NBA Draft 2017: Spotlighting Highest-Rated Upperclassmen on Expert Mock Drafts

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2017

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 01: Jordan Bell #1 of the Oregon Ducks reacts during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 1, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. North Carolina defeated Oregon 77-76. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

The NBA draft is a young man's event.

Of the first 14 picks mapped out in DraftExpress' updated mock, there are 11 freshmen and two international players.

There is one upperclassman: North Carolina Tar Heels sniper Justin Jackson.

The junior forward on the national championship squad is also the only projected lottery pick older than 20, and he's one of two non-teenagers (Kansas Jayhawks freshman Josh Jackson, projected No. 3, is 20).

Youth is obviously valuable, but experience gets a bad rap nowadays. Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon is arguably the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, while Buddy Hield has thrived with the Sacramento Kings (though he's still no Stephen Curry). Both stayed four years at Virginia and Oklahoma respectively.

In the days leading up to the June 22 draft, you'll hear mostly about the one-and-done players. Today, let's shine some light on two upperclassmen.


Mock Draft

Markelle FultzWashington Freshman PG
Lonzo Ball UCLA Freshman PG
Josh Jackson Kansas Freshman SF
Jayson TatumDuke Freshman SF
Malik Monk Kentucky Freshman PG/SG
De’Aaron FoxKentucky Freshman PG
Dennis SmithN.C. State FreshmanPG
Lauri MarkkanenArizona Freshman PF
Jonathan IsaacFlorida StateFreshmanSF
Frank NtilikinaStrasbourg (France) Age: 18PG
Miles BridgesMichigan StateFreshman SF/PF
Justin JacksonUNC JuniorSF
Jarrett AllenTexasFreshmanCenter
Terrance FergusonAdelaide (Australia) Age: 18N/A


Justin Jackson

CHAPEL HILL, NC- APRIL 4:  Joel Berry II (R) and Justin Jackson of the North Carolina Tar Heels are recognized by having their jerseys retired during their welcome-home reception for the NCAA men's basketball team on April 4, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Ca
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Jackson was way off in Monday's title clash against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Tomball, Texas, native clanged all nine of his attempts from beyond the three-point arc and shot 6-of-19 from the field. He still managed to contribute 16 points, second on the team to Joel Berry II's 22.

The game was about the win, though, not the stats. And that's how it was for Jackson since arriving at Chapel Hill in 2014.

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 01: Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after defeating 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 Carolina defe
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"I never had my mind set on going one-and-done," Jackson, who was a McDonald's All-American and projected to quickly go pro heading into his freshman year, told Bleacher Report's Jason King. "There are a lot of players who [think like that], but then they go in a different direction. ... People just fall in love with Carolina. Everyone falls in love with the program. It's a family, and sometimes it's hard to leave a family."

It's not guaranteed that Jackson leaves, but it seems almost certain. He helped avenge last year's buzzer-beater loss to the Villanova Wildcats in the title game, and his stock is sky-high despite the rocky showing in the championship contest.

What's left?

In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman observed that Jackson struggled to create his own shot against Gonzaga; that’s a weakness at the collegiate level that will only become more glaring in the NBA. Still, the kid can flat-out stroke it.

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels shoots against Przemek Karnowski #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second half during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium o
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat—all fringe playoff teams—figure to be in the mix for the forward. His length and jumper would give him minutes as he improves the other aspects of his game.

Keep in mind Jackson is still only 22; his hair isn't gray, and he's not using a cane. Depending on how the lottery shakes out, don't be surprised if a team like the Sacramento Kings (17th in threes per game) or the Detroit Pistons (27th) reach on Jackson, who splashed 105 triples, around No. 10.


Jordan Bell, Oregon

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 01:  Isaiah Hicks #4 of the North Carolina Tar Heels goes up with the ball against Jordan Bell #1 of the Oregon Ducks in the first half during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 1, 2017
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Jordan Bell made himself some money in March.

Not literally (don't worry, NCAA). But the Oregon Ducks big man strung together an NCAA tournament that, despite ending in Final Four heartbreak, dropped some jaws and raised some eyebrows.

Bell upped his regular-season scoring, rebounding, blocking and shooting numbers once March began. Ducks guard Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks were praised as Oregon made it to the Final Four—and rightfully so—but the man in the middle was the driving force behind the run.

John Locher/Associated Press

He flirted with an unconventional triple-double against against Kansas in the Elite Eight, swatting eight shots while scoring 11 points and snagging 13 boards. Overmatched against Kennedy Meeks vs. UNC in the next round, Bell still scored 13 points, pulled down 16 rebounds and blocked four shots.

SeasonPointsReboundsBlocksShooting Percentage
Regular season10.
NCAA tournament12.613.23.0.730

But in what will likely go down as the low point of his hoops career, he allowed Theo Pinson and Meeks to body him up under the hoop as the Tar Heels botched four straight free throws in the final seconds:

Bell was devastated afterward, shouldering the blame in his postgame comments, via Sports Illustrated:

The ending might sour some teams on what was a sensationally sweet run that displayed Bell's unceasing effort on the glass and on defense. DraftExpress and Wasserman have Bell slotted at No. 37 and No. 36 respectively.

Jonathan Givony, who runs DE, thinks Bell is too small to play the 5 at the pro level:

But SI's Jordan Schultz is singing a different tune:

[He] came to Oregon with no offense, was just kind of a rim-runner. Now he's a legitimate defensive shutdown menace. He has decent enough touch. My only question for him is, 'Is he going to be a real liability offensively?' But you look at him, and he's not as big as a Ben Wallace, but that's the type of impact, ideally, you could see him having. For me, I would take him in the mid-20s and feel good about it.

It wouldn't be shocking to see a team like the Brooklyn Nets snag Bell in the early- to mid-20s. He's far from a franchise player, but Brooklyn needs role players as it rebuilds its previously barren roster.

Bell seems like a player worth bringing on for that challenge.


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