Thanks to their youthful roster and general lack of currently top-tier talent, the Kings probably won’t be very good this year, baring unexpected supernova explosions from multiple youngsters. And as long as the franchise has truly accepted they’re rebuilding, that success for the season isn’t measured strictly by the wins and losses... the possible 2018 NBA Draft class looks like it’ll be entertaining subplot for the season.
Sure, it’s September. Talking about a draft class while most of the players are only now getting into full practices is incredibly, incredibly premature. I have an NBA Draft problem, and the first step is admitting it. So to the large number of you who can’t stand to see the words “potential”, “upside”, and “motor” until April... well, come back tomorrow. I’m sure Tim will have another great excuse for trading Garrett Temple.
To whoever of you are still left... damn, this 2018 class looks like they could be fun! These chicken scratches are all based on preliminary viewings only, and I’ll reserve judgement until real games start, but... damn. Last year, the NCAA was extraordinarily fun for draftnuts thanks to the large number of top-tier guards, but this year might be fun because of the versatile bigs and forwards.
First off, Solvenia star Luka Doncic. The 18 year old already has as much watchable tape as anyone from the 2017 class, and that watchable tape is AWESOME. His Solvenian team won the EuroBasket title this year, and Doncic was as good as anyone in the tournament, finishing with 14.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. He’s crafty with the ball, an improving shooter (although his 31% from three in the tournament wasn’t great, he’s showcased a strong ability to play as a catch-and-shoot weapon), and dishes out highlight passes. On ball, off ball, he’s as dynamic a offensive player as we’ve seen in recent years. He also gives a emphatic YES to life’s great question (sorry Douglas Adams, but the real question is “Can he play small forward”).
Big man Marvin Bagley III entered the conversation a year earlier than expected when he reclassified and joined Duke. He’s drawing comparisons to Anthony Davis for his size, athleticism, and open-court impact on both ends of the court. The biggest question for Bagley is his shooting stroke, a weakness that might be hidden underneath the highlights. The Blue Devils have a roster that includes three hypertalented freshmen (Bagley and Wendell Carter, both 4/5s, and Trevon Duval, a PG) who all might be not-solid shooters. Duke is gonna be fun to watch this year, to say the least, but they’re going to be missing Luke Kennard come November when Grayson Allen is their best/maybe only strong off-ball shooter.
DeAndre Ayton (7’1, Arizona) and Mohamed Bamba (7’0, Texas) offer their collegiate squads incredible size and versatility on both ends. Ayton comes with whisperers of a beyond-the-arc shooting touch, something Arizona desperately needs this year, and I’m willing to bet a burner coach like Sean Miller can Ayton’s motor issues. Bamba, meanwhile, comes with a 7’9 wingspan, quick feet, and the coolest name in the class. I’m mostly interested to see how developed his offensive game is, as by pure size alone, he’s gonna be a force on defense as is. The PK80-Phil Knight Invitational in late November might offer up a Duke/Texas early season matchup... yes, please.
Let’s all be thankful Michael Porter ended up in Missouri. He was set to go to Washington until Lorenzo Romar was fired, and thus was scheduled to repeat the history of Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, complete with that dreaded “can a top pick really come from such a terrible team?” subplot. Of course, Missouri might not be a tournament contender, but they have solid blue-chip talent around Porter (center Jeremiah Tilmon, Porter’s also-forward brother, Jontay, and a solid contingent of returners) - all of which offers Porter, a dynamic shooter and natural scorer, a chance to face up the playmaking question-marks in his game. In a NBA ruled by scorers who can also distribute efficiently and effectively, Porter won’t get the top spot if he becomes a blackhole on offense.
Miles Bridges surprised the world when he returned to Michigan State, is a favorite to win the Naismith. While others I’ve previously mentioned (aside from Doncic) all come with collegiate game-breaking physical measurements, Miles could lock down a top spot in the class by just showing everything he showed last year - the long-range, the court vision, the defense - weren’t single season mirages.
There’s plenty of other names - bigman Robert Williams at Texas A&M is one of the most pure fun players in the league with his block/dunk heavy game, swing forward Kevin Knox leads a new crew of Kentucky prospects, and Miama guard Bruce Brown has had my vote for breakout of the year player since March. If all goes well with the Kings rebuild, this might be the last lottery season we have to sit through (at least, we hope so, considering they won’t have their pick in 2019...). Here’s to college basketball, the well of eternal optimism we’ve been drinking from for eleven years now. Let’s hope this season is as fun as it looks like it could be.