The 2018 NBA Draft is in the books, and several young basketball talents are now set to embark on their journeys in the professional basketball world. While the lottery ping pong balls determine the order of selection, the real lottery is the actual draft itself. We won’t know who truly hit the jackpot until we see the picks take the court in the NBA, but here is my recap of who won and who lost draft night based on talent, pick value, and team situations.
The Favorite Selections:
Collin Sexton, 1.08, Cleveland Cavaliers
While he certainly has room to grow and improve, Collin Sexton is a gifted talent and showed off his ability to score at a high level in his only year of college at Alabama. His collegiate statistics included averaging 19.2 points per game, shooting nearly 45% from the floor, and over 33% from three-point range. Sexton wasn’t the most talked-about point guard in the draft, thanks to the presence of Trae Young, but in terms of NBA potential, the newest Cav is a mile ahead in my book. With the well-documented departure of Kyrie Irving, Sexton is in line to be the next great young point guard in Cleveland, and perhaps an immediate face of the franchise if LeBron James moves on this offseason.
Lonnie Walker IV, 1.18, San Antonio Spurs
Hands down the winner of NBA Draft hairstyles, Lonnie Walker could wind up being the steal of the class on the court as well. A torn meniscus that was re-tweaked last season likely scared some teams away, but not the Spurs. Walker averaged 11.5 points per game and shot 34.6% from three in his only season at Miami. His brilliant shooting and ball-handling skills are bound to get even better as he enters arguably the best organization in the NBA when it comes to developing talent. The immediate future of Kawhi Leonard currently looms, but Walker is another capable young talent who will undoubtedly contribute to the next generation in San Antonio.
Aaron Holiday, 1.23, Indiana Pacers
Basketball is in the bloodlines of Aaron Holiday. His brothers Jrue and Justin are both current NBA players (with the Pelicans and Bulls respectively), while both of his parents and his sister all played at the Division I collegiate level. Aaron is now the latest Holiday to find an NBA home in Indiana. He comes off of his lone year of college ball, during which he averaged 20.3 points per game, 5.8 assists, and shot 42.9% from beyond the arc. The Pacers surprised many last season, as Victor Oladipo emerged as a budding superstar. The addition of Holiday gives Indy a lethal and youthful backcourt to continue building around.
Robert Williams, 1.27, Boston Celtics
The Clint Capela comparisons have already started. And while questions about Robert Williams’ work ethic are likely what dropped him all the way to the Celtics at Pick 27, he should have no trouble getting motivated to help build towards a championship. Williams played two seasons in college at Texas A&M, averaging 11.1 points per game. But his greatest impacts (at least initially) will be felt on the defensive end. Williams averaged 2.5 blocks and 8.7 rebounds per game in college, and he is very fast and athletic at 6’9” and 237lbs. The offensive game will come, but being a floor-running rim protector will only add to what the Celtics have in place for 2018-19.
Keita Bates-Diop, 2.18, Minnesota Timberwolves
I cannot believe how far Keita Bates-Diop fell overall in this draft. A four-year college player at Ohio State after losing the majority of his junior season to injury, Bates-Diop had easily his best season back healthy in 2017-18, averaging 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and a 48% field goal percentage, along with 35.9% from three. At just 190lbs, I would like to see him add bulk to fill out his 6’7” frame, but the Timberwolves are getting a terrific talent for a bargain with this mid-second round selection. In today’s small-ball NBA, I could see future lineup sets with Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler and Bates-Diop all on the floor together around, say, Taj Gibson at the 5.
The SMH Selections:
Trae Young, 1.05, Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas Mavericks)
I don’t like to hate on any athlete who works hard, but I just don’t see much of an NBA future ahead of Trae Young. He was probably right to come out after just one year of college and ride the wave of hype that the first half of his season generated, but it sure didn’t last. The 27.4 points, 8.7 assists, and 36% shooting from beyond the arc all represent how much Young is capable of. But when teams began to send double teams at him, both Young’s and Oklahoma’s seasons went south. The end result for me was proof that Young cannot be “THE guy” for a rebuilding NBA franchise. He is listed at 6’2” and 180lbs, which has drawn plenty of comparisons to Stephen Curry (6’3”, 190lbs), but the Hawks certainly don’t present a ready and waiting Warriors-esque offensive system for him to thrive in.
Jerome Robinson, 1.13, Los Angeles Clippers
In three seasons at Boston College, Jerome Robinson had no trouble proving he could score the basketball. His career averages sat at 17.7 points per game and a 45% field goal percentage. Robinson’s junior year offered his best statistics, as he checked in with 20.7 points, 3.3 assists, and shot 48.5% from the field. While he is not a sexy choice, he certainly is capable of being a solid NBA player. I am shaking my head at the pick because I think he went way too high at 13th overall. Given the talent that was still on the board when the Clippers pulled the trigger, L.A. fans had better hope the reach pays off.
Anfernee Simons, 1.24, Portland Trail Blazers
The talent is certainly there for Anfernee Simons. He spent his year between high school and the NBA playing at IMG Prep Academy in Orlando. This is the kind of move that only top talents can make and still go in the first round without any exposure. I don’t project a poor NBA career for Simons. Nor do I feel like he was drafted way too early at 24th overall. This is a shaking-my-head pick because I simply have no idea what the Trail Blazers are doing. Bringing in a 6’4” backcourt player is the last thing Portland should have done. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum already established stars, this team needs help at the small and power forward positions. Jusuf Nurkic is a fine center, but Portland can’t expect to take the next step with Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu starting at the 3 and 4.
Best Value for the Pick:
Michael Porter Jr., 1.14, Denver Nuggets
Entering the 2017-18 college basketball season, Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. was the overwhelming favorite to be the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. After a back surgery, appearances in only three games, and a canceled pro day due to a hip injury, there were significant health concerns surrounding Porter and all of the talent he possesses. Draft night reflected those concerns in a big way, as Porter nearly fell out of the lottery. Scooped up by the Nuggets at 14, Porter enters an offensively loaded lineup that includes Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. If he is indeed healthy, the Nuggets landed a talent that is almost never available halfway through the first round.
Best Draft Night Trade:
Mavericks Get: Ray Spalding (2.26), Kostas Antetokounmpo (2.30)
76ers Get: Shake Milton (2.24)
This trade closed the 2018 NBA Draft with a bang, and it is a winner for both teams, in my opinion. The Mavericks were really the wheelers and dealers of draft night, when you throw in their first round acquisition of Luka Doncic for Trae Young as well. The post-Dirk Nowitzki rebuild in Dallas got a big jolt from their final incoming draft class. Ray Spalding lands them their center of the future, and Kostas Antetokounmpo possesses 6’10” and 190lbs of extremely raw, but exciting potential, as he tries to become Greek Freak 2.0 behind his brother Giannis. In Shake Milton, the 76ers add depth on the wing that is essential to their continued upward movement in the Eastern Conference picture. Milton’s 18 points per game at SMU last season came on 44.9% shooting from the floor and 43.4% from three point range.