As you can tell from the lone article preceding this, I have not spent as much time with this draft as previous drafts. Part of that is due to my general disenchantment with NBA Draft analysis. But perhaps a bigger part of it is that, in no uncertain terms, this draft is bad. That doesn’t mean that nobody will pan out, but it means that it’s even more of a crapshoot than normal. This is much like the 2013 Draft, where two college guys have reached max level (Oladipo and Porter), but where most of the draft just didn’t amount to much more than roleplayers other than two internationals. It also means that, more than normal, big boards should absolutely not agree, and that’s perfectly okay.
This year’s board will be done a little differently than the past few years. I am adding in non-college players again. This board will also reflect not just positional value, but also the exponential value in finding a star quality or better player. This board will also reflect eye scouting a little more than normal, if only because stat scouting provides little more than “this draft isn’t very good”. Also, due to the general poor quality of this draft, I am not going as deep as normal. There’s simply no reason to. My entire college spreadsheet ended up with 43 total players on it. Adding the guys who didn’t play enough or played internationally still doesn’t get it to 60. And, as usual, players are not ranked within tiers.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it.
There is not a single player this year who reaches the prospect quality of even Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz from last year. Again, this does not mean that nobody in this draft will be better than them. It just means nobody is as good a prospect as them.
Trae Young, lead guard
Luka Doncic, secondary wing
Michael Porter, big wing
Jaren Jackson, stretch center
Jaren Jackson projects as the safest player in the draft and an ideal 3-and-D center at the next level. However, has been noted in many places (including on this website), the value of bigs is lower than ever. Therefore, he falls as part of this group. Trae Young is the best PG in the draft, leading all draft-eligible players in FPG and second in FPM. However, he struggled down the stretch and his defense and turnover numbers leave a lot to be desired. His ceiling projects as more of a second tier PG at the next level – more Kemba Walker than Chris Paul. Doncic and Porter are more unknown. Eurowings have had success in the NBA but have rarely been superstars. Doncic will need to prove he can hang with elite NBA athletes, and maybe more importantly, that he can hit the NBA 3 (only 31% from the shorter international line this season). Michael Porter basically didn’t play this season and probably won’t be healthy until 2019-2020, but the value of 6’10 wings has never been higher, and while he’s a lottery ticket, he may be the biggest jackpot in the draft with careful development.
Wendell Carter, stretch?/rim center
Mo Bamba, rim center
Deandre Ayton, rim center
Robert Williams, rim center
Marvin Bagley, stretch forward
Mikal Bridges, wing
How much you like non-core players will determine how much you like this draft. These are all supporting and role players. Carter looks the most promising of the bunch, showing the best 3 point touch at this point. Bamba is the classic rim big, and how much you like players like Capela and Jordan will determine how much you like him. Ayton and Bagley both showed plenty of promise on offense but not nearly enough on defense to be confident that they can fulfill their primary role at the next level. Robert Williams is undersized, but as the center position shrinks, he may fit the role perfectly. Mikal Bridges is the best 3-and-D prospect in the draft and should be able to contribute right away as an Ariza-type.
Jevon Carter, lead guard
Jalen Brunson, lead guard
Jordan McLaughlin, lead guard
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, secondary wing
This category splits on whether you’re looking for a ready-now backup or a potential future starter. Carter grades a tick above Brunson and McLaughlin based on his defense, but all 3 are your classic senior PG types who should be able to jump into the NBA in a backup role and run an offense competently. Gilgeous-Alexander showed promise, putting up a very solid FPM number. He played PG at Kentucky and whatever team drafts him will have to determine what his best role is – I currently project him moving to a secondary role. He is probably a few years away from making a real NBA impact at either position but could be a very solid starter.
Collin Sexton, lead guard
Isaac Bonga, secondary wing
Miles Bridges, secondary wing
Dzanan Musa, wing
Mitchell Robinson, rim center
Ajdin Penava, rim forward/center
Ray Spalding, rim center
A weird, somewhat catchall tier. Sexton put up solid enough per minute numbers as a freshman to warrant consideration, but his peripherals are scary, showing not quite enough 3 or D or PG skills. Tough to see him as more than a 6th man as of right now. Miles Bridges has shown less 3 and less D than Mikal by a decent margin. Musa is a shooting wing who could follow in the footsteps of guys like Bojan Bogdanovic. Bonga is a bit of a riddle – he appears to have some tools and some skills and is actually playing PG right now. A team willing to be patient and develop him could have a real steal, as tall guys with PG skills tend to be a consistently undervalued asset for some reason. Robinson, Penava, and Spalding are rim protectors of varying flavors. Robinson is basically a lottery ticket who you hope is more Hassan Whiteside than Robert Upshaw. Penava is undersized but was the most productive draft-eligible player by FPM and simply understands how to play defense. He’s basically this year’s Jordan Bell. Spalding is a bit of a do-it-all tall forward who could stand to put on 20-25 pounds to play center at the next level.
Tony Carr, lead guard
Devonte’ Graham, lead guard
Donte DiVincenzo, secondary guard
Zhaire Smith, wing
Josh Okogie, wing
Desi Rodriguez, wing
Bonzie Colson, ??
Kenrich Williams, stretch forward
Omari Spellman, stretch forward
Khadeem Lattin, rim
Anas Mahmoud, rim
And we’re already into basically roster filler territory. Carr and Graham are 3rd PGs right now, with Carr having a bit more upside. DiVincenzo projects as a 4th or 5th guard. Smith, Okogie, and Rodriguez have all shown flashes of being 3-and-D guys but didn’t really put it all together this year. Colson has consistently been one of the most productive players in college basketball, but his shot has fluctuated wildly from year to year and he projects as an undersized big, which isn’t ideal. Williams has one of the stranger statistical profiles in the draft, showing a little bit of everything other than blocks, most intriguingly a near 2:1 A:TO. Spellman is real young and needs time to develop but showed 3-and-D characteristics that could play at the 4 or 5 – could arguably be a tier higher. Lattin and Mahmoud both profile as end of the bench bigs who could step in and play 10-15 minutes as rim protectors if needed.
Aaron Holiday, lead guard
Elie Okobo, lead guard
Kevin Huerter, secondary guard
Lonnie Walker, secondary guard
Kevin Knox, wing
Keita Bates-Diop, wing
Wenyen Gabriel, tall wing
Gary Clark, stretch forward
Mo Wagner, stretch center
Holiday should make a good living in Europe but will probably get a shot in the NBA thanks to Jrue and Justin. I…don’t really know much about Okobo, but he appears slightly better than “the rest”. Huerter, Walker, and Knox all just grade out terribly in my system. Huerter profiles as a 3-no-D guy which is more of a 5th guard, Walker didn’t rebound, didn’t shoot particularly well, and had low usage. Knox was pretty abysmal across the board except for rebounding and probably wouldn’t’ve made my board at all if he wasn’t a projected lottery pick. Bates-Diop makes the board as Big 10 PotY, as the small bump pushed him up into “worth at least a look” territory. Gabriel is intriguing in a “you can see something if you squint” way but definitely should not go undrafted – anybody who shoots 39.6% from 3 and puts up the defensive numbers he did deserves a real chance. Clark is undersized but could make it as a back of the bench forward. Wagner doesn’t play enough D and isn’t good enough with the ball to warrant more than a 3rd C role.
Chandler Hutchison, Brandon McCoy, Melvin Frazier, Chris Wray, Zach Thomas, Kendrick Nunn, Jairus Lyles, other prospects not listed here that are projected top 20 picks, the other international and non-college guys who declared
The first 7 guys are low and mid major guys who made the cut on my spreadsheet. I have no great insight on them other than they’re probably worth a summer league look and maybe a second rounder. Projected top 20 prospects who did not make the cut are still worth a look based on the eye test even if they fail the stat test. I have not spent enough time with internationals and other guys who did not play much, but because they can be stashed easier, they’re usually worth burning a 2nd round pick on.