Although the 2017 draft class was STACKED with talent, there was still a handful of surprises in those who opted not to declare. Although there were many more valid candidates to make this list, in my opinion, this is the top 10:
10. Joel Berry II
North Carolina goes with Joel Berry. Joel Berry is extremely important to this Carolina team. After losing 3 starters to the NBA draft and another to knee surgery, the senior point guard and Final Four MVP will be by far the most important piece to Roy William’s quest to defend his title. Joel Berry will need to use his excellent shooting touch, court vision, and “bulldog mentality” on both the offensive and defensive ends if he wants to give Carolina any chance of repeating.
9. Jevon Carter
Jevon Carter is West Virginia’s anchor. He is the leader of their press, their top scorer, a top passer, a good rebounder for a guard, and the Mountaineers team leader. He, just like Joel Berry is in the argument for players that are the most important players to their teams.
8. Devonte Graham
Devonte Graham is now the old veteran of an, as usual, very young Kansas team. As we know Graham is a good scorer. But, just like the man he is replacing, Frank Mason, Graham is a great defender. His defense is the best part of his game and that, as well as his experience will be the key to another big March run from Bill Self.
7. Allonzo Trier
Trier is one of those players that I still am not completely sure about. We knew after his freshman season that he was an amazing scorer. But I still wanted to see more of him as a passer and a defender in his sophomore season. However, due to a suspension for half of the season I didn’t see nearly as much of Trier as I hoped to see. I know Trier has loads of potential, and I know he can score, I am just curious to see how the other facets of his game continue to develop in his junior season.
6. Jock Landale
Jock Landale is one of college basketball’s best kept secrets. He thrived out in the West Coast Conference and brought Saint Mary’s back to relevancy. Landale is a great scorer but an even better rebounder. His old school style reminds me of Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, but his ferocity and scoring touch reminds of former Purdue star Caleb Swanigan.
5. Jalen Brunson
Make no mistake, Villanova is Jalen Brunson’s team now. He is no longer hiding in the shadows behind first team all-american Josh Hart, or team leader Ryan Arcidiacono. Brunson is going to have an amazing year. Even though his athleticism is not as good as Miles Bridges, and his overall game doesn’t compete with Grayson Allen’s, Brunson is an amazing scorer and should lead the Wildcats to another deep tournament run.
4. Miles Bridges
Miles Bridges is a freakish athlete and when he came to Michigan State last year most expected him to enter the draft after freshman year. But, Bridges surprised everyone and elected to stay one more year. I expect Bridges to continue to mature in Tom Izzo’s system and begin to live up to the potential some saw out of him in high school. Oh yeah, and he can do this:
3. Ethan Happ
Ethan Happ is the best example of a throwback center we have in today’s college basketball. He does all the fundamentals correctly, plays good defense, and shoots great shots. More specifically, he takes almost no shots outside of the paint, leading to a very high shooting percentage. Wisconsin will most likely have a rough year after losing 4 of their biggest pieces, including point guard and team leader Bronson Koenig. However Happ should remain a bright spot. Although I am somewhat concerned that he will struggle without any offensive help, I believe that Happ is talented enough to carry the entire team on his shoulders.
2. Bonzie Colson
Bonzie Colson was the best do-it-all man in college basketball last year. The 6-5 center (!) lead the Irish in almost everything last year. He was their featured scorer and rebounder, and served as a perfect real-life example of a point forward. Colson should continue to dominate and yet again, lead the Irish deep into March.
1. Grayson Allen
Although Grayson Allen may also be on the top of the list for the most hated players in college basketball there is no question that he is the best returning player for this year. He was at the top of the list last year and even though he didn’t have the season many expected he yet again heads the list this year.
The senior point guard returns to a very young Duke team after having a season plagued by injuries and tripping people. However, Grayson Allen will be the focal point of a Duke offense meaning he will get more touches and continue to shoot the lights out from deep. This year Allen will have a very legitimate shot at the Naismith award as well as a good chance to be a top 10 pick in next year’s slightly less loaded draft.