Ranking the Best 3-and-D Specialists in 2017 NBA Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 25, 2017

Ranking the Best 3-and-D Specialists in 2017 NBA Draft

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    The NBA's three-and-D guards and wings have risen in value over the years. Shooters who can defend are highly coveted, even if they lack dynamic scoring and playmaking ability. 

    The following five players don't project as stars; rather, high-end to average role players who'll stick by making outside shots and a positive defensive impact. 

    To be considered a three-and-D prospect, we only used players whose top-two strengths are expected to be shooting and defense.

    These rankings are based on future projections, not solely stats from the previous season.

5. Josh Hart (Villanova, SG/SF, Senior)

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    NBA draft projection: Late first or early second round

    An average athlete relative to NBA wings, Josh Hart could see his scoring get left behind in college. Instead, he'll take his improved shooting stroke and defensive toughness with him to the pros, where they'll help him settle in as a role player, the same way Malcolm Brogdon has with the Milwaukee Bucks.

    After making 55 threes through 40 games as a junior, Hart returned to drill 74 threes in 36 games at a 40.4 percent clip his senior year. He's become a more confident outside shot-maker, which is key, given the concerns over his potential to create offense at the next level. 

    Defensively, Hart has always earned praise for his aggression, intensity and IQ. He shows that willingness to get right up in his assignment's grill. And he's demonstrated the quickness and instincts to both contain and force turnovers.

    Despite experiencing tremendous college success and winning Big East Player of the Year, Hart's upside is capped. But if he can find the right fit and situation, he'll stick by bringing three-and-D skills off the bench.

4. Devin Robinson (Florida, SF/PF, Junior)

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    NBA draft projection: Late first or early second round

    Devin Robinson always appeared to have three-and-D potential, but this year, he looked much closer to reaching it after shooting a career-best 39.1 percent from behind the arc.

    He plays to his strengths as strictly a spot-up shooter, with 98 of his career 100 three-point makes having been assisted, per Hoop-Math.com.

    And though he still has improvements to make defensively, his tools and quickness should buy him time with NBA scouts and coaches. Robinson's size, length (last measured 6'11 ½" in 2014) and foot speed project favorably, both in one-on-one and pick-and-roll coverage. 

    He should be able to spend time guarding both weaker bigs and wings. And assuming he continues to get more comfortable catching and shooting with range, Robinson could be on track to carve out a supporting role as an open shot-maker and versatile defender. 

3. Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 1998)

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    NBA draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

    Projecting Rodions Kurucs to emerge as a three-and-D NBA wing means buying into his shooting and defensive potential.

    Neither are there yet—Kurucs is raw and still inconsistent, both with his jumper and discipline. But the flashes for a 19-year-old, plus the athleticism and tools, suggest Kurucs' can late-bloom into a two-way role player.

    The eye test shows it, even if the numbers don't. The made shots outweigh the misses. He hit 30 threes in 24 games (LEB Gold) and averaged 21.2 minutes in Spain's second division. Mechanically, he sports an effortless-looking flick of the wrist and appears comfortable shooting with range.

    Defensively, we've seen exciting moments and frustrating ones, but his natural ability still trumps the mental mistakes when assessing value. This early in his development, teams will put more stock in his size, quickness, anticipation steals and blocks than his defensive IQ and strength.

2. Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers, SG/SF, 1998)

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    NBA draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

    The small sample size of numbers from Australia doesn't paint an accurate picture of Terrance Ferguson, who arrived there with a reputation for being an athletic shooter. 

    He turned heads at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit by draining seven threes in 15 minutes. And he won 2016's Under Armour Elite 24 shootout.

    In 2015, Ferguson drilled 22-of-48 triples (45.8 percent) at adidas Nations, and he hit 5-of-10 threes combined in the semis and finals of the 2015 FIBA World Championships, a year after shooting 41.4 percent from deep as a member of the U17 squad. 

    At the other end of the floor, he's quick laterally and shows the ability to stay in front of guards with fast feet and concentration. Teams should feel good about his potential to defend both wings and ball-handlers around the perimeter. 

    Ferguson struggles to create shots or make plays off the dribble, but he won't be asked to as an NBA pro. Between his jumper and defense, there will be a two-way specialist role waiting for him somewhere.

1. Frank Ntilikina (France, PG/SG, 1998)

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    NBA draft projection: Lottery

    Frank Ntilikina earned his three-and-D label in 2016-17 by shooting 45 percent from three in LNB Pro A and 39.5 percent during Basketball Champions League play.

    His most impressive stretch came in December at the U18 European Championships, where he was named MVP after sinking a ridiculous 17-of-29 triples through six games. In 24 FIBA contests dating back to 2014, he's a combined 41 of 89 (46.1 percent) from behind the arc. 

    Shooting has become a key development for Ntilikina, who lacks the explosiveness of NCAA guards like Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox and North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr. 

    Still, Ntilikina's selling point starts on defense, where he locks down and guards multiple positions with his size, quick feet and extraordinary length. He moves like Fox, but reportedly measures around eight inches longer

    Even if Ntilikina struggles to match Fox's or Smith's playmaking potential, the Frenchman's jumper and defense create an NBA life jacket and low-risk floor. 

    Stats courtesy of RealGM.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.