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Grading the 2018 NBA Draft

The first pick is in, and as expected Deandre Ayton won’t have to move far from his dorm room. Here is our assessment of each first-round pick made Thursday night.

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The NBA draft is finally here. While the first few picks have reportedly been set in stone, Thursday promises to be a wild night the rest of the way. The Ringer will be with you to make sense of the chaos. We’ll be assessing all the first-round picks with round grades (no pluses or minuses!). Let’s dive in.


1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

The Suns went with the conventional wisdom, drafting the gargantuan big man who had been pegged as the front-runner for the no. 1 overall pick for most of the season. Ayton is a local product who will instantly step into a role as Phoenix’s starting center and one of its primary options on offense. It won’t take long for him to put up numbers. The question is how long it will take for his defense to catch up.

Grade: A

2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke

The Kings went with the only top prospect willing to work out for them. Bagley has as much potential as anyone in the draft, but fitting him into an NBA lineup will not be easy. Sacramento already has so many young big men (Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Harry Giles) that Bagley will likely start his career as an oversized 4. He either has to develop his perimeter game to fit with the way the position is played these days, or zig when everyone else is zagging and try to dominate in the paint as part of a supersized frontcourt.

Grade: B

3. Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic, G/F, Real Madrid/Slovenia (trade from Atlanta Hawks)

The Mavs have found their man. Every team in the top five had a chance at the polarizing European prodigy, and Dallas wound up making the move, giving up a future first-round pick to move up from no. 5 to no. 3. The Mavs have been wandering in the wilderness ever since they blew up their championship team in 2011. Now they have an exciting young core with Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. that is a perfect fit for Rick Carlisle’s multiple-ball-handler offense.

Grade: A

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan State

After being involved in trade rumors for weeks, the Grizzlies let the board come to them, staying put and taking Jackson. He has the most intriguing combination of athleticism and shooting ability among all the top big men in this year’s draft, and he should fit in right away next to Marc Gasol in a two-in-one frontcourt that combines the past and future.

Grade: A

5. Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma (trade from Dallas Mavericks)

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Hawks clearly valued Young more than almost any other team. They picked up an extra draft pick to move down two spots and get their guy, in a deal similar to the one the Celtics made last season for Jayson Tatum. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk came to Atlanta from Golden State, and he’s clearly hoping that Young can be his version of Steph Curry. This is now Young’s team. Dennis Schröder can start packing his bags.

Grade: B

6. Orlando Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

The Magic stuck to the brand they’ve built over the past half decade, drafting another long and athletic player with a questionable jumper. Bamba has been the hottest name in the draft over the past few weeks, with his remade 3-point shot tantalizing executives and media types alike. A possible frontcourt of Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, and Aaron Gordon could be absolutely dominant defensively. The question is whether they will have enough shooting and playmaking, which has been the issue in Orlando for years.

Grade: B

7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Bulls went with a steady and reliable inside presence in Carter, an extremely skilled big man who was hidden in Bagley’s shadow at Duke. Carter and Lauri Markkanen will be a handful for opposing frontcourts on offense. They can both make plays out of the post and step out and knock down 3s. The concern is that neither big man is particularly fleet of foot, which is a serious concern given the way the NBA is trending.

Grade: B

8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

The Cavs seems to have accepted the inevitable with this pick by drafting a ball-dominant point guard who would not fit well next to LeBron James. Cleveland is the perfect situation for Sexton, who should be able to thrive in pick-and-rolls with Kevin Love. He’s going to have a huge role in the offense right away, which should put him right at the front of the Rookie of the Year race. The key for Cleveland is to not let him develop too many bad habits on a team without many other ball handlers.

Grade: B

9. New York Knicks: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Knox has been one of the big risers since the end of the college basketball season. The Kentucky product had a disappointing freshman season in Lexington, but he wouldn’t be the first prospect to look better outside of John Calipari’s shooting-deficient lineups. At 6-foot-9 and 213 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan and a consistent 3-point stroke, he has all the tools to be an effective small-ball power forward next to Kristaps Porzingis. For the first time in recent memory, New York is building a young team.

Grade: B

10. Phoenix Suns: Mikal Bridges, G/F, Villanova (from Philadelphia 76ers)

The Suns are going all in now, trading away an unprotected first-round pick in 2021 (which may be one of the best trade assets in the league right now) to move up six picks to grab Bridges. His ability to defend either backcourt position should make him an excellent complement to Devin Booker, who is now flanked by defense-first players Bridges and Josh Jackson on the perimeter. Phoenix clearly wants to end its rebuilding effort, and Bridges should help the Suns shore up the biggest holes in their roster.

Grade: B

11. Los Angeles Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky (from Charlotte Hornets)

The Clippers have their point guard of the future. SGA doesn’t have the flashy offensive game of Sexton or Young, but he’s the most well rounded of the top point guards in this year’s draft. While he doesn’t have an elite first step, he’s a smart player who knows how to use his size (6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan) to get where he wants to go on the court. Gilgeous-Alexander was a reluctant 3-point shooter at Kentucky, so the Clippers may need to clear out some of the logjam in the backcourt to get the most out of this pick.

Grade: A

12. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State (from Los Angeles Clippers)

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Bridges is a great pick for a franchise that looks headed for a long rebuilding effort. With Dwight Howard gone and Kemba Walker on the trade block, the Hornets don’t have many pieces to build around. The Michigan State sophomore is an elite athlete with a sweet 3-point stroke who will fit next to almost any player the Hornets draft over the next few years. He won’t turn the team around by himself, but he could end up being one of the real steals of the draft.

Grade: A

13. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College

Robinson’s meteoric rise to the lottery is a bit of a head-scratcher. The positive is he’s a great 3-point shooter who proved he could run the pick-and-roll at Boston College. The negative is he’s an average athlete at best who may not be able to defend either backcourt position and won’t offer much value without the ball in his hands. Still, it’s hard to bet against Jerry West.

Grade: C

14. Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The slide ends for Porter, who was linked to Sacramento at no. 2 overall only a few days ago. While Porter’s surgically repaired back may keep him from ever living up to his considerable potential, the 14th pick is way past the point in the draft where he’s worth a roll of the dice. Porter, like Jamal Murray, could thrive playing off of Nikola Jokic. There were concerns about both prospects’ playmaking skills coming out of college, but it doesn’t matter next to the best passing big man of his generation.

Grade: A

15. Washington Wizards: Troy Brown Jr., G/F, Oregon

Brown slipped under the radar while playing for a disappointing Oregon team, but it’s not surprising that a player with his combination of size (6-foot-7 and 208 pounds, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan), ball handling, and passing ability wound up right outside the lottery. There is a lot of Evan Turner in his game, both good and bad. This will be a great pick if he can figure out his wonky 3-point shot (29.1 percent from 3 on 3.1 attempts per game). If he can’t, though, he doesn’t have the athleticism to be an impact player without it.

Grade: C

16. Philadelphia 76ers: Zhaire Smith, G/F, Texas Tech (from Phoenix Suns)

Brett Brown surprised all of the cynics (like myself) who figured he would take an instant-impact upperclassman like Mikal Bridges. Instead, he traded down to get a high-upside flier in Smith, and the Sixers got an unprotected first-round pick in 2021 for their trouble. It’s not clear exactly how Smith fits next to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but he’s a smart player who may already be the best athlete in the NBA. His defensive ability will get him playing time right away on a contender, and he has more offensive upside than people realize.

Grade: A

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The Michael Jordan of Delaware is taking his talents to Milwaukee. DiVincenzo shot up draft boards after his breakout performance in the national title game, but the talent was always there. This is a great situation for him: He’s a microwave scorer who will be a perfect complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The worry with DiVincenzo is that he’s a gunner with the size of a point guard, but that’s not as big a concern when he’s knocking down 3s off kick-out passes from a 7-foot point center.

Grade: A

18. San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

The quirkiest personality in this year’s draft will be an interesting culture fit in San Antonio. However, with Kawhi Leonard reportedly trying to force his way out of town, the Spurs desperately need an infusion of talent. Walker has the athleticism and shooting stroke to be a long-term answer at shooting guard next to Dejounte Murray. The only reason he slipped this far is because of his history of knee injuries.

Grade: A

19. Atlanta Hawks: Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Travis Schlenk is officially building a bootleg version of the Warriors. It’s not just a narrative. Trae Young is a poor man’s Steph Curry and Huerter is a poor man’s Klay Thompson. Huerter was a fast riser during the predraft process, and he may end up being much better in the NBA than in college, where he was handcuffed by Mark Turgeon’s conservative half-court offense. He doesn’t play enough defense to be the next Klay, but Schlenk has seen firsthand how two elite shooters can make each other better.

Grade: B

20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech

Okogie is exactly the type of player the Wolves need. Tom Thibodeau didn’t overthink this pick. The Georgia Tech sophomore is a big-bodied wing (6-foot-5 and 211 pounds, with a 7-foot wingspan) who should be able to defend three positions right away, and he can make enough 3s to keep himself on the floor on offense. The only reason Okogie won’t be playing 25-plus minutes a night next season will be that Thibs has decided to bury yet another young player behind more familiar veterans.

Grade: B

21. Utah Jazz: Grayson Allen, SG, Duke

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The spotlight will be off Allen, who seemed to wilt under scrutiny in four seasons at Duke. His life will be a lot easier in Utah, where he can play off Donovan Mitchell on offense and funnel players to Rudy Gobert on defense. Allen was forced to stretch his game playing next to a parade of freshman PGs in college, and now he will slide into a role as a secondary playmaker with an up-and-coming young team.

Grade: B

22. Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State

Hutchison to Chicago was the worst-kept secret in the draft. The Boise State senior shut down his workouts early, and everyone assumed that Chicago was the team that promised him. The draft models don’t like Hutchison because he’s a late bloomer in a mid-major conference, but he has the tools to be an impact player at the wing positions. Denzel Valentine and Justin Holiday certainly aren’t blocking him on the depth chart.

Grade: B

23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

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The Pacers tend to pick conservatively in the first round, and Holiday certainly fits that line of thinking. The younger brother of two NBA players (Jrue and Justin), Aaron is a well-rounded upperclassman who carried UCLA to the NCAA tournament following the departures of Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, and T.J. Leaf. At the same time, though, Holiday is an undersized point guard with average athleticism, and it’s hard to see him topping out as more than a good backup. Players with his skill set would have been available deep into the second round.

Grade: C

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons, SG, IMG Academy

Forget the international players. Simons is the real mystery man in this year’s draft. He declared for the draft after his fifth year of high school, and he didn’t compete in any of the all-star games against the top players in next year’s freshman class. Simons, an athletic combo guard with a projectable outside shot, certainly has talent, but he seems all but certain to spend the next few seasons in the G League.

Grade: B

25. Los Angeles Lakers: Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan

Wagner made himself a lot of money in the NCAA tournament, when he powered Michigan to the national championship game. He’s a sweet-shooting big man who might be an interesting complement to some of the perimeter star power that has been rumored to be headed to the Lakers this summer. Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to see how Wagner will be able to stay on the floor on defense in the playoffs, which is a pressing concern for a team in its position. And the playoffs is absolutely the floor should the Lakers’ offseason plan work out.

Grade: C

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State

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Shamet made his name with a strong performance against De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk in a classic NCAA tournament game two seasons ago. He didn’t take a big step forward as a sophomore at Wichita State, but his combination of size, shooting, and secondary playmaking should make him a solid rotation player. Shamet could slide into the role of folk hero backup point guard currently occupied by T.J. McConnell.

Grade: B

27. Boston Celtics: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

It will be interesting to see whether off-court or medical concerns contributed to Williams’s slide, because there’s no reason for a player this talented to be available near the end of the first round. Williams is as physically gifted as any of the big men who went in the top 10. He’s an über-athletic 6-foot-9 big who could stay in front of even the fastest point guards. He’s not particularly skilled on offense, but he shouldn’t have to do much beyond set screens and catch lobs in Boston.

Grade: A

28. Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati

Evans is a perfectly vanilla pick. He turned himself into a solid two-way wing in three seasons at Cincinnati, and he’ll be able to at least hold his own on both ends of the floor in Golden State, which is exactly what they need. Evans won’t win any games for the Warriors over the span of his rookie contract, but he won’t lose any, either. He’ll be able to soak up minutes in the regular season, and he won’t be targeted too much in spot minutes in the playoffs.

Grade: B

29. Brooklyn Nets: Dzanan Musa, SF, Cedevita/Bosnia and Herzegovina

There’s a big drop-off after Doncic in this year’s international class, with Musa, the second European player to come off the board, going at no. 29. While there are concerns about his attitude and his shoot-first, -second, and -third mentality, his talent is too hard to pass up at this spot in the draft. The Nets have done a great job of being opportunistic over the past few years, as they got this pick for taking on DeMarre Carroll’s contract from the Raptors.

Grade: B

30. Atlanta Hawks: Omari Spellman, PF, Villanova

Spellman is yet another product of the player development machine that Jay Wright has built at Villanova; there were four Wildcats drafted in the first 33 picks of this year’s draft. Spellman was a highly touted high school recruit, but his pro future seemed in doubt when he showed up to campus overweight. The Villanova coaching staff reshaped his body, and helped him to polish his 3-point shot into a deadly weapon. Spellman probably doesn’t have the defensive chops to be a starter, but he should be an interesting frontcourt weapon off the bench for the shooting-heavy Hawks.

Grade: B