Starting Five: NBA scouts talk class of 2017
Over the past three weeks, the elite players from the class of 2017 have competed in the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago, the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland and Jordan Brand Classic in New York. Each step of the way, NBA scouts have watched closely. In this week's Starting Five, Eric Bossi reviews notes gathered from the NBA scouts.
1. NBA TAKING WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH ON 2017
Following the much-hyped class of 2016, NBA scouts expected that it would be tough for the class of 2o17 to match their predecessors. That being said, the NBA was hoping for a little more than they've seen out of 2017 over the past three weeks.
"It's not like it was last year obviously," one scout told Rivals.com. "This round of All-Star games hasn't been the best setting for a lot of these guys and there aren't as many no-brainers as we have seen in other classes."
However, one player did stand out the most to NBA scouts. The only player to receive votes in our polling of NBA scouts as the best overall prospect was 2017's No. 1 ranked player, Missouri-bound small forward Michael Porter Jr.
"Porter sometimes leaves you wanting a little more, but he's pretty clearly the best player in the class," said one Eastern Conference scout. "He has terrific size, he's athletic, he has great skill and he is the one guy that could give all of the 2016 kids a run for their money."
2. BAMBA, AYTON IMPRESS
After Porter Jr., NBA scouts seemed to be the most enamored with Rivals.com's No. 2 and No. 3 ranked players Mohamed Bamba and DeAndre Ayton. It was a pretty even split between the two with the Arizona-bound Ayton making a comeback and having the NBA guys warm up to him at the Jordan Brand Classic when he played with more energy.
"I don't know what was going on at McDonald's, but he really didn't do much," said one scout at the Jordan Brand Classic. "Maybe somebody ticked him off here because he has been kicking (butt) around the rim. In Chicago, all he wanted to do was shoot jump shots but now he's trying to dunk everything. He second leap has really caught me by surprise and he's tough on the block."
Those who like the undecided Bamba more point to his length and ability to be a game changer on the defensive end.
"His arms are so long that I wonder if it is even possible for him to shoot a normal jump shot but I don't really care," said one scout at the McDonald's All-American Game. "In our league we'll be drafting him to protect the rim and rebound. His length is a game-changer and he's also pretty coordinated. He looks like a kid that would be fun to work with."
3. STRENGTH OF CLASS IS IN THE SIZE
What stood out most to NBA scouts over the past few weeks was the abundance of size in the class of 2017. Not just with the big men either, but with positional size.
"The big guys are intriguing and there are a lot of them but I like the size with the wings," said an Eastern Conference Scout. "I think a lot of the bigger wings like Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt may be more natural as fours or combo forwards but that fits fine because the versatile guys who can be moved around are the way I think we are moving."
A representative from the Western Conference feels that as a group, the bigs are more skilled than they had been advertised to be.
"What stands out to me is all of the size," said the scout. "Not only are they big, but they all look really comfortable with the ball and have some ball skill to go along with athleticism. Look at a kid like Mitchell Robinson. He's mostly just dunking right now but he seems to have a natural feel for where to be and while it's not perfect, he's a threat to make some jumpers from the elbow area."
4. HOW WILL THE POINT GUARDS DO IN COLLEGE?
In discussing the class of 2017 class with NBA personnel, their biggest concerns were with the point guards. Undecided Trevon Duval and Alabama-bound Collin Sexton drew the most praise. While NBA guys liked Duval's athleticism and burst, they worried some that he his play didn't really separate him from the pack during the All-Star tour. They loved Sexton's scoring, athleticism and competitiveness but also saw him as more of a combo guard and worried some that he may be small for an NBA combo guard.
Most of all, they want to see how the class of 2017 point guards do in college so that they can get a better feel for them.
"With most of these guys, we are going to need to see them with their college teams to really get a good feel for them," said a front office member. "This setting of All-Star games just hasn't been very good for them. We need to see them in their element and how they react over the next few years."
5. LONG-TERM STOCKS AND SLEEPERS
In discussing potential sleepers from the class of 2017, the three names that came up the most were Michigan State-bound power forward Jaren Jackson, Miami-bound shooting guard Lonnie Walker and Kentucky-bound guard Shai Alexander.
"I don't know where you guys rank Jackson, but you should rank him high," said one scout. "That kid has a huge ceiling for growth. He's not quite as athletic as some of the other bigs in the class, but that should change with strength. He rebounds, he can play pick-and-pop and he's really young for the class."
"Lonnie Walker, I think he will be the best shooting guard in the class based on what I've seen from these guys," said a scout from the Western Conference. "He has good size, the game comes to him. He's going to a place where he'll be coached and I bet he'll end up putting up really big numbers."
"The Alexander kid headed to Kentucky has a chance," said the same Western Conference scout. "I don't know if he's a point or a two in our league, but I think he can defend either one and I like the idea of playing him with another combo type with size. I think he's got some Elfrid Payton in him."