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With more than half the college season over, DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony examines some notable 2017 NBA draft prospects.
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Coming off an exhilarating 96-85 road win over then-No. 3 UCLA on Saturday, it’s a good time to recognize the outstanding freshman season by the Finnish power forward, who posted an efficient 18 points on 10 shots and seven rebounds against the Bruins.
Markkanen already ranks fourth all time in 3-pointers made by a collegiate 7-footer in a single season with 48 and is likely to set the record in the next few weeks. He’s made 50 percent of his 3-pointers and 84 percent of his free-throw attempts, and the spacing he’s provided because of his shooting has been beneficial to his guards and fellow big men.
While his miniscule block and steal numbers will be significant red flags for NBA teams, Markkanen’s time under coach Sean Miller is helping him improve as a rebounder and defender. He’s solidifying himself as a likely top-10 pick.
Harry Giles, Duke
Back on the court in mid-December after a year-long absence because of a second torn ACL that caused him to miss his high school senior season, Giles is struggling to find his rhythm. Through nine games, he’s averaging five points and five rebounds in 13 minutes, shooting 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from the free-throw line. He also has looked a step slow defensively when he’s been asked to step outside of the paint.
Giles’ quickness and explosiveness just aren’t there and with his average awareness and lack of offensive polish, there just isn’t a lot to be excited about at this stage, especially considering how much Duke has struggled with him on the floor. The direction of the NBA game would seem to render him strictly as a center, and his inability to protect the rim or adequately defend the pick and roll makes him somewhat of a tough sell until his offense comes around.
Giles’ athleticism and tremendous motor were his biggest selling points in high school, but NBA scouts have yet to see anything close to his best yet. Unfortunately for Giles, very few high-level NBA executives have seen him play outside of the NCAA setting, and if their team doctors aren’t optimistic about his injury history, there might not be much information for a general manager drafting in the lottery. Giles will need some significantly better showings in February and March.
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
Small forward/power forward
At 18-2 and ranked sixth in the latest AP poll, Florida State is having its best season in 25 years. A major reason for that is the play of Isaac, who helped the Seminoles navigate a brutal stretch of ACC play with some of his best basketball of the season.
Isaac is tremendously talented with a smooth 3-point stroke and the ability to create his own shot, but his motor, ability to operate in a team setting, and versatility as a defender and rebounder are what stand out. He’s changed the culture of Florida State’s locker room with his no-maintenance attitude and willingness to do all the little things to help his team, which is something you wouldn’t typically expect from a top-10 recruit.
Isaac still needs to fill out his frame, find more consistency as a shooter and become a little more assertive to reach his full potential as a two-way stretch four, but he’s proving himself in a major way in the most talented conference in college basketball. He will have plenty of eyes on him as his season progresses.
Omer Yurtseven, North Carolina State
As easily as Markkanen made the transition to Arizona, Yurtseven has done the exact opposite, showing how important roster fit and team culture are for European players when making their college decisions. It didn’t help that Yurtseven’s season was derailed right from the start by a nine-game NCAA suspension for earning money while playing overseas. He’s really struggled to show anything resembling the polished offensive skill set and feel for the game he demonstrated before arriving to Raleigh.
N.C. State was an extremely poor defensive team during Yurtseven’s suspension, and his arrival exacerbated those issues because he’s a heavy-footed 7-footer with an inconsistent motor playing power forward alongside similarly flawed big men. The team’s lack of spacing, poor ball movement and general low IQ has really put Yurtseven’s flaws under the microscope. The 18-year-old has been forced to adapt on the fly to an entirely new style of basketball while going up against some of the best teams in the country in the ACC.
Anyone who hadn’t seen Yurtseven before this season is bound to wonder what all the fuss is about. He might not be in a position to recover the ground he’s lost without thinking long and hard about another year of college basketball or a move to another environment.
OG Anunoby, Indiana
Small forward/power forward
A completely anonymous prospect coming out of high school, Anunoby surprised many with some strong performances during his freshman season, making him a strong lottery pick candidate as a sophomore.
After an impressive start, he and Indiana stumbled entering Big Ten play as the Hoosiers went 1-4 behind some underwhelming performances from Anunoby. What appeared to be minor hiccups turned into the last impressions for NBA scouts as a non-contact knee injury suffered against Penn State on Jan. 18 ended his season.
The question now: What will Anunoby decide to do? NBA teams haven’t been shy in the past about drafting injured players, selecting Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie around the same range they were expected to be drafted before their injuries. The details are important, though, because every injury is different, and NBA team doctors will have quite a bit of input into how to assess Anunoby’s medical situation and future. This year’s draft is considered to be rich with talent and that could easily push Anunoby to the latter half of the first round or even further down depending on the results of his medicals, as well as other variables.