We’re about two-thirds of the way through the NBA season, and it seems like we’ve seen enough of the rookies that we can re-order the 2018 draft. Here are the rules: We’re re-doing the draft as if GM’s knew what they knew now. It’s not just a ranking, it’s a re-draft, so the fit matters. Let’s get into it.
These rookies haven’t played enough games to be considered for a re-draft.
Michael Porter Jr: drafted 14th by Denver, played 0 games
Zhaire Smith: drafted 16th by Phoenix, played 0 games
Lonnie Walker IV: drafted 18th by San Antonio, played 6 games
There are more, but these are the ones that were drafted high
1. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic
Actual Pick: Deandre Ayton
Doncic: 32.2. min, 20.9 pts, 7.2 reb, 5.7 ast, 43% FG, 35% 3P on 7.0 attempts
Luka has had a historic season. He’s already dropped four triple-doubles and seven thirty-point games. He’s one of the greatest teenagers of all time, ranking 3rd in scoring behind Carmelo and LeBron, and 2nd in assists, behind only LeBron. It’s one of the best rookie seasons of all-time, especially considering he’s only 19. But forget his age, Luke has been a legitimate star in his first year. Would you like to guess how many other players this year are averaging 20.9, 7.2, 5.7, with 35% threes? It’s zero. Luka’s the only one. Although many had Luka #1 on their boards, very few saw this coming. Phoenix chose Ayton, which is a defensible pick to some extent. But you can bet they’d love to go back and take Luka.
2. Sacramento Kings: Jaren Jackson Jr
Actual Pick: Marvin Bagley III
Jackson: 26.1 mins, 13.8 pts, 4.7 reb, 1.1 ast, 51% FG, 36% 3P on 2.4 attempts
This was a tough one. Bagley, Ayton, and Jackson have all been very good in their rookie year. You’ll probably notice that Ayton’s counting stats are better than Jackson’s, and Bagley’s are about the same. However, play style is very important. Ayton and Bagley can both score, especially back to basket, but both of them struggle defensively, protecting the rim and on the perimeter. In the modern NBA, your center has to be able to defend, and Jackson is already able to do so. Not to mention he’s the only one of the three who really shoots threes, already above league average in his rookie season. Other 6’11” rookies to hit 36% on 2+ attempts? Joel Embiid, Andrea Bargnani, Lauri Markkanen. And only Jackson and Embiid averaged over 1 block. JJJ is a unicorn of sorts, and he’d be great with Fox, Hield, and Co. in Sacramento.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young
Actual Pick: Traded to Dallas, who took Luka Doncic
Young: 30.4 mins, 17.5 pts, 3.3 reb, 7.7 ast, 41% FG, 33% 3P on 5.7 attempts
Trae is one of the most underrated players in this draft class and maybe in the entire NBA. He’s averaging 17 and 7 as a rookie! Here’s the list that’s done that: Oscar Robertson, Damon Stoudemire, Allen Iverson, Trae Young, Magic Johnson. Crazy. It’s a historic rookie season. And this season, Trae is 7th in assists per game, but only 0.2/game away from being 3rd… as a 20-year old. His passing is far too often overlooked due to his shooting. Earlier in the season, Trae was cold from three. Before January 23, he was shooting 28%. This is common for a rookie. Only 4 rookies have ever made a higher percentage than Trae while shooting as many as he does (Mitchell, Markkanen, Lillard, Iverson). But since that date (14 games), Young is shooting 43% from deep on 7.4 attempts per game. In that stretch, he’s averaging 23.1 points and 8.9 assists, too. Atlanta loves the guy they got in the Doncic trade, and if they had #3 with Luka off the board, they’d take their guy here for sure.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: DeAndre Ayton
Actual Pick: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Ayton: 30.9 min, 16.4 pts, 10.5 reb, 1.9 ast, 59% FG
It’s really weird to have Ayton move down three spots, but it just speaks to how great this class has been. Ayton, Jackson, and Young are all in close contention for the 2nd best player in this class. Ayton ended up 4th mostly because of fit. He wouldn’t be able to play next to Willie Cauley-Stein or John Collins. It’s crazy that Ayton’s averaging 16 and 10 as a rookie. Post-merger rookies to average more points and rebounds than Ayton: Robinson, Duncan, Shaq, O’Neal, Olajuwon, Blake, Larry Johnson, Ralph Sampson, Dikembe Mutombo, Terry Cummings, Clark Kellogg, Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s some pretty good company. Of those 11, 10 became All-Stars, and of the 9 that are retired, 7 are in the Hall of Fame. (If we assume Duncan). Based off his rookie year, that would give Ayton a 91% chance to become an All-Star and a 78% chance to become a Hall of Famer. Not too bad. Memphis would love to make him their Marc Gasol replacement.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Marvin Bagley III
Actual Pick: Traded to Atlanta, who took Trae Young
Bagley: 24.9 mins, 14.0 pts, 7.2 reb, 1.0 ast, 51% FG, 27% 3P on 1.3 attempts
Marvin Bagley could end up being one of those guys whose legacy is the guy drafted after him. Taking him over Luka Doncic is an egregious mistake and one that lots of people saw coming. Putting Luka with Fox and Hield would be unbelievable. But that’s beside the point. Bagley has actually had a pretty good rookie year, too. By no means is he a “bust”. Per 36 minutes, Bagley’s averages go up to 20.2 and 10.4. Only 14 other rookies have ever averaged 20 and 10 per 36. Contrary to all the other top 5 picks, Bagley ended up on a borderline playoff team. It’s hard to project a Dallas team without Luka, who has already become their franchise cornerstone, inspiring the Porzingis and Barnes trades. But Bagley’s pretty clearly the 5th best player in the class, so he goes to Dallas here.
6. Orlando Magic: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Actual Pick: Mo Bamba
Gilgeous-Alexander: 25.6 mins, 9.7 pts, 2.7 reb, 3.0 ast, 46% FG, 31% 3P on 1.3 attempts
It’s been a pretty inconsistent season for SGA. His minutes have been up and down, but he’s playing well when he gets them. In the 13 games where he played 30+ minutes, he’s averaging 15.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, shooting 51% from the field and 37% from three (10 for 27 total). Orlando really needs a point guard, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why they went with Bamba, who may be the #1 bust of the draft so far. SGA on that team would be lethal.
7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr
Actual Pick: Wendell Carter Jr
Carter: +/- 0
Carter: 25.2 mins, 10.3 pts, 7.0 reb, 1.8 ast, 49% FG, 19% 3P on 0.7 attempts
Carter, Knox, and Sexton all came into consideration for the 7th pick here, but as a Bulls fan, Carter is the best fit. Sexton has put up some good numbers, but with the team the Bulls have, Carter makes the most sense. He’s a high-floor, low-ceiling guy– No one expects him to become a superstar, but he’s already putting up solid numbers as a rookie. Carter’s offensive box plus/minus is -2.3, but his defensive box plus/minus is +2.1. That tells you all you need to know. He’s already a solid rim protector and defender. In the 9 games when Wendell played 30+ minutes, he’s averaging 13.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and shooting 51% from the field. More opportunity could unleash his offensive game, too. Chicago doesn’t need Knox or Sexton when they have LaVine, Markkanen, and Porter. They need a defensive anchor at center.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Knox
Actual Pick: Collin Sexton
Knox: 28.4 mins, 12.6 pts, 4.4 reb, 1.0 ast, 37% FG, 34% 3P
In New York, Knox has quietly had a pretty productive season. It was a very slow start, and many wrote him off, but he’s bounced back. Since December 1, Knox has been averaging 15 and 5. In the 6 games where he played 40 minutes, he’s averaging 22 points and 7 rebounds on 42% from the field and 46% from three. Flashes like that are the upside that puts Knox ahead of Sexton, that and his defense, which isn’t great, but is far better than Sexton’s. It’s close, but the grass is always greener, so the Cavs go with Knox here.
9. New York Knicks: Collin Sexton
Actual Pick: Kevin Knox
Sexton: 30.5 mins, 15.0 pts, 3.1 reb, 2.9 ast, 41% FG, 39% 3P on 2.9 attempts
On the surface, Collin Sexton has been one of the pleasant surprises of this rookie class. The biggest surprise of Sexton’s game has to be the perimeter shooting. Only 13 other rookie guards in NBA history have matched Sexton’s percentage on his attempts. His advanced stats are not good, though, especially defensively. 44 rookies have played at least 200 minutes this year, and Sexton ranks 31st in offensive box +/- and dead last, 44th, in defensive. -2.9 offensive and -3.4 defensive. He’s also dead last in defensive rating, at 120, and 38th in offensive, at only 96. That’s very bad. He’s shown the counting stats, and he’s shooting well, but he has to improve his defense, and it would help to see him on a team that isn’t tanking. New York would definitely bite seeing the counting stats, and he’d be fun in MSG. (Plus, this is before the trade for Dennis Smith).
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Kevin Huerter
Actual Pick: Mikal Bridges, traded to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith + a pick
Huerter: 27.2 mins, 9.3 pts, 3.2 reb, 2.8 ast, 42% FG, 39% 3P
At #10, we see the first real contender picking in the draft. With the Lakers‘ pick, Philly had a unique opportunity to get a very good rookie. The Bridges/Smith trade still makes sense, it’s just unfortunate that Smith got hurt. It’s weird to think of the Sixers before the Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris trades, but their top need is shooting on the wing. Huerter’s three-point percentage is third-best in the class behind Sexton and Landry Shamet, who Philly would end up drafting 27th. Huerter could play the Shamet role, but offer more size, rebounding, passing, and defense. Huerter’s defensive box +/- is -1.0, while Shamet’s is -2.4. Notable difference. The two have similar shooting numbers, but Huerter is playing a bigger role in Atlanta. Of their made field goals this year, 67% of Huerter’s have been assisted vs 88% of Shamet’s. In that off-ball role, Huerter would be great for Philadelphia.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges
Actual Pick: Traded to LAC, who took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Bridges: 19.1 mins, 6.6 pts, 3.6 reb, 0.9 ast, 45% FG, 31% 3P on 2.2 attempts
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Landry Shamet
Actual Pick: Traded to Charlotte, who took Miles Bridges
Shamet: 21.2 mins, 8.5 pts, 1.4 reb, 1.2 ast, 44% FG, 40% 3P on 4.6 attempts
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Mohammed Bamba
Actual Pick: Jerome Robinson
Bamba: 16.3 mins, 6.2 pts, 5.0 reb, 0.8 ast, 48% FG, 30% 3P on 1.5 attempts
14. Denver Nuggets: Mikal Bridges
Actual Pick: Michael Porter Jr
Bridges: 28.0 mins, 8.1 pts, 3.1 reb, 2.0 ast, 43% FG, 35% 3P on 3.9 attempts
15. Washington Wizards: Josh Okogie
Actual Pick: Troy Brown
Okogie: 22.6 mins, 7.6 pts, 3.0 reb, 1.1 ast, 37% FG, 27% 3P on 3.0 attempts
16. Phoenix Suns: Jalen Brunson
Actual Pick: Zhaire Smith, traded to Philadelphia
Brunson: 18.5 mins, 7.2 pts, 2.1 reb, 2.5 ast, 44% FG, 36% 3P on 2.0 attempts
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Allonzo Trier
Actual Pick: Donte DiVincenzo
Trier: 22.3 mins, 10.1 pts, 3.0 reb, 1.9 ast, 45% FG, 38% 3P on 1.8 attempts
18. San Antonio Spurs: Elie Okobo
Actual Pick: Lonnie Walker IV
Okobo: 18.5 mins, 5.7 pts, 1.9 reb, 2.6 ast, 38% FG, 27% 3P on 2.5 attempts
19. Atlanta Hawks: Omari Spellman
Actual Pick: Kevin Huerter
Spellman: 17.4 mins, 5.8 pts, 4.1 reb, 1.0 ast, 40% FG, 35% 3P on 2.8 attempts
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodions Kurucs
Actual Pick: Josh Okogie
Kurucs: 20.4 mins, 8.6 pts, 3.6 reb, 0.8 ast, 46% FG, 30% 3P on 2.6 attempts
21. Utah Jazz: Aaron Holiday
Actual Pick: Grayson Allen
Holiday: 11.8 mins, 5.5 pts, 1.5 reb, 1.5 ast, 38% FG, 30% 3P on 2.6 attempts
22. Chicago Bulls: Mitchell Robinson
Actual Pick: Chandler Hutchison
Robinson: 18.0 mins, 6.2 pts, 4.8 reb, 0.6 ast, 69% FGs
23. Indiana Pacers: De’Anthony Melton
Actual Pick: Aaron Holiday
Melton: 19.8 mins, 5.3 pts, 2.5 reb, 3.3 ast, 37% FG, 31% 3P on 2.2 attempts
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Hamidou Diallo
Actual Pick: Anfernee Simmons
Diallo: 11.4 mins, 4.2 pts, 2.1 reb, 0.4 ast, 47% FG, 17% 3P on 0.5 attempts
25: Los Angeles Lakers: Jerome Robinson
Actual Pick: Mo Wagner
Robinson: 9.3 mins, 3.3 pts, 1.1 reb, 0.3 ast, 38% FG, 34% 3P on 1.7 attempts
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Svi Mykhailiuk
Actual Pick: Landry Shamet
Mykhailiuk: 10.7 mins, 3.3 pts, 0.9 reb, 0.9 ast, 33% FG, 32% 3P on 2.2 attempts
27. Boston Celtics: Kenrich Williams
Actual Pick: Robert Williams
K. Williams: Undrafted
K. Williams: 18.9 mins, 5.4 pts, 4.4 reb, 1.5 ast, 41% FG, 33% 3P on 2.7 attempts
28. Golden State Warriors: Robert Williams
Actual Pick: Jacob Evans
Williams: 8.7 mins, 2.7 pts, 2.4 reb, 74% FG
29. Brooklyn Nets: Devonte’ Graham
Actual Pick: Dzanan Musa
Graham: 13.0 min, 4.4 pts, 1.2 reb, 2.2 ast, 37% FG, 31% 3P on 2.4 attempts
30. Atlanta Hawks: Donte DiVincenzo
Actual Pick: Omari Spellman
DiVincenzo: 15.6 mins, 4.8 pts, 2.4 reb, 1.2 ast, 39% FG, 25% 3P on 3.0 attempts