2018 NBA Re-Draft: Ranking the Rookies

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.

Injury Exceptions

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: +2

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: +2

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: +3

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: -1

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: -3

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: +5

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: +1

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: -1

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: +9

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: +1

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: +15

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: -7

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: -4

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: +5

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: +17

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: Undrafted

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: +13

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: +11

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

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: +2

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: +14

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: +17

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: +21

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: -12

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: +21

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: -1

Williams: 8.7 mins, 2.7 pts, 2.4 reb, 74% FG

29. Brooklyn Nets: Devonte’ Graham

Actual Pick: Dzanan Musa

Graham: +5

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: -13

DiVincenzo: 15.6 mins, 4.8 pts, 2.4 reb, 1.2 ast, 39% FG, 25% 3P on 3.0 attempts

I grew up in a small town in Indiana, about an hour outside of Chicago. I’ve been a diehard Chicago sports fan my entire life, and basketball has always been my favorite sport. In high school, I founded a Sports Media Club, where my classmates and I wrote articles and produced podcasts. After graduating, I kept writing and podcasting on my own. Now I’m a freshman at Purdue University, and I am excited to join Lineups and continue to further the growth of the content side of the site.

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