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NBA Draft 2017: Mock Draft and Fringe 1st-Round Prospects to Watch

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2017

South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) celebrates a basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina defeated Auburn 98-69. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Lonzo Ball and the other top prospects in the 2017 NBA draft command where the attention goes and what storylines shape the event itself. 

It's not often fringe players receive the same attention—but it's a worthwhile endeavor.

Look at last year for a brief example. A guy by the name of Malcolm Brogdon out of Virginia classified in this manner and slipped to pick No. 36. He landed with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he went on to average 26.4 minutes per game and contribute 10.4 points and 4.2 assists on 45.7 percent shooting from the floor. 

Not every fringe player finds as much success, of course, but he's a good example of what such a player can quickly become while those drafted above him do little. 

Here's a look at a fresh mock and a few of these fringe opening-round candidates to keep in mind.

         

2017 NBA Mock Draft

TeamPlayer
1. Celtics (via BKN)Markelle Fultz, G, Washington
2. LakersLonzo Ball, G, UCLA
3. 76ersJosh Jackson, F, Kansas
4. SunsJayson Tatum, F, Duke
5. Kings (via PHI)Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State
6. MagicDe'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky
7. TimberwolvesZach Collins, C, Gonzaga
8. KnicksFrank Ntilikina, G, France
9. MavericksDennis Smith Jr., G, NC State
10. Kings (via NO)Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
11. HornetsHarry Giles, F, Duke
12. PistonsLauri Markkanen, F, Arizona
13. NuggetsTerrance Ferguson, G, Australia
14. HeatJustin Jackson, F, North Carolina
15. Trail BlazersIvan Rabb, F, California
16. BullsJohn Collins, F, Wake Forest
17. BucksTony Bradley, C, North Carolina
18. PacersJarrett Allen, C, Texas
19. HawksIsaiah Hartenstein, F, Germany
20. Trail Blazers (via MEM)OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
21. ThunderTJ Leaf, F, UCLA
22. Nets (via WAS)Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State
23. Raptors (via LAC)Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan
24. JazzIke Anigbogu, C, UCLA
25. Magic (via TOR)Jordan Bell, F, Oregon
26. Trail Blazers (via CLE)Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville
27. Nets (via BOS)Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina
28. Lakers (via HOU)Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
29. SpursCaleb Swanigan, F, Purdue
30. Jazz (via GSW)Luke Kennard, G, Duke
Author's projections.

              

Fringe 1st-Round Prospects to Watch

Jordan Bell, F, Oregon

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Typically the difference between a player drafted in the top 10 and one flirting with the first round at all is upside.

Teams want prospects who can grow into elite players, not necessarily guys who grew into themselves and posted quality production for years at the collegiate level. They're older and usually don't have as much room to grow.

This predicament tanks Jordan Bell's stock a bit. The Oregon product played three years with the program, most recently averaging 10.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 63.6 percent from the floor. His coming in at 6'9" and 225 pounds makes it a bit hard to project his position at the next level. 

The good news for Bell? He came away as one of the combine's biggest winners thanks to his style and athletic testing, as DraftExpress' Julian Applebome pointed out:

"Bell's do it all defensive and rebounding style of play has definitely played well at the Combine, and it would not be surprising to see him potentially get looks from NBA teams at the end of the first round of some draft boards. Bell initially registered a shuttle time of 2.56, which would have been the best mark in the history of our database, but for some reason that was disqualified."

This elite athleticism hints at a better adaption to the pros than initially suspected. He's a bit of a tweener, but if he can run well and round out his offensive game, a strong presence in a rotation awaits. 

This hint of upside and otherwise proven production is why the Orlando Magic take a risk on Bell in the mock above. He's an immediate role player there who can grow alongside a young core boosted by an earlier pick in the round and guys like Aaron Gordon.

            

Jonathan Jeanne, C, France

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Jonathan Jeanne looks ready to throw the NBA draft for a loop. 

Jeanne is the type of prospect who could come out of nowhere to steal a spot in the top half of the first round—though it wouldn't be too hard to see him coming because he's 7'2" and 207 pounds. Oh, and he has a 9'6" reach and 7'7" wingspan.

This isn't all about simple measurements, especially when Jeanne seems to come in a bit lighter than some might prefer, but if he can keep filling out his frame, he'll eventually be a starter at the pro level. 

But with Jeanne it's not so much the size as it is the skill set he pairs with it. The French star can shoot with great range, as Applebome's colleague, Jonathan Givony, pointed out: 

"His skill-set is extremely unique for a 7-footer, as he handles the ball impressively in both the half-court and full-court, and has range out to the 3-point line, even shockingly being capable of making pull-up jumpers off isolation plays. Defensively, he moves his feet well and has obvious potential with his combination of mobility, size and length, even if he's far from being a polished player here."

Jeanne probably doesn't represent the next evolution of the pro game, but what he brings to the table sure doesn't hurt considering the premium placed on spacing and shooting right now.

It's enough for the Los Angeles Lakers to take him near the end of the first round above, hoping he can one day fill out his frame and enter the rotation, if not take a starting spot.  

     

Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina

Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell falls into the same trap as Bell—he had a strong senior season, but the fact he had one is a problem for NBA teams in the first half of the opening round. 

Thornwell is already 22 years old and only weighs in at 6'5" and 210 pounds. Those issues aside, he's in the fringe discussion because he had such a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament, where he posted 24 or more points in four consecutive Big Dance games while helping the Gamecocks shine as a Cinderella. 

This situation isn't lost on Thornwell, who has openly stressed how he can help teams right out of the gates.

“I'm not a lottery pick, but I feel like I'm a lottery player,” Thornwell said, according to The State's Dwayne McLemore. “I'm a glue guy. I can come in right away and produce on both ends of the court, but most importantly, the defensive end.”

There's no doubt Thornwell can come in and help right away. Undersized or not, he can inject a bit of offense into a rotation and keep second units scoring well while starters rest. 

Above, the Brooklyn Nets take a sure thing like Thornwell near the end of the first. The franchise figures to splurge in free agency in an effort to rebuild, so turning around and getting a high character guy who can offer guaranteed production right away is a bonus after watching another team use their No. 1 pick. 

       

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.