While the majority of the focus is on the first round this year, it’s imperative that the second tier of NBA Draft talents aren’t overlooked.
Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
The 2017 NBA Draft class continues to impress with the level of talent available. With the 2016-17 college season beginning in somewhat surprising fashion, there have been several faces — both expected and unexpected — that have established themselves as prominent figures across draft boards.
The first round prospects, however, aren’t the only ones worth monitoring. While the Philadelphia 76ers are seemingly en route to two lottery picks this upcoming season, the second round can still play a key role in filling out a still-developing roster.
Richaun Holmes, who was a second round pick two drafts ago, now has a legitimate argument to be the backup center of the future moving forwards. K.J. McDaniels cracked his way into the league with a big rookie season for the Sixers out of the second round a few years back as well, while Robert Covington was a Rockets’ second rounder as well.
There is always a handful of highly vluable players that come off the board in the second round, it’s simply a matter of locating those potential gems ahead of time from the scouts’ perspective.
Therefore, this continuation of my 3rd 2017 NBA Draft Big Board details the second echelon of talents projected to make their way into the NBA next season.
Lessort has quietly emerged as a foreigner worth watching as the draft edges closer. While he’s somewhat undersized for the power forward position by traditional standards, he’s an excellent athlete at 6-9 who boasts some nice defensive versatility. He can step out to the perimeter and guard multiple positions with a fairly high success rate, and is well known for his hustle on both sides of the ball. He’s a limited offensive players outside of the painted area, but has the two-way potential of a quality energy player that’s worth keeping tabs on.
Standing at 6-8 with a 6-11 wingspan, Hicks’ physical tools — at one point — made him a top 20 recruit entering the college level. While his career with North Carolina hasn’t quite lived up to some of his earlier expectations, he has still found several avenues of success. His rather unimpressive offensive game is balanced out by excellent instincts on the defensive side of the ball, and some nice athletic tools that could bode well for his positional versatility at the next level. He’s another flexible defensive plug-in at the four spot, and possesses an impressive amount of energy on the boards — although he doesn’t excel in that capacity quite yet. Hicks has shown promise as a straight-line attacker offensively, but must smooth out his game on that side of the floor in a substantial manner to be effective.
58. PG Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of Briscoe’s game in terms of it translating to the next level, but it’s difficult to argue against production. In the middle of the country’s most talented backcourt with Kentucky, Briscoe has emerged as the most polished playmaker and a leadership figure of sorts for a youthful Wildcats rotation. The sophomore’s strong frame is a nice tool for his defensive effectiveness at the next level, and he has the court vision needed to run an offense when called upon. He has shown prowess as a spot-up shooter as well, but there’s not much to trust off the dribble at this stage. Briscoe is a straight-line attacker who can pace the offense and has a nice defensive pedigree to fall back on.
57. SF Justin Jackson, North Carolina
I’ve been continually unimpressed with Jackson this season, leading to a steeper and steeper drop down my big board. His length bodes well for his scoring prowess at the next level, but he’s still underdeveloped physically — a concern for a junior who’s almost 22. He hasn’t shown the shooting consistency from deep, nor the defensive chops to sustain a spot much higher than this for the time being, albeit the potential does still exist. He’s a tantalizing scorer when he does manage to find his stroke, and has all the tools needed to develop into a quality two-way wing. He simply hasn’t shown signs of applying them, yet.
56. SG Blaz Mesicek, Olimpija Ljubljana
Mesicek is a largely raw talent out of foreign waters, but brings intriguing upside to the wing. He’s a wiry scorer, who has shown nice flashes off pouring in points at a high clip. He’s frail in build and will struggle rather immensely on the defensive end early on, but counters that will nice athletic tools — including a decent level of explosiveness off the bounce. Mesicek can score in bunches, and that would be his most immediate impact at the next level. With that said, he’s more of a long term project than an NBA-ready piece. Expect him to be stashed overseas for a couple of seasons, potentially.
While Slavica is relatively unproven, the potential is certainly there. He’s an excellent athlete on the wing at 6-7, displaying excellent athleticism and boasting the ability to play above the rim with ease. He has a strong shooting stroke from outside as well, which puts all the tools in place for him to develop into a quality offensive option long term. The concerns here lie in his consistency, as he’s a below-par finisher at the rim when he’s not dunking the ball, and can experience fairly drastic bouts of ineffectiveness from time to time. Like most draft-and-stash options, he’s a long term prospect with reasonable promise from overseas.
Hayes has been a fan favorite for several years now, as the Wisconsin senior who help lead the Frank Kaminsky-led Badgers to the championship game a few years back will finally be making his way to the next level. His frame is well-developed for the next level, and his size bodes well as a mulitpositional defender at the next level. He’s somewhat unreliable offensively at times, as his 3-point shot hasn’t always been a consistent entity when he’s in the game. In terms of high-energy athletes, it’s tough to picture a much better late second rounder than Hayes though. He has a winning attitude to boot, and based on credentials alone deserves a spot in these rankings.
53. SG Andrew White, Syracuse
White is a solid 3-and-D prospect, although his game is somewhat limited outside of those respective attributes. He moves well without the ball in his hands, and is a fluid, consistent catch-and-shoot option from deep. He has some prowess as a pull-up shooter as well, but hasn’t necessarily mastered his ball handling to the utmost extent at this point. White’s solid frame projects well defensively as well, thus the aforementioned label of a 3-and-D prospect. He’s somebody who, despite some limitations and being 23 years of age already, should find his way onto most big boards.
52. SF Devin Robinson, Florida
Robinson provides a nice boost of versatility to the perimeter, something he has shown time and time again with Florida. At 6-7, he’s a strong athlete with a smooth jumper from the outside — although his percentage, at just under 32 percent, could ideally improve. He has filled a number of niches for the Gators during his tenure thus far, all with varying levels of success. He hasn’t lived up to some of his expectations coming in, but projects well as somebody who is capable of carving out space as a floor spacer and defending well on the other end as well. Robinson has also shown a knack for providing excellent energy on the boards, a positive from the three spot.
51. PF Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
While he’s not a lock to commit to this year’s draft, Anigbogu has been generating some conversation as a potential sleeper — despite a limited role thus far. With excellent athletic tools at 6-9, he has shown great effort on the defensive side of the ball and on the glass, while possessing explosive finishing ability at the rim on offense. He plays more of a center’s game at this point, a slight concern given his height, but he has the physical tools needed to develop into a nice energy piece at the next level. He’s a highly limited offensive player, but has shown immense prowess in the past as a shot blocker, despite being just 6-9.
Iwundu is a solid athlete by NBA standards, and continues to project well as someone who could slide nicely into a role player niche at the next level. The senior has a solid build at 6-7 with ample athleticism to spare, albeit he’s somewhat limited in his ability to fully utilize it. He’s a strong finisher on straight-line drives and has shown that he’s a capable perimeter shooter (33 percent), although he could certainly improve in that regard. Iwundu knows how to play within the offense and make the smart pass with the basketball, a positive in almost any scenario. He needs to work on ball handling and avoiding turnovers in the process, though.
49. SF Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Bates-Diop has a rather impressive set of physical tools to fall back on here. His wingspan is in the ballpark of 7-4, which bodes well for his defensive versatility on the perimeter at 6-7. He’s still a bit on the thin side and relatively raw in several aspects of his game, but the tools are clearly in place. His jumper has improved since his high school days, shooting 33 percent from deep, but he struggles to create off the bounce. He’s a viable slasher though, and should be able to carve out more success in that regard as his frame fills out. He’s a quality energy player with nice 3-and-D upside for a second rounder.
Standing at 6-7 with a 6-10 wingspan, Blossomgame’s strong frame projects well at the next level. He’s an excellent athlete at the basket, and has the strength and explosiveness needed to make the NBA transition. Where his most pressing concern lies is his shooting, plain and simple. He’s shooting a mere 14 percent from beyond the arc, and has a very limited offensive arsenal outside of drives to the basket at this point. He has the tools to play small ball four from time to time, and projects well as a solid athlete on both sides of the ball. His stock would rise tremendously if he could show a greater shot-making capability.
47. SF V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame
At 6-8, Beachem’s NBA success hinges on one major factor — his outside shooting. Although he has nice physical tools, Beachem simply doesn’t overwhelm his opponents from an athletic standpoint. He works well off the ball, moving around screens and remaining pleasantly agile for a wing of his size on the outside. Beachem is a smooth shooter in catch-and-shoot scenarios, and is the most prolific option Notre Dame currently has from beyond the arc. He’s shooting just 36 percent thus far this season, albeit that does come from a fairly extensive volume of over 6 attempts per game. He’s a role player who fills the 3-and-D niche to a proverbial T.
46. SF Malcolm Hill, Illinois
Hill is a somewhat lackluster athlete at 6-6, but has a solid frame–weighing 230 pounds–and brings a great deal of intelligence to the court when he’s in the game. He doesn’t explode off the dribble, but Hill is capable of prodding his way through the defense and making sharp, quick decisions with the basketball. Hill has also shown nice shooting touch this season, hitting on 48 percent of his shots from deep thus far. Such a smart, well-calculated style of play is something that could fill in nicely as a role player at the next level. He’s also young for a senior, at just 21-years-old.
Svi has shown some signs of life this season, but still has fallen short of overarching expectations. As an athletic 6-9 wing with a smooth shooting stoke, the upside has always been a factor in Mykhailiuk’s draft stock — he simply hasn’t been able to apply it on the court. His strong shooting is inconsistent and he lacks offensive inclusion at times, as his awareness doesn’t always leave him in the best of positions. He tends to get too comfortable on the perimeter at times, and doesn’t have the off-ball movement he needs to be successful.
Boucher is an incredibly interesting prospect all-around. At 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan, Boucher’s excellent athleticism around the basket is joined by a rail-thin frame. He’s a dominant rim protector from a collegiate perspective, but could have trouble translating that over to the next level early on given his strength. Regardless, Boucher’s energy and unique versatility is worthy of a second round gamble. He has the mobility to stretch out to the perimeter, and has shown brief flashes of outside shooting. As a high energy guy on both ends of the floor, Boucher’s physical development — and being just 24 years of age — are his primary concerns.
43. PG Frank Mason III, Kansas
Mason has dominated the college ranks so far during his senior campaign. As the Jayhawks’ primary offensive cog, his explosive scoring prowess and apt playmaking has stood out in a talented rotation — despite his 5-11 stature. Mason is small by NBA standards, but has the athletic tools needed to carve out a role regardless. He’s quick off the dribble, and has a strong frame for a player of his size. Also, his ability to find space off the bounce and knock down shots at an electric rate has made him one of the country’s most prominent offensive threats. There will be the obvious defensive concerns, but Mason has shown he can play the game against real talent. Much like Tyler Ulis and Kay Felder from last season, I expect him to find a spot on draft night. That’s only compounded by the fact that he’s 3 inches taller than those two.
42. PF Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Motley is off to an impressive start with the Bears thus far, and has gradually crept up my big board accordingly. He has excellent length and mobility at 6-9, and has shown that he can utilize his athletic tools on both sides of the basketball. He’s a fluid scorer on the low block, with a series of hook shots and turn-around moves he can rely on. In addition, he has shown immense defensive upside, moving his feet well in rotation and having the elevation needed to block shots at a high clip. He’s an incredibly energetic two-way piece, and has found ample success in several facets so far in 2016. He could continue to rise up draft boards if his play continues.
41. PF Alpha Kaba, Mega Leks
Kaba is an athletic French big man with some quality attributes as a long-term project. He has a tremendous 7-6 wingspan to flash alongside a solid, and continually improving, 6-10 frame, and has shown immense potential as a shot blocker as a result. He’s mobile underneath the basket, and has the energy needed to bother shots and hit the boards at a fairly high level already. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress, but one that has shown some nice flashes. He’s shooting 30 percent from 3-point range in the Adriatic League — a promising development — and has the primary stages of an evolving post game. He’s still getting a feel for the game at the professional level overseas, so there’s obviously some leeway in terms of just when he’ll be ready for the NBA. With that said, the tools are undeniable.
Peters, in the eyes of some, has emerged as a potential first round talent — although I’m not ready to jump onto that boat quite yet. With that said, Peters has been playing at an extremely high level for Valparaiso so far this season, as the stretch four is averaging nearly 24 points per game. His outside shooting percentage has dipped to concerning levels at 24 percent, but he’s a proven catch-and-shoot threat on the perimeter nonetheless. He’s been able to get more involved in the offense this season, with additional diversity that bodes well for his NBA prospects. His athletic tools aren’t great by NBA standards, however, so improved consistency from deep would be beneficial.
Hart is another smart playmaker on the wing, and one who proved to be pivotal in Villanova’s title run last season. While he lacks the typical physical tools of an elite NBA prospect, Hart’s on-court savvy, alongside a well-refined skill set, make him somebody capable of carving out a niche as a role player in the NBA. Hart’s a solid ball handler on the wing, and is incredibly adept at playing within the flow of the offensive scheme. He’s shooting 44 percent from deep so far in his senior campaign, and has the ability to position his body and find crevasses in the defense in order create plays that few younger players possess. Hart’s smart offensive play coincides with solid defense as well, which makes him yet another solid 3-and-D prospect to look at.
38. SF Rodions Kurucs, Barcelona
Kurucs has risen up many draft boards as of late, but I still have some glaring concerns that keep him out of the top 30. He’s a smooth athlete on the wing and has shown a nice knack for creating space and knocking down jumpers, but his awkward form and lack of strength are a bit concerning. He likes to drive down the lane to search of floaters around the rim, and could get bullied a bit by stronger opposition early on. Kurucs has nice potential as a perimeter shooter, however, and boasts a nice 6-8 frame that should continue to fill out in time. It’s a matter of developing his skills, more so than attaining them.
37. SF Aleksander Vezenkov, Barcelona
Vezenkov was one of my favorite under-the-radar first round talents–two years ago. And while the depth of the draft doesn’t allow him into the top 30 quite yet, his combination of improved strength and a well-rounded skill set make him an intriguing foreign prospect. Standing at 6-9, Vezenkov’s natural position has been the power forward spot, but his aptness as a three at times is certainly viable. He’s a smooth shooter from beyond the arc, and is becoming increasingly capable of putting the ball on the floor and creating off the dribble with success. He’s not all that athletic, which hurts his stock a bit, but he’s plenty energetic on both ends of the floor, and has been a highly efficient spark plug offensively with all his teams overseas.
36. SG Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
The ultra-athletic sophomore is performing quite well to kick off his second campaign with FSU, showing some necessary improvements to keep him on draft radars. Bacon is a well-constructed athlete at 6-7, and presents the versatility needed to play at the next level. He’s extremely explosive off the bounce, and among the more exhilarating above-the-rim finishers you’ll find at the college level when he gets the chance to play in space. He’s still relatively raw offensively, but has shown much-needed signs of life as a shooter. His percentage from deep is up to a more-than-respectable 40 percent, and he has increased ball handling consistency as well. He’s a woeful defender and times and has to improve his feel for the game, but all the tools are firmly in place.
Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
35. PG Monte Morris, Iowa State
Morris has been thrown around over the past couple of seasons as a solid second round point guard. He’s not the most explosive playmaker, but he’s very smart with the ball in his hands and has an excellent understanding of how to operate an offense at a high level. He excels dribbling off of screens, and has an excellent eye in the passing game when operating off the bounce. He doesn’t score at a tremendously high clip, nor does he file in as an elite athlete. With that said, he’s a steady hand who could fill an immediate role at the next level.
Bridges, athletically, measures out very well for the next level. He’s 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan on the wing, and has excellent lateral mobility that transfers well to the defensive side of the ball. As one of the team’s most productive reserves during their national championship run, Bridges’ 3-and-D presence projects nicely as a role player. He’s an excellent cutter offensively, and is currently shooting a strong 41 percent from deep through 9 games. He’s a reliable spot-up option on the outside, and has the defensive prowess needed to cover a handful of positions at the next level effectively. There are kinks in his game, but there’s still a lot to like about Bridges as an NBA prospect.
33. PF Cameron Oliver, Nevada
Oliver is a a bulky 6-8 at the four spot, relying on strength and energy to carve out opportunities on both sides of the basketball. With an NBA-ready frame, Oliver’s potential as an immediate role player off the bench is something that should appeal to a number of teams come draft night. He utilizes his frame to create space on the low block, with a nice set of floaters and hook shots that he can turn to. Defensively, he’s blocking over 3 shots per game – -and impressive hustle stat for a 6-8 forward. He’s an ideal high-energy athlete for the next level, and somebody more teams should continue to look at.
32. PF Robert Williams, Texas A&M
Williams has quickly made his way up numerous big boards with his excellent play thus far. Standing at 6-9, Williams’ physical tools are what project best at the next level. He is undersized for the four spot, but possesses a 7-4 wingspan and excellent mobility — which he relies on to make countless effort plays defensively. His scoring arsenal doesn’t display much polish yet, but he continues to display flashes of offensive potential. Williams is a strong finisher above the rim, and excels running the floor in transition. He’s going to rely on defense as his calling card at the next level, but his ability to get into the open court and run is a nice boost for NBA scouting purposes.
Rounding out the second tier of talents, Evans has quickly emerged as one of college ball’s most dominant players. Despite a fairly slight build — 6-1, 177 pounds — Evan’s athleticism and knack for high-volume scoring has allowed him to emerge as a viable weapon by NBA Standards. He’s highly explosive off the bounce, and possesses a quick first step and crafty ball handling skills that help him get into the teeth of the defense and create opportunities, both for himself and for others. He feasts when playing in transition, and has shown a much-improved ability to hit shots that he was more reluctant to take during his prior freshman campaign Evans is nailing a gaudy 53 percent of his 3-point shots right now, and has emerged as an unexpectedly efficient scoring machine — tallying over 23 points per contest in the process.