The 2017 NBA Draft is no different than the previous one — a lot of youngsters and foreign-born players. Since I normally don’t pay attention to the mock drafts, we instead went to two people who have a better pulse on what may happen Thursday night, as opposed to mock predictions.
ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla and Jay Bilas are college basketball analysts who recently talked to media, including the MSR in separate conference calls. “This NBA draft will probably feature 14 or 15 freshmen and one, two, three international teenagers in the first round,” said Fraschilla, who sees the draft similar to baseball. “You’re drafting for the most part on potential and for the future.”
Bilas agrees: “I don’t see this as an eight-man draft at all. I think this is a real good draft.”
If last week’s Boston-Philadelphia trade, where the 76ers got from the Celtics the first overall pick, goes as expected, Washington’s Markelle Fultz will be this year’s top pick Thursday. USA Today rated him as the best among the Top 10 point guard prospects.
“He is the most complete player in the draft,” observed Bilas on Fultz. Although his defense needs work, “He’s the real deal,” said the analyst. He added that even if the Sixers do pick him, the team won’t become an instant contender next season as a result. “They are not going to challenge Cleveland in the next couple of years,” Bilas predicted.
“I have [in] the order Fultz, [Lonzo] Ball, [De’Aaron] Fox — De’Aaron has certainly created a buzz, not only because of his speed and the way he played this season, but he has a magnetic personality that at worst is going to sell a lot of shoes if he becomes a good player in the NBA,” predicted Fraschilla. He sees Fox with the potential to being one of the league’s elite point guards someday.
Jayson Tatum of Duke — some rated him as the second best small forward prospect “is a top five pick,” said Bilas, a Duke alumnus. His perimeter shooting needs works, however, added Bilas.
When asked about Minnesota, who is scheduled to pick seventh, “They can go in a couple different directions,” noted Fraschilla. “They can wait to see if Tatum or Johnathan Isaac falls to sixth. If so, they will get a terrific small forward-type player.
“Jonathan Isaac is a terrific young talent that doesn’t have quite the exposure maybe as some of the other guys that played at Duke and Kansas,” he continued. “I’m a huge Jonathan Isaac fan — 6-11, can play three, four and eventually five in the modern NBA. Can defend, shoot from outside, great kid and also has a good IQ for the game. Perfect example of a guy that could fall to seven and become an All-Star and potentially the best player in this draft.
“I would be looking at Isaac or Tatum with that pick. Each brings something different to the table from the small forward spot,” said Fraschilla.
When asked about other prospects, Bilas said Jarrett Allen of Texas “is a good prospect” but is raw and his game needs developing; Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell — “[a] powerful athlete who can really defend.” OG Anunoby of Indiana has a “NBA body” as a potential combo guard, and he sees Sindarius Thornwell of South Carolina “making an NBA team as a second round pick. “He’s not a great shooter but he can make shots,” said Bilas.
“Most of these young players are not ready to make an impact in important NBA games,” said Fraschilla. “You still have to look for the mature player that can have an impact on your NBA roster sooner than later.”
Finally, while some teams have made pre-draft deals, Bilas strongly contended, “Building through the draft is the best way to go.”
The 2017 NBA Draft is on ESPN Thursday at 6 pm Central, 7 pm Eastern. Both Fraschilla and Bilas will be part of the draft night coverage.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.