College hoops’ biggest stage showcased a slew of intriguing NBA prospects. The topsy-turvy 2017 NCAA Tournament shifted the draft outlook for a few key candidates and cemented the reputation of others.
While we didn’t have a storyline like Kemba Walker’s or Buddy Hield’s this season, the Big Dance unfurled a deep cast of playmaking guards and versatile forwards. A handful of fortunate players made exciting runs in the tourney and enjoyed extended NBA auditions.
Now that North Carolina closed the curtains on the 2017 campaign, it’s time for fresh draft projections. Here’s how the first round stacks up after the tournament:
*Draft order based on standings (and trades) through games played on April 2. College basketball statistics accurate as of April 4.
1. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Markelle Fultz, Washington PG (6’4”, Fr.)
The acquisition of Fultz would give Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens a bunch of flexibility entering 2017-18. Washington’s shifty slasher offers both scoring and playmaking prowess, and he should mesh well with all of Boston’s current guards.
In fact, Fultz’s arrival could give the Celtics the option to eventually part ways with Thomas. That might sound sacrilegious right now, but Thomas is a free agent in 2018. Boston may be hesitant to sign him to a colossal contract (30+ million per year); they could trade him or let him walk and find two-way players to build around Fultz, Al Horford and Jae Crowder.
The Celtics won’t have to make that decision for a while. For now, they’ll revel in landing the top all-around talent in the 2017 crop.