The Top 10 2017 Draft Prospects in the Big East

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJune 16, 2016

The Top 10 2017 Draft Prospects in the Big East

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2016 NBA draft is still one week away, but we're already looking ahead to determine where Big East stars like Villanova's Josh Hart and Xavier's Edmond Sumner are likely to be chosen in the 2017 NBA draft.

    Most draft-projection sites have been too busy churning out 2016 content to start worrying about next year's crop of prospects just yet, but there are three that have posted full, two-round mock drafts for 2017 since late May: DraftExpressNBA Draft Room and NBADraft.net.

    Those projections were used as a sanity check for our top 10. If a player's name appears on at least two of those three mock drafts, he should probably make the cut. Conversely, if a player's name doesn't appear on any of them, perhaps he shouldn't rank in our top five.

    With those way-too-early projections as a loose guide, here are the top NBA prospects to watch in the Big East during the 2016-17 college basketball season, listed in ascending order of projected pick.

Honorable Mentions

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    Khadeen Carrington
    Khadeen CarringtonMel Evans/Associated Press

    Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall

    Isaiah Whitehead was the Pirates' star player last season. With his decision to remain in the 2016 NBA draft pool, the time has come for his understudies to shine.

    Between his defense (1.6 steals per game) and strong shooting percentages, Rodriguez was quietly one of the Big East's most valuable players. But it's Carrington who is more likely to blossom into a draft prospect with both Whitehead and Derrick Gordon out of the picture. He should become both the primary scorer and ball-handler in this backcourt.

    Tommy Hamilton IV, DePaul

    The Blue Demons haven't sent a player to the NBA since Wilson Chandler in 2007, but why isn't anyone talking about Hamilton as a potential pro? Bouncing in and out of DePaul's starting lineup probably doesn't help his case, but at 6'11" with serious three-point rangehe shot 44.8 percent last year and 46.9 percent in 2014-15it's hard to believe there isn't a team that could put him to good use.

    L.J. Peak, Georgetown

    One of the only things that went well for the Hoyas last season, Peak improved drastically as a scorer, increasing his two-point percentage from the previous season by 76 points and his three-point percentage by 163 points.

    Luke Fischer, Marquette

    Based on size alone, Fischer should get some looks next June. If he has another strong season as a senior without the benefit of Henry Ellenson to attract the attention of the opposition, he might even be able to play his way into a late first-round pick.

10. Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    With Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono both gone, Mo Watson becomes the best point guard in the Big East. The former transfer from Boston University was already the conference leader at 6.5 assists per game. And despite all that passing, Watson was also one of the Big East's better scorers with 14.1 points per game.

    That made him one of just seven players in the country to average at least 14 points and 6.5 assists per game last season, along with Denzel Valentine, Tyler Ulis, Kyle Collinsworth and Kay Felder.

    But if he wants to make it to the pros, he better improve as a three-point shooter as a senior.

    There simply isn't a market in the NBA for undersized point guards who can't shoot. Despite the gaudy assist totals throughout his career, the more important numbers to scouts will be 5'10" with a career 32.3 three-point percentage.

9. Omari Spellman, Villanova

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    Jay Wright has been mastering the art of small ball at Villanova for more than a decade. The Wildcats just won a national championship with a 6'6" power forward who finished the season with 103 more three-point attempts than rebounds.

    But with Daniel Ochefu graduating and Omari Spellman joining the mix, this might be the most perimeter-oriented team in Villanova history.

    He may not look it at 6'9" and roughly 275 pounds, but Spellman has the range and footwork of a man half his size. Earlier this month, he tweeted a picture in which he was working on his jumper from the top of the key, tagging it: "Far from a finished product."

    Even if he only attempts two three-pointers all season, that's more than Ochefu and Darryl Reynolds combined for last year. He's definitely adding some range to Villanova's center position.

    Whether he actually declares for the 2017 draft is the big unknown in play here, but as the only 5-star recruit joining the Big East this season, per 247Sports, he had to sneak into the top 10.

8. Rodney Bullock, Providence

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    Rodney Bullock is all but guaranteed to put up huge numbers this season.

    Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil left early for the NBA draft, while Junior Lomomba and Quadree Smith transferred out of the program. Bullock will get some help from the likes of Jalen Lindsey, Kyron Cartwright and Ryan Fazekas, but he might be even more of a one-man show for the Friars than we expected Dunn to be this past season.

    But will that be enough to get him to the NBA?

    Bullock was suspended for the entire 2013-14 season amid allegations of sexual assault and then missed the entire 2014-15 due to a knee injury. Though he has only played one season of college basketball, he's already 22 years old.

    And there's a fine line between scoring in bunches and doing so efficiently. If he continues to shoot 44.3 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from three-point range while potentially doubling his usage rating, that could bode well for his future. If those numbers dip, though, and he's averaging 20 points on 17 shots per game, that's another, less promising story.

7. Kelan Martin, Butler

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    Butler has been anything other than a fast track to a career in the NBA. In the past four decades, the only Bulldogs to appear in a NBA game are Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack.

    But Kelan Martin might be the best all-around player Butler has ever had.

    On the heels of a painfully inefficient freshman campaign, Martin broke out in a big way, shooting 37.7 percent from three-point range while leading the Bulldogs in rebounds. He scored at least 18 points 15 times and had eight double-doubles, despite only starting in 14 of Butler's 33 games.

    He put up those numbers as the third-best option in the offense, but he'll be the go-to guy this year with Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham no longer on the roster.

    Like Rodney Bullock at Providence, he should score a ton of points. At any rate, Butler could be headed for a long season if he doesn't. And if he scores efficiently, he might be worthy of a draft pick in 2017.

6. Kris Jenkins, Villanova

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    After hitting the shot that gave Villanova the 2016 national championship, Kris Jenkins will live forever in college basketball lore.

    But where does he fit into the NBA? He's too slow to be a shooting guard, but he's not big enough or aggressive enough on the glass to be a forward. Despite a great three-point stroke and a continually improving game, he's currently stuck in no-man's land.

    If he develops into a better passer, maybe he could be a poor man's Joe Johnson. If he becomes a more lethal three-point shooter, perhaps he could carve out the type of role Kyle Korver has held for more than a decade. To fit either of those molds, Jenkins will need to develop further as a senior.

    At this point, though, nothing would be a surprise with Jenkins.

    He has already come a long way from where he started with Villanova three years ago, and players in Jay Wright's system tend to go out with a bang as seniors. Jenkins isn't projected to be drafted at the moment, but we expect that will change as the season progresses. Worst-case scenario would be he goes undrafted before heading overseas to dominate the international game.

5. Jessie Govan, Georgetown

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    DraftExpress Projection: 28

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    At long last, we have a player one of the three sites is projecting to be drafted!

    Granted, after accounting for international players and the occasional minor-conference stud, it would be mathematically impossible for each major conference to have 10 players drafted. Still, after losing likely lottery picks Kris Dunn and Henry Ellenson as well as likely first-round picks Ben Bentil and Isaiah Whitehead, the Big East sits well behind its counterparts in projected NBA talent.

    Don't count that against Jessie Govan, though, because he has a chance to be a star at the next level.

    A top-50 recruit one year ago, per 247Sports, Govan didn't make nearly the initial splash that was expected, and he can thank Bradley Hayes for that. (Who could have guessed the big man with 134 minutes played over the previous three years would suddenly before a force of nature in the paint?) But when Hayes missed some time late in the season with a broken hand, Govan took advantage.

    In one game against Seton Hall, the 6'10" center had 27 points (including four three-pointers), seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

    In addition to Hayes blocking his path to playing time, fouls and turnovers were a major issue for Govan. He averaged 7.0 personal fouls per 40 minutes and fouled out of four separate games in which he played 17 minutes or fewer. He also committed 4.0 turnovers per 40 minutes—many of which were offensive fouls.

    But those are common problems for freshman big men. He should improve in both categories over time, making room for his size and diverse game to shine through for NBA scouts to covet.

4. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    DraftExpress Projection: 54

    NBADraft.net Projection: 41

    NBA Draft Room Projection: Undrafted

    Trevon Bluiett blossomed into a better shooter and rebounder in year No. 2 with the Xavier Musketeers. Bouncing between small forward and power forward as a freshman seemed to disrupt his rhythm, but serving as the full-time power forward as a sophomore brought out the best in his game. There's still room for improvement, but it's easy to see why he was a top-40 recruit two years ago, per 247Sports.

    Much like Kris Jenkins, though, he projects as a NBA tweener lacking in world-class athleticism, and that's killing his draft stock.

    Continuing to improve as a defender should be his primary individual focus in 2016-17. We know he can score, and he's more than adequate as a passer and rebounder, given his size. But proving he has the instincts and lateral quickness to stay in front of NBA guards could be the difference between a multimillion- dollar contract and a career that begins in the D-League.

3. Isaac Copeland, Georgetown

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: Undrafted

    NBA Draft Room Projection: 45

    Georgetown had a brutal season, and Isaac Copeland's shooting woes didn't help. After connecting on 38.9 percent of his limited three-point attempts as a freshman, he became more of a gunner and a less accurate one as a sophomore, more than doubling his rate of attempts per game while plummeting to 27.2 percent accuracy.

    Though that stroke never came back around, he found ways around it late in the season. Over the final 10 games, Copeland averaged 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per gamecompared to 9.7 and 4.9 through the first 23 games.

    He shot just 25.0 percent from downtown during those final 10 games, but his 64.2 percent shooting from inside the arc was a good look into where his game should be headed. At 6'9", Copeland ought to be a big man who occasionally drifts out to the three-point arc as opposed to a perimeter player who sometimes ventures into the paint.

    Given the combination of his talent and the lack of other options in the conference, Copeland could be the Big East's most dominant power forward if he puts his mind to it.

2. Josh Hart, Villanova

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    DraftExpress Projection: 45

    NBADraft.net Projection: 57

    NBA Draft Room Projection: 30

    Josh Hart might be the country's most valuable college basketball player, but that doesn't necessarily make him the best NBA prospect in the Big East.

    Why any NBA team wouldn't want Hart on its roster, though, is a complete mystery to us.

    In the process of becoming the go-to weapon of a national championship offense as a junior, Hart's points, rebounds and assists per 40 minutes all increased. His three-point percentage dropped more than 100 points from his sophomore year, yet he still ended up at No. 5 in the KenPom.com Player of the Year standings.

    There's nothing flashy about Hart's game. He's more of a silent assassin who always seems to make a bigger impact in the final box score than he does in the highlight reel, which might be what's keeping him out of the projected first round. Regardless of where he's drafted, though, expect Hart to have a long NBA career.

1. Edmond Sumner, Xavier

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    DraftExpress Projection: Undrafted

    NBADraft.net Projection: 12

    NBA Draft Room Projection: 26

    If he could just stay healthy, Edmond Sumner would be the most unstoppable player in the Big East.

    He lasted just six games into the 2014-15 season before taking a medical redshirt due to knee tendinitis. Then in 2015-16, he got out to a strong start in nonconference play before the terrifying fall against Villanova that kept him out of action for two weeks. After a few more weeks to get back into the swing of things, he had a dominant month of February.

    At his best, Sumner is almost as good as Kris Dunn. He's a threat for a triple-double who also plays above-average defense. In Xavier's marquee win over Villanova in late February, Sumner had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds while stifling Jalen Brunson and Ryan Arcidiacono on the defensive end.

    All he needs to do is have that version show up on a more regular basis. In the two games after that display of excellence against the Wildcats, Sumner had a combined five points, four assists, four steals, three rebounds, five turnovers and eight personal fouls.

    A poor night every once in a while is OK, but Sumner was good for about two duds per month last year. However, if he can become more consistent this season, he's the Big East's best shot at being represented in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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