Every year, we seem to come across four to five players that look to be better than their draft grades. Last year, Malcolm Brogdon, Willy Hernangomez, Thon Maker, and Patrick McCaw all outperformed their respective expectations. This year, there could be even more based on the depth and talent in the 2017 draft.
Obviously the lottery is where you hope to find instant impacts, but further down in the first round – and even in the second – there are ready-made NBA players to be had. Maybe they’re a bit shorter, a bit older, or their ceilings aren’t as high, but NBA teams continue to find value throughout the draft (and even with undrafted free agents).
DIME decided to list a few of our favorites from this year and why they could have star potential.
Josh Hart – Lakers
Hart is a veteran in comparison to most draft prospects. At the age of 22, the senior out of Villanova comes with age but is arguably the most NBA ready of the bunch. He won’t blow you away with athleticism, speed, or sheer physical traits, but Hart can produce right out of the gates, and he possesses what many teams in the league need: shooting and defensive ability.
He went 129-17 in his Villanova career and has won numerous awards for his exemplary play. But, even with all that, he’s still wasn’t projected as a first-round pick in many mock-drafts. (Although he eventually went 30th overall.)
“I’ll let the experts determine (if I’m the best player in the draft),” Hart told DIME before the draft. “If you are talking about skill set and unique ability, then I know I am. Right now, the draft is about the number of young, freak athletes and who will potentially get picked first. But, when it comes to basketball players, ones who can make an impact in the game and help a team win games, those guys are picked late. Like many of the prospects, I feel I am one of the best and can’t wait to put my talents to work with an NBA team.”
Hart, as confident as any, has proven he can score agressively, shoot a high percentage, and defend. His knack for doing whatever his team needs is going to translate into a proven commodity in the league. Hart still needs to work on his ability to create off-the-dribble, defend NBA-level talent, and stick with his man through multiple screens and plays. But with his elite vision, it allows him to gain an edge even without the lack of athleticism that some may have.