Even though the playoffs are still unfolding—at least in the Eastern Conference—interest in the 2017 NBA draft is beginning to heat up. We know where teams are going to be picking in June 22's proceedings, and we have a pretty good idea of which prospects are going to hear their names called early.
Of course, this doesn't mean lottery teams like the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are going to end up with future All-Stars. This also doesn't mean teams picking late in the first round or not selecting in Round 1 at all won't end up with future standouts through this draft.
Don't forget, Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics' hero in the early stages of the postseason, was drafted with the last pick of the second round.
Some team picking later in this year's draft could easily wind up with a similar steal—or at least a solid contributor for the next several years. Here, we're going to examine some of this year's prospects who could provide a ton of value despite being fringe first-rounders. We'll also mock the entire first round of the draft based on factors like player potential and team need.
2017 NBA Mock Draft
|1. Celtics (via BKN)||Markelle Fultz, G, Washington|
|2. Lakers||Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA|
|3. 76ers||Josh Jackson, F, Kansas|
|4. Suns||Jayson Tatum, F, Duke|
|5. Kings (via PHI)||Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State|
|6. Magic||De'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky|
|7. Timberwolves||Malik Monk, G, Kentucky|
|8. Knicks||Harry Giles, F, Duke|
|9. Mavericks||Dennis Smith Jr., G, NC State|
|10. Kings (via NO)||Frank Ntilikina, G, France|
|11. Hornets||Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga|
|12. Pistons||Ivan Rabb, F, California|
|13. Nuggets||Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona|
|14. Heat||Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina|
|15. Trail Blazers||Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia|
|16. Bulls||OG Anunoby, F, Indiana|
|17. Bucks||Jarrett Allen, C, Texas|
|18. Pacers||Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina|
|19. Hawks||John Collins, F, Wake Forest|
|20. Trail Blazers (via MEM)||TJ Leaf, F, UCLA|
|21. Thunder||Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State|
|22. Nets (via WAS)||Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan|
|23. Raptors (via LAC)||Jordan Bell, F, Oregon|
|24. Jazz||Justin Patton, C, Creighton|
|25. Magic (via TOR)||Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue|
|26. Trail Blazers (via CLE)||Josh Hart, G, Villanova|
|27. Nets (via BOS)||Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina|
|28. Lakers (via HOU)||Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA|
|29. Spurs||Isaiah Hartenstein, F, Germany|
|30. Jazz (via GS)||Rodions Kurucs, F, Latvia|
Fringe First-Rounders and Potential Sleepers
Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina
South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell may be one of the most polished players coming out in this draft. A rare college senior, Thornwell's issue is that he may have already reached his ceiling as a player.
Elite basketball prospects just don't hang around for four years of college anymore.
However, whichever team decides to pull the trigger on Thornwell is going to get two things. It's going to get an experienced player—one who showed he can take over a game during the NCAA tournament this past March—and it's going to get a player with an NBA body.
While some draft prospects need time to grow and adapt to the physicality of the NBA game, Thornwell is already 22 years old, 6'5" and 210 pounds. He's a tough and physical player who can contribute from day one.
"People are going to love Sindarius’ toughness and his versatility, and so that's what he's got going for him," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said of Thornwell during an NBA Draft Combine media call.
From talent and upside standpoints, Thornwell is probably a second-round pick. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a team snag him late in the first based on his high floor.
Luke Kennard, G, Duke
There's a lot to like with Duke product Luke Kennard. He has good size for a guard who's 6'6" and 195 pounds. He comes from a top-tier program and he's a pretty strong shooter. He made nearly 48 percent of his shots from the field last season and nearly 44 percent from three-point range.
However, Kennard isn't the kind of explosive athlete that teams are often looking for at his position, and while he did improve his draft stock during the regular season, he was a big part of Duke's disappointing showing in the tournament.
On tape Kennard doesn't jump off the screen the way some of the other guard prospects in this draft class do. This lack of wow factor is why he may last until late in the first round or even until the top of the second. However, his strong grip on fundamentals should allow him to be an early contributor and a potential steal.
"Luke's skill set is such a perfect fit for the way the NBA game has evolved, and we're all excited to see him flourish at the next level," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, via GoDuke.com. "He is a wonderful person who will immediately be an asset to an NBA team."
Kennard isn't likely to be one of the most talked about rookies when the 2017-18 season begins, but don't be surprised if he's one of the biggest rookie contributors by midseason.
Rodions Kurucs, F, Latvia
Former Barcelona standout Rodions Kurucs has been trending upward a bit in recent weeks thanks to his size (6'8", 200 pounds) and his upside.
"Rodions Kurucs is a really skilled player who can bring a lot in the table, especially on the offensive end of the floor," Stefanos Makris of NBADraft.net wrote of Kurucs. "His scoring ability and physical attributes are undeniable."
The issue is that Kurucs is just 19 years old and will need some time to fully develop before being ready for NBA competition. This is why whichever team drafts him might not even see him on the court for a couple of years. This is why he isn't likely to be drafted early in the first round, if he goes in Round 1 at all.
However, a patient team could be rewarded with a legitimate star down the road. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla recently explained, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post:
"There are glimpses of him being a good NBA player, and where you're drafting him you're not drafting him as a potential starter for a couple of years. He's 19, and by the time he's 24, you're going to have a guy who could be a very good NBA player—maybe a starter, at worst a very good rotation guy, and if you're lucky an All-Star."
Expect to hear Kurucs' name on draft night, then possibly not again for a couple of years. By the time he finally reaches an NBA court, though, he should be a name to watch.