Who Got The Juice?: 10 PLAYERS THAT COULD MAKE AN IMPACT IN THE 2017 NBA DRAFT AND BEYOND
Written by Jeremy Barragan
PG - UCLA
Transcendent. Makes everyone around him better. These are phrases you hear thrown around a lot when talking about UCLA’s Ball. Ball combines elite court vision and high basketball IQ with unselfish passing that elevates the play of everyone around him. If you need evidence of this, look at UCLA’s offense, which ranked 3rd in offensive efficiency, after being ranked 51st in the 2016 season. Ball’s ceiling could be the highest in the draft, and comparisons to Jason Kidd don’t seem to be far off. In fact, Lonzo is the first Pac-12 player since Jason Kidd to average 14 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.
Best Fit: Los Angeles Lakers
At UCLA, Ball took a team that ranked 73rd in the nation in tempo to 14th, while staying efficient. He can do the same for Luke Walton’s young Lakers team, which is built to run-and-gun. The departure of third year guard D’angelo Russell clears the way for him to do just that.
Red Flag: Defense
PG - KENTUCKY
De’Aaron Fox once said that he thinks he’s faster than John Wall. Although, he may not be as fast, or as talented, he can play. He was the fastest player in college basketball last season, and thrived on the break, putting up an SEC-best 6 points per game in transition. Agility and explosiveness allow him to get to the basket, and he uses his 6’4” frame to finish over defenders, shooting an impressive 59% from inside.
Best Fit: Sacramento Kings
With Ty Lawson and Darren Collison both impending free agents, the Kings will need a point guard, and barring a surprise from the Lakers at #2, Fox should be available. Teaming him up with a young nucleus that includes Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere would be promising for the rebuilding Kings.
Red Flag: Lack of Shooting Range
SF/PF - FLORIDA STATE
The most versatile player in the draft, Isaac has high upside on both ends of the floor. Most impressive is his defense, showing the ability to guard at least the 1-4 throughout the season. He is 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan, but has rare quickness and foot speed for his size, which will allow him to switch seamlessly between defenders at the NBA level. Isaac was a late bloomer who grew up playing guard, and it shows. He has a formidable jump shot and moves well off the ball, allowing him to shoot just under 35% from three.
Best Fit: Minnesota Timberwolves
His ability to guard four positions would be pleasant addition to Thibedou’s defense. He plays well off the ball, and offensively would fit in perfectly amongst Minnesota’s young group.
Red Flag: Underdeveloped Frame
DENNIS SMITH JR.
PG - NC STATE
The freakish athlete put up impressive numbers in his Freshman season for NC State, averaging 18 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. A skilled playmaker and prolific scorer, Smith to spaces the floor well and uses elite strength and explosiveness to create opportunities for himself and others. Although he is only 6’2”, he is athletic enough to play above the rim and get high percentage looks, shooting two-point field goals at a 50% clip, a mark that is especially high when his situation at NC State is taken into consideration.
Best Fit: Dallas Mavericks
Although Yogi Ferrell had a solid rookie campaign, the Mavs don’t see him as the PG of the future, and could look to Dennis Smith with the 9th pick, bolstering their aging roster with some youth and athleticism.
Red Flag: Consistency
PF - ARIZONA
Dirk Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingis are two immediate comparisons that you will hear a lot, and both make sense. There are few 7-footers who can shoot 40% from three, but stretch fours like Markkanen are exactly what the modern NBA calls for, and this is why we could see him make a major impact when he reaches the Association. The Arizona product averaged nearly 16 points per game and his jump shooting and length would be a welcome addition to any roster.
Best Fit: Dallas Mavericks
There could not be an ideal replacement for Dirk Nowitzki then Markkanen. They are both lights-out shooters that space the floor remarkably well for their size, and Markkanen will fit perfectly in Dallas’ offense. That said, if the Knicks choose to take a huge step in the wrong direction and trade Porzingis, look for them to grab Markkanen with the eighth pick.
Red Flag: Physicality
PF/C - GONZAGA
Despite receiving just under 18 minutes a game, Collins left a notable impression and should be a surefire lottery pick on Thursday night. At 7’0”, he has the size and skill to play PF or C at the NBA level. Around the rim, he shot at an incredible 70% clip, but also stretched the floor well for his size, shooting 48% from three. Defensively, Collins is quick on his feet and agile, and touted a per-40 min average of 4 blocks per game.
Best Fit: Miami Heat
Collins is the first one and done in Gonzaga history, and has the hype to go along with it, so falling to the Heat at 14 is doubtful. That said, replacing Luke Babbit at the PF spot with someone who can stretch the floor as well as Collins would be a major upgrade for Miami. If Miami is lucky enough for him to fall, the shot blocking combination of him and Whiteside could be dangerous for years to come.
Red Flag: Strength
SF/PF - INDIANA
Coming off a torn ACL, OG Anunoby is a risk that could pay off for a team who takes a chance Thursday night. The second-year Indiana product has an NBA-ready frame, measuring at 6’8” and weighing 230 lb. At 7’2”, Anunoby’s wingspan is nothing short of ridiculous, and the former Hoosier has shown flashes of being able to guard the 1 all the way through the 5, against smaller lineups. Offensively, he projects as a spot-up shooter. Although he shot just 36% from 3 at Indiana, Anunoby would be best suited as a 3 and D player in the NBA.
Best Fit: Portland Trailblazers
The Trailblazers lack depth at the Forward positions and Anunoby provide a defensive spark for the Blazers, who pick 20th. Portland has 3 first rounders (15,20,26) and can afford to take on the risk of a player fresh off an ACL tear.
Red Flag: Limited Offensive Skill Set
PF - UCLA
Leaf led the Bruins in scoring last season, putting up 16.3 PPG on an impressively efficient 67% from the field. At 6’10” and 225, he is the ideal size for a NBA PF, shows remarkable athleticism, and is able to get up and down the floor in transition. He can also stretch the floor as a prototypical mold for the modern NBA, shooting at a 47% clip from deep.
Best Fit: Oklahoma City Thunder
Although he definitely has the talent and versatility to go earlier, as he probably should, Leaf is expected to go in the early twenties. Last season, the Thunder ranked 6th in tempo and are picking 21st in the draft. With Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis, and Nick Collison at Power Forward for the Thunder, Leaf could get a sizable share of minutes on offense when the Thunder are looking to push the tempo.
Red Flag: Physicality
SG/SF - K-STATE
Likely a late first or early second rounder, the senior guard has the frame and versatility to make an impact at the NBA level. Standing at 6’7”, Iwundu has impressive length, offering a 7’1” wingspan. Offensively, he is a combo guard who showed off an improved shot in his final year at K-State. He shot a respectable 38% from three as a senior, crossing the 35% threshold for the first time in his career. Defensively, Iwundu has a high IQ as a defender, and can defend either guard position.
Best Fit: Los Angeles Lakers
If the Lakers don’t end up trading the 27th and 28th picks for Paul George, they would be wise to give Iwundu a look in the late first round. Considering the team lost both D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young in consecutive days, the team could be looking for depth at guard. The team lacks in defensive intensity as a whole, and bringing in a versatile defender like Iwundu could make a difference for LA.
Red Flag: Good at everything, but not great at any one thing
PF/C - BAYLOR
Motley will likely go in the early to mid-second round on Thursday night, after a strong third season at Baylor. Standing at 6’9” with a wingspan of 7’4”, Motley possesses top-notch measurements for a PF, all while weighing in at an athletic 230 lb. He was the number one option at Baylor, posting 17.2 PPG, but was not limited to an inside game, shooting 43% on jump shots. Defensively, he moves well laterally and is a strong rebounder, grabbing 10 boards per game in his last year for the Bears.
Best Fit: Atlanta Hawks
Motley would definitely be a good option for Atlanta if he is still available at 41. With Paul Millsap’s impending free agency and Dwight Howard’s departure, they could use depth at both the PF and C positions, which Motley could provide on both ends of the floor.