Finding the next big thing is not always the simplest task, especially when it comes to the NBA Draft. Every prospect on draft night has been waiting their whole life to have Commissioner Adam Silver call their name. Many prospects have tons of hype surrounding them and expectations through the roof, others are diamonds in the rough, looking for their chance to shine. Regardless, pick number 1 or pick 60, each player has put in the time, the effort, and the work to get to their destination.
My favorite part of the NBA Draft has always been the player comparisons, I’ve always loved hearing that a player can be the next Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, or Kevin Garnett, just to name a few. In this year’s draft, prospects are looking more talented than ever, it is a cavernous, loaded draft with lottery gems deep into the first round. Who will be that franchise changing pick?
Let’s dive into the top five picks of the draft and their pro comparisons, I will also be breaking down some interesting draft prospects who can be a valuable piece for teams, going later in the draft.
TOP 5 PICKS:
- Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz
Weight: 195 lbs.
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
School: University of Washington
NBA Player Comparison: Gilbert Arenas/James Harden
Pros: Markelle Fultz will be the number one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, for many he is the most complete basketball player of the group of prospects. Fultz is a flat-out professional bucket getter putting up 23.2 points per game. He has the full arsenal when it comes to scoring, uses his body well against smaller defenders, while also using his shifty moves and quickness to get around bigger guys. Fultz’s sneaky athleticism allows him to play above the rim as well as taking and absorbing contact for a nice finish. Fultz can also create and be the best play-maker on the floor as well with his Harden-esque vision, averaging nearly 6 assists per game for the Huskies. Now with the Celtics taking Fultz at 1, what will happen with Isaiah Thomas? This will benefit the C’s in the long run for two reasons, adding another scoring threat and creator helps take tons of pressure of Thomas and if the Celtics end up not locking in IT4 for the long haul, Fultz is the point guard of the future in Bean Town. The Scoring of Arenas with the triple-double ability of James Harden makes Fultz as lethal as they come.
Cons: Now offensively Fultz has all the tools to become a star in the NBA for long time, but it is his intensity on the other side of the ball that needs a slight bit of work. With Markelle’s size and length, it should not be a problem for his to average over a steal a game. But he needs to commit to defense more often than just a few possessions a game. Other than that, the injury bug could be Fultz’s only downside, which is unfortunate because nobody knows when an injury could happen. A right knee injury kept Fultz from playing a full season at Washington, although his team only finished with 9 wins, it would be nice to see their star player night in and night out.
- Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball
Weight: 190 lbs.
Position: Point Guard
NBA Player Comparison: Jason Kidd
Pros: Everything about Lonzo’s game reminds me of all-time great point guard Jason Kidd, but with an exceptional outside jumper that Kidd did not really develop until later on in his career. Ball can do it all as a point guard, can score off isolation plays, can set up teammates off cuts, and is exceptional off the pick and roll/pick and pop. Now when Ball gets in transition and gets into a fast break he will give the Lakers hopeful flashbacks of the 80’s with is flashy passing ability and his ability to finish at the rim. At 6’6” he is a very tall and lanky point guard, which makes him a nightmare to guard and just like his predecessor Kidd, he can use that frame to his advantage. Lonzo was a wizard at UCLA, leading the NCAA in assists per game at 7.6, also leading the Bruins to a 29-4 record, and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the tourney. The Lake Show will be entering the Ball era with this pick, an unselfish player who can make players like D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram much better by getting these young guns the ball early and often in the game.
Cons: Lonzo is a very mellow player, who lets his game speak for himself, but the hype surrounding the kid could be the one thing that hurts him. With the Ball family introducing their own clothing and shoe company BBB – “Big Baller Brand” there is expectations that are through the roof that Ball might not be able to come close to early on in his career. His father, Lavar Ball promised many experts if Lonzo goes to the LA Lakers, the Purple and Gold will be reaching the playoffs. Besides the hype, Lonzo was also heavily criticized for his lack of care and many questioned his will to win after a loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. If Ball does prove his doubters wrong, he could truly be the player Lavar says he is. Otherwise, Ball can be in the depths of mediocrity if he doesn’t perform to the level is supposed to be on. The other knock on Lonzo’s game is his unconventional mechanics, his side-winding shot could be a problem to get off quickly with the speed of today’s NBA.
- Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson
Weight: 203 lbs.
Position: Small Forward
School: Kansas University
NBA Player Comparison: Jimmy Butler/Andre Iguodala
Pros: A very unselfish, hard-nosed, two way player with a nice basketball IQ is the perfect description for Jayhawks freshman Phenom Josh Jackson. Not to mention an athletic freak that NBA Scouts are drooling over, Jackson could finish with the best of them and with a solid overall shooting game, he can help Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and the 76ers on both sides of the ball. The Sixers would love to have Jackson who is versatile enough to create, bring up the ball alongside Ben Simmons, and in the open court the young, fresh legs of Sixers would be hard to stop. Jackson is all about the team he does not require plays drawn up for him to score. He can slash and cut for easy buckets as well, Simmons and Jackson would work very well off each other, and with his improving three point shot (38% from the outside), the Sixers can spread the floor a lot better than in years past.
Cons: Jackson does have a high motor but on offense his streakiness and lack of consistency can hurt him at times, although he won’t be the primary go-to guy in Philly, he still needs to have more 15-20 point nights than one 30 point game and then a bunch of 6-10 point games. Off the court issues could be another problem for Jackson as he had to be signed up for anger management courses at KU. Let’s hope that these issues do not transfer to his game on the court and in the next step of his career.
- Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum
Weight: 205 lbs.
Position: Small Forward
School: Duke University
NBA Player Comparison: Carmelo Anthony
Pros: With an exceptional isolation game that includes an array of mid-range shots, outside shots, post-up moves, and getting to the basketball at will, Jayson Tatum from Duke has shown flashes of Carmelo Anthony and with the Suns needing someone to become a promising scorer at the forward position, Tatum is for sure go. In his freshman season at Duke, Tatum lived up to the hype as a five-star recruit, averaging 16.8 ppg, along with 7.3 rebounds per game, while shooting an efficient 50.4% from inside the three point line, 34% from three, and a little over 84% from the charity stripe, this kid can flat out get buckets. Coach K had very high praise for Tatum, leading the Blue Devils to a 28-9 record and an ACC tournament victory. The Suns will love to have Tatum, and with excellent young pieces such as Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss to build around, Tatum will have no problem fitting in.
Cons: Tatum has a very high IQ for the game, but there are some flaws to his game. With every great scorer comes the mentality that every shot can and will go in, Tatum can be streaky at times, and can settle for shots that didn’t necessarily fit Coach K’s offense. Tatum also is not too much of a creator and a play maker and as a wing in today’s NBA, forwards need to be able to become stat stuffers. Tatum has shown that he can play defense, but he does take some nights off, we need to see more consistency on commitment to both sides of the ball.
- Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox
Weight: 187 lbs.
Position: Point Guard
School: University of Kentucky
NBA Player Comparison: John Wall
Pros: Another Kentucky guard going in the top ten of the NBA draft, you don’t say? The University of Kentucky has produces some of the best and exciting guards to watch in the league. Fox will be next of the bunch to showcase Kentucky Blue on the NBA Hardwood. Fox is a very athletic, swift, and speedy guard with the ability to create one man fast-breaks and get to the rim with ease, not to mention play top notch defense, which is just what the Kings desperately need. Fox has many similarities to Wall with the athleticism, vision, hustle, and defense but one thing Fox has an edge on Wall coming out of UK was his jumper, Fox can hit outside shots much better than Wall could. Fox would join former Kentucky big men, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere who are perfect for De’ Aaron’s get it and go style, the Kings are once again in true rebuild mode, and in the 2017 NBA Draft the Kings point guard troubles will be solved. He will bring passion and excitement to the Golden 1 Center in Sac Town.
Cons: Now I did say that Fox was a better shooter than Wall, but it does not mean the guy is Stephen Curry, the lefty needs to steadily improve his overall outside game especially in today’s game to be one of the leagues greats. Another aspect of his game that needs improvement is turnovers, just like Wall was out of Kentucky, Fox needs to cut down on the unnecessary mistakes and play smarter overall basketball. He is a very fast player who does not like to switch gears and slow it down very often. If he cleans those parts of his game up, he will be a very dangerous player going forward.
LATE ROUND VALUE:
Now as the rest of draft goes, there are many high value prospects who can go late in the lottery or even slip to the end of the first round, here are a few names to be aware of come draft night.
-Harry Giles, 6’10, F/C, Duke
The only thing that is truly stopping Giles from becoming a top 5-8 pick in the NBA Draft is his durability and his inconsistency at Duke. If you solely look at the body of work for Harry Giles, he is an absolute finisher around the rim and can alter shots on defense, he will be a nice pick up for any team in the draft from picks 18 on, and he reminds me of a young Amar’e Stoudemire but with more competitiveness on defense.
-Ivan Rabb, 6’11”, F/C, California
Ivan Rabb plays like a traditional big man in NBA, which feels outdated now a days, but for a guy 6’11”/220 with as quick feet as Rabb’s he will be a nightmare for years to come. He has a similar face-up/back to the basket game as Chris Bosh, and can rebound exceptionally well, if he were to enter the draft in 2016 Rabb would be in the Lottery no doubt. Now his stock has dropped slightly, but it just means Rabb is a value pick up for teams looking for length, and post presence late in the first round.
-Jordan Bell, 6’9”, Center, Oregon
When you think versatile defenders who can change the game due to their presence and ability to guard multiple positions, many think of Warriors forward, Draymond Green. A player undersized at his true position at power forward but can do many things a traditional big can’t. Enter Jordan Bell, a junior from Oregon who has shown he can be just as versatile on defense by using his strength and quickness to lock down guards and wings, while grabbing boards like a 7-footer. He is someone teams would love to have coming off the bench to provide high energy and a spark when his team needs it.
Written By: Daniel Malakismail