The Best 2017 NBA Draft Prospects Remaining in the March Madness Field

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 21, 2017

The Best 2017 NBA Draft Prospects Remaining in the March Madness Field

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    NBA scouts have plenty of reasons to continue watching the final 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. 

    Seven prospects left in the field could potentially land in this year's lottery, including two players who'll be competing for No. 1 overall consideration.

    But every year, March Madness also brings out talent that's gone overlooked during the course of the regular season. Through the first weekend, we've already seen several under-the-radar prospects break through into the 2017 draft discussion for the first time all year.

    We ranked the top names still playing based on long-term NBA potential—not their current college impact.

No. 30-No. 26

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    30. Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin, PF, Senior)

    NBA draft projection: Second round/undrafted

    Hayes had a strong game in Wisconsin's upset over Villanova on Saturday, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds. Inconsistent shooting and effort are issues, but late in the second round, he'll be worth looking into for his versatility at both ends. 

     

    29. Kobi Simmons (Arizona, PG, Freshman)

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or 20-50, 2018

    Simmons' size and athleticism pass the NBA eye test, but for a guard, he isn't polished enough to draw first-round interest in 2017. He's completely fallen out of Arizona's rotation, but would still go second round based on long-term potential. 

     

    28. Ethan Happ (Wisconsin, C, Sophomore)

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or 20-40, 2018

    Happ doesn't stretch the floor or offer intimidating rim protection, but a high skill level and consistent production make him draftable. He'll look to win over scouts with his advanced post game.

     

    27. Frank Mason III (Kansas, PG, Senior)

    NBA draft projection: Second round

    Mason makes Kansas go, but there are questions about his size and athleticism for the NBA. He'll draw second-round looks for his ball skills, shooting and toughness. Regardless of how far he leads the Jayhawks, NBA teams will bring in Mason to compete for a backup job.

     

    26. Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina, SG, Senior)

    NBA draft projection: Second round

    If only Thornwell's breakout came a season or two ago, the NBA buzz would be louder. He's 22 years old, but he's also been dominant during SEC play, and he completely outplayed Duke during South Carolina's inspiring upset win. Versatile and tough, Thornwell has at least put himself in this year's second-round discussion.  

No. 25-No. 21

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    25. Tyler Dorsey (Oregon, SG, Sophomore)

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or 20-50, 2018

    Dorsey couldn't be hotter, having now scored at least 20 points in five straight games. He took over for Oregon to knock off Rhode Island in the Round of 32. Dorsey isn't big or explosive, but he's shifty off the dribble and consistent from behind the arc, where he's shooting above 40 percent from three for the second-straight year. 

     

    24. Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Sophomore)

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or No. 20-40, 2018

    Holiday was exceptional in UCLA's opening-round game against Kent State, finishing with 15 points and 11 assists. Average athleticism has kept the NBA buzz quiet, but between his ball skills and consistent three-point shooting, Holiday could draw NBA interest, especially next year, once Lonzo Ball goes to the pros and Bryce Alford graduates. 

     

    23. Chance Comanche (Arizona, C, Sophomore)

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or 15-40, 2018

    Comanche didn't fully break out in 2016-17, but sporadic flashes suggest he could next year. His potential is mostly fueled by size, length and mobility, which could translate to defensive versatility and easy baskets. Surprising mid-range touch helps make him a 2018 first-round prospect to watch.

     

    22. Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Junior)

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or No. 20-40, 2018

    Graham has hit eight threes through Kansas' first two NCAA tournament games. Shooting over 39 percent from downtown for the third straight year, his jumper and ball-handing skills could give him a shot to compete for a backup point guard gig.

     

    21. Moritz Wagner (Michigan, C, Sophomore)

    NBA draft projection: 20-50, 2017/2018

    Wagner turned in one of the more intriguing performances of the season with 26 points in a win over Louisville on Sunday. He showed off shooting range and nifty footwork against more athletic bigs. Wagner isn't physical, fast or explosive, but another strong showing against Oregon could further improve his credibility.

20. Dillon Brooks (Oregon, SF, Junior)

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or 20-45, 2018

    If Oregon is to advance to the Elite Eight or Final Four, it will have to be on the back of Dillon Brooks, who's capable of taking over.

    From an NBA scouting perspective, however, we saw his lack of athleticism go exposed against Rhode Island on Sunday, when he missed 13-of-20 shots, including a handful right at the rim. 

    Still, Brooks is strong and skilled with ball-handling and shot-making ability. And he happens to shine during big moments. Questions over his potential to finish, separate and defend could keep him outside the first round, but his impact play, production and toughness will get him drafted in the 30-45 range.

19. Jordan Bell (Oregon, PF/C, Junior)

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: 25-50, 2017/2018

    Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey do the heavy lifting for Oregon's offense, but Jordan Bell's hustle has been key. It's not difficult to see it translating to finishes, rebounds and defense in a similar energizer role for an NBA team, given his tools, athleticism and motor. 

    Bell was relatively quiet during Oregon's win over Rhode Island on Sunday, though he still grabbed 12 boards and blocked two shots. He made more noise during the Ducks' win over Iona on Friday, when he racked up 17 points (on one-missed shot) along with 12 more rebounds. 

    There isn't much upside with Bell, but if he chooses to declare, he'll enter the draft with a defined role and clear identity, making him easier for frontcourt-needy teams to seek out. 

18. Rawle Alkins (Arizona, SG, Freshman)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2017 or 15-30, 2018

    Rawle Alkins has given Arizona a key scoring punch behind Allonzo Trier and Lauri Markkanen. 

    He was perfect during the team's opening-round win over North Dakota, finishing 8-of-8 with 20 points and five assists. 

    Strong, athletic and skilled, Alkins does a nice job of mixing hard drives with perimeter shooting.

    His production fluctuates, which can be tied to Arizona having four other guards who see minutes. That should ultimately lead to Alkins returning to a more featured role, which will give him the chance to build a stronger first-round case in 2018.

17. Tony Bradley (North Carolina, C, Freshman)

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    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: 25-40, 2017 or 15-30, 2018

    Tony Bradley's role is to come off the bench, finish inside and put pressure on the offensive glass. He does the latter almost as well as anyone in the country (19.6 offensive rebounding percentage). Using his length and nose for the ball, Bradley grabbed eight offensive boards through 31 minutes between wins over Texas Southern and Arkansas. 

    His draft ceiling is capped based on his defensive limitations and lack of offensive versatility. Bradley averages just 0.6 blocks per game, doesn't guard the perimeter and isn't an outside shooting threat. 

    He'll still draw NBA looks for his tools, hands around the basket, efficiency (58.3 percent on field goals) and rebounding production. But coming back to expand his scoring repertoire in a bigger role sounds like a no-brainer decision. 

16. P.J. Dozier (South Carolina, SG, Sophomore)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: 30-40, 2017 or 15-30, 2018

    Sindarius Thornwell is South Carolina's best player, but P.J. Dozier jumps out as the team's top NBA prospect. 

    Smooth and athletic with 6'7" size, Dozier plays on and off the ball with playmaking skills, scoring ability and improved shot-making. Defensive versatility is another selling point for Dozier, who guards multiple positions and averages 1.7 steals. 

    He went for 21 points, four rebounds and four assists during South Carolina's opening-round win over Marquette. Dozier is a likely candidate to test the NBA waters following the school's NCAA tournament run, but a 30.3 percent three-point stroke, bigger role next season and weaker 2018 draft class are reasons for him to return. 

15. D.J. Wilson (Michigan, SF/PF, Junior)

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: 20-50, 2017 or first round, 2018

    D.J. Wilson has emerged as one of the bigger postseason risers. He's always looked the part with 6'9", 220-pound size and the versatility to play around the perimeter. But now scouts are starting to see bigger, more consistent numbers across the box scores.

    In two NCAA tournament games, he's gone for 19 points against Oklahoma State and 17 against Louisville, having also totaled seven blocks between the two matchups. Wilson lacks strength inside, but he covers a ton of ground defensively and looks comfortable guarding away from the basket. 

    Offensively, he's flashed unique ball-handling skills and promising shooting touch, knocking down a three-pointer per game and 83.3 percent of his free throws. He'll likely need another big game against Oregon in the Sweet 16 to justify declaring for the draft, but he's certainly earned everyone's attention.

14. Devin Robinson (Florida, SF/PF, Junior)

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: 20-50, 2017 or 20-40, 2018

    Defensive versatility does most of the talking for Devin Robinson in the NBA draft discussion. But flashes of offense could be leading to new interest and possible first-round looks this June. 

    He went for a season-high 24 points against East Tennessee State in the NCAA tournament opener before finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds in Florida's Round-of-32 win over Virginia. 

    Long and athletic with solid 6'8" size, Robinson guards bigs and perimeter players. He's a limited scorer who works mostly off the ball, but he's a capable shooter (four threes through two NCAA tournament games) and a threatening cutter. 

    Teams will likely view Robinson as an Andre Roberson-type. He'll have the chance to strengthen his draft case further with a good showing against Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes in the Sweet 16.

13. Allonzo Trier (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: 20-50, 2017 or 20-40, 2018

    MVP of the Pac-12 tournament, Allonzo Trier entered the NCAA tournament riding a wave. He's gradually become the team's go-to player and catalyst, and though he wasn't at his best over the weekend, he still combined to score 32 points in wins over North Dakota and Saint Mary's. 

    Trier puts pressure on the defense with shot-making and drives that result in 6.8 free-throw attempts per game. The key developments, though, have been his improved shooting and playmaking. He's averaging 1.8 made threes at a 40.3 percent clip, and he's more than doubled his assist rate to 16.5 percent from 7.6 percent. 

    A potentially pesky defender and dangerous scorer, Trier has emerged as an intriguing shooting guard prospect, especially given the abundance of bigs projected to go in the mid-to-late first round. He'll have the chance to rise higher by leading Arizona deeper into March.

12. Caleb Swanigan (Purdue, PF/C, Sophomore)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: 20-40 range, 2017 

    One of the season's better stories, Caleb Swanigan, who has reinvented himself in 2016-17, continues to build on his remarkable year. 

    He's become too tough of a cover for college bigs in the post, where his combination of strength, footwork and touch is overwhelming. After going for 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks against Vermont on Thursday, he nearly tripled-doubled against Iowa State over the weekend, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He even knocked in three triples, a significant development on the scouting report. 

    Being second in the nation in rebounding, a high-level passer and improved shooter helps diminish questions over his NBA scoring potential—concerns that stem from a lack of foot speed and explosiveness.

    Expect another big game from Swanigan against a vulnerable Kansas front line in the Sweet 16.

11. Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

    Bam Adebayo has been an impact player during each of Kentucky's five postseason wins.

    He just combined for 28 points and 28 rebounds through two NCAA tournament games. Adebayo hasn't added much to the arsenal, but he's been a consistent presence inside, where he's winning 50-50 balls and putting himself in position to pick up high-percentage finishes. 

    The jump hook he occasionally flashes is nice to see, but NBA teams won't put much stock into his offense. They'll value the easy baskets he gets by running the floor, crashing the glass and diving to the hoop. They'll be intrigued by his potential to guard down low and around the perimeter. 

10. T.J. Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: 15-30, 2017 or 2018

    The numbers say T.J. Leaf is one of the NCAA tournament's top players. NBA scouts have been debating whether the 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 61.6 percent field-goal clip will translate.

    Leaf had some trouble with Cincinnati's physicality and athleticism in the Round of 32, but he torched Kent State for 23 points in 26 minutes during UCLA's win on Friday.

    With three-point range and ball-handling skills, he brings a skill set the NBA covets. The question is if he'll execute when guarded by much quicker and stronger pro bigs. Unfortunately for Leaf, defensive limitations further reduce his offensive margin for error.

9. Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Late-first round, 2017 or mid-first round, 2018

    UCLA doesn't call on Ike Anigbogu for offense, though he's totaled 13 points on four field-goal attempts through 23 NCAA tournament minutes. 

    Light on his feet for a 6'10", 250-pounder, he gives the UCLA guards a tremendous finishing target above the rim. But it's his ability to protect it that drives his value. Blocking 3.9 shots per 40 minutes this season, Anigbogu is a defensive intimidator with the tools and nose to translate.

    Given his tiny role and offensive limitations, NBA teams are most likely to advise Anigbogu to return for one more season. Assuming he does and becomes a bigger back-to-the-basket threat by 2018, he could wind up being one of the first non-freshmen taken in next year's draft.

8. Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF/C, Junior)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: First round

    Johnathan Motley continues to build his case with consistent production, flashes of athleticism and expanding versatility.

    The Big 12's leading rebounder, Motley racked up double-doubles in consecutive NCAA tournament wins for Baylor. Crafty around the basket, he's also started to show shooting range out to the arc, which we saw on his ninth three-point make of the season during the Bears' opening-round win over New Mexico State. 

    Motley followed that game with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks against Chimezie Metu and USC on Sunday. 

    An option to feed in the post, pick-and-pop weapon and active presence under the boards, Motley is an attractive draft play once all the young, flashy names are gone. He has put himself in the mix to go top 20 in June.

7. Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: Late-lottery to mid-first round

    Justin Jackson was off during the ACC tournament, but he's bounced back nicely through two NCAA tournament games, helping to further validate the idea he's a first-round lock. 

    Jackson drained five threes against Texas Southern on Friday before filling it up against Arkansas on Sunday with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals. 

    Locked in from behind the arc, knocking down a convincing 2.7 threes per game on the year, Jackson's versatility is appealing. Between the high-IQ passing, patented floater and newly-improved shot-creativity, there are suddenly a number of ways Jackson is consistently hurting opposing defenses.

    Even if North Carolina goes home early, the team's star junior has already done enough to draw top-20 interest. A big finish to the year could potentially result in lottery looks.

6. Zach Collins (Gonzaga, C, Freshman)

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Late lottery to mid-first round, 2017 or 2018

    One of the most efficient players in the country, having shot at least 50 percent from the floor in all but three games the entire season, Zach Collins has turned heads in only 17.3 minutes per contest.

    The presence of 7'1", 288-pound senior Przemek Karnowski limits Collins' role and opportunities, but it hasn't masked his potential. Athletic with soft hands, a high skill level and defensive instincts, he went for 14 points and four blocks against Northwestern in the Round of 32.

    Collins, another 7-footer, even knocked down his ninth three-pointer on the year during Gonzaga's opening-round win over South Dakota State. 

    Returning to dominate as a sophomore—the way Domantas Sabonis recently did at Gonzaga—would make sense with Karnowski graduating. But Collins' NBA potential is obvious enough that teams would likely show a willingness to reach early in 2017. 

5. Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)

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    George Frey/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Top 10

    Despite finishing with just six field-goal attempts against St. Mary's in the Round of 32, Lauri Markkanen wound up making one of his stronger pitches to NBA teams.

    He scored 16 points on those six shots, but the big numbers were the 11 rebounds and two blocks. Arguably the draft's top shooter, scouts have been wanting to see more physicality from Markkanen around the basket. The Finnish stretch big played strong inside and took a season-high 10 free-throw attempts on Sunday.

    Seven-foot size and a 43.3 percent three-point stroke create a high floor for Markkanen. But becoming a star at the next level will require more than just finesse offense and shooting. 

4. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Top 10

    February and March have not been kind to Malik Monk, who's shooting just 36.7 percent over Kentucky's last 14 games. 

    He's 6-of-21 through two NCAA tournament matchups, though against Wichita State on Sunday, he did dish out four assists and bury a clutch three with just over two minutes left. The cold shooting won't ruin Monk's stock, but it has been a reminder that streakiness is likely to follow him, given his jump-shot heavy shot selection. 

    He'll still draw top-10 looks for his explosive athleticism and scoring. Monk's ability to generate offense from the 2-guard position should entice a handful of teams drafting early. 

3. De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Top 8

    De'Aaron Fox's NBA sales pitch gets stronger by the week. 

    A blow-by, driving dunk helped ice the game for Kentucky in a tough Round-of-32 victory over Wichita State. He's now averaging 19.7 points in March. The he continues to guide the Wildcats to wins only helps his case.

    He's even looked more confident shooting jumpers, having hit at least one three-pointer in six of his last eight games.

    His speed and athleticism gave UCLA's Lonzo Ball problems during the first Kentucky-UCLA meeting back in December (20 points, nine assists). They'll face off again on Friday. Another big game from Fox could help push him ahead of North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr. on NBA draft boards.

2. Josh Jackson (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: Top 4

    Josh Jackson's 23 points helped Kansas hold off Michigan State in the Round of 32 on Sunday.

    It was arguably his most complete scoring game since February 11, when he went for 31 points against Texas Tech. He showed off impressive shot-creation with step-back jumpers, three-pointers, a turnaround bank and jump hook in the post.

    From a scouting perspective, the signs of an improving skill level are significant for Jackson, a wing always known more for athleticism, passing and defensive versatility.

    He'll have the chance to separate from Duke's Jayson Tatum in the NBA draft discussion with more flashes of offense against Purdue's Vince Edwards on Thursday night.

1. Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)

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    Steve Yeater/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Top 2

    Lonzo Ball put together a signature performance in the Round of 32 to bring UCLA back after trailing Cincinnati at the half. He finished with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, but it was his ability to control the game from the point that stood out most. 

    His value is still mostly tied to basketball IQ and other intangibles, though the consistent shooting doesn't hurt. He mae four more three-pointers on Sunday night, showing next-level footwork with the step-back jumper and the confidence to pull up from deep in transition before the defense can set.

    In terms of talent, Washington's Markelle Fultz will always have the edge on Ball, who just isn't as athletic or well-rounded as a scorer. But with all the winning, it's becoming easier to picture an NBA team considering UCLA's floor general at No. 1 overall.

    Beating Kentucky and making a Final Four run could potentially be enough for Ball to rise atop draft boards.

     

    Draft order and stats are accurate heading into Thursday's games and are via Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. All height and weight information via DraftExpress or school bios unless otherwise noted. 

    Jonathan Wasserman covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @NBADraftWass