The 2018 NBA Draft is less than a month away, and the NBA combine just concluded recently. The draft is set to take place on June 21 in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center. The NBA held their draft lottery on May 15, and the first 14 picks in the draft order were released. The Phoenix Suns were the winners of the lottery followed by the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks.
This year’s draft class is pretty stacked and is top-heavy with big men. Marvin Bagley, Jaren Johnson, and DeAndre Ayton just to name a few. Not to mention international star Luka Doncic who is listed as a guard but has the size of a small forward at 6-foot-8. Oh, and Mo Bamba from Texas just set the NBA combine wingspan record with an astounding 7-foot-10 wingspan. The number dwarfs the former record held by Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert at 7-foot-8. And, let’s not forget some of the talented guards in the draft Trae Young and Colin Sexton.
So, who will go number one overall in the 2018 NBA draft? I’ll provide you information on three players I believe are most likely to be selected with the first pick. Now, there have been reports of Phoenix trading out of the top spot so the list will not be solely based off of who is the best fit for the Suns.
1. Luka Doncic – Slovenia
Doncic comes with the international stigma and rightfully so, there have been more international busts than stars over the years. But, Doncic should not be cast in the same light. He may only be 19 years, but he is by far the most experienced player at the top of the draft.
Doncic has played three professional seasons overseas for one of the best basketball teams outside of the NBA, Real Madrid. He has also won the FIBA EuroBasket championship.
Playing in the two best European leagues, Doncic averaged 14.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 59 games. And, if those numbers don’t jump off the screen for you, Doncic posted the highest plus-minus mark in Euroleague history. He is a floor general that hardly ever turns the ball over.
Player Comparison: Ben Simmons but with a better shot
2. DeAndre Ayton – Arizona
Ayton is simply a freak talent with freakish athletic ability. If I was picking number one, this is my guy, no doubt. His measurables are precisely where you want them with a height and weight of 7-foot-1, 260 lbs and a wingspan of 7-foot-5. Ayton may be the most physically gifted draft prospect in years.
On the offensive end, he has the tools to enter the league and score 20 points right off the bat. Ayton has the ability to back his man down in the paint, has a strong face-up game, and has a sweet touch in the mid-range game. Wherever he goes, he should instantly become that teams primary scorer.
The only issue with Ayton is on the defensive side. He does not display great natural instincts on defense. Ayton has the proper athleticism and size to grow into a solid defender. With some tweaks by NBA coaches and the right motivation, Ayton should develop on the defensive end quickly.
Player Comparison: Patrick Ewing
3. Marvin Bagley III – Duke
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 college basketball season, Bagley was viewed by most as the future No. 1 pick. Bagley over the course of the season was the most consistent and dominant player night in and night out in college basketball. His size and athleticism combo is one of the best in the draft and arguably comes in second, right behind Deandre Ayton in the category.
On the offensive end, Bagley can do everything. He scored at a high clip and was the most efficient scorer in college basketball. He even posted a 39% three-point shooting percentage. Bagley is the best face-up scoring big man in the 2018 draft. He should be good for a double-double on any night in the NBA.
What hurts Bagley and what could stop him from being the No. 1 pick is his poor defensive play. Bagley had a tough time matching up and guarding opposing players, and those defensive deficiencies will only be highlighted in the NBA. Coach K even did his best to cover up his lack of defense with zone schemes, but it still showed through on some nights. Is his offensive prowess and rebounding skills enough to entice a team to overlook his defensive downfalls?
Player Comparison: Amar’e Stoudemire