2018 Big Board v. 1


This is not a prediction of who will get drafted where. These are my pre-draft rankings. They are subject to change. This is @Dubey23’s Big Board . . . there will be plenty more draft content to come!

     1. DeAndre Ayton – Center – 7’1”, 260 lbs     

            Bahamas / University of Arizona

Putting DeAndre Ayton at the top of my board felt like a no-brainer. This isn’t a slight at Doncic, just a realization of the landscape of the league. When a big man comes around who can dominate inside like Ayton, and has the potential to stretch the floor, NBA teams will always value that prospect above all else.

Ayton dominated while at Arizona, averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game and was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.  Only 4 freshmen have ever averaged 20 & 11, one of them was also this season, the other two were Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley – also during the same season.  In addition to controlling the paint, Ayton attempted one 3-pointer per game, and shot 34% from beyond the arc for the season.  His 73% at the free throw line is a good indicator that his shooting stroke can be the real deal.

Whether or not Ayton is drafted first will depend on the results of the May 15th draft lottery.  The consensus is that it will be either him or Doncic.  I’m not sure you could go wrong either way.

     2. Luka Doncic – Guard/Wing – 6’8”, 220 lbs     

            Ljubljana, Slovenia / Real Madrid

Luka Doncic is probably the most questioned prospect in this draft. Generally, his validity as an elite prospect is most often questioned by those who haven’t seen him play or researched him in any real way. Because, the closer you look the more there is to like about this kid.

The 19-year old is already in his fourth season of professional basketball in Europe.  He has improved each year, and this season was third in scoring in the Euroleague. Luka’s combination of shooting touch and ball skills project towards a career as a point or combo guard.  He just keeps growing, though, and at 6’8″ should enter the league with legitimate positional versatility.  Doncic’s potential is through the roof, and rightfully has many NBA teams excited about his entry in this year’s draft.

     3. Marvin Bagley III – Forward – 6’11”, 234 lbs     

           Tempe, AZ / Duke University

There is going to be a team that loses the lottery and ends up picking 3rd or 4th who will be extremely grateful to see Marvin Bagley III still available.  Even in this loaded lottery, it seems odd that Bagley isn’t drawing much consideration for the top spot.  As mentioned above, he is one of only four freshman to ever average 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The majority of his stats are directly comparable to Ayton.  Bagley blocked less shots, but shot and made more 3-pointers.  His ability to shoot from outside, feels like to me, almost flying under the radar.  I’ve heard scouts rave about Ayton’s ability to stretch the floor at his size, as well as the next guy on this list – Jaren Jackson Jr.  Bagley is also able to put the ball on the floor and make plays driving to the basket, using athleticism that is, at least for now, a step above the other guys. I won’t be surprised if Bagley is ultimately the most talented big from this draft class.

     4. Jaren Jackson Jr. – Forward/Center – 6’11”, 243 lbs     

            Carmel, IN / Michigan State University

Jaren Jackson Jr. has seen his stock rise the most over the last couple of months.  Despite Michigan State’s disheartening performance in the NCAA Tournament, Jackson’s amazing potential stands out.  The first NBA player that comes to mind when looking at Jackson’s collegiate career is DeMarcus Cousins. Like Boogie, Jaren played just over 20 minutes per game and struggled most games to stay out of foul trouble.  Also, similar to Cousins, Jackson put up ridiculous offensive statistics in those limited minutes.

The key difference between those two, however, is that Boogie didn’t shoot many three’s in college.  Jackson shot almost three 3-pointers per game, connecting on just shy of 40% of them.  He also averaged a ridiculous 3.0 blocks per game, 5.5 per 40 minutes or 8.1(!!) per 100 possessions.  As much as the NBA values 3 & D players these days, it comes as no surprise to see Jackson rising up teams draft boards.

Still, he projects to go only as high as 3rd or 4th.  Those top two are all but locked in.

     5. Michael Porter Jr. – Forward – 6’10”, 215 lbs     

            Columbia, MO / University of Missouri

Earlier I stated that Luka Doncic is the most questioned prospect in this draft; well, Michael Porter Jr. is right behind him.  And unlike Doncic, MPJ has much less recent gamefilm to show.  Porter suffered a back injury in the preseason that required surgery and led to him missing the entire regular season.  He returned to play in both the SEC and NCAA tournaments, though Missouri played just one game in each.

It’s not like we’ve never seen the guy play before, though.  He was the top overall recruit in 2017, ahead of Bagley and Ayton. This isn’t an all-encompassing signifier of his potential, but gives a realistic reflection of just how highly scouts thought of him.  His size and skill-set reminds me some of Ben Simmons. Simmons is more athletically dominant, right now, but Porter Jr might already have a better jump shot.

MPJ will almost certainly be drafted in the top 10, we’ll know more as the draft order works itself out.

     6. Collin Sexton – Point Guard – 6’3”, 200 lbs     

            Marietta, GA / University of Alabama

The self-dubbed “Young Bull” is my pick for the top point guard prospect in this year’s draft.  Whether or not you agree, or think it should be Trae Young, is definitely debatable.  Both have legitimate potential at the next level.  I have Sexton higher, and I’ll tell you why.

Sexton has the tools to create his own shot, and uses his elite athleticism to produce points in the paint. He doesn’t need a ball-screen to beat his defender, and reminds me some of Malcolm Brogdon in that regard.  Sexton’s explosive first step and quick twitch athleticism give him legitimate star power at the point guard position in the NBA. Maybe Trae Young has a higher ceiling (although I’m not sure of even that), but Sexton definitely has the higher floor.

     7. Mohamed Bamba – Center – 7’1”, 225 lbs

            Harlem, NYC, NY / University of Texas

Mo Bamba is a super-athletic, super-long rim protecting big; a commodity some believe to be going extinct in the NBA.  I disagree, respectfully.  Further, Bamba has shown an ability to shoot from 3, even if he didn’t shoot it especially well last season at Texas.  His 1.7 3PA per game at 27% isn’t going to wow anybody. But the fact that a 7’1″ center is comfortable shooting from out there is worth noting.

Bamba leads the bigs in this year’s draft class with 3.6 blocks per game (although, Jackson averaged more per minute played). His ability to elevate and protect the rim is currently his most redeeming quality for NBA scouts.  But he has the potential to be a legitimate star defensively, and his feel for the game is encouraging offensively as well.

Right now, he’s far beyond what Clint Capela or Rudy Gobert were when they entered the league; and those two are who I tend to picture when thinking of Bamba at the next level.

     8. Wendell Carter Jr. – Forward/Center – 6’10”, 250 lbs

            Fairburn, GA / Duke University

There were times this season, watching Duke, that I thought to myself that Wendell Carter Jr just might be the best pro prospect on the floor.  I witnessed Bagley’s greatness one too many times to stick with that bold prediction, but I still think Carter can be a stud in the NBA.

He averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, to go along with 2.0 assists and 2.1 blocks. Even though he worked primarily out of the post, he’s shown a diverse skill-set that suggest he could fit in at either the 4 or the 5 in the NBA. Carter attempted just 1.2 three’s per game, but connected on over 40% of them. He was near 75% at the free throw line all season, and his shooting stroke looks fluid.

There may be a few teams who regret passing on this kid, especially if he falls near the end of the lottery.

     9. Trae Young – Point Guard – 6’2”, 185 lbs

            Lubbock, TX / University of Oklahoma

Despite putting up historic numbers as a freshman at Oklahoma, Trae Young remains something of a mystery. He could be the next Steph Curry, or defensive deficiencies could relegate him to a Jimmer-like career path. Young might be drafted as high as 3 or fall to the bottom of the lottery.

Young’s statistics draw a lot of fanfare, and deservedly so.  But stat-inflation is real, and factors in at least a little bit when analyzing his past season.  27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game both led the nation, there’s no taking away from that.  The “but” is found in his 5.2 turnovers, 36% on 10+ attempts per game beyond the arc, and the overall high-volume of his shot selection. Still, 58.5 True Shooting Percentage is encouraging. And, considering he had the highest usage rate in the country, the turnovers don’t look as bad.

I predict some team in the top 7 will be afraid to pass on Trae, fearing they’ll miss out on a potential superstar.

    10. Mikal Bridges – Wing/Forward – 6’7”, 210 lbs 

             Malvern, PA / Villanova University

Mikal Bridges seemingly came out of nowhere this season to place himself firmly within this year’s lottery. It’d be easy, and lazy, to attribute his rise to playing on the best team in the country, alongside the National POY. But honestly, Villanova runs more pro-like sets than most schools, and Bridges’ ability to excel in their system should translate well to the next level.

As a junior, Bridges increased his scoring from 9.8 to 17.7 points per game.  He did so without a mammoth usage rate, and with a 65.5 TS%.  Bridges shot 43% from 3pt territory, on 6 attempts a game.  His potential as an elite 3 & D wing makes him a well-warranted lottery selection.

    11. Miles Bridges – Wing/Forward – 6’7”, 230 lbs

              Flint, MI / Michigan State University

I’ve seen the two Bridges back to back on quite a few player rankings sites.  Maybe because they play the same position, possess similar skill sets, and are both left-handed. Or maybe just because it’s fun to put two guys with almost exactly the same name next to each other.  It kind of is.

Miles was a likely lottery pick a year ago, and sits in relatively the same spot now.  His stats at Michigan State didn’t significantly improve; in fact, he saw slight decreases in his shooting percentages.  But regardless of that, he has serious talent and should be able to find a role in the NBA.

    12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Point Guard – 6’6”, 185 lbs 

             Hamilton, Canada / University of Kentucky

Gilgeous-Alexander has become somewhat of a trendy pick as the top PG in this class. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the top three.  Much like the five point guards to go in the lottery last year, these three are all locks to be top 14 picks, and I expect Shai, Trae, and Sexton to have impactful rookie seasons.

Shai found himself thrust into a larger role than anticipated during his freshman season at Kentucky due to the injury to Quade Green; and the 6’6″ true point from Canada did not disappoint.  For the year, he averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game.  He shot 40% from 3pt, on limited attempts; but 82% at the free throw line. Still, he’ll have to prove he can shoot at the next level in order to unlock the rest of his game.

    13. Kevin Knox – Wing/Forward – 6’9”, 216 lbs

             Riverview, FL / University of Kentucky

Kevin Knox is firmly in place behind the two Bridges’, and above the rest, as a 3 & D wing prospect. He had a fairly up & down season at Kentucky, with 10 games of 20+ points and 7 games in single digits. 34 points, 7 rebounds, and 5-8 from 3 in a win at West Virginia stands out; but so does 1-9 from 3pt in the NCAA tourney, and just 34% from behind the arc on the season.  He may take some time to develop in the league, but the potential is unquestionably there.

    14. Robert Williams – Forward/Center – 6’9”, 240 lbs

             Shreveport, LA / Texas A&M University

Robert Williams could have been drafted last year, but probably not mid-1st round like he will be this year. Despite posting nearly identical stat lines each of his two seasons at A&M, Williams has seen his stock rise. He’s super athletic, and will earn his way in the NBA by rebounding and blocking shots. He’s undersized to be a traditional center, but most teams don’t care about that these days. What he lacks in height, he makes up for with physicality and leaping ability. Look for him to possibly go at the end of the lottery.

    15. Khyri Thomas – Guard – 6’3”, 209 lbs

             Omaha, NE / Creighton University

Khyri Thomas has steadily improved each season at Creighton. Standing 6’3″ with a 6’10” wingspan, the 2-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year will easily grab the attention of scouts at the NBA Combine.  As a Junior, he averaged 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals and shot 41% from three. Not only does he compare very well physically to Donovan Mitchell, the two put up very similar numbers in their last year of college.

Khyri isn’t the same player, but the similarities will be too much for some team in the middle of the first round. If he falls much beyond the lottery, Thomas could be the steal of this draft.

    16. Zhaire Smith – Guard – 6’5”, 195 lbs 

             Garland, TX / Texas Tech University

Zhaire Smith spent just one season at Texas Tech, and didn’t even begin the year as a starter. He steadily improved throughout the season, and wowed at times. In the second round of the NCAA Tournament he put up 18 points 9 rebounds and 7 assists in a hard fought win. Zhaire has also caught the attention of NBA scouts with his 45″ vertical and 6’11” wingspan. He has elite athleticism, and a good feel for the game, and he’s only 18 years old (until next month).

Smith is another candidate to sneak up into the lottery.

    17. Gary Trent Jr. – Guard/Wing – 6’6”, 209 lbs 

              Apple Valley, MN / Duke University

Gary Trent Jr. is a nearly prototypical NBA shooting guard. His father, of the same name, played 9 seasons in the NBA, his final stop in the league was with the Timberwolves. Trent Jr. was a highly ranked prospect throughout his high school career, which included a 2015 FIBA Gold Medal with Team USA. In his sole season at Duke, he scored 14.5 points per game and shot 40% from three. His offensive game is ready made for the next level. His defense, however, left plenty to question.

He is expected to drop out of the lottery, but keep an eye on Minnesota at 20. Trent Jr.’s former prep teammate, and fellow Dukie, Tyus Jones currently plays for their hometown team.

    18. Mitchell Robinson – Center – 7’1”, 225 lbs 

             Pensacola, FL / Chalmette High School (LA)

Mitchell Robinson is a tough guy to scout, at least until the combine. A former top 10 recruit, he shocked most people when he committed to Western Kentucky University. But after he was suspended in the preseason, he ended up leaving the program and sitting out the season to train for the draft instead. It’s a bold move but could prove very beneficial.  He’s super athletic and finishes above the rim with ease.  As a prep player, he set Nike EYBL rebounding records. College or not, there is serious potential here.

If he’s still on the board by pick 18, I’d be surprised.

    19. Lonnie Walker IV – Guard – 6’5”, 205 lbs 

             Reading, PA / University of Miami

Lonnie Walker always kind of looked like he was better built for the NBA than college. His length and athleticism checks all the boxes for a 3 & D wing at the next level. College did expose some flaws in his game; he will have to learn to play more off the ball in the NBA. But he has all the tools and all the potential to be a highly successful role player on a good team. After initially testing the waters, he has now committed to enter the draft and signed an agent.

I won’t be surprised to see Walker get drafted before either Thomas or Trent Jr. He is rumored to be in the mix for late lottery-mid first round.

    20. Troy Brown Jr. – Guard/Wing – 6’7”, 216 lbs

             Las Vegas, NV / University of Oregon

Troy Brown Jr. flew somewhat under the radar his freshman season at Oregon. After being a highly touted recruit, the Ducks relative lack of success and Brown’s modest 11.3 points per game contribute to him not being mentioned in the lottery. The rest of his stat line should pop a bit though. 6.2 rebounds 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals give a glimpse at this kid’s great feel for the game.

Brown is one of the youngest players in the draft – he’ll be 18 until July. His instincts on both sides of the ball could allow him to earn minutes as a rookie similar to fellow Oregon alum Dillon Brooks in 2017.

    21. Chandler Hutchison – Forward/Wing – 6’7”, 193 lbs

              Mission Viejo, CA / Boise State University

Chandler Hutchison is another guy who tested the NBA Draft last year, and used the process to his benefit. Hutchison has said that the feedback he received from scouts and coaches was vital to the improvements he made during his senior season at Boise State. He averaged 20 points 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, but far surpassed even that a few times.  In January against San Diego State he poured in 44 points, shooting 7-10 from three point land. In his final collegiate game, he put up 39 points and 14 rebounds, on 11-17 from the field.

Late first round pick, upperclassmen with an NBA-ready offensive arsenal, the Kyle Kuzma comparison pretty much makes itself.

    22. Jalen Brunson – Point Guard – 6’3”, 190 lbs 

              New Brunswick, NJ / Villanova University

If Jalen Brunson were 19 years old, he’d be a bonafide lottery pick after the season he just had.  But because he’s 22 and coming off his junior year, it’s just not as flashy to NBA scouts. He should still be a lock as a first rounder, and could be the steal of this draft.

Everything about Brunson screams that he’s a pro. He has the lineage, his dad Rick played in the league and currently is an Assistant Coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has the size at 6’3″ to be a lead guard. And most importantly, he’s got the skill set. Named the Conference and National Player of the Year, with 18.9 points and 4.6 assists per game on the best team in the country, and he shot 40% from three. Jalen Brunson is the real deal, and should have a long career in the NBA.

    23. Moritz Wagner – Forward/Center – 6’11”, 245 lbs 

             Berlin, Germany / University of Michigan

Moritz Wagner flirted with the draft process a year ago, but is much more prepared for the next level now. Like many Michigan players who came before him, Wagner saw his stock rise by making a deep tournament run. It helped that Moe was playing some of his best ball of the season in March.

On the biggest stage, in the Final Four against Loyola, Wagner delivered with 24 points and 15 rebounds in a herculean effort to lead his team to the championship game. He scored 20+ ten times on the season, and shot just a smidge below 40% (39.4) from three.

Wagner has all the qualities that NBA teams are looking for in a stretch four. The resemblance between his resumé and that of Lauri Markkanen is uncanny. Both posted nearly identical stat lines in their final year of college (Markkanen only played one year). Wagner is just one year older.

    24. Keita Bates-Diop – Forward/Wing – 6’7”, 200 lbs

              Normal, IL / Ohio State University

Keita Bates-Diop wasn’t always expected to play four years in college. But, after an underwhelming freshman season, Bates-Diop has shown significant improvement and finishes his career as the Big Ten Player of the Year. He averaged 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and ended his senior season on a high note, scoring 24 or more points each of his last four games. Bates-Diop hit 4 three-pointers in each of Ohio State’s two NCAA Tournament games this year. He shot 36% from deep for the season.

His ability to stretch the floor and score from all three levels should attract some late-first round attention.

    25. Dzanan Musa – Guard/Forward – 6’9”, 195 lbs

             Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina / Cedevita Zagreb

Dzanan Musa is a 6’9″ forward with guard-like skills. He can handle the ball well, especially when pushing in transition. His shooting stroke is pure; and with his size combined with a quick release, he has no problem getting his shot off against pressure.

Dzanan turns 19 this month, and has already played three years of professional ball in Croatia. In his most recent season with Cedevita, in Croatia’s A1 Liga, Musa averaged 10.5 points per game coming off the bench. If he comes over right away this season, he’ll likely spend much of his time in the G League.

    26. Aaron Holiday – Point Guard – 6’1”, 185 lbs

             Chatsworth, CA / UCLA

After coming off the bench and playing behind Lonzo last year, Aaron Holiday proved more than capable of running the show for UCLA. He averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game, shooting nearly 43% from three and 83% at the free throw line.

Aaron has two older brothers that play in the NBA. Jrue is a point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, and Justin spent this past season as a primary starter on the Chicago Bulls. The night in – night out toughness and consistency that Holiday displayed this past season suggests that he will adjust well to life at the next level. He, like Brunson, could end up having a decade-long career as a point guard in the league.

    27. De’Anthony Melton – Guard – 6’4”, 190 lbs

             North Hollywood, CA / USC

De’Anthony Melton’s college career represents most of what is wrong with the NCAA. Melton would have been a sophomore this past season, but was deemed ineligible due to supposed benefits received by a family friend in relation to the ongoing FBI bribery investigation. The allegations did not purport that Melton knowingly accepted anything. Because he wasn’t allowed to play this season, he ultimately made the choice to withdraw from school and begin training for the draft.

Melton flashed plenty of potential as a freshman. His scoring average was modest, 8.3 points per game, but he routinely stuffed box scores in multiple categories. Physically, he fits the mold of an NBA guard. Teams picking near the end of the first round would be smart to consider Melton, as he likely wouldn’t have been available that late had he been able to play this season.

    28. Shake Milton – Guard – 6’6”, 205 lbs

             Owasso, OK / SMU

Shake Milton considered the draft process a year ago, but opted to return for one more season at SMU. Two of his former college teammate, Sterling Brown and Semi Ojeleye, went on to have successful rookie seasons; and may have paved the way for Shake to follow in their paths.

Like the two rookies mentioned above, Milton appears ready-made for a 3 & D role in the NBA. Given his length and versatility defensively, combined with three straight seasons which he shot over 42% from three, I’m convinced he’s ranked much lower than he rightfully should be.

He’s not the flashiest guy to pick in the first round, but for playoff teams picking outside of the lottery – Milton is the most likely to play an significant role on your team right away next season.

    29. Jontay Porter – Forward – 6’11”, 240 lbs

             Columbia, MO / University of Missouri

Jontay Porter was the #11 ranked player in the class of 2018 before he reclassified and joined his older brother, Michael Porter Jr, at Missouri. MPJ ended up getting hurt and barely played for Mizzou, while Jontay saw his NBA stock rise thanks in part to an increased role. He came off the bench most of the season, averaging 9.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 24.5 minutes per game.

Jontay ended the season strong. In the final week of the regular season, he put up 24 points 7 rebounds 6 assists and shot 4-4 from 3pt in a win at Vanderbilt. For the season, the shot just 36% from three; but exhibited a comfortability on the perimeter that is very encouraging for a player his size.

I predict that Jontay will join his older brother in being a first round pick of the 2018 NBA draft.

    30. Rodions Kurucs – Forward – 6’9″, 220 lbs

             Cēsis, Latvia / FC Barcelona

I had Kurucs as a first round prospect a year ago, before he withdrew from the draft. Unfortunately, he has not shown much since then to help his stock. Still playing for the same pro team, the now 20 year old Kurucs still hasn’t found his way on to the court consistently. Much of his hype revolves around the fact that he signed a multi-year contract with FC Barcelona, a premier EuroLeague club, at a young age.

The majority of his on-court success has come as a member of the Latvian Jr. National team, where he was able to display the skills to back-up his international hype. He might be considered too risky of a pick to make it into the first round this year, and may still choose to play overseas for a couple of years first.


About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks' supporter I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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