The 2018 NBA Draft is right around the corner, so organisations should essentially have all of their draft boards set and ready for draft night to prepare for whatever may occur. Surefire and shock/surprise picks are certainly going to be in store, but the lottery range prospects appear to have tremendous talent and potential for success in the coming years. The league has begun to change with small ball lineups being more prominent, however, bigs are highly regarded at the top of the draft rankings this year where some rankings have up to 7 out of the top 10 being combo forwards or forward/centres. Bigs that can prove to be athletic, can run the floor well, defend multiple positions or block shots and shoot seem to be the norm nowadays over traditional back to the basket post up players. Some of those aspects appear to be present in many of the top big prospects, where their youth gives them the chance to round out completely and become studs in their primes. There are some guards and small forwards that are making cases to be good in the league for a long time which I will discuss too, but the theme in the top part of the draft seems to be on the bigman.
Deandre Ayton seems to be the most promising bigman prospect in this class with his ability to score in all facets of the game because of his athleticism, post game, finishing and solid shooting ability. The biggest criticisms of his game are on defence and in general about his effort as per analysis of his high school performances and his lone year in Arizona. However, with the right team and coach, he can be motivated to bring maximum effort every night and be moulded into a great all around defender, particularly switching out to guards thanks to his athleticism. All signs are pointing to him going number 1 to Phoenix which with the mentorship of a player like Tyson Chandler (if he is kept on the team), could help tremendously for his career especially defensively to develop him as a standout two way player for many years.
Luka Doncic has brought tremendous intrigue for this draft class because of all that he has accomplished so far overseas in the Euroleague at the young age of 19. Couple his youth and accomplishments with the rise of European/International players in the NBA, and you have a player that people would want to see to prove himself to be a superstar. Against enhanced competition (relative to NCAA prospects), he looks to have all the tools to be an all around offensive star. At his size (6 foot 8), he has shown the ability to be a great ball handler, playmaker, passer, slasher and shooter. The main knocks against him are with regards to his athleticism, particularly for his defence in staying in front of more explosive players. However, in the right defensive system, this can be worked out and protected to help keep him on the court and thrive thanks to his great overall ability.
Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr, Mohamed Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr appear to be in somewhat similar moulds as prospects by being bigs (Power Forward/Centre) with the potential to be defensively versatile and stretch the floor. They appear to be a slight level down from Ayton, but still have great potential to contribute in the league for many years. There is talk that Jackson Jr could end up being the best player in this draft because of his ability to shoot and his defensive prowess, especially as a shot blocker and being versatile enough to guard all positions. However, Bagley III, Bamba and Carter Jr contributed more statistically during their lone years in College, particularly as rebounders. As per scoring, Bagley III was clearly the elite of the four with high level athleticism and a motor that looks to be unmatched. However, his lack of strength and length relative to the others, could spell some trouble defensively in the low post. He could be taught to better use his athleticism to be a better overall defender to become even more valuable on the court with his scoring ability. Jackson Jr looks to need to work mainly on his rebounding ability and strength to finish more effectively in the paint and round out his game. Bamba looks to be the least effective shooter but has the potential to become a good one and be a very effective stretch-defence big. He has the potential to be Rudy Gobert with a jumpshot, which is a scary thought considering how well Gobert has played in the league thus far in his career. Carter Jr looks to have a bit more traditional big man tools mixed in with defensive versatility and shooting. He has shown more of a low post game than the other three and appears to be the strongest of the four to be able to be the more effective low post player on both ends while still having similar versatility due to his length.
Michael Porter Jr, Miles Bridges, Kevin Knox and Mikal Bridges are all forward prospects with potential to be key contributors immediately and over time. Porter Jr, Miles Bridges and Kevin Knox are better known for their ability to score the basketball, while Mikal Bridges is better known for his ability to be a 3 and D forward. For Porter Jr, he showed tremendous offensive flashes in high school which is when I became a fan of his game. However, a back injury forced him to miss almost all of his lone college season at Missouri to raise questions about his health. If he can still be that high level offensive player he was in high school and stay healthy, he could be a big contributor on that end for many years and, with the right teaching, could become a very versatile defender due to his length and solid athleticism. Miles Bridges had two solid years of college basketball at Michigan State and was the main scorer for the team through his ability to slash, his explosive athleticism and his good shooting. He has shown to be a very good rebounder for his size and an ability to defend rather well due to his strength and fundamentals on that end. Continuing to work on his effort defensively and rounding out his offensive game will give him staying power as a potential starter.
Knox is very similar to Porter Jr in the sense of length and scoring ability, although I believe Porter Jr is the better of the two. Knox has shown a very good offensive ability as a driver and shooter, however, similar to Porter Jr, lacks in his defensive abilities. Improving upon his ability on that end with his offensive skills will push him into that starter potential role. Mikal Bridges looks like he will be the most effective small forward in this draft class to contribute right away because of his great all around game as a shooter and a defender. Having spent three years at Villanova, he was able to be a part of two National Championships and has steadily improved every year. He looks capable to guard positions 1 to 3 through his lateral quickness and good size and length. Adding that to his three point shooting ability and he could be in line to be a great contributor in the league from the get go and for many years because of the growth of the game to favour these type of players.
Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the top 3 point guard prospects who have had very different single years in college. Trae Young took the NCAA world by storm to start his freshman campaign because of his incredible shot making and playmaking ability. But, as the season wore on, he became the focus of criticism up until Oklahoma’s season ended. He has many tools to be successful offensively in the league as a starting guard, however, decision making as a passer and shooter will need to be improved to better fit into a system and he will need help to become a better defender and finisher to stick around as a starter. Sexton and Gilgeous-Alexander both appear to be high level defensive point guards particularly through their effort and desire to work on that end, both off ball and on ball which should be very favourable at the next level. Where they differ however, is on the offensive side of the ball. Sexton is more of a score first point guard and excels when he is attacking the basket to finish or draw contact. While, Gilgeous-Alexander has shown a better ability to create for teammates and has shot the basketball at a better rate, although he didn’t have to garner the workload of Sexton. Continuing to work on both of their decision making as passers and refining their ability to score will make them long stays in the league as starters or sixth men/role players because of their defensive ability.
– Deejay (The Middle Fro)