Now that the all-star circuits have concluded, the time has come to release the final player rankings for the 2017 class.
Determine the top position in the 2017 rankings proved to be difficult. For the past two years Arizona signee DeAndre Ayton and near 7-footer Mohamed Bamba have sat at the top of the list. But Michael Porter, already a top five prospect, emerged during his senior season, showing improvement in key areas.
And after winning a state title with Seattle (Wash.) Nathan Hale and shining in performances at the Hoop Hall Classic, Nike Hoop Summit and the McDonald’s All-American game, we’ve opted to move Porter into the top slot in 2017.
But to be clear, it was a very difficult decision.
Porter, who will play college basketball for Cuonzo Martin at Missouri, has grown and has tremendous size for the position, now standing in the 6-foot-9 range. To go with physical growth, his game has matured as well. Porter is a more aggressive scorer. Early in his career he relied solely on off the catch jump shots, now he’s willing to post up, attack in transition and pull-up for a floater or mid-range shot. To top it off, he’s an impressive athlete.
There are, however, areas for improvement. Porter has a tendency to take plays off and doesn’t always respond well to physical play. He can also certainly get better creating shot opportunities off the dribble. But because of Porter’s combination of size, shot making from distance, athleticism and his improvement as an all around scorer, we thought he was the safe pick for the No. 1 spot.
As hard as picking No. 1 was, slotting No. 2 was just as difficult.
The truth is DeAndre Ayton has more upside and potential than any player in the class. He has the size, physical gifts and tools on both ends of the floor. If everything goes right and he fully buys in, he’s a sure fire all-star. But Ayton’s lack of consistency, motor and desire to play on the perimeter hinders him at times.
So with that said, Mohamed Bamba was slotted at No. 2. At nearly 7-feet tall, Bamba has a 7-9 wingspan, which would rank No. 1 among starters in the NBA, and a 9-6 standing reach, which checks in at No. 2 among starters in the league. Bamba’s length significantly impacts the game. He’s a rim protector and a very good area rebounder. Thus far, Bamba has done it even lacking strength and weight, which he will surely put on over the next two or three years.
The concerns with Bamba lie in the offensive department. He’s far from inept on that end, as he does have a right jump hook, good touch around the basket and is always a threat for a tip slam in traffic. But at this stage, Bamba has failed to develop his footwork, counters on the block and consistency on that end of the floor.
Much like Ayton, ultimately Bamba has tremendous upside, more than Porter, but it’s going to take time and offensive development to reach it. In college, his length will change games and he’ll likely show improvement on offense, but his best days are far ahead of him when he’s playing for pay.
As mentioned above, Ayton, an Arizona signee, is gifted from a physical standpoint. At 7-feet tall, Ayton has a near 7-6 wingspan and a standing reach of 9-3. He’s incredibly mobile for his size, a talented athlete and his offensive potential is there.
Over the course of his high school career, Ayton has improved tremendously as a shooter. Not only can he make shots from mid-range, but he’s gained consistency as a three-point shooter. He has good shot mechanics and touch on his jumper. The next step is taking good shots and not losing focus on his post play.
Jackson, Sexton make moves in the top 10
Jaren Jackson was among the biggest movers in the updated rankings.
The Michigan State signee has shown steady improvement from spring of 2016 through the all-star games in April. Standing 6-foot-10 with a +6 wingspan, Jackson has good size, length, mobility and is a solid athlete.
Offensively, he’s quite versatile. Jackson can step out on the floor and make mid to long-range jump shots with consistency (made nearly 42-percent of his threes in the EYBL his final summer), despite a low release point. But he’s also good on the block. He has touch, hooks with each hand and is active on the offensive glass. On the opposite end, Jackson moves his feet well, plays with energy and protects the rim.
Jackson moved from No. 28 in our last rankings, which were updated in August, up to No. 5 overall and the No. 1 rated power forward prospect.
Duval, a standout at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, is more naturally gifted than Sexton, but he hasn’t been as consistent as Sexton. You know what you’re getting from Sexton every time he steps on the floor and that’s why he moved atop the position list. Sexton, a 6-foot-2 standout out of Mableton (Ga.) Pebblebrook, is arguably the most competitive kid I’ve covered. He’s tough, plays with great energy and is a relentless driver. Sexton does a good job of playing through contact and is a very good finisher at the rim. He’s also turned into a major threat from long-range.
Sexton has always been known as a scorer, but at the McDonald’s All-American game and through Nike Hoop Summit practices, he showed an improvement and a desire to distribute the ball, which is a telling sign in terms of his development.
After emerging as a junior, Sexton has dominated nearly every event he’s played in. From FIBA u17 World Championship MVP to leading the EYBL in scoring to impressive outings at McDonald’s and Hoop Summit practices, Sexton has earned his attention every step of the way.
Okpala, Doutrive among biggest movers in rankings
Stanford signee Kezie Okpala was the biggest mover in the updated rankings, jumping from No. 70 all the way up to No. 26.
Okpala was also rewarded with a fifth star. A gifted wing prospect, Okpala stands 6-foot-8, has a lengthy wingspan, good mobility and a versatile scoring package. Okopala went for 40+ points multiple times during his senior season.
Another California native made the second biggest move on the list. Devante Doutrive, of Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham Senior, moved from No. 100 up to No. 64 in the final list.
Doutrive, a 6-foot-4 guard prospect, is multi-positional player that can impact the game with his scoring, passing and playmaking. Doutrive has potential as a defender, makes plays in transition and has impressive vision and instincts. Doutrive is still uncommitted.
Other big movers on the list include Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton (up 33 spots), Florida signee Chase Johnson (up 25) and Illinois native Mark Smith (up 24). Jackson and Arizona State signee Remy Martin each moved up 23 spots.
There are just four newcomers to the rankings. Johnson and Smith both made their debuts, as did Thomas Allen, who ranks No. 99, and Indiana signee Clifton Moore, who checked in at No. 100.