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2017 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections and Predictions for Top Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, FL - JANUARY 18: Forward Jonathan Isaac #1 of the Florida State Seminoles warm up before the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Donald L. Tucker Center on January 18, 2017 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Identifying talented players isn't an easy job for general managers ahead of the NBA draft, but the job is made easier when a player is clearly head and shoulders above his peers.

As an example, selecting Karl-Anthony Towns was a no-brainer for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2015, and Towns has since become one of the league's most promising big men. The New York Knicks' decision to take Kristaps Porzingis, on the other hand, was a little more risky despite Porzingis earning strong reviews from draft analysts.

The three players below are all first-round-caliber stars but are likely to be undervalued when draft night arrives June 22.

Mock Draft

PickTeamPlayerSchool/Country
1Boston Celtics (via Nets)Markelle Fultz, GWashington
2Phoenix SunsJosh Jackson, FKansas
3Los Angeles LakersLonzo Ball, GUCLA
4Philadelphia 76ersJayson Tatum, FDuke
5Orlando MagicDennis Smith, GNC State
6Minnesota TimberwolvesJonathan Isaac, FFlorida State
7New York KnicksDe'Aaron Fox, GKentucky
8Sacramento KingsMalik Monk, GKentucky
9Dallas MavericksLauri Markkanen, FArizona
10Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans)Frank Ntilikina, GFrance
11Charlotte HornetsJohn Collins, FWake Forest
12Detroit PistonsZach Collins, FGonzaga
13Denver NuggetsJarrett Allen, F/CTexas
14Miami HeatIvan Rabb, FCalifornia
15Portland Trail BlazersIsaiah Hartenstein, FGermany
16Chicago BullsRodions Kurucs, FLatvia
17Milwaukee BucksTJ Leaf, FUCLA
18Indiana PacersOG Anunoby, G/FIndiana
19Portland Trail Blazers (via Grizzlies)Edmond Sumner, GXavier
20Atlanta HawksDonovan Mitchell, GLouisville
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 JazzCaleb Swanigan, F/CPurdue
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 SpursBam Adebayo, CKentucky
30Utah Jazz (via Warriors)Semi Ojeleye, FSMU
Draft order via Tankathon

Underrated First-Round Prospects

Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

Yes, it's somewhat crazy to call a player warranting top-10 consideration underrated, but this could be a Giannis Antetokounmpo situation in which Jonathan Isaac is the clear No. 1 player to come out of the 2017 draft in three or four years.

Isaac didn't have an otherworldly season in his one year with the Florida State Seminoles. He averaged 12.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game.

Isaac's potential is through the roof, though. He's a 6'10" forward who can guard either the 3 or the 4, and his 34.8 percent clip from beyond the arc offers some hope he can add a consistent three-point shot to his offensive arsenal.

If Isaac can hit 80 percent of his NBA ceiling, he'll be an effective wing who can a lot of value on the defensive end with his 7'1" wingspan, per ESPN.com. Should he fulfill his potential, he'll be one of the more entertaining young players in the league, which Antetokounmpo has shown himself to be in 2016-17.

Luke Kennard, G, Duke

In his most recent big board, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman ranked Luke Kennard No. 18 overall and offered this brief assessment:

Athletic and defensive limitations work against Luke Kennard, but he's an intriguing candidate to overcome them with crafty footwork and basketball IQ. [...]

There are questions concerning his potential to defend starting guards, get his shot off cleanly and finish at the rim. But between his shooting, passing, sneakiness and competitive edge, there are enough reasons to think Kennard can stick in an offensive-minded supporting role.

After an encouraging freshman season, Kennard became a star for the Duke Blue Devils in 2016-17. He averaged 19.5 points a game and made 43.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The NBA will always have a place for sharpshooters. It's why the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for 36-year-old Kyle Korver and why Ray Allen still received passing interest before officially retiring at age 41.

Kennard is not only a consistent spot-up shooter, but he also excels in pick-and-roll situations. Even if he never becomes a drastically better defender, Kennard should have a productive NBA career ahead.

Considering how hard it is to find value in the middle of the first round, Kennard's range and contributions from three-point range should more than return a team's investment on draft night.

Jawun Evans, G, Oklahoma State

The 2017 draft boasts a quartet of talented point guards. Markelle Fultz is widely considered the best player available, and Lonzo Ball is a possibility at No. 2. Dennis Smith and De'Aaron Fox, meanwhile, may not slip outside the top 10.

After those four, the quality drops off a bit. Teams will basically hope to find a point guard who can be a solid rotation option rather than run the offense for 30-plus minutes a night.

At 6'0" and 188 pounds, size is an issue for Jawun Evans and something he can't do anything about. Isaiah Thomas (5'9") is an example that a shorter point guard can still thrive in the NBA, and on a lesser scale, Tyler Ulis (5'10") had a productive rookie season in a limited role with the Phoenix Suns.

Evans averaged 26.2 points and 8.7 assists per 40 minutes as a sophomore for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, per Sports Reference. He also shot 37.9 percent from three-point range, though he only attempted 95 three-pointers on the year.

Evans is a skilled ball-handler who can create his own shot or find an open teammate. While he's unlikely to reach the heights of Thomas, he should carve out a meaningful role in an NBA rotation, which would be great value for a team near the end of the first round.