It seems like just yesterday that Ben Simmons was hearing his name called as the number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Well, it’s been nearly a year and the 2017 draft is now just around the corner. Much like its older brother, the NFL Draft, the NBA’s version is where franchises can turn around with a single draft pick. A moribund team gets an infusion of talent and that player or players drafted can define the franchise for years to come. Just look at the teams in the Finals: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were number one overall picks who became franchise players and global superstars. For the Warriors, Steph Curry overcame doubts about his size to become the only unanimous MVP in league history. Even Draymond Green went from an overweight, unathletic, second-round pick to an NBA All-Star and one of the best defenders in the league.
But on the other hand, there are those draft picks which can set a franchise back years or even decades. The Michael Olowokandis and Hasheem Thabeets and Adam Morrisons of the world can do as much harm to a franchise as a great player can help a franchise. The college game is so drastically different than the NBA game that it’s hard to predict how a player’s skills will translate to the next level. Each draft is sure to produce All-Stars, solid rotation players, and busts. While it’s nice to talk about the good of each draft; what fun is that? It’s much more interesting to focus on the bad so we are here to present the 15 biggest busts of the 2017 NBA Draft.
15 Malik Monk (Kentucky)
Malik Monk can flat out score, but so could Jimmer Fredette, Jordan Crawford, and so many other one-dimensional NBA busts. Monk may find a role as a sixth or seventh man off the bench, but do you really want to waste a top-10 pick on someone like that? Some are even projecting Monk to go in the top 5 and he is rated as the top shooting guard in the draft by ESPN. Monk averaged nearly 20 points per game, but didn’t fill out the box score in any other statistics. He is just the second SEC player in the last 25 years to average at least 19 PPG but fewer than 2.5 assists per game AND fewer than 2.5 rebounds per game.
The other was former Ole Miss headcase, Marshall Henderson, who never made the NBA. Throw in the fact that Monk has point guard size (6’3” 185 lbs) at the two-guard position and you have a gunner who is a liability on defense. Stay away from this Wildcat!
14 Lauri Markkanen (Arizona)
The Finnish-born Markkanen just moved to the U.S. in 2016 and spent one year at Arizona. He is an elite shooter who just happens to stand seven feet tall. In fact, SBNation once labeled him as the best shooting seven footer college basketball has ever seen and he backed them up by knocking down 42% of his three-pointers and 84% of his free throws. Markkanen could very well be the first international player selected in the draft and is a projected top-10 pick. But what he needs to work on (besides getting stronger which is a recurrent theme in this list), is remembering that he is still a 7 footer. Markkanen isn’t the most physical guy in the world and can get bullied in the paint, when he ventures there. He rebounds (7.2 per game) and blocks shots (0.5 per game) like a small forward and that won’t cut it in the NBA.
13 Harry Giles (Duke)
Giles was once ranked as the number one player in his high school class but then turned into the basketball version of RG3 as he kept getting injured. He missed his sophomore year of high school with a knee injury, then suffered a second knee injury as a senior before enrolling in Duke and suffering yet another knee injury. With torn ACLs in both knees, he will join an exclusive club that includes the likes of Derrick Rose, Amare Stoudemire, Danny Manning, and a few others. But those players suffered their injuries in the NBA; all of Giles have come as a teenager.
It’s just hard to imagine that his body will hold up in the NBA considering all that he’s already been through. Giles will be drafted, but it will be purely on potential as he only played 300 minutes at Duke. Potential is the only thing in the world that could cause a player who averaged 3.9 PPG and 3.9 RPG in college to become a future millionaire.
12 Terrance Ferguson (Australia)
Perhaps the two most notable players to skip college and play professionally overseas, instead, are Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay. Ferguson happens to have something in common with both of them as he attended the same high school as Mudiay and committed to Arizona just like Jennings. However, Ferguson couldn’t meet the NCAA’s eligibility requirements so he spent last season playing in Australia where he averaged 4.6 points per game. Ferguson has NBA size for a wing and shoots lights out but barely made a mark in the Australian Basketball League which isn’t even on par with the Euroleague, CBA, or D-League. Also, and to no fault of his own, but Jennings and Mudiay haven’t set the world on fire in the NBA. Jennings got his career off to a nice start but has played for 4 teams over the last two seasons and Mudiay lost his starting position to a 34-year-old Jameer Nelson.
11 O.G. Anunoby (Indiana)
Anunoby is often compared to Draymond Green because of his versatility to guard all five positions on the defensive end. While that alone will make him a top-20 pick; Anunoby has a long way to go to match Green’s skills on the offensive end. Anunoby just relies on raw athleticism on that end and while that works in college; everyone is just as athletic as he is in the pros. His shot needs serious work as not only did he shoot 31% on three-pointers, but he was under 60% from the free throw line. Also, Green is a fantastic passer and the offense can run through him while Anunoby seems allergic to giving the ball up.
He never had more than 3 assists in a game in his college career and averaged more turnovers than assists. He may resemble Green on the defensive end, but he’s more likely to resemble Andre Roberson on the offensive end.
10 Luke Kennard (Duke)
It’s all about role with Kennard and what teams’ perceptions will be of him. If they try to make him the go-to guy like he was in Duke, then he is destined to fail. Kennard simply doesn’t have a complete enough offensive game to be a main scoring threat for a team…unless that’s a D-league team. He also checked in at smaller than expected at the combine and is just 6’5” in shoes so that likely precludes him from playing small forward. If Kennard is put in a secondary role off the bench then he can stick in the NBA. He can score from all levels but he’ll have to curtail all of those mid-range jumpers as that’s a no-no in today’s analytical-heavy game. I think Kennard would be most successful as a two-guard off the bench in the mold of Doug McDermott or Marco Belinelli.
9 Ivan Rabb (California)
If Rabb would have declared for the 2016 draft, he would have been a likely lottery pick like his Cal teammate, Jaylen Brown. But with scouts having another year to scrutinize his game; Rabb will be fortunate to be drafted in the 20s. He lacks any polish to his offensive game and scores most of his points either on mid-range jump shots or dunks. Think of an extremely destitute man’s Blake Griffin (Griffin now, not Griffin 3-4 years ago). Even with Cal’s offense centered around him this year, he didn’t progress as much as one would hope from his freshman year. His shooting percentage dropped from 62% to 48% as teams keyed on him and he didn’t get as many good looks.
One could argue that Rabb needs another season in college for his game to develop further but seeing as his stock has already dropped after an additional year; there’s no way he’s going back to school.
8 Ike Anigbogu (UCLA)
With the NBA season expected to start earlier than normal next season, Anigbogu, who will likely be the youngest player drafted; will be just 18 when the season starts. While he has the body of someone 10 years older, Anigbogu may be the rawest player in the draft. He can rebound, block shots, and do much of nothing else. His offensive game is nothing more than lobs and put-backs at this point and he only averaged 13 minutes a game at UCLA. When Anigbogu gets the ball on offense, he becomes a black hole and is either going to shoot, get fouled, or turn the ball over. Lonzo Ball had more assists 20 minutes into his UCLA career than Anigbogu had all of last season (6 assists).
Anigbogu is two years away from making any type of impact in the NBA and he would be best served playing those two years in Westwood. Hopefully whomever drafts him doesn’t rush him and lets him develop in the D-league or there’s a good chance that Anigbogu is out of the league by his mid-20s.
7 Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
Swanigan has an unbelievable back-story as he lived in homeless shelters growing up, attended 13 different schools, and has lost over 100 pounds since high school. It’s clear that he has the drive and determination to stick around in the league; but I think his lack of skill may limit him to a 9th or 10th man on the bench. He has a solid offensive game and expanded his range out to beyond the arc so he has that going for him. But his lack of athleticism and explosiveness will be costly on the other end. Swanigan averaged just 0.8 blocks per game last season which is detrimental for someone who will have to log heavy minutes at the center position.
He may turn out to be the next Zach Randolph of Al Jefferson on offense, but those two guys could at least hold their own on defense. Swanigan came around 20 years to late as his old-fashioned game would have fit in better in the 1990s.
6 Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
Twenty years ago the 6’11” 205 lbs Isaac might have played small forward. 10 years ago he would have been a power forward. But in today’s game, he’ll likely play stretch-5 at the next level with his penchant to play on the perimeter. He’ll need to hit the weights his first couple of years in the league, but he has a skilled enough offensive game to be a big factor in small-ball lineups. However, Isaac may struggle on the other end of the court, not only due to his lack of strength, but his fairly pedestrian wingspan for a near 7-footer. Isaac wasn’t measured at the NBA combine but he was measured at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2016 and despite coming in at 6’11”; his wingspan was only 7’1”.
By comparison, Davon Reed of Miami is 6’5” but his wingspan checks in at 7’0 while Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes is 6’7” with a 7’3” wingspan. The closest height/wingspan comparison to Isaac is OKC’s Enes Kanter who is a sieve on defense and has never averaged more than 0.5 blocks per game. A skinnier Enes Kanter on defense? No thanks.
5 Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State)
After making first-team All-Big 12 and making a third-team All-American squad, Evans is projected to be a first round pick. If that holds true, then Evans will be just the second player shorter than 6 feet to be a 1st round draft pick in 8 years. Of the over 75 prospects who were measured at the NBA combine; Evans was the only player who came in at under 6 feet when measured in shoes. The old adage when it comes to basketball is “you can’t teach size” and small players are at such a disadvantage in a league that plays above the rim.
Evans isn’t exactly a world-class leaper like Nate Robinson or a prolific scorer like Isaiah Thomas so he may go the route of Shane Larkin and be out of the league in 3 years. Or he could be like Pierre Jackson and be someone who lights up the D-league, but is relegated to just 10 day contracts in the NBA. Is someone like that really worth a late first round pick which is where Evans is projected? He’s simply a replacement-level player and not worth a first round pick.
4 Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
Roy Williams is coming off his third national championship and has sent 21 Tar Heels to the NBA during his 14 seasons in Chapel Hill. But you know what Williams hasn’t done: send a Tar Heel to the NBA All-Star game. No Roy Williams-coached Tar Heel has ever made the All-Star game and just one from his time at Kansas made it either (Paul Pierce). That doesn’t bode well for Justin Jackson who is expected to be one of the first five small forwards drafted. Jackson is ancient for an underclassman as the junior is already 22 years old and the same age as Giannis Antetokounmpo who has drafted four years ago.
Despite good length for his position, Jackson is rail thin with average athleticism. With his age, one can only expect minimal progression from this point forward in both his game and his body. With the once-pristine reputation of Tar Heel players taking a hit, coupled with Jackson’s shortcomings of his own; he seems probable to join the likes of P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock as UNC busts.
3 Justin Patton (Creighton)
One NBA scout described Patton as someone who could become the next Marcus Camby or someone who could be out of the league next season. That’s the boom-or-bust potential that the Creighton freshman carries with him. He’s 6’11” with an amazing 9’4” standing reach and also knocked down 8 three-pointers last season. However, Patton often left scouts and his coaches wanting and expecting more as he didn’t dominate the talent-deprived Big East. When he went out of conference and played the big boys, he looked fairly pedestrian on the court as he averaged just 11 points and 5 rebounds per game against the SEC, Big 10, ACC, and Pac-12.
Maybe he’ll hit the weight room and find a coach who can instill some toughness in him, but he’s too risky a pick for me in the first round. I would much rather prefer Jarrett Allen of Texas who is a similar player but put up much better numbers in a tougher conference.
2 De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
Colleges always embellish the actual sizes of their athletes so Fox being lighter than his UK-listed 187 lbs. comes at no surprise. But the fact that he weighed in at just 169 lbs. is a cause for concern and former UK guard Tyler Ulis is the only NBA player who is lighter than Fox. The player Fox is most often compared to, John Wall, weighed 27 more pounds than Fox did at his pre-draft measurements and Wall also had a wingspan that was three inches longer. Credit has to be given to John Calipari for getting as much out of Fox as he did, but he projects as nothing more than a taller Ish Smith. Fox has elite end-to-end speed but he’s like that wide receiver who runs a 4.2 but has no other discernible skills.
He shot just 25% on the shorter, college three-point line, didn’t always look to get his teammates involved, and was turnover-prone at UK. With Monk and Fox likely to be busts, Bam Adebayo might end up being the best UK player in this draft.
1 Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
Lonzo Ball may not be the best player or the top pick in the 2017 draft, but he is definitely the biggest name. You can’t say Lonzo Ball’s name without bringing up his outspoken father, LaVar, who always finds a new way to stay relevant. However, LaVar’s presence is a reason why I think Lonzo will be a bust. LaVar has talked up his son so much that you think if Lonzo becomes the next Jason Kidd, then he will be considered an underachiever. This kid is going to have all the pressure of the world on his shoulders and his every move will be scrutinized. This isn’t like tennis and Roger Williams where his kids, Venus and Serena, play a sport that only matters four times a year; every game that Lonzo plays will be under a microscope.
Another problem that Lonzo may face is the team, and more importantly the system, that he will play in. In high school and at UCLA he’s played in an up-tempo D’Antoni-esque system but not ever NBA team plays that way. Ball isn’t a ‘system player’ but he does need to go to the right system to get the best out of his abilities.
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