In what is shaping up to potentially be one of the all time great drafts, and even stronger than last year’s highly acclaimed class, the 2018 draft has a great deal of intrigue. This year’s "tank worthy" draft lottery (May 15th) figures to change the fortune of a few lucky teams. The mid-lottery is also especially strong, with a number of can’t miss franchise talents at the top.
|1.||Deandre Ayton 7-0 260 C Arizona Fr.||A generational bigman, Ayton is one of the most dominant prospects to emerge at the center position in two to three decades. He showed a lot of growth with his maturity both on and off the floor this season at Arizona. The quick tourney exit was disappointing but didn’t have any real effect on his draft stock. Ayton should contend with the likes of Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and KAT as one of the top centers in the league over the next decade. His ability to dominate around the basket on both ends, run the floor as well as step out and knock down outside shots, gives him an extremely rare package of skills. The sky is truly the limit for Ayton and it’s become nearly unanimous in the scouting community, Ayton will be the first pick and one of the stronger ones in the past few years.
NBA Comparison: David Robinson
||Marvin Bagley 6-11 225 PF Duke Fr.||
Bagley is one of the youngest prospects available having turned 19 (in March). He’s a manchild, capable of physically dominating nearly every opponent he faced at he college level. And will be a handful for many opponents from day one in the NBA. While his offensive skillset still has some developing to do, the fact that he plays with such energy and passion gives his outlook a lot of promise. He showed some ability to face up and attack the rim, and was a disciplined defender in Duke’s system. He improved as a 3 point shooter as the season went along, finishing at 40% on the year and hitting over 50%, after his return from injury, over the final month of the season. Bagley can become a franchise type of player if his offensive game continues to expand. Despite not leading a talent laden Duke squad to a Final Four appearance, his stock remains extremely high, with a strong chance to be the 2nd name called on draft night.
||Michael Porter 6-10 215 SF/PF Missouri Fr.||Porter’s return to action for two games at the end of the season had both positive and negative results. The positive was the he showed that the back has healed enough to allow him to get up and down the floor and showcase his skills. The negative being that he obviously wasn’t back to full health and his play suffered as a result. He is an explosive athlete with great fluidity, but having missed so much time, his leg strength has been depleted. Scouts have a good feel for his skill set and talent level, so reclaiming his stock as a top 3 pick will be contingent upon how his back checks out in physicals, and gaining back some of the explosiveness and fluidity over the next few months. His potential to become one of the NBA’s elite scoring weapons gives him a great deal of intrigue, which was why he had leapfrogged DeAndre Ayton in the second half of his senior season of high school.
NBA Comparison: Joe Johnson
||Mohamed Bamba 7-0 220 C Texas Fr.||Bamba showed a lot of development this season with Texas, hitting his stride offensively and posting a few 20 point games and fourteen double doubles on the year. With an amazing 7’9 wingspan and a 9’6 standing reach, Bamba is a rim protector with a chance to be special on the defensive end with his ability to both block and alter shots. He’s an extremely bright individual who has Ivy League offers and attended a high school set up for gifted kids. While not an absolute freak of nature run/jump, he is a freak of nature with his physical attributes. And his fluidity is . Bamba’s ability to impact games improved as the season went along and he figures to go somewhere in the 3-7 range on draft night.
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gobert
||Luka Doncic 6-8 220 SG/SF Slovenia Intl.||Doncic is one of Europe’s top overall players, which is unheard of at 19 years of age. It’s no wonder why so many scouts in Europe feel that he should be considered for the first overall pick. And in a lot of drafts, he probably would be. His feel for the game is special for such a young player and he’s got a magical ability to find passing angles and make those around him better. He’s extremely competitive and clutch and never seems to get rattled or lose composure, even in the biggest moments. What he lacks in comparison to the other elite prospects is sheer athleticism. He’s not an overly quick or explosive athlete, so his ceiling isn’t quite as high as the others when you consider defense and ability to create and finish. Doncic’s size (6’8 with a 6’11 wingspan and 8’9 standing reach) and playmaking ability give Europe’s "Boy Wonder" a chance to be special.
NBA Comparison: Toni Kukoc
||Jaren Jackson Jr. 6-11 240 PF/C Michigan St. Fr.||JJJ has a body and package of skills ideally suited to play in today’s NBA. Similar to Bamba he has rim protection and great ability to run the floor, but even more polish and potential as an offensive player who can pull defenders away from the basket and knock down outside shots. Jackson proved to be a lot further ahead of schedule than many realized coming into the season. He’s still one of the less polished of the lottery picks in terms of fully realizing his skill set and abilities, but the fact that he became an impact player in Coach Izzo’s system as a freshman speaks volumes. He struggled through some inconsistency, particularly as the season came to a close. But there’s no denying the kid has an extremely high ceiling.
NBA Comparison: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
||Trae Young 6-2 180 PG Oklahoma Fr.||Young had one of them most prolific seasons of any college player in recent memory. He’s the first player ever to lead the nation in both points and assists, since the assist statistic has been kept. Considering he did that in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation from top to bottom and in his freshman season, and you have to marvel at his accomplishment. Sure the Sooners had a very rough end to the season. But making the tournament and having a strong showing individually helped Young gain some of the momentum back that he had lost due to his shooting woes in February. Young isn’t Steph Curry, but he could end up a very impactful NBA player due to his ability to shoot, score and create baskets for teammates.
NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
||Collin Sexton 6-2 185 PG Alabama Fr.||While not the most composed point guard, Sexton loves the big stage and is a fearless competitor. He’s proven on numerous occasions, both in USA basketball and at Alabama, that when challenged, he finds a way to answer the bell and lead his team to victory. His performance against Minnesota, orchestrated a comeback while down 2 players was the stuff of legend. His runner to beat Texas A&M in the SEC tournament put the Crimson Tide in the post season and showed his innate ability in do or die moments. He still has a ways to go as his 3 point shooting (33.6%) needs to improve as does his decision making and ability to lead the team in the half court. His 3.6 to 2.8 a/to ratio isn’t ideal. But his dynamic ability to excel in ISO situations, in transition and finish at the rim give him a lot of intrigue.
NBA Comparison: Derrick Rose
||Wendell Carter 6-10 260 PF/C Duke Fr.||Carter’s outside shot showed a lot of growth as the season progressed. He isn’t a speed burner and figures to fit in better with some of the more methodical offensive teams in the league. His 7’3 wingspan gives him the ability to play bigger than his 6’10 size allowing him to more easily recover defensively as well as rebound more effectively. Carter’s work ethic and determination are rare for a freshman. He showed a tendency to let situations get the better of him and lose his cool emotionally, but that’s an area that he should be able to improve upon with age and experience. Despite a disappointing close to the year, battling some bumps and bruises, he remains in good standing with NBA teams as one of the most skilled and highest rated bigs in the draft.
NBA Comparison: Juwan Howard
||Mikal Bridges 6-7 200 SG/SF Villanova Jr.||Along with fellow junior Jalen Brunson, Bridges has grown from key contributor into one of Villanova’s MVPs reaching their second Final Four in three years. Bridges had a breakout junior season nearly doubling his scoring output from 9.8 ppg to 17.8 PPG. He also did so in a highly efficient manner, shooting 44% from deep, knocking down nearly three per game. He has the size and skill set to be a prototype 3-and-D player with his 7-foot wingspan and prolific three point shooting ability. Bridges also uses his length well to fill up the stat sheet with steals and blocks. He should look to get stronger in order to become better at finishing plays at the rim. He has a chance to crack the top 10 with the NBA’s premium on defensive shooters.
NBA Comparison: Otto Porter
||Kevin Knox 6-9 215 SF/PF Kentucky Fr.||
Knox was one of the steadier freshmen in the "One and Done" Kentucky system this season. He’s far from a finished product and among the riskier potential lottery picks because of that. He shows a lot of offensive promise with his ability to create offense and his fluidity for a player his size. While he shot just 34% on the season from deep, he has a pretty jumper and had some big scoring outbursts and proved a difficult match up for many opponents. His diverse skillset and potential as a scorer give him a lot of intrigue, however he’s still got a ways to go as a defender and maturity. His ability to be a stretch four in today’s small ball focused NBA adds value.
NBA Comparison: Tobias Harris
||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 6-6 180 PG Kentucky Fr.||Coach Calipari raves about Shai, describing him as his hardest worker and most focused player on the team this season. Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t come in with the hype of a number of the other freshmen, but could end up being taken before all of them, Knox included. He’s an exceptionally quick player with the ball in his hands, which is unusual considering his size. He’s also become a very reliable outside shooter, as his shooting numbers can attest. That combination of speed and shooting ability make him difficult to contain. He’s still a ways off from mastering the PG position, meaning he may need time to get up to speed. But that’s unlikely to deter teams from considering him in the top 10, and selecting him somewhere close to that range.
NBA Comparison: Ron Harper
||Miles Bridges 6-7 230 SF/PF Michigan St. So.||Bridges is an impressive basketball player for a guy with "no game". All kidding aside, Bridges may lack a traditional skillset, however he is a freak athlete with ambition and determination, a combination that generally fares pretty well at the next level. But it’s not as if Bridges enters the league solely with great physical abilities. He’s improved considerably in his ability to shoot, knocking down 85% of his FTs as a sophomore and 137 of 339 (37.5%) of his 3 pointers in his two seasons at Michigan State. He’s a little stuck between positions as he’s not a great passer or ball handler, and is small for the PF position. But in today’s "position-less’ league, Bridges strengths outweigh his weaknesses, and he should be able to punish certain match ups at the next level.
NBA Comparison: Jerome Kersey
||Khyri Thomas 6-3 210 SG/PG Creighton Jr.||Thomas is a late bloomer who has steadily climbed up draft boards this season and now has a shot to jump into the lottery. He’s older than many of his draftmates as he will be 22 in May, however his polished and balanced game is intriguing to teams. He may not be the most explosive athlete, but he’s a good athlete with a big wingspan and excels on the defensive end. He’s got a textbook jumpshot and should be able to develop into a 3 point shooter at the NBA level. With Jrue Holiday-like attributes and skillset, he’s not overly flashy but extremely effective. Khyri is a hot name among scouts and should see his name called in the same range that Jrue (17th) did.
NBA Comparison: Jrue Holiday
||Lonnie Walker 6-4 200 SG Miami Fr.||Walker didn’t have the freshman season many envisioned and could slide some from this projection. His statistics (11.5 PPG, 41.5 fg%, 34.6 3p%) just never materialized to match his abilities, but he remains high on many scout’s lists nonetheless. He started his freshman season slow coming off knee surgery that many feared could force him to redshirt the season. But scouts remain enamored with him after such an impressive high school career. He’s got some combo skills and is an elite athlete who plays with great composure for his age.
NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
||Gary Trent Jr. 6-6 200 SG Duke Fr.||Trent struggled with his shot in the early part of the season and really hit his stride in the second half of the year and finished strong. He showed why many considered him among the best shooters in his high school class, exhibiting pure outside shooting ability. He also expanded upon his game with added ability to create offense off the dribble and the use of runners to get shots over shot blockers around the rim. He’s got a clutch gene that a number of his Duke teammates appeared to lack as he took over late in games on a number of occasions. With the shift to shooters in today’s NBA, his value is enhanced. While he lacks the ideal physical profile of a NBA shooting guard, and will probably struggle some on the defensive side, his bloodline and intangibles, not to mention shooting ability give him a lot of NBA intrigue.
NBA Comparison: Buddy Hield
||Robert Williams 6-9 240 PF/C Texas A&M So.||Williams’ decision to return to school may not have improved his stock. But a second year in College Station has given him the benefit of further maturity to handle the off court and social aspects that go along with playing professionally. Williams will probably benefit by not going too high and thus avoiding the initial expectations that accompany it. He’s not a consistent performer at the college level, so to expect that over an 82 game season, at this point doesn’t make much sense. Williams is an elite athlete, but his skill level has yet to fully develop. A team that envisions him in the role of defender and rebounder and could look to slowly bring his offensive game up to speed and probably do well with him somewhere in the teens.
NBA Comparison: Stromile Swift
||Dzanan Musa 6-9 195 SG/SF Bosnia 1998||Playing for senior league team Cedevita Zagreb, Musa has been surprisingly consistent for a 19 year old this season. He’s become accustomed to having numerous scouts at his games and has responded well to it. He is a solid shooter and has done a good job of finding ways to contribute when his shot isn’t falling. He still has some concerns with his thin and unusual body, however he’s shown steady improvement in that area as well. Being named the Aba League’s Top Prospect, as well as being voted to the All-League First team shows how highly he is regarded in Europe.
NBA Comparison: Bojan Bogdanovic
||Zhaire Smith 6-5 195 SG Texas Tech Fr.||Zhaire is one of the nation’s most explosive athletes and although he wasn’t necessarily on the radar to begin the season, he surely ended the year on everyone’s radar. He’s a raw prospect who will require more patience than some other prospects, but his upside is considerable. He’s got a very nice shooting form and elite level leaping ability for the next level. His 45% three point shooting is impressive, but with only 18 made threes on the year, he’ll need to impress teams with his shot in workouts, which he’s clearly capable of, in order to grab a mid first round spot.
NBA Comparison: JR Smith
||Troy Brown 6-7 210 SG Oregon Fr.||Similar to Zhaire Smith, Brown didn’t have an overwhelming statistical year yet has a shot to go high based on his potential. He shot just 29% from three on the year, so obviously will need to work on becoming a better outside shooter. He’s a versatile wing capable of playing multiple positions, having played as a point guard in his prep days growing up in Las Vegas. His near 7-foot wingspan gives him great length on defense. He’s a charismatic kid who communicates well and should develop into a solid pro over time.
NBA Comparison: Caris LeVert
||Mitchell Robinson 7-1 225 C USA Fr.||Robinson made a highly questionable decision to skip playing college ball this season and train off the court instead of playing for Western Kentucky. He’s a long, highly athletic center with excellent potential on the defensive end of the floor. He’s obviously a long term project, and will take additional time after a year of non-development. He’ll need strong workouts in order to cement a spot in the first round. But the intrigue surrounding him during his senior season should help his cause.
NBA Comparison: Dewayne Dedmon
||Anfernee Simons 6-3 180 SG/PG HSSr.||Simons pulled out of both the 2018 Jordan Classic and Nike Hoop Summit following the announcement that he had signed with an agent. The decision to pull out of those events gives the impression that he has a promise in the first round and would rather preserve his health and not squander his draft stock. Some question why he wouldn’t want to try to improve upon his draft stock, but if a promise is in place, perhaps it’s a wise decision. He’s a slick scorer, capable of creating his own shot and has quickness, good form and shooting ability. He possesses combo abilities with ball handling and some ability to drive and kick. Scouts that saw him play for IMG this season came away impressed, but he remains a bit of an unknown due to not having played in many events in front of scouts. At the (September 2017) Steph Curry Under Armor All Star game he looked like a smaller version of Markelle Fultz, but at the time didn’t stand out as a kid that could skip college and go in the first round…yet here he is.
NBA Comparison: Quincy Douby
||Trevon Duval 6-2 190 PG Duke Fr.||Despite a monster recruiting class, Duke fell short of the Final Four, but don’t blame Duval as he shot 8-18 in the tourney and led the team in scoring with 20 in their loss to Kansas. An explosive athlete, Duval has ideal size and speed for the position showing the ability to push the ball up the floor. He excels in the open floor and displays solid vision and passing skills. He has proven to be a solid distributor, though his decision making, particularly in the half court, is still a work in progress. He has NBA starter potential, however he’s still got a lot of developing left to do to get there. He has a major weakness to his game and that’s his shooting consistency, though he did show improvement as the season went along. With a 6’9.5 wingspan and excellent lateral speed, Duval can develop into a lock down defender, adding to his intrigue.
NBA Comparison: Kris Dunn
||Jontay Porter 6-11 240 C/PF Missouri Fr.||Porter is all over the place on team’s boards and may ultimately decide to return to school. While he doesn’t jump out as a surefire first rounder, the fact that he has such great length, plays a mature game and can knock down outside shots gives him a lot of intrigue. He still needs to tone his body and become a better post defender and gain more post moves. But he is a class individual and really came on strong at the end of the season, giving him a chance to be a one-and-done player with strong workouts. If he feels ready to leave Missouri, he should make use of his ability to test the process and see if teams are showing enough first round interest in him to leave.
NBA Comparison: Brad Miller
||Aaron Holiday 6-1 185 PG UCLA Jr.||Holiday became one of the most prolific scorers in the nations in the second half of the year. He’s a highly effective 3 point shooter who has really improved as an all around scoring point guard in his three years at UCLA. While he’s undersized at 6’1, he does have a 6’7 wingspan. The fact that he has two brothers playing in the NBA also helps his cause as he has been around pros and has been exposed to what it takes from a preparation and intensity standpoint. While not the most explosive athlete, Holiday is quick and skilled and should have a chance to carve out a role in the NBA as an instant offense type.
NBA Comparison: Lindsey Hunter
||Grayson Allen 6-5 210 SG Duke Sr.||Grayson built a reputation for being a bit of a dirty player with multiple plays where he tripped opponents over the past few seasons. But he also developed the reputation for being a tough competitor. He’s a little small for the NBA 2-guard position but his ability to attack off the dribble as well as hit outside shots should give him a chance to stick in the league. Allen had a rough end to his college career with two miserable shooting efforts. He proved to be a very good shooter throughout his college career, however. Depending on workouts he could find a spot in the late first round or slide into the early second round on draft night.
NBA Comparison: Bob Sura
||Caleb Martin 6-7 215 SG/SF Nevada Jr.||Both Martin Twins were absolutely phenomenal in leading Nevada on two incredible comebacks to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Caleb is the better scorer and shooter, while brother Cody has better playmaking skills. Caleb’s developed into a deadly isolation player, and he proved what a great go-to threat he is with numerous clutch baskets to help the Wolfpack to survive and advance. The Twins are already 22 and probably need to enter the draft due to their age. Caleb has a lot of intrigue as such an offensive weapon, which should give him first round consideration.
NBA Comparison: Evan Fournier
||Jalen Brunson 6-2 190 PG Villanova Jr.||Brunson may win National Player of the Year for his tremendous season in which he displayed consistency leading Villanova to a one seed. He projects as a phenomenal backup point guard at the next level and possibly even a starter for a few years. What he lacks for in glamor, he makes up for in toughness and determination. He has command of the team and shows natural leadership ability. He’s also one of the most productive and efficient players in college, and has added a great ability to isolate and score on the block in clutch situations.
NBA Comparison: Mark Jackson
||Brandon McCoy 7-0 255 C UNLV Fr.||McCoy is another player with a wide range of views on his draft stock. He had an excellent freshman season, posting an amazing eighteen double-doubles and actually outperformed DeAndre Ayton in their team’s match up with 33 points and 10 boards. He was a consistent performer all year showing the ability to score and rebound and has a post game as well as the ability to face up and hit mid range shots. While not the physical specimen of Ayton, McCoy plays with solid energy. Interviews and individual workouts will likely determine whether teams view him worth the gamble as a first rounder with guaranteed money.
NBA Comparison: Omer Asik
||Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk 6-8 205 SG Kansas Sr.||Svi was seen as a future lottery pick when he burst upon the scene as a 16 year old, prompting one prominant NBA GM to proclaim, "Can we draft him now?" at the Nike Hoop Summit. His commitment to Kansas took it’s toll on his draft stock, however his dream of playing in the NBA appears set to materialize. He has become a knock down shooter and overcome what seemed to be a fear of playing under the bright lights and in front of huge crowds. While there are certainly some limitations to his game as he’s pretty one dimensional as just an elite shooter, his size, ability to make plays at the rim and not be a defensive liability have all improved giving his stock a boost. It’s also important to remember that despite being a senior, he’s only 20 years of age (younger than NBA rookie Josh Jackson, a one and done draftee), and won’t turn 21 until a week and a half before draft night.
NBA Comparison: James Jones