The 2017 NBA draft seems to be loaded with some of the most talent in recent history, which has led to plenty of talented players seeing their stock slip a bit. If there was any year that landing a strong player in the late first or even the second-round seemed possible, then this one is it.
With hype surrounding names like Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, we’re going to take a look at five potentially underrated prospects ahead of Thursday’s draft. These names are all expected to be drafted outside of the lottery and are players with the type of upside that their future teams should be excited about.
Ivan Rabb, California
Rabb made the tough decision to go back to school for the 2016-17 season, and it wound up not being the best decision. He took a step back a bit last season with Cal, and although his points per game increased from 12.5 to 14 and rebounds from 8.5 to 10.5, his shooting percentage dropped. He not only went from shooting 61.5 percent from the field down to 48.4 percent last season but he failed to prove that he was the type of dominant player worthy of a lottery pick.
But, Rabb has good size at 6-foot-11 and 220 pounds and could wind up being a solid player if he’s able to show that he can compete at the NBA level. He’s an excellent rebounder and if he’s able to land in a spot where someone can lock in on improving his offensive game, then he’ll wind up being a steal wherever he gets selected.
Josh Hart, Villanova
As Adam Caparell of Complex Sports pointed out, Hart said he was the best player in the draft. The 2016-17 Big East Player of the Year probably isn’t getting as much love as he deserves after scoring 18.7 points per game and tallying 6.4 rebounds per game. Hart is a great rebounder for a guard, which is tough to find these days if you aren’t talking about someone like Russell Westbrook.
Recently, Reid Forgrave of CBS Sports explained how Hart could be “the next Draymond Green.” He doesn’t mean that necessarily as the type of banger inside that Green is, but instead that he could wind up being the guy who goes overlooked and winds up stepping up to be a great NBA player.
Tell me who the diamond in the rough is, though, and I’ll salute you. And don’t be surprised when, a few years from now, we’re including Hart on the lists that also include Brogdon, Green, and Crowder.
When you can get a guy who can shoot, rebound, pass and play exceptional defense, that’s hard to ignore. Even more than that, he shot better than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range, making him an even more appealing option.
Harry Giles, Duke
People seem to forget that Giles was one of the hottest high school prospects in recent memory, but a torn ACL before his senior year in high school kind of derailed things a bit. Giles could wind up falling outside of the lottery, which would be unreal for a 6-foot-10, 240 pound player with a sweet offensive game and the ability to dominate on the glass. Realistically, he’s probably the most versatile big man in this draft.
Giles has the type of upside and potential to be right there with top prospects like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, De’Aaron Fox and the other top prospects. It may take him a full season to really hit his stride, but that isn’t something that should push him outside of the lottery, especially in a time when teams take fliers on international players with upside.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Draymond Green was mentioned above, and Swanigan may be a perfect comparison for Swanigan. He averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season with Purdue. An obvious reason why some teams aren’t high on him is the fact that he’s only 6-foot-9 and seems to be a “tweener.” The good news, though, is that he can step back and knock down 3-pointers, as he shot 44.7 percent from deep last season.
Swanigan will probably go in the second round, but the argument for him landing right outside of the lottery is a strong one. It’s obvious that teams are terrified of drafting a player who has tons of pure skills but doesn’t have the size to play where they played in college. But, Swanigan is a hustler and all-around player who should be able to make an early impact in his NBA career.
Monte Morris, Iowa State
You can’t easily find the type of player that Monte Morris is. He steps up in big games, as you can see above from the team’s matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks. Even more important than that is the fact that he doesn’t turn the ball over, something that should have NBA scouts salivating. In 140 career games with the Cyclones, he averaged just 1.2 turnovers per game, while dishing out 5.5 assists per game. Even in his final two seasons when his assist totals jumped (6.9 in 2015-16 and 6.2 in 2016-17) he still kept his turnovers per game below 1.6.
Over his final three collegiate seasons, he shot above 50 percent from the field and averaged 16.4 points per game in his senior year. While Morris may not have the making of a superstar point guard like Fultz or Ball, he’s still a guy who should not only make a team’s roster but also be able to carve out a nice role as one of the first players off the bench.