2017 NBA Mock Draft: Predictions for Elite Frontcourt Prospects

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2017

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 23:  Lauri Markkanen #10 of the Arizona Wildcats looks on in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at SAP Center on March 23, 2017 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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
1Boston Celtics (from BKN)Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
2Phoenix SunsJosh Jackson, SF, Kansas
3Los Angeles LakersLonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
4Philadelphia 76ersMalik Monk, SG, Kentucky
5Orlando MagicJayson Tatum, SF, Duke
6Minnesota TimberwolvesDe'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
7New York KnicksJonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
8Sacramento KingsLauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
9Dallas MavericksDennis Smith, PG, NC State
10Sacramento Kings (from NO)Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide 36ers
11Charlotte HornetsZach Collins, C, Gonzaga
12Detroit PistonsLuke Kennard, SG, Duke
13Denver NuggetsFrank Ntilikina, PG, SIG Strasbourg
14Miami HeatTJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
15Portland Trail BlazersJarrett Allen, C, Texas
16Chicago BullsJohn Collins, PF, Wake Forest
17Milwaukee BucksDonovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
18Indiana PacersJustin Patton, C, Creighton
19Atlanta HawksJustin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
20Portland Trail Blazers (from DEN via MEM)OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
21Oklahoma City ThunderIvan Rabb, PF, California
22Brooklyn Nets (from WSH)Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky
23Toronto RaptorsRodions Kurucs, SF, FC Barcelona
24Utah JazzDwayne Bacon, SG, Florida State
25Orlando Magic (from TOR via LAC)Harry Giles, PF, Duke
26Portland Trail Blazers (from CLE)Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Zalgiris Kaunas
27Brooklyn Nets (from BOS)Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina
28Los Angeles Lakers (from HOU)Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
29San Antonio SpursCaleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
30Utah Jazz (from GSW)Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
Mock Draft

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:

Too classy to even engage @MWhittington13

Now that the season is complete, here is how Zach Collins stacks up against the other lotto-hopeful frosh Bigs. https://t.co/PKbuvcDoqL

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:

Jason McIntyre @jasonrmcintyre

Wonder if TJ Leaf could have a Draymond Green-like impact in the NBA. Does everything well. In a loaded draft, he'll be a steal post-lottery

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.