The 2018 draft came and went. The next generation of NBA stars has had their fates decided tonight for the near future. Some teams drafted exceptionally well and some teams didn’t do as well. Let’s get into this article, detailing my draft grades for each NBA team.
(Miami and Toronto didn’t make a pick.)
Picks: Trae Young, PG Oklahoma (R1P5)
Kevin Huerter, F Maryland (R1P19)
Omari Spellman, C, Villanova (R1P30)
The Atlanta Hawks clearly had a plan in this draft. They were clearly looking to add floor spacing to this roster and did so with all three of their picks. They traded down from three to five and still got their guy, Trae Young, and nabbed a future first in the process. If they stayed put and drafted Luka Doncic, this draft would be an A+. However, Young is an excellent consolation prize and a supreme talent. There are questions about his defense and shot selection but his strengths outweigh his weaknesses. Young is an elite shooter, passer, and ball handler who runs the pick and roll very well and has great touch on his passes and runners. With this pick, the Hawks will certainly trade Dennis Schröder.
Kevin Huerter may be the best pure shooter in the draft, with elite footwork and shot mechanics. He is also a creative scorer with an underrated handle. He provides valuable floor spacing for Trae Young, who is an excellent playmaker. They round out the first with Omari Spellman, an excellent shooting big who brings great energy. Combined with John Collins and Taurean Prince, the Hawks are building a very nice young core.
Picks: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M (R1P27)
Danny Ainge is a GM wizard. We all know this. Knowing Ainge, we would expect him to pull off an amazing trade to acquire top picks. To the surprise of some, Ainge stayed put and only picked once. To the surprise of nobody, a steal fell into his lap. I am, not as high on Williams as most others but still believe he went too late. He is exactly what the Celtics have been missing. A mobile, defensive-oriented big who catches lobs. Sure there are questions about his effort and attitude but if any coach can bring that out of him, it’s Brad Stevens. This pick was a steal and I have no doubt that Williams will be making an impact for Boston during his rookie season.
Picks: Dzanan Musa, F, Cedevita (Croatia) (R1P29)
Rodions Kurucs, F, FC Barcelona Lassa (Spain) (R2P40)
The Nets continue to make the most out of their limited draft capital. They picked the Bosnian wing with a pension for buckets. Musa is a creative scorer, a great shooter, and a fluid athlete. He isn’t a defender or an exceptional athlete and his effort is suspect. The Nets will certainly find ways to make use of the scoring forward. The Nets expect to buy out Musa’s contract and bring him over in his rookie season. They got a good value out of Kurucs, who at one point was looked at as a first-round talent. Injuries and lack of minutes have hurt his stock but he is still a scoring threat. He’s a prime draft and stash candidate for Brooklyn.
Picks: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State (R1P12)
Devonte Graham, PG, Kansas (R2P34)
Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky (R1P45)
Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Lithuania (R2P55)
Miles Bridges in an interesting option here. He is an explosive athlete, a great rebounder, and a solid shooter but his upside isn’t immense. I would expect a rebuilding Charlotte team to go after a higher upside player like Zhaire Smith, Michael Porter, or keeping Shai Gilgeous Alexander. Graham is a savvy veteran point guard who shoots well, is a good playmaker, and plays hard on defense. Diallo is an excellent athlete with little basketball ability and Kulboka is a one-dimensional scorer who likely stays in Europe for a while.
Picks: Wendell Carter Jr., PF, Duke (R1P7)
Chandler Hutchison, F, Boise State (R1P22)
The Spurs did an excellent job sticking to their board. They didn’t bite at the bait of Michael Porter Jr. dangling in front of their faces. Instead, Chicago made the smart, right pick, drafting Wendell Carter. He isn’t a flashy athlete but Carter does everything you want in a modern day five-man. He shoots very well from outside (41.3%), is a great rebounder, has an advanced post game, and uses his strength to defend well inside. Carter compliments Lauri Markkanen well, being the inside presence to counter Markkanen’s perimeter play.
They also drafted Hutchison with the most predictable pick of the draft. A fringe lottery talent, Hutch doesn’t really have any weaknesses. He shoots three-pointers, attacks the rim, passes, rebounds well, and plays good defense. He should be a starter right away in Chicago.
Picks: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama (R1P8)
This pick tells me that Cleveland is preparing for life after LeBron. If they really expected James to stay in town, an elite shooting and defensive wing like Mikal Bridges makes too much sense. If LeBron leaves, Sexton has what it takes to lead an NBA team. He is the ultimate competitor and has an immense passion for the game. His quickness and speed will be an asset on offense and defense. Sexton attacks the rim well and uses his pull-up jumper to keep the defense off balance. His three-point shot isn’t all there yet but being the main guy in Cleveland should help his development.
Picks: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid (Spain) (R1P3)
Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova (R2P33)
Shake Milton, G, SMU (R2P54)
Taking the best player in the draft will automatically earn you high marks in my book. They had to give up a future first to acquire Doncic but the price is well worth the player in my opinion. Doncic is a Euroleague MVP and European Champion, who has played better competition than any college prospect. The 6’8″ guard is a gifted passer with impeccable vision and gets enough zip on his passes to make any on the floor. He is three-point shot was inconsistent but his mechanics are great and he’s a fearless scorer.
He isn’t the quickest but is a creative ball handler, a good post scorer, and has great touch on his runners. His lateral quickness will hold him back but Doncic competes hard on defense, something that can’t be said for many of his other peers. I can’t wait to see Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. take the floor together and develop as one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
They added the National Champ Jalen Brunson in the second. He’s a tough, fearless guard and an excellent leader. He shoots the ball well, is a good ball handler and passer, and is a tough and pesky defender. He should find himself taking the backup point guard job right away for the Mavs. Shake Milton is a long, 6’6″ guard who shoots well and has plenty of upside as a scorer and defender. The Mavericks came away with an incredible haul in this draft that sets them up for the future.
Picks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri (R1P14)
Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky (R2P41)
Thomas Welsh, C, UCLA (R2P58)
This is absolutely the most tentative “B” grade I will ever give. Michael Porter Jr. fell further than most expected, to Denver at 14. If fully healthy, this will be the steal of all steals. The 6’10” forward who averaged 36 points in high school is an elite scorer from everywhere and an explosive athlete. However, his back and hip injuries have zapped his athleticism. If he can return to form, this could go down as one of the best picks if ever. If not, this will be a waste, as there was plenty of talent like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV available.
I like Jarred Vanderbilt quite a bit. He is an excellent rebounder and athlete but has been injured in his freshman year and is very raw. If he can reach his potential, he could complement Nikola Jokic very well. Thomas Welsh is a three-point shooting center who could be a floor spacer but will see time in the G-League early.
Picks: Bruce Brown, G, Miami (R1P42)
Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton
The Pistons made two solid draft selections in the second round, adding two tough, defensive-minded wings. Brown has been sidelined with injuries but when on the floor is a tough player. He defends well, can score inside, and is a solid playmaker. Thomas, who many expected to go in the first round, is a tough defender and a good three-point shooter. Both players should be good role players for Detroit.
Golden State Warriors
Picks: Jacob Evans, F, Cincinnati (R1P28)
The Warriors nabbed another defensive wing at the end of the first. Golden State will need to find value in rookie contracts if they want to keep their core intact. Evans should play a substantial role for the Warriors in his rookie season. He is a strong, tough defender and an excellent spot-up shooter. Evans isn’t great at anything but does a bit of everything.
Picks: De’Anthony Melton, G, USC (R1P46)
We haven’t seen much of Melton due to the FBI scandal that cut short his sophomore season. Yet, he is a long, tough guard who defends very well. He has shown flashes of a three-point shot and has a polished offensive game for someone his age. With Trevor Ariza being a free agent and Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson on the block, Melton could see minutes on the wing for this Houston team looking to make another deep playoff run.
Picks: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA (R1P23)
Alize Johnson, PF, Missouri State (R1P50)
The Indiana Bruins had another very good but quiet draft. Adding to the Bruin duo of T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, Holiday steps in as a valuable piece. The 6’1″ point guard isn’t very athletic or lightning quick but he brings everything you need in a point guard. He is an excellent shooter, drives to the rim well, is a creative scorer, and an elite ball handler. He has playmaking ability as well. Holiday makes use of his 6’7″ wingspan to make a big impact on defense as well. Touted by some to eclipse his brothers Justin and Jrue, Aaron Holiday could find himself starting in year one. Alize Johnson is an intriguing forward who compares to Jimmy Butler coming out. He shoots well and has an overall advanced offensive game. He should spend time in the G-League but could become a valuable role player for Indiana.
Los Angeles Clippers
Picks: Shai Gilgeous Alexander, G, Kentucky (R1P11)
Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College (R1P13)
The Clippers did an excellent job acquiring Gilgeous-Alexander, who some touted as the best point guard in this class. He is long, a creative scorer, and a talented defender. His upside is through the roof and could become a star in Los Angeles. The Robinson pick was a reach but he is undeniably a potentially elite scorer who reminds me of Devin Booker a tad. He is a great shooter, gets to his spots and is a very good athlete. Robinson isn’t a playmaker and doesn’t defend well and there was better talent on the board at 13. Still, Los Angeles did a good job loading up on guard talent here.
Los Angeles Lakers
Picks: Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan (R1P25)
Isaac Bonga, F/G, Frankfurt Skyliners (Germany) (R1P39)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, G, Kansas (R2P47)
Magic and Pelinka didn’t make any super flashy picks here but got some guys with role player potential. When adding max players, teams need to make use of rookie contracts to fill out the roster, which the Lakers are clearly trying to do. Wagner is a questionable athlete, a poor defender, and rebounder with great offensive upside. He is a great shooter, has good touch around the rim, and even has an advanced off of the dribble game for a big. Bonga is a 6’8″ point guard with intriguing vision. The Lakers will likely stash him for a few years in Germany. Svi is an excellent shooter with a bit of an offensive game as well.
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Picks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State (R1P4)
Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia (R1P32)
The Grizzlies stayed true to their culture in this draft. Out of all of the top big men, Jackson may be the best defender out of the lot. He is an excellent rim protector and shot blocker, a mobile big who has shown some switchability on the perimeter. He has shown flashes of a three-point shot, despite his wonky mechanics, and has shown some post ability. Still, he is raw but has a very good mentor in Marc Gasol. I worry he will be forced to play the four like he did in college. Center is his best position.
In the second round, they took Carter, who may the best defensive guard in the draft. He fits Memphis’ “grit-and-grind” nomenclature to a tee. He will guard you 94 feet and shut down opposing guards like he did to Trae Young. Carter is a solid shooter and playmaker, making him an ideal backup point guard for Mike Conley.
Picks: Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova (R1P17)
Milwaukee made the Final Four star their only draft selection of the night. DiVincenzo is absolutely fearless: an elite leaper who attacks the rim well. He shoots the lights out and competes hard on defense. He provides shooting, length, and wing depth for this Bucks team who was 48 minutes from upsetting the Boston Celtics. DiVincenzo could see himself finding starter minutes early in Milwaukee.
Picks: Josh Okogie, G, Georgia Tech (R1P20)
Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State (R2P48)
The Wolves have had major issues on the bench, with three-point scoring, and defense. Okogie is a bit of a reach in my eyes but he should be an important piece on the Timberwolves’ bench. He is an aggressive, athletic defender with flashes of a three-point shot and a budding offensive game. He should provide valuable defense on the wing where Andrew Wiggins is severely lacking. Keita Bates-Diop is one of the steals of the draft, with many projecting him to go in the 20s. The Ohio State senior averaged 19.8 points per game and scores all over the floor. He shoots the three well and finishes strong at the rim. He is also a competent rebounder and should provide valuable bench minutes in Minnesota.
New Orleans Pelicans
Picks: Tony Carr, G, Penn State (R1P51)
The Pelicans traded their first-round pick for Nikola Mirotic, using their only pick on Tony Carr. The 6’5″ guard has flashed immense scoring potential with his three-point shot and great athleticism. He could find himself in a bench role this season in New Orleans.
New York Knicks
Picks: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky (R1P9)
Mitchell Robinson, C, USA (R2P36)
The Knicks drafted the all-around wing from Kentucky in the top 10. Although this was a bit of a reach for my board, the pick makes a lot of sense since he was the best pure scorer left. The Knicks needed a second scorer to compliment Kristaps Porzingis and get a wing who can defend and run in transition. He is a fluid athlete and should shoot at a high level. Knox should start immediately on the wing and make a big impact for New York, despite what their fans have to say. Mitchell Robinson, who was a top 20 prospect on my board, fell to the second round. He left Western Kentucky to prepare for the draft and hasn’t been able to show himself against top competition. Still, he was highly rated coming out of high school and could fit well next to Porzingis as a Clint Capela lite.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Picks: Devon Hall, G, Virginia (R2P53)
Kevin Hervey, F, UT Arlington (R2P57)
For a team whose only two picks were in the 50s, the Thunder did a very good job attaining value way down in the draft. Hall is a very good three-point scorer and a solid defender, playing for the tough Virginia Cavaliers. He provides valuable spacing and defense on a team with Russell Westbrook. Hervey projects as another great three and D player in the NBA. The mid-major star is a good scorer and three-point shooter, a good passer, a rebounder, and a solid defender. He projects as a valuable role player for the Thunder who will look to conserve as much cap as possible.
Picks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas (R1P6)
Melvin Frazier, F, Tulane (R2P35)
Justin Jackson, F, Maryland (R2P43)
My only gripe with this draft is that the Magic didn’t nab a number one option but in every other area, the Magic did a stellar job. They landed Mohamed Bamba at six, which could be a steal. His near eight-foot wingspan should allow him to be a defensive impact player early. With more development and knowledge of rotations and weak side positionings, Bamba could be a perennial defensive player of the year candidate. If he can gain any offensive ability, he could reach superstardom. Him and Jonathan Isaac help form an anchor for an excellent defensive team. Frazier was a first round talent in my eyes: a pure three and D player. He improved every year at Tulane and is a freak athlete. Jackson has major injury concerns but could be a solid NBA scorer if he can recover.
Picks: Zhaire Smith, G/F, Texas Tech (R1P16)
Landry Shamet, G, Wichita State (R1P26)
Ray Spalding, PF, Louisville (R1P56)
Kostas Antetokounmpo, F, Dayton (R1P60)
Simply, the 76ers draft perplexes me. They had their guy, the hometown kid Mikal Bridges fell to 10, who fits like a glove in Philly. Yet, they gave him to the Suns for nothing but a 2021 first round pick from Miami to sweeten the deal. Zhaire Smith is a very good player, don’t get me wrong. His athleticism, rebounding, shot blocking, and offensive potential could give him a higher ceiling than Bridges. However, this move shouldn’t be made by a team looking to win now. They reached for Shamet, who I had a second-round grade on. He is an elite shooter but there were better players available who fill very similar roles. Spalding is a solid developmental big and Giannis 3.0 doesn’t resemble his brother by much. I’m not sure what the GM-less 76ers were doing here.
Picks: DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona (R1P1)
Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova (R1P10)
Elie Okobo, G, Pau-Orthez (France) (R1P31)
George King, F, Colorado (R1P59)
I can’t remember the last time a team has dominated the draft like the Suns did. I wish they’d have picked Doncic first but Ayton was close behind on my board. His physical presence, offensive polish, and defensive potential are extremely enticing. Next, on McDonough’s domination checklist, they fleeced the 76ers for Mikal Bridges. He’ll bring floor spacing and defensive toughness to this Suns team. He and Josh Jackson will be able to defend any wings in the NBA in due time.
Elie Okobo is another first-round talent and the second best foreign prospect in this class. His pull-up jumper is a cannon and opens up his game. He isn’t a great defender or playmaker but has an elite scoring ability and is a great athlete. George King even has a chance to make an impact; a big, strong wing with a smooth three-point stroke. Combined with their cap space, this draft sets Phoenix up for the next decade of basketball.
Portland Trail Blazers
Picks: Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy (HS) (R1P34)
Gary Trent Jr., G, Duke (R2P37)
I’m not really sure about the Anfernee Simons pick. The 6’4″ combo guard isn’t really a defender or a playmaker but is a very good shooter and overall scorer. Does this mean the Blazers will be trading Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum? I understand Portland drafting highest upside but why not take a wing like Dzanan Musa or a big like Mitchell Robinson? I do like the Blazers acquiring Trent. He has the shooting, scoring ability, size, and athleticism that NBA teams covet in a wing. He could get minutes early in his career, maybe even before Simons does.
Picks: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke (R1P2)
I know I’m going to get flack for this grade. I understand the upside with Bagley. He has a relentless motor, is a great rebounder, has elite athleticism, and shoots the three well when he’s open. However, I don’t think he’s skilled offensively. Besides good touch around the rim and a lefty hook, Bagley doesn’t have much. He isn’t a great passer, doesn’t have any advanced footwork or moves down low, and was atrocious when shooting threes contested or from NBA range.
Not to mention, he isn’t a rim protector and struggles to defend the pick and roll. If Bagley focuses more on his game and less on his mixtapes, he could be a star. Still, I don’t love the fit here and the Kings are historically awful when it comes to player development. If I were the Kings, Luka Doncic is a no-brainer pick. He doesn’t need to develop as much and will make everyone around him better. Bagley has to compete for minutes with Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein. I hope Bagley proves me wrong but for now, I see him disappointing a bit during his rookie season.
San Antonio Spurs
Picks: Lonnie Walker IV, G, Miami (R1P18)
Chimezie Metu, PF, USC (R1P49)
The Spurs always find a way to find steals in the draft and this year is no different. This draft may be the most important one in years since Kawhi Leonard is likely out of town. Walker is a top 10 talent in my eyes. His athleticism, three-point scoring, body control, acrobatic finishing, and defensive potential will be great for the Spurs. If any team can turn Walker into a star, it’s San Antonio. He and Dejounte Murray could form a very good backcourt duo in due time. Not to mention, they added Metu late, a high energy big with good offensive potential.
Picks: Grayson Allen, G, Duke (R1P21)
Vince Edwards, F, Purdue (R2P52)
Grayson Allen can definitely score the basketball but picking him was a reach for me. His great shooting and offensive repertoire are enticing but I don’t see him ever being more than a volume scorer, like Lou Williams. His defensive woes and character give me worries. He seems very similar to Donovan Mitchell as well. The Jazz could have taken Aaron Holiday, who was sitting right in their lap. They will likely lose Dante Exum and Ricky Rubio has likely peaked. I just don’t see the value here. Edwards is a solid, smart wing with a solid three-point shot and a versatile game.
Picks: Troy Brown Jr., G, Oregon (R1P15)
Issuf Sanon, PG, Ukraine (R2P44)
I like Troy Brown as a prospect quite a bit. He isn’t overly athletic and doesn’t shoot the three well. He is, however, a good defender, a creative and tough scorer and a good playmaker. I don’t see the fit in Washington. He will be a solid role player on the bench for Washington but can he coexist with John Wall? The Wizards had talented, shooting wings sitting right there like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker. They had athletic, high upside bigs to take like Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. This pick is a miss for me. They took Sanon in the second, a slashing, defensive oriented guard. He will likely be playing overseas or three or four years until Washington can bring him over.
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.