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2017 NBA Draft: Way-Too-Early Big Board

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 24, 2016

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 9:  Jayson Tatum #10, Harry Giles #13, Josh Jackson #9 and Marques Bolden #15 of the USA Junior Select Team smile for a photo before the game against the World Select Team during the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit on April 9, 2016 at the MODA Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Now that a somewhat iffy 2016 NBA draft is complete, there's no time to waste on the (just-completed) past.

This projected 2017 class could be legendary.

Unlike the outgoing field, next year's crop offers potentially tremendous star power at the top, with three to four prospects who could qualify as quality No. 1 overall picks.

Teams will also be looking at a handful of promising upperclassmen who returned after testing the waters this past May.

Between projected one-and-dones and expected breakout sophomores, juniors and seniors, 2017's field could be one of the strongest in recent memory.

These rankings are based on NBA potential (flashed in high school, showcase events, FIBA tournaments or NCAA games), which takes into account athleticism, physical tools, skill development and various intangibles.

1. Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, 2017 Freshman)

Mar 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds All-American forward Josh Jackson dunks during the McDonalds All-American Powerade Jamfest at  the Chicago Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Top-notch athleticism and versatility power Jackson to the top.

At 6'8", he's a high-flying wing, automatic in transition, who's flashed some ball-handling and facilitating ability. An above-average passer for a small forward, Jackson can also hit the three or put the ball on the floor and loft up a floater before traffic.

His defensive potential is equally attractive. Jackson should ultimately earn the label as the top two-way prospect in next year's draft.

There is a little Tracy McGrady in here, and Jackson is likely to play the same role at Kansas that Andrew Wiggins did a few years back.

2. Harry Giles (Duke, PF, 2017 Freshman)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Giles would be No. 1 if it weren't for a second ACL tear. With a perfect basketball body (6'10 ¾", 222 pounds, 7'3" wingspan) and the bounce to go with it, he has the chance to be one of the game's top frontcourt athletes.

He's an easy-bucket machine above the rim, and he can play with his back to the basket or facing up from the foul line and short corners. Giles will be a volume rebounder at both the college and NBA levels too. Like any teenage big man, he just needs to work on his jumper and ball skills.

A freshman season that erases Giles' injury history from scouts' memories could put him in position to go No. 1 next June.

3. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, 2017 Freshman)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

He'll start at No. 3, but don't be shocked to see Fultz finish top-two by this time next year. A 6'5" combo guard, he offers the full package of lethal scoring and crafty playmaking.

With Andrew Andrews (20.9 points, 4.9 assists), Dejounte Murray (16.1 points, 4.4 assists) and Marquese Chriss (13.8 points) no longer in the picture at Washington, Fultz is going to put up monster numbers—especially if the Huskies continue to play at the second-fastest pace in the country, per KenPom.com.

There is a little D'Angelo Russell in Fultz's game, only the incoming freshman possesses more speed and bounce.

4. Dennis Smith (North Carolina State, PG, 2017 Freshman)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

A torn ACL doesn't knock Smith out of my top five. Assuming he gets back to full strength, we're talking about a Derrick Rose-type athlete, where he acts as a scoring point guard playmaker.

Smith offers the full package: attacking, pull-up shooting, passing and pestering defense. He's a bit reckless and erratic, but not enough to sound the alarms.

Teams will naturally be focused on his knee, but if the injury becomes a thing of the past, expect Smith to draw star comparisons and generate top-five NBA draft buzz.

5. Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, 2017 Freshman)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

With 6'8" size and fluid athleticism, Tatum already looks the part of an NBA wing. He's developed a polished half-court scoring arsenal that includes step-backs, pull-ups and fallaways out of the post. His ability to generate mid-range offense will likely draw comparisons to small forwards like Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and Jabari Parker.

The only concern: Tatum takes a lot of tough two-point jumpers.

That said, watching him live at the Jordan Brand Classic practices and game in April, his talent and exceptional skill level couldn't be more obvious.

6. Frank Ntilikina (France, PG, 1998)

I got a chance to watch Ntilikina live during this year's Basketball Without Borders, where he was arguably the top-performing NBA prospect there. He has strong 6'5" size for a ball-handler, though more than anything it's his poise and feel for the game that stand out.

Ntilikina does a nice job of changing speed and picking his spots as a scorer and playmaker. He isn't an explosive athlete, which could put him behind Dennis Smith on draft boards, but between his physical tools, ball skills and basketball IQ, Ntilikina looks like a stud.

7. Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, 2017 Freshman)

LONG BEACH, CA - AUGUST 4: Lonzo Ball #2 brings the ball up the court during the 2014 adidas Nations championship game between 2016 adidas U.S. Lillard and 2016 U.S. Wall on August 4, 2014 at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, California. (Photo by Ke
Kelly Kline/Getty Images

Get ready for endless praise of Ball's passing ability. He's a true quarterback on the floor with terrific vision and basketball IQ.

Ball isn't the strongest or most explosive player, but at 6'5", he has good size, enough quickness and some bounce. He also projects as a disruptive defender capable of making plays on the ball as a thief or shot-blocker.

Showing promise as a shooter next year at UCLA would help his cause as a potential one-and-done lottery pick.

8. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF, 2017 Freshman)

In terms of natural talent and upside, Isaac could be top-three. He's extremely raw, but the flashes of versatility fuel exciting mismatch potential. He's a 6'11", athletic wing who can shoot, handle the ball and jump.

Only 205 pounds without much polish, Isaac will be viewed as more of a project than most of the other premier prospects. It won't stop NBA interest from building. Isaac has every tool and skill in the book; he'll just need a few years to tie everything together.

9. Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, 2017 Freshman)

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 9:  Jarrett Allen #13 of the USA Junior Select Team waits for a rebound against the World Select Team during the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit on April 9, 2016 at the MODA Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Though not known for his scoring, Allen will earn fans for his athleticism and activity around the rim. With tremendous length, he's a big-time shot-blocker and high-percentage finishing target off dumps, lobs and offensive rebounds.

We've seen flashes of one-handers and baby jumpers, which suggest Allen has some offensive potential. Still, it will be his impact and versatility on defense, presence under the boards and efficiency that drive his draft stock into lottery territory.

10. Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, 2017 Sophomore)

Rabb's decision to return was one of 2016's big surprises. He'll help strengthen a projected 2017 class that already looks loaded.

Long and athletic with 6'10" size for both the 4 and 5, Rabb shot 61.5 percent and grabbed 11.9 boards per 40 minutes his freshman year. He blends bounce with incredible hands around the basket. We've also seen glimpses of back-to-the-basket post play, face-up short-corner scoring and a hint of shooting touch in the mid-range.

With Jaylen Brown gone and Jordan Mathews transferring, Rabb should see a lot more featured touches as a sophomore. If he can improve his offensive game accordingly, he's a top-10 pick next June.

11. Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, 2017 Sophomore)

Mar 20, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Tyler Lydon (20) reacts during the first half of the second round against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY S
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Lydon opened eyes during Syracuse's run to the Final Four, but he'd been rock solid all year, having flashed specific versatility the NBA covets.

An active, athletic power forward, Lydon shot 40.5 percent from three, registered a 60.6 percent true shooting percentage and blocked 1.8 shots per game. Efficient, smart and energetic, he led the Orange in box score plus/minus as a freshman, per Sports-Reference.com.

Lydon isn't a shot creator, but between his jumper, defensive activity and basketball IQ, he looks the part of a high-end, role-playing stretch 4.

12. De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, 2017 Freshman)

Fox is going to generate buzz at Kentucky with his defense alone. His feet and hands are both lightning-quick. He's the type of defender that can pick up full court and force turnovers defending the ball.

Offensively, he's not super polished, but he can set the table, get to the rack and score in the lane with runners and floaters. I'm not as sold on his perimeter game yet, but Fox's playmaking ability at both ends of a floor should draw future lottery interest.

13. Marques Bolden (Duke, C, 2017 Freshman)

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 9:  Marques Bolden #15 of the USA Junior Select Team boxes out DeAndre Ayton #13 of the World Select Team during the game on April 9, 2016 at the MODA Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

There will be a ton of talk about Bolden's physical tools, which highlight 6'11" size, 250 pounds and a massive 7'6" wingspan. He isn't a big scorer yet, but he's a high-percentage finisher around the basket with some touch in the mid-range.

Bolden lacks explosiveness, though, and he'll need to make strides offensively to compensate.

14. Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 1998)

Hartenstein is super impressive physically with 6'11" size, a wide 225-pound frame and the hops to throw down ferocious finishes.

He's a threat from outside, both as a shooter and face-up scorer, but he can also bang inside, create in the post and dominate the boards.

His jumper, decision-making and motor need work, though. He tends to take bad shots and look off teammates, while his body language isn't always positive. But in terms of natural talent, he's a first-rounder with lottery potential.

15. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, 2017 Freshman)

MAPLE GROVE, MN- MAY 23: Malik Monk #5 from the Arkansas Wings and Bentonville High School during Session Four of the Nike EYBL on May 23, 2015 at Maple Grove Community Gym in Maple Grove, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)
Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

Monk's athleticism should create a ton of noise next year at Kentucky. With showtime bounce, he's a highlight waiting to happen and a tough scorer as well.

Monk can connect from behind the arc or pull up inside it. Though not a true distributor, he gives you some playmaking from the off-guard position.

On the downside, he's never measured above 6'5" and doesn't compensate with length. But for an explosive leaper like this, scouts will presumably overlook a few inches here and there.

16. Edrice Adebayo (Kentucky, PF/C, 2017 Freshman)

A physical specimen at 6'10", 240 pounds, Adebayo is strong, super athletic and energetic. He's a force around the basket, where he puts pressure on the interior defense.

He's going to pick up a ton of easy buckets by running the floor, finishing and putting back misses. Though his tools are ahead of his skills, Adebayo has decent touch to work with in the mid-range.

  

17. Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, 2017 Junior)

Mar 19, 2016; Providence, RI, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) reacts after scoring against the Yale Bulldogs during the first half of a second round game of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Despite averaging 21.6 points and Duke's addition of two big freshman scorers in Tatum and Giles, Allen chose to return.

Naturally, his production should fall in 2016-17, but the first-round interest shouldn't go anywhere. He's still an explosive high-flyer with a dangerous shooting stroke. His ability to beat defenses off the dribble even translated to 3.5 assists per game.

A lack of size and length hurts, but not enough to bring down his signature strengths.

18. Thomas Bryant (Indiana, PF/C, 2017 Sophomore)

Bryant will be looking to convert freshman flashes into more consistent sophomore production. He aces the eye test with 6'10" size and an absurd 7'5 ½" wingspan, while his offensive skill set covers post play and pick-and-roll finishing to spot-up shooting.

He shot a terrific 68.3 percent from the floor but only took 6.6 attempts per game. Bryant's role will be much bigger without Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams, so depending on how much progress he shows from now until next March, we could be talking about a lottery pick or second-rounder.

19. Omer Yurtseven (North Carolina State, C, Freshman)

TREVISO, ITALY - JUNE 07:  Omer Yurtseven in action during the adidas Eurocamp at La Ghirada sports center on June 7, 2015 in Treviso, Italy.  (Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images)
Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

Yurtseven looks the part at 18 years old but doesn't play it yet. I watched him blend into the background at Basketball Without Borders against players he should have been more dominant against. But at 7'0", 240 pounds, he's light on his feet and has excellent hands around the basket.

Yurtseven also has promising shooting mechanics that suggest there is a jumper somewhere up his sleeve.

 

20. Jonathan Jeanne (France, C, 1997)

At 7'2", Jeanne isn't tough to miss, even though he played mostly for Le Mans' development team in France.

To no surprise, he's a rim protector. He moves well for a giant his size, but he can also finish with touch around the basket and even knock down mid-range jumpers. Hopefully he sees more minutes in France's top division next season. Doing damage in LNB Pro A could launch him into the 2017 lottery.

21. Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, SF, 2017 Senior)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JANUARY 19:  Jaron Blossomgame #5 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after a play in the second half during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on January 19, 2016 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Virginia Caval
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Blossomgame tested the NBA draft waters and even impressed during stretches at the NBA Draft Combine. He ultimately chose to return after presumably being projected as a 2016 second-rounder.

Under the assumption he tightens a few aspects of his game, I'm starting next year focusing on all Blossomgame has going for him. An explosive athlete with 6'7" size, he averaged 20.7 points during ACC play. He also registered an outstanding 61.3 percent true shooting percentage, per Sports-Reference.com.

With the ability to defend both forward positions, and having gone through the draft process this past May, he'll be firmly on scouts' radars moving forward.

22. Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF, 2017 Freshman)

With a strong, wide frame (6'8", 230 pounds), Bridges doesn't look like an athlete who can get up and throw down, but he mixes power with bounce for a 3 that could potentially play small-ball 4 in the NBA.

Bridges' upside shows most when he's attacking the basket, pounding the glass and defending. Yet he also has a capable jumper that seems likely to improve. He'll be an impact player next year on a Michigan State squad that lost its top three scorers.

23. Allonzo Trier (Arizona, SG, 2017 Sophomore)

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Trier missed seven games last year with a hand injury and never got the chance to make a complete pitch to the NBA. Coming back to school seems like the smart move. A true scorer, Trier should be a go-to option on a young, exciting Arizona team next season.

He registered an impressive 60.3 percent true shooting percentage as a freshman, per Sports-Reference.com. He was efficient but also productive, averaging 21.1 points per 40 minutes.

Trier had some promising defensive moments as well, suggesting there is two-way potential for coaches to unlock. Expect his role and NBA draft stock to rise during a breakout sophomore year.

24. Ray Smith (Arizona, SF, 2017 Freshman)

Don't forget about Smith, who was supposed to play a role at Arizona last year before a preseason torn ACL. Assuming his burst returns, he's a high-flyer capable of throwing down big finishes in transition or off putbacks. He should also guard both forward positions, a big plus in today's NBA.

If he can show his jumper works and there is room for growth as a shot creator, he won't last at Arizona for long.

25. Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF, 2017 Freshman)

Markkanen had a huge performance at the Under-18 European Championship last summer, when he averaged 18.2 points for Finland.

Through 26 career FIBA games dating back to 2013, he's averaged 1.7 threes on 41.3 percent shooting from deep. He'll start his career at Arizona with a proven jumper, something you don't typically hear when talking about teenage big men.

Markkanen is just as capable putting the ball on the deck and attacking a closeout. Though not a physical interior player or strong rebounder, he projects as your prototypical stretch 4.

26. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas, SG/SF, 2017 Junior)

Mykhailiuk has two seasons at Kansas under his belt, and he just turned 19 years old. He hasn't been particularly productive, but with 6'8" size, a sweet shooting stroke and developing playmaking skills, it's too soon to write off his potential.

Assuming he finally plays more than 13 minutes per game next year, look for him to become relevant in 2017's first-round discussion.

  

27. Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin, PF, 2017 Senior)

Robert Franklin/Associated Press

Hayes was brutal in March and did nothing at the combine to stand out. Returning to Wisconsin seemed like a no-brainer—he now has one last opportunity to sell scouts on his versatility at both ends of the floor.

Hayes is ultimately better suited to play alongside more talented scorers and playmakers. He's a capable shot-maker, passer and driver, but he struggles when forced to create his own.

28. Dwayne Bacon (Florida State, SG/SF, 2017 Sophomore)

Bacon was productive as a freshman and may have even earned some first-round looks had he declared for the 2016 draft.

He's a strong, 6'7" guard or wing who can score from all three levels. Bacon must defend better in 2016-17, but his offensive game reminds of veteran Arron Afflalo.

29. Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, 2017 Junior)

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Jackson didn't take the big leap his sophomore year, but we'll give him one more shot in 2016-17, considering the tools, shot-making ability and basketball IQ are there.

He's an excellent transition player with a natural-looking jumper, and he's flashed scoring potential with his floater and sharp passing instincts.

Jackson must be more consistent as a junior, particularly with the three ball, which he'll need to have any chance at earning NBA money.

30. Malik Pope (San Diego State, SF, 2017 Junior)

Pope was supposed to break out as a sophomore, but a terribly slow start knocked him off the 2016 draft radar. He was more confident and effective over the last month of the season, though.

Pope's potential remains intact, as he's 6'10" with highlight-reel athleticism and a jumper that's connected on 38.4 percent of his career threes. Still, he'll need to be more consistent and assertive to generate any 2017 first-round buzz.

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