Rich Graessle/AP Photo


  • The 2017 NBA draft big board kicks off with a heavy Duke, Kentucky and UCLA flavor. Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk and Lonzo Ball represent a deep well of talent.
By Jeremy Woo
December 15, 2016

There are 189 days between now and the 2017 NBA draft. Though that’s a relatively long time, as the New Year approaches and college conference play nears, it’s no longer too early for us to start daydreaming about ping pong balls, wingspans and vertical leaps. We have a reasonably good idea of which teams are going to be picking high in the lottery, so here’s something for embattled fan bases to chew on: as you’ve probably heard, this is shaping up to be a pretty strong draft class.

We are often way quick to label drafts using the binary of great or awful. The unsexy truth is that we can’t and won’t know that for a few more years at minimum. Get excited, but it’s wise to keep the roll at an appropriate pace and hands and legs inside the vehicle right now. It’s December. Things are looking up, though: I don’t know that this draft will deliver a smattering of full-blown superstars, but relative to how we looked at last year’s group, there’s a greater number of truly intriguing prospects with clearer routes to contributing at the NBA level.

What’s that? There’s no room for reserved takes in this day and age? Look, the first rule of ranking future draftees is that nobody ever really knows anything. That’s not meant to be a cop-out for this board come June, 2017 or 2030—the fact of the matter is, you can never be completely sure how good Players X, Y or Z are going to be. That’s because no one can perfectly predict the future (…but if you’re out there, call me ASAP). This is why teams are, yes, frequently wrong.

Smart franchises make important choices by gathering as much pertinent information as possible and scrutinizing every aspect of their given decision. As such, the goal of these big boards will be to inform and to trade mass draft hyperbole for nuance as much as possible. These are rankings in a vacuum, unconcerned with team needs and situations. Here’s an early ranking of 30 top prospects for 2017.

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