Here we are again, in the heart of summer, contemplating life without the NBA. While the dead space between Summer League and training camp can leave NBA folks longing for basketball, there is always the promise of a new season—and a new rookie class—to keep us occupied.
And the wait for this class has been particularly lengthy. Players like Lonzo Ball, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson were lauded long before they ever suited up in college. Now, after a year of one-and-done dominance, they are taking their talents to the NBA. Similarly, that group has a heavy influence on our 2017 NBA draft yearbook superlatives, which covers the player most likely to succeed, the best dressed and more.
Without further ado, let's dive in and dish some bold predictions for the 2017–18 season.
Most Likely to Succeed: Jayson Tatum, Celtics
There are players with glitzier games and bigger shoe contracts, but few are more versatile than Jayson Tatum, who flashed the full range of his talents at Summer League. He’s been called Paul George Lite before, but the comparison feels more apt now. Obviously that projection hinges on how he develops. In Boston, though, he will have the luxury of being brought along slowly. Celtics president Danny Ainge coveted Tatum so much that one has to believe his future in Boston will be a bright one.
Most Likely to Win Rookie of the Year:Markelle Fultz, 76ers
All eyes will be on the 76ers this season, as Sam Hinkie’s crop of prospects will finally begin to return on their promise. Playing alongside Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick will be different for Fultz. He was a late bloomer in high school who played for a struggling Washington program in college. This level of talent should free Fultz to focus on basketball and block out any outside pressure during his rookie campaign.
Best Hair: D.J. Wilson, Bucks
He was compared to The Simpson’s Sideshow Bob at times, but Wilson has an impressive mane. At this point, every 20-year-old has the same haircut, so this basically comes down to who wears it best. Wilson unquestionably held down that title at Michigan, as he played his way into the first round. He should fit in nicely with Milwaukee, where they’re quickly collecting a fleet of long, versatile wings.
Most Athletic: Dennis Smith Jr., Mavericks
This pick wasn’t even a question. Plenty of guys in this draft play above the rim, but Smith punishes the rim like few others. In fact, his athleticism is so impressive it is easy to forget that he suffered a torn ACL in high school. Smith basically won this title on Instagram. If you don't believe me, check him out.
Best Shooter: Malik Monk, Hornets
This selection was tough, mostly because there are so many sweet–shooting bigs in this class. There’s also the fact that Monk’s biggest competition played his college ball a short drive away from Charlotte. Luke Kennard is no slouch beyond the arch, and he can pull-up on a dime. I just couldn’t front on Monk, even after considering Kennard. Monk was the more prolific shooter, and he provided his best showings against the best competition, including seven three-points against MSU and eight versus North Carolina. Few players in this draft can score like Monk, and his proficiency from deep plays a huge part in that.
Most Likely to Have a Parent Storm the Court: Lonzo Ball, Lakers
Again, no contest. Most of this summer’s storylines have focused on Lonzo Ball and his father, LaVar. While Lonzo is the perfect team player, his father is the opposite. We forget it at times, but some adults don’t play well with others, either. That’s why I’m so excited to see how the Lakers handle the Ball family. A narrative that once focused solely on Big Baller Brand got pretty dark recently. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will have their work cut out for them.
Best Dressed: Nigel Williams-Goss, Jazz
With the "athleisure" trend at its height, this topic was harder than expected. I combed through Instagram posts and mostly found team sweats and basketball shorts. Jazz rookie Williams-Goss puts extra effort into his appearance, though. His laid back, West Coast style was the best in the draft. He has all the trends down pat: ripped jeans, chelsea boots and cool outerwear to set him apart.
Biggest Sleeper: OG Anunoby, Raptors
As a fellow Hoosier, I’m acutely aware of the hype that surrounded Anunoby at the start of his sophomore season. The former three-star recruit fielded comparisons to a young Kawhi Leonard after guiding the Hoosiers to big wins over Kansas and North Carolina, and appeared to be the latest surprise lottery pick out of Bloomington. A season-ending injury in January changed that, as knee surgery pushed Anunoby to the sidelines. Skilled on the wing, the Raptors were deep enough to take a chance on Anunoby at No. 23. His athleticism and defensive prowess could be at asset in Toronto once he reaches full health.