NBA draft: Top 10 prospects at each position

USA TODAY Sports ranks the top 10 players at each position heading into this week's NBA draft.

The Portland Trail Blazers have three picks in the first round of the draft, No. 15, No. 20 and No. 26.

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Top 10 point guards

1. Markelle Fultz, Washington

No player in this draft has a better mix of upside and polish. The comparisons to fellow recent No. 1 overall point guards Derrick Rose, John Wall and Kyrie Irving aren’t quite perfect, though. Fultz lacks the athleticism of the first two and the singular talent of Irving’s scoring, but he appears to be an even more well-rounded prospect with more size and defensive potential. The only real question appears to be mental: Is he a natural competitor?

2. Lonzo Ball, UCLA

Ignore his father, please. Ball is the best passer to enter the NBA Draft since Ricky Rubio — if he’s not better than Rubio. And he is a proven high-volume shooter with all sorts of range. Still, questions abound on the defensive side, where he lacks quickness and instincts. And the bigger underlying issue is whether his strange shooting form will prevent him from being able to hit pull-up jumpers against NBA defenses. Nonetheless, his basketball IQ is high enough to overcome some flaws.

3. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky

Fox’s trajectory is up, up, up. He’s an outstanding athlete with a great court sense. More Rajon Rondo than John Wall, he fits the pick-and-roll heavy offenses of the NBA with one issue: his jump shot. That may prevent him from being a superstar, but he’s an elite defensive prospect and natural playmaker.

4. Dennis Smith, North Carolina State

Smith is the point guard prospect who really looks the part. He has a traditional point guard build with great athleticism and no obvious holes in his game. The question mark comes with his attitude; he’s been known as headstrong for most of his high-level playing career so far.

5. Frank Ntilikina, France

Though U.S. fans may not know much about the French point guard (pronounced nee-lee-KEE-na), scouts don’t doubt what he brings to the table. Ntilikina has enough size to become an elite defender, and he’s a selfless game manager who has rapidly improving range on his jumper.

6. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State

7. Frank Mason, Kansas

8. Monte Morris, Iowa State

9. Edmond Sumner, Xavier

10. Melo Trimble, Maryland

 

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Top 10 shooting guards

1. Malik Monk, Kentucky

Here’s the dilemma with Monk: He may be the best scorer in the draft, but he may not be able to do anything else at a high level. Monk is a great athlete who knows how to get buckets at any turn. But his skill set might make him best fit as a high-volume bench scorer, a la Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford. How high would you draft a potential Sixth Man of the Year?

2. Donovan Mitchell, Louisville

No one benefited more from the combine. Mitchell is 6-3 but boasts a 6-10 wingspan and top-tier athleticism. He already knows how to contribute on one end — Rick Pitino can really coach defense — and showed flashes of being able to play both guard positions as a sophomore.

3. Luke Kennard, Duke

He might be the best shooter in the draft. That alone is huge. But Kennard also showed great instincts and the ability to score in many ways as a sophomore. Moreover, he’s tough, which is crucial if he’s going to develop into the type of “3-and-D” player teams value so highly.

4. Terrance Ferguson, Australia

One scout will tell you that going to Australia instead of college exposed all of Ferguson’s weaknesses: ballhandling, lack of a midrange game, IQ. Another will tell you he’s still moldable, and his combination of elite size, three-point shooting and athleticism makes him a must-have prospect.

5. P.J. Dozier, South Carolina

One of the more under-the-radar prospects, Dozier gets this spot over a handful of borderline first-round prospects because he’s an ace defender with a hint of point guard skill. With his nearly 6-7 frame (including a 6-11 wingspan), all he needs now is to improve his shaky jumper.

6. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State

7. Josh Hart, Villanova

8. Derrick White, Colorado

9. Frank Jackson, Duke

10. Kobi Simmons, Arizona

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Top 10 small forwards

1. Josh Jackson, Kansas

Jackson has remarkable athleticism and defensive potential. He’s also quietly a great passer and solid ballhandler with high basketball IQ. The main thing stopping him from being the No. 1 overall pick is concern about his jump shot, though he shot 48.1% on three-pointers for the final 17 games of his college career. Still, his upside is enormous; comparisons to Scottie Pippen and Kawhi Leonard even seem reasonable.

2. Jayson Tatum, Duke

There’s not much question that Tatum will develop into a solid No. 3 scoring option, at the least. That makes him the safest pick in the draft. But he has the potential to be more than that — 25 points per game seems reachable, and he could become a major matchup problem if he grows into his frame and becomes a small-ball power forward in the long term.

3. OG Anunoby, Indiana

One game into the college season — in which he shut down Jackson and Kansas — Anunoby seemed like a lock for the top 10. Then the injuries kicked in. Anunoby has as much defensive potential as any player in this class with his elite combination of size and strength. And he was showing improvement on offense before tearing a knee ligament in January.

4. Justin Jackson, North Carolina

If Jackson, 22, were a freshman with his numbers, he’d be an undoubted elite prospect. But he took a long path to being a good shooter, is rail thin for his 6-8 frame and doesn’t stand out as an athlete. For now, he looks like a potential starter but not a star.

5. Wesley Inwundu, Kansas State

The skinny senior improved all four years at Kansas State thanks to his remarkable work ethic. He's going to battle for you, and if he keeps improving on his jumper, he could be a very good 3-and-D swingman.

6. V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame

7. Dillon Brooks, Oregon

8. Alberto Abalde, Spain

9. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina

10. Aleksandar Vezenkov, Cyprus

 

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Top 10 power forwards

1. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State

He’s 6-11 and moves like a guard. He’s selfless and committed to the defensive end, and he grades out well in statistical analysis. There’s little that Isaac can’t do; a favorite comparison for him is Lamar Odom. Isaac is one of the handful of prospects in this draft who seems capable of changing an entire team, but his frame and occasional disappearances make him a bust risk, too.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Arizona

Markkanen’s 7-foot frame and legitimate three-point range make him a lock to be a solid offensive contributor. The question is whether he has the potential to be a leading scorer — maybe a slightly lesser Dirk Nowitzki — or simply a role player who hits threes, like Ryan Anderson.

3. T.J. Leaf, UCLA

Like Markkanen, the focus on Leaf tends to be his value behind the perimeter. But he’s a bit more of an inside presence, with a competitive streak that makes him an underrated rebounder. His footwork is very good inside and out, and he has a nice touch from any range.

4. Jordan Bell, Oregon

Though he is best known for the rebounds he didn’t get, Bell actually is a terrific rebounding prospect. He also has elite-level quickness and may be able to guard every position, an asset in the switch-happy NBA. The question is whether he can contribute anything to an NBA offense.

5. Semi Ojeleye, SMU

He’s 6-6, but his bullish strength and athleticism should allow him to play power forward even against much bigger players. His skill set is perfect to be a stretch-four. He can knock down three-pointers, but has enough ball skills to create, while he’s tough in every way possible.

6. D.J. Wilson, Michigan

7. Tyler Lydon, Syracuse

8. Devin Robinson, Florida

9. Johnathan Motley, Baylor

10. Alec Peters, Valparaiso

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Top 10 centers

1. Zach Collins, Gonzaga

Collins is a legitimate 7-footer with great athleticism, jaw-dropping per-minute stats, a penchant for big moments, great shot-blocking instincts and the ability to step out to 3-point range. He’s basically an ideal “stretch-five” for an NBA that clearly is headed in that direction.

2. John Collins, Wake Forest

Many projections list Collins as a power forward, but his future clearly should be at center. He’s shown great offensive skill in workouts, including range out to the 3-point line. That comes along with his solid athleticism and relentless work ethic. Ten years ago, he’d have been a top-10 lock.

3. Jarrett Allen, Texas

In a crowded field of centers, Allen stands out as the easiest to project a role for. He is an excellent athlete with a huge wingspan and the potential to be a great rim-protector on defense and rim-runner on offense. The questions are whether he can do much beyond that and whether he has the motor to be a great defender.

4. Harry Giles, Duke

If Giles is 100% cleared medically, he could be a lottery pick. If not, he might fall out of the first round. The former No. 1 recruit didn’t get a chance to do much at Duke thanks to injuries, but his per-minute numbers were solid, and the skill that once made him a sure-shot top pick is still there, even if the athleticism is diminished from the knee injuries.

5. Bam Adebayo, Kentucky

Here’s a secret: Kentucky’s best player for the final two months of the season wasn’t Malik Monk or De’Aaron Fox. From mid-January on, Adebayo was unleashed as a consistent force. His offensive rebounding and ability to switch on screens has many teams intrigued.

6. Justin Patton, Creighton

7. Isaiah Hartenstein, Germany

8. Ike Anigbogu, UCLA

9. Anzejs Pasecniks, Latvia

10. Ivan Rabb, California

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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