The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery Show was last night. Headlining as the top 3 teams in the draft were the: Boston Celtics (#1 pick), LA Lakers (#2), and Philadelphia 76ers (#3). The draftees of the 2017 NBA Draft is overshadowed by the top-pick dispute between University of Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz and UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball. With that being said, there are some talented prospects who I am interested in seeing how they develop during their NBA careers. It’s only right for me to give my assessment on these prospects.
Markelle Fultz (Projection: #1):
In my eyes, Fultz is, arguably the most offensively talented prospect in this draft. He can score on all three levels. He has a tight handle with the basketball and can almost get into the lane at will. And once Fultz is in the paint, he is able to contort his body to finish around bigger, more physically-imposing defenders or he can finish strong through smaller defenders. Fultz also is a phenomenal pick-and-roll ball handler. Since he’s a threat from everywhere on the floor, a willing passer, and ultra-creative with the basketball, Fultz can dictate a lot of pick-and-roll situations and usually makes the right read. To add, Fultz is also the type of guard who “plays at his own pace” which is a testament to how mature his game is compared to other prospects in this draft.
Lonzo Ball (Projection: #2):
The mass majority can all agree that Ball is the best passer in the draft. The phrase: “He makes his teammates around him better,” may very well be valid when speaking about Lonzo Ball’s presence on the court. To put it into perspective, if you play with a teammate that has a “pass-first” mentality, then guys will work harder to put themselves in a position to score the basketball. And usually, when guys score, they’re happy and will make a lot more hustle plays and be more locked in defensively. Also, Ball has exceptional length which gives him an edge on the glass. And, when a guard can rebound then it usually leads to a bunch of fastbreak opportunities… which is DEADLY! Ball has a lot of expectations to fulfill, due to the big mouth of his father Lavar Ball. Will Ball live up to these expectations?
D’Aaron Fox (Projection: #5):
Without a doubt, University of Kentucky freshman guard D’Aaron Fox is the most electrifying player amongst all the prospects. I hate making comparisons, but Fox’s game resembles John Wall’s style of play. I haven’t seen a player move as fast with the basketball from basket to basket and finish at will since Wall. I actually believe that Fox has more potential (it’s not by a landslide though!) than John Wall because I feel as though he will develop a better long-range game. Despite all the stats proving that Fox was a subpar shooter in college, his shooting form is not broken. I think Fox just has to adjust to his own speed so that he can find that rhythm to make his jumper more consistent. Once Fox figures that out, he will be a BIG problem in the NBA!
Malik Monk (Projection: #6):
University of Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk is the second-best offensive player slightly trailing behind Fultz. If you watch the Kentucky games this past college season, Monk was usually the most lethal on the offensive end of the floor. He is the best ISO prospect in this draft. His ability to create space, off the dribble and impeccable shot preparation/technique makes Monk a matchup nightmare. Monk is also gifted at catching-and-shooting while coming off screens. Monk, overall, is a very composed shooter. He has great balance and elevation and also has a shot release he gets off in milliseconds making it damn near impossible to block. Monk is great offensively because not only can he shoot but he is also uber-athletic and can penetrate. So if a defender bites on the pump fake, he can blow by him and then dunk on the team’s rim-protector. Monk will be instant offense for whatever NBA team who decides to pick him.
Dennis Smith Jr. (Projection: #9)
Like Fox, North Carolina State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. is a very electrifying draft prospect. He has the athleticism to help establish himself on an NBA roster. I think he is also an advanced pick-and-roll player; he knows what reads to make and he is capable of taking and making the outside shot if the defender doesn’t hedge hard enough on the screen. Despite him being a streaky shooter, I think, over time, he will be able to fine-tune his jumper and make it more consistent. Right now, don’t really see Smith Jr. making an immediate impact on an NBA team, as a rookie like the guys I mentioned in my list previously, but I do see him developing into an explosive, reliable playmaker for some NBA team in the future who will be fun to watch.
Lauri Markkanen (Projection: #10):
University of Arizona freshman center Lauri Markkanen is the most talented big-man prospect in this year’s guard-dominated draft. With the way the NBA has put such a huge focal point on three-point shooting, Markkanen is an ideal pickup. Markanen’s 7-foot 255-pound stature may hinder him from adjusting to the speed of the NBA, on the other hand, it will provide an NBA team with rebounding and rim protection. Plus, his ability to have a soft touch and great footwork in the post and marksmanship and efficiency from outside will allow that NBA team to spread the floor for guards to run pick-and-pop plays, create mismatch situations, and open up the lane for drive and kick opportunities. Markkanen will indeed have to adjust to the speed of the NBA but, without a doubt, I think he will be an instant contributor to an NBA team.
TJ Leaf (Projection: #18):
UCLA freshman power forward TJ Leaf is the most skilled big man prospect in the NBA draft. Just based off the games I saw this past college season, Leaf has a great feel for the game. He played alongside Lonzo Ball and, at times, outplayed Ball by showcasing how complete his game was against elite-level competition. Leaf is a stretch big who is able to score on all three levels. And he even showed glimpses that he has decent ball-handling skills and high-level passing vision and ability. Leaf is accustomed to playing at an erratic pace (*hint* helps when you play with Lonzo Ball) so I’m not too worried about him adjusting to the speed and tempo of the NBA. The NBA team who gets Leaf will be getting a high-IQ player. I don’t expect Leaf to be a standout rookie, but I do see Leaf playing for a team where he provides vital contributions such as scoring and energy off the bench.