The hype for the 2017 NBA draft class was unreal. After years of so-so draft talent pools, it was expected that this would be the year where many of the teams would be able to end up with some high quality talent. Teams that deliberately tanked in hopes of winning the draft lottery, as well as those that ended up with mid-first round picks all had visions of drafting a special player.
The Philadelphia 76ers took Markelle Fultz first overall, the L.A. Lakers obviously took Lonzo Ball second, and the Boston Celtics (via trade) selected Jayson Tatum third overall. As it turned out, only a handful of first round draft picks haven’t appeared in an NBA game yet. While that is an impressive showing for the draft class, it also increases the expectations on the players in the minds of the fans and the teams.
Kyle Kuzma, drafted 27th overall, has been a revelation for the L.A. Lakers in his rookie season. Likewise, Jayson Tatum (3rd) has looked like a special talent for the Boston Celtics. However, for all the success stories coming out of this draft class, there have also been a number of players who have fell below expectations and may risk coming out of this season looking like a bust!
With many of the rookies having went through a half season of NBA action, we are starting to get a better idea of who the real talents are already. Let’s take a look at which NBA rookies already have given signs of being a bust.
15 Markelle Fultz - 1st Overall, Philadelphia 76ers
We start off with Markelle Fultz, who has arguably been one of the biggest disappointments of the NBA season thus far. After the 76ers drafted him with the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, Fultz got off to a poor start this season. It became very clear that he should not have been on the court while he was dealing with a shoulder issue.
This injury affected his ability to take shots and play good defense, which has caused him to struggle considerably.
While Fultz is a very talented player, one cannot help but wonder if these struggles will stunt his growth and maturity in the NBA. We can only hope that his struggles do not hamper his ability to continue to develop as a player, or else he may come out being a major draft bust.
14 Lonzo Ball - 2nd Overall, L.A. Lakers
Don’t tell LaVar this, but Lonzo Ball is in jeopardy of turning out to be a draft bust already. Ball was heavily hyped leading up to the draft as being someone who could help to significantly change the Lakers’ fortunes. So far, that hasn’t been the case. While Ball may turn out to be good player, he has so far not looked like someone who was worthy of a top 3 pick in the 2017 draft. Moreover, Ball hasn’t even been the best rookie on the L.A. Lakers this year. Kyle Kuzma, drafted 27th overall in 2017, has so far looked like a better player than Ball – much to the surprise of the Lakers. It is a warning sign that Ball might be a bust when there are other rookies drafted much later than him, on his own team, who have so far outperformed him.
13 Zach Collins - 10th Overall, Portland Trail Blazers
Zach Collins was drafted 10th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. While the Trail Blazers have done respectably well this season, Collins has not done much to help his team’s cause. He was regarded as a player with loads of potential, though patience would be needed as Collins needed to develop strength.
His lack of strength and refinement has shown, as he is overmatched by the other team on a nightly basis.
Moreover, Collins has yet to remain consistent offensively. He has struggled to receive playing time given how well some of the other players are performing, so perhaps a trip to G-League would serve him well. Regardless, Collins outlook might start to come into question if he continues to struggle on both sides of the court.
12 Terrance Ferguson - 21st Overall - OKC Thunder
Terrance Ferguson, drafted 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, jumped right onto a team with ambitions of dethroning the Golden State Warriors atop the Western Conference. That is a tall task to handle for any 19-year-old rookie, let alone a rookie who was expected to be a starter by the end of the year, like Ferguson was. So far, Ferguson appears to have let the pressure get to him and has failed to adapt to the NBA’s style of play. Though Ferguson will continue to get a long leash for the time being, the Thunder desperately need him to figure it out sooner or later. The Thunder’s second unit will need to be more productive if they want to have a long playoff run, and that starts with Ferguson.
11 D.J. Wilson - 17th Overall, Milwaukee Bucks
D.J. Wilson found himself in a tough spot when he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 17th overall pick last year. The Bucks have found themselves in the midst of a push for a playoff spot, and Wilson has not had much of a chance to prove that he can compete at the highest level.
Wilson has not done much to warrant the Bucks giving him increased playing time.
In that limited sample size, Wilson has come off looking very slow and is a huge defensive liability for the Bucks. Jason Kidd didn’t seem to trust Wilson, so maybe new head coach Joe Prunty will give Wilson more consideration. The best thing for Wilson might be a prolonged stint in the G-League, as he does seem ready at all.
10 Jonathan Isaac - 6th Overall - Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic were another team that thought they had struck gold when they landed Jonathan Isaac 6th overall. With as deep a pool as 2017 was, the Magic had to feel good about their chances of landing a quality player. Instead, Isaac has played very poorly this year, albeit in limited playing time, for a team that is clearly in rebuilding mode. It’s a big warning sign that the Magic aren’t letting a rookie get regular playing time. Moreover, it shows they clearly have lost faith in him when they are letting him ride the bench, rather than actually playing him or letting him play in the G-league. If Isaac does not start getting more playing time somewhere, it can only mean bad things for his future in the NBA.
9 Luke Kennard - 12th Overall - Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons have made some interesting draft choices in recent years, to say the least. Since Stanley Johnson has been exposed as a flop, the Pistons have been desperate search of a quality player on the wings. This led to them drafting Luke Kennard in 2017, and then immediately turning to him as their primary shooting guard off the bench.
The problem is that Kennard lacks a consistent shooting stroke, and has been wholly unreliable from the field for the Pistons.
While there is still time in his young career for him to work on developing his three-point stroke, it looks like he still requires a lot of work to get there. Kennard needs to find a way to improve his confidence as well as his shooting stroke and shot selection or else he may risk turning into a bust!
8 Justin Jackson - 15th Overall, Sacramento Kings
Justin Jackson is yet another one of those rookies who start out red-hot right out of the gates, before suddenly crashing into that rookie wall. After a highly promising month of November for the Sacramento Kings, the 22-year-old small forward suddenly struggled to make shots consistently. Between that and his lack of value in other areas, Jackson has followed out of the starting rotation. The Kings are certainly hoping Jackson is able to figure something out and that his career begins to reflect the type of player he was during his time at North Carolina, where he was a reliable offensive threat. So far, Jackson hasn’t shown much ability to do that at the NBA level, so he must wind up on the list of NBA rookies who already look like busts!
7 De'Aaron Fox - 5th Overall, Sacramento Kings
In all fairness, this was a tough one. De’Aaron Fox’s statistics this season have been far from pretty, though he has shown some glimpses of his stellar potential that led to the Sacramento Kings drafting him 5th overall. The problem is that, so far at least, Fox has done very little to justify being selected that high in the draft. Fox has committed a lot of turnovers, has a poor assists percentage, and has not been successful in taking shots from the field so far.
He received a lot of hype for his athleticism and attacking and, to Fox’s credit, he has lived up to expectations in those respects so far.
It remains to be seen how good of a career Fox will end having in the NBA, and while he still has long-term potential, his first season in the NBA has been far from desirable for Fox and the Sacramento Kings.
6 Tyler Lydon - 24th Overall, Utah Jazz
Tyler Lydon was drafted towards the end of the first round, as he was chosen 24th overall by the Utah Jazz. Normally, players taken later on in the first round are not expected to be as successful and talented as those selected earlier. However, the 2017 draft class was unusually deep which led to some fairly strong players being taken this late. As a result, there have been greater than normal expectations for players such as Lydon.
Unfortunately, Lydon has failed to perform to expectations to this point in his rookie season. Many of the other players have spent some good time in the NBA, while Lydon has performed merely adequately in the G-League. In Lydon’s defense though, his season will be cut short due to his recent knee injury.
5 Caleb Swanigan - 26th Overall, Portland Trail Blazers
Caleb Swanigan would be another late first round pick who makes this list. The 20-year-old power forward was drafted 26th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, but has only been used sparingly so far. That is never a good sign for a young player taken in the first round! In fact, Swanigan has only averaged 8.6 minutes in 16 games so far this season. There has been a great deal of debate within Portland about how to use Swanigan – either at center or at power forward where he will be against much quicker athletes.
The main knock on Swanigan has always been that he is a lot slower (he is 6’8, 250 lbs, after all), so he represents more of a traditional big that the NBA is slowly shying away from.
In any event, Swanigan will need to work on his shot selection if he wants to have a lasting career in the NBA.
4 Guerschon Yabusele - 16th Overall, Boston Celtics
Guerschon Yabusele is another player who appears on this list for very, very good reason. He was an interesting choice by the Boston Celtics from day one, who took Yabusele 16th overall in 2016. Yabusele is still a rookie since he was still overseas in France for the 2016-17 season.
The early returns on their investment have not looked good, as it has become very obvious that he needs to spend a lot more time in the gym. Since Yabusele has looked somewhat weak and slow on the court, time in the gym may help him make the adjustment to the NBA. That may not be the best thing to hear for Celtics fans who expected more out of their draft pick, but it’s true, considering he has averaged about 3.5 points.
3 Frank Ntilikina - 8th Overall, New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina was a very bold choice made by the New York Knicks, with the eighth overall pick. He arrived in the NBA from France where he played for a few seasons. Ntilikina was known to be a “pass first” type of guard, which drew some intrigue amongst a few teams. However, Ntilikina has struggled to adapt to the flashy, new surrounding of New York.
Even though the season may not be over yet, he has not looked like he was worth being drafted as high as he was.
Other rookies, such as Dennis Smith Jr., have outperformed him despite being drafted later on. It also says a lot when LeBron James critiqued the Knicks for passing up the opportunity to take Smith Jr., unintentionally throwing shade at Ntilikina in the process. Bottom line: Ntilikina does not appear to be ready for NBA basketball.
2 Malik Monk: 13th Overall, Charlotte Hornets
Malik Monk hasn’t looked like the type of player who will help transform the Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Hornets into a championship calibre team. To this point in his rookie season, there has been admittedly very little that has gone right for Monk. While he has taken care of the ball, his shooting percentages are abysmal and he is currently the owner of one of the league’s worst real plus-minus. In other words, Monk has been unreliable and inconsistent both offensively and defensively. It is no wonder that Malik Monk, 11th overall pick in 2017, has fallen out of the Hornets’ rotation!
1 Josh Jackson: 4th Overall, Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson was believed to have been the best all-around player in the 2017 NBA Draft, yet he fell to the Phoenix Suns with the 4th overall pick. With all the hype in the world surrounding him, Jackson got off to a very poor start. For most of the season so far, he has averaged around 9 points per game and continues to hold an abysmal shooting percentage. This has sometimes led to Suns coach Jay Triano leaving him on the bench for most, or all, of the game. Needless to say, this is not what the Suns were hoping for when they though they snagged the best draft rookie.
Phoenix is in a tailspin right now, which is not the best atmosphere to introduce a top rookie to the NBA.
Hopefully this doesn’t prove to be too detrimental to Jackson’s development, and end up turning him into a huge draft bust!