NBA Draft

Redrafting 2018’s First 10 Picks

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The 2018 NBA draft produced plenty of players who made an impact right away. Luka Dončić and Trae Young are both projected to start in this year’s All-Star game, and plenty of other sophomores are making huge impacts on their teams.

Still, hindsight is almost always 20/20. Looking back on the draft, teams can now admit to the mistakes that were made and reassess their choices. This redraft isn’t simply ranking the best players from the draft It takes other aspects of the game into account, such as fit, rosters (at the time) and ability to win — not just shine.

This redraft also negates any draft-day trades that took place. That means the infamous trade between the Hawks and Mavericks won’t take place and the 76ers will hold on to their 10th pick.

So without further ado, here are the selections.

1. Phoenix Suns – Luka Dončić

Luka Dončić was a star from the moment he entered the league, earning 98 of a possible 100 first place votes for Rookie of the Year (Photo by Alonzo Adams)

Original Selection: Deandre Ayton

When the Phoenix Suns made their first overall selection, it was already known that they would draft Deandre Ayton. After an impressive season at Arizona where he averaged 20.1 points per game (PPG) on 63.5 percent shooting from inside the arc, he was a strong candidate for the first overall pick. His offensive prowess paired with his rebounding excellence made Ayton one tempting pick.

But looking back, the decision isn’t difficult to make. Luka Dončić has quickly become one of the best players in the league. He’s currently second in the West in All-Star voting (first among guards) and has made his way into the MVP conversation.

Dončić can do everything. He’s part of the new generation of guards who have range and size. He’s big enough to work in the post and score tough buckets in the paint, but he can also handle the ball with the best of them. He brings the ball up the floor a majority of the time he’s on the court, meaning he starts almost every possession for the Mavericks.

He can hit acrobatic step-back jumpers and finish inside with focus and consistency. He’s shooting 55.9 percent from inside the arc this season, which draws defenders more often than not. That opens up passing lanes to the outside, which is how he records a handful of his third-ranking nine assists per game (APG).

Dončić is proving himself to be a once-in-a-generation type of player early in his career. His talents lead you to believe he could succeed anywhere, which makes him an easy first overall pick for the Suns.

2. Sacramento Kings – Jaren Jackson Jr.

Original Selection: Marvin Bagley III

Jaren Jackson Jr. has quickly blossomed into a quiet star in Memphis. His second season in the league is proving far superior to his first, which was still good enough to earn him All-Rookie First Team honors. His scoring has jumped a full four points so far this year, currently averaging 17.8 PPG.

It’s not just that he’s scoring more, but it’s how he’s doing so. He’s become a more efficient shooter from beyond the arc. His 3-point percentage has jumped up to 40 percent — an impressive mark for any player, let alone a second-year big man.

In addition to his blossoming offense, Jackson plays stellar defense. In his rookie season he posted a 107 defensive rating (an estimate of how many points a player allows every 100 possessions). Former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green has recorded defensive ratings of 105, 106 and 108 in his past three seasons. If Jackson can continue his solid work on that side of the ball, he’ll soon be one of the best two-way bigs in the league.

Trae Young is arguably a better player than Jackson, but the Kings had only rostered De’Aaron Fox for one year at the time. They weren’t ready to commit to another young guard, and Fox was showing plenty of promise. A big man was the way to go, so passing on talent for fit makes sense for the Kings here. It could be argued that drafting Young and trading Fox for a different big would be the way to go, but it would be difficult to get great value from Fox so early into his career.

3. Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young

Trae Young currently leads all guards in the Eastern Conference in All-Star votes this year. (Photo by Brett Davis)

Original Selection: Trae Young (fifth overall)

The Hawks had a need at point guard at the time of the draft, and already seemed fairly sold on Trae Young — so much so that they traded down two spots for him. With Dončić gone but the need for a point guard still present, Young is still the perfect pick for Atlanta.

Young had a slow start to his career, but blossomed during the latter end of his rookie season. Since then, he’s been a star. In a loss to the Rockets this past week, Young put up 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the Hawks’ first 40-point triple-double.

That game wasn’t a surprise. Young has been balling out all season, proving that he’s not just a future star of the league, but a star now. He rose to All-Star status almost immediately and leads all guards in All-Star voting in the East.

Young’s shooting makes him a threat from deep. The moment he crosses half-court he becomes dangerous. What’s especially assuring about his shooting, though, is that it’s become more efficient despite garnering more attention. His three-point shooting has jumped five percent from last season, and his shooting from the floor is up three percent as well.

He can get it done inside as well. Young has an innate ability to finish through contact and from tough angles. He has a knack for pinning defenders on his back before taking a floater or finishing his drives to the rim. Defensively he still has plenty of room to grow, and his size sets his ceiling a bit lower than most prospects. Still, his abilities on the offensive end are too good to pass up. Young at three is a no-brainer.

4. Memphis Grizzlies – Deandre Ayton

Original Selection: Jaren Jackson Jr.

With Jackson Jr. off the board, the Grizzlies’ need for a big man doesn’t go away. Mike Conley was still running the backcourt so there was no need for a point guard, and no off-ball guard was strong enough to be taken this high. That leaves Ayton, arguably the best big still on the board.

In his first season Ayton was the best of the rookies beyond superstars Young and Dončić. He has yet to hit a 3-pointer, which is against the grain of most up-and-coming bigs these days, but his inside game is tough to bet against. Ayton shot 58.8 percent from inside the arc in his rookie season, and in seven games this year he’s shooting 53.8 percent from the same area.

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He’s made improvements defensively, but the sample size is still small for this year given his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Ayton looks like he’ll be a dominant presence in the post for a long time. His footwork and ability to shoot over defenders with minimal effects are skills too valuable to pass up on here for the Grizzlies.

His defense is concerning, but at the time of the draft Marc Gasol was still on the roster. One of the best defensive bigs of the past decade, Gasol could mentor and teach Ayton how to perform on both ends of the floor. A big concern with Ayton was work ethic, but Memphis would be a perfect spot to work out those issues. The “Grit n’ Grind” saying in Memphis would surely have affected Ayton, as would Gasol, making him a great selection for the Grizzlies.

5. Dallas Mavericks – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is quietly becoming one of the best young guards in the NBA. (Photo by Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Original Selection: Luka Dončić (third overall)

At the time of the draft, the Mavericks had two point guards on the roster. They were Dennis Smith Jr. and J.J. Barea. Smith Jr. was showing some signs of progress, but he was a player that could be replaced. With Young and Dončić off the board and the need for a ball-handler, Gilgeous-Alexander would be a perfect pick at five for the Mavs.

Gilgeous-Alexander blossomed during his rookie season in LA with the Clippers. He showed flashes of potential on both ends of the floor, and this year he’s turning that potential into reality. He’s averaging 19.8 PPG — 10 points greater than last year’s figure — in a starting role in Oklahoma City this year. It’s not just that he’s scoring more — he’s doing so in a variety of impressive ways.

Gilgeous-Alexander is a tough finisher who can take contact and go up against contests with confidence and grace. He finishes well at the rim, but he can take his game outside as well. He shot 36.7 percent from 3-point range last season, proving himself to be capable of finishing off drive-and-kick plays. This year he’s starting to create his own shot more, which is encouraging growth from a young star. He’s become a staple of Oklahoma City’s rebuild.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and possessing a 6-11 wingspan, Gilgeous-Alexander already has a leg up defensively on most other guards in the league. His size and length give him advantages when it comes to contesting shots and poking the ball free when needed. His effort on the defensive end is inspiring and somewhat rare among young players, and the Mavs would benefit from all of these traits.

6. Orlando Magic – Mitchell Robinson

Original Selection: Mohamed Bamba

The Magic are still waiting for Bamba to develop into the player they expected when they drafted him. The product of Shaka Smart’s coaching from Texas, Bamba has been a bit slow to adjust to the league. His rebounding and defense have been impressive in his limited role, but the Magic could have got more at six.

Mitchell Robinson, who has also been playing a limited role, has impressed since nearly day one. His stock fell after he decided to train for a year rather than play in the NCAA like most prospects. Still, he’s surpassed all expectations since entering the league.

Robinson has wowed fans with his shot-blocking ability, but he’s a solid defender beyond just blocks. Robinson has great footwork on the defensive end. He knows when to time a jump in order to contest a shot to the best of his ability, and his decision making has been impressive for such a young player.

Offensively, Robinson is limited but effective. In his 22 minutes per game this season, he’s averaging 10.1 PPG. It’s not astonishing by any means, but he’s doing so on 70.9 percent shooting. Robinson takes smart shots, but more importantly, he doesn’t take bad ones.

With a solid starting center like Robinson, the Magic could have moved All-Star Nikola Vučević for more talent to surround their younger players with, along with potential picks.

7. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr.

Original Selection: Wendell Carter Jr.

With Marvin Bagley III still on the board here, it makes this selection a little tougher for the Bulls. Both are solid young players, and both have different strengths. Both are able to face up and attack the basket with athleticism and flashy finishes.

Carter Jr. is a solid post up player as well. He’s great at feeling out his defender and using superb footwork to get himself an open look from the post. He’s a capable passer as well, and when defenses collapse on him he’s able to kick to an open teammate to keep a possession alive rather than forcing a shot or committing a turnover.

His mid-range game is solid and he’s even capable of stepping out to hit the occasional three. His three-point shooting needs a good amount of work, as he’s shooting just 21.4 percent from beyond the arc, but he showed promise in college. If he works on developing that shot, he could become a much more well-rounded modern big man.

Carter Jr. is a great compliment to Lauri Markkanen, who the Bulls have committed to long-term. They seem invested in his development, and Carter Jr. could help with that development. His presence in the post opens up shooting opportunities for Markkanen, who likes to take shots from long range. Carter’s ability to rebound the ball on offense — 3.5 offensive rebounds per game — helps create more possessions for his teammates as well.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III has missed significant time in his young career, but has shown plenty of promise when he’s on the court. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Original Selection: Collin Sexton

The Cavaliers have been in disarray ever since LeBron James left, and this pick had potential to start moving the franchise in the right direction. Somebody who could really do that for the Cavs is Marvin Bagley III.

Bagley is a versatile offensive big man. He has the athleticism to be a threat rolling out of a screen toward the basket. He can explode toward the rim with quickness and finesse that’s tough for defenders to stop. His shooting touch makes him a solid option on a pick-and-fade as well, as he can spot up from the mid-range and knock down a jumper if needed.

His speed and athleticism make him a threat on the fast break, and his effort is rarely lacking. The biggest concern so far with Bagley has been his health. He’s played in 71 of a possible 120 games, but if he can stay healthy he could progress at a much quicker rate. He still has a high ceiling, making him a safe bet for the Cavs.

What’s better for Cleveland is that he plays power forward, the same position as Kevin Love. With all of the rumors floating around about Love’s happiness in Cleveland, having a young, up and coming power forward would help. The Cavs could move Love and know they have a young, up-and-coming power forward to step into the starting role. They wouldn’t have to hunt for another in a trade, and Bagley would have already had a year learning under one of the better power forwards in the NBA.

9. New York Knicks – Collin Sexton

Original Selection: Kevin Knox

To be frank, the Knicks had a need literally everywhere in this draft. Collin Sexton was maybe the best player left at this point, and he showed promise on both ends of the floor.

Of the remaining players in this draft, only a select few have played as much as Sexton. In his rookie year, Sexton experienced a slow start but eventually came around and earned All-Rookie Second Team honors. The edge Sexton has on Devonte’ Graham is his age. Sexton might not be as complete a player this season, but he has three years to catch up to or surpass Graham, and it seems likely he can.

This year has been quiet for Sexton, but he’s still producing on solid levels. His 18.5 PPG on 45.1 percent shooting are both improvements on his numbers last year. The biggest concern is his three-point shooting, but shooting is one of the most teachable traits in the NBA. Not everybody has what it takes to play in New York, but Sexton has the right mentality for it. He can handle the pressure, and his work ethic would pay off in the long term.

It’s hard to believe that Sexton won’t be able to match his three-point shooting numbers from last season — an impressive 40.2 percent — at some point in his career again. This year he’s shooting a lowly 30 percent on the same amount of attempts per game, which is concerning. With better players around him — guys like Marcus Morris, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett — he could start to get some better looks from the floor and make some strides in his passing game.

10. Philadelphia 76ers – Kevin Huerter

Original Selection: Mikal Bridges (traded for Zhaire Smith)

The 76ers haven’t gotten much use out of Zhaire Smith since he was drafted. He came into the league banged up and has appeared in just six NBA games, spending all of this season in the G-League so far.

What the 76ers could really benefit from is more shooters, which is exactly what makes Huerter a smart choice. Huerter has been a consistent shooter from the moment he entered the league. He shot 38.5 percent on threes last season, and is shooting 38 percent this year. He’s able to knock down threes on spot ups, coming off screens and off looks he creates himself. He’s already established himself as a strong part of Atlanta’s young core.

Huerter is an underrated ball-handler as well. He’s a patient player who finds clever passing lanes when he’s on the court. He waits for plays to develop and makes smart decisions rather than rushed ones. He could facilitate in times when Ben Simmons is off the floor, and he could create more space in the paint for Joel Embiid.

Adding Huerter to the roster would benefit the 76ers in almost every way. His 6-foot-7 frame as a combo guard gives him an advantage in most defensive scenarios and fits the 76ers theme of height. Huerter would be a great fit in Philly.

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About Jared Penna

Jared was born and raised in central Massachusetts and is currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Currently writes for TLSM's Celtics Lead branch.

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