This year’s draft could offer a few diamonds in the rough.
The 2017 NBA Draft has the potential to go down as one of the more memorable drafts in recent years. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are starting to grow as the consensus No. 1 and No. 2 picks, with players like De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Jason Tatum, and TJ Leaf rounding out the first round.
However, there are other major names from the college basketball landscape that are projected to be picked later in the draft. What sets these players apart is that they will have great opportunities to have successful NBA careers, unlike many second-round picks.
Oregon forward Jordan Bell is projected to be picked early on in the second round. Bell made a name for himself in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, playing major minutes and filling in for senior Chris Boucher, who sustained a torn ACL in the Pac-12 Tournament. Bell proved throughout the tournament that he has a rare combination of athleticism and defensive ability. He averaged 13 RPG over the course of the NCAA Tournament, including 16 rebounds against North Carolina in the Final Four. Bell averaged just over eight RPG during the regular season.
The important thing to take away from Bell’s emergence during the tournament was his performance on the glass against the Tar Heels. North Carolina led the nation in RPG, averaging 43.5 each night. Bell went against Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks, one of the largest players in all of college basketball, and fared well.
While Meeks is not expected to be drafted this month, he still was considered one of the most polarizing players in college basketball and is certainly no easy task for a 6‘9 forward in Bell, who also weighs 45 lbs. less than Meeks.
Bell is expected to go within the early part of the second round. According to DraftExpress and NBADraft.net, he could be taken as early as pick No. 28 to the Los Angeles Lakers, or pick No. 33 to the Orlando Magic. However, after his surge at the tournament, Bell would be considered a steal that late, even as a late first-rounder. He went up against some of the best bigs in college basketball and held his own very well. He has drawn comparisons to Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green for his energy and aggressive play on the boards.
Another prospect who should be getting more attention than he has been is Purdue center Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan was in the running for the National Player of the Year award, as he helped Purdue earn a No. 4 seed in the tournament and reach the elite eight. He averaged just over 18 PPG and 12 RPG — impressive totals.
Like Bell’s, Swanigan’s success in the tournament has hardly helped his draft stock. Throughout the tournament, he averaged exactly what his numbers were throughout the regular season in terms of points and rebounds. However, had it not been for the blowout loss to the Kansas Jayhawks, those numbers would have been inflated. According to DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net, he is projected to fall in the middle of the second round, anywhere from the Magic at No. 33 to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 41.
In addition to his dominant frame, Swanigan has the ability to step out from beyond the arc. After shooting 29% from downtown as a freshman, Swanigan pushed that number to an impressive 45% (38-for-75) in his sophomore campaign. This is important because as we’ve all seen in recent years, big men who can shoot the three offer so much more today than a typical forward or center who is bound to the paint.
The uncertainty of when Swanigan will be picked demonstrates the risk/reward a team will have to take on him. He was absolutely dominant for the Boilermakers over the course of the 2016-17 season, but he certainly has his drawbacks.
Swanigan’s size can also be his downfall, however. During his teenage years in Fort Wayne, IN, Swanigan had to overcome obesity, as it was reported on NBADraft.net that he weighed well over 300 lbs. during his high school career. While he has slimmed down to a modest 250, Swanigan has been criticized for not being the most athletic or agile player on the court. This is important because of so many players in today’s league — like John Wall, for example — are able to get to the rim so quickly. To be an effective rim protector, Swanigan will have to learn how to move from end to end in a much faster way.
However, the benefits outweigh the risks in Swanigan’s case. He clearly has a strong work ethic, considering that he was able to overcome his obesity and improve his three-point shot in just one year. He has also already developed a strong inside game on both ends of the court; he just needs to learn how to become a faster player on the court. It’s much easier said than done, though, especially for a player who has already improved his physical presence as impressively as Swanigan has.
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