To many, the excitement and anticipation for the National Basketball Association (NBA) doesn’t take place during it’s 82-game regular season. They’ll tell you that it drags out too long, teams and players don’t stay motivated and only when the playoffs come around does it truly get more interesting. What they’ll also tell you is that for however much enjoyment that can be had during the NBA Playoffs and Finals, the true magic of the NBA doesn’t really begin until the season has been completed and the annual NBA Draft (which takes place this year on 6/21 at 8:00pm EST) and Free Agency period (starting at Midnight July 1st) gets set to begin. With all the flurry of activity that’s to be anticipated and speculated upon during these times, it’s no wonder why so many NBA fans look toward to this part of the year for their team than any other.
Outlets such as ESPN, The Ringer, CBS Sports, NBADraft.net, Bleacher Report, Real GM, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports (who were used as references for this piece) and many more are spending a great deal of time with videos, mock drafts, articles, and podcasts trying to figure out exactly what each team has planned for this intriguing part of the NBA year. This is the time for dreams and hopes to begin with a brilliant set of choices that can set the foundation for a winning culture and also the moments when a much-beloved franchise makes the wrong decisions that can set a team down a spiraling downward path. So with that in mind (and many hours of reviewing said content that has been provided) here’s a look at one NBA Draft Junkie’s list of the top 15 picks as he sees it going down (provided no trades will be completed for any of these draft picks which will most likely not be the case):
1. Pheonix Suns- Deandre Ayton, C, Freshman (Arizona)
Tale of the tape: 7’1″, 260 lbs, 7’5″ wingspan
20.1 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game, 61.2 field goal %
There seems to be a reoccurring theme when one travels through the various sports sites and gathers intel on who could be going at the #1 spot. The consensus among these analysts believe strongly that Ayton will be the first player picked but that there are better alternatives in Doncic and/or Bagley that will ultimately get selected behind him. An extremely talented and skilled offensive machine, Ayton doesn’t project nearly as well on the defensive end where the commitment has yet to be there with a motor that doesn’t always run high as a rim protector and switching big man. If his energy improves on that end his elite athleticism should propel him to a long career and a foundational piece for the Suns moving forward.
2. Sacramento Kings- Marvin Bagley III, C, Freshman (Duke)
Tale of the tape: 6’11”, 235, 7’1″ wingspan
21.0 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game, 61.4 field goal %
Coming off a spectacular season at Duke, Bagley is riding the momentum all the way into the top tier of the draft and as seemingly the only individual who WANTS to play in Sacramento it makes only too much sense for GM Vlade Divac to pull the trigger on this one. His 20-10 games at Duke with a 39% three point stroke should translate well into the NBA but his defensive shortcomings could prevent him from being no more than a numbers machine on bad teams.
3. Atlanta Hawks- Luka Doncic, G (Real Madrid)
Tale of the tape: 6’8″, 225, wingspan not given
14.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.6 Assists Per Game
For many prognosticating on this year’s draft, Doncic checks off the list better than any other. A play-making machine from Slovenia, Doncic’s unique vision and ball-handling skills could prove extremely beneficial for an Atlanta team bereft of talent. He has more experience than anyone else in the draft with his performances with two straight ACB European League titles under his belt which could prove very valuable as a team leader and someone to look toward to as a face of the organization rather quickly. His lack of athletic prowess and sometimes poor shot selection will probably have him slotted in a small forward spot to take better advantage of his skills and his ability to make others better could prove to be a first step in the road to recovery for a team that has seen hard times as of late.
4. Memphis Grizzlies- Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Freshman (Michigan State)
Tale of the tape: 6’11”, 240, 7’4″ wingspan
10.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 Blocks Per Game, 40% 3-point percentage
With a combination of elite skills on both sides of the ball plus the potential that is apparent in being one of the youngest players eligible for the draft, it’s no wonder why Jackson has emerged as a top prospect and on the radar of many NBA teams including the Grizzlies. If his game continues to develop, look for Jackson to be a major contributor for whatever team he plays for the next ten+ years.
5. Dallas Mavericks- Mohamed Bomba, C, Freshman (Texas)
Tale of the tape: 7’0″, 225, 7’10” wingspan
12.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG
Normally the 7’10” wingspan would say it all in that he is already a major force on the defensive end as a shot blocker, rebounder and space eater. The comparisons to Rudy Gobert of Utah have been plenty and if he develops into anything close to that he should be the defensive foundational piece in the middle that Dallas has been looking for quite some time. If his shot selection expands to the three-point line as he’s been so diligently been working on as of late, the sky could be the limit.
6. Orlando Magic- Wendell Carter Jr., C, Freshman (Duke)
Tale of the tape: 6’10”, 257, 7’3″ wingspan
13.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG
The Magic have been targeted to address their huge hole at the point guard position for some time now as names like Young, Sexton, and Alexander have all been mentioned at this spot. But with each of those players having deficiencies that might scare any team near the top of the draft, look for Orlando to choose Carter whose well-balanced portfolio will have him most likely transition easier and for longer whatever direction the team chooses to go. To some, his skills appear to translate better to the NBA than his higher-profile teammate in Bagley. Carter’s game has been solid both on offense and defense and for any team in the top ten, he remains one of the safer choices not to end up on the bust side of NBA Draft history.
7. Chicago Bulls- Michael Porter Jr., F, Freshman (Missouri)
Tale of the tape: 6’10”, 212. 7’0″ wingspan
36.2 PPG, 13.6 RPG (Senior year-High School)
With the talent that would normally have him in the top three, look for Porter’s night to be a little longer than originally anticipated when he entered Missouri in 2017. A severe back injury and following surgery created a lot of time rehabbing instead of gaining valuable experience on the court (he wound up playing just fifty-three minutes total for the Tigers) and lingering issues with his health could scare one or more teams from choosing him in this year’s draft. The other side of the coin though has some scouts remembering his outside game and ball-handling ability for a big that made him one of the top prospects coming out of high school. if a team feels comfortable with his physicals, he could go much higher as there is no one on this draft board that could swing in either direction in the lottery is Porter. He could go as high as #2 or as low as #12 but at #7 for Chicago feels like the slot where he’ll go because it’s around there where the benefits start to outweigh the potential risks involved.
8. Clevland Cavaliers- Mikal Bridges, F, Junior (Villanova)
Tale of the tape: 6’7″, 202, 7’2″ wingspan
18.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 43% 3PT
In a period for the NBA when wings are at the highest demand, look for Bridges skillset to be highly coveted as a vaunted “3 and D” type of player. With an impressive wingspan for his size, Bridges utilizes this well on the defensive end but has still found the ability to make the jumper at a consistent level which could benefit the Cavaliers greatly. With a certain number #23 possibly on the way out in Lebron James, Bridges could get a ton of playing time early and speed up his development which could give Cavs fan some solace even if their favorite son may be walking out that door for good very soon.
9. New York Knicks- Trae Young, G, Freshman (Oklahoma)
Tale of the tape: 6’2″, 176, 6’4″ wingspan
27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3PT
Leave it to New York to have a pick with a lot of flash. In Young, they could be getting the dynamic player who led the NCAA in points and assists as a freshman who could be the answer to the Knicks continued woes at point guard and one part of a valuable duo with superstar Kristaps Portzingis for years when KP comes back from injury. But the reason why Young is the prototypical “boom or bust” type of candidate is that his size gives him a disadvantage on defense and in this era of multi-positional switching players, a player like Young can find himself on the wrong side of the Knicks fans ire if his shooting ability doesn’t translate well into the NBA.
10. Philadelphia 76ers- Kevin Knox, G, Freshman (Kentucky)
Tale of the tape: 6’9″, 213, 6’11” wingspan
15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 34.1 3PT
Here again, we have what could be deemed as a player who fits the new mold of the NBA. With an already decent stroke from three-point land, Knox could be that “stretch four” that comes in and provides even more punch to an already developing powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. Like Jackson, he too is one of the youngest players in the draft which could see him develop into a quality piece for the Sixers who at this point with or without a General Manager are looking to just keep adding quality assets to the roster. Selecting Knox at this point would be just another key part as “the process” continues to build.
11. Charlotte Hornets- Collin Sexton, G, Freshman (Alabama)
Tale of the tape: 6’1″, 185, 6’7″ wingspan
19.2 PPG, 3.6 APG, 33.6% 3PT
Sexton’s high motor and play-making skills could be just what the Hornets are looking for if all-star Kemba Walker ultimately gets sent elsewhere. His deficiencies from the perimeter in his shooting arsenal and defense must be addressed and if done well could see Sexton develop into one of the top players in this draft class. The Hornets have many needs and with not much salary cap to room to play with (despite shipping out Dwight Howard) Sexton might just be the player that owner Michael Jordan has been looking for.
12. Los Angeles Clippers- Shai Gilgeous Alexander, G, Freshman (Kentucky)
Tale of the tape: 6’6″, 182, 7’0″ wingspan
14.4 PPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 Steals Per game
With a frame that reminds some of a young Shawn Livingston, SGA has the ability to get to the basket with ease and with a long enough wingspan to provide nightmares for opposing point guards if given enough time. Is he the consistent play-maker and shot-maker the Clippers need from the point guard position? That has been debated but what attributes are there already may be too good for the Clippers to pass up.
13. Los Angeles Clippers- Robert Williams, C, Sophmore (Texas A & M)
Tale of the tape: 6’10”, 240, 7’5″ wingspan
10.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG
For a team who already has a pick and roll, dunking defensive specialist in Deandre Jordan it seems like Williams may not be the best fit for the team after all. But with Jordan contemplating leaving Los Angeles, getting a player with a similar style to his may be just the thing the Clippers are looking for. Could we be looking at the next Clint Capela? At this point in the draft, anything close to that would be a big win for those in Clipper land.
14. Denver Nuggets- Miles Bridges, F, Sophmore (Michigan State)
Tale of the tape: 6’6″, 225, 6’8″ wingspan
17.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 36.4% 3PT
Although he maybe should have come out a year ago, Bridges draft stock has not fallen down too far from what it was when he pulled his name out around this time in 2017. A solid shooter with even better defensive skills, look for Bridges to make a name for himself in Denver even if they already have a few quality players still in front of him on the depth chart. Bridges could be the missing component that puts the Nuggets over the top and the difference between being in the playoffs or watching from the sidelines again for one more year.
15. Washington Wizards- Zhaire Smith, G, Freshman (Texas Tech)
Tale of the tape: 6’4″, 199, 6’9″ wingspan
11.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 45% 3PT
The Wizards for years have been a team on the brink of something very special in the Eastern Conference. With a trio of Wall, Beal and Porter many have suggested that only a lack of depth has prevented the team from going any further in the playoffs. With a noticeable decline last season, it appears the lack of a quality roster has finally started to hurt the Wizards so nabbing Smith at this point would go a long way to shoring up some needed depth as the team plans on finding better pieces for their star trio. What Smith lacks for in size he makes up for in skill and athleticism that could be useful as someone who can seamlessly transition to three different positions and be a valuable contributor for the folks in D.C.
So that’s one fan’s list of how the first fifteen picks may shake out from what all the rumors, news and speculation are on what these teams will do come draft day. There’s a good chance that this will be completely off by the time all these picks are actually announced but the fun of watching what team these young men looking to start a bright basketball future will wind up on makes the 2018 NBA Draft a must watch for any casual or hardcore basketball follower.