The 2018 draft is almost here, and with the fandom set to meltdown shortly after 4 p.m. tomorrow, regardless of who the Kings take, I finalized my Big Board as a last hurrah to the most intense draft season in franchise history. Below are summaries from my previous prospect write-ups, plus my thoughts on the other players who finished in my top 20. Note that this is not a Kings-centric big board. Make sure you share your big board below!
(Stats all from Synergy Sports, hoop-math.com, or Sports-Reference.com).
1. Luka Dončić, Wing, Real Madrid
Armed with his IQ, handle, passing skills, off-the-dribble shot, and shooting range, Dončić is as primed as anyone in the class to be a high-level scorer, and he’s an ideal playmaking wing for the modern NBA game. His mental awareness is as quick as any prospect I’ve seen at his age, and given his development over the past year, there’s no reason to think he’s close to finished refining his skill set (full breakdown).
2. Deandre Ayton, Big, Arizona
Ayton’s body was forged from the heart of a dying neutron star. Standing at 7’1” with a 7’5” wingspan and 260 pounds of almost sheer muscle, Ayton still manages to run like a wing while also dominating the low-post like a titan. With his mid-to-low post scoring ability, developing mid-range shot, and rebounding instincts, he produced at an incredible level despite playing out of position and playing with all the drama surrounding the Arizona program... but given his defensive weaknesses, there’s a legitimate debate on whether he can really be a two-way star (full breakdown).
3. Jaren Jackson Jr., Big, Michigan State
JJJ has the tools, effort level, and skills to be an ideal modern NBA big man, with range beyond the three point line on offense, an elite ability to protect the rim, and success with covering guards in space. While the rest of the lottery’s bigs are hypothetical shooters OR defenders in one way or another, it’s not hypothetical with Jackson. While I’m very high on JJJ’s long term potential, he never looked the part of an alpha-scorer like Dončić, Ayton, Porter, or Marvin Bagley—which likely leaves him outside of Sacramento’s interest (full breakdown).
4. Michael Porter Jr., Forward, Missouri
Porter can be an ideal scorer in the modern NBA. He’s got the confidence and a developing, flashy creation ability to be a star. He might be exactly what this Kings team is missing. But any team selecting Porter—especially as high as No. 2—is taking a moderate gamble on his weaknesses (defense, handling, passing instincts) developing in the NBA, and an enormous gamble on the health of his surgically repaired L3-L4 spinal discs. Here’s hoping, however the draft pans out, that the NBA gets to see the best of Michael Porter Jr. (full breakdown).
5. Marvin Bagley III, Big, Duke
High effort and higher verticality define Bagley’s game. He’s a developing scorer who can play in the post and slash to the basket, and is refining a deep-shot that will be critical to his game going forward. He’s also a beast on the glass, and his athleticism begs to be unlocked by a high-paced offense. His defense at Duke was a real problem, but they were technical weaknesses and not motivational. With his work ethic, it’s certainly possible he develops a perfect niche offensively and defensively that unlocks his stardom. But I believe his future team’s construct is going to have to be much more specifically tailored to him than it would be for Dončić, Ayton, and even Jackson Jr. (full breakdown).
6. Mikal Bridges, Wing, Villanova
The two-time Champion is one of the better 3-and-D prospects in recent years, and his development during his final season at Villanova hints at plenty of growth still to come. He’s a near-elite spot-up shooter who sank 40% of his threes at Villanova, and backed that up by also being one of the best wing AND help defenders in the NCAA. Mikal doesn’t have the scoring ceiling that others at the top of my board do—but the player he already IS is incredibly valuable in the modern game, and ANY additional growth as an creator would send his game skyrocketing (full breakdown).
7. Mo Bamba, Big, Texas
Bamba may have the top defensive ceiling in the class, and he’s certainly putting in the work this summer on skills that will unlock his offense game... but he’s also the least proven offensive player of the classes’ top prospects, and he struggled with physicality at the college level. If the challenge of the modern NBA lights his motor full-time, he can be a beast defensively and has a very high ceiling on both ends. (full breakdown).
8. Trae Young, Point, Oklahoma
Young is a really, really good offensive player. Absurdly so. He may tie Dončić for best passing vision, and beats everyone in the class for range. If surrounded by a team that can give him both space and defense, he can be an amazing player in the NBA. But a player of his size is going to be hunted down on defensive switches, and he’s already a weak defender to begin with (short breakdown).
9. Miles Bridges, Forward, Michigan State
Bridges’s sophomore season didn’t end like he’d expected when he opted to come back rather than enter the draft last season, but DID show improvements in key areas and is clearly still a lottery player. A player with his physicality, three-way scoring ability, and TNT-boosted leaping ability will present a smart team with a versatile talent who can impact the game on both ends (short breakdown).
10. Wendell Carter Jr., Big, Duke
Carter is too good to be this low—he’s a versatile, high IQ big man who showed he could score from all three levels. He’s also a solid rebounder and physical rim protector, and while he doesn’t share Bagley’s explosiveness, he’s a strong player who won’t cede ground to many NBA big men. I’m worried about his ability to defend in space and on switches—Duke didn’t just swap to zone defense full time because of Bagley—but he’s certainly got the smarts to learn how to compensate for his lack of great speed.
11. Collin Sexton, Guard, Alabama
Collin Sexton is a tough, fiery combo guard who can power his way to the basket with flash and finish with skill. In the toughest conference at the college level, with defenses focused mostly on him, he showed solid creation moves off the bounce and at the rim. I’m concerned about his efficiency at the NBA level, but has the athleticism and bulldog approach—if not the sheer size or length (6’3, 190 lbs)—to be a stud at the next level.
12. Robert Williams, Big, Texas A&M
The Aggies’ messy roster forced Williams to the perimeter, or even the SMALL forward spot. But as long as he has the consistent fire he showed his freshman year, I’m all-in on gambling that he’ll work better in the NBA and be a supersized version of Jordan Bell. His 2.5 block per game average (10% rate) and amazing rebounding ability (26.8% defensive rate, 14.4 per 40 minutes) is all the more impressive considering the Aggie’s lineup, and he’s a great, physical athlete who can attack the rim with ferocity.
13. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Guard, Kentucky
In a class somewhat lacking in top-tier point talent, Gilgeous-Alexander is the most well-rounded talent of the three lead guards. He’s not an explosive athlete, but he’s quick, smooth, and LONG—6’6 tall with a 6’10 wingspan. He thrived in the pick-and-role, both as a scorer (52.9% shooting, his most used scoring type) and as a passer (teammates shoot 46.9% off his passes). His length and ability to get into the paint opened up the floor so much for Kentucky’s deep shooters, and he was pinpoint passer who got them the ball even in crowds. He may not be a star player, but he’s too well rounded and smart to be a bust.
14. Lonnie Walker, Guard, Miami
Neither Walker nor the Hurricanes were incredibly consistent this year, but Walker flashed just enough scoring prioress to make himself an alluring scoring prospect. He was recovering from a off-season knee surgery, and an injury to Bruce Brown/a messy Miami offense probably held him back from his true potential. That said, his spot-up shot (34.8% mark, 51st percentile) and off-the-dribble shot (25.7%, 29th percentile) need to be much more efficient weapons if he’s going to be the competent shooter his lottery-selection would demand he be.
15. De’Anthony Melton, Guard/Wing, USC (Left team)
Melton missed his sophomore season because of his connection (through a former friend) to the FBI’s investigation into NCAA bribery. It means selecting Melton this high is betting pretty heavily on an expected high growth curve (for a guy who shot 28.4% from three his lone season), but there are good reasons to think Melton would have had a breakout season had he played this year. He’s taken full advantage of the combine to show off the skills he added in his year off, and as long as that shooting is gold, he could be a very versatile combo guard, offering secondary playmaking and solid point-of-attack defense.
16. Kevin Knox, Forward, Kentucky
Knox is a conundrum; he’s one of the youngest players in the class, and he’s played for John “I box players into roles because I care” Calipari, which certainly could have hidden some abilities that’ll be unlocked at the NBA level. Knox is known for his shooting ability, and averaged 19.3 points on 44% from the field. But he’s not a dynamic shooter—his 34% three point percentage isn’t stellar, given his role and 4.5 attempts per contest—and aside from scoring, he didn’t consistently provide much else.
17. Zhaire Smith, Guard, Texas Tech
Smith has earned more and more attention throughout the season thanks to his insane athleticism, defensive intensity, offensive efficiency, and insane athleticism (seriously, it’s not hyperbolic with Zhaire). Over the last two months of the season, he averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds on 55% shooting from the field and 59% from three (on 22 attempts). He fits the profile of a draft riser—a blue-chip kid who provides a two-way impact with minimal red flags beyond his usage (only 18% rate last year) questions.
18. Chandler Hutchison, Wing, Boise State
In a league hungry for versatile wings, I think Chandler Hutchison is a prime candidate for a Kyle Kuzma “why did he fall so far?!” type career. As a senior, he’s older than the rest of the players on the board, but he’s great athlete, and is an improved threat at the three point line, both as a shooter (35.6% on the year) and in attacking closeouts. His efficiency isn’t always great, but I think his full package of skills will earn him a Swiss Army knife roleplayer spot in the NBA (short breakdown).
19. Troy Brown, Wing, Oregon
Brown has the look of a two-way versatile player thanks to his secondary playmaking ability (3.2 assists, 18.7% assist rate) and potential switchability on defense, but I’m less convinced that his package will translate than some prognosticators. He’s not the quickest or most explosive athlete, and while that doesn’t hurt some of the players above him on my board, he also isn’t a guaranteed shooter; 29.1% on 110 three point attempts and 33.3% on spot-up attempts are concerning for a guy who needs that shot to be effective. He may end up what the Kings hope Justin Jackson will be.
20. Keita Bates-Diop, Wing/Forward, Ohio State
Another super senior I’m high on, Bates-Diop exploded for Ohio State and made them a force to be reckoned with when they weren’t playing Penn State. He was a versatile scoring threat this year, able to hit on spot-ups (72nd percentile), post-ups (66th), and as the roller (72nd), and if you negate his injury-shortened junior year, he was a 36% long-ball shooter in college. He’s also strong rebounder (10.5 per 40), and with added strength he should be able to provide some switchability on defense against both forward spots. He’s not the most explosive guy, but he’s a tough competitor.
Later prospects I’m high on: Mitchell Robinson, Big; Donte DiVincezo, Guard, Villanova; Jevon Carter, Guard, West Virginia; Bruce Brown, Guard, Miami; Moritz Wagner, Big, Michigan; Omari Spellman, Big, Villanova