With the 2018 NBA Draft now in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at some key takeaways from the night:
The Phoenix Suns are building up for the present, and the future
Phoenix has been in quite a rut these past few seasons, failing to find any semblance of continuity or growth. They’ve bit hit or miss when its come to the Draft, coming up with some quality players (Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Josh Jackson), only to get players who were raw, and haven’t developed as quickly as they’ve hoped (Dragan Bender, Alex Len, Marquese Chriss). It isn’t surprising then that the team hasn’t found their identity yet.
They hope to change that by drafting Deandre Ayton, the monster of a man coming out of Arizona. He’s being hailed as a potential franchise-altering talent. He was generally considered as the top pick of this Draft, because he had one of the highest ceilings in this class, along with a skill set that ensured he wouldn’t bust as bad as say, Michael Olowokandi.
Getting Ayton was big, but what made their Draft even more impressive were the things they did after using their number one pick. They traded away their 16th pick (which became Zhaire Smith) along with a 2021 first round pick to get Mikal Bridges from the Philadelphia 76ers. To make things even better, dropping to the second round was potential surprise Elie Okobo, who could emerge as one of the best point guards of this draft.
By getting all of these pieces, the Suns management just filled out some of the weaknesses the current roster has. Ayton immediately comes in as their best big man, someone who can get you at least 17 points a night because of his skills on offense. Bridges provides some stability and polish at the wing position to compliment Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, while Okobo at least provides offense at the point spot that Elfird Payton can’t give. These were moves essential not just for the future, but even for now.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks franchise player?
The Dallas Mavericks made the biggest move of the Draft, trading their number five pick along with a 2019 first rounder to the Atlanta Hawks to get Euroleague and Liga ACB MVP, Luka Doncic. They’re being hailed as one of the winners of the draft because of that move. The Dallas Mavericks arguably just got their franchise player for the future.
The Mavericks front office has not done well ever since winning the 2011 Finals, making questionable signings left and right and just doing ‘okay’ in the Draft. Dennis Smith Jr. was a solid pick-up, but he isn’t a franchise altering talent. Smith Jr. is less of a point guard and did not give the Mavericks much direction. That’s something Doncic can provide simply because of his current skill set.
Doncic is a high IQ, high character player who’s a polished playmaker and skilled offensive talent. He’s built to run an offense from the get go, something Smith Jr. isn’t built to do. That’s not a knock on the second-year guard, mind you, he’s just better suited as someone attacking the rim rather than setting up. That’s now going to be Doncic’s job, to take control of the offense while Smith Jr. motions around the court looking for spaces to cut. Think of it as if Doncic will be the Harden to the Westbrook of Smith Jr., except the Harden in this situation takes control of the offense this time around. This is going to be fun.
Most importantly, Doncic fits the kind of player Rick Carlisle loves on his teams. He’s a high IQ player who does a good job of creating for the team. He has the potential to be a franchise player. We’ll just have to wait and see whether or not Doncic can fulfill that potential as the heir apparent to Dirk Nowitzki as face of the Dallas Mavericks.
Current contenders continue to get talent
The draft isn’t just about bad teams getting talent who can hopefully turn the luck of their franchise around. It’s also about playoff teams restocking talent, adding younger blood to rosters filled with polish pieces, in the hopes of keeping their runs going for the foreseeable future.
The Warriors have been doing this as of late with the likes of Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell, and they continued to stock up on talent. By drafting Jacob Evans, they add much needed (do they even need it?) depth in the wings, getting a Courtney Lee type of player who can provide offense and defense from the get go.
It wasn’t just Golden State adding talent, as the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs bolstered their line-ups by adding high quality prospects. The Celtics could have potentially drafted the center they’ve needed for the longest time, as Robert Williams projects to be in the mold of a Clint Capela. He’s a rim-running big who provides size and length for Boston. Lonnie Walker IV is going to be a great addition in San Antonio. He fits in immediately as insurance for Kawhi Leonard, in the case the Spurs are pushed to a trade. All of these are quality pick-ups by solid franchises.
The Fall of Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. is the biggest high risk, high reward prospect in this Draft. Before college, he was projected as the top pick, but after missing most of this freshman year in college with a back injury, his stock dropped immensely. Suddenly, he found himself swimming across the 7 to 10 range.
His stock continued to fluctuate as he started to undergo pre-draft workouts — against listless trainers and chairs! — being discussed as a potential Top 2 pick, to even falling out of the Top 10 completely. Fans anxiously waited to see what team would bite on the potential MPJ brings.
No one though, expected him to fall all the way to the 14th pick. The Denver Nuggets snatched him up in an instant. This puts Porter Jr. in an ideal situation for a player of his caliber. There isn’t so much pressure for him to produce since he’ll be surrounded by solid pieces all around, but he could potentially emerge as an impact player from the get-go if he isn’t bitten by the injury bug any time during his rookie season. For the Nuggets, this was a pretty low risk, high reward move considering the makeup of their roster.
Michael Porter Jr. nearly fell out of the lottery, but at this point, that doesn’t matter anymore. He’s in a great situation in Denver, and it’s ultimately up to him if he takes advantage and rises back to the elite status many saw him to be in before he left High School.
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