The NBA season is underway, and rookies around the league are looking to live up to lofty expectations. As they get adjusted to the league, there is another crop of very talented youngsters with their eye on making the leap to the NBA. The 2017 draft class has several players who seem poised to eventually make a huge impact after their names are called in the draft.
The 2017 class is full of talent so let’s take a look at some of these players and how their skill sets cmight transition to the next level.
Freshman, Point Guard, Washington
Stats: 22.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 54% FG, 48% 3PT
Comparison: Brandon Roy/C.J. McCollum
Fultz is putting up the most impressive stats so far this season and a number of credible mock drafts have him projected as the top overall pick. He is shooting 54 percent from the field and 48 percent from three while carrying most of Washington’s scoring load. Fultz reminds many of a combination of Brandon Roy and C.J. McCollum because of his smooth game. The 6’5, 185-pound point guard is a slender scorer, who excels in the open court and off the dribble by using change of pace and craftiness in ball-screen action to create opportunities for himself and his teammates. His size should also create mismatches against opposing point guards. Also, Fultz’s size allows him to be a strong rebounder from the guard position. Fultz is an improving shooter, who has the ability to stretch the defense with solid catch-and-shoot opportunities. In the mid-range, Fultz looks to get his pull-up and will use step back/spin variations to get into his shot. He also adds good vision and solid passing ability to his offensive repertoire. On the defensive end, Fultz uses his size and anticipation to apply ball pressure, “down” ball screen action, and hit the gap for steals. If the 18-year-old can improve his sense of urgency, look out. If he can continue to produce the way that he has thus far, many believe Fultz will be a lock for a top pick come draft day.
Freshman, Power Forward, Duke University
Comparison: Chris Webber
Prior to a series of knee injuries, Giles seemed like a lock to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. The versatile forward has a great motor and an impressive frame to match. Standing 6’10 and weighing in at 230 pounds, Giles runs the floor like a deer and plays above the rim. He also has the ability to rebound on one end and go the length of the floor off the dribble to either score it for himself or set up his teammate. His rebounding really sets him apart from other players in this class. His ability to get off of his feet quickly, his 7’3 wingspan and his jumping ability allow him to attack both the offensive and defensive glass and grab rebounds that would be out of range for most players. Giles has the potential to eventually be one of the better rebounders in the league. His athleticism gives him the ability to guard perimeter forwards and also match up against true centers in the post. Offensively, Giles has developed strong left shoulder finishes and has the ability to turn over his right shoulder to finish via hook shoot. He also mixes in an array of push shots and floaters around the basket. At times, he lacks poise and rushes post and perimeter moves, which cause him to make too many unforced errors and miss shots. On the perimeter, Giles is still developing and currently is mostly a straight line driver with a tendency to hard drive right. He is fairly effective shooting the ball out to 15-feet, but struggles beyond the three-point line. Giles has a lot of room for improvement. Look for him to continue to refine his offensive game. If he can stay healthy, his natural skill set, athleticism and size give him a chance to make a huge impact in the NBA.
Freshman, Small Forward, Kansas
Stats: 14 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 50.6% FG
Comparison: Andrew Wiggins
Jackson made an immediate impact for the Jayhawks this season. The long and wiry, 6’8, 203-pound freshman’s build and game mirrors that of former Kansas prodigy Andrew Wiggins. Because of his raw athleticism and frame, Jackson fits the Wiggins’ mold. He is still developing many parts of his game, like his ability to remain disciplined on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. His decision-making and poise are sometimes questionable. However, his overall potential and ceiling has NBA executives salivating. Jackson uses his explosiveness to slash to the basket and can do so either off the dribble or via ball-screen action. Off the ball, Jackson does a good job running off screens and freeing himself up. Jackson may do some of his best work in transition, where he uses his length and speed to slash to the rim. One of Jackson’s greatest attributes is his competitiveness, which especially benefits him on the defensive end and on the glass. Despite being slightly undisciplined, which sometimes gets him out of position at times, Jackson shows great potential on defense. His length, lateral quickness and versatility allow him to guard multiple positions. At this stage in his progression, Jackson tends to be a streaky shooter. However, as he becomes more consistent, this will help him round out his game even further. As Jackson’s feel for the game improves, so will his overall game. He could be scary good considering all the tools he already possesses. Jackson has a chance to be a very high pick in the upcoming draft.
Point Guard, Strasbourg, Germany
Stats: 4.4 PPG, 5.1 APG, 59% FG, 50% 3PT
Comparison: Dennis Schroder/Devin Harris
Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a good feel for the game and an incredible 6’11 wing span. He combines his length with solid lead guard skills and an explosive first step. Ntilikina also has an excellent handle and good decision-making skills. Because of this, he is highly effective distributing the ball out of ball-screen action. Ntilikina does an effective job getting to the rim and finishing. At this point in his career, Ntilikina is a capable shooter who finds rhythm in his shot off of the dribble. His length, athleticism and tenaciousness give Ntilikina the potential to be an elite-level defender in the league. However, the 18-year-old still struggles with shooting consistency and, at times, looks like he doesn’t trust his outside shot. It also looks like Ntilikina will have the chance to to put on more muscle, which is a plus because he currently struggles with contact. Because of his skinny frame, Ntilikina also struggles with his post defense. For Ntilikina to really take his next step in his progression, he will need to work on his body and improve his shooting ability. Despite some of the flaws in his game, Ntilikina has the upside NBA general managers are looking for in the draft.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Freshman, Point Guard, N.C. State
Stats: 18.3 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 40.9% FG
Comparison: Steve Francis/Jeff Teague
Smith can score the ball as an explosive 6’3 combo guard and he’s looking to help put N.C. State back in the ACC Championship hunt. Smith relies on his elite athleticism to play above the rim, change directions and get by defenders off the dribble. He also uses his explosiveness on defense to pester opposing ball handlers. Offensively, he combines his slashing with a solid mid-range game comprised of pull-ups and floaters, which make Smith a potent scorer. Smith jumps high enough to finish over defenders and he’s also strong enough to finish through contact as well. Smith tore his ACL and underwent surgery prior to his senior season in high school. Because of his average size and his reliance on athleticism, his ability to remain healthy may be a concern for NBA teams. Smith is not consistent enough from the perimeter yet, which at times makes him a tentative outside shooter. In ball-screen action, Smith struggles to make the defense pay when opponents go under the screen. His decision-making is somewhat questionable as well. Smith has the potential to become a solid starter and maybe even a potential All-Star in the NBA.
Which 2017 draft prospects have impressed you? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.
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