A Look At The Top Of the 2018 NBA Draft Class
With the college basketball season getting ready to get underway, it’s time to take our first look at the names to watch in what could be a very flat 2018 NBA Draft class. While the draft class always evolves as the season goes on, there are a few names that look more likely to be sure things than others, and here are a few:
Luka Dončić – Real Madrid
The 6-foot-7 Dončić looks to be the front-runner of the 2018 class. While not a college player, Dončić has been on the NBA radar for some time and took part in NBA preseason last year when the Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against Real Madrid.
Dončić is considered by many to be the next can’t miss International player, with some labeling him a basketball prodigy. Dončić has spent his offseasons training in the U.S. at the famed P3 Performance Training Center in Santa Barbara, so he is no stranger to the NBA style of play or how hard you have to train got be great at the NBA level.
Dončić is listed as a forward but tends to play with the ball in his hands a lot for Real Madrid, where many label him as more of a point forward. Dončić is a polished shooter, with the game all the way to the three-point line.
It will take something pretty special (or tragic) to happen for Dončić not to be the top overall player this June. He is absolutely the name to watch.
Michael Porter Jr. – Missouri
Of all of the college players with a shot at a top-three pick in June, the 6-foot-10 Michael Porter Jr. might be the best of the bunch. With an amazing set of skills, Porter has been the star of the high school all-star circuit and has cemented himself as a very serious NBA prospect. The problem with Michael Porter Jr. isn’t anything he does on the basketball court, it a reputation that’s followed him for a while that he may not have the right circle of influence.
In what has become all too common in the AAU/high school, players have started to amass a circle of influence that’s been clouding the star of some of the top players.
Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr had similar concerns last year, which was a big contributing factor to him sliding to the Dallas Mavericks and the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
For Porter, NBA teams are going to want to see him shake some of the labels around his game and gauge how coachable he can be at the next level.
From a pure talent and skill point of view, though, Porter might be the next best talent in the eventual 2018 NBA draft pool, it will be interesting to see if Porter and a very solid recruiting class can get Missouri into the elite of the college basketball. It would go a long way towards quieting the noise around him that doesn’t have anything to do with the game.
[Update: Porter Jr, has been ruled out for the college basketball season after needing a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs. The projected recovery time is 3-4 months. NBA teams will want to understand the full scope of Porter Jr.’s surgery and his prognosis. If he is deemed to be a 100% after the procedure, his draft stock could remain very high. However, needing a disc-related back surgery at 19 is a huge red flag, especially for a player listed at 6′ 10″.]
Marvin Bagley III – Duke
If Porter isn’t the guy for whatever reason, the next guy looks to be Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. He re-classified this summer making him eligible for this season and one of the younger prospects on the board. At a legit 6-foot-11, Bagley has the whole package for a big man. He is an incredible athlete that can score from everywhere. He is explosive around the basket and a lethal at-the-rim scorer.
Given Duke’s loaded recruiting class, Bagley looks likely to be playing deep into March this year, and that could bode well for his eventual draft stock.
Collin Sexton – Alabama
Alabama’s Collin Sexton looks to be the top point guard prospect in the eventual 2018 NBA Draft class. He is a legit 6’2 and as cat quick as they come. Sexton was a star on the high school All-Star circuit and looks to have the whole pack for an NBA caliber guard.
The big thing Sexton is going to need to show at the next level is that he can be a playmaker as well as a scorer. The High School/AAU platform has shown that Sexton can score at will, NBA teams are going to want to see him create for others.
It’s no secret that the NBA is built around point guard play, and like Smith Jr, who is flourishing in the NBA with the Mavericks. Sexton could be equally as potent, especially after a season playing for Avery Johnson at Alabama.
Miles Bridges – Michigan State
Surprisingly, Bridges opted to return for another season at Michigan State. Historically most players don’t add to their draft stock returning to school, but in Bridges case, he could find himself towards the top of the class with a dominating season for the Spartans.
Bridges is more of a combo forward. The knock on his game is he is more of a tweener, with a limited outside game. If he can take over in his Sophomore season and prove he has improved as a perimeter threat, he could add some serious value to what many expected was 15-20 draft range in 2017.
The problem for Bridges is that scouts tend to latch on to an idea around a player and unless he shakes the label, it’s generally viewed as a negative if a player does not improve.
Bridges has the potential to leap way up in his draft stock, which is pretty rare. The question is, is there another level to his game in college basketball?
Trevon Duval – Duke
Duke has a great recruiting class, but the enigma of the bunch may be guard Trevon Duval. A start for IMG and one of the top high school/prep players in the Nation, the buzz around Duval has dropped considerably. Most NBA scouts are eager to see how Duval handles being coached by Mike Krzyzewski.
Duval has all the tools to be an elite point guard prospect, but like Porter Jr, there are questions about his circle of influence and how much he wants to win at the college level.
With some many prospects looking past their college season into an eventual NBA career, scouts and executives seem to be interesting in seeing how Duval leads a team like Duke and how much latitude Coach K gives him throughout the season.
The one this to know about any future draft class at this point in the calendar is that everything is subject to change. However, history has proven time and time again that the top names on NBA scouting boards in November, usually end up being in the top 10 when the draft rolls around in June.
Once some of these guys log actual games, we’ll start dropping our monthly NBA Mock Drafts, so stay tuned for that as the college basketball season ramps up.
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