College basketball is a very odd business. Young men work their butts off for the school they attend but receive no compensation for their efforts. Time and time again, the NCAA has been criticized for taking in millions of dollars in profit but not distributing any wealth to the student athletes. They often argue that the students receive education, and this is sufficient enough. The 2017 NBA Draft will bring some very talented players to the professional level. As March Madness proceeds, athletes are graded based upon their performance. March Madness is a truly special time, in which some of the NCAA's underdog teams get their platform to show off their legitimate talent.
In the first round, Florida proved itself to be an underrated team. KeVaughn Allen is a proven sophomore, and is an example of a player who could be a underrated draft pick in the near future. March Madness is a truly special time, in which some of the NCAA's underdog teams get the platform to show off their legitimate talent.
This year, NBA teams will strategize - as they do every year - as to which prospect will make their team significantly better, now, or in the future. Many times, teams fail to do this. Thus, a classic Kwame Brown like "bust" is always a possibility with these guys.
15 Steal: Caleb Swanigan
Caleb Swanigan performed very well in the NCAA Tournament. In the first game against Vermont, he put up 16 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. Along with Vince Edwards, he had a stellar season. He averaged 18.5 PPG and 12.6 RPG in regular season play. The sophomore is presumably going to enter the NBA Draft, and won't be necessarily marked as a very high pick. As of March 27 - 2017 - He is projected to be the 27th overall pick according to NBAdraft.net.
This projection may be subject to change but, ultimately, he will not be a lottery pick. Caleb was dominant against Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He had 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. He showed that he can be very physical in the paint against Iowa State - furthermore proving that he is capable of taking his game to the next level.
14 Bust: Jonathan Issac
Issac is projected to be a lottery pick. Being a freshman, he hasn't made a huge impact with Florida State. The team got ousted by Xavier in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, showing little discipline offensively. In regards to Jonathan Issac, he was offensively irrelevant in that game. He had 8 points and struggled to gain traction down low. Notably, he recorded 12 rebounds, but isn't that a given when he is 6-foot-10?
I don't think he is "NBA-ready". Signs point to him not being ready for the NBA, a league in which players must perform at the highest level to remain employed. He has shown that he can be a good rebounder, but I am unsure of his talent down low. Another couple years at FSU would help develop Issac into a more dynamic player. I believe he will be a bust if he declares for the NBA Draft.
13 Steal: Miles Bridges
Bridges averaged 16.9 PPG and 8.3 RPG this regular season. Along with his Michigan State teammates, he pulled off a very good game against Miami. He had 18 points and 9 rebounds versus Miami, and against Kansas he had 22 points and 8 rebounds. Tom Izzo has shown interest in this guy's worth ethic. I think he has the potential to be an impact player at the next level. He is not a guy everyone seems to be talking about, but he has a lot of athleticism which can be capitalized upon by an NBA team needing talent. Against Arizona, being the freshman that he is, he had a 21 point game. He is young, but shows maturity on the court. Time and time again he has showed the college basketball world that he can compete at high level. For example, against Ohio State, a team that always brings an intense game to MSU, he had 24 points. MSU lost that game, but Bridges showed that he can play ball.
12 Bust: T.J. Leaf
Leaf did well at UCLA in his freshman season. The California native averaged 16.2 PPG and 8.2 RPG. Paired with Lonzo Ball, he has made strides in improving his draft stock. Actually, he is projected to be drafted fairly high in the first round. He has performed under pressure, but most of all, helped his team out in the NCAA Tournament significantly.
Sometimes, you just kind of have an inkling that a player will not pan out. Maybe this is from past successful college players who fail at the NBA level, or from the false notion that athletes end up making something of themselves. Leaf's stat line is impressive at UCLA. Obviously, his stats are more impressive against lesser teams - but this is apparent with most players. He had 32 points against Washington State versus his 8 against Oregon. Something about him does not point to success in the NBA, and he does not necessarily strike me as a winner.
11 Steal: Harry Giles
Giles is slated as a lower 1st round pick. Out of high school, he was already being projected as a possible top five pick. Though he struggled in the NCAA Tournament, and hasn't been relevant all season, I can see him developing more so in the NBA than he did at Duke. I think he has potential than hasn't really been tapped yet. Giles is athletic and physical, but his stats do not say that. He had a weak 3.9 PPG this season accompanied by a poor 3.8 RPG.
The freshman showed great promise in high school. I don't see him fading away just yet, and I feel he has more to offer the game of basketball. As a 6-foot-10 athlete, I think he will be a useful big man for various NBA teams. He may not develop immediately, but he should not be doubted. I'll be here to say "I told you so" when he ends up having a solid career.
10 Bust: Ivan Rabb
Rabb declared for the NBA Draft on March 22. The sophomore played college ball at the University of California and averaged a double double this past season. He is 6-11 and is a very solid rebounder. This season, he averaged 14.0 PPG and 10.5 RPG. Cal, did not do so well, though, finishing with a 21-12 regular season record. The team lost in the first round of the NIT to CSU Bakersfield, a team not exactly stacked with talent. Rabb had some very good games this year. Notably, he had 26 points on December 3rd. Though this is true, he struggled against more competitive teams. The 26 point performance was against Alcorn State, a highly irrelevant basketball school. Against Oregon, a team that has now reached the final four, he had a miniscule 4 points. Against UVA, he had 9 points. Against Arizona, he had 4 points. You see the pattern.
He struggles against better teams and is not as dominant when he is faced with adversity.
9 Steal: Frank Ntilikina
Ntilikina is a player NBA fans will know to love. At 18 years old, he has great potential. The Belgian native stands at 6-foot-5 and is 190 pounds. He is an athletic point guard who has already had his fair share of professional basketball experience. Ntilikina has played in the Euroleague, for Strasburg, and is supposed to be comparable to Gary Payton. According to NBAdraft.net, he is projected to be the 7th overall pick. He is most respected for his athleticism, size, and defensive approach. He has a 7 foot wingspan and a high basketball IQ. Frank may be an even higher pick than 7, or at least he really should be. According to many scouts, he has a pass first mentality. Frank moves well with offenses and successfully escalates from a pick and roll. Scouts claim that he has high upside to be able to play multiple positions, but more importantly, guard multiple positions.
8 Bust: Grayson Allen
Grayson Allen has showed immaturity - similar to Jonny Manziel - at Duke. Though he isn't as much of a public partier, compared to Manziel, he shows lack of court intelligence. He is known to trip other players, something fans see as one of the most disrespectful and rude actions on a court. He is an intense competitor who is known to really hunch up on a a defender and foul. I did not love what I saw in him against South Carolina, a team that outworked Duke in the NCAA Tournament. Allen will be drafted, but I do not see him making an impact in the NBA.
Many athletes have great careers at Duke but struggle at the next level. For example, Austin Rivers, Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson, and the list goes on. Coach K is a great and smart coach, but his players tend to have difficulty adapting to the next level. This being said, various Duke players have been stellar in the NBA. J.J. Redick and Luol Deng, for example, have had successful careers. Ultimately I do not see Allen being an NBA competitor.
7 Steal: Luke Kennard
Instead of betting on Grayson's success, I consider Luke Kennard to be a possibly productive NBA player. The sophomore shows maturity on the court. He averaged 19.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG this regular season. In terms of his left handed shot, he reminds me of Troy Murphy. He has good size and can shoot from the perimeter as well.
Kennard had 31 steals this year. The year before that, he had 34. He is a good defender who does not give an inch of space to ball handlers. Though another year may be nice for Luke, I am glad he did not declare for the NBA as a freshman. Playing multiple years with Coach K is something that can develop a players game exponentially, and is something that no other team gets the luxury of. At 6-foot-6, I consider Kennard to be an underrated player. He has garnered praise from Duke, but teams need to take a better look at what he has to offer on the court.
6 Bust: Lauri Markkanen
Lauri is a good defender. For The Arizona Wildcats, he has been a good presence down low. Standing at 7 foot, he had a solid regular season. The Finland native averaged 15.8 PPG and 7.2 RPG. Lauri is another example of a freshman who I find to be too physically immature to enter the NBA. I find that another year of college can be very good for college basketball players who are looking to enter the draft. He is athletic and could be a potential threat down low, but can sometimes lack a killer instinct. I do not see why he would not stay one more year in Arizona. That being said, he is being projected as a lottery pick. With that kind of money guaranteed, many athletes cling to the idea of leaving college and beginning to work. He shows potential and has upside, but I am not sure as to if he is ready for the level of play in the NBA.
5 Steal: Frank Mason III
The Jayhawks senior has certainly developed a lot through his career. He did not play a ton during his freshman season or sophomore season. Mason's junior year was his breakout season in the NCAA. In the Elite 8, against Villanova, he had 16 points. This season, he has averaged 20.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 5.2 APG. He is very athletic and kind of reminds me of Russell Westbrook in college - though no one is as shifty as Russell. His draft stock has shifted due to different things. The draft is geared towards the younger athletes now, and the more freshman that want to enter the draft, the more these players will be looked for.
Teams want younger guys, people who will have longer careers. The problem with this is that many players are too immature for the league, or too young to be a real threat in the game. I think Mason has good potential because he has matured with Kansas. He is a guard who has earned the opportunity to play with Bill Self, and he fully embraced it.
4 Bust: Zach Collins
The 7 foot freshman is already being hyped up as a top 15 pick. Here is my problem with Gonzaga players. Though Gonzaga has had a very good season and advanced to the Final Four, they had a weak schedule. The best team they played in the regular season was Arizona. The Zags did not face any better teams though and did not get the opportunity to compete with other one seed caliber teams in the regular season. Collins averaged 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 0.4 APG this season. What bothers me, especially since he is supposed to be drafted fairly high, is that he is not a rebound machine. When you are 7 feet tall and you grab under six rebounds a game something must be off. Yao Ming averaged 9.2 RPG and Dirk has averaged almost 8 rebounds per game during his career.
Obviously, it is not easy to compare him to either of these legendary athletes, but considering his height he should be grabbing rebounds more than anyone on the court.
3 Steal: Josh Hart
Josh Hart showed tremendous ability against North Carolina in last year's epic National Championship. He is a strong defender who can move around the quick at a fast pace. Offensively, he is not an extremely dominant player. This being said, he has a solid, accurate release. The senior Villanova guard averaged 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 2.9 APG this past regular season. Against Purdue, in November, he had 24 points. He played big minutes with the Wildcats and seems to be able to hold his own the court. He is currently slated as a probable late round pick - not someone necessarily destined for the first round. NBA scouts should take a better look at Hart.
He could be a very valuable asset for teams lacking defensive discipline. The 6-foot-6 guard is agile and a smart player. I wouldn't predict him being a lottery pick but teams may look back at this draft and wonder why they missed Josh Hart.
2 Bust: Markelle Fultz
Fultz is currently projected to be the first or second pick overall in the draft. Fultz has played extremely well for Washington this season, garnering respect from the basketball world. What I do not understand is why people of his talent level go to poor performing programs. Ben Simmons, a player who has yet to play in the NBA, was selected by the 76ers first overall last season. He attended LSU and did not help lead his team to the NCAA Tournament. Fultz has a very impressive stat line. He put up 26 points against Arizona in his final game, a team who received a #2 seed in March Madness.
Sometimes, you just feel like a player will be a bust. In this situation, I'm just not confident that his NBA career will pan out. He is being touted at an extremely high level, but if I get the first pick in the NBA Draft, I am easily taking Lonzo Ball over him.
1 Steal: Malik Monk
Malik Monk is projected to be a lottery pick, but not a top five pick. Teams should really consider the idea of taking him in the top 3. I really like what I have seen from him at Kentucky in his lone college season. He has averaged 20 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 2.4 APG. It is fair to say that his assist production was lacking during the regular season, but I think that is due to a high powered offensive attack in which he has a lot of help. He may not be recording a high number of assists, but he certainly passes the ball around and is not a ball hog.
The 6-foot-3 guard impressed me in the UNC game on December 17th. Monk had 47 points and shot 18-28 against a team known to play very big down low. NBA projection sites have downgraded him, but from what I have seen in the NCAA Tournament from him, I think his stock should be rising.