The 2018 NBA Draft is the biggest crapshoot in sports. We really have no idea what to expect from half of these picks other than the fact that only 4-5 of them will really matter at the end of the day. Part of the challenge is that we only really get to see these prospects for a few months. It’s also not like the NFL where gems are found often in the later rounds. The NBA Draft can be a life-changing event for the course of one or two lucky franchises. Then there’s a team that will be laughed at 6 months from now when we all say “how did they pass on him? haha”. After some head scratching and franchise-altering decisions, who were the biggest winners and losers from the 2018 NBA Draft?
Winner: Sacramento Kings
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I love the Kings draft. This is an organization that has bombed the draft over the years. Ben McLemore, Jimmer Fredette, and Nick Stauskas have haunted fans over the years. Even falling in love with bums like Buddy Hield was the epitome of the Kings organization. The Kings may have just entered into a changing of the guard. I love the fact that the Kings went with Marvin Bagley and never looked back. Bagley was the number one prospect on my board. He just has so many qualities that remind me of Chris Bosh. A lefty shooter, an excellent rim runner, great rebounder, and can score in multiple ways.
I’ve grown skeptical of big men over the years but Bagley is as modern as it gets. He shoots over 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown. He also runs the floor better than any big man I’ve seen in quite some time. Bagley plays with his hair on fire. There are no questions about this guy’s motor. Let’s not forgot, this guy should still be in high school after he reclassified. He’s not done growing and got better every time I saw him at Duke. The biggest question mark that pundits claimed was his defense but Duke played zone. For a 19-year-old to know the ins and outs of that stuff will come with time. Loved the Bagley pick but the fact that the Kings drafted him means I’m probably wrong.
Loser: Atlanta Hawks
General Manager, Travis Schlenk, was the assistant in Golden State when the Warriors build their core. The likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green have helped the Warriors build a dynasty. Apparently, the Hawks general manager thinks he can just create that in one day. He even said so in the post-draft presser. Atlanta drafted Trae Young, Kevin Heurter, and Omari Spellman as replicas to the Golden State trio. The problem is those are anomalies. Trying to replicate anomalies never works. The recreation is never better than the original. There’s only one Steph Curry. Trae Young is the biggest boom or bust prospect. To give up on a pretty sure thing in Luka Doncic to select Young is a massive risk. Kevin Heurter just flat out stinks. I have no idea how he was even a first round pick. It’s impossible to know how these picks will turn out but they probably missed a big opportunity passing on a young star in Doncic. With three first-round picks, the Hawks better hope Young and Heurter are hits or else they will be the laughing stock of the NBA.
Winner: Dallas Mavericks
I’m not sure what to make of Luka Doncic because I never saw him play but he’s supposed to be the real deal. Development of these prospects is so important. Was there a better landing spot than Dallas? Dirk is going to be the perfect mentor for this guy and is ready to pass the torch. Rick Carlisle is also a really one of the better coaches in the NBA. Doncic essentially gets to replace the minutes that was being had by J.J. Barea so a huge improvement is expected from the Mavs. If Dallas makes a run at the playoffs, giving up a first rounder next year to potential land a star is worth the price of admission.
Let’s also not forget that the Mavs potentially landed some gems in the second round. Jalen Brunson is a flat out stud. He’s the leader of the two-time national champion Villanova Wildcats. We will look up at Brunson 8 years from now and ask how he’s still a productive player in the league. Maybe the Mavs hit the ultimate home run taking Giannis’ brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo with the last pick in the draft.
Loser: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs traded Kyrie Irving for Collin Sexton. Do I need to even need to explain any further?
Winner: Boston Celtics / San Antonio Spurs
The Celtics and Spurs are arguably the best-run franchises in the NBA. It just so happened that two perfect situational prospects sort of just fell in their laps. Lonnie Walker gives the Spurs something they haven’t had in awhile. Walker is a two-guard who can defend, hit shots, and drive to the basket. San Antonio is a place that can make him not just good but elite in those areas. Walker probably should have been taken in the top 10. The Spurs haven’t picked this high since they took Kawhi Leonard 15th. Regardless of how you feel about Walker, he’s with the Spurs so look for him to become a stud.
Robert Williams will probably work out because Danny Ainge picked him. It’s hard to question anything Ainge has done the past few years. The more you think about it, what’s the difference between Robert Williams and those other centers at the top of the draft? Williams was regarded as a lottery pick for much of the process and would have been taken much higher a year ago. Williams was compared to Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan coming out of the draft. A super athletic center who can run the floor and plays above the rim. The only thing the Celtics really needed was a center who could rebound the ball.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
Mikal Bridges was perfect for Philadelphia. He played his high school ball at Malvern Prep. He played his collegiate ball at Villanova. His mother works in human resources for the 76ers organization. It looked like Bridges was coming home when Philly selected him 10th overall. Bridges wasn’t just perfect because he was coming home, this was the player they needed. A spot-up shooter who can defend from the wing position. We saw the flashes of Bridges hitting the three-pointers after Ben Simmons found him in the corner. However, that dream for Philly turned into a nightmare real quick.
The 76ers gave up a player who was perfect for them for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 Heat first-round pick. The 76ers desperately need a player who can put the ball on the floor and hit open shots. Zhaire Smith is neither of those things. In fact, he really is another odd player who fits on a team that is already odd. Smith is essentially a 6-foot-5 power forward that can defend but his shot needs a lot of work. Another guy who is uber athletic but can’t shoot. Will Philly ever learn their lesson? Hey, maybe Landry Shamet is the answer to those problems.
Winner: Utah Jazz
Who knew the Jazz would be back so soon after Gordon Hayward left town. Donovan Mitchell has flourished as an upcoming star. Quin Snyder looks like one of the better coaches in the NBA. Hell, even Jae Crowder looks back. Now they add Grayson Allen who was overlooked in the process for simply being old. Allen is the best shooter in the draft and will fit in well with a tough Utah team. He will find a place in the NBA for the sole reason that he’s willing to trip guys.
Loser: Los Angeles Clippers
LA had hopes of turning Tobias Harris and two first-round picks into Kawhi Leonard. Instead, they turned those two first-round picks into the next Michael Carter-Williams and future bust combo guard (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson) I have lost all faith in the new Clippers regime.
Winner: Denver Nuggets
It’s not often you get the chance to grab a star at 14. Denver may have just done that when Michael Porter slipped because of medical concerns. Half of these picks are worthless at this point anywhere so why not take the risk. If Porter pans out then it’s a game changer for a team that’s already talented.
Loser: Phoenix Suns
Before I close this out, it’s worth pointing out that Deandre Ayton sealed his fate as a bust. First, he’s a center who can’t protect the rim. No, thanks. Second, he has a pour attitude with no motor. Third, he already thinks he’s a big deal. Did he just curse himself like Markelle Fultz a year ago?
C'mon Rook, can't just copy/paste the paid ad caption ???? pic.twitter.com/AUSQrCKYpq
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) June 23, 2017
DeAndre Ayton really is about shamelessly securing the bag at all times and you have to respect it pic.twitter.com/4vsrx7Hrz2
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) June 20, 2018
Red flag alert.