Breaking News.. The 2017 NBA Draft Class is really good! So maybe this isn’t anything new. Cellar dwelling teams are licking their chops to see who is going to end up on their team next year. This draft features what appears to be solid NBA contributors at every turn. Chances are, you’ve heard of Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith, Jayson Tatum and the rest of the projected top players. So what if your team is mediocre or good and has no shot at drafting these guys? Well, I come bearing good news yet again! This draft is more than five, seven, or ten players deep (depending what media outlet you listen to).
I will do the honor in introducing you to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft Class. And this sounds bizarre but, I have been watching games on all levels on mute for the last few years so I can form my own opinion based on what I am seeing; not what someone is telling me.
Allonzo Trier, SG/SF, Arizona, Sophomore.
Trier was suspended earlier in the year so we haven’t quite seen what a full Sophomore season could have been from him. The bottom line is that this kid can flat-out play. He is an athletic player that can get to rim with or without the ball. While a lot of players can do this, Trier may be one of the best finishers at the NCAA level. He absorbs contact, is strong with the ball, and can finish in a variety of ways and angles. He gets overshadowed by his teammate Lauri Markkanen but, he makes the team tick. His hard play is contagious and boosts the rest of his team though his defensive skills are still being improved. The scary thing is that he hasn’t filled out his frame completely yet. When he does, the rest of the league will take notice. I expect Trier to make a bigger name for himself during the NCAA Tournament. Experts project him in the late first or early second round. It would not surprise me in the least to see a team that values hard play in their culture to take him earlier on draft night.
Ivan Rabb, PF, California, Sophomore.
California’s style of play and system is not indicative of the skill levels of some of their players. It is often baffling when a coach’s system limits the players so X’s and O’s can be carried out. We saw Jaylen Brown turn in a somewhat disappointing Freshman season at Cal and Rabb is following suit in his second year (and his first year), from a statistical standpoint. When this happens, I admittedly overvalue the player because it is obvious that they are capable of more. In an NBA system with more space, freedom and all around better coaching, Rabb will flourish. He is extremely gifted athletically and can do much more than what is showcased on a nightly basis. If Rabb had attended Kentucky or Duke I think he would be in the top ten discussion for this year’s draft. However, he didn’t; so he is looking like a mid to late first round selection and will probably stay there. And while I spent most of my time describing the poor system around him, it should be noted that he can score, defend, and rebound. He truly had an all-around great game. A little bit of bulk added to his frame and he is an instant rotational player. He reminds me a lot of Myles Turner and they may have similar early career paths.
TJ Leaf, PF. UCLA, Freshman.
Many experts have Leaf going in the late lottery to as far back as the end of the first round. I am going against the grain on this one and saying that Leaf will not be a productive NBA player. He is still young and has a chance to develop but, his raw skills right now tell me that he will struggle with the faster pace of the NBA. He doesn’t have the speed to keep up with faster players and he isn’t strong enough to handle the bruisers down low. He projects as the worst thing possible- a slow, spot up, stretch four that cannot defend the interior or perimeter. He is adequate in the rebounding department due to good positioning but, I am not buying a ticket aboard the TJ Leaf
hype train. I’d take a flyer on him in the mid-second round at the best.
Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor, Junior.
Time and time again NBA teams, experts, and scouts fall in love with the super-athletic big man. Motley is a player that will do it again to all of us this year. These skills will be on display during the NCAA Tournament for the world to drool over. He is able to finish around the rim and has decent hands to receive passes down low. He has the quickness to stay with smaller defenders and cover the three-point line. However, something just screams at me that he is too raw and relies too much on athleticism to be effective on an NBA roster; almost in a sense that his athleticism allows him to make up for mistakes when he gets beat. I like his energy, a lot, and his game on a collegiate level, I am just unsure how well he translates to the NBA. I hope things work out for him and he lands in the right situation; he is fun to watch. He should be a mid-first round pick in my opinion and experts.
Luke Kennard, SG/SF, Duke, Sophomore.
Kennard will be much more well-known by the entire country by the end of the NCAA Tournament. He has a well-rounded offensive game and gives Duke another player to get the ball to in crunch time. He has NBA range on his jumper and has a quick enough release to be effective in the league. He plays with extreme confidence and enjoys having the ball in big situations. He is poised to be a solid rotational player in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Watch for these players during the tournament and the upcoming NBA Draft. You will hear of them very soon if you haven’t already.