Now that the 2016 NBA draft has played out and the Philadelphia 76ers have yet another young, talented prospect to introduce to losing, it’s time we shifted our focus towards the 2017 NBA draft! What about 2016 free agency and the actual season, you ask? Psht, been there, done that.
Depending on the year, predicting the top pick in a draft that is almost 12 months away is about as tough as predicting whether the aforementioned 76ers will ever dig themselves out of this hole.
The very top of the NBA draft is constantly filled with “one-and-dones” these days. The multi-million dollar contract that goes along with being a top-five pick is too tough to pass up, especially when the alternative is putting millions in other people’s pockets while getting zero for yourself. (I know what my decision will be when my big contract comes… sigh, it’s not too late, right?)
That said, we still see a handful of seniors turn into first-round picks after their final season (see Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine). Can any of this year’s upperclassmen pull a massive upset and go first overall? (No!)
Here are the odds to go first in the 2017 NBA draft.
Odds to go first overall in the 2017 NBA draft
Harry Giles (PF, Duke): 8/3
If Harry Giles had not suffered his second torn ACL in November, he would be the heavy favorite to be the top pick. Instead, he’s only a slight favorite until he proves that his knee can withstand a season in the NCAA.
The 6’10” power forward has a rare combination of coordination and fluidity for a player of his stature. His ability to handle the ball in the open court and shoot from the outside has everyone screaming Anthony Davis.
Giles has NBA scouts drooling over his athleticism, but it is his flair for protecting the rim and his developing offensive game that has him ranked above the rest of the class. Let’s just hope the second knee injury doesn’t take too much of a toll on the future Blue Devil.
Rivals has Josh Jackson rated as the top prospect in the nation, but NBA scouts will covet Giles’ extra few inches of height in the 2017 draft.
Josh Jackson (SG/SF, Kansas): 3/1
Jackson may be the most NBA-ready of all the candidates. The reasons for that are manifold: he’s already 19 years old and has supreme athleticism, an aggressive nature, and is excellent on defense. NBA scouts are hoping that the future Jayhawk can fine-tune his jumper and ball handling. Every other part of his game looks ready for the pros.
If Jackson leads Kansas to its second National Championship in the Bill Self-era, he could edge past Giles as the favorite. Of course, as Ben Simmons showed this year, you don’t have to be on a winner to go number one.
Dennis Smith Jr. (PG, NC State): 19/2
One thing is certain, if you’re an NBA team who needs a point guard, you’ll be able to find one in the lottery picks of the 2017 draft. There are about five names that are being shuffled as the best of the bunch. Dennis Smith Jr. is my pick of the group.
If anything happens to Giles or Jackson – or they don’t live up to the hype – and a PG-needy team has the no. 1 pick, Smith could be first on stage. (He’d be the first NC State player to go first overall since David Thompson in 1975.)
Smith fell on a lot of early draft boards after he tore his ACL in August, but his showing at the North Carolina CP3 Elite Camp kept me on the bandwagon. Not only did he show he’s every bit as explosive as before, but also proved that he can lock up top guards on the defensive end. Smith’s athleticism has the Russell Westbrook comparisons coming in, but his shot is further along than Westbrook’s was coming out of high school.
Markelle Fultz (PG, Washington): 10/1
If Dennis Smith Jr. were not a part of this class, all the point-guard focus would be on Markelle Fultz (and a lot of it still is). Fultz is not far behind Smith. I see him as more of a 1B than a true runner-up in the PG rankings.
Another explosive guard, Fultz has displayed dominance in transition, a silky-smooth jumper, the ability to shoot from range, and ample creativity working out of pick-n’-roll situations. His ability to score from anywhere on the court allows him to play the two spot if need be, and we know the NBA craves combo guards.
When it comes to a straight-up comparison with Smith, Fultz is a better passer, but doesn’t have quite the same burst.
Jonathan Isaac (SF/PF, Florida State): 12/1
Every year seems to bring “the next Kevin Durant.” This year, it was Brandon Ingram. The 2017 version is Jonathan Isaac. Not only does Isaac have Durant-like length, but he also has the devastating crossover and step-back jumper to go with it.
The soon-to-be Seminole debated entering the 2016 draft (via the Thon Maker loophole), but ultimately decided that he was not physically prepared for the NBA. The 6’10” forward only tips the scales at 205 pounds.
Another 19-year-old (like Jackson), Isaac’s extra year of development should help him dominate the ACC this season.
(Photo Credit: Brent Soderberg (flickr – DSC04904) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/])