The 2017 NBA draft is one that I have been trying to come to grips with. Sleepers can be found everywhere in a draft touted its top five players. What do the numbers say? Why did GMs pass on guys like Mitchell, Kuzma, OG and Collins? How will scouting change going forward?
The top five picks in this draft:
Hoop heads kept saying that as long as you had a top five pick in this draft, you could not go wrong. Is that still true? Lonzo Ball has looked like an elite passer and is shooting with more confidence, sure. And he still has tons of potential. But, he is still only shooting 35% from the field! If I had to sum up Lonzo’s rookie year in a word: underwhelming.
Josh Jackson too often looks lost on offense. Sometimes he wildly drives to the rim and other times he shows off that ugly hitch in his jumper. January was his best month as a pro but, it may be hard to be a 3 and D star without the “3.”
Jayson Tatum is going to be a star. Nuff said. If you disagree, go home and sober up.
De’Aaron Fox looks like he can be the real deal. He plays with energy reminiscent of John Wall and leaves it all on the floor. The decision making will come with time and his J should be just fine.
Fultz, oh brother. I want the kid to get healthy; he can be a stud. But as of right now, it is getting harder and harder to justify him getting drafted number one overall. Lately, his practice highlights have looked great. The hitch in his J appears to have been corrected. He’s still someone you gamble on, but a player like Tatum may have the same upside without the injury risk.
The rest of the 1st Round:
Drafted number seven overall, people were quick to laugh off the Bull’s selection of Lauri Markkanen. He can’t rebound, they said. He can’t play defense, they said. Know what? The kid can shoot! The Finnish native set the record for quickest player to hit 100 threes. Will his defense allow him to stay on the floor down the stretch during playoff games? I love his game, but maybe IamMarkanen was drafted where he needs to be.
The 9th choice, Dennis Smith Jr. looks just as good as Lonzo, Fox, Frank, or Fultz. Coach Carlisle only plays those who earn minutes, a testament to Smith’s play this year. If you told me that you would take him over Ball or Fox, I would have a hard time arguing against you. The playmaking skills are developing quicker than expected and if the shooting comes around…
Donovan. Freaking. Mitchell. How in the world did he fall to 13? Drafted behind five point guards, the kid has been nothing short of magnificent. He’ll splash in your face and dunk on you in the next possession. Everything about him screams “Wade with a three.” It is no wonder that he has a Win Share percentage higher than any other guard in this class.
John the Baptist getting selected at 19 is a robbery. Sure, anyone can find minutes on the ailing Hawks. Still, Collins hits 60% of his twos and in January he started attempting threes. The prototypical big, Collins should develop into a rim protector who can grab boards and be a problem from behind the arc – the triple threat.
Kuzzzzzzz. The best player on the Lakers this year, Kyle Kuzma may be the steal of the draft. He’s not just a stretch four. Kuz can make plays from the frontcourt position and finds soft spots like a vet. He may not have the ceiling of his point guard teammate but Kuzma could end up being a max salary player.
So, what happened?
The top five players either have one of two things: an elite skill set or jaw-dropping physical tools. Fox is one of the fastest players in the league. Jackson can soar and defend 4 positions. Ball’s passing revered and Fultz was supposed to be Harden 2.0. Tatum looked like a taller, slimmer Pierce. I have no problem with a scout falling in love with what these players could be. In doing this, however, they ignored what some players already were.
Collins was set to enter this league as an elite rebounder. Mitchell has the scoring chops of young Wade. Smith was a good coach away from success. Everyone knew of Lauri’s shooting ability and Kuzma had a polished game. These guys fell because their ceilings may not be as high as the top five. As scouts soured on their limited potentials, they ignored the hard skills these guys can contribute. GMs rolled the dice on who they thought could be an All-NBA guy instead of focusing on players who would have impactful ten year careers.
The verdict: Skills > Potential.
That being said, here’s my new top ten; a blend of high ceilings and polished skill set. Of course, let me know what you think and tweet back with your own top ten!
- Jayson Tatum (Phila)
- Markelle Fultz (LAL)
- Donovan Mitchell (Celtics)
- Lonzo Ball (Phoenix)
- De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
- Kyle Kuzma (Orlando)
- John Collins (Chi)
- Dennis Smith (NYK)
- Josh Jackson (Dallas)
- Lauri Markanen (Kings)
Next five: OG, Jordan Bell, Bam, Kennard, Sterling Brown