He's not always as effective defensively as his speed and tools suggest he should be.
4. Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, 6'3", Freshman)
Stock Report: Strong and steady
Not much has changed with Dennis Smith Jr.'s stock since November. Having started the year as a potential top-five pick, he looks on track to draw looks as early as No. 2 overall.
An NBA eye-test standout thanks to explosive leaping ability, quickness and ball skills, Smith keeps producing, which naturally adds credibility to his draft case. With three 30-plus-point games over North Carolina State's last seven, along with a 15-assist triple-double against Syracuse last Wednesday, he's flashing both high-level scoring and playmaking potential.
Smith has even surprised by knocking down 1.9 threes per game at a 38.5 percent clip, showing confident range and the ability to stop and pop.
His effort and awareness defending off the ball could stand to improve—Syracuse guards John Gillon and Andrew White combined for a ridiculous 71 points in the Orange's overtime win over the Wolfpack. And a lack of urgency also occasionally shows on careless passes and shots.
But there is little doubt concerning Smith's NBA outlook and chances of eventually putting up big numbers as a starter. The only question is how efficient he'll be running said offense.
3. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, 6'10", Freshman)
Stock Report: Charging toward the elite
Jonathan Isaac occasionally gets lost in a deep Florida State rotation, but he's been consistent and efficient despite being used far less (21.6 percent) than other top forwards like Josh Jackson (28.1 percent) and Jayson Tatum (27.5 percent).
He's scored at least 15 points in five of the Seminoles' last seven games.
His perimeter toolbox, which consists of pull-ups and spot-up threes, stood out against North Carolina (17 points, January 14) and Notre Dame (23 points, January 18). Isaac made a number of plays above the rim against Syracuse (19 points, January 28) and Miami last Wednesday (15 points) before helping hold Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame to 11 points on Sunday.
Highly skilled, Isaac continues to flash glimpses of versatility that fuel mismatch potential and defensive upside. Unselfishness and toughness only make him more appealing.
He'll draw looks as high as No. 3 overall, but will likely need a strong postseason to go before Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson.
2. Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, 6'6", Freshman)
Stock Report: Locked into top five, still pushing for No. 1
Lonzo Ball should draw looks from the lottery winner and the next few teams expected to pick, even if his three-ball stops falling down the stretch.
Teams will ultimately evaluate him differently compared to other/previous guards, given his unique, unteachable strengths as a passer and leader. No mid-range game and a funky shooting form won't turn off general managers who'll value his ability to improve their team's offensive efficiency.
The fact he's still knocking down 2.4 triples per game at a 43.0 percent clip helps ease some concern over his limited upside as a scorer (compared to Dennis Smith Jr. and Washington's Markelle Fultz). And Ball did look sharp against Markelle Fultz (22 points, six rebounds, five assists) in a cakewalk over Washington on Saturday.
Fultz's complete offensive package and athleticism give him the edge at No. 1, but a national title run led by Ball may have the potential to move the needle.
1. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG, 6'4", Freshman)
Stock Report: Holding firm at No. 1
Washington's lousy record won't damage the No. 1 overall case Markelle Fultz has gradually built since this summer.
The only way he'll be passed over in the draft is if the lottery winner hesitates over Fultz's laid-back approach. Otherwise, he continues to showcase a hole-proof package of skills and athleticism that has led to both consistent volume production and flashes that mirror many of today's NBA stars.
Even as the losses pile up, Fultz has arguably been even better this past month, averaging 27.1 points over the Huskies' last seven games.
On pace to become the only player in 25 years to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists and shoot 40 percent from three, Fultz could fail to reach the postseason and still go first in the 2017 draft.