Potential Steals for 2017 NBA Draft

With March Madness in full effect, every analyst is coming out with their own NBA Mock Draft.  Unlike the NFL, the NBA only has two rounds compared to seven. This means only a small portion of the prospects will be drafted. The more recognized prospects will be discussed more than the under the radar guys. But this doesn’t mean the under the radar prospects won’t be just as good of NBA players as the top prospects. Drafted 57th overall was Manu Ginobili and he is one of the more accomplished players in the league. Isaiah Thomas was the last pick of the 2011 draft and he’s now becoming a superstar.

Here are some potential steals in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft:

PG Frank Mason III, Kansas Jayhawks

This Kansas star had high expectations to play at the next level. He attended the same high school as NBA Hall of Famer Moses Malone and almost broke his scoring record. He would fly under the radar after going to a prep school for a year. After a year of prep school, he started receiving heavy interest from one of the most prolific basketball programs in the country. Mason’s stats improved each year as a starter. This year Mason is averaging 20.8 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 4.2 RPG while leading Kansas to an outstanding 29-4 record during the regular season.  However, his size still remains an issue. Standing at 5-11 and weighing about 190 pounds, he is undersized when compared to the average size of an NBA point guard. Thomas is showing the world that small players can still be just as dominant but a lot of NBA scouts are calling Thomas the exception, not the rule. Mason is a player who works just as hard if not harder than most. Seen throughout his career, Mason’s best skill sets are scoring and playing defense. Wherever he falls in the 2017 NBA Draft, he will be a steal for any team that drafts him.

PG Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan Wolverines

Being a senior can either help or hurt a prospect’s draft stock. Having four years of experience at the collegiate level allows a player to physically and mentally develop before entering the NBA. This gives scouts plenty of film to evaluate which can give them more ways to assess rather than a one-and-done. The downside, however, is that this means a senior like Walton will be entering the draft at the age of 22 which gives NBA teams less time to develop a player before they enter and leave their prime. Walton had big shoes to fill after Trey Burke left for the NBA. During his freshman year, he stepped in well and took the Wolverines to the Elite Eight before losing to Kentucky. Walton is the only Wolverine with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 400 assists and holds the school single-game assist record (16). With his outstanding play in the 2017 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, Walton received the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and helped his team win the Big Ten Championship. Continuing his strong play, he’s led the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 after beating 10-seed Oklahoma State and 2-seed Louisville. Walton is exceptionally coachable, which is a great trait to have at the next level. As an all-around player, Walton is averaging 15.5 PPG, 5 APG, and 4.7 RPG this year during the regular season.

F Semi Ojeleye, SMU Mustangs

Being one of the top recruits in the Class of 2013, Semi Ojeleye was certain Duke would be his answer. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for the 6-8, 235 pound power forward. Ojeleye did not see the court nearly enough as he imagined with Duke, so he decided to take his talents elsewhere. Luckily, the year that he had to sit out due to transferring to SMU from Duke midway through the 2014-2015 season, SMU had sanctions that led to a year without postseason play. This past regular season, Ojeleye averaged 19 points and seven rebounds while shooting at an exceptional 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from behind the arc. With his solid size and all-around game, Ojeleye is one of the more complete players in the country. He helped lead SMU to a 30-5 record which is the fourth season in a row that they’ve won 25 or more games. If NBA teams are looking for a big man who can play big and shoot efficiently, Ojeleye is their guy. He has the ability to develop into a great player in the league if given the right opportunity. He’d be a steal for any team that takes a chance on him.

SF Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson Tigers

Jaron Blossomgame stands at 6-7, 220 pounds which is a solid size for a small forward coming out of college. Being a senior, though, he is 23 years old which compared to the rest of the prospects entering the NBA draft, is an old man. This might make NBA teams hesitate to draft him. However, Blossomgame’s defensive skill set and athleticism, along with his strong leadership gives an upside to his draft stock. He has the potential to be an elite on-ball defender as he is quick, has good hands, and is tough. His athleticism and quickness as well as his size helps him contain taller forwards and gives him the ability to defend guards. Showing signs of an efficient 3-point shooter in the past, he has declined in that statistic over the past year. However, he does shoot an excellent 50 percent from the field which can balance out his shooting ability. The signs he showed of an efficient 3-pt shooter last season could mean that he still has the ability to do it, but he needs to develop that part of his game as he moves forward. Although Clemson only went 17-16 during the regular season, Blossomgame averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game. He was invited to and excelled in the 2016 NBA Draft Combine but opted to return for his senior season despite several late first-round projections. His draft stock remains the same as many scouts believe he will be a late first-round selection.

SG Terrance Ferguson, Australia

Deciding to dump Arizona and play professional ball in Australia hurt his initial draft stock after a stellar performance for Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit, but he is now slowly winning back scouts after he moved his way into the starting lineup for the Adelaide 36ers. At 6-7, 185 he has a good build for the average shooting guard in the NBA. He is known to be strictly a shooter but the way the game is played today, that could benefit him. He is a valuable scorer for the 36ers and if he keeps improving his game all-around, his draft stock will continue to rise. Ferguson’s size, athleticism, quick release and the ability to connect with hands in his face, gives him a huge upside. Being 18 years old and playing with bigger bodied professionals also gives him an advantage when he does begin his career in the NBA. The bold decision by Ferguson to play pro ball in Australia is looking like a smart move as he continues to develop his game.

Any of these players could potentially be great in the league. With the combine coming up quickly, these five prospects have the chance to help their stock rise. NBA teams will be looking closely at every prospect which means the projected “sleepers” must do everything they can to prove they can play at the next level.

Yousef Hattar