TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT! Coverage of the NBA Draft, at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, begins at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.
This Draft marks the end of a quarter century-long era, as lottery rules will change in 2019. Here is the NBA’s release on the changes, but the TL;DR is that the bottom 3 teams will each possess a 14% shot at the first pick. The revamped system is meant to eradicate tanking, but it appears as though the incentive to lose is not going to fully disappear any time soon.
If you’re a NBA fan (even of the Heat or Raps, who would need to trade in to secure a pick), you should absolutely be paying attention this Draft. It’s incredibly deep, and teams are going to be able to find legitimate value at every pick.
In lieu of my usual verbose offering, below is a somewhat curtailed Big Board for you to laugh at. I’m sure you’re analysis-ed out at this point anyway.
MO BAMBA (1) / TEXAS
With top 3 talent, a 7’10’’ wingspan, and the most upside I’ve seen in a prospect since my Draft obsession began in 2013, Bamba is one of my favorite prospects ever. He’s the best defensive big in the group by far, and the premier defender overall.
Others behind him will probably contribute and produce quicker than he does on offense (especially Ayton, Bagley, and Young), but three years from now, Bamba will be the crown jewel of this crop, by miles.
Seriously, that wingspan. It’s unfathomable. Like trying to visualize the length of the megalodon, it’s impossible until you actually see it. I’VE SEEN BOTH.
JAREN JACKSON (2) / MICHIGAN STATE
An already polished 3-and-D (all the way out to the perimeter) center and shot swatting extraordinaire at just 18 years old, JJ was not far behind Bamba when I put all my research and notes together. I can’t find anything at all to criticize here.
DEANDRE AYTON (3) / ARIZONA
Ayton is the Draft’s best boardsman and has an absurd amount of athleticism for his monstrous size, but I’m a sucker for ceilings, and I think his is considerably lower than Bamba’s or Jackson’s.
His commitment and skills on the defensive end are a question mark, as well. He’s going to score a lot...but he’s also going to surrender a lot of points.
MICHAEL PORTER (4) / MISSOURI
A healthy back away from the #2 spot, the 6’11’’ natural scorer runs in transition like a veteran NBA guard. Porter possesses one of the most beautiful jumpers I’ve ever seen in a prospect and that appears to be true in all shooting scenarios.
LUKA DONCIC (5) / SLOVENIA
I didn’t do my usual deep Euro dive this year, so I’m just trusting the hype here and marveling at these facts: he’s basically a 6’8’’ combo guard and won the EuroLeague and EuroLeague Final Four MVP at 18 years old.
ZHAIRE SMITH (6) / TEXAS TECH
I loved watching this kid. The best athlete, and tied with Jackson for the second best defensive prospect in the Draft, Smith is a 6’5’’ guard who averaged 5 rebounds (2.2 offensive) and 1.1 blocks per game while defending Gs, as well as Fs. Basically, whoever was the other team’s best player.
For a UK-centric comparison, Wenyen Gabriel led UK in blocks per at 1.1 and no other Wildcat averaged over 1. He also would’ve been second on the squad in offensive rebounds per game, behind Jarred Vanderbilt.
Smith is not yet a great shooter, but epitomizes “above the rim” on the offensive end.
MARVIN BAGLEY (7) / DUKE
Bagley is an elite athlete and the class’ best scorer, but he doesn’t protect the rim or give much effort on defense and doesn’t have a natural positional fit in today’s league. He is young enough to address those issues, though, and the athleticism will help there.
SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER (8) / KENTUCKY
As everyone here knows, I love me a combo guard with length, and he has that — 6’6’’ with a 7’ wingspan. Already one of the more instinctive and skilled defenders in this group, and despite his athleticism limiations, those type of measurements should allow him to guard three positions in the NBA. And as we know, he’s adept on offense, as well, especially as a finisher.
I don’t expect him to win any awards in his NBA career, but it will be long and he will be a difference maker.
TRAE YOUNG (9) / OKLAHOMA
He’s deservedly here (and will get drafted much higher than tenth) because of his outrageous offensive college production (27.4 points per game, 8.7 assists per, 28.3 PER/37.1 USG%), which did trail off as the season progressed and other teams seemingly figured him out. He’s also tiny (6’2’’, 180#), a defensive question mark, and needs to get stronger.
Still, a 19 year-old putting those numbers up in the Big 12 and dragging a team that was expected to win 10 or so games into the NCAAT is absolutely worth a top 10 pick.
KEVIN KNOX (10) / KENTUCKY
Knox, a versatile combo forward, showed last season that he’s more than just an extremely young and tall shooter. He was often able to penetrate and finish through contact. And that lovely shot...he knows how to set his feet and the high release allows him to shoot over most defenders. I’d also rank KK top 3 in this group as far as upside (behind Bamba and Smith).
WENDELL CARTER (11) / DUKE, LONNIE WALKER (12) / MIAMI, COLLIN SEXTON (13) / ALABAMA, MIKAL BRIDGES (14) / VILLANOVA, MILES BRIDGES (15) / MICHIGAN STATE, TROY BROWN (16) / OREGON, JEROME ROBINSON (17) / BOSTON COLLEGE, JOSH OKOGIE (18) / GEORGIA TECH, ROBERT WILLIAMS (19) / TEXAS A&M, KHYRI THOMAS (20) / CREIGHTON
NEXT SIXTEEN (No Order): Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky), Chandler Hutchison (Boise State), Gary Trent (Duke), Devon Hall (Virginia), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Elie Okobo (France), Melvin Frazier (Tulane), Omari Spellman (Villanova), De’Anthony Melton (USC), Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky), Grayson Allen (Duke), Dzanan Musa (Bosnia), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Mitchell Robinson
Okay, I’d put Diallo in the 28-32 range and Vanderbilt in the 33-35 range. I have a higher opinion of both of them than most.
Enjoy yourselves and keep it crunk, but keep it positive.