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2018 NBA Draft Top 20 prospects

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1. PG/SG Luka Doncic
– Saying the numbers add up for Doncic is an understatement. He averaged 24.7 pts, 7.5 reb, 6.6 ast, 1.7 stl per 40 in the Euroleague as a teenager. Even at lower levels like ACB, French Pro A and Adriatic, teenagers per minute stats end up translating to their future NBA careers well, as development makes up for the jump in competition. To not be an all-star (say Gordon Hayward level) Doncic’s stats would have to translate significantly worse than the virtually his peers from this age, despite playing at a higher competition than him. A player already at this high a level playing professional basketball and at a much higher level than the NCAA is about a guarantee to get an all-star as you’re going to get. And if you’re picking a guy to become one of the all time greats, being a once a lifetime European performer at his age seems like one of the best paths there. The precedent for being a star with his style of play is there with stars like Harden, Manu, Roy or even Magic. Even on the defensive end Doncic is appealing, as in the modern game 6’8-6’9 players who can switch onto both smaller perimeter players and bigs is what everyone is looking for.

2. PG/SG Elie Okobo – Okobo is not Doncic but I’ll take him over an imperfect NCAA pool. He averages 20.8 pts, 7.2 ast, 4.1 reb, 1.4 stl per 40 on .628 TS% in French Pro A and his shooting spot of 41.8% 3P on 7.4 3PA/40 and 83.5% from the FT line is superb. Like Doncic he’s doing this at a higher level than college basketball and already used to a professional lifestyle. With size at 6’3 to shoot over opponents his ability to score 3s off the dribble has a chance to be a powerful weapon in the league in the era of Curry, Harden, Lillard, Kyrie, etc. have dominated with it, and he has the wingspan (6’8) to defend. Projected as a fringe top 20 pick he’s not too far off the map for traditional scouts. The one downside is he is 21 in October, he would be an even better prospect if he was dominating as a teen like Doncic.

3. PG/SG Trae Young – Young is definitely volatile. He put up an astonishing 30.9 pts, 9.8 ast per 40 on .585 TS% and solid 1.9 stl/40, but also 5.9 TOV/40 which is a rare number, but possibly acceptable with how high his volume is. His shot fell apart in the 2nd half of the season but his 36% 3pt on 11.6 3PA/40 and 86.1% FT is nonetheless a superb combination of 3P%, volume and FT that projects him as an elite shooter. At 6’1 he lacks the size of players like Curry, Lillard and Kyrie. Nevertheless those players still set a precedent for how powerful Young’s shooting and handling skill can be if it translates, and one of those players in Curry is one of the best offensive players of all time. It’s a risk but drafting a franchise player like Curry is the real goal and I still think everything going right for Young gives him the best path there of NCAA players to be not just an all-star, but a true franchise changer. He is not Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer played 4 years in college and only dominated in his 3rd and 4th years when was  older than everyone (his freshman scoring of 15.1 pts/40 as a freshman and 19.7 as a sophomore is meek compared to freshman Young) and he never had half of Young’s passing numbers.

4. C Jaren Jackson, Jr. – Numbers are critical for big men’s success in NCAA and internationally  and Jackson has them. Any source that treats Ayton or Bagley as more productive than Jackson are looking too much at minutes and points – Jackson has the higher WS/48 and BPM. He averages 20 pts, 11.6 reb, 2.0 ast, 5.5 blk, 1.1 stl on .647 TS% and his 15.4 BPM is stellar for the class. He fits the modern game well as shooting 39.6% from 3 and 79.7% FT and is a great athlete defensively as much as offensively. I only have one catch – the superstar centres tend to be no brainers even at a greater level than Jackson. Davis, Embiid, Cousins (sanity aside), Oden (likely superstar if healthy) were like Jackson and Ayton combined in terms of having the tools and the production on both ends in college. Going back in history the same has been true of most of the all time greats like Shaq, Hakeem, Kareem, etc. Towns is one  of the most promising comparisons for Jackson as his lower minute college career has a lot of similarities, but Towns has a lot to prove in his career still outside of putting up points. Anything less than the total deluxe package in college creates skepticism if looking for a true, MVP caliber big man. But asking for an outcome that high is picking nits at this point if they could go onto be all-stars on the next level and he could break the mold.

5. C Wendell Carter, Jr. – On paper I slightly prefer Carter’s stats to Jackson’s. With a statline of 20.2 pts, 13.5 reb, 3.0 ast, 3.1 blk, 1.2 stl per 40 on .628 TS%, the biggest difference is he blocks less shots but passes more. I’d take the assists and what it says about basketball IQ, while in the past some fraud prospects have blocked shots in college by being longer than everyone else but nothing else. However from a talent perspective Carter passes the eye test less compared to Jackson’s elite athleticism and switchability. I agree with the Horford comparison most people seem to have for Carter with the ability to shoot, pass and defend. There’s some Jokic there as well. Like Jackson the reservation is there that anything less than perfect big men prospects in NCAA are a longshot to become a superstar.

6. SG/SF Josh Okogie – Long armed, versatile players have had success at the wings in this era such as Durant, Giannis, Kawhi, Butler, George, Iguodala, Deng, and now Tatum. Okogie has a 7 foot wingspan, is athletic, is known as having the it factor in terms of defensive hunger and intangibles and is only 19. Per 40 he averaged 20 pts, 6.9 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.9 stl, 1.1 blk, showing contrary to his reputation as a defense only role player he showed the ability to be a volume scorer and passer. He shot 38% from 3 and 82.1% from the FT line projecting him in another key skill on offense. The only thing preventing me from calling him the best NCAA prospect in the class is despite mistakes that are made every draft, it’s still only once a blue moon for NCAA prospects all-stars are taken out of the top 20, and never MVP caliber players. For that reason I give an edge to Young, Jackson and Carter for likelihood to be a star.

7. SG/SF Dzanen Musa – Musa is probably the best player on his Adriatic team. He averaged 21.1 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.8 stl per 40, leads them in PER and while his shooting of 31.5% 3pt is average, it’s on a quality volume of 6.2 3PA/40 and 82.2% FT which projects him as good NBA shooter. His shooting splits are overall very similar to Doncic. Musa is also even younger than Doncic, having just turned 19 in May. His standout performance on his European team, a much higher level than college basketball and among grown professionals is highly impressive and his size and skills is enough to give him upside. He is not known for defense but his solid steal rate and 6’8 size could give him switchable potential.

8. SG/SF Mikal Bridges – Like Okogie Bridges has a lot of the elements of successful wings. He’s long, is versatile (22.0 pts, 6.6 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.9 stl per 40) and has a superb shooting split of 43.5% 3P and 85.1% FT. He however started slower as a scorer than Okogie only scoring 12.5 and 13.1 pts per 40 as a scorer his freshman and sophomore years and turning 22 in August the history of older prospects who became stars is limited. Nevertheless a lot of the elements of great two way 3 and D players at his position is there.

9. SF/PF Miles Bridges – Bridges is almost one of the best prospects in the class. With underrated scoring numbers (21.8 pts per 40), solid rebounding and passing (8.9 reb and 3.4 ast) and 36.4% 3P on 85.3% FT, like Okogie he passes a lot of the checkmarks of the long armed versatile wing following in the Kawhi and Butler path. Unfortunately his defense looks to be overrated both by people who’ve watched him closest, and his defensive stats of only 0.8 stl/40 and 1.0 blk/40. Furthermore in modern game favouring smallball, it’s a good role to expect the SF/PF tweeners to play PF. It would be great if Bridges ended up a versatile 3/4 player who defends, passes and shoots 3s, the wing this draft is missing. But the more I looked at his stats the more it looks like he’ll be closer to the shoot-first SF/PF tweener like Jeff Green, Michael Beasley, Harrison Barnes. Nevertheless the upside if the former clicks in is still worth believing in, and the latter could lead to a long career anyways.

10. PG/SG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – SGA’s stats are solid (17.1 pts, 6.1 ast, 4.9 reb, 2.0 stl, 0.6 blk per 40) .578 TS%), shot 40.4% from 3 on a small sample size on 57 attempts and shot 81.7% FT and has strong size for a point guard which gives him a lot of defensive potential, an intriguing combination with his shooting, defense and passing. Turning 20 he is a year older than some peers in his class but young enough to have a lot of potential. There’s few clearcut holes in his profile, but most all-stars in the past have stood out in some way like shooting, athleticism or even better stats. Nevertheless being a complete prospect across the board is enough to be appealing and gives him starter to all-star potential.

11. SG Lonnie Walker – Walker is one of those eye test champion, stats are out (16.6 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.4 stl per 40, only .527 TS%) guys who have a high chance of being a low IQ bust. So what is he doing 11th on a list favoring numbers? He is explosive as hell slashing to the rim and from time to time great NBA guards ,more-so than big men go from raw projects to successful careers. Mainly, the shadow of Russell Westbrook hangs over things here for me. As long as an MVP guard only put up the stats Russ did in college, freak athlete prospects have to be accounted for. DeMar Derozan is also a successful all-star who started slowly, and recently Jaylen Brown’s college stats suggested bust is showing a lot of all-star signs.

12. SF/PF Michael Porter – Porter has a complete lack of statistical resume not to mention health concerns that could lead him to redshirt his first year. Out of all these guys he has the biggest risk of falling out of the league by the end of his rookie contract and scoring less than a few hundred points in his career, and it’s not close. Not only could health totally take out his career, but he could be 100% healthy and still be the biggest bust here just based on total lack of track record of proving he’s good. However he did have special fluidity and shooting for his height in high school, and high variance means high chance of busting, but also higher chance of being a bust than players who’s stats they’re not likely to be stars. Considering where I just rated Lonnie Walker, Porter’s boom/bust potential can’t be too far behind.

13. PF/C Marvin Bagley – Bagley was great in some ways in college (24.9 pts, 13.1 reb per 40) and disappointing in others (1.0 stl, 1.0 blk, 1.8 ast per 40). His defensive IQ appears to be mediocre to go along with his steal and block stats. Even if he puts up offensive stats, there’s concerns about where a big who scores at the rim and struggles on defense fits in the modern game. He is a tremendous athlete, appears to have great intangibles and is only 19. Athleticism has had some success at PF in players like Blake, Bosh, Davis although most had better college stat predictors than Bagley. I’m not sure I believe in his shooting as his 39.7% 3pt was only on 58 attempts and he shot 62.7% from the FT line. I have a lot of issues with Bagley that makes it so I wouldn’t be shocked if he busts, but at 13th and with his talent, age and effort level, there is potential for an all-star big.

14. C Mo Bamba – Bamba’s stats are pretty average outside of shotblocking (17.1 pts, 14.0 reb, 0.7 ast, 1.0 stalk, 4.9 blk, .593 TS%) and isn’t much of a shooter (27.5% 3pt, 68.1% FT) which is a problem since virtually all the great centers had more complete statlines in college. The model is Drummond and Deandre for Bamba who were athletic projects that went on to very nice, but ultimately not franchise changing careers. He also appears to pass the talent eye test in spades, has high intangibles and apparently is shooting well in workouts giving him 3 and D big man potential.

15. C Deandre Ayton – The #1 pick has a lot of red flags. The scoring and rebounding is tremendous (24.0 pts, 13.8 reb per 40, .65 TS%) but the defense (0.7 stl, 2.3 blk and all visual evidence) is not, and passing is ok (1.9 ast per 40). To put it in perspective Ayton put up 0.6 stl, 2.3 blk per 40, Meyers “softest big of this generation” Leonard had 0.7 stl and 2.4 blks per 40 in college. Being a statistically flawed center, especially on defense is not where you want to be with the two way track record of successful NBA centers in the NCAA. Projecting him at power forward is more promising where his block numbers are not as damning and he played beside a center in college, but it’s still not ideal. Ayton is also turning 20 in July and year older than players like Bagley. Ayton dominated as a scorer in volume and efficiency, but scoring because you’re bigger than everyone is one of the biggest things to look out for meaningless high school or college, and concerns about basketball IQ and motor are two of the next biggest ones. With all that said, combination of physical talent and skill is insane and at 34.3% 3pt (only 35 attempts) and 73.3% FT he has a chance to shoot. Even without the skill, he would have a potential to be one Drummond or Deandre on physical tools alone.

16. PF/C Bonzie Colson – Colson isn’t on much draft boards as he’s an old, severely undersized big man with a foot injury. However he reportedly has a 7 foot wingspan and he has outstanding stats – 24.4 pts, 12.5 reb, 2.8 blk, 2.1 stl, 1.1 ast per 40, .569 TS%. While he only shot 29.3% from 3, he shot 76.1% FT, which with his 44.3% 3pt mark as a junior suggest some outside potential. Furthermore steals like Draymond and Millsap suggest there’s a path for a short big if they have the productivity, strength and intangibles.

17. SG Grayson Allen – Allen can shoot (37.0% 3pt, 85% FT) and has solid passing numbers (5.2 ast per 40) and steals (1.9 per 40) both of which are good indicators. He actually scored more points per 40 as a freshman (19) than senior (17.4) which one hand is concerning that he couldn’t dominate as an older prospect, but it also shows Allen wasn’t just a player that dominated when he got older than everyone. His draft stock was higher in his early years than later. The biggest catch is Allen is 23 later this year which the track record is limited, but the shooting, passing and athleticism is appealing.

18. C Robert Williams – Williams case is a poor man’s version of Bamba’s except he’s older, slightly worse (16.2 pt, 14.4 reb 2.2 ast, 4.1 blk, 1.2 stl, .614 TS%) and his 47.1% FT suggests he’s almost certainly not going to shoot in the NBA. Nevertheless he has a model in Drummond and Deandre style all-stars, protect the basket, rebound and finish at the basket.

19. SG Zhaire Smith – Smith is an elite athlete with better stats than Walker (15.9 pts, 2.5 ast, 7.0 reb, 1.6 stl, 1.6 blk per 40, .618 TS%) and the Westbrook/Derozan rule applies to him. So why is he lower? He looks to have more trouble using that athleticism and at risk of being in the Ben McLemore, Terrence Ross camp of athletic swings who’s ball handling keeps them taking spot up shots on the outside. He shot 45.0% from 3 but on only 40 attempts and 71.7% from the FT line. Nevertheless youth, athleticism and shooting and the potential for young perimeter players to exceed their college stats puts him here.

20. PG Jevon Carter – Carter has impressive stats (20 pts, 7.7 ast, 5.4 reb, 3.5 stl, 0.4 blk),  is a good shooter at 39.3% 3pt and 85.8% FT and is known as a great intangibles, tough defensively prospect that is common for a 2nd round steal to make his way in the league. The precedent for old PGs becoming all-stars is small in the last decade and he is turning 23 later this year, so the target here is probably a Patrick Beverley type impact in the league.

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Written by jr.

June 19, 2018 at 7:36 pm