Markelle Fultz has spent much of his first and (presumably) only year in college totally off of the national radar while playing for a Washington team that would finish last in the Pac-12 if Oregon State didn't exist.
And that's too bad.
But guess who doesn't care? NBA scouts. Because they've already seen what they need to see. No, we're not going to have Fultz in the NCAA Tournament, which is disappointing. But he's been so good individually that he's still the most likely player to be selected first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Every time a scout I know leaves Washington, they exit impressed by what they've witnessed. The losing doesn't bother them any more than Ben Simmons losing at LSU bothered them. What happened at LSU wasn't Simmons' fault. What's happening at Washington isn't Fultz's fault. So, odds are, for the second straight year, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft will come from a non-NCAA Tournament team.
My first 2017 NBA Mock Draft is below:
(Team order is based on the SportsLine predicted order of finish.)
| Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington |
LSU's struggles didn't prevent Ben Simmons from going first overall last year, and Washington's struggles won't keep Markelle Fultz from going first overall this year, either. The explosive athlete has been a statistical monster and projects as a franchise point guard. There are no obvious weaknesses or points of concern.
| Dennis Smith, PG, N.C. State |
Dennis Smith was the best player on the court during NC State's upset of Duke, and he has two triple-doubles so far this season. Some scouts have questioned the point guard's motor and wondered whether he's wired to play hard on both ends of the court all of the time. But his upside is undeniable. He has the tools to be an NBA star.
| Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas |
Frank Mason has been KU's MVP. But Josh Jackson has put together a tremendous freshman season. He's a great athlete and could be a top-shelf wing defender. The only issue is his unreliable jumper. But that won't scare teams from selecting Jackson high in the lottery.
| Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA |
Lonzo Ball isn't as athletic as the other great point guard prospects, and the mechanics of his shot aren't ideal. But he's too good at too many other things to fall outside of the top half of the lottery. High basketball IQ. Great vision. Unique playmaking ability. Ball has all of those things and uses them effortlessly to make his teammates better.
| Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State |
Jonathan Isaac has arguably developed into the Seminoles' top all-around player. He's not just a great prospect anymore. He's a really good college player consistently making an impact for a top-15 team.
| Malik Monk, PG/SG, Kentucky |
Malik Monk is the best scorer available in this draft and can post big numbers at any time. He got 47 in a win over North Carolina. He got 37 in a win over Georgia. At worst, he'll be something like J.R. Smith. At best, he'll be an All-Star combo guard that leads an NBA team in scoring. That ceiling is worth a high-lottery gamble.
| Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke |
Jayson Tatum is averaging 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds for a Duke team that, despite all of the adversity, is still top 15 at KenPom. The freshman forward missed the Blue Devils' first nine games with a foot injury. But that didn't prevent him from becoming a high-level college player almost immediately after being medically cleared.
| De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky |
No prospect is faster with the ball than De'Aaron Fox, who has been Kentucky's most consistent player. He has great size for the position and his only issue, really, is that dreadful 3-point percentage because nobody wants a point guard who can't shoot. But it's reasonable to believe Fox's jumper can improve with work and time.
| Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona |
Lauri Markkanen is the main reason Arizona remained nationally relevant despite Terrance Ferguson's decision not to enroll, Ray Smith's torn ACL and Allonzo Trier's suspension for a failed PED test that lasted 19 games. He's a legit scorer and a seven-footer who is shooting above 45 percent from the 3-point line.
| Justin Patton, C, Creighton |
Justin Patton is a 7-foot center who has the ability to play around the rim or away from the basket. He's the biggest surprise among all one-and-done candidates. He's gone from mostly off of the radar to a top-10 guy.
| Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State |
Miles Briles is a super-athletic hybrid forward who produces highlight dunks on the regular and has shown the ability to reliably make 3-pointers. The idea that he might be a tweener by historical standards hardly matters in today's NBA.
| Frank Ntilikina, PG, France |
Frank Ntilikina should be the first international prospect off the board. He's a big and strong point guard who signed his initial professional contract at the age of 15. Ntilikina is 18 now and the reigning MVP of the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship.
| Harry Giles, PF, Duke |
At some point somebody has to take Harry Giles based on little more than the fact that he was, about 16 months ago, projected to be the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Obviously, he's looked nothing like that player this season and has been mostly insignificant at Duke. But the possible reward outweighs the risk outside of the top 10.
| T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA |
TJ Leaf, overshadowed by his more heralded teammate (Lonzo Ball) all season, has been incredible for a UCLA team that's running the nation's most efficient offense. He's averaging 17.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. He'll be a stretch-four in the NBA for many years.
| Ivan Rabb, PF, California |
Ivan Rabb surprisingly returned for his sophomore year of college and hasn't disappointed. His usage rate is up -- as are his points per game and rebounds per game averages. He is widely considered to be a safe top-20 pick.
| Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M |
Robert Williams is a raw 19-year-old who wasn't even a consensus top-50 player out of high school. But he caught NBA scouts' attention early this season and never lost it.
| OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana |
A season-ending knee injury suffered in January put OG Anunoby in a less-than-ideal spot because it's unlikely he'll be healthy enough to work out for franchises in advance of this draft. Still, he's already proven he has the tools to be an elite defender in the NBA. So if Anunoby leaves Indiana, absolutely, he'll still be a first-round pick.
| Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina |
Justin Jackson has forever been a terrific prospect. Now he's also a tremendous player. The 6-8 wing is averaging above 20 points in ACC games and leading UNC to what could be a league title in the nation's deepest conference. He's shooting a career-high 39.3 percent from 3-point range, which is helping him with NBA executives.
| Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany |
Isaiah Hartenstein was arguably the second most impressive prospect at the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, behind only Ntilikina. And he should be the second international player off the board. The 7-footer moves well for a player his size and could be a legitimate threat from the 3-point line, like Marc Gasol is now, in time.
| Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia |
Rodions Kurucs is an 18-year-old wing who is shooting above 40 percent from 3-point range as a professional in Spain. He needs to add strength, but that's the case for most teenage prospects. Either way, he could be a great draft-and-stash prospect.
| Terrence Ferguson, SG, Adelaide |
Terrance Ferguson is the former Arizona signee who skipped college to accept a professional contract in Australia. No, he isn't producing much. But that reality -- i.e., American teenagers failing to be relevant overseas -- has never prevented NBA franchises from drafting anybody in the first round. Brandon Jennings is the best example.
| Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana |
Thomas Bryant hasn't been great this season, which is among the reasons Indiana didn't look like a Big Ten contender even before injuries decimated the roster. But he's still a 6-10 center who is comfortable around the rim or facing up away from the basket, and those things alone are worth a spot in the first 30 picks.
| Tyler Lydon, SF/PF, Syracuse |
Tyler Lydon was a legitimate NBA prospect after his freshman year and has done nothing but improved as a sophomore. He's shooting a higher percentage from the field and 3-point range. He's averaging more points and rebounds. He's a stretch-four prospect who shouldn't slip out of the first round.
| Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky |
Bam Adebayo is an undersized center with no real skills away from the basket, which is why a place in the lottery seems unlikely. But what he lacks in that department he mostly makes up for with a high-motor and approach that makes him want to dunk everything. And there's usually a place on an NBA roster for players with that type of ferociousness.
| Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville |
Donovan Mitchell has flipped a switch in ACC play and is performing like one of the nation's top 20 players. He finished with 29 points a few weeks ago at Pitt, then got another 28 in a win over NC State. His big efforts made it possible for Louisville to flourish despite injuries to multiple rotation players.
| Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor |
Johnathan Motley is one of the breakout stars of this season. He's nearly averaging a double-double for a Baylor team in possession of one of the nation's best resumes. His 16-point, 10-rebound performance against Kansas came in front of several NBA scouts who left Allen Fieldhouse impressed by what they saw.
| Luke Kennard, SG, Duke |
Luke Kennard isn't Duke's best prospect but he has been Duke's best player. The sophomore guard is averaging 19.8 points while shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range. He has limitations in certain areas, definitely. But his offensive game rooted in shot-making and skill should allow Kennard to transition to the NBA smoothly.
| Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso |
Alec Peters is having the type of massive statistical season most projected while leading Valpo to what should be a Horizon League title. He's averaging a double-double with better than 23 points per game. He's still shooting above 40 percent from 3-point range for his career even though he's struggled somewhat from distance this season.
| Josh Hart, SG, Villanova |
Every junior who returns for his senior year doesn't actually help himself with NBA people. But Josh Hart definitely has. He's a Player of the Year candidate for a Villanova team on pace to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That he's established himself as a reliable 3-point shooter has been worth millions of dollars.
| Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue |
Swanigan isn't in most projected first rounds. But his production for a winning team in a power conference has to be taken seriously. He makes 20-20 games look normal. Does he have limitations? Yes. But a 6-9 monster who can also shoot jumpers is deserving of a serious look.