Point guard is the premier position of the 2017 NBA draft class.
Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball likely will be the top two picks, and both Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. could go in the top five. French prospect Frank Ntilikina has an impressive skill set, too, and should go in the top 10.
But after Ntilikina, the quality of this position drops off quite a bit. With that said, here are the top 10 point guards in the 2017 class.
1. Markelle Fultz, Washington (6-foot-4, 190 pounds)
Fultz is an offensive powerhouse. He ranked sixth in all of Division I college basketball in scoring with 23.2 points per game, and his shooting range is very good, too, evidenced by his 41.3 percent mark from beyond the 3-point arc. Fultz also has impressive strength and uses it to overpower smaller defenders.
Overall, Fultz has the least bust potential of any player in this draft, and he seems ticketed for the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 1 overall pick.
2. Lonzo Ball, UCLA (6-foot-6, 190 pounds)
Ball reminds some people of former Orlando Magic superstar Penny Hardaway because of his excellent size for a point guard and elite playmaking ability. His shooting form and the distractions his outspoken father could cause are concerns, but Ball clearly is an NBA-ready prospect with a polished offensive skill set.
3. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky (6-foot-3, 170 pounds)
Fox might be the most athletic point guard to enter the pro ranks since former Kentucky guard John Wall. Fox’s elite quickness and speed make him very difficult to guard off the dribble and in transition. Therefore, he has little trouble getting to the rim, and he has shown an ability to finish over stronger defenders. Fox isn’t a great shooter, but launching 3-point shots wasn’t really needed of him on a Wildcats team that had Malik Monk on it.
4. Dennis Smith Jr., North Carolina State (6-foot-2, 194 pounds)
Smith is ranked as the third-best player in the entire class by some experts. His ability to finish at the rim is impressive, and he played well against top competition, including a 32-point performance in a rare NC State win at Duke during which Smith impressed in the second half. Smith isn’t an excellent outside shooter, but his fundamentally sound shooting mechanics suggest improvement certainly could be made. His athleticism is amazing, too — just look at his 48-inch vertical jump.
5. Frank Ntilikina, France (6-foot-5, 190 pounds)
Ntilikina is a strong pass-first point guard who’s difficult to guard in pick-and-roll situations because he has the speed to blow by slower players and the size to post up smaller defenders. Ntilikina isn’t likely to make a huge impact as a rookie, but he’s certainly worth a top-eight pick for a team that’s willing to be patient and let him develop at a normal pace.
6. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State (6-foot, 185 pounds)
A lack of size and strength, combined with injuries during his freshman season, dropped Evans in several rankings over the last two years. But he’s an impressive offensive talent who increased his scoring average by almost seven points per game from his freshman campaign. Evans also shot over 80 percent from the free-throw line and shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in college. He could be a nice steal toward the end of Round 1.
7. Frank Jackson, Duke (6-foot-3, 200 pounds)
Jackson isn’t a great passer, and he won’t wow anyone with lockdown defense on the perimeter, but he should stretch the floor. He averaged 10.9 points per game in less than 25 minutes per night on a Duke team stacked with scorers such as Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard. Jackson also might be one of the five best athletes among guards in this class. Don’t be surprised if he competes in multiple NBA slam dunk contests.
8. P.J. Dozier, South Carolina (6-foot-6, 200 pounds)
Dozier played a key role in South Carolina’s surprising run to the Final Four of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. He can play point guard in the pros because of his above-average playmaking skill, but his size and strength allows him to play shooting guard as well. His shooting is a concern, evidenced by his below 30 percent mark from 3-point range and less than 60 percent rate from the free-throw line. But he attacks the rim with a vengeance, and he has the ability to finish over taller, more physical defenders.
9. Derrick White, Colorado (6-foot-4, 190 pounds)
White’s length and size gives him a physical advantage over most point guards, and he uses it to post up smaller defenders and drive to the basket. He certainly has the ability to score. White averaged 18.1 points per game on above 50 percent shooting from the floor, including a 39.6 percent mark from beyond the arc.
10. Frank Mason, Kansas (6-foot, 190 pounds)
Mason is a smart, trustworthy player after spending four seasons at an elite program. He played in a lot of big games and showed impressive leadership. Mason averaged 20.9 points per game and shot 47.1 percent from 3-point land as a senior, which is pretty impressive. He could provide shooting and scoring off the bench at the next level, which makes him worth a second-round pick. His defense isn’t bad, either.
Thumbnail photo via Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports Images
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