The ping pong balls have spoken and the 2018 NBA draft order is set. Now the real fun begins.
In the pre-draft hoopla, two names have separated themselves from the rest of the pack: Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton and Slovenian phenom Luka Doncic.
There is still plenty of talent after the pair, but expect the teams drafting from third and beyond to select a prospect based more on positional needs than simply the best available player — because that’s hard to determine with the class of ’18.
Here’s a first look at how the top 14 picks could go and what would make most sense for the teams involved:
Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia
There’s a strong argument to be made for choosing either Doncic or Ayton at No. 1. In Ayton, you get an absolute physical specimen — a seven-footer who can move bodies and boasts a 44-inch vertical, along with a growing set of post moves and fundamentally sound jump shot. Players like Ayton don’t come along often, and the Suns, despite drafting three big men in recent years, could use a mainstay on the low-post. But Doncic is a rare breed. As a teenager he’s proven to be an elite player among men during his time at Real Madrid and in international competition for Slovenia (where he was coached by new Suns hire Igor Kokoskov). At six-foot-eight he can play either guard position and would be a great fit in virtually any system — but the notion of pairing him with Suns budding star Devin Booker is too good to pass up. Ayton and Doncic are both stellar prospects, but it’s Doncic’s intangibles, and the potential for a Doncic-Booker backcourt that seals the deal.
DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
It’s hard to put much faith in the Kings front office to do the right thing, but they may have no choice but to make a good choice here. Ayton would give Sacramento a frontcourt star to build around and, for the first time in years, hope for the future. It can’t be overstated how much moving up from seven to second saved this team’s outlook.
Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State
There may be flashier, more-hyped players available, but Jackson is the logical choice given what the Hawks are working with. Approaching Year 2 of a total rebuild, Atlanta has needs across the board, but made a great pick selecting big man John Collins at 17th overall last year. Jackson can defend the rim and stretch the floor and would be a great complement. With Doncic off the boards, there is no backcourt player worth taking over Jackson.
Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke
Bagley put up big numbers in college but saw his draft stock drop slightly during the NCAA season — not a knock as much as a means to point out that he was pegged as a No. 1 pick coming out of high school. With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on the books for the next few …read more