It feels as if people have been talking about the 2018 NBA Draft class for years now. Loaded with talent, many seem to believe that it has the potential to be the best since the legendary 2003 class, which delivered the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
While it may not feature a generation-defining superstar, the general consensus is that this year’s class is deep as hell and that everyone wants a piece of it. Many believe that even the second round could offer a handful of sleepers, capable of becoming serious contributors in just about any team’s starting five.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it all before. But that’s all part of the fun of draft night – just about anything can happen! So if you’re getting ready for a long night in front of League Pass, grab some coffee and have a read about some of the best prospects on the board.
1 – Luka Doncic
I put Doncic above all of the other guys on this board because he’s playing at EuroLeague level, against guys who have played in the NBA. These are players who have averaged double-doubles through college careers, including guys like Kristaps Porzingis, against whom he didn’t back down. And, on top of all that, he’s a Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP at just 19 years old! Americans are often skeptical about Europeans taking high draft spots (thanks largely to total duds like Darko Miličić and Andrea Bargnani) but Doncic is completely different, as his skill level is through the roof. He’s a solid passer, scorer, shooter and his overall game is just so polished, already. So, put him on an NBA roster with NBA-level talent and watch him thrive.
2 – DeAndre Ayton
Ayton has been compared to Joel Embiid a lot of late, but he’s had a far superior college career than the former number 3 overall pick. He’s played more minutes in more games, averaged more points, more rebounds and more assists, while shooting better on two point attempts, three point attempts and free throws. You can argue that Embiid played in a slightly more competitive conference – in 2013-14 seven of the then Big-10 teams (now Big-12) made the NCAA Tournament and across the season seven teams made the AP top 25 ranked teams – while this season’s Pac-12 only had three teams make the tournament and four make the AP poll at any point during the season – all of which suggest that Ayton could come into the league as a big threat to any NBA front-court.
3 – Marvin Bagley III
Marvin Bagley did some impressive things in his one and only year at Duke. Averaging a double-double helped lead him to the ACC Player of the Year award, while he put up 21 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Statistically he dominated the ACC, leading the conference in field goals, field goal percentage, offensive rebounds, points per game, rebounds per game, efficiency rating, effective field goal percentage, offensive rating, offensive win shares, win shares and offensive box plus/minus. Damn, that’s a long list!
4 – Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson caught the eyes of a lot of scouts over the course of the season but I am hesitant to include him in the upper echelons of this year’s prospects. This is largely due to the fact that his rebounding numbers in particular aren’t great, and rebounding is one of the facets of the game which continues at the next level. In fact, he averages just 1.5 offensive boards and 5.8 rebounds total – not mind blowing considering his 6’11” size, which is solid at the collegiate level. His three blocks per game however are impressive, showing solid shot blocking ability far higher than that of potential number 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton, who only managed 1.9 per game.
5 – Mohamed Bamba
The Texas big man has been great defensively this season, but at times his lack of experience has shown. He, for instance, fouled out in four games this season; games that resulted in just one win and three losses. However, the fundamentals are there. His shot blocking presence is undeniable and he had a season high eight against an elite level opponent in Kansas, seven against Texas Tech and he averaged 3.6 blocks across the season to go with 10.5 rebounds and 12.9 points per game. He’s not as offensively polished as DeAndre Ayton, but teams will pick him up for his defensive abilities and hope that his offensive game will develop.
6 – Michael Porter Jr.
I’m not sure about Porter entering this draft. We have seen it before; a highly ranked high school kid gets injured but enters the draft anyway. Harry Giles springs to mind, but he played in college and a team took a gamble on him low in the first round. A lot of people however see Porter Jr. as a high first round draft pick. He could turn into a really good player. Anyone who saw him in high school knows that he was deserving of the number 1 ranking coming out and why he was such a strong case for number 1 pick just a year ago. I just don’t know which teams will want to take that risk.
7 – Trae Young
Young put up some great stats this season and drew many comparisons to Steph Curry. His 27.4 points per game were good enough to lead the NCAA while he also dished 8.7 assists, also good for first. He did however lead the NCAA in turnovers, something that could come down to his team mates. He was also on the receiving end of better defenders, double and triple teams, things he probably won’t see as much in the NBA. On the flip side, he’s a solid shooter, a great three point threat and could be a great pick-up wherever he lands.
8 – Wendell Carter
The second Duke big man on the list, Wendell Carter, was a solid contributor across the board. He didn’t need to be an offensive focal point for the Blue Devils thanks to Bagley and Grayson Allen, so his stats of 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds are deflated in comparison with his actual contribution. But when the focus was put on him he proved that he could score effectively and efficiently, including his 23-point, 12-rebound game against Wake Forest, where he shot 67 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line.
9 – Kevin Knox
I put Kevin Knox on this top 10 over Miles Bridges from Michigan simply because I didn’t see much growth in Bridges’ game from last season to this. In some areas he actually regressed, but this section is about a Kentucky Freshman forward who contributed well across the board and shot well for a long forward. Some big games over the course of the year really put the league on notice: 34 points and 7 rebounds over a strong West Virginia team, or his 19 point, 6 rebound game against Mississippi State where he shot four-of-four from three point, highlighting his ability to stretch the floor as a big guy. And if he can continue to improve before next season he is a legitimate lottery prospect.
10 – Mikal Bridges
A 6’7″ wing who can score well from the field, including from deep, plays solid defense and just won an NCAA Championship? Sounds like a great pick-up for any team near the top of the NBA Draft. Last year, Bridges wasn’t much of an NBA prospect. He had solid numbers but this offseason he put in the work. As a result, he almost doubled his scoring output, increased his rebounds, shot over 43 percent on threes compared with 39 percent the year before, while still putting up decent numbers across all other categories. He finishes the season with an NCAA Championship and a spot on the NCAA All-Tournament team.
Feature photo via OZAN KOSE, AFP/Getty Images