This is my 2018 mock draft. My mock draft is based on what I have heard from NBA scouts and executives, not necessarily who I think the consummate fit for each team would be.
This is the deepest draft since 2003, with each prospect bringing a unique skillset to the table.
I first assign a valid player comparison that encompasses a ceiling and a floor. Then, I will give a rundown of offensive dexterity and defensive dexterity in profile form, using a variety of statistics to back up my thoughts. Finally, is a description of the potential fit the drafted player has towards his new team.
1. The Phoenix Suns choose…Deandre Ayton
Player Comparison: Karl Anthony-Towns/Dwight Howard
When asked how many teams he was trying out for, Ayton quickly replied, “No one else.” After he stated, “I know I’m going number 1.” He even watched game 3 with his future teammates, Josh Jackson and Devin Booker. So it’s basically a guarantee that the Suns are going to choose Ayton first overall. Alas, he is not exactly the perfect player.
Offensively, Ayton brings an ideal modern playing style to the table. His physical profile is downright intimidating, but he does not overly utilize it to dominate opponents. For his size, he has a smooth finesse to his game. While he doesn’t have Olajuwon moves in the post, he continues to add creative post moves to his repertoire. Ayton performs up and under, drop steps, jab steps like the moves are his second language. Contrary to the defensive side, Ayton makes quick decisions out of the post which is significant because his breadth means he will be double-teamed at the next level. He shot 60.9% against double-teams and only turned over the ball 2.4 times per 40 minutes.
The driving worry for Ayton is his motor. At times, he takes plays off, especially defensively, to preserve his energy on the other end. A player this talented can dominate the game single-handedly and once Ayton realizes his quintessential talents, he will become a top-5 big man in the NBA.
First, his pick and roll defense is very worrisome. As he defends the big man setting the screen, he creates a matchup conundrum. He displays an inability to make a decision on whether he should hedge or switch the screen. Defense in the NBA is made up of split-second decisions and Ayton has shown time-and-time again that he can’t make those types of quick decisions.
As well, he can not guard on the perimeter like his peers. His closeouts are lazy and flat-footed and he often gets blown by quicker forwards. He also does not get in a stance as the guards out to the perimeter. In the end, it is valuable that Arizona played him at the same position as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon because it is merely more experience at a novel position.
Ultimately, his one-dimensional positional value will hinder him. Opponents will take advantage and slip to the basket or pop for an open three-point shot in screening situations, creating a perpetual mismatch for the number 1 pick. To add, his 1.3 points per possession allowed in pick and roll situations places Ayton in the 0th percentile. In today’s NBA, Ayton’s peripheral play will not suffice. Surmising, his defensive awareness is low. He regularly gets caught watching his man and not paying attention to the direction of the ball.
Nonetheless, Ayton is a premier shot-blocker. His 7’5’’ wingspan would have ranked 5th in the combine and allows him to make up for his slow foot speed, chasing down blocks from behind on countless occasions. He blocked the third most shots and had the most defensive win shares in the Pac-12. In addition, Ayton rarely finds himself in foul trouble, fouling only 2.3 times per game.
In the NBA, Ayton should make a similar defensive impact as Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns, who was known as a defensive stalwart in college, has retained a 3.5% block percentage in the pro’s and has struggled to make decisions in the pick and roll. While his statistics are apparent, 1.4 blocks a game, he anchors only the 22nd best defensive team (in terms of defensive rating) in the league.
The fit already seems perfect: Booker-Jackson-Ayton. Ayton could be the Shaq to Booker’s Kobe and Jackson could fill the role that the mid-2000’s Lakers were missing, Scottie Pippen. I love this fit because Booker is improving as a pick and roll player and Ayton is willing to set screens at any moment for a roll or a pop. Booker is not a stopper defensively, (and neither is Ulis for what it’s worth) but Ayton’s shot blocking ability could act as backup. Of course, Ayton will have to improve his defensive IQ and motor for the Suns to be at least an average defensive team in the future. Nonetheless, the future looks bright in the Valley of the Sun.
2. The Sacramento Kings choose…Luka Doncic
Player Comparison: Gordan Hayward/Manu Ginobili
Let me start with a preface: Doncic is the readiest player the NBA has seen since Lebron James. Take a look at his resume:
- Averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists, and 5.2 rebounds on his way to winning EuroLeague MVP
- Led his team in minutes, points, and assists and was second in rebounds
- Top 10 in assists two consecutive seasons in both the EuroLeague and Liga ACB
- 4th and 5th in defensive rebounds in the EuroLeague and Liga ACB, respectively
- 4th in EuroLeague scoring
- Most free throw attempts and makes in EuroLeague
Keep in mind that these accolades have been accomplished before his 20th birthday. At 19, I was saying my last goodbye to my parents as I headed off to college. Encompassing, there has never been a European prospect with the pedigree akin to Doncic.
Take these European prospects for example…
Kristaps Porzingis (age 19): 21.4 minutes 49/36/75 11 PPG 4.6 RPG
Pau Gasol (age 20): 24.2 minutes 57/37/62 12.6 PPG 5.3 RPG
Nikola Mirotic (age 23): 23.6 minutes 51/41/79 12.4 PPG 5.1 RPG
Marc Gasol (age 22): 31.3 minutes 64/0/71 15.3 PPG 7.6 RPG
Even as older players, their statistics are no match for Doncic.
So what exactly does he specialize in? What are his weaknesses?
At 6’7’’ and 218 pounds, Doncic would be the second largest point guard right now (Ben Simmons is first). Using his stature, he’s able to back down diminutive guards. Since guards will often be overpowered by Luka’s size, Doncic will be guarded by 3’s, who he can mostly beat off the dribble. He can slide down to the 2, 3, and even play the 4 in small ball situations. The problem is Doncic foot speed.
Saying Doncic is not fast would be an understatement, he is underwhelmingly slow. Unlike other prospects, Doncic is not special at creating his own shot. Doncic will struggle in isolation plays and at the end of the shot clock as a result. Facing Thanasis Antetokounmpo, a defensive three most often given the top assignment, Doncic floundered. He shot 3/11 and scored 7 points and turned the ball over 3 times. The athletic wing defender stifled the phenom by smothering him and cutting off passing lanes. Will Doncic struggle against lengthy athletic defenders like he did Antetokounmpo?
Doncic has the ability to survey over defenders and find windows smaller guards could never find. Doncic’s passing ability defines the phrase, “thread the needle.” In the 2017-18 play, he doled out an impressive 6.6 assists per 36 minutes.
Luka Doncic is already a pick and roll maestro. His 1.07 points per possession in pick and roll situations would rank third for NBA guards, hovering between Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. He has the innate ability to discern if the defender is hedging and switching and make a decision in mere nanoseconds.
On the other hand, there are some worries about Doncic as an off-ball guard. While he certainly is big enough to play the 2, he is not a knockdown shooter from deep. He shot just 30.9% from three in EuroLeague and Liga ACB. The season prior, Doncic showcased better chops as a shooter, he shot 34.7% from three. Although he did shoot 80.9% from the line.
Doncic will be a liability on defense, there’s just no other way around it. His slow lateral movement and his apathy for scrappy plays will define his defense.
Unless he is willing to play a hustle role like Manu Ginobili has done over the years, Doncic will be a one-dimensional player.
While an unprecedented prospect, Doncic, and Sacramento go together like toothpaste and orange juice. Doncic has expressed his feelings to play in a larger city and for better management (see: Vlade Divac) repeatedly, to the extent of nearly pulling out of the draft. Also, as a once-in-a-lifetime floor general, Doncic should have full reigns of the point guard position. Unfortunately, De’aaron Fox was chosen with the 5th pick last year and solely plays point guard. Both bring size to the table, innate passing ability, irrational confidence, and lackluster shooting. It will be intriguing to see if Doncic and Fox clash deciding who the true king of Sacramento is.
3. The Atlanta Hawks choose…Mo Bamba
Player Comparison: Rudy Gobert/Manute Bol
By now, you’ve heard that Bamba has really long arms (7’10’’ wingspan), is a menacing shot-blocker (3.7 blocks per game), and has a surprisingly catchy rap song to his name.
He’s also so much more. He possesses a surprisingly refined three-point shot. At Texas, Bamba only hit 14 threes but in comparison to other shooting big men, this is still impressive. Karl Anthony-Towns only made 2 threes and Embiid only made one three at Kentucky and Kansas, respectively. Recently, renowned shooting coach, Drew Hanlan, has been training Bamba. With Hanlan, Bamba was draining threes off screens, hitting stationary corner shots, and shooting deep 25 footers from the top of the arc.
Bamba has made three vital changes to his jump-shot. Instead of utilizing his entire hand to shoot the ball, the ball is now coming off two guide fingers making for a smoother shot. Next, he lowered his shooting pocket and kept his elbow away from his body rather than tucked in. Third, he jumps forward when he shoots so he can remain balanced. These three modifications have sped up his release, from 0.93 seconds to 0.72, and will concede him increased confidence in stretching the floor.
Even if Bamba does not take the next step as a three-point savant, his shot-blocking will define him as a world-class talent. His 7.3 blocks per 100 possessions ranked 1st in the nation.
His 9’6” standing reach not only makes his threat to alter any shot but means his rebounding radius is unprecedented. Even when he finds himself out of position, he can make up ground by extending his arms. He grabbed 14 rebounds per 40 minutes.
Unfortunately, he relies on his immense physical tools a little too much. And who can blame him? His wingspan will be the longest in the NBA, 1.5 inches longer than Rudy Gobert’s. Facing off against larger competition will mean he can get pushed around easily. Can his 216-pound frame take that beating night in and night out?
Nonetheless, Bamba is a fantasizing prospect and represents where the NBA is headed in terms of length and versatility. Remaining are questions regarding his frame, consistency, and dedication. If Bamba can improve upon his flaws and add to his fortitude, he will become a nuanced center in an ever-changing NBA.
The Atlanta Hawks have a solid core; Dennis Schroeder, Taurean Prince, and John Collins. They have a dynamic point guard, 3-and-D wing, and athletic tweener. What’s the missing piece to the puzzle? A rim-protecting center. How about one with a 7’10’’ wingspan, three-point shooting potential, and a seat-filling personality. Antony Ressler and Travis Schlenk are counting down the days to June 21st.
4. The Memphis Grizzlies choose…Marvin Bagley
Player Comparison: Chris Bosh/Antawn Jamison
Marvin Bagley was a statistical beast at Duke. He produced 21 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 64.7% 2-point shooting and 39.7% three-point shooting on his way to winning ACC player of the year. Bagley can be a go-to scorer for a lottery team, which makes him an enticing prospect.
Despite being so skinny, Bagley will come into the league and solidify himself as a premier rebounder. Offensively, he maintains great position to be in contention for rebounds. Defensively, Bagley pushes his defender out in solid box-out positioning. He reacts quickly to misses almost instinctually. These are the reasons Bagley grabbed 18.6 rebounds per 100 possessions and accounted for 25% of rebounds for the fifth best rebounding team in the nation. Although, he’s not only a rebounder.
In today’s pace and space league, a transition big man is essential. Bagley is dominant in transition, getting a lot of his buckets by pushing the pace. Not only can he rim-run, but he can handle the ball like a guard in transition. This allows him to go coast-to-coast when the opposing team least expects it. His intimidating size forces teams to guard him as he drives to the rim like a runaway train.
The most significant improvement GM’s and scouts would like to see Bagley add is a consistent three-point jumper. While Bagley has nice form, he has never shot exceedingly well from deep. He shot 28% in high school action and 23% in the Nike EYBL league. This collegiate season, he shot 39.7% on 58 attempts. Often, the best benchmark for a natural shooter is free throw accuracy. Bagley shot 62.7% from the charity stripe, often short-arming freebies. Is his jump shot more Josh Smith or Chris Bosh?
Admittedly, he struggles against double teams. Facing double teams, Bagley shot just 40.7% and turned it over 24.4% of the time. NBA teams notice this and will send another man to guard him to pressure Bagley. He will have to work on taking care of the ball and finishing if he wants to be a true low post presence.
Also, he solely uses his left hand. While he is a solid dribbler for his size, most his dribbles come with his left hand and while he does have an array of post moves, they ultimately lead to a left hook or a shot over his left shoulder.
While his post moves are not completely polished, he has the potential to be a force around the rim. For a big man, he has surprisingly soft hands.
Defensively, Bagley may be better served to guard small forwards. His 235-pound frame means other bigs will take his lunch money with relative ease. Can you imagine Bagley trying to defend Karl Anthony-Towns or Joel Embiid?
If he makes the theoretical defensive switch to the 3, he needs to work on his lateral foot movement. He has trouble staying with 3’s on the perimeter.
For the most part, Duke had to hide him in the back of a 2-3 zone. Bagley had no sign of any defensive awareness, either helping too early or late and missing rotations altogether.
They had trouble playing both Carter and Bagley. With Bagley most likely playing the 5 in the modern NBA, he will have to bulk up markedly.
You can tell how ecstatic he is to get back on offense with his perfect timing jumping passing lanes. He recorded 0.8 steals per game, which is not too shabby especially considering he played the 4 in a cautious 2-3 zone.
The only talent that stands out defensively is the ability to box out, he was 7th in defensive rebound percentage with a 21.5 mark.
What’s one way to separate from the grit-and-grind era while simultaneously retaining the vigor that made them so much fun to watch? Drafting a hard-nosed, athletic, dynamic playmaker, Marvin Bagley is the answer. Bagley will prove a nice fit next to Marc Gasol who seemingly is good at all the things Bagley struggles with (defense, jump shot, and kicking shoes off the court). Bagley will also help rebound and push the ball in transition for the 15th best rebounding team and a team 29th in pace. Bagley won’t go first like he thinks he should but I am sure he will cherish his new home in the Home of the Blues.
5. The Dallas Mavericks choose…Jaren Jackson Jr.
Player Comparison: Elton Brand/Emeka Okafor
Despite being one of the most NBA-ready prospects, Jaren Jackson Jr. is just 18 years old. Jackson Jr. is the fastest riser in this draft and has reportedly impressed in workouts with the Hawks and Mavericks. Jaren can get up and down and will be a solid running mate next to guards.
First, he’s a genuine threat from 23 feet and further. He shot 39.6% on 2.7 attempts from deep, displaying real ability to stretch the floor. Bamba and Jackson Jr. could give way to a new position that is the defensive stretch 5. He could use this ability as leverage against defenders.
If given the ball at the top of the arc, his cultivated jump shot will allow him to take it to the rim where he can perform a euro step or an up and under with ease. He’s not especially slow like an Andre Drummond on the floor, he moves around with quick feet and a sense of urgency.
He could also pound it inside, shooting 59.6% on two-pointers and exhibiting a multitude of pro moves. His post finishing ranks in the 98th percentile. He’s almost ambidextrous, dribbling more comfortably with his left hand while shooting with his right hand. For a pure lefty inside, he has a vast ability to turn to his right and do a right hook.
When he misses shots, he can make a play on the ball and track down the ball. He’s a refined rebounder on the offensive side, grabbing 1.5 offensive boards.
Jaren’s college statistics pale in comparison to other college stars, producing just 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in his lone season at Michigan State. This could be as a result of playing under Tom Izzo who likes to hide his younger stars (see: Zach Randolph).
He struggles with fouls, he fouled 3.2 times per game and could have been the driving reason he struggled to stay on the court. He tries to block shots too much and gets overly physical at times.
He’s the most polished rim protector in the class, he blocked 5.5 shots per 40 minutes. His length is unmatched, possessing a 7’4’’ wingspan. To add, his timing on blocks is simply impeccable. He can guard out to the perimeter and move his feet and choose exactly when to alter the shot.
Overall, Jackson Jr. has the highest chance of becoming a regular starter. ESPN gives him a 42% chance of earning that designation, the highest in the class. Entailing, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s strengths exceedingly outweigh his weaknesses.
Jaren Jackson Jr. would be a great fit with Dallas from day one. Dallas lacks a second star and a pick and roll partner for Dennis Smith Jr. Jackson Jr.’s ability to alter shots will prove beneficial to a struggling Mavs team which ranks 27th in total defense and 29th in blocked shots. Of course, the Mavs would love to garner a bigger name and a more explosive talent like Bamba or Ayton, but Jackson Jr. is still an ideal fit for a team headed in the right direction.
6. The Orlando Magic choose…Trae Young
Player Comparison: Mohamed Abdul-Rauf/Mike Bibby
Isn’t a point guard who can shoot threes all the rage in the NBA? So why is Trae Young constantly ridiculed for being a knockdown shooter?
He can pull up from anywhere from 22-30 feet, off a variety of creative dribble moves. That’s what sets him apart from stand-still shooters and is the driving reason the comparison to Steph Curry makes sense.
He’s no slouch passing the ball either, his 48.6% assist percentage was the best in the nation. When driving to the rim, help side encloses on him and his vision allows him to thread the needle nearly anywhere on the court. Also, he’s a refined pick and roll threat. When a screen is set for him he can find a myriad of angles to get the ball to the roller. Unfortunately, his stature holds him back.
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express tweeted, “Trae Young ranks among the bottom 10 percent of players ever measured at the combine in height, wingspan and weight, measuring 6-1¾ in shoes with a 6-3 wingspan and a 178-pound frame.”
The problem is that his 6’3’’ wingspan puts limitations on him in multiple aspects. First, he’s not able to pass over taller defenders. Often times, Trae Young will get stuck in the air trying to fire passes over taller defenders. These passes will not work in a league where the average height is 6’7.” In most cases, Young found himself smothered by the best defender or double teamed. Young was double-teamed on 41% of possessions last season, Curry, for all his greatness, was ‘only’ double-teamed 31% his junior season at Davidson. In the NBA, there will certainly be less attention drawn to the rookie.
His subpar athleticism held him back as well. When pressured, Young could not explode past a defender. When going up to the rim, he is not able to rise up to the rim for a dunk or even an athletic layup. He does have a clever layup and floater package that reminds of Kyrie Irving and Jamal Crawford.
Second, he struggles to make positive impacts defensively. Consider this, his player comparisons have much longer arms; Lillard has a 6’7.5’’ wingspan and Curry possesses a 6’3.25’’ wingspan. What both players lack in natural height, they are able to make up with long arms. For example, Curry is not exactly a lockdown defender, but his arms have allowed him to place top 5 in steal percentage two consecutive years.
Despite reportedly gaining 13 pounds of muscle from the end of the college season, Young still only weighs 183 pounds. In a first-round battle against counterpart Collin Sexton, Young struggled mightily. He dropped 17 points on 6-17 shooting with 5 turnovers. Young struggled against the height, width, and strength of a similar talent. Noticeably, his statistics dropped in Big 12 play and so did Oklahoma’s overall play.
He has a tendency to shoot himself out of shooting slumps. From February 3rd to February 19th the Sooners went on a 6-game losing streak where Young shot under 34% from the field and 19.6% from three. Young could find his starting role in jeopardy if he goes on a run like this one next year, especially on a contending team like the Cavs.
Of course, there will be less attention drawn to the college superstar next season, and it will be riveting to watch him go one-on-one against some of the best athletes in the world.
The Orlando Magic have chosen wing players in the past three drafts; Gordon, Hezonja, and Isaac. It is time for them to realize where the league is headed and pick a special talent at guard. Young will add three-point shooting for a team 16th in that category. As well, Shelvin Mack led the team in assists with 3.9 assists and that’s saying something. Young could be the future of an Orlando Magic organization that is desperate for a future.
7. Chicago Bulls choose…Michael Porter Jr.
Player Comparison: Rashard Lewis/Robert Horry
The sample size is small, Porter Jr. appeared in only 3 games for Missouri. There are plenty of unresolved questions about MPJ’s durability, dedication, and overall ability.
At his best, Porter Jr. draws comparisons to Paul George and Kevin Durant. The basis for that is his dribble pull-up game. He has a nice touch from 10 to 18 feet, and forces defenders to guard him tight when he gets in that area.
For all that, once a defender smothers him in the mid-range, he can not make him pay. He is unable to drive to the rim and put the ball on the ground. In addition, he is more of a straight line driver and less a finesse modern small forward. He is not a smooth dribbler and will have to work on adding new moves to his repertoire to trick defenders.
Michael Porter Jr. needs to work on his vision as he’s driving to the rim. Similar to Kevin Durant, he will be coming into the league as a scorer and not a passer.
His shot is not fully refined, shooting 32% in the Nike EYBL Tournament. His free throw shot is evidence that he will become a threat from the outside, he hit charity stripe shots at 86% in the same tournament.
He has good timing on rebounds as well, averaging 14 rebounds per 40 minutes at the Nike EYBL.
In spite of a 9’0.5’’ standing reach, Porter Jr. is not a potent defender. Often times, Porter Jr. is lazy on defense and never gets into a stance, his hands wilted to his side.
He’s going to face quicker players in the NBA that will blow by him and bigger players that will power through him.
There’s two ways the Bulls can go about the 7th pick. First, they can discern that Markkanen, Dunn, and their ragtag role players are enough to propel them to eventual contending position in the East. Second, they can look at their young core and come to the conclusion that they don’t have true superstar potential. The first option means they play it safe and draft a proven 3-and-D player in Mikal Bridges. Bridges is a solid starter but definitely not an all-star. Porter Jr. is either a bust or superstar. It’s go big or go home. Similar to last year where they chose Markkanen over proven college stars, they will most likely choose the boom-or-bust prospect.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers choose…Colin Sexton
Player Comparison: Eric Bledsoe/Patrick Beverly
If you want a close examination of Sexton’s isolation dominance, look no further than the Alabama vs. Minnesota game. Sexton dropped 40 points while Alabama played 3 players for a majority of the second half. 3 vs. 5 and Sexton almost won the game for Alabama. Of course, Alabama ended up losing and finished the season 19-15.
He was the main feature of an Alabama offense, donning a 32.9 usage percentage. The crucial part of his game is his will to score, he scored 25.6 points per 40 minutes last season. He changes speeds like Mitt Romney changes stances, going from fast to slow like wildfire.
His hesitation tears ankles and it means he can get to the rim without the help of a screen set for him. One thing is for sure: Sexton will create space for himself.
Once he creates space from the defender, his frame and strength enable him to finish through contact. Sexton is built like a fire hydrant, with only 5.3% body fat (right around where Trae Young tested in at) and weighing 183 pounds. He’s only 6’2’’ but his 6’6.5’’ wingspan allows him to finish over lankier defenders.
If he does not finish layups, he has the ability to draw fouls like James Harden, placing 7th in free throw attempts in the NCAA last season. He’s like an NFL fullback, not only does he not shy away from contact, but he seemingly looks for it. He attacks weakness and will keep going at his defensive matchup like its a game of Chess, working tirelessly to get checkmate.
Contrary to popular belief, Sexton is not a one-trick pony. Sure, he scores at will, but he can also pass with the best of them. His 27.8 assist percentage ranked 8th in the SEC.
For all his strengths, Sexton is far from a complete package.
He’s not a spot-up shooter. He shot only 33.6% on 4 attempts from three, although he did shoot nearly 78% from the line so that number should improve gradually in the league.
Sexton is a little sped up at times and needs to let the game come to him, his 2.8 turnovers per game were 4th most in the SEC.
To confirm, the worst case scenario of Patrick Beverly is more a representation of how Sexton impacts the game rather than how he plays his defense. If his offense is not clicking, he becomes ultra-aggressive on defense, which is a weakness and strength.
Sexton is an emotional player, which is his Achilles heel. When his shot is not on point, he will recklessly run through passing lanes desperately trying to steal the ball.
At the same time, he will pick up 94 feet and push the offensive player towards the sidelines, getting down in a stance Steve Wojciechowski would appreciate. His 1.6 steals per 100 possessions ranks as an average mark.
The 6’1” guard will struggle on pick and roll situations in the NBA. Switching is extremely prevalent and offenses will go at Sexton relentlessly, trying to get him switched onto a bigger forward. As we saw with Terry Rozier in the series against the Cavs, guards become a major liability no matter how versatile their offense is.
First, Cleveland traded away Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas. They had Isaiah Thomas on the roster for 5 seemingly eternal months. Then they traded IT for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. In the end, Clarkson and Nance Jr. severely disappointed in their uncomfortable roles. Nevertheless, the Cavs’ game plan is clear, aim for the stars and if you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. The Cavaliers will vie for their first superstar floor general since Kyrie to replace Lebron or act as his sidekick. Koby Altman will take the risk of picking Sexton with the 8th pick.
9. New York Knicks choose…Mikal Bridges
Player Comparison: Shane Battier/Trevor Ariza
Bridges has a solid handle and utilizes his quickness to get past flat-footed defenders. Certainly, he creates a matchup problem no matter what player guards him. While he has an above-average handle, he doesn’t try to do too much. Plus, he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact. He can run around a myriad of screens, set screens, or be the primary ball handler and he will be completely comfortable. His offensive versatility makes him a special talent.
Whilst he has a solid handle and quick feet, neither are adept enough to make him an elite one-on-one player. In isolation situations, Bridges scored 0.737 points per possession at Villanova, placing in the 40th percentile. He’s better as an off-ball threat, running off screens or receiving a screen.
He could be used like how Otto Porter is used in Washington. With two ball-dominant scorers, the Wizards have Porter run off multiple screens from Gortat and Markieff Morris to get him easy shots. If the defender follows him around the screen, Bridges will be able to take one quick dribble for a pull-up jump shot. If the defender goes under the screen, Bridges can fade for a three. He shot 42.5% from deep last season and has improved every season. In off-screen situations at Villanova, he scored 1.296 points per possession, placing in the 90th percentile. Also, he’s an elite trailer in transition, scoring 1.6 points per possession in transition last season.
In addition, Bridges has surprising awareness as a ball-handler in the pick and roll. In pick and roll situations, he scored .978 point per possession in 46 possessions, placing in the 88th percentile. While he isn’t a great passer, he is careful with the ball in his hands. He retained a positive assist to turnover percentage each season at Villanova. When he gets to the rim, chances are the defender has no chance to stop him. He was in the 93rd percentile as a finisher around the hoop, utilizing his long arms to finish over defenders.
Although Mikal is even more refined on the defensive end.
His elastic man arms and defensive awareness allowed him to place top 5 in steal percentage, block percentage, and defensive win shares in the Big East. His defensive IQ is through the roof.
Bridges can morph into any position defensively and proved a necessity for Villanova’s defense. With Bridges on the court, they allowed only 0.97 points per possession and 1.09 point per possession when he was on the bench.
Bridges will more than make up for Hardway and Beasley’s shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball. He will add to the youthful foundation of Kristaps and Nkilitina. New York will try to grab Lebron and PG in free agency but will have to settle for this 3-and-D masterpiece instead.
10. Philadelphia 76ers choose…Lonnie Walker
Player Comparison: Avery Bradley/Deshawn Stevenson
The main improvement Walker has to make is his ability to play point guard. At 6’4’’, he does not exactly have shooting guard size. He has refined handles that should allow him to eventually slide down to the 1.
Yet he wasn’t a dynamic passer at Miami, dishing a weak 2.7 assists per 40 minutes. Given a point guard role in the Summer League, Walker should concentrate on his creativity in the pick and roll. He has a feel for the game, turning the ball over only 1.7 times.
He constantly maintains an aggressive mindset on offense. Always looking to attack the rim and with an explosive first step, he could beat virtually anyone off the dribble. Although he does have a 6’11’’ wingspan, his frame isn’t exactly built, only tipping the scales at 200 pounds.
He shows some promise as a shooter but definitely is a question mark from deep. Lonnie has a quirky form but still maintained a 34.6% shot from behind the arc. He may have to fix his form as its a tad mechanical and slow moving.
Take into consideration he only started 18 out of 32 games. Stepping into a larger role since Bruce Brown’s foot injury, Walker averaged 12.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 12 games. He shot an abysmal 39% from the field and 31.6% but that was expected with a Miami team desperate for a go-to scorer. With the 76ers he won’t be the first option, but on a second team, he could end up being a go-to scorer.
Even though his arms are freakishly long, he doesn’t use them to his advantage enough. He still has a lot to learn defensively. Often, he is caught sleeping on help-side knowing that his wingspan can make up for lack of effort. At Miami, he produced a meager 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks per 40 minutes. If he puts in 100% effort he can be all defensive first-teamer, garnering an abundance of blocks and steals.
Walker definitely does not lack the confidence in becoming a bonafide star in the league, “I feel that I can be a franchise player. I feel that I have what it takes, whether it’s offensively or defensively. I can score with the best of them and I can guard the best players in my respective area.”
Philadelphia can afford to take a risk with a team made up of two superstars and a bevy of role players. Lonnie Walker is the perfect risk with J.J. Redick an unrestricted free agent and no apparent backup on the roster.
11. Charlotte Hornets choose…Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Player Comparison: Shaun Livingston/Michael Carter-Williams
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a rangy point guard and has scouts salivating because of his promise as a legitimate two-way monster.
Gilgeous-Alexander played 33.7 minutes, displaying esteemed coach John Calipari’s willingness to play the guard. Calipari could have played Knox or Wenyen Gabriel more, but he chose Gilgeous-Alexander and for good reason. He did a little bit of everything for the Wildcats, scoring 14.4 points, grabbing 5.1 rebounds, and dishing out 4.1 assists. Is Shai on the same path as other Calipari guards; John Wall, De’Aaron Fox, Devin Booker, and Eric Bledsoe?
Even though he was trusted by Calipari, he still managed to lead the SEC in turnovers, throwing the ball away on 100 distinct occasions.
He has court vision in a class of its own, kicking out the ball in most dribble-drive situations. He can beat his defender off the dribble with quickness and Harlem Globetrotter dribbling moves. He can create offense without a screen and when the play is seemingly lost.
His wingspan, at 7’0’’, would be the tallest for a starting point guard (Dejounte Murray is second with a 6’9.5’’ wingspan).
Defensively, is frame allows him to get bullied by bigger guards. He almost has a dangerous body fat, at 2.7%, and needs to add a good amount of weight before he gets major minutes.
Although, he is the closest thing to a professional steal artist. Gilgeous-Alexander was third in the SEC in steals, with 61.
Overall, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lanky stature is a strength and shortcoming, but it projects him to be a solid rotation player in the NBA with the potential to become so much more.
While Kemba Walker might not be in Charlotte for the long-term, as Michael Jordan alluded to, it is worth looking for a player who can play alongside him and eventually replace him. Gilgeous-Alexander could add perimeter defense to a team ranked 16th in defensive rating and 28th in steals. Although it could be frustrating for longtime Popovich assistant, James Borrego, who will be forced to play a pair of horrific shooters Kidd-Gilchrist and Gilgeous-Alexander on the floor at the same time. Additionally, I feel for the equipment manager who will have to somehow fit three double last names on Charlotte’s new jerseys next season.
12. Los Angeles Clippers choose…Kevin Knox
Player Comparison: Tobias Harris/Xavier Henry
Kevin Knox combines a profusion of skills to make for an intriguing prospect.
He’s an isolation virtuoso and has enough quickness to beat defenders off the dribble in creating his own shot. He can pull up on a dime for a variety of mid-range shots and has solid knowledge of where his best spot on the floor is. His offensive awareness is extremely high.
Knox is not yet a good three-point shooter, he shot 34.1% on 167 attempts but has the mechanics to succeed from deep at the next level. Comprising, he was deadeye from the charity stripe, completing 77.4% of attempts. With the proliferation of shot attempts and minutes, Knox will certainly prove a threat from the outside.
While Knox can find his spots, he sometimes has a hard time getting to them. His dribble is waist-high and does not have the handle of a typical modern 3. He puts himself in a box trying to fit in when clearly he can be an exceptional player with a host of dexterity.
He seems willing to sharpen his ball-handling prowess, “When I get to the next level in the NBA, I want to be able to handle the ball a lot in the pick-and-roll,” he said. “That’s what I want to do — be able to make reads, be able to make plays, winning plays, out of the pick-and-roll. I want to be able to be a primary ball handler at the next level, so that’s what I’m working really well on now.”
While only producing 0.8 steals and 0.3 blocks per game, Knox’s 7’0’’ wingspan should allow him to guard 3’s and stretch 4’s effortlessly. Considering his measurables, he does not seem locked in on defense, allowing quicker guards to bolt past him.
For all his talent, Knox is not an emotional player. Teams want to see their star players have a certain fire lit under them that inspires their teammates and fans. Knox just does not have that fire. He is a scorer but a passive one, not stepping up in key moments. Does he have the dedication and willingness to be a number one option in the NBA?
Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris are both offensively minded tweeners, comparable to Knox in many aspects. So why would the Clippers choose heir apparent Knox with the 12th pick? They can easily choose Miles Bridges or Robert Williams, but Knox has one of the highest potentials in the draft. At this point in the rebuilding process, Clippers management should be seeking for talent and not fit. It may seem backward, but the coherent fit is intrinsically the optimal talent.
13. Los Angeles Clippers choose…Wendell Carter
Player Comparison: Al Horford/Jason Thompson
Wendell Carter was not the commanding force most thought he would be when he committed to Duke.
He is a plodding center, built almost like Al Jefferson, weighing 260 pounds. Is Carter Jr. too big for his own good? Can he move around like other centers? Often times, Carter Jr. is moving in slo-mo while his offense is speeding by. Wendell will need to be extra quick decision-wise to make up for his large size. He is quick but not necessarily fast.
He can run the court and hit three’s from the top of the key efficiently akin to Nikola Jokic. He shot 41.3% on 46 attempts and his shot is impressing scouts and executives league-wide. He placed in the 90th percentile in catch and shoot situations. He also had a 73.8% true shooting percentage, shooting well from near the basket, mid-range, and free-throw.
Like Horford, Carter is a refined post passer. As a post passer, he placed in the 66th percentile, dishing out 3 assists per 40 minutes. He can dribble on the perimeter, set screens, and use his height to dump off passes over defenders. He can play with another big man, passing exceptionally in high-low scenarios off in-bound plays and designated in-game plays.
His wingspan and standing reach are both outstanding, at 7’4.5” and 9’1,” respectively. He uses that length in post defense, placing in the 98th percentile on post-ups and blocking 4.3 shots per 40 minutes.
Switching is the name of the game in today’s league and Carter, despite quick feet for a big man, can not guard stretch 4’s and definitely cannot defend 3’s. This ultimately could make him expendable.
Deandre Jordan and the Clippers seem to be far apart on a new contract. Chances are the rebuilding Clippers will let the big man walk which means Boban Marjanovic will be the lone center on the roster. Picking one of the top center prospects in Carter will add to the youth and the center position for the other Los Angeles team.
14. Denver Nuggets choose…Miles Bridges
Player Comparison: Thaddeus Young/Al Thornton
Miles Bridges did not regress offensively in his sophomore season, but he did not improve all that much either.
Look at his per-40 minutes stats:
21.1 points 10.4 rebounds 2.6 assists 1.9 blocks 2.9 tov 48.6% FG 38.9% 3PT 68.5% FT
21.8 points 8.9 rebounds 3.4 assists 1.0 blocks 2.5 tov 45.7% FG 36.9% 3PT 85.3% FT
What do these statistics tell us?
Bridges moved down to the 3 with the arrival of star big man, Jaren Jackson Jr. As a small forward, Bridges got a chance to showcase his ability to take it to the rack and act as a creator. He excelled at his new position. He dished out almost double the assists. He took 10% fewer shots from near the rim in his second season compared to his first. Also, his 3-pointers attempted per game expanded from 6.4 to 7.3, establishing himself as a 3-and-D player.
He will be intriguing to teams that want to play multiple distinct lineups. Bridges can play an athletic 4, who can stretch the floor that can beat defenders off the dribble. He can set screens and pop for open threes against bulkier forwards. On the other hand, he can play the 3 and isolate on the high elbow or block and post up skinnier small forwards. He can finish at the rim like a center, finishing 125 shots at the basket at a 65.5% clip this past season. His position non-specificity is a talent. Thus, he can use the tweener label as leverage.
The tweener label can also be a disadvantage. Playing with two guys that clog up the lane, Bridges talents will be hindered. He’s a solid dribbler, but not a player that can create his own shot in the half-court or from the perimeter. His dribbling will not allow him to get around his defender nor will it allow him to shake help side.
What he does in the half-court exceptionally well is cut and use screens. He cuts like Andre Iguodala to the short corner or high elbow. From those spots, he can get to the rim on straight-line drives or kick out the ball to better shooters in the corners. At Michigan State, Bridges assisted on 15.8% of Michigan State’s points when on the court.
His 41 inch vertical would have placed 6th in the combine had he participated.
He rebounded less but still was 10th in the Big Ten in rebounds. While his block percentage was top 10 in 2016-17, at 4.9%, his defensive rating was 8th in the Big Ten, at an astounding 95.5. As well, he garnered the 7th most defensive win shares in the Big Ten.
Defensively, as I mentioned, Bridges is an experienced shot blocker because of his athleticism. He blocked 1.4 shots per 40 minutes combined, which is pretty impressive for a small forward. Possessing an underwhelming 6’9’’ wingspan, his hands are rarely in passing lanes. He stole the ball a meager 0.6 times per 40 times.
Last season, Denver employed just one small forward, Wilson Chandler. Taking Bridges here, who could spell aging players, Chandler and Millsap, is the right choice. He fits in Denver’s uptempo offense will add another element to a free-flowing Mile High offense. Like Chandler, Bridges is not a true small forward and that means Denver still needs to add depth to that position.
15. Washington Wizards choose…Robert Williams
Player Comparison: Clint Capela/Ekpe Udoh
Sometimes I forgot Robert Williams was even on the floor at Texas A&M. Williams disappeared out of thin air in some games this season.
Williams had 7 games of scoring 5 points or lower while the season prior he only had 2 similar games. After a solid freshman season where he produced 11.9 points and maintained a 27.2 PER, his statistics in both categories bottomed out. He looked like the fourth option on a perpetual bubble team, and at times did not even look like the best center on the team (Tyler Davis averaged 14 and 8). How will he fare in the NBA?
Robert Williams is a pick and roll specialist. He is a huge target when rolling and can snag lob passes that look like they are going over the backboard or way out of bounds. He gifted us two insane windmill dunks throughout the season.
His post moves are nothing to get excited about. He has a quick turn over his right shoulder and explodes off the ground with substantial explosiveness, but his post game is predictable. He relies on his natural athleticism to pummel opponents.
His free throw shooting takes form in Andre Drummond, Clint Capela, and Deandre Jordan. He shot a promising 59% from the line his freshman season, but it fell his sophomore season to 47.1%. Opposing teams will strongly consider hack-a-Williams as he jumps to the next stage.
As well, he does not exhibit proper box-out positioning and jumps to the ball rather than pushing back his opponent. His defensive rebounding, while poor, improved from 5.1 to 6.9.
While he is considered undersized for a 5, at 6’9’’, his vast wingspan (7’4’’) more than makes up for it. His wingspan allows him to get his hands on any type of shot, he blocked 9.1 shots per 40 minutes at the Nike EYBL 2 years ago and blocked 4 shots per 40 minutes in college.
At 21, he may already be the player that he has shown to be. Most big men coming into the league at that age stagnate. Take, for example, Willie Cauley-Stein from Kentucky or Ed Davis from North Carolina.
With Marcin Gortat approaching 35 and not looking any younger, the Wizards are vying for a center. Washington has tried to trade for Deandre Jordan and Demarcus Cousins on multiple occasions. While Jordan or Cousins are enticing, a spry defensive center who can finish alley-oops from Wall or Beal is even more alluring. Plus, they won’t have to give up young wings, Kelly Oubre or Otto Porter Jr. in enormous trade offers for an expensive big man. Williams would not be asked to do too much, a role that suits him best.
16. Phoenix Suns choose…Donte DiVincenzo
Player Comparison: Leandro Barbosa/Pat Connaughton
One thing is for sure, the “Michael Jordan of Delaware” can shoot the lights out. He shot 40.1% on 5.3 attempts per game, spotting up or shooting off the dribble countlessly. He is built for the modern game, about 54% of his shots came from deep.
In my opinion, he is the most underrated prospect in this draft. The NCAA All-Tournament team has also caught the attention of executives and scouts across the league. His max vertical leap and standing vertical at 42 inches and 34.50 inches, respectively, led combine participants.
Divincenzo settles for jumpers enough and is apparently afraid of contact. He attempted less than a third of his shots at the rim and produced a scant 3.1 free throws per game.
He can use his athleticism to beat slower forwards off the dribble and his 200-pound frame to power through thinner guards. He can get to the rim, 43.7% of his shots were near the rim. At the rim, DiVincenzo finished at a high rate, 65.1%.
The offense did not run through Brunson when Donte was on the floor, he assisted on 19.7% of baskets when he was one of the 5 on the court. He will have an immediate height advantage over more than half the league if he is played at the 1.
If he is going to play the 1, he has to improve his ability as a natural floor general. His 4.8 assists per 40 minutes looked more like Wendell Carter’s 4.1 than Trae Young’s 9.8.
Overall, he can potentially play three positions.
His 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks per 40 minutes prove that he won’t be anything more than a pawn among kings and rooks on the defensive end.
Donte has some potential with a fine wingspan (6’6”) and obvious explosive jumping ability. He can block shots and if he can improve his defensive awareness, he can jump passing lanes for transition dunks.
After drafting the behemoth, Ayton at number 1, Phoenix will have a host of options at 16. Word is still out on whether Tyler Ulis and Elfrid Payton are answers for the future at quarterback for the Suns. Therefore, Phoenix will look to free agency and the draft for an answer. They can spend $80 million on a defensive-minded point guard, Marcus Smart or use their young guns; Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender as bargaining chips for disgruntled point guard Dennis Schroeder or rising starter Terry Rozier. The easiest choice would be to pick the 6’5’’ athletic specimen 16th, who would indisputably be a smooth addition to the flourishing core of Booker, Jackson, and Ayton.
17. Milwaukee Bucks choose…Kevin Huerter
Player Comparison: J.J. Redick/Nik Stauskas
A lot of people like making the Klay Thompson comparison, but Huerter’s game is substantially more peculiar.
Like Klay Thompson, he is a deep threat. He shot 39.4% on 350 attempts in his college career. Similar to Marco Belinelli or J.J. Redick, he prefers to be running off a myriad off screens for off-balance threes. You won’t see him creating his shots with a lot of dribbling, usually limiting his dribbles to one or two before pulling up.
While his jump-shot will translate to the league, his form is extremely quirky. He keeps the ball unnaturally on the right side of his head, which could block his vision when rising up from certain angles.
While he does not over dribble, he is a willing passer. He’s an underrated passer, dishing 3.9 assists per 40 minutes, which is right around where point guard Divincenzo lays in assists. He is careless with the ball at times, chucking away the ball 80 times (9th in the Big Ten) for the season.
Unlike Klay Thompson, he probably won’t be a force defensively. He does not have very long arms (6’7’’) but he was the fastest player in the box shuttle, manifesting his aptness to keep up with quicker guards. For what it’s worth, Huerter displays a lot of effort as a perimeter defender. He doesn’t have unreal intangibles, but like Redick or Korver, Huerter will be working his tail off trailing shooters and smothering all-stars on the defensive end.
In the end, there are specific skills that Huerter will retain at the next level, like shooting and effort but there are discernible weaknesses that should worry teams, who are looking more and more into physical intangibles like vertical and wingspan.
Milwaukee can use a power forward or center, Thon Maker has not taken the strides expected and John Henson is merely a placeholder. Unfortunately, there are an absence of big men that are worth taking in this range. Jabari will probably jettison out of Milwaukee, which leaves the Bucks with Shabazz Muhammad, who is not the answer no matter how you shape it. Giannis can use shooting around him, Brogdon being the only threat from deep on the squad. Any team can use additional help on the wings, so a playmaker like Huerter is their pick here.
18. San Antonio Spurs choose…Troy Brown
Player Comparison: Khris Middleton/Alan Anderson
The former McDonald’s All-American has refined handles for a player his size. 4.1 assists per 40 minutes and 18.7 assist percentage conveys his capacity as a secondary creator. He is exceedingly crafty in ball-screen situations, weaving in and out, using and denying the screen when he needs to. Entailing, 11% of his possessions came in pick and roll situations and he scored a robust 0.846 points per possession. The drawback is that he forces the issue excessively. He was 6th in turnovers with 86 total. As a secondary passer, he can not make mistakes often.
When he gets to the rim, he can finish or pull-up for a mellow floater game. He scored 1.323 per possession, placing in the 27th percentile. He needs to work at finishing at the next level. He finished 65.45% of shots at the rim, compare that to Donovan Mitchell’s 55.9% and you can distinguish how swiftly a prospect can turn into an astute finisher in less than 11 months.
He is a quintessential secondary scorer as well. Brown scored 31% of his possessions on spot-up plays, in which he averaged 0.768 points per possession, which is a little below average. His shot should improve, as he shot around 77% from the line and displays fine technique on his stroke.
What really stands out is Brown’s hard-edged, no-nonsense defense. He can stand up weak offensive players and is a leader on the defensive side. Per Isolation possession, Brown allowed a stingy 0.514 points per possession.
The former McDonald’s All-American boasts a lanky 6’7’’ frame and 6’11’’ wingspan. Furthermore, he has packed on 20 pounds in two years and with his broad shoulders, could stand to add even more weight. His stature allows him to guard any position besides center.
While his frame portrays promise to eventually become a good defender, he has not reached that point yet. He had some trouble staying in front of opponents, possessing a 102.4 defensive rating. Notably, Brown was 3rd in the Pac-12 in steals, accumulating 1.6 per game. He pitched in 1.6 defensive win shares, 8th in the Pac-12.
With the possibility Kawhi leaves San Antonio for greener pastures combined with the fact that Danny Green yearns for a pay raise after this offseason, grabbing a prospective 3-and-D player this late in the draft is a boon for an aging San Antonio squad. Keep in mind that this organization turns misfits into valuable pieces. Undrafted players Bruce Bowen and Jonathan Simmons, 2nd rounder Danny Green, mid-1st round talent Kawhi Leonard, and slow motion Kyle Anderson, all morphed into starters during their stay in Alamo City. Gregg Popovich will be on cloud nine after choosing heir apparent Troy Brown. Not to mention, Troy Brown will be equally as excited to find himself in San Antonio.
19. Atlanta Hawks choose…Khyri Thomas
Player Comparison: Bruce Bowen/Raja Bell
In the mold of Avery Bradley, at 6’3’’ 210, he’s built like a bowling ball with considerable downhill speed.
He can take defenders off the dribble with a diverse allocation of dribbling moves. While he won’t play point guard any time soon, I could see Thomas as a secondary creator next to Schroeder.
For the past three seasons at Creighton, Thomas shot 40.6% from three and 71.9% from the line. He can shoot off the dribble or off screens, neither being a particular forte. He fired deep three’s from every spot. It is expected that Khyri brings this skill to the next level.
He switched to a more guard-oriented position his junior season at Creighton, which is helpful because he won’t be able to play the 3 in the NBA. His rebounding per 40 minutes fell from 7.4 to 5.5.
There is collateral that Thomas will be a lockdown defender as he progresses. He placed in the top 10 in the Big East in steals, defensive win shares, defensive rating in consecutive seasons at Creighton, often drawing the top offensive task. He will be able to switch onto bigger opponents with his 6’10” wingspan.
Having chosen a franchise-altering big man at the number 3 pick, the Hawks are not contenders but are trending in the right direction. Despite Kent Bazemore being on the books for $40 million, he is clearly not a 25+ minutes player. Supplanting him with a guard that delivers defense with a side of offense is the answer. Khyri Thomas can come in and play 18-25 minutes for Atlanta right away and eventually replace Bazemore, who after all, is a model bench player.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves choose…Zhaire Smith
Player Comparison: Marcus Smart/Shannon Brown
Zhaire can jump out of the gym. Smith comprised the second-highest vertical leap (41.5 inches) and the second-fastest three quarter sprint time (3.05 seconds) at the combine.
Theoretically, Smith is a small forward in a point guard’s body (6’3’’, 175). Smith was only the ball handler in pick and roll situations 13 total possessions in a Red Raiders uniform.
Smith will be an asset on fast breaks. He finished in the 90th percentile of efficiency on transition possessions, per Synergy Sports.
More often than not, Smith will power up for a dunk or a double clutch layup. He converted at a forward-like 64.9% clip around the rim.
He has a chippiness about his game that reminds a little of Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State. He led Texas Tech in rebounding, with 5.0 rebounds. If he was just 2 inches taller he’s a player that would be 15 spots higher. Are we underestimating his potential like we did Donovan Mitchell?
He posted a solid 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes. At times, he looked like a legit defensive stopper but does not have the height or muscle to guard NBA 3’s.
The Wolves could make a Thibodeau-based pick and here and get a player in the form of Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler, but with the increasing chance the coach is gone within the next three years, they go with the explosive talent. Jamal Crawford is 38 and Derrick Rose is old news, meaning a spark plug is a hot property. For the 29th ranked bench, Zhaire Smith will provide a unique option in the mold of Marcus Smart off the pine.
21. Utah Jazz choose…Dzanan Musa
Player Comparison: J.R. Smith/Sasha Vujacic
For Musa, his gameplan goes like this; shoot first, shoot second, shoot third, pass fourth. At times it seems like he would rather chuck the ball at the rim then give it to an open teammate. With 3 three’s made per 40 minutes, Musa has J.R. Smith-like confidence. At 35% on the season, he shot a good percentage, but his form is wily and inconsistent. Overall, his decision making is poor.
The undeviating aspect of his game is that he is a screen runner. His favorite play is running off a down screen to an off-balance shot on the wing. He shoots this shot at a surprisingly high rate considering he almost falls out of bounds. This exhibits his unique rhythm shooting.
For all that, he is creative and instinctive in ball screens. He has a nice change of pace and a quick jab step which allows him to slither around the screen. He can make an over the top pass using high ground, which he maintains because of his length. The issue is that Musa is always trying to attack his defender one-on-one and not the basket. The best players in the pick and roll have an eye for their teammates or the basket. Musa does not have an instinctual knack for either. His end goal is an isolation play.
When Musa chooses to attack the basket, he makes use of his long extensive legs which eat up space on the court. Dzanan prefers taking it to his left and cradling the ball on the way to a prompt lefty finish.
If Musa’s jump shot is not falling, he will not be making an impact on the floor. His jump shot is not exemplary either. Per 36 minutes, he fired 5.5, 4.7, and 6.1 threes at a 29.1% rate through three seasons. Can teams trust his erratic playing style?
His posture is hunched and restricts his movement on the defensive end. He has a difficult time keeping up with swift guards and his 195-pound frame hinders his ability to guard bigger 3’s. To fully utilize his long 6’9’’ structure, he will have to improve his defensive IQ overall.
Alas, Musa’s length is deceiving. His wingspan is an inch smaller than he stands, reaching 6’8.’’ He can’t jump passing lanes or make up for his slower lateral movement with his short wingspan.
While Musa could be an all-around player with his unique size, his inefficient offensive playing style, and lackluster defense leaves so much to be bargained for.
By landing Donovan Mitchell with the 13th pick last draft, the Jazz can afford to take a risk here at 21. While Musa will have to adjust mightily to the NBA and may end up being in for a rude awakening, Utah can morph him into a more than solid role player. Learning under fellow out of a country player, Joe Ingles, Dzanan can become a more consistent offensive threat and slowly become an unwavering defensive piece. Who knows he can even be the predecessor to the 30 years old Australian.
22. Chicago Bulls choose…Chandler Hutchinson
Player Comparison: Chuck Person/Landry Fields
Hutchinson is a potential swiss army knife in a league where everyone covets that type of player.
At 6’7” with a quick first step, he has the ideal makings of an offensive threat at the wing. He is a transition menace, employing instantaneous athleticism and jumping ability to speed past and jump over unsuspecting defenders.
He is an abstract 3-and-D guy because he does not need the ball in his hands to make an impact. Offensively, he stays focused on putting the ball in the net, sustaining shot-ready positioning.
He is a straight line attacker, who takes efficient angles to the basket when he drives. His handles are not like a point guard, but they are solid enough for him to take his man one-on-one. Hutchinson averaged 7.2 free throws a game, using the rim and his body to protect the ball to lay it in. Right now, his loose handles are more equivalent to an NBA power forward’s, so he should fine-tune them.
When attacking the rim downhill, Hutchinson maintains great awareness. He knows exactly when to jump stop and perform a Rondo-fake or when to explode up and over smaller defenders.
It is worth mentioning that he led the Mountain West in turnovers, but that could have been because he was stuck in an uncomfortable role as the go-to scorer. He will not be manning that role in the league.
Hutchinson draws comparisons to Trevor Ariza because of his lockdown mentality. His defensive rating of 93.3 was first in the Mountain West and was also first in defensive win shares with 2.2.
He reaches over teammates and opponents to grab the ball, his 7.7 defensive rebounds per game is highly impressive for a small forward.
Chandler also uses his long arms to reach into passing lanes. He was 5th in the Mountain West in steals, with 1.9 per 40 minutes.
Chicago reportedly promised Hutchinson that they would take Hutchinson at 22 if he was still on the board. I like this pick unless the Bulls take a similar player like Bridges at 7. Hutchinson will be a solid 3-and-D guy for a team that is lacking in that category.
23. Indiana Pacers choose…Jerome Robinson
Player Comparison: Reggie Jackson/Jordan Crawford
In many ways, Jerome Robinson is your ideal point guard.
There are plenty of players that can isolate their defenders and take over the game themselves, but Robinson can isolate and either score himself or dish it off for a diving teammate.
In Boston College’s biggest wins, Robinson went off. He is significant to his team’s victory, an ode to his underlying importance and well roundness as a young player.
Coming back for his junior season, Robinson improved upon his interior finishing and mid-range pull up game. His 2 point percentage skyrocketed from 46.6% to 53.3%. He also became more efficient, shooting 1.7 fewer attempts in his junior season whilst his offensive rating increased from 98.8 to 117.
He’s not a complete knockdown shooter, but projects to shoot from 34% to 37% in the league. On spot ups, he scored 1.11 points per possession, weaving in and out of a myriad of screens and always being in shot-ready position.
On 194 possible possessions where a shooter scored a 2 or 3, Robinson assisted on 0.98 of points. His 1.137 assist/turnover ratio was not especially good for a point guard but came as a result of taking full responsibility as the primary scorer. His 1.04 points per possession in the pick and roll placed in the 94th percentile.
Being 6’5’’ and with a long arms, a 6’7’’ wingspan, he can easily slide down to the 2 and even the 3 in small-ball scenarios.
For a guard, he rebounds well and is aggressive in grabbing the ball on the offensive boards.
He has a knack for stealing from his offensive counterparts, ranking second in steals for any guard projected to go in the first round, with 1.5 steals per game. He also had the 9th best steal percentage in the ACC. His long arms and defensive awareness is impressive and his three years at Boston College certainly gives him an advantage over one-and-done guards.
The jury is still out if Robinson can stick on more athletic guards since he will come into the NBA with below-average athleticism.
Indiana is not exactly stacked at the point guard position, with the 30-year-old Darren Collison starting and Joseph Young backing him up. They need a backup and a replacement for Collison since Young has not panned out. Robinson, who is capable of playing the 2, would fit nicely in the backcourt next to Oladipo.
24. Portland Trail Blazers choose…Melvin Frazier
Player Comparison: Josh Richardson/Gerald Henderson
Frazier is an exciting player who will make impacts on both ends of the floor.
Frazier is a player who has made huge strides offensively that makes teams wonder how much better he can be. While he did not come to college a natural scorer, he will certainly be leaving college acting as one. His points per 40 minutes increased by 3 points every season, scoring 18.5 per 40 his last season.
His 7’1.75” wingspan makes him an elite offensive rebounder, out-jumping other players to grab 1.2 a game. He can grab the ball off a miss and slam it down with authority.
While it’s not a massive sample, Frazier shot 38.5% from three on 91 attempts. This is not a standout feature to Frazier’s game but he has improved from 28.6% his debut season and 26.4% his sophomore season.
He maintains an attack-first mentality while not being out of control, he only had 2.6 turnovers per game. He also can dish the ball at a respectable rate, with 2.9 assists per game.
His one-on-one game is silky, he uses his long limbs to euro step in the lane and his fearlessness to rise up for a contested layup that he finishes more often than not. His handles have gotten better year after year and should be able to create his own shot at the next level in a variety of distinct ways.
At 22, you expect a refined player who is ready to play right away. Right now, Frazier is not a pro-ready player who can jump into a rotation and make an impact. The best comparison for growth may be Jae Crowder, who despite getting minutes early in his career, did not break out until he reached the Celtics in his fourth year.
Where Frazier stands out in the pack is on the defensive side. His 7’2.5’’ wingspan lets him attack jumping lanes and get out in transition, where he slams it down with pizzazz and lets out his patented celebratory howl.
He got his hands on almost everything at Tulane. He averaged an otherworldly 2.5 steals and 0.7 blocks in his junior season.
Overall, if Frazier is your best defender on the team then you’re in good shape and if he is your second best defender on the team, you may be the top defensive team in the league. Frazier is unquestionably an impact defensive player and with a few seasons under his belt, will be an electrifying force offensively as well.
The Trail Blazers are stacked with subpar wing players, Al Farouq Aminu and Mo Harkless. Both players have not lived up to their contracts and are due to hit free agency next summer and in two summers, respectively. Frazier can step in eventually make a defensive impact while Lillard and McCollum dominate the ball on offense.
25. Los Angeles Lakers choose…Moritz Wagner
Player Comparison: Marcus Morris/Linas Kleiza
No matter the era, shooters will incessantly survive in the NBA. Luckily for Wagner is known for his knockdown shooting potential, shooting 38.5% on 286 attempts from downtown in his three seasons at Ann Arbor.
Although Wagner should not be constrained to a particular title. He proved to have a variety of post moves in his junior season. Don’t get it confused, Wagner will not be banging down low. You will see him in the high post with an exquisite array of jab steps, shot fakes, and dribbling moves usually unforeseen in bigs.
Players that operate in the high post like Morwitz have the ability to pass the rock cross-court, or in high-low action. High post operators that come to mind are; Kelly Olynyk, Al Horford, and Josh McRoberts. All are exceptional passers that act as secondary or tertiary passers. Averaging just 1.2 assists and 2.1 turnovers per 40 minutes, Wagner possessed a 0.57 assist/turnover ratio. He struggled to create for his teammates and conjure up clever passes.
The pick and pop is Wagner’s calling card. For every possession in pick and pop situations, he scored 1.167 points. He shot 43% in those particular situations as well. Clearly, Wagner has been popping since a young age and uses advanced footwork into his jump shot as evidence. This is even more impressive considering a majority of the defense’s focus was geared toward him.
The issue with Wagner’s jump shot is that it is a tad slow. While he has great mechanics, holding his form and reaching into the cookie jar, it takes a good while for Wagner to release the ball. Since teams realize that his forte is shooting, they will suffocate him and ultimately get a hand on the ball.
As a modern big man, you have to move around the perimeter, set screens, and make plays when nothing else works. Wagner has the ability to do this. Michigan had him perform dribble handoffs and Wagner faked out the defender when necessary to get to the basket. Using a deceptively quick first step, Wagner can fake a shot and attack the rim. Once he gets going, there are not many defenders that will be able to halt the 6’11’’ 245-pound runaway train.
Contrary to popular belief, Wagner is not only an offensive specialist. Sure, he is not going to garner a crazy amount of steals and blocks while being named to an all-defensive team, but he certainly is no joke either.
Playing under John Beilein, Wagner developed a high IQ and substantial defensive awareness. He won’t be guarding 3’s in the NBA but can guard low-post 4’s and maybe even stretch 4’s.
He doesn’t have tremendously quick feet, so he may first be limited to a specialist role until he gets in tip-top NBA shape. He has the bulkiness to hold ground in the paint and enough speed to guard out to 16 feet. He could stand to lose 10 pounds in a league where Draymond Green is more valued than Ryan Anderson.
Being 6’11’’ and having a 7’0’’ wingspan does not make him a defensive specimen, but he can still rack up some deflections. He averaged 1.0 steal and 0.7 blocks in his junior season.
His 3.07 fouls per game could spell trouble in the NBA. He could have a tough time staying on the court and ranked 5th and 1st in fouls in the Big Ten in consecutive seasons. He swings his arms at unblockable shots and with a shorter wingspan, this will not work against lankier and craftier players.
The Lakers are known for choosing players a little ahead of where they are originally projected to land. While Wagner is no Kyle Kuzma, he is a unique talent that can provide necessary floor-spacing. The Lakers are expected to let Julius Randle sign elsewhere, leaving Travis Wear and Channing Frye as the only alternative options at the 4 spot. With the probability that Lebron, Kawhi, and Paul George arrive in LA this offseason looking more and more likely, look for the Lakers to snag the shooting big man at 25.
26. Philadelphia 76ers choose…Jalen Brunson
Player Comparison: Derek Fisher/Cory Joseph
Jalen Brunson’s three seasons at Villanova were marked by dominance, perseverance, and leadership. He is exactly what coaches are looking for in a championship point guard.
With inferior athleticism, Brunson surely does not project to be a primary scorer, although he did average 23.8 points a game per 40 minutes. He uses that ability to get to the basket to create for his teammates. He scored a solid 1.07 points per possession in isolation situations last season at Villanova.
He takes care of the ball like it’s his newborn, turning it over a meager 2.2 times per 40 minutes. He’s so smart in the pick and roll, not only looking for the best option but waiting for the best option to come to fruition. His 1.10 points per possession in the pick and roll ranked in the 96th percentile. He’s not fast but he can change speeds, keeping defenders on their toes at all times.
Coaches are going to have a difficult time tugging a player who makes so few mistakes. Jalen is basically a coach on the floor. His dad, Rick Brunson, played in the NBA, supplying him that pedigree every team is looking for. Having won three national titles, one in high school and two in college, he will be a leader from day one.
His three-point shot will translate to the next level, he shot 39.3% on 450 attempts over three seasons. While he may never get the opportunity to play the 2 at the next level, he can play off-ball if given an opportunity. He scored 1.10 points per possession in spot-up situations, which placed in the 83rd percentile.
His ability to shoot from deep and pick apart the defense in the pick and roll forces defenders to smother him, which allows him to slide right past them for his beloved lefty finger roll. Even if he can’t beat his defender off the dribble, he can use his strength to subtly push off for a mid-range pull up.
He reminds of Andre Miller as a post-up menace. 8% of his offense came in post-up situations, where he scored 1.21 points per possession, placing in the 98th percentile in that category. He is basically a forward when it comes to posting up, using his wide frame to back down and vast discipline to out-smart the defender.
He’s not a super dominant transition guard because he is not a burner. He placed in the 75th percentile in transition buckets. He did have a surprising ¾ court sprint, placing 3rd for all point guards, at 3.15 seconds (right around where Grayson Allen posted).
Just like his offense, Brunson is extremely disciplined as a defender. He’s not going to be a stopper, nor is he going to be a huge liability. I see him as a middle-of-the-pack defender, akin to an Eric Bledsoe.
His work ethic is unfathomable, picking up point guards 94 feet away from the basket. When his offense is not going, he uses full-court defense to get himself going.
His muscular 200-pound build will allow him to take a pounding and get right back up. He can fight through screens. In a league where switching is crucial, he can get through screens and stay on the guard.
He isn’t great at stealing the ball from opponents, averaging 0.9 steals per game. Yet, he has quick hands and instincts that simply cannot be taught.
Overall, any coach would cherish Brunson bringing up the ball. The Naismith Player of the Year brings an immense amount of fire, determination, and awareness to the table.
Markelle Fultz struggled in his debut season and T.J. McConnell, while a great energy guy, is just that. The Sixers could use a solid point guard in the form of a Lakers’ Derek Fisher. Ben Simmons, Fultz, and McConnell can not shoot farther than 20 feet, Brunson’s marksmanship from past that range will be extremely helpful. His leadership on this young team is fruitful to one of the youngest squads in the league.
28. Boston Celtics choose…Aaron Holiday
Player Comparison: Dennis Schroeder/Shelvin Mack
Aaron Holiday was often overshadowed by bigger names at UCLA, but it’s time for teams to start noticing his skill level.
From day one at the college level, Holiday was ready to play, but Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford held bigger roles than him. When his opportunity came, Holiday made sure not to miss it. He carried Steve Alford’s offense, scoring 20.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. You can tell he grew up with two brothers that play in the NBA, he has NBA-ready pro moves in a multiplex of situations.
While preferring to shoot off the bounce, Holiday can straight up shoot in general. He shot 42.2% from three in his UCLA career. A lot of them were from NBA range and beyond, so that number is even more jaw-dropping. His form is unerring and unvarying, going straight up and down and landing in the same spot every time. He scored 1.11 points per possession in plays where he was spotting up, reaching the 84th percentile.
He has NBA-like pick and roll skills, splitting the defenders on his way to a leading-edge lay up. In total, 36% of his possessions originated in Pick & Rolls and Isolations.
He can easily finish with his left as he can his right. As well, he is an ambidextrous dribbler, using both hands in hesitation moves and isolation plays. He scored 0.853 points per possession at UCLA, placing in the 71st percentile.
Jrue Holiday even scouted his brother, “He goes hard everytime he is on the court.” It will be a surreal moment as Aaron walks the stage with his two older brothers as his name is announced. It will be even more surreal when he steps on the court and proves that he goes hard.
Besides height, Holiday has all the tools to be a successful defender at the next level.
His 6’7.5’’ arms allow him to stick with taller defenders. His size is not really a detriment to him either, he has a solid 185-pound build. Adding 5-10 pounds, would not necessarily hurt either.
Holiday proved himself as a legitimate one-on-defender, allowing a stingy 0.632 points per possession in such plays. When he is focused on defending, he is a bona fide pest on defense. The problem in his junior season is his tendency to take defensive plays off, which easily could have been as a result of his overbearing workload on offense. If he expects to retain a similar role in the NBA, he will need to improve his stamina or underlying ambition.
Marcus Smart reportedly denied Danny Ainge’s 4 years $60 million offer sheet and will proceed to test impending free agency waters. With teams like the Nets, Suns, and Magic possibly offering him a max contract, the Celtics should look to a point guard on a rookie deal. While Holiday will certainly not replace Smart’s hard-nosed defense, he can learn a lot holding the clipboard while Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier work their magic. Eventually, Holiday could make Rozier expendable as they try to shore up their power forward or center position in trades.
28. Golden State Warriors choose…Gary Trent Jr.
Player Comparison: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Rashad McCants
It’s easy to forget a highly touted recruit like Gary Trent Jr. after an uneventful freshman season, but he still has potential to be an impact player in the pros.
Gary is an exemplary screen-runner. He runs off screens, shot-faking to one dribble pull up or a sweet drive to the rim. Trent Jr. maintains crisp footwork, quickly moving his left foot in front of his right foot when he prepares for his jump shot.
His 1.7 assists per 40 minutes display his vice as a play devisor. Part of the issue may coincide with his athleticism deficiency. By not being able to beat players off the dribble because his lack of first-step quickness, he never really gets the opportunity to kick the ball to diving or spotting up teammates. As a result, he often settles for a long-distance jumper.
Lucky for him, long-range jumpers are his forte, shooting 40.2% on 241 attempts. Trent Jr. will assuredly be a pinpoint three-point shooter at the next level. He even shot 87.6% from the line, his stroke looking highly refined.
Trent Jr. has difficulty confronting stronger and more athletic presences inside, he made only 42.5% of his shots around the basket.
He is 6’6’’ in shoes and with a 6’8.5’’ wingspan, he can theoretically defend 2’s and even 3’s in select scenarios.
He is not a stealing whiz, but has shown the aptitude to interfere in passing lanes and has solid defensive awareness. He harnessed an average 1.4 steals per 40 minutes. In a few years, he will be at least a solid defender.
Again, his below the rim athleticism will hold him back then being anything other than a solid player on the defensive end. In a league where wings are ultra-athletic, he is more of an old-timer, unable to stick with high-level athletes.
Overall, Trent Jr. is the best fit as a solid role-player and a scoring punch off the bench for a contending team.
Gary Trent Jr. could add a legit scoring option to the mix in Oakland. The Warriors steamrolled through the finals, but their bench was lackluster throughout the season. Nick Young and Patrick McCaw disappointed and Andre Iguodala is 34 going on 35. Immediate wing help is in demand for the Warriors and Trent Jr. supplies it.
29. Brooklyn Nets choose…Landry Shamet
Player Comparison: Devin Harris/Eric Maynor
Shamet is a dual-threat weapon on offense, capable of scoring 20 points every time he touches the court. He’s an unpredictable offensive threat, getting buckets in diverse ways. Despite the extraordinarily high volume, Landry scored an efficient 1.099 points per possession, placing in the 94th percentile.
First, he is a lights-out shooter, he has shot 43.7% on 364 heaves. He has confidence, but not overly irrational cockiness in his jump shot, attempting 5.1 threes per game. He has an intrinsic knowledge of who he is as a player.
While boasting a thin frame (weighing only 188 pounds), Shamet can finish around the rim. He shot 56% on 2-pointers, which shows his capacity to pull tricks out of his sleeves near the rim. Non-explosive guards need infinite creativity or their shots will get swatted. Shamet has that ability. In catch and shoot opportunities, Shamet placed in the 99th percentile, scoring an unreal 1.557 points per possession.
He got to the charity stripe an average 4.0 times per game and shot 82.5% when at the line. Shamet is not going to be drawing fouls left and right, but when he gets there, he’s going to hit 2 out of 2 or 3 out of 3.
When picking in the draft, teams will have to consider not who the best all-around talent is, but rather who checks all necessary boxes to fit in today’s league. 3-point shooting, pick and roll plays are two of the most significant aspects and Shamet happens to specialize in both.
Zooming in further, 24.5% of all plays in the 2018 NBA are pick and roll oriented, compared to 14.5% in 2004-05. So while Shamet would not have fit in a league where hand-checks were more prevalent, he will flourish in a pick and roll heavy NBA. Gregg Marshall put Shamet in such situations 28% of the time, in which Shamet scored 0.958 points per possession (87th percentile).
His speed and athleticism limit him in transition, placing in only the 24th percentile and finished only 0.891 points.
Defensively, Shamet’s frame is a major cause for concern. His speed will not aide him either. He is a solid team defender and does not lack effort on this end.
Ultimately, his ceiling on defense is similar to Stephen Curry’s. He plays within his defense and makes calculated steal attempts using his long wingspan.
The Nets pick for talent here and not fit. Brooklyn has a bit of a logjam at point guard; D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jeremy Lin. They also have Caris Levert and Joe Harris at shooting guard. These players are all solid players, but none are franchise-altering. If you get a chance to grab a potential all-star at 29, you do it. Shamet is capable of playing either guard spot and will be an immediate contributor for a talent-laden Nets team.
30. Atlanta Hawks choose…Anfernee Simons
Player Comparison: George Hill/Darius Morris
Simons is ill-equipped to face stronger athletes next season, as he skipped out on a college year and is the same age as players in the 2019 class, like R.J. Barrett. There is going to be a major adjustment period.
The smooth guard elevates for mid-range shots off a variety of creative dribble moves. He is a little like a streetballer with his advanced dribbling moves. He has the tendency to over-dribble which makes him better equipped for an AAU game than the NBA.
He is a rhythmic shooter, often stepping back for a three off a few dribbles. He will have to become more of a spot-up shooter at the next level. He has a rapid rocker hesitation which can get defenders tripping over their own feet in particular moments.
He will be bullied in the paint, weighing in at 181 pounds. He can stand to pack on 10-15 pounds.
Anfernee has to become more of a passer at the point guard position. At the NBPA top 100 camp, Simons recorded only 1.9 assists. During the camp, his assist to turnover ratio was only 0.92.
Defensively, he is made up of pure potential. His 8’2’’ standing reach is incredible for a point guard. Using outstretched arms, he is a solid rebounder, harnessing 5.5 at the Under Armour Association.
Sometimes, he takes a flier to grab a steal, which helped him grab 1.3 during the Under Armour Association. Unfortunately, doing so also put him out of position.
Having chosen Bamba and Khyri Thomas, two players with extraordinarily high floors, chances are they will go with a high ceiling-low floor prospect with the last pick in the first round. Obviously, they would rather have more proven floor generals like Brunson or Holiday, but this would be a good value pick considering Anfernee’s through the roof potential. Simons has nice playmaking ability and paired with pick and roll aficionado Bamba, he could make waves sooner rather than later in Atlanta.
31. Phoenix Suns choose…Keita Bates-Diop
Player Comparison: Draymond Green/Bo Outlaw
The Big Ten Player of the year is an interesting physical specimen.
If not for Mo Bamba, scouts would be raving about Bates-Diop’s physical profile. His 7’3’’ wingspan ranked 7th in the combine. Keita was a highly aggressive wing for Ohio State this year. He nearly doubled shots attempted in consecutive years, shooting 15.4 per game. He also shot 184 3-pointers and even shot a respectable clip 35.9%. He looks a lot like a tweener, his handle not being tight enough and his shot too inconsistent to be labeled a true stretch-4. He has remained a consistent free throw shooter, recording a 77.6% career free throw mark.
Assuredly, he will not sustain the role he did at Ohio State. How will he impact the game at the next level? Bates-Diop is not dominant in one particular category offensively.
He was an anchor for the Buckeyes this past season, obtaining a 94.6 defensive rating. He also added 2.5 defensive win shares (3rd in the Big Ten) and 7.2 defensive rebounds per game (1st). He has unteachable rebounding instincts.
He blocked 2 shots per 40 minutes, if he is not a legitimate rim protector at the next level, he could at least be a Draymond Green-type wing defender, capable of guarding 3’s and even 4’s. Bates-Diop allowed only 0.683 points per possession in the post, placing in the 76th percentile. His 225 pound frame allows him to step in and be an influential defender from day one.
He could make teams regret not drafting him earlier just like Draymond Green did 6 years ago.
Josh Jackson and Keita Bates-Diop will make up for any shortcoming the Suns have as perimeter defense. Bates-Diop will act as a brick wall in their second unit, similar to a young Draymond Green or Semi Ojeleye. Especially in the future, when Phoenix is projected to be a contender, Bates-Diop can defend opponents’ star wings; Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown and Kevin Durant.
32. Memphis Grizzlies choose…Elie Okobo
Player Comparison: Mike Conley/Jerryd Bayless
Like it or not, Okobo will be receiving Tony Parker comparisons.
At 6’3’’ 180 he is sculpted as a model point guard. Okobo is on the older side, he will be 22 years old when he touches the court as an NBA player.
He has that unique lefty game which throws the defense a multitude of curveballs.
In the LNB Pro A League, which is considered the 3rd best league in the world, he put up a respectable 13.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in 26.3 feet. From a 6.75 meter line (roughly equivalent to 22.15 feet) he shot 36%. He prefers a left-handed shake and bake to a pullback dribble. His moves are quick but he would not enter the NBA as an explosive point guard. His change of pace is similar to C.J. McCollum, which means he is quick but not inordinately fast.
On his hesitation moves, he likes to bounce the ball up to himself before attacking. This move works so well in the French League, but is doubtful to translate to the NBA. When he brings the ball up, quicker defenders like Marcus Smart or Patrick Beverly could pounce on the ball. Okobo needs to keep his dribble low and his eyes up at the next level.
Shooting 54% on 2-pointers, he has refined hand-eye coordination near the rim and can finish over bigger opponents. He finished 59% of his shots near the basket. Given an area to operate, he becomes a matchup nightmare, driving downhill he is nearly impossible to stifle.
He likes isolation plays, 10.9% of his offense came in such plays. He thrives on mismatches and attacks them with a sweep-through move to the basket or an uncontested step back.
He also relishes the pick and roll. Entailing, 40% of his plays were pick and roll oriented. If there are no options for him to finish it himself, he will find his pick and roll partner with relative ease. He has a crisp bounce, overhead, and chest pass. In the pick and roll, it ended with him finding the roll man 46.4% of the time for 1.125 points per possession. His pick and roll man scored at the rate that Demarcus Cousins, Pau Gasol, and Kevin Love scored as the roll man. He can not only find the shooter in the corner or roll man, but also cutters. He finds the cutting player 13% of the time for 1.278 points per possession. Elie has a distinguishable pride when he sets up his teammates for easy buckets, pumping his fist after a successful pass. He can see everywhere on the court, a quintessential talent that a lot of floor generals do not even have. In many ways, he reminds me of a faster Jalen Brunson.
While he may not have the size to play the 2, in small-ball scenarios his tenacity and awareness will allow him to slide down to the 2. He scored 1.5 points on weak-side cuts. This number hovers around Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler area. Surmising, he has extraordinarily high offensive IQ. In addition, he spotted up for 1.327 points per possession. He is a spot up threat and makes defenses run him off the three-point line.
His 1.1 steals in 26.3 minutes show his instincts on the other side of the ball. Also, he showed a level of grittiness and pride in his defense, allowing a meager 0.759 points per isolation possession which placed in the 61st percentile. He did play against slower athletes in the Pro A league but both are still worthwhile statistics. Josh Richardson allowed a comparable 0.73 points per possession in isolation situations.
There is a chance Okobo could be a lockdown defender at the next level. In the end, Okobo has the potential to be the top point guard in this deep draft.
Getting a talent like Okobo at this point in this draft is an absolute boon. This will allow Elie to sit behind Conley for a year or two, until Conley’s trade value peaks. Okobo will play a similar role as Conley. It will be a treat watching Okobo lob alley-oops to Jaren Jackson Jr. for years to come.
33. Dallas Mavericks choose…Grayson Allen
Player Comparison: Danny Ainge/Austin Rivers
The controversial Duke star will have to shed that label at the next level.
Allen is a proven shot maker, a skill that will translate to the next level quite smoothly. He knows where to be on the court at all times.
He does a great job running around a myriad of screens, always ready to attack closeouts or fire a shot in fluid motion. He placed in the 76th percentile in shooting running off screens. In total, 48% of his shot attempts were three’s. Like J.J. Redick, he sets his feet well for a jump shot and lands in a consistent spot each time.
Like an Eric Gordon, he is a solid secondary ball-handler and prefers pulling up in pick and roll situations. Off dribble pull-ups in pick and rolls, he shot 60% in his junior season at Duke. When he goes to his left, he is usually pulling up and when going right, he drives to the rim with a level of tenacity. When he gets in the lane, he keeps his eyes up and can either kick it out to a shooter or drop it off to a big man. Throughout his career, he averaged 38% on three’s and even fired shots from Jimmer range.
He does not have a go-to hesitation move against quicker athletes at the college level. He shot 38.04% against major conference teams at age 22. Which ultimately begs the question; Can he beat NBA athletes off the dribble?
Grayson Allen will have to ameliorate at closing out on shooters. Allowed 0.936 points per Spot Up possession, placing in the 49th percentile. He does have quick foot speed. He was first in lane agility (10.31 seconds), which is notably faster than Russell Westbrook, Nate Robinson, and Tony Allen’s times. Grayson was also 9th in shuttle run (3.04).
Despite his combine times, he struggled constantly guarding 1’s and let them blow by him on countless occasions. He sometimes refuses to get in a stance and being 6’4.5’’ in shoes, he will get stuck on point guards about half the time at the next level. He tries to bail himself out too often by going for poke steals.
Wesley Matthews has not been the same player since his Achilles injury, Dennis Smith Jr. could use a backcourt partner that isn’t 5’11’’ Yogi Ferrell, and Grayson Allen brings the dedication and tenacity Mark Cuban is looking for in his players. Allen is a great fit for this team but does not have the defense Matthews brings.
34. Atlanta Hawks choose…Trevon Duval
Player Comparison: T.J. Ford/Sebastian Telfair
Like Gary Trent Jr., Duval was outshined by bigger names, Carter and Bagley, but still presents astronomical potential as an athletic guard.
Trevon Duval, with a usage rate of only 21.3, did not get an opportunity to prove himself at Duke. With relatively limited opportunity, Trevon scored 1.15 points per possession. In comparison, Trae Young obtained a 37.3 usage rate and 1.02 points per possession. Executives may be overlooking Duval because he was rarely used on a stacked Duke squad. After all, Duval was the 6th ranked recruit in the ESPN top 100 under a year ago.
He’s mostly a guy that tries to get to the rim, 48.5% of his shots came at the rim. His athletic talents allow him to slam it home or finish a creative layup, finishing 62.5% of shots at the rim.
He shot 29% on 107 attempts from deep. Trevon blocks his line of vision when raises the ball to an abnormal angle next to his right eye. The best shooters in the world; Stephen Curry, Ray Allen, and Kevin Durant, all keep the ball over the middle of their body or to the left side. Duval will need to change his entire form, which could take years to do. His shot is eerily similar to Kris Dunn’s shot out of Providence a few years back. Even now, Dunn is not an above average shooter, with opponents basically daring him to take a jump shot. In spot-up situations, Duval scored 0.81 points per possession. In catch-and-shoot opportunities, he was even worse, scoring 0.79 points per possession.
He has plus vision, finding open teammates in an abundance of plays. He assisted on 30% of Duke’s scores this past season, which put him in the 98th percentile in the nation. This talent will easily translate this into the NBA.
Duval has an attractive wingspan which could make him a great perimeter defender and a force to be reckoned with off the ball.
He is an absolute theft defensively. He stole the ball 2.0 times per 40 minutes and his steal percentage placed in the 86th percentile. While he can steal the ball from his opponents, he still takes plays off and becoming a lockdown defender will certainly be an uphill battle for Trevon.
Overall, drafting Duval is a major risk but could be worth a second-round flier.
The Hawks took Mo Bamba 3rd overall, Khyri Thomas 19th overall, and Anfernee Simons 30th overall. That means they have their; center, shooting guard/small forward, and combo guard of the future. Ensuing, they can take two routes here by drafting another wing or a pure point guard. Duval is a value pick here, who was once named the 6th ranked recruit in the country. Atlanta chooses talent over fit.
35. Orlando Magic choose…Mitchell Robinson
Player Comparison: Andre Drummond/Cliff Alexander
The big man bypassed the popular route of college and faces a grueling challenge in becoming an impact player.
Mitchell Robinson is the raw pick that can go by the wayside or reveal boundless promise as soon as he drops anchor on an NBA court. He is the impossible prospect, his hype and premonition are distinguishable but so is false hope. That is the exquisite description of his offensive game.
He shows that potential to run the court and catch lobs and be that modern center who impacts the game by simply being himself. What his featured strengths are though, also guise as his drawbacks. Despite being ranked only 2 spots below Jaren Jackson Jr., 2 spots ahead of Lonnie Walker, and 12 spots ahead of Trae Young, Robinson remains a work in progress.
Mitchell Robinson is not a Mo Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr. outside threat, doing most of his damage as a lob specialist and a big body in the interior. In high school, he looked like a small forward with his advanced dribbling. I can’t envision a team in the NBA allowing him to dribble the ball like he did in high school, but it sure would be intriguing.
Robinson times his jumps well on the offensive end, knowing exactly when to propel off the ground for a vicious follow-up dunk or alley-oop. As well, he has an elite double-jump, if he mistimes a jump he can easily trampoline off the ground for another attempt. He is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, with the jumping ability that of Anthony Davis coming out of Kentucky. Unfortunately, his skills do not match his hops.
His 7’3’’ wingspan and 9’2’’ standing reach make him eligible to be an elite rim protector. In the Nike EYBL tournament, he blocked 4.2 shots per game. He displayed raw blocking ability but also a disposition to get into foul trouble.
Robinson should add pounds to his frame, he is slight in the post and bigger athletes will back him down on the block.
Mitchell is an instinctual rebounder and boxes out despite his frail frame. In the Nike EYBL, Robinson averaged an insane 20 rebounds per 40 minutes. That rates as the best rebound mark in Nike EYBL history.
With the possibility Nikola Vucevic is dangled as trade bait, Robinson is the perfect fit for a total rebuild situation in Orlando. His game is raw but he will garner the minutes he needs to develop his game further.
36. New York Knicks choose…Isaac Bonga
Player Comparison: Nicolas Batum/Perry Jones III
The 6’10’’ German playmaker will be a draft day steal because of his ability to play every position.
Bonga’s nickname may as well be the “perpetual mismatch” because with practically a 7-foot wingspan, he is a mismatch at every position 1-3. He is not necessarily fast, but he doesn’t need to be either. His full stride gets him from the arc to the rim in two lengthy strides. In the pick and roll, he retains a highly efficient mark of 53% and accounts for 22% of his offense. Against guards he uses his body to shield the ball and against forwards, he uses long strides and some quickness to get to the basket.
Aversely, he is not a dominant isolation threat. He only scored 1 point per possession in iso plays. Bonga has some difficulty creating his own offense.
For a player his height, he has guard-like finesse. On running floaters, he scored 0.778 points per possession. His offensive game is akin to Ben Simmons, 40% of his shots near the rim, and most drop in, 59% of these shots go in.
He is not a threat from deep, shooting only 30% on 58 attempts in his pro career. He was a 90% free throw shooter so there is unlocked potential with his shot. His form is extremely slow and mechanical. It might need a complete makeover by a shooting coach. Nonetheless, he ends up in the right spot for catch and shoot situations. He dives to the corner or fills the wing on drives and remains in shot-ready mode.
In the German third league, his passing ability was on full display. Your team is a top passing team if he is your third, or even second passing option. He can see over the top, averaging 4.7 assists per 40 minutes.
His handles are relatively loose and considering his height, it is hard for him to operate in traffic. Longer, more athletic players are capable of putting clamps on his game, he had a 30% turnover percentage his last season in Germany.
Bonga has the ability to get his hands on anything. With a 6’11.75’’ wingspan, his long arms make up for his slower feet. He can closeout by extending his arms and simply does not have to run out because of his wingspan.
Just like Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks love choosing the make-or-miss prospect. That is exactly what the Knicks do here at pick 36, choosing an all-around small forward to offset Nikilitina’s lack of genuine passing ability at the 1. Bonga could be Boris Diaw to Frank’s Tony Parker.
37. Sacramento Kings choose…Kostas Antetokounmpo
Player Comparison: Serge Ibaka/Javale McGee
While he is not the pure talent Giannis is, Kostas brings similar freakish qualities to his raw game.
38. Philadelphia 76ers choose…Rodions Kurucs
Player Comparison: Chandler Parsons/Austin Daye
39. Philadelphia 76ers choose…Josh Okogie
Player Comparison: Wesley Matthews/Corey Brewer
The ideal 3-and-D player was overlooked while playing for a 13-19 Georgia Tech team.
40. Brooklyn Nets choose…Kevin Hervey
Player Comparison: Anthony Tolliver/James Posey
41. Orlando Magic choose…Svi Mykhailiuk
Player Comparison: Kyle Korver/Sergey Karasev
The Kansas shooter has been discussed in draft circles since he came to the United States from the Ukraine when he was 17. It feels like forever, yet he is only 21.
42. Detroit Pistons choose…Tony Carr
Player Comparison: Patty Mills/C.J. Watson
The classic Penn State point guard is an underrated player.
43. Denver Nuggets choose…Jacob Evans
Player Comparison: Aaron Afflalo/Keith Bogans
Lack of elite athleticism will hold him back from being a star, but Evans has solid role player potential in a 3-and-D role.
44. Washington Wizards choose…Jarred Vanderbilt
Player Comparison: Jerami Grant/Alex Poythress
In danger of becoming the next Alex Poythress, Vanderbilt wisely chose to enter the draft.
45. Brooklyn Nets choose…Omari Spellman
Player Comparison: Antonio Davis/Dejuan Blair
He is not a typical modern day, stretch the floor center, but his old-school playing style still holds weight in the NBA.
46. Houston Rockets choose…Hamidou Diallo
Player Comparison: Tony Allen/Deshawn Stevenson
Lack of a jump shot and polished handles restrict Diallo’s starpower, but he has the work ethic to improve in both categories.
47. Los Angeles Lakers choose…Justin Jackson
Player Comparison: Ron Artest/Nigel Hayes
Justin Jackson should have left last year, struggling in a go-to scoring role this year.
48. Minnesota Timberwolves choose…Jevon Carter
Player Comparison: John Starks/Shane Larkin
Carter will prove naysayers wrong with tough defense that will annoy opponents for years.
49. San Antonio Spurs choose…Arnoldas Kulboka
Player Comparison: Peja Stojakovic/Steve Novak
50. Indiana Pacers choose…Kenrich Williams
Player Comparison: P.J. Tucker/Stacey King
51. New Orleans Pelicans choose…Bruce Brown
Player Comparison: Doug Christie/James Anderson
52. Utah Jazz choose…Brandon McCoy
Player Comparison: Brandan Wright/Brendan Haywood
53. Oklahoma City Thunder choose…De’anthony Melton
Player Comparison: Avery Bradley/Antonio Blakeney
54. Dallas Mavericks choose…Vince Edwards
Player Comparison: Robert Horry/James Jones
55. Charlotte Hornets choose…Malik Newman
Player Comparison: Jodie Meeks/Josh Selby
56. Philadelphia 76ers choose…Allonzo Trier
Player Comparison: O.J. Mayo/Eddie House
57. Oklahoma City Thunder choose…Devonte Graham
Player Comparison: Fred Vanvleet/Sherron Collins
Another Kansas player who seemingly was in college forever, Devonte Graham could be an efficient backup in the right system.
58. Denver Nuggets choose…Rawle Alkins
Player Comparison: Lance Stephenson/Wayne Selden
59. Phoenix Suns choose…Shake Milton
Player Comparison: Gary Harris/Sterling Brown
60. Philadelphia 76ers choose…Malik Pope
He has not fulfilled the Paul George prophecy like so many had thought he would when came out of high school as a highly-touted recruit, but Pope will get looks merely because his intimidating features.
Player Comparison: Gerald Wallace/Norvel Pelle
Note: All statistics are brought to you by Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, Positive Residual, TheRinger, NBA.com, NBA Math, and Draft Express unless otherwise stated.