Ranking 2017 NBA Draft Prospects in Each Major Skill

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJune 19, 2017

Ranking 2017 NBA Draft Prospects in Each Major Skill

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    Many NBA teams can fill needs in the 2017 draft Thursday. This year's class has scorers, shooters, passers, ball-handlers, defenders and rebounders galore.

    General managers may have trouble finding pure scorers outside the lottery, but shooters and rebounders are everywhere. And there are plenty of specialists to be had in the mid- to late first round.

    We broke down the draft by skill and ranked the top prospects in each one. 

Scoring

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    5. Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)

    Scoring will be Mitchell's NBA calling card. He's capable of catching fire and burying defenses with perimeter shooting and crafty drives. Mitchell's game screams "sixth man" for the NBA.     

          

    4. Dennis Smith (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)

    Smith buries defenses with off-the-dribble scoring as a pull-up shooter and driver. He hit the 30-point mark four times as a freshman and will earn the label of score-first point guard as an NBA starter.

          

    3. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Monk has a knack for scoring in bunches once his confidence starts pumping. His arsenal consists mostly of pull-ups and step-backs and jumpers off screens and transition. Monk finished with at least 33 points four times as a freshman and averaged 19.8 points per game. 

          

    2. Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)

    Tatum uses next-level footwork in isolation to create space and separate into jumpers, which he can knock down in a variety of ways. The Carmelo Anthony comparisons are more about his shot selection, prowess in the mid-range and one-on-one game. 

         

    1. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Fultz will be selected first in the draft mostly because of his scoring. He's an advanced shot-creator and shotmaker from all three levels, with three-point range, an in-between game and athletic finishing ability. His deception, craftiness and complete scoring arsenal should fuel James Harden comparisons in Philadelphia.

Shooting

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    5. Semi Ojeleye (SMU, PF, Junior)

    Ojeleye shot 42.4 percent from three last season after having played just 23 games since 2013-14. He'll get first-round looks for his unique mix of power and outside touch.

         

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

    Jackson set a Tar Heels record with 105 threes after two underwhelming seasons shooting the ball. His stroke and range are convincing, and he also does a good job of getting open by moving without the ball. 

          

    3. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Monk drilled 104 threes and made many of them in bunches. He's confident, with unlimited range and the ability to hit contested looks, so tight defense isn't enough to stop him from burying jumpers. He hits most off screens, spot-ups and leak-outs. And he gets good elevation when rising to fire, which helps compensate for limited size and length.

          

    2. Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, Freshman)

    The top shooting big in the draft, Markkanen, a 7-footer, made 69 threes at a 42.3 percent clip. His release is high and concise. He rarely misses when his feet are set and he has time.

         

    1. Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)

    It's tough to beat 2.4 threes per game, 43.8 percent from deep and 85.6 percent from the line. Kennard's sharpshooting, along with his scoring instincts and overall skills, should get him into this year's lottery picks. A threat from the top of the key to the wings and corners, Kennard's stroke looks clean and the same every time he lets it fly. If all else fails, his jumper should keep him afloat as a shot-making specialist.

Passing

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

    The big assist numbers weren't there last season, but Fox can make every pass in the book. He throws accurate lobs to rolling bigs and high-flyers on the break, even at full speed. Improving his pick-and-roll passing will be the priority, but he should rack up enough assists per game solely on drive-and-dishes.

         

    4. Dennis Smith (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)

    Smith would have been in the top three had he not made so many careless passes. When he's motivated to facilitate, there isn't a pass he can't make. And given his first step and shifty handle, he's capable of creating assist opportunities. He fits the mold of an Eric Bledsoe—a physical, explosive scorer and good enough playmaker to average five to seven assists per game.

          

    3. Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)

    Evan has some impressive ball skills, including passing off the dribble. He finished both years at Oklahoma State with an assist percentage above 40. Limited size and explosiveness raise questions about his scoring potential, but Evans is getting first-round looks for his ability to break down defenses and set the table for teammates.

          

    2. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Fultz's scoring comes first, but he delivered a number of beauties last year off penetration, screens and in transition. He's an excellent passer on the move and does a good job of manipulating the defense to free up and hit teammates. Fultz's playmaking helps complete the draft's most well-rounded offensive attack.

          

    1. Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)

    It's not just Lonzo Ball's vision that stands out. There is skill to his passing. Ball hits shooters in the pocket; dishes with both hands; threads the needle; throws long, accurate outlets; and puts just enough touch on those soft, lead-ahead post-entry passes. He led the nation in assists and seems like a lock to finish first in that category among rookies in 2017-18.

Ball-Handling

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    5. Monte Morris (Iowa State, PG, Senior)

    Physical and athletic limitations will keep Morris out of the first round, but a team in the second will value his ball skills and command on offense. He compensates for size and speed with crafty handles and a knack for reading defenses.

          

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

    Fox's signature move is the in-and-out dribble after he turns the corner off screens. He does a good job of controlling the ball in traffic and using his handle to weave through it. 

          

    3. Dennis Smith (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman)

    Smith has a number of tricks off the dribble, from crossovers and stutter steps to behind-the-back pull-backs. And he's equally confident in his off hand, which he uses to surprise, attack and finish. He can be somewhat careless, but expect plenty more ball-handling highlights from Smith moving forward.

         

    2. Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)

    Evans is a joystick off the dribble. He keeps the ball low with quick, decisive dribbles and nasty hesitation. His team will look to run a ball screen-heavy offense to force switching bigs onto Evans, who'll run circles around centers in space with his shake-and-bake handles.

          

    1. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Fultz's elite shot-creating ability comes from his handle. His ability to change speed and direction knocks defenders on their heels. He freezes them without even doing anything overly fast. Fultz will be the draft's most dangerous scorer and playmaker, and it all starts with his advanced command of the ball.

Defense

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    5. Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)

    Jackson's defensive identity revolves around his quickness and competitiveness. He makes mistakes with gambles and fouls, but Jackson is tough to shake and can guard four positions. A threat to jump a passing lane or chase down a fast break, Jackson's athleticism and motor naturally translate to plus defense.

         

    4. OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)

    Anunoby may have more defensive potential than any other player. Scouts have questioned his motor but not his tools or quickness. He has enough size and strength to guard 4s and has the foot speed and length to suffocate ball-handlers. He'll be a defensive playmaking threat as well, even if his discipline never improves.

          

    3. Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)

    One of the few rim protectors in the 2017 class, Anigbogu will go in the first round despite his lack of any offensive skills. Teams will value his 252-pound frame, 7'6" wingspan and feet, which make him an intimidator in the paint. Anigbogu will be looking to follow Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan as a finisher and defensive specialist.

         

    2. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

    A unique defensive weapon, Isaac was built for pick-and-roll coverage. At 6'10" with a 7'1" wingspan, he brings the size and length to contest around the rim but also has the lateral quickness to switch onto guards and wings. He'll need to get stronger inside, but Isaac could eventually wind up defending positions 3-5. 

          

    1. Frank Ntilikina (France, PG/SG, 1998)

    Size, unbelievable length (about 7') and quickness fuel defensive potential that could make Ntilikina unique. Ball-handlers have trouble dribbling, passing or blowing by him. Ntilikina guards both backcourt positions and should be able to match up against certain wings. He doesn't pack the same offensive firepower as the top guards from the NCAA, but his tools and instincts create a high floor for his defensive-specialist potential. 

Rebounding

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

    Strength and length were behind Motley's 19.2 rebounding percentage. He outmuscled opposing bigs in the Big 12 and has the body and work ethic inside to continue rebounding at a high level.

          

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

    Bradley registered a tremendous 18.7 offensive rebounding percentage, showing a strong nose for the ball. He frequently put himself in position for second-chance scoring opportunities off misses, and his 7'5" wingspan suggests his success can translate.

         

    3. Harry Giles (Duke, PF, Freshman)

    Giles didn't score much, but he still grabbed 13.3 rebounds per 40 minutes thanks to his length and motor under the boards. There are questions about his durability and offense but not his competitiveness. When Giles is in, he'll win 50-50 balls.

         

    2. John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)

    Collins wreaked havoc last season, averaging 9.8 boards per game in just 26.6 minutes. Strong and athletic with a motor, he should continue to pile up double-doubles in the NBA.

         

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

    Swanigan's 22.5 rebounding percentage was the highest among prospects expected to be drafted. He uses all of his 246-pound frame to box out, and he brings in loose balls with his 7'3" wingspan. 

          

    Advanced stats courtesy of Sports Reference.