2017 NBA Mock Draft: Latest Post-NCAA Championship Predictions

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2017

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels cuts the net after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Tar Heels defeated the Bulldogs 71-65.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The NCAA men's college basketball tournament isn't the sole evaluator of a player's NBA potential, but it can often provide a nice bump to a player's draft stock in the spring.

Shabazz Napier is one of the biggest examples in recent years of a star playing his way into the first round in the Big Dance. Without the Connecticut Huskies winning a national title—and a complimentary tweet from LeBron James—Napier likely would've heard his name much later on draft night.

Buddy Hield and Trey Burke also helped themselves by playing a starring role on national semifinalists in their final years of college.

Of course, all three of those players have already moved teams after underwhelming starts in the NBA, which illustrates why it's never a good idea to put too much weight in a player's NCAA tournament performance—be it good or bad.

Below is a mock for the first 30 selections of the 2017 draft, followed by a breakdown for three players destined for the mid-to-late stages of the first round and how the NCAA tournament impacted their stock.

2017 NBA First-Round Mock Draft

1Boston Celtics (via Nets)Markelle Fultz, GWashington
2Phoenix SunsJosh Jackson, FKansas
3Los Angeles LakersLonzo Ball, GUCLA
4Orlando MagicDennis Smith, GNC State
5Philadelphia 76ersJayson Tatum, FDuke
6New York KnicksDe'Aaron Fox, GKentucky
7Sacramento KingsMalik Monk, GKentucky
8Minnesota TimberwolvesMiles Bridges, FMichigan State
9Dallas MavericksLauri Markkanen, FArizona
10Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans)Frank Ntilikina, GFrance
11Detroit PistonsJonathan Isaac, FFlorida State
12Charlotte HornetsJohn Collins, FWake Forest
13Denver NuggetsJarrett Allen, F/CTexas
14Indiana PacersOG Anunoby, G/FIndiana
15Portland Trail BlazersZach Collins, FGonzaga
16Chicago BullsRodions Kurucs, FLatvia
17Miami HeatIvan Rabb, FCalifornia
18Atlanta HawksIsaiah Hartenstein, FGermany
19Milwaukee BucksTJ Leaf, FUCLA
20Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies)Edmond Sumner, GXavier
21Oklahoma City ThunderTerrance Ferguson, GAustralia
22Brooklyn Nets (via Wizards)Harry Giles, F/CDuke
23Toronto Raptors (via Clippers)Justin Jackson, FNorth Carolina
24Orlando Magic (via Raptors)Tyler Lydon, FSyracuse
25Utah JazzDonovan Mitchell, GLouisville
26Brooklyn Nets (via Celtics)Luke Kennard, GDuke
27Portland Trail Blazers (via Cavaliers)Jonathan Jeanne, F/CFrance
28Los Angeles Lakers (via Rockets)Jawun Evans, PGOklahoma State
29San Antonio SpursCaleb Swanigan, F/CPurdue
30Utah Jazz (via Warriors)Semi Ojeleye, FSMU
Source: Tankathon

Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 01: Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts following a play against the Oregon Ducks during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 1, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. North Caro
Lance King/Getty Images

Justin Jackson shunned the NBA a year ago, and as ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman argued, it was a smart decision by the North Carolina star:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN

Justin Jackson’s improvement from last year to this season was incredible — and he was still a damn good player as a sophomore.

Jackson's scoring average climbed from 12.2 points per game in 2015-16 to 18.3 in 2016-17, and he averaged nearly one rebound more per game between last year (3.9) and this year (4.7).

However, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor highlighted one area in which Jackson's development stagnated a bit more:

The junior forward was a 37-percent shooter from three-point range, but his decline late in the year, coupled with his underwhelming first two seasons, raise a level of concern.

Jackson is a versatile enough player that he can be an NBA rotation option even without consistent three-point shooting. He's a solid rebounder who can score from inside the paint or mid-range.

Should a team select him in the middle part of the first round, though, an NBA team will likely expect Jackson to demonstrate solid range on a regular basis. His junior season represented progress, but he still has some questions to answer. 

TJ Leaf, F, UCLA

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: TJ Leaf of the UCLA Bruins looks on during free throw against the Arizona Wildcats during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Arizona won 86-75  (Photo by
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

TJ Leaf wasted little time declaring for the 2017 draft. Less than a week after UCLA's defeat to Kentucky, Leaf made his plans for the future known.

In the Bruins' three tourney games, Leaf averaged 17.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. Those solid numbers might have given the freshman forward the confidence necessary to make the jump now rather than wait at least another year—arguably the wiser decision.

Still, Leaf's value as a scorer is enough for him to warrant first-round status. He shot 61.7 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from three-point range. His ability to stretch the floor will be coveted at the next level.

Leaf can also crash the glass, grabbing 8.2 boards a night.

The Bruins star would be a particularly good addition for teams who already have a dominant rim protector.

Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 01:  Zach Collins #32 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrates after defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 1, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. Gonzaga defe
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Przemek Karnowski and Nigel Williams-Goss received a lot of plaudits as Gonzaga reached its first national championship, and rightfully so. Without the contributions of the two, the Zags would've been bounced well before the title game.

Zach Collins' contributions off the bench shouldn't be overlooked, though. The freshman center was especially good in the Final Four against South Carolina, when Karnowski was in foul trouble. In 23 minutes in the Bulldogs' 77-73 victory, Collins scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

The 7-footer averaged 10.0 points and 5.9 rebounds a game over the season. He was also a solid rim protector, blocking 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.com.

In an interview with Vice Sports' Sam Vecenie, Collins said defense was an area Gonzaga focused on after he joined to the team:

I don't think I was always a great rim protector, but when [Gonzaga] recruited me they said they were going to work on it with me to get me better at it. A lot of it is timing. I'm lengthy, I'm athletic, so that part comes naturally. They talked to me a lot about timing—when to go up, when to help up, how not to help up too early, just little tricks so that when I'm in the air I don't foul and use my length as well as I can.

Collins is still far from the finished product, but he gave NBA scouts a taste of what he could do in the NCAA tournament.

At the next level, Collins could have a career similar to Steven Adams. While Adams isn't among the league's best big man, he's clearly a valuable member of the Oklahoma City Thunder's frontcourt with his multifaceted game.


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