May 21st, 2018
With the draft combine over and the NBA draft approaching fast, we take a look at my big board. I will only be covering the top 15 prospects on this article but you can read the full board here.
1. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid
Fresh off of becoming the youngest ever Euroleague MVP and a Euroleague champion, Doncic sits as my top prospect. There are rumors that he may not enter the NBA but I am confident that he will. A report came out saying he may slide; he would be a monumental steal if he fell past the Kings at two. He is an elite offensive prospect with incredible vision and scoring ability. Doncic has a chance to be one of the best players in the NBA in due time.
2. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
DeAndre Ayton is my number two but three other players are on his tail for the number two spot. Ayton has a good chance of going number one ahead of Doncic but is not the better prospect in my eyes. He has a cornucopia of offensive moves. Ayton is a dominant post scorer, has solid mid-range touch and has even displayed a three-pointer. He is a physical monster and a dominant rebounder but I have questions about his defensive technique and effort. All in all, Ayton has a chance to be a dominant center in the NBA.
3. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Young is one of my favorite prospects in the NBA draft. He is the most polarizing prospect in this class and it seems that most either love him or hate him. Sure Young’s thin frame, lack of defensive ability, and poor shot selection are significant flaws but his offensive talent outweighs this. He is an elite shooter, passer, and ball handler and he should make an immediate offensive impact day one in the NBA. Some mocks have seen Young fall out of the top 10 and almost out of the lottery, which would be an absolute crime for all of the teams involved.
4. Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke
Marvin Bagley is one of the most gifted big men in the draft and one of the bigs with the highest upside in this class. He is very athletic and the best rebounder in this draft class with a lighting quick second jump. Bagley has shown great offensive upside with a deadly left-handed hook shot and a three-point stroke. He is raw on the offensive and defensive ends but has the talent to become a top big man in the NBA.
5. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
The NBA combine only exacerbated the Mohamed Bamba hype train and I am squarely riding on that train. He measured in with a 7’10” wingspan, which will be the longest in the NBA, and a 9’7.5″ standing reach. Bamba shot threes at Texas but didn’t hit with great success but seems to have completely overhauled his mechanics. He will be a defensive monster the second he steps onto an NBA court and may be able to provide all-important floor spacing. Think Rudy Gobert with a jumper.
6. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova
Mikal Bridges is the best perimeter defender in this class bar-none. His length, size, lateral quickness, and instincts make him a shutdown player. He is occasionally beat by very quick players but his off ball defense is unmatched. Bridges may also be the best player at catch-and-shoot threes in this class. His shot creation ability is limited but he has shown flashes there. Bridges may not have the upside of an Ayton or Bagley but he is NBA ready and whatever team drafts Bridges know what they are getting.
7. Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State
Jackson rarely played at the center position at Michigan State and I believe that is his ideal position in the NBA. He flashed quite a bit in his freshman year, showing more polish than most expected. Jackson used his length to protect the rim and finish at the basket prolifically but showed some advanced offensive skills and a three-point shot that most did not expect. He is still raw and has plenty of untapped potentials for some lucky team to unlock.
8. Wendell Carter Jr., PF, Duke
Wendell Carter dwelled in the shadow of higher profile teammate Marvin Bagley but is a gem of a prospect and should be respected as much as Bagley by the community. He may not have the athleticism or general upside of Bagley but Carter is the more polished and mature player. He is big and strong with a great wingspan, making him a great defensive five and a very solid rebounder. Carter has an advanced low post arsenal and a solid outside jumper. Wendell Carter may never be a superstar big but he will be a high-level producer in the NBA.
9. Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
It is difficult to measure intangibles like “heart” but Sexton is at the top in this category. He is a fierce competitor who plays with an undying fire; he carried his Alabama team to an NCAA Tournament berth. Sexton is a quick twitch athlete who relentlessly attacks the rim and has a developing but solid jump shot. He has good defensive potential and has shown some flashes of vision but isn’t a natural playmaker. A team drafting Sexton will find the most success using him as a score-first point guard like Russell Westbrook.
10. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami
Lonnie Walker may be my favorite prospect in this NBA draft and is one of the most underrated in the NBA draft media. Walker has all of the tools to be a prolific scorer: explosive athleticism, a great jump shot and excellent finishing ability. Walker also has the tools to be a plus defender. His vision and handles are still developing but Lonnie Walker has shown promise in both of these areas. He could fall as far as out of the lottery, where he would become a monumental steal at that point.
11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State
Being a tweener would hurt Bridges a decade ago but his game is a great fit in the modern NBA. Bridges is an explosive athlete with great strength, whose offensive game has been improving. His handle is serviceable and Bridges is a streaky shooter but can hit the three when he needs to. Bridges’ size, strength, and quickness will allow him to defend multiple positions on the next level. In the NBA, Bridges will thrive as a small-ball four, spacing the floor, playing good defense, and grabbing rebounds.
12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky
Alexander went from a player who was not on NBA radars to Kentucky’s best player and a lottery talent by the end of the season. The 6’6″ combo guard has an incredibly smooth game, with a large array of offensive moves and great defensive ability. He doesn’t have elite athleticism and has a thin frame and although he shot the three well in college, it was on low volume. Gilgeous-Alexander is a serious player with the potential to be a dominant player on both sides of the ball.
13. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
Knox is a fluid athlete with a smooth jump shot. His creating ability is solid but nothing special and the same can be said about his defense. Knox’s game isn’t particularly flashy but he is a very skilled player with three and D specialist written all over him.
14. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri
Putting Michael Porter Jr. this low on my board will certainly surprise some but I feel at this very moment this is a good spot for him. Porter is a prolific scorer with top three talent in this class but his injury issues make him a big risk high in the draft. Porter says he is healthy but his play at the end of the season and his no-show in combine physicals tells me otherwise. Until I see Porter play like his former, explosive self, I cannot justify putting him any higher on this board.
15. Zhaire Smith, G, Texas Tech
As a player who was not a top 100 recruit entering the season, Smith exceeded everyone’s expectations and is firmly in the lottery discussion. His unique skillset as a wing player makes him a very enticing NBA prospect. Smith isn’t advanced as a shot creator or passer but his other skills make up for it. He is a capable shooter when open but Smith’s calling cards are his rebounding and defense as a guard. Smith is a high motor player and is the best shot blocking and offensive rebounding guard in the nation. This class is loaded with defensive wings but Smith’s potential could have a team taking a chance on him in the lottery.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.