The NBA draft is one of the most anticipated events of the offseason. The talent varies from year to year. Most pundits agreed the 2020 NBA draft was significantly weaker than the 2019 draft, which had future star Zion Williamson. Still, surprises lurk in every class. It can take years for the true winners to emerge. We saw this process in real time this offseason, with several NBA players from the 2017 draft class netting huge contract extensions.
Let’s look at how the top picks from that draft year have panned out and break down some of big-time extensions handed out this offseason.
The top 10 picks of the 2017 draft class
To say that the 2017 draft yielded unexpected results would be something of an understatement. At No. 1, the Philadelphia 76ers took guard Markelle Fultz. After struggling with a mysterious ailment for two years in Philadelphia, Fultz was traded to the Magic. It’s still not clear whether he will ever develop into a better-than-average starter — let alone the star that the 76ers thought they were getting.
With the No. 2 pick, the Lakers selected Lonzo Ball, who now plays for the Pelicans and has also underperformed expectations. At No. 3, the Boston Celtics took forward Jayson Tatum, making them the first real winners of this draft — more on that below. At No. 4, the Phoenix Suns took Josh Jackson, who performed so poorly over his first two seasons that the Suns traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The No. 5 pick fell to the Sacramento Kings, who took speedy point guard De’Aaron Fox, making them the second winners of the draft. The rest of the top ten have all underperformed to one degree or another, though some may still develop into serviceable rotation pieces:
- No. 6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac
- No. 7. Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen
- No. 8. New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina
- No. 9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr.
- No. 10: Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Collins
Notable picks outside of the top 10
Looking at the 2017 draft in retrospect, it becomes clear that many teams failed to correctly evaluate the available players. The majority of those taken in the top ten are either outright busts or have significant underperformed expectations. Meanwhile, plenty of top level talent fell farther down in the draft.
For instance, the Utah Jazz used their No. 13 pick to take guard Donovan Mitchell, who instantly proved himself capable of putting up 20+ points per game against NBA competition. As a rookie, he almost single-handedly knocked the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the playoffs in the first round.
Another clear winner were the Miami Heat, who used their No. 14 pick to select Bam Adebayo. At the time, Adebayo was considered a rough prospect — talented defensively, but with little offensive game. But the Heat recognized Adebayo’s dedication to self-improvement, and helped him develop into one of the most dominant two-way players in the game today.
How the 2017 draft class just won the offseason
This offseason marked a turning point for the 2017 draft class, who became eligible for huge max contract extensions. And once free agency began, it didn’t take long for many teams to extend offers to their talented young stars. The Kings were the first team out of the gate, inking De’Aaron Fox to a five-year, $163 million extension.
The Jazz soon followed suit, signing Donovan Mitchell to a similar deal: $163 million guaranteed over five years, with an additional $32 on the table if Mitchell meets All-NBA criteria during the 2020-21 season. The Celtics then signed Jayson Tatum to a deal worth a full $195 million over the next five years, reports Fadeaway World. It cemented him as their franchise cornerstone moving forward.
Finally, the Heat inked Bam Adebayo to a similar deal, worth at least $163 million but with incentives worth up to $195 million, reports Sports Illustrated. That contract is significant for being the most expensive in Heat history. While Adebayo’s talent ultimately justifies the expense, some pundits have suggested that the Heat may also be using the deal as a way to try and lure Giannis Antetokounmpo to Miami, should he choose to become a free agent next summer.