2017 NBA Mock Draft: Predictions for Elite Frontcourt ProspectsMay 5, 2017
The 2017 NBA draft features a perimeter-oriented class, especially inside the top five. The incoming group is headlined by two talented point guards, Washington's Markelle Fultz and UCLA's Lonzo Ball, and a dynamic small forward in Kansas' Josh Jackson.
Teams hoping to upgrade their frontcourt won't have as many high-end options. That said, there's a lot depth at power forward and center that should be available in the middle and late stages of the opening round. The challenge is identifying which of those players are actually going to make an NBA impact.
With that in mind, let's check out a complete mock draft for the first round of the draft, which is scheduled for June 22 at the Barclays Center in New York City. That's followed by a closer look at some of the best frontcourt prospects available.
First-Round Mock Draft
|2017 NBA Draft: Complete Predictions for Round 1|
|1||Boston Celtics (from BKN)||Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington|
|2||Phoenix Suns||Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas|
|3||Los Angeles Lakers||Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA|
|4||Philadelphia 76ers||Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky|
|5||Orlando Magic||Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke|
|6||Minnesota Timberwolves||De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky|
|7||New York Knicks||Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona|
|9||Dallas Mavericks||Dennis Smith, PG, NC State|
|10||Sacramento Kings (from NO)||Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide 36ers|
|11||Charlotte Hornets||Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga|
|12||Detroit Pistons||Luke Kennard, SG, Duke|
|13||Denver Nuggets||Frank Ntilikina, PG, SIG Strasbourg|
|14||Miami Heat||TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA|
|15||Portland Trail Blazers||Jarrett Allen, C, Texas|
|16||Chicago Bulls||John Collins, PF, Wake Forest|
|17||Milwaukee Bucks||Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville|
|18||Indiana Pacers||Justin Patton, C, Creighton|
|19||Atlanta Hawks||Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina|
|20||Portland Trail Blazers (from DEN via MEM)||OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder||Ivan Rabb, PF, California|
|22||Brooklyn Nets (from WSH)||Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky|
|23||Toronto Raptors||Rodions Kurucs, SF, FC Barcelona|
|24||Utah Jazz||Dwayne Bacon, SG, Florida State|
|25||Orlando Magic (from TOR via LAC)||Harry Giles, PF, Duke|
|26||Portland Trail Blazers (from CLE)||Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Zalgiris Kaunas|
|27||Brooklyn Nets (from BOS)||Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina|
|28||Los Angeles Lakers (from HOU)||Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA|
|29||San Antonio Spurs||Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue|
|30||Utah Jazz (from GSW)||Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse|
Analyzing Top Frontcourt Prospects
8. Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Markkanen's offensive game is polished enough to make an immediate impact at the NBA level. He averaged 15.6 points while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor, 42.3 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the free-throw line during his one season at Arizona.
His overall potential depends on his improvement defensively, though. He checked in at 0.5 blocks and 0.4 steals per game with the Wildcats and often struggled to contain more physical frontcourt players when playing man defense.
In March, Zack Rosenblatt of the Arizona Daily Star noted the Finnish big man felt he made positive strides during his time in college.
"I think I've progressed a lot," Markkanen said. "Basically we just work on defense every day, so it's hard not to get better at it."
It's through that lens the Kings are an interesting fit. They must find a new building block on the interior following the trade of DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, and a prospect with such immense offensive gifts is an attractive option for the 24th-ranked team in points per game.
Yet, Sacramento doesn't have any defensive stalwarts in the post and Markkanen certainly isn't prepared to handle that responsibility at this stage. So if the front office decides to draft him, finding a veteran center to provide stability will be crucial, as well.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Collins' rise to a potential lottery pick is quite extraordinary. Unlike most one-and-done players, he wasn't overly hyped as a 4-star recruit and the No. 38 overall prospect in the 2016 class, according to the Scout.com rankings, and he didn't make a single start for Gonzaga as a freshman.
The Las Vegas native impressed with his efficiency, though. He averaged 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while playing just 17.2 minutes per contest as the Zags advanced to the national championship game. He also shot 65.2 percent from the field across 39 games.
Marc Whittington of Liberty Ballers provided a chart to show how well Collins stacks up against fellow post players from the draft class:
While Collins must work on his distribution from the post, his skill set is otherwise among the most well-rounded in the class. Like Markkanen, however, he's a young frontcourt asset who will need to increase the amount of power in his frame to handle the more rugged NBA game.
The Hornets represent a nice fit on paper. They feature a solid group of perimeter and wing players, led by Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The squad could benefit from adding another big to pair with Cody Zeller.
14. Miami Heat: TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
Leaf often got overshadowed by Ball on the talent-laden Bruins, but the power forward put together a terrific freshman season of his own. He put up 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and shot 61.7 percent from the field, including 46.6 percent from downtown.
The key question is how his offensive game will translate to the NBA. He struggled at times against physical post players and often became too passive, quickly deferring to his star teammates, when he wasn't able to find his shot early.
While it's raised concerns about exactly how he'll fit following the jump, Jason McIntyre of the Big Lead compared him to a player who faced similar uncertainty:
The Golden State Warriors ended up snagging Draymond Green in the second round of the 2012 draft. He's since developed into one of the league's top defenders and has played a critical role in helping the Dubs become a potential dynasty.
Drafting Leaf to a team with Hassan Whiteside would allow the Heat, who missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker with the Chicago Bulls, to spend the rest of the offseason trying to find a little more offensive firepower on the perimeter.