Another NBA Draft has come and gone. Some of my random thoughts:
I like Ayton. His body and game are reflective of a guy who works his ass off by himself in the gym, both in the weight room and on the court. I like the diverse offensive skillset: soft touch on midrange shots, hook shots over the left shoulder, spins along the baseline, finishing off of pick-and-rolls/pops, can pass out of double teams. Rebounds well, has an understanding of how to use swim moves to free himself up from being boxed-out. With that said, nothing really jumps out to me as “special” other than his athletic ability. Kind of is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none player right now; can score in a ton of different ways within the flow of the game but wouldn’t really trust him to get me two baskets in crunch time. Scores a lot less at the rim and catches many fewer lobs than you’d expect. Lacks defensive instincts and polish, though that’s natural for most 19-year-olds and not a big problem as long as they’re coachable and willing to improve (which I think Ayton is). I think he’s got a high floor, okay ceiling.
Marvin Bagley III
I’ve been following Marvin since his high school days at Sierra Canyon. I thought he’d develop into a fantastic college player, which he was, and I think he’s going to be a very good pro. The athleticism and finishing ability at the rim are undeniable. Great feel for spacing on offense, awesome lateral quickness and second-jumping ability. But what really makes him special is his offensive motor and mental toughness: I watched him play in the Drew League a few times when he was a high school senior against full-grown men/stars like DeMar DeRozan and this kid wasn’t scared one bit (though he did get schooled a few times). But again with many kids of his age, he gives less effort on defense than on offense. Not really a rim protector at all, doesn’t talk as much on defense as I’d like. Lacks general team play instincts on both sides of the ball (creating for others, passing out of double teams, rotating on D, etc.). Inability to shoot doesn’t really scare me too much; I like guys who are awesome at two or three things more than guys who are okay at a lot of things. Should walk into the NBA as a double-double machine. Reminds me a little of Kenneth Faried, but with a much higher ceiling.
I love Luka. This kid really knows how to play basketball. He’s improved so drastically in the past year. He’s smart, he’s tough, and he’s experienced. If you’ve played team basketball competitively before, you’ll understand what I mean when I say there’s an art to being a go-to guy in big moments in games that only comes with experience. Through pure trial-and-error you learn how to choose your spots, when to step up, when to lay off, what shots you’re comfortable with, what spots on the floor you want to get to, etc. A lot of NBA guys have the ability to be “the guy”, but very few can actually do it because they simply haven’t had the reps to know how to. A good example is Jayson Tatum in the 2018 Playoffs: at times, it seemed like everyone watching knew he was the best offensive option on his team except for him. That’s not a knock against Jayson; he’s amazing and will develop that knack soon. But at 19, Doncic already has it. Have you seen his game winner against Crvena Zvezda? He didn’t even celebrate afterwards. Just another play and another game for him. Let me make one thing clear though: I don’t think he’ll be a transcendental or all-time great player. The concerns about his lack of athletic upside are legitimate. But he’s also 6’8”, and size is something that cannot be taught or downplayed. He’s an improved shooter, far from a great one. But he just understands the game so well that I simply cannot see this kid failing to be a solid player in the NBA for a very long time. He’ll be ready from day one.
I hate to say it, but on the scale from Steph Curry to Trey Burke, Trae Young seems much more like the latter to me. First of all, can we just stop comparing guys who shoot/make a lot of threes to Steph? Steph isn’t just by far the best shooter the world has ever seen, he also has no holes at all in his offensive game. Unbelievable handle, can get to any spot on the court whenever he wants, brilliant playmaker/passer, one of the most magical and skilled finishers in the history of basketball, amazing athlete (do you know how tiring it is to run around and still be effective through double-teams, off-the-ball contact, and gameplans drawn up specifically to stop you?), an overall basketball savant. He’s also a legit 6’3”, a special teammate and leader, and a very technically sound defender. Trae Young is not those things. I think he’ll struggle to create space and finish at the rim consistently in the NBA (might just struggle to score efficiently in general). With that said, the kid can definitely shoot, he’s tough and smart, and by all accounts a super hard worker. And he’s 19, so maybe he’ll grow a few more inches, bulk up a bit, and develop as a scorer and make me regret what I’ve said about him. I hope that happens, but I don’t see it. Low floor, okay ceiling. Probably an eventual third guard/fringe starter in the NBA.
The Atlanta Hawks
I’m not quite sure what the Hawks are doing. The team is awful and they had the No. 3 overall pick. At that draft position, you HAVE to go for a guy with either tremendous upside or a very high floor who’s guaranteed to contribute above average value to your team from day one. They traded away a guy who fits at least one of those criteria (Luka) for a guy who fits neither of them (Trae). But they did later add Huerter, who I do like and honestly might become a better pro than Young, and Omari Spellman, who could develop into a solid end-of-the-rotation role player.
Michael Porter Jr.
The former #2 ranked player in his high school class is a tough one to evaluate because of the complications regarding his health and body. Back surgery is no joke. Porter’s physical tools are ridiculous, and he has a very fluid offensive game that combines his size and length with comfort as a ball handler, shooter, and finisher. But I’d pump the brakes on the Kevin Durant comparisons; Michael is far from the shooter and natural scorer KD was. He also settles a lot for the outside shot; that seems to be his go-to offensive weapon. When it’s not falling, he really struggles to score. Not a great creator either, pretty predictable with the ball in his hands. There are flashes of tremendous potential, and if he can develop a more consistent game on both sides of the ball he can be a very solid 3-and-D wing. But I definitely don’t see anything close to a superstar here despite the obvious gifts, and I think the teams that passed on him because of his medical history really dodged a bullet. Low floor, okay ceiling, maybe a smoother/better Skal Labissiere (and that’s not a compliment).
The Sacramento Kings
Speaking of Michael Porter Jr., it was reported by Marc Stein (NY Times) that the Kings strongly considered using the No. 2 overall pick to take Porter Jr. Then he and his NBA comparison Skal would’ve been on the same team! This makes me incredibly confident in my prediction that Michael won’t be as productive in the league as advertised.
I watched a lot of Villanova in the past two years for college basketball betting purposes. Donte is one of those guys that I’ve always looked forward to coming into the game because you know he’s going to make an impact somehow, whether it be a few timely jumpshots, a big offensive rebound/defensive play, or an energizing finish at the rim. He’s not a player you can build around or rely on consistently game after game, but he understands his role and performs it well. There are flashes of Dwyane Wade in him (obviously he’s far from the player Wade was and is) so he’s exciting. We know what he can do in big games; this is a kid I’d love to go to war with. He’d be a great third guard on a deep winning team, like I could see him averaging 8/2/3 in an NBA Finals series.
I really like this kid. He can really shoot. He’s much more athletic and dynamic of a scorer than your typical 6’7” white wing player. He really gives effort on defense. Kevin kinda reminds me of a younger Klay Thompson if Klay couldn’t shoot as well but could actually dribble, create off the bounce, and finish at the rim. That’s all I got on Huerter, but I think he’s going to be a lot better than what most people think and be around for a long career.
All the annoyingness and tripping incidents aside, you can’t deny that Grayson cares about winning. He’s competitive, he plays his heart out, he’s aggressive, and he gives a fuck. He’s also one of the most awkward athletes in the draft, like when he moves I feel like every part of his body is going in a different direction. I don’t think he’s a great shooter, I don’t think he’s a great scorer, and I don’t think he’s a great playmaker. But he’s solid enough at everything and he’ll work hard enough to be on NBA rosters for at least a few years.
I’ll admit to have never watched Wagner play before the start of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. I don’t see a lot of upside in him at the next level, but I was really impressed by how hard he played when the stakes were high. The effort level he gave going after rebounds, scoring in the post, and hard-hedging way out to damn-near half-court on every pick-and-roll run against him before sprinting back into the paint to recover to his man in the Final Four was really inspiring.
The one thing I will never understand with drafts is why teams are so enamored with youth and potential even in the face of high bust potential in the 20th – 40th pick range. In my opinion, that’s the best time to snag more experienced college juniors and seniors who have proven to be solid basketball players who can contribute to an NBA rotation from day one. Brunson is a can’t miss prospect to me; he’s so absurdly smart, savvy, and skilled with high intangibles. Kinda reminds me of Mike Conley, though whether or not he has that high of a ceiling is to be seen. It’s also really cool that a 6’2” guard like him had such a polished post game in college.
The Dallas Mavericks
What a draft. Rick Carlisle wasn’t lying when he said the Mavs want to win now. They added two guys who can contribute right away (Luka and Jalen) who will fit perfectly with their system, and now have a legitimate 8-man rotation. Prediction: the Doncic / Young trade will be spoken about in ten years like the Dirk / Robert Traylor trade. Can’t wait to see what other pieces they pick up come July 1st.
The 22-year-old Carter has played for Press Virginia for what seems like a lifetime. I’ve bet on his teams many times, and the growth in his game over the years is apparent. He’s the new-age Tony Allen, a gritty, tough, elite defender at the point guard position who also developed into WVU’s primary scorer. Very underrated as a ball-handler, passer, and shooter. Great rebounder at just 6’2″. Jevon will be in the league for a long time.
Best Top-10 Pick: Luka Doncic
Worst Top-10 Pick: Trae Young
Largest Bust: Michael Porter Jr.
Biggest Steal: Jevon Carter