2017 NBA Draft: Ranking Best Wings Available
- There are three potential All-Stars atop a loaded class of wings in the 2017 NBA draft. Would you rather have Jackson, Tatum or Isaac? We rank the 15 best wings available.
There's three potential All-Stars atop a loaded class of wings in the 2017 NBA draft. Would you rather have Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum or Jonathan Isaac? That's a tough—but desirable—decision for NBA front offices to have to make.
While the guards have garnered most of the attention in the build-up to the draft, the wing position might be the deepest collection of talent. Outside of the three mention above, you have sleepers (O.G. Anunoby, Terrance Ferguson), instant impact players (Justin Jackson, Josh Hart) and plenty of more players of intrigue.
Without further ado, here are in-depth breakdowns on the top 15 wings in the draft, along with brief breakdowns on their backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses.
(Research and analysis provided by Jeremy Woo, Jake Fischer, Chris Johnson and Michael Shapiro.)
1. Josh Jackson, Kansas (Freshman)
Stats: 16.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 51.3% FG, 37.8% 3FG
Bio: A projected top-five pick, Jackson is one of the more rounded wing players in this class. He was named a second-team All-American and Big 12 Freshman of the Year after an impressive season at Kansas. Jackson checks most of the boxes you want in a wing player—he’s a great athlete, can get to the rim, create shots off the dribble and can really defend when he wants to. He has a reputation for being extremely competitive, although his emotions can get the best of him at times. Jackson has the ability to become a high level two-way standout.
Strengths: Jackson is a clever scorer who prefers to play downhill but has a little bit of shake off the dribble. He’s a solid passer and at his best in the open floor, where he can attack the basket and find teammates. He’s built well and should be able to deal with NBA physicality. Jackson is an excellent on-ball defender when he’s keyed in and has solid instincts on that side of the ball.
Weaknesses: It all comes down to the jump shot for Jackson, who shot the ball pretty well from three at Kansas but still has flawed mechanics and will need some refinement. He knows how to get to his jumper off the dribble, but isn’t there yet as a shooter. Fixing his shot will be the first task wherever he ends up. Maturity comes with time, but it’s fair to question Jackson given an off-the-court incident at Kansas and his occasional bouts of bad body language on the court. It won’t preclude him from a desirable draft spot.
2. Jayson Tatum, Duke (Freshman)
Stats: 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 45.2% FG, 34.2% 3FG
Bio: A scorer through and through, Tatum made his name as a prep star by putting the ball in the basket with the best of them and showed some growth in his lone season at Duke. He came on strong over the course of the season, helping lead Duke to an ACC tournament title and cementing his place near the top of the draft. He’s a likely top-five selection.
Strengths: Tatum possesses one of the most NBA-ready skill sets in the draft, with some comfort scoring at all levels. He’s able to create space for himself and make difficult shots when necessary, a necessity for most elite scorers in the league. He has the size to in theory play both forward positions, and the length to be a passable defender with some added work. He’s quick enough to attack bigger defenders and big enough to post up smaller ones. Tatum is also a solid rebounder. He enters the league with a solid offensive repertoire and has the potential to lead a team in scoring one day.
Weaknesses: Although Tatum’s skill set is impressive, he’s not an athlete of the highest tier, which makes it tougher to draw a direct through-line to NBA success. Tatum can fall in love with his mid-range shot at times and occasionally will take a tough look when he doesn’t need to. He’s developing as a passer but isn’t a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and if he doesn’t work on defense, it’s hard to see how he’ll impact the game when he isn’t shooting the ball. Tatum will have to expand his game or risk being branded a one-dimensional scoring specialist.
3. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State (Freshman)
Stats: 12.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 50.8% FG, 34.8% 3FG
Bio: In a different draft, Isaac’s substantial upside might be in play for the top pick. His combination of size, skill, defense and shooting potential can’t be found anywhere else in this class. He had an uneven season at Florida State, where he played a supporting role, had several eye-popping moments, and also some head-scratching games. Isaac has a longer development curve than most projected in the top 10, but he’s a big upside swing that could come at a value depending on how the first few picks shake out.
Strengths: Isaac has impressive ball skills and fluidity of movement for a near 7-footer, which enables him to play either forward spot. His size, rebounding ability and weakside shot-blocking ability suggest he could even play as a positionless center as he fills out and matures. He has solid shooting mechanics that should stretch out to NBA range and he can put the ball on the ground and attack the basket. There aren’t a lot of bigs with his potential level of offensive versatility.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to get past how thin Isaac is, and though he should fill out some, his eventual usage will depend somewhat on the development of his body. He looked tentative at times at FSU and doesn’t have outstanding instincts. Isaac will have to grow into his role and become more assertive and willing to score the basketball. He knows how to contribute without the ball in his hands, but with the talent he has, it’s natural to demand more.
4. O.G. Anunoby, Indiana (Sophomore)
Stats: 11.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 31.1 3P%, 55.7 FG%
Bio: A three-star recruit out of Jefferson City (Mo.) High, Anunoby shined as a defender in limited minutes during his freshman season at Indiana. He figured to take on a larger workload as a sophomore, but he wound up appearing in only 16 games after suffering a season-ending knee injury in January. Despite the uncertainty surrounding his recovery, Anunoby decided to enter the draft rather than return to a Hoosiers team that made a coaching change this off-season.
Strengths: In an era when teams are rolling out increasingly radical iterations of small-ball lineups, Anunoby projects as an ideal stopper. His blend of length (6’8’’ with a 7’2’’ wingspan) and quickness allows him to check guards, wings and big men. He gets into passing lanes and offers rim protection, rebounding and the switchability to muck up pick-and-roll actions. Anunoby might be the best defender in this class, full stop.
Weaknesses: Anunoby is limited offensively, and his scant body of work as a college player makes it difficult to assess how he’ll acquit himself as a scorer against NBA defenders. He sank 36.5% of his threes at Indiana, but he only registered 74 attempts, and his free-throw percentage (52.2%) is cause for skepticism regarding the reliability of his shooting range. Anunoby also has a long way to go as a ball handler and passer.
5. Justin Jackson, North Carolina (Junior)
Stats: 18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 37.0 3P%, 44.3 FG%
Bio: Over three seasons at North Carolina, Jackson evolved from an auxiliary option on a squad fronted by veterans to a headliner on a national championship runner-up to a conference player of the year on a title winner. Jackson actually declared for the draft last year, but he elected to return to Chapel Hill as a junior and saw his draft stock soar during a stellar campaign.
Strengths: The biggest reason Jackson emerged as a potential first-round pick this year is his shooting; he went from knocking down only 29% of his threes in 2015-16 to 37% on more than twice as many attempts in 2016-17. That floor-stretching prowess, combined with his ability to hold his own defensively at multiple positions, makes Jackson an interesting two-way wing prospect.
Weaknesses: It’s difficult to see Jackson making much of an impact offensively beyond stroking jump shots. He’s not particularly adept at manufacturing space off the bounce when tightly guarded, and he could have trouble getting to the rim against NBA defenders. Jackson also could labor on the other end of the floor against bigger, physical NBA wings.
6. Terrance Ferguson, Australia (Age: 19)
Stats: 4.6 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, 31.4 3P%, 38.2 FG%
Bio: Ferguson verbally committed to Arizona in April 2016 (after previously pledging to Alabama), but he never ended up playing for the Wildcats, choosing instead to spend a season with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League in Australia. He didn’t shoulder a major role for the team, however, registering just 15.2 minutes per game and scoring fewer than five points per game.
Strengths: Ferguson is liable to deliver impressive spurts of three-point shooting, such as his performance at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit, when he went 7-for-11 from deep. He’s also a top-level athlete who has the foundation to grow into an effective perimeter defender. Ferguson profiles as a 3-and-D piece in a league filled with teams increasingly desirous of them.
Weaknesses: Ferguson’s limited statistical impact during his lone season Down Under reflects the reality that he probably isn’t equipped to help an NBA team much as a rookie. He remains prone to bouts of inconsistency as a jump shooter, purportedly his best skill, and he needs to add some mass to his 6’7’’ frame to better his chances of checking NBA forwards.
7. Semi Ojeleye, SMU (Junior)
Stats: 19.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 48.7% FG, 52.4% 3FG
Bio: Ojeleye stood out in his lone season at SMU after transferring from Duke and sitting out a year. He won AAC Player of the Year and led the Mustangs in scoring with his powerful inside-out game, and after testing the waters at the draft combine opted to turn pro. He’s an intelligent player with a pro-ready body who could thrive running the floor in a fast-paced offense. He’s on the first-round fringe.
Strengths: Safe to say, Ojeleye passes the old eye test, at a well-built 235 pounds. He can move smaller defenders around and drive past slower ones as a combo forward, and can step out and shoot the three with some comfort. He’s strong and possesses good body control that lets him attack the basket effectively. That versatility is very much en vogue, and he has a chance to excel as a small-ball power forward who can do damage in transition.
Weaknesses: Although Ojeleye’s body is a plus, he’s not extremely long, which makes him somewhat of an tweener in the NBA. His perimeter defense was on-and-off in playing in a relatively weak conference, and he may not handle it well enough to play heavy minutes on the wing. Ojeleye will have to become an adequate defender in some capacity or step up his offense another notch to stay on the court. He won’t be able to play bully-ball as much in the NBA and will have to adjust to more athletic defenses.
8. Josh Hart, Villanova (Senior)
Stats: 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 40.4 3P%, 51.0 FG%
Bio: After helping Villanova win a national championship as a junior, Hart elevated his game last season, leading the Wildcats to a Big East title and earning the conference’s player of the year award. Hart’s status as one of the top players in college basketball in 2016-17 is reflected by his earning the POY honor given out by the popular analytics site Kenpom.com.
Strengths: A well-rounded wing who plays hard on both ends of the floor, Hart has the tools to serve as an effective complementary contributor at the back end of a team’s rotation. He can switch assignments defensively, rebounds his position well, provides a shooting threat from beyond the arc and shows promise as a secondary playmaker. His versatility would give a team more flexibility in crafting lineups.
Weaknesses: Hart isn’t a top-notch athlete, which could limit him when trying to create shots off the bounce and finishing in traffic at the rim. He improved his shooting numbers toward the end of his college career, but Hart may not become a reliable long-range shooter unless he irons out his stroke. There’s also his age (22), which suggests he doesn’t have as much potential for improvement as other players in this class.
9. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (Senior)
Stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 49.9% FG, 25.5% 3FG
Bio: Blossomgame is one of the oldest players in the draft class, and as such will need to impress out of the gate to carve out a place in the NBA. He’s a tough, versatile defender and athlete who could be a nice complimentary player. He has a history of serious leg injuries that may give some teams pause. If Blossomgame gets his jumper together, he has a chance.
Strengths: Defensive versatility is an important baseline for wing players looking to catch on in the NBA, and Blossomgame blends nice length, strength and athleticism with experience. He won’t create a ton of his own offense, but he’s intelligent on cuts and finds ways to be effective in spite of that. His motor is a plus, he’s a willing rebounder, and gives off glue-guy vibes.
Weaknesses: It hurts that Blossomgame doesn’t have an offensive calling card at this stage of his career. He shot the three effectively as a junior (44.6%) but took a step backward last season, which obviously didn’t help his stock after he chose to return to school. The injury history is somewhat concerning. He’ll have to answer those questions and be a strong enough defender if he wants to stick.
10. Devin Robinson, Florida (Junior)
Stats: 11.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 47.5% FG, 39.1% 3FG
Bio: A late-blooming, extremely gifted athlete, Robinson showed improvement every year at Florida and as a junior began to add the three-point shot to his game. He’s thin, but wiry with functional strength and has the length and foot speed to defend both wings and bigs, in theory. He’s a second-rounder with some upside as an active, floor-running forward who allows you to tinker with defensive matchups while spacing the floor on the other end.
Strengths: Robinson is as good an athlete as they come, with a 41” max vertical and nearly 7’1” wingspan. He had the lowest registered body fat percentage at the combine. He could thrive in a role with simplified offensive demands thanks to his potential as a versatile defender and rebounder. He continues to develop his own offense on the perimeter, but may not need to add too many wrinkles if he’s a standout in other areas.
Weaknesses: It’s imperative Robinson continues to bulk up in order to utilize his physical tools on both sides of the ball. He’s a limited offensive player who likes to play downhill, but lacks creativity and must improve his handle and decision-making. He’ll need to be some type of offensive threat to justify staying on the court. If his shooting continues to improve and he refines his defensive technique, he’ll have opportunities to do that.
11. Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State (Senior)
Stats: 13.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 48.1% FG, 37.6% 3FG
Bio: Iwundu has some point-forward potential after a strong college career at Kansas State that showcased his versatility on the perimeter. He’s made improvements as a jump shooter, but needs to improve as a scorer off the dribble. He’s also a long, agile defender with the potential to guard three or four positions. Tall ball-handlers aren’t easy to find, and Iwundu has intriguing potential in the second round.
Strengths: Impressive physical tools (including a 7’1” wingspan) and skill level give Iwundu clear NBA intrigue and fits the ideal mold for a wing. He can initiate some offense, run the pick and roll and push in transition, and was a critical cog for the Wildcats as a playmaker. If his defense comes together and his shooting improvement is more than a mirage, Iwundu could be a value pick should he slip to the back of draft.
Weaknesses: It’s still not clear if Iwundu’s shooting improvement is for real, and he’s still limited to spot-up, set-shot situations when shooting threes. He can be tentative offensively and switch it on and off at times. His ball-handling skills are a plus, but he’ll have to figure out how to score off the dribble more effectively. He can get to the rim thanks to his size, but isn’t incredibly explosive. His consistency on both ends of the floor left a little to be desired, but he brings notable strong points to the table that will make him a worthy developmental investment in the second round.
12. Sterling Brown, SMU (Senior)
Stats: 13.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 45.9% FG, 44.9% 3FG
Bio: Despite being a four-year contributor at SMU, Brown remained an under-the-radar prospect going into the pre-draft process. The younger brother of former Lakers guard Shannon Brown, Sterling has a jack-of-all-trades type game and profiles as a sleeper 3-and-D type player at the next level. He’s receiving second-round consideration.
Strengths: Brown is a capable jump shooter, passer and ball-handler with a strong frame that allows him to deal with bigger defenders and attack the basket. He’s a consistent, intelligent player and also contributes on the glass. His length suggests he can defend multiple positions, and the role he’ll play in the NBA is somewhat akin to his complimentary role at SMU as a secondary ball-handler and scorer.
Weaknesses: A lack of elite athleticism limits Brown’s ceiling somewhat and may make it more difficult for him to create his own shot. He’ll have to improve his overall craft and get better attacking off the dribble in order to take on a bigger offensive role. As it stands, he could be a rotational floor-spacer if his jumper is effective at the next level. He doesn’t have one calling-card skill to be a true specialist at this point.
13. Davon Reed, Miami (Senior)
Stats: 14.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 43.3% FG, 39.7% 3FG
Bio: Another player who fits the in-demand 3-and-D mold, Reed is receiving interest in the second round thanks to his proven three-point shooting and ability to contain on the perimeter. He doesn’t have high-end upside, but he has the baseline skills to fill an NBA role without too much extra projection.
Strengths: Reed shot 39.5% for his career from three at Miami and has a 7’0” wingspan that helps him defend different types of players on the perimeter. He can score off the dribble and on set shots, and should be able to stay on the court against different types of lineups. Reed is also a solid athlete, which offers some room for added growth. He’s big enough to play a frontcourt spot in a pinch.
Weaknesses: In Miami’s offense, Reed wasn’t a high-usage offensive option, and won’t be ready to do much more than space the floor and score situationally. He’s not an ideal ball-handler and is better served on the wing, where he’ll have to fight for transition baskets and learn to get himself open. He’s not much of a playmaker, either. If Reed struggles at all defensively, it may be hard for him to separate himself.
14. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State (Sophomore)
Stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 75.4 FT%, 33.3 3P%
Bio: An IMG Academy and Oak Hill product, Bacon returned to Florida State for his sophomore season after considering a jump last season with fellow freshman Malik Beasley. Bacon led the Seminoles in scoring this season as Florida State went 26-9, reached the ACC semifinals and the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Strengths: Bacon has all the physical tools to carve out a long NBA career. He’s 6’7” in shoes, can use a 6’10” wingspan to bottle up any wing on the next level and come jump with the best of them. Bacon has shown an ability to score and finish at the rim while flashing an outside shot. He also rebounded well for his position. He had moments where he looked capable of running an offense and showcased an ability to create for others.
Weaknesses: In the eyes of NBA scouts, Bacon’s physical profile doesn’t make up for his erratic shooting and questionable shot selection. Too often was he eager to step into lightly contested midrange jumpers rather than fully attacking closeouts or swinging the ball to his teammates. Bacon had just 111 assists in 69 career games. And with his inconsistent stroke, there’s a legitimate question as to which backcourt position he’ll play in the league. If he can’t create for others and can’t find the the range in the NBA, Bacon might not be long for the league.
15. Dillon Brooks, Oregon (Junior)
Stats: 16.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 48.8 FG%, 40.1 3P%
Bio: Brooks was Oregon’s leader in its run to the Final Four last season. He led the team in scoring en route to being named Pac-12 Player of the Year, also earning First-Team All American status. The young Canadian finished his career as one of the most decorated players in Ducks history, totaling three NCAA tournament appearances, one Final Four and two All Pac-12 honors. The 6’7” Brooks is a prototypical swingman, projected to be taken in the second round.
Strengths: Brooks is a strong, powerful scorer who uses all of his 225-pound frame to generate points. He’s a master at driving downhill into the paint, absorbing contact for the finish. He’s aggressive at the point of attack, not afraid to finish over opposing bigs. Brooks often looks at his most comfortable when serving as a small-ball four, taking advantage of a decluttered lane. When Brooks isn’t attacking the basket, he’s also a threat on the perimeter. He excels at mid-range pull-ups around the foul line, and is also a danger from three. Brooks cracked the 40% mark from beyond the arc for the first time in his career in 2016-17.
Weaknesses: While Brooks’s beefy frame allows him to battle with power forwards inside, he struggles when having to extend to the perimeter on quicker swingmen. Brooks isn’t the most fleet of foot, susceptible to getting beat on drives to the basket. This isn’t an issue of effort; Brooks just doesn't have the speed to contain effective dribblers. Brooks could use some refinement on the offensive side as well. He’s got mediocre handles, and often fails to get to his spot unless he can bulldoze his way there. His drives to the hoop are often predictable, with little change of direction. He’ll need to adjust his role and limit his dribbling in the pros.