Chad Ford NBA Draft 2017: Takeaways from ESPN Guru's 5th Big Board

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2017

Jan 25, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz (20) dribbles the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half at Wells-Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils won 86-75. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford released his fifth 2017 NBA draft big board—and his first since the 2016-17 college basketball season ended with North Carolina's national championship—on Wednesday with Washington guard Markelle Fultz holding down the top spot.

The updated list features prospects who have either declared for the draft or are still evaluating their options ahead of the April 23 deadline. Players who choose to enter the 2017 class before that date can still withdraw and return to college through May 24.

Here's a look at Ford's complete top 30 with just over two months until draft day (June 22):

2017 NBA Draft: Chad Ford Big Board 5.0
RankPlayerPrevious
1Markelle Fultz, G, Washington1
2Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA2
3Josh Jackson, F, Kansas3
4Jayson Tatum, F, Duke8
5De'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky9
6Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State5
7Malik Monk, G, Kentucky6
8Dennis Smith, G, NC State4
9Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona7
10Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State10
11Frank Ntilikina, G, France11
12Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga14
13Harry Giles, F, Duke13
14OG Anunoby, F, Indiana21
15Jarrett Allen, C, Texas16
16Justin Patton, C, Creighton15
17TJ Leaf, F, UCLA17
18Luke Kennard, G, Duken/a
19Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia22
20Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA29
21Edrice Adebayo, F, Kentucky25
22John Collins, F, Wake Forest18
23Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina30
24Ivan Rabb, F, California19
25Moritz Wagner, F, Michigann/a
26Justin Jackson, F, North Carolinan/a
27D.J. Wilson, F, Michigann/a
28Jawun Evans, G, Oklahoma Staten/a
29Andrew Jones, G, Texas27
30Isaiah Hartenstein, F, Germany20
ESPN.com

Biggest Takeaways

Markelle Fultz Holding Off Lonzo Ball

Fultz put together a tremendous freshman campaign on an individual level. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the field, including 41.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Huskies went just 9-22 despite his success, though.

His absence from the NCAA tournament gave Ball an opportunity to take over the top spot. He started strong as UCLA advanced to the Sweet 16 but struggled against Kentucky with 10 points, eight assists and four turnovers in an 11-point loss.

While it appears that allowed the Washington standout to maintain the inside track to become the No. 1 selection, neither player is lacking confidence ahead of the draft.

Ball said during an interview with ESPN 710 LA he still believes he's the best option, though he conceded his Pac-12 counterpart is a good prospect, per ESPN.com.

"Markelle's a great player, but I feel I'm better than him," he said. "I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he's a great scorer—he's a great player, so I'm not taking that away from him."

Meanwhile, Fultz has his sights set on far more than merely beating out Ball in the draft process, as he explained to Bleacher Report's Jason King:

When I was younger, trying to make the make the freshman and JV team, my dream was always to make it to the NBA. At first, I was thinking about just getting to the NBA, just watching the NBA, being one of the All-Stars in the NBA. But I actually want to be the best to ever play this game. And I think I have a pretty good chance to do that.

Although there's still time for Ball to make his case to take over the No. 1 designation, Fultz is in the driver's seat and the most likely option for whichever team wins the draft lottery.

         

Jayson Tatum, De'Aaron Fox Crack Top Five

The players inside Ford's top 10 remained the same, but there was some movement among those most coveted prospects. Most notably, Tatum and Fox both pushed into the upper echelon of Round 1.

Tatum is on his way toward becoming an extremely well-rounded prospect. The forward did a little bit of everything for Duke, including guarding multiple positions and scoring both inside and outside. He needs to learn how to defend without fouling more consistently, but the weaknesses are mostly minor.

Mike Schmitz of Draft Express provided his scouting report for the Blue Devils star:

Fox was moving up the ladder long before his encounter with Ball in the NCAA tournament. That said, he became a household name among even casual basketball fans when he put up 39 points in that marquee head-to-head meeting with the draft's No. 2 prospect.

Carmine Carcieri‏ of Busting Brackets noted that outing certainly helped his draft stock:

Fox only shot 24.6 percent from downtown during his freshman season with the Wildcats. Teams will likely want to see at least some improvement in that area during the predraft process before investing a top-tier pick on him.

          

Luke Kennard on the Rise

Kennard made serious across-the-board improvement during his second season at Duke. The biggest reason for his rising stock is his jump in offensive production. He averaged 19.5 points per game on the strength of a 48.9 shooting percentage and 43.8 three-point percentage, all substantial increases from Year 1.

Ford wrote: "Teams are in desperate need of elite shooters and virtually every scout I spoke with in Portland said they had him in their top 20, including a few in the lottery. His toughness and ability to run the point make him more valuable than just a sharpshooter."

The ACC Digital Network highlighted those skills in action:

Kennard doesn't currently possess the size, power or defensive ability to immediately become an All-Star contributor at the NBA level. But he can provide an offensive spark off the bench while attempting to add strength and improve as a defender during his first few NBA seasons.   

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