The 2017 NBA Draft Class Is Stronger Than the Legendary Class of 2003
Comparing draft classes is a popular debate amongst basketball enthusiasts. And this year, it’s going to be especially popular.
Players like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, and Josh Jackson headline the 2017 class — mirroring the level of talent in 2003. But this group could be even better.
Here are the notable draftees from 2003.
#1- LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
#3- Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
#4- Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
#5- Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
#7- Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls
#18- David West, New Orleans Hornets
#21- Boris Diaw, Atlanta Hawks
#47- Mo Williams, Utah Jazz
These players are the best of 2003’s legendary group. However, besides the notable top four of James, Anthony, Bosh and Wade, the rest of the class didn’t have much to offer.
West and Hinrich had decent careers. Diaw had shining moments for the Spurs, and Williams will be known for the spark he always provided for teams offensively. But outside the top five, the 2003 class didn’t have much to offer.
The expectations for the prospects in 2003 were not high outside of James, Anthony, Wade, and Bosh. Most players labeled as top ten candidates had a decent level of ability, but didn’t have star potential due to significant flaws. Players like Chris Kaman, TJ Ford, and Michael Sweetney were taken in the top ten, but did not have great careers due to their limitations.
This is where the 2017 draft class can take over. Nobody in 2017 is a LeBron-caliber prospect, but there are more players in the 2017 draft class with star potential.
Below is a list of potential star-quality players:
Markelle Fultz, Washington, PG
Lonzo Ball, UCLA, PG
Dennis Smith Jr., NC State, PG
Josh Jackson, Kansas, SF
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State, SF
Malik Monk, Kentucky, SG
Jayson Tatum, Duke, SF
Frank Ntilikina, International, PG
Harry Giles, Duke, PF
De’Aron Fox, Kentucky, PG
If you weren’t counting, that’s ten players who have chances at stardom in the NBA.
Depth is the key to this 2017 draft class. Not only are there strong prospects in the top 10, but also there are many middle first round draft picks that could surprise fans with their talent.
Fultz, Ball, and Smith are the three players that are game changers. Each of these three point guards can alter a franchise the moment they are drafted. Fultz demonstrates Russell Westbrook-level explosiveness and skill. However, Fultz is farther along in his development than Westbrook was in college. If Westbrook’s development in the league is any indication, Fultz could be a superstar soon.
Lonzo Ball is a slimmer version of Jason Kidd, but has a better jump shot early on in his career. Kidd eventually developed a deadly stroke, but Ball’s quick development is promising given his advanced skills in playmaking.
Dennis Smith is like the Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns. Smith is a quick, but strong guard who uses his body to get anywhere he wants on the floor. He also has good passing and rebounding skills, which he showcased this season after a triple double against Virginia Tech.
The top three guards have dynamic capabilities that could help them become the new faces of the point guard position. Their talent is similar to the level of 2003’s threesome in Anthony, Bosh, and Wade — but the 2017 guards could pass them by.
The prospects in the 2003 draft outside of the obvious superstars were limited by their flaws. That is not the case with this year’s group of prospects. The only reason Fultz, Ball, and Smith are at the top of this class is because their skills are more polished than the rest of the top ten. There aren’t many limits to these players’ potential.
The small forward group of Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Jonathan Isaac is an extremely talented trio of freshmen wing players. Jackson is a defensive ace without a fully developed offensive game, while Tatum is an offensive stud without a fully developed defensive game. Isaac could be better than both of them if he fills out his slender frame, but is an all- around talent for a 6' 10" 18-year-old.
Next is the second tier group of guards in Frank Ntilikina, Malik Monk, and De’Aron Fox. Ntilikina plays overseas, but is known around the world for his excellent pick and roll game. Monk is a freak athlete with a smooth offensive game, but needs to bulk up to become a true superstar. Fox, Monk’s backcourt mate, is a shifty point guard who can do it all, but needs to polish his skills once he gets to the NBA.
Rounding out the group of potential stars is power forward Harry Giles. Giles was supposed to be better than everyone in this class, but injuries and inconsistent minutes have slowed him down. Once given enough opportunity, Giles will show everyone how unique he is for a big man. He does almost everything on the floor similar to Chris Webber of the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000's.
The depth of the class shows as the middle of the first round and early second round shape out. Players like Ivan Rabb, Lauri Markkanen, and TJ Leaf are all mid-first round prospects with loads of skill and upside. Rabb is a great rebounder, Markkanen shoots the lights out, and Leaf has drawn comparisons to a young Kevin Love.
There are older players that will contribute in the second round such as Josh Hart, Nigel Hayes, Caleb Swanigan, and Jaron Blossomgame. The 2003 draft’s best second round pick turned out to be Kyle Korver. There is more than enough talent to surpass the production of Korver, no matter how impressive his shooting is.
The 2017 NBA draft class could outweigh the talent levels of the legendary 2003 draft. Only time will tell if the players will live up to the expectations or allow the pressure to overcome them — like so many other potential stars have done.