Here we are. With the official end of the 2017-’18 season being marked by the crowning of the Warriors as NBA champs, we can finally close out one season as we prepare to move onto the next. But before we get into free agency and some possible summer moves, lets kick the summer off right as we always do, evaluating this years draft class and predicting where they’ll land.
The 2018 crop of rooks looks promising, boasting a plentiful selection of talented forwards and some highly skilled guards. Is Deandre Ayton the consensus number one overall pick? Where will Luka Doncic end up? And how good is Michael Porter Jr? Without any further delay, lets take a deeper look.
1st Overall Pick, Phoenix Suns: For the last month or so, all I’ve heard is that Deandre Ayton is going number one to the Phoenix Suns come Draft night. While trade rumors have been circulating and varying sources have said the Suns may want to trade down in the Draft, I believe the story remains the same; Deandre Ayton is going number one tonight. Looking at the prospect, Ayton is simply a physical specimen, as a true seven-footer with an NBA-ready physique, freakish athletic ability, and an aggressive mindset. In my mind, Ayton is one of the more intriguing players in this years draft, as his physical gifts coupled with a growing inside-outside game make him an extremely coveted possible piece to a franchise. Ayton’s career at Arizona, while marred by an underwhelming result in the NCAA tournament, was also spectacular. The Pac 12 Player of The Year averaged 20 points a night while shooting 61% from the field and a quality 34% from three, while pulling in nearly 12 rebounds, and blocking two shots a night. Ayton has shown that he deserves to be a top pick in this Draft, and the Suns, a team in need of a major front court presence, would be remised to pass up on him. On a side note, I also believe Tyson Chandler would be a phenomenal mentor for Ayton.
2nd Overall Pick, Sacramento Kings: While there are still talks of the Kings using this pick on a certain Euroleague MVP, I believe Sacramento needs to go with one guy tonight, and his name is Marvin Bagley. In his 33 games at Duke under Coach K, Bagley was a man amongst boys on the court; averaging 21 points per game, 11 rebounds, a block, an assist, and shooting 61% from the field and 39% from three. With an underrated repertoire of post-moves and a knack for rebounding, Bagley would be a great fit for the Kings as someone who can slide immediately into that four spot providing a jolt of both offense and elite rebounding. The risk versus the reward with Bagley is monumental in my opinion, as he has franchise player potential if utilized and developed correctly, yet can still be a more than serviceable option if he doesn’t turn out to be a centerpiece to a team. It also doesn’t hurt that Bagley was one of only a handful of top Draft prospects willing to workout and intervi
ew with Sacramento, a sign of good faith for the Kings that this player is willing and ready to work with them. Lastly, I think that Bagley will be a great pick-and-roll partner for De’Aaron Fox, as both players are athletes unafraid of contact and eager to make the big play.
3rd Overall Pick, Atlanta Hawks: At this point, I believe the Draft begins to open up a bit more as I can see more player being interchanged for different teams depending on some shifting factors. Barring all trades, as I believe it is very possible the Hawks switch this pick for some assets and Dallas’s number 5 overall selection, I think Luka Doncic is the clear option for ATL. The Real Madrid star and Euroleague MVP looks to be a real stud, as a 6’8″ guard/forward with a pure shooting stroke, a more than adept handle, and exceptional passing vision. In 61 Games in the Euroleague and the Liga ACB, Doncic put up nearly 15 points on less than ten shots a night, five rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.1 steals. Doncic is also a good fit for the rebuilding Hawks who can use some additional playmaking and shooting to couple with Dennis Schroeder, while complimenting the growing pieces in Taurean Prince and John Collins. As the most accomplished international player to ever enter the Draft, I think Doncic is one of the safest picks in this draft and will have a lot to offer any team willing to take a swing on him.
4th Overall Pick, Memphis Grizzlies: With an aging team mired in bad contracts like the Grizzlies, it’s possible they move this pick for a piece that can help them in the short term. If Memphis opts to keep this pick though, I think they would be making a great decision in selecting Jaren Jackson Jr out of Michigan State. While his college numbers won’t blow you away, Jaren Jackson is a great project player with one of the highest ceilings in this draft and someone Grizzlies fans can be excited for in the coming years. In one year under Tom Izzo, Jackson averaged 11 points a night, six rebounds, 1.1 assists, a stifling three blocks a game, and shot 39% from deep while attempting 2.7 threes a night. Jackson Jr may very well be the best rim protector in the Draft already, and while he will take some time developing as a reliable offensive option outside of the pick-and-roll and lobs, he is already a staunch defender and a guy that I believe can help a team win today. (I should note that out of the top prospects in this years draft, only Wendell Carter Jr from Duke worked out for the Grizzlies, this could be a further sign that Memphis will move down in the draft and select him later on).
5th Overall Pick, Dallas Mavericks: I expect the Mavericks to select Mohamed Bamba with the fifth overall pick here if they hold onto this spot. Bamba is one of the smartest players in this years draft, as well as one of the most dominant bigs with an uncanny defensive ability and a solid foundation of footwork. In one year at Texas, Bamba put up 13 points a night, nearly 11 rebounds, and a stifling 3.7 blocks. If Bamba can develop as an offensive player, which will take some time, I expect him to be a great piece for Dennis Smith Jr to work with in the coming years for Dallas.
6th Overall Pick, Orlando Magic: While many scouts and analysts believe the Magic will be safe with this pick, Orlando hasn’t been relevant since the Dwight Howard years, and I think they should send this one. The Magic need a point guard, and while I understand he is a risk, Trae Young should be the focus of the Orlando front office. With an elite shooting ability, a solid handle, and a respectable level of court vision, I believe Young can be the franchise piece the Magic are looking for. In one season for the Sooners, Trae Young averaged 28 points, four rebounds, nearly nine assists, and shot 36% from deep while attempting an astounding 10.6 threes a game. The Magic need a point guard desperately, and when you couple the direction of todays NBA and his potential as a scorer and playmaker, Trae Young is the best fit for them. My major worries for the former Oklahoma guard are only that his slight frame and lack of athleticism could hurt him against the grown men in the League. (Trae Young is also a defensive liability, something he will have to develop as he takes this next step).
7th Overall Pick, Chicago Bulls: This pick is quite honestly a toss up, as it can go a variety of ways, but I stand by what I think and believe the Bulls should go with Michael Porter Junior out of Mizzou with this pick. There are many questions about Porter’s injury history and how bad his back actually is, as well as some front office execs questioning his maturity and overall adjustment to being a professional. With all that being said, the guy is still nearly seven feet tall with a sweet shooting stroke and an ability to get above the rim with ease. I also believe that if he pans out well for Chicago, he could be a great complimentary piece to the young core of Lauri Markkanen and Khris Dunn, as a scorer and shooter on the wing. MPJ is the wild card of the draft, and could definitely slip further than this, but I also think that if he develops into what he was supposed to be at Mizzou, he will be a nice addition to Chicago. TheBulls also need to understand that they have no reason to be hurrying to get good, let the young pieces you have develop and strike once your ready, it is the East after all.
8th Overall Pick, Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers are in a somewhat rough spot with this pick, as it isn’t high enough to trade for or draft a top tier player, but it isn’t low enough that it doesn’t matter. If the Cavs front office decides to hold onto this pick, I can see them getting a safe player in Wendell Carter Jr with the eighth pick of the night. Carter averaged 13 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, two assists, and shot 41% from three in his lone season as a Blue Devil. Carter is a smart pick in this draft as a player with a big body who’s unafraid to get hit and bang down low, while also possessing a rare touch for a big man I think will help him as an offensive player. The Coach K product is also much further along as a defender than most thought entering this season making him a valuable piece of an NBA roster right off the bat.
9th Overall Pick, New York Knicks: The Knicks, like every other year, have a big decision at the ninth spot in this draft. They could go with the older and more established Mikal Bridges out of Villanova, a guy who knows how to win and provided defense and shooting from day one. Or, they can go with the 6’9″ Kevin Knox out of Kentucky, the 18 year old forward with a ceiling no one has seen yet and bounds of potential. Both of these players would be good picks for this team, but I believe Knox is the more intriguing prospect after a year of being underutilized at Kentucky. Knox is a guy who can defend four of five positions on the court, bully smaller defenders in the post, or blow by larger defenders for an easy bucket. After averaging 15 points under coach Cal, while also shooting 34% from three, it is no secret Knox is a scorer and good shooter, but i believe it is his versatility that will get him drafted by New York at nine. With new head coach, David Fizzdale, harboring a love of defending wings I can see Knox being an ideal addition to the young New York core.
10th Overall Pick, Philadelphia 76ers: If he isn’t already gone, Mikal Bridges out of Villanova should be the clear cut choice for Philadelphia. Besides the fact that his mother works in the front office for the Sixers, the former Wildcat is an ideal fit in the City of Brotherly Love. Bridges is a 21 year old guard/forward with elite perimeter defensive ability and a consistent shot, able to find himself a bucket or spot up off the pass. While he doesn’t necessarily have “star” potential, Mikal Bridges is a good and smart player who can help out any team as soon as he touches the hardwood come next season. In his final year at Villanova, Bridges averaged 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, and shot 43% from downtown while shooting six threes a game.
Good luck to all these guys on this special night, ya made it.
All Stats via BasketballReference.com/SportsReference.com
All Images via Google