With the upcoming free agency bidding war that is about to commence, it is easy to get lost in all the big name veterans that could be moving once July 1st hits. People get so lost in the LeBron sweepstakes, or if Paul George is staying in Oklahoma City or going to LA to join the Lakers, or if the Golden State Warriors are actively trying to ruin basketball that they sometimes forget about the draft. However, with this year having one of the deepest draft classes in recent history, as well as a wide range of intriguing skill sets, the 2018 NBA Draft is setting up to be a dynamite event.
For those who did not fully pay attention to the ENTIRE NCAA Division 1 basketball season (shame on you), do not fear. If you want to know who your favorite NBA team should pick so you can sound competent in discussions with your friends, this article is for you. This will be a quick cheat sheet for some of the top prospects for this year’s draft, containing their strengths and weaknesses.
DeAndre Ayton – Center, Arizona, Freshman
The 7’0″ center from the Bahamas may have the highest upside out of any of the prospects in this year’s draft. He has one of the most impressive physical frames that we’ve seen out of a draft prospect, but he amazingly still has room to fill it out and put on a significant amount of muscle. Even with his towering frame, he is also considerably agile and light on his feet, an attribute that would serve him well in today’s guard and stretch four-centered League. He possesses a delicate shooting touch similar to NBA centers Karl-Anthony Towns and Demarcus Cousins, with the ability to range out close to the three point line. He sometimes struggles with defense in terms of his instincts and low block rates, which is odd considering his high level of athleticism. Ayton will serve any team well. He has the potential to produce an elite two-way game.
Luka Doncic – Point Guard, Real Madrid / Slovenia
The Slovenian international is one of the three viable options for the number 1 draft pick, and he is the only one with actually professional basketball experience. While at Real Madrid past year, he was named the Liga ACB Most Valuable Player, the youngest person to win this award. He has an excellent vision with an amazing aptitude for passing. His surgical style of passing his helped by his size advantage at his height of 6’8″. His ability to score and rebound from the post is also very good due to his frame and the advantage it holds over other guards at his position. His jumper is a little slow: a quicker one would serve to make his already solid pick-and-roll game elite. HIs agility and athleticism could be drawback, as he is liable to get beat off the dribble on defense, and is not always able to turn the corner on the defender when on offense. If he is able to fulfill his potential, he could become a transcendent playmaker in the NBA.
Marvin Bagley III – Forward, Duke, Freshman
The latest signee for Puma (LOL) probably has the highest athletic upside out of all of the prospects. Armed with the frame of Kevin Durant and the lateral quickness of a young Amar’e Stoudemire, Bagley has the sort of scary athleticism that could turn him into an offensive force on the pick-and-roll. His ability to go up and get virtually any pass makes him a constant threat above the rim. He often takes advantage of his size due to his excellent interior scoring skills, mainly depending on his left hand, which makes him seem one dimensional. His lateral quickness helps him to be a solid perimeter defender, which will serve him well in the switch heavy NBA. On the other hand, he lacks the elite length and thickness to battle bigger bodies inside of the paint, which would put him at a disadvantage against the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Joel Embiid. He also struggles with his jump shot due to inconsistent shooting mechanics. This subpar shooting ability also causes him to struggle at the line; subsequently, he could be vulnerable to the Hack-a-Shaq strategy in the League. Bagley is guaranteed to be a high energy, high athleticism player that can compete on both sides of the ball.
Michael Porter Jr. – Forward, Missouri, Freshman
Porter may be have the biggest question mark attached to him, but it is not because of his actual game. The 19 year old came into college as one of the best offensive talents in his age group. He has a shooting stroke that is a sweet as silk, allowing him to score from pretty much anywhere on the floor. He has solid offensive intuitions, which serves him well as an off the ball player that can get open via cuts. Due to his off ball movement and his shooting ability, he is also able to get himself into position for catch-and-shoot 3s, which he can then drain with ease. He has a habit of settling for jumpers, leading to a shaky shot selection. He is not very physically aggressive, as he gets pushed around in the paint and refuses to initiate contact. He was also injured for the majority of his freshman year, due to back surgery. The injury concerns make it tough to predict where he gets drafted. He just cancelled a workout with the Chicago Bulls due to a hip strain and other body pains. If Porter can remain healthy, he has the chance to be an offensive weapon.
Jaren Jackson Jr. – Center/Forward, Michigan State, Freshman
Jackson is one of the youngest players in the draft, as he has not even turned 19 yet. However, is youth is not a deterrent as he could be one of the most reliable picks in the draft. His defensive ability as a shot blocker allows him to close on driving layups and cause the offensive player to adjust his shot. He can hold his on against guards and wing players, which makes him useful in a defensive scheme that utilizes switching in the pick-and-roll. He can finish well and is adept at spacing the floor. He is not the most physical player, which causes him to get bodied on rebounds when he attempts to box out. He can also get caught in the air when trying to defend in the post. Jackson has the potential to fill into a reliable two-way player, much like Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner.
Mohamed Bamba – Center, Texas, Freshman
Probably the only draft prospect to have a rap song about him (see: “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes), the Harlem native is one of the most exciting players in the draft. His scary combination of length and speed are tantalizing to many NBA teams. He broke the record for longest wingspan recorded at the NBA combine, totaling in at 7’10”, longer than Rudy Gobert and Kevin Durant. He also recorded one of the fastest three-quarters court sprint ever, recording a time of 3.04 seconds. To give you an idea of how fast that is, that is a faster time than Russell Westbrook, prime Dwyane Wade, and John Wall. He can cover ground in an instant, allowing to run the floor well. Once he gets down there, he can grab any pass due to his length and ambidexterity. His upside is very exciting, as he could become a defensive monster due to his length. On the other hand, he is not as strong as other post players, which will cause him to get pushed around in the paint. He is not technically sound in the post or in the pick-and-roll, which would hamper him unless he improves. Mo Bamba has one of the best names in the draft, and the potential to be an elite defensive stopper that can be an exciting finisher on the offensive end.
Trae Young- Point Guard, Oklahoma, Freshman
For about a month during this season, Trae Young looked like the best shooter in the NCAA since Steph Curry. He is a sniper from deep, whether it be from a catch-and-shoot position or off the dribble. He is adept at finding his own shot, able to create space for his own shot due to his great handles and quickness. He is also a solid passer with a very good pick-and-roll game. It then seemed as though the bottom fell out on his season, as he struggled with efficiency and turnovers. His shot selection is questionable. He is careless with the ball, leading to a high turnover rate. His defensive ability is also lacking, in part due to his lack of size and strength. Trae Young could be one of the best shooters to come out of this draft, but he may be passed on due to his late season performance..
Collin Sexton – Point Guard, Alabama, Freshman
Collin Sexton is one of my favorite players in the draft. Remember when Alabama was playing 3 vs. 5 against Minnesota? Remember that they almost came back from an 11 point even while being at a 2 man disadvantage? The reason that they only lost by 5 was because of Sexton’s 40 point performance during that game. He is relentless finisher at the basket. He is able to past his defender due to his solid ball handling skills, and once he gets to the basket he will either finish or head to foul line, from which he shoots very well. On defense, he has the capability to mold into a lockdown defender due to his length and quickness. He sometimes chucks up wild shoots against defenders at the rim. His passes need to become more accurate in order to distribute at an NBA level. His high level of intensity can cause him to be one track minded during the game, but if he can channel it, he should be able to find a solid balance between scoring and passing.
Tune into the NBA Draft on ESPN on June 21st.