Photo courtesy of Ben Standig for The Sports Capitol
2018 NBA Draft: Big board and blurbs
BY BEN STANDIG | JUNE 18, 2018
The Sports Capitol’s coverage of the 2018 NBA Draft:
Let’s get into the prospect rankings. Some of this is personal preference, but also with a heavy dose of sourcing from around the NBA and college basketball world from those that have scouted and analyzed these players over numerous games.
This article also includes blurbs from some of those sources along with former Georgetown coach turned college basketball analyst John Thompson III and NBA Draft insider Sam Vecenie (The Athletic). Players in bold are discussed at greater length below the top 50 rankings.
- Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona, 7-0
- Luka Doncic, PG, Real Madrid, 6-8
- Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan St, 6-11
- Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas, 7-0
- Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke, 6-11
- Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri, 6-10
- Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke, 6-10
- Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama, 6-2
- Kevin Knox, SF/PF Kentucky, 6-9
- Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma, 6-2
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Kentucky, 6-6
- Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami FL, 6-4
- Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova, 6-7
- Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M, 6-10
- Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan St, 6-6
- Zhaire Smith, SF, Texas Tech, 6-5
- Jerome Robinson, PG, Boston College, 6-5
- Troy Brown, SG, Oregon, 6-7
- Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland, 6-6
- Donte DiVincenzo, PG, Villanova, 6-5
- Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA, 6-1
- Dzanan Musa, SF, Cedevita, 6-9
- Mitchell Robinson, C, N/A , 6-11
- Elie Okobo, PG, Pau-Orthez, 6-3
- Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise St, 6-7
- Keita Bates-Diop, PF, Ohio St, 6-7
- De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, USC, 6-3
- Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech, 6-4
- Grayson Allen, SG, Duke, 6-4
- Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton, 6-3
- Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinnati, 6-6
- Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane, 6-6
- Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia, 6-2
- Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke, 6-5
- Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova, 6-2
- Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan, 6-11
- Bruce Brown, SG, Miami FL, 6-3
- Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky, 6-5
- Anfernee Simons, SG, N/A, 6-4
- Omari Spellman, PF, Villanova, 6-9
- Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU, 6-6
- Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita St, 6-4
- Justin Jackson, SF/PF, Maryland, 6-7
- Rodions Kurucs, SF/PF, Barcelona, 6-10
- Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas, 6-2
- Chimezie Metu, PF/C, USC, 6-10
- Kevin Hervey, SF, UT- Arlington, 6-7
- Malik Newman, PG/SG, Kansas, 6-4
- Ray Spalding, PF, Louisville, 6-10
- Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona, 6-5
This draft class will cost some their front office job and turn certain resumes into gold standards. While that’s true on some level each year, the 2018 class specifically offers a challenging evaluation.
Vecenie: “There are a lot of difficult assets to assess in the draft this year. It kind of has happened for a multitude of reasons. A guy like Michael Porter was expected to be a top-three pick, but then had back surgery and we still don’t have a lot of clarity on what his back looks like. … Then there are guys like Lonnie Walker and Kevin Knox and Robert Williams and Collin Sexton and Miles Bridges. All of these guys had situations this year that maybe didn’t utilize them properly in their college basketball team’s scheme. Evaluating this year I think is very, very complicated. I think it’s going to turn out to be a very strong draft, but…it’s going to be a little bit tricky this year.”
Is Doncic slipping?
One month ago Doncic and Ayton were seemingly in a race for the top overall pick. Since then, the Arizona big man appears to have secured that spot while Doncic slipped possibly outside the top four. Are those reasons fact-based or over-thinking on a player who simply has more tape from having played on the highest professional levels outside of the NBA than his college peers or just the rumor mill running amok in the final days before the draft?
One league source from a team currently holding a top-10 selection told The Sports Capitol he believes any negative takes on the 6-foot-8 talent with point guard skill and splashy shooting touch is largely fake buzz. That doesn’t mean Doncic won’t fall to five.
Thompson: “The most polished is [Doncic]. I’m saying that based on film. I’ve seen everyone else in person. I watched a lot of film on [Doncic]. He looks like a monster who can do everything. I’m biased towards passers (and) on top of everything else he’s throwing the ball over the place. The [one-and-done prospects] don’t have a body of work to analyze. A lot of times, upperclassmen too often are not perceived in a positive light. You’ve had time to see what [Doncic] can do over years.
Vecenie: “Anytime you’re talking about a European prospect you’re going to have some sort of reticence I guess for some reason around the NBA. This guy is the most accomplished teenager in basketball in like two decades basically since Kobe Bryant made the All-Star game in 1997. You can make the case Doncic is better than any player that has entered the league since or teenager has at least — and there are still people who are concerned about him.”
If Doncic does slip outside the top four, that quarter becomes comprised of four bigs: Ayton, Bagley, Jackson and Bamba. So, for the long haul, who ya got?
Thompson: “This is going to come as being extremely biased, but it’s not. I like Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s huge. He’s an outstanding defensive player. He’s a rim protector. He blocks shots. Offensively, an awkward, ugly looking shot but it keeps going in. A very good shooter. He has moves now. Understands the game. Understands what it takes to be good in that league because of his pedigree, because of his father.”
Vecenie: “I’m going with Deandre Ayton. I think he’s the safest guy in this class. …He looks more like a superstar basketball player than anyone I can remember at that age.” Vecenie noted teenage LeBron James came before his time. If not Ayton, then Doncic for Vecenie.
Here comes Robert
Texas A&M center Robert Williams is expected to workout for the Wizards Monday. There is no surprise in Washington wanting a closer look at a 6-foot-10 interior option with a 7-foot-5 wingspan who draws favorable comparisons to Houston’s rim-running Clint Capela. He rebounded and blocked shots at a high per-minute rate for the Aggies last season.
Vecenie: “Yeah, I think the Wizards are in a really good spot at 15. There are a lot of good players that will fit kind of what they want to do. Robert Williams makes a lot of sense for them. … One of the best pick-and-roll big men in this class. He is going to be able to just about immediately step into a role where he can be a pick-and-roll partner with John Wall, who is obviously one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the entire NBA. He also adds defensively with his weak-side rim protection skills and pogo-stick athleticism.”
How Williams scores beyond stuffing him lob passes is among the questions. Texas A&M often crowded the paint offensively because of a roster imbalance thanks to frontcourt of interior parts while the roster lacked perimeter talent. That put Williams in less-than-ideal situations, but that alone does not brush away the inconsistency label.
College basketball source: “Williams, that guy looks outstanding at times, but there are times where it looks like he is going through the motions. One thing you have to be careful with: People mature at different rates. Sometimes you get to this point and some guys realize, hey, you know what, this is a profession. My body and how I take care or don’t take care of my body will affect my performances. It’s important to me because know I’m getting paid. That effort, that attention to detail that he might not have cared about on some nights literally becomes part of his paycheck. Sometimes it takes guys longer to realize that. If that proverbial light bulb ever goes off, that kid is a monster.
Now or later
Several of the prospects in the range of 15, including Smith, Walker, Brown and Gilgeous-Alexander are largely about the future considering they will enter the NBA as teenagers who weren’t always rock stars on the college level. DiVincenzo is the opposite. The 21-year-old wing guard not only helped lead Villanova to its second national championship in three seasons, but he was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player after scoring 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the national title win. The best 6-foot-5 player from Delaware this side of Elena Delle Donne didn’t just sink shot after shot in the tournament. DiVincenzo made 40 percent of his 3-pointers on the season. Making 8-of-12 in the final two games helped that stat. That experience should help a team like Washington out more from the start, but would the Wizards give up some upside going with DiVincenzo?
Thompson: “He’s athletic/ He’s tough. He can shoot. There is something too (that) he has performed well on the biggest stage he’s been in so far. That’s not to say to someone (else) who had those opportunities wouldn’t perform on the same way, but he’s done it. I don’t think you can discount that. He’s one of those guys who might be able to help now and be good later on.”
Another one of those wait-and-see talents is Oregon’s Troy Brown, who is essentially the opposite of Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith and Wizards forward Kelly Oubre. What he offers in skill and versatility he lacks on high-end athleticism.
Thompson: “I love Troy Brown. We recruited him very hard. Very smart player. Offensively he can play multiple positions. Defensively he can guard multiple positions. I think eventually he’s going to be really, really good. Am I saying a future All-Star? Not necessarily saying that. He’s going to be more than a serviceable player in the league — and maybe an All-Star. …He may not be in a position to utilize all his gifts for a couple of years.”
Three point guards — or four if counting Doncic — could go before Washington picks at 15. The one most likely to remain available is Kentucky freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Vecenie: “He’s the kind of versatile player who could slide up and down the lineup. You could play him as the backup point guard. You could play him with both John Wall and Bradley Beal. He’s 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan. Could kind of mix-and-match lineups with Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter as well. He would give you a lot of different options if you’re the Wizards.”
Rise or fall
Vecenie said Williams falling outside the top 20 would not stun because of the inconsistency factor along with the modern NBA moving away from centers.
While Zhaire Smith’s stock is rising into that borderline lottery range, his jump from a sub-150 recruit one year ago puts NBA teams into an awkward situation. They simply haven’t had as much time studying the highly-athletic 6-foot-5 wing who played power forward with Texas Tech compared to his peers, Vecenie noted.
Jerome Robinson, a 6-foot-5 point guard with range, is consistently mentioned as a player who is liked more in league circles than several public big boards.
Multiple sources mentioned Wichita State guard Landry Shamet as a second-round sleeper because of his versatility, size, shooting and point guard skills.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.