2018 NBA draft notebook

Alabama's Collin Sexton speaks to reporters during a media availability with the top basketball prospects in the NBA Draft, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Despite the last-minute posturing, media manipulation, and general over analysis, the 2018 NBA Draft has arrived. It is projected be experts to be an intriguing lottery and this a class with numerous distinctive and divisive prospects a bound. Still, it is largely considered a strong and deep class, far more so than the upcoming 2019 still over a year away. Here are some musings and blurbs on the various anticipated movers and shakers.

Deandre Ayton: It is seemingly a consensus Ayton will go No. 1 overall to the Phoenix Suns. The way he speaks and conducts himself strikes me as atypical to most aspiring pros (and not necessarily in a positive way). His talent, like his fame, is immense and whether he reaches his true potential as a top pick will depend on the infrastructure the Suns put around him more than anything else. Not really going out on a limb here, but I expect he will be very good. Top of the league, Finals MVP good? I am dubious.

Marvin Bagley III

It also appears to be a sound bet Bagley will go second to the Kings, should they stay put, in the second overall spot. He is getting assigned the label of “good stats, bad team” guy and his defense and measurables have been criticized to the extreme. They are valid concerns, but I like Bagley. You can find skeptics of his form, but I think in time his shot will work and he will be able to stretch out on offense, making him a weapon on that end of the court. Defensively the poor instincts and frame hurt, but Bagley is a gamer, and I think he will put the requisite effort in to become sufficient on the opposite end. He needs the right coaching, but I easily could see him surpassing Ayton as a player.

Trae Young Young really worries me. He really struggled down the stretch and it is accurately attributed to his lack of supporting cast. But the doesn’t carry water for me. If Young is to reach his potential as a Top 10 pick, he is going to need to be dynamic. He may not have to be the guy but at his apex, he is set to play in a role damn near close to it. He is diminutive, and I think uber athletic defenders can and will swallow him up. He is going to be hard-pressed to get his shot, and even if he is in a situation where others create spacing for him (which is no guarantee), can he be impactful enough to lead teams to victories? Plus, he is going to be absolutely hunted on the defensive end. Combine his getting picked apart with a projected inability to reach the level of prolific offense expected for him and I think Young has huge bust potential.

Michael Porter Jr. Speaking of bust potential, Porter Jr. oozes it. Bad back and hip problems scare the hell out of me, but I pray to the basketball gods, should they exist, he can embark on a healthy basketball career after the draft. I am sucker for confidence, even if his brashness crosses the line. Porter was elite in high school. He still has an elite body type, he can score at every level, there’s defensive potential and he clearly embraces being integral part of a winning effort. Porter was so talented that I think he was truly on the cusp of unseating Ayton and Bagley as No. 1 in their class. He is going to have to shake of a lot of rust and find his game, being in the right spot would be a good start, but I think if his health checks out he’s easily a future All-Star, Olympian, and NBA cultural figurehead for years to come.

The Bridges: I’m high on both. I do think Mikal has a limited ceiling, in fact I am very confident there will be a wing or three picked after him who have more notable careers. But there is a clear spot for him in the NBA. He is going to defend well, even if not as the primary guy, he will switch up and down with ease, he will make shots and he comes from a great program in terms of culture and IQ. He can play minutes in meaningful basketball. Will he ever be able to supersede the “3 and D” into a more prominent role? I don’t think so and in picking in the Top 12 or so I would be aiming higher. He’s arguably a better Khyri Thomas because of a way better frame and better shot, but in the end they will both be capable of executing similarly, so where’s the upside? I am higher than Miles Bridges, who seems likely to go between 8 and 15, than most draftniks. His lack of upside is a common refrain; he is pegged as a scorer leading the bench unit. If that’s his role, he’s going to kill it in my eyes. Just give him his Sixth Man of the Year awards now. Seriously, Bridges is a good athlete, compact, springy, and mobile, can shoot well and his solid defensively. I think he can be a very good starter somewhere. He  him. I look at his biggest purported deficiencies, length, defensive effort, and passing and see things that can all be overcome with time in the league.

Collin Sexton: I love Sexton. I’ll put my bias right out in the open: His swagger and his compete level have complete suckered me in. So maybe I’m blinded, but I just don’t see how Sexton isn’t a meaningful point guard. The shot, the basketball IQ, and defense aren’t there yet. But the attitude, the athleticism and the desire to be great are. Sexton, like Malik Monk a year before him, was a bucket getter. Monk struggled til late this year and I expect Sexton will do the same. But the difference is Sexton has been bred to be a lead ball handler, while Monk has pushed away. Guys like Sexton, with the ball in their hands, will find a way. So far, he always has.

Luka Doncic: I don’t really care that Doncic has put up unseen numbers for his age in the EuroLeague and ACB. Guys kill it in the NCAA all the time and flop as pros. If you are pointing out his production to prove his ability, it’s not enough. The questions I have are how much can he improve on these abilities and what if his NBA improvement is just meager? I don’t know what that player looks like, but I think it’s soild. Doncic as a very good NBA seems like a safe bet to me. If he cuts some baby and becomes a lights out shooter than he will be very very good. Super-duper star though? I am not there yet.

Quick(er) Hitters

Jaren Jackson Jr.: It’s an old and arguably irrelevant axiom, but JJJ will never be the best player on a title winning team. Does that matter to team in the Top 5? I think it should. I also think JJJ can easily be one of the best glue guys in the league. Hitting threes, switching everything and protecting the rim at an elite level. I would love him on my team, but not as my core building block.

Mo Bamba: The length and theoretical shooting are enticing, but I think even in his best form Bamba could never be the crux of a winning team and I don’t know he’s even going to reach that best form.

Wendell Carter Jr.: He’s going to be fine, but probably never more than that. It all depends on context for him and his future team. He’s low risk, low reward. For some that’s fine, others want more risk but more upside. Still the touch, the toughness, and the intellect bode well.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: SGA is very much a theoretical player. He needs to pack on weight, become a better shooter, and is expected to be able to cover some of the best guards in the league while running an offense. The reports are he works hard and he works smart which makes me want to like him, but I am scared the risk is higher than most think.

Kevin Knox: Hypothetically Kevin Knox is great for the “new” NBA. He is big enough to play small-ball four, create shots, make shots and just be a net positive on offense. The thing is he was simply underwhelming at Kentucky last year, and that team was begging for someone to takeover and carry them. Instead Knox crumbled more often than not. His skills may eventually translate, but I don’t think he can be a top of the line guy.

 

Buy or Sell

Buy: Jerome Robinson, Kevin Huerter, Donte Divincenzo, Elie Okobo, Dzanan Musa, Omari Spellman, Mitchell Robinson, Khyri Thomas, Shake Milton, Justin Jackson, Jalen Brunson, Jacob Evans III, Jevon Carter, Hamidou Diallo, Melvin Frazier

Sell: Troy Brown, Chandler Hutchison, Landry Shamet, Roberti Williams, Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop, De’Anthony Melton, Anfernee Simons, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rawle Alkins


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.