Mark Bacon—Main Event DC
The mock drafts are now irrelevant. No more talk of wingspan, upside, medicals, or trade rumors. After months of speculation, the 2018 NBA Draft is in the books. Thursday’s first two picks went as expected: Phoenix selected DeAndre Ayton and Sacramento picked Marvin Bagley III. Then things got wacky: Atlanta picked Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic, but shipped him to Dallas for Trae Young and a 2019 first-round pick. The surprises didn’t stop there. Michael Porter Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV plummeted. Others, like Jerome Robinson and Troy Brown, shot up the charts.
Until Summer League commences July 6, fans will scrutinize their teams’ picks. Here is my take on the five best and five worst picks of the 2018 draft.
5. Khyri Thomas, No. 38, Philadelphia 76ers (sent to Detroit)
Most mock drafts had Thomas going in the top 20. Suitors may have been scared off by his age (22) and low level of competition at Creighton, but the film tells the story of a guy who will flourish in the NBA. Thomas, 6-foot-4, is perhaps the best shooter in the draft; he hit more than 40 percent of his three pointers. He’s also a strong athlete. Thomas finishes well at the rim — remind you of someone with a similar first name? But defense is his best attribute. He was a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Sixers looked wise for the pick, but they flipped Thomas to Detroit.
4. Robert Williams, No. 27, Boston Celtics
Williams’ fall, like that of Thomas, was stunning; I foresaw him going in the lottery. A 6-foot-9, 240-pound big who spent two years in College Station, Williams is a force at the rim. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game for Texas A&M this season. Williams needs to improve on the offensive end, but he’s a tremendous athlete and he’s efficient in the mid-range. In other words: he’s exactly what the Celtics, who already have ample shooters, need. He’ll do the dirty work, snag rebounds, and protect the bucket. Williams could transform into a better version of Marcus Morris.
3. Grayson Allen, No. 21, Utah Jazz
Allen will be ready to contribute immediately, which is perhaps part of the reason Utah selected him. During his four years in Durham, he was one of the most polarizing players in America. Some love to hate him. He hits all the benchmarks, however, for a modern NBA guard: he’s athletic, he can shoot, he plays hard on defense, and he’s versatile. The Jazz won’t need to rely heavily on Allen, as their backcourt is set with Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell. With the pressure off, Allen, 22, should flourish in Quin Snyder’s system. Oh, and it seems Mitchell was thrilled with the pick.
2. Jacob Evans, No. 28, Golden State Warriors
LOVE this pick; no wonder they’re the Champions. Evans is a perfect fit for the Warriors; if he can improve his shooting, he could turn into Andre Iguodala 2.0. Iggy loves taking young wings under his, well, wing, and you can expect he’ll do the same for Evans. Evans, a first-team All-AAC selection, is built powerfully. The 6-foot-6 swingman can play multiple positions, and he excels on defense. He had 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game for Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati team this season. He’ll slide in beautifully alongside Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw. The Warriors have said they’re looking to get younger going into next season — adding Evans to the rotation just makes sense.
1. Michael Porter, Jr., No. 14, Denver Nuggets
Even a few days ago, it seemed the Kings were considering Porter at the No. 2 spot. It was stunning to see just how far he fell. Porter, the top player in his class, likely would have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft if he were allowed to make the leap from high school. He went to Missouri, however, and a back injury and subsequent surgery ruined his draft stock. Porter could have been either a terrible or tremendous pick. The risk/reward at No. 14 makes this a wonderful pick for the Nuggets.
5. Chandler Hutchison, No. 22, Chicago Bulls
Hutchison only worked out for the Bulls, so this pick seemed like a foregone conclusion. The senior is the first first-round pick in Boise State basketball history. The Bulls need help on the wing — Denzel Valentine hasn’t panned out — but one has to wonder why Hutchison was hesitant to work out for other NBA teams. A 6-foot-7, 200-pound swingman, Hutchison is an intelligent ball player; he knows where he should be on the court. But his shooting isn’t reliable. He hit only 32.3 percent of his jumpers as a senior, and he doesn’t shoot well off the dribble. He’s already 22, so you also have to wonder how much his shot can improve.
4. Troy Brown, No. 15, Washington Wizards
Brown shot up draft boards late in the process. He isn’t a strong shooter; he hit only 29.1 percent from three-point range for the Oregon Ducks this season. He is a high flier, but he doesn’t have the best explosiveness or quickness. Though Brown has good size (6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan) and a strong feel for the game, a lot of question marks follow this pick. He needs to fix his shot to justify the Wizards picking him in the middle of the first round, particularly with Zhaire Smith still on the board. Ernie Grunfeld ought to be shown the door, frankly.
3. Jerome Robinson, No. 13, Los Angeles Clippers
I like Robinson, who made first-team All-ACC and was an honorable mention All-American. He was an effective scorer in all three of his seasons at Boston College, and he runs the pick and roll and shoots well. My issue with the pick, however, is that Porter was still on the board. The Clippers are hitting the reset button, and this would have been a perfect time to take a risk on a potential superstar. Instead, the Clippers picked another player who can handle the ball after trading for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Robinson is an average athlete; Porter is a potentially transcendent one.
2. Aaron Holiday, No. 23, Indiana Pacers
Holiday emerged at UCLA this season, as the Bruins lost Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, and T.J. Leaf to the draft. In their wake, Holiday averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game and shot 42.9 percent from three. Holiday, however, is a mediocre athlete, and he’s only 6-foot-1. Thus, it’s difficult to imagine him breaking out as a star at the next level. The Pacers should have gone in a different direction at No. 23 — perhaps with Khyri Thomas.
1. Josh Okogie, No. 20, Minnesota Timberwolves
I didn’t understand this one. A 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, Okogie is long and athletic, but he tends to play out of control. He also moves rigidly, without fluidity. Okogie’s basketball IQ and decision-making are questionable. He isn’t a natural point guard, and he’s undersized to play on the wing. He is a Tom Thibodeau-type player; Okogie plays hard, plays good D, and draws free throws. He should turn into a decent role player, and he’ll keep his coach happy, but No. 20 is early to take a role player, especially with guys like Evans and Williams still on the board.
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