2018 NBA Draft Prospects Entering Make-or-Break Seasons
At some point, NBA scouts need to see improvement.
Being young no longer works as an excuse for prospects who continue to make the same mistakes or show signs they aren't built for the pros.
At the same time, the following players each have substantial talent capable of drawing first-round interest.
A strong 2017-18 could put them right back on the map. Another underwhelming season could wipe them off it for good.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas, SG, Senior)
Draft ceiling: 20s
Draft floor: Late second round
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk's age card is at risk of expiring after the season. Even though he's still 20 years old, it won't be a good look to play four seasons at Kansas without ever making a leap.
He's hit big shots and had some promising stretches, but they haven't been enough, based on his decision to return after testing the NBA waters.
In a larger role as a junior, he looked similar to the Mykhailiuk scouts saw in 2015-16. Per 40 minutes, his scoring average fell to 14.3 and assist rate to 1.9—uninspiring numbers for a third-year player who isn't a physical marvel or explosive athlete.
His shooting for a 6'7" wing will have scouts' attention for another year, but a sweet three-point stroke alone won't carry him into the first round. Now a senior, Mykhailiuk has to flash more shot creativity and playmaking potential and show scouts he's more of a threat off the dribble.
Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)
Draft ceiling: Mid-first round
Draft floor: Undrafted (red-flagged)
Between the mental lapses and statistical regression, Grayson Allen created more questions than fans last season.
A third tripping incident, which came a year after his first two, raised red flags. At first, his prior mishaps came off as a result of overcompetitiveness. A second year of trouble hinted at a pattern. Allen doesn't have any strikes left and needs a setback-free year, especially with teams now putting so much emphasis in character assessment
He also struggled to repeat the basketball success he had during his sophomore season, when he was Duke's clear No. 1 option and averaged 21.6 points per game. Following the additions of Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson and the emergence of Luke Kennard, Allen saw his field-goal percentage fall to 39.6 percent from 46.6.
Considering he won't be stepping into a featured NBA role, he'll want to avoid being labeled as a player who has to be the man. Otherwise, his shooting (80-plus threes in consecutive seasons) and explosive athleticism are intriguing selling points, as are his 3.5 assists per game, a number that reflects capable playmaking ability.
Allen will have a shot to go in the first round, but only if his concentration and offensive efficiency improve.
Malik Newman (Kansas, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Draft ceiling: Early second round
Draft floor: Undrafted
A former McDonald's All-American, once projected as a potential top-10 pick, Malik Newman has fallen off the radar. He's no longer mentioned by scouts in the NBA draft point guard discussion.
He'll have a second and final chance with Kansas. His first one at Mississippi State didn't go well. Newman shot 39.1 percent—40.7 percent inside the arc and 49.8 percent at the rim—appearing undersized and unpolished as a scorer who wasn't a natural running the point or facilitating (2.2 assists per game).
He has a shot to restore some lost credibility, but an unconvincing season would mean Newman didn't work out in either setting, for a weaker team or a loaded one. The inability to adjust from 2015 to 2018 could be a deal-breaker, especially given the perception he's a player who needs the ball.
Newman did shoot fine his freshman year, making 61 of 161 threes. But he'll need to show his pull-up game (19-of-60 two-point jumpers) and playmaking acumen are significantly improved to win back scouts.
The ultimate goal: convincing them he can follow Dion Waiters' footsteps and become a combo, instant-offense specialist.
DJ Hogg (Texas A&M, SF, Junior)
Draft ceiling: Late first round
Draft floor: Undrafted
With 6'9", 220-pound size and a picturesque jumper, the eye test on DJ Hogg appears to show NBA talent. Mixed results and quiet stretches have said otherwise through two seasons.
Scouts expected a breakout sophomore year, but Hogg struggled before injuring his foot and missing the final seven games. He finished his second season below 40 percent from the field, again, with an average of just 16.1 points per 40 minutes.
He did make 44 threes in 22 games and flashed unexpected playmaking ability (3.4 assists per game). Hogg has a case with NBA tools, shooting and passing skills. But he only shot 56.8 percent from the free-throw line and registered an 18.2 turnover percentage, raising questions over the legitimacy of his strengths.
He has to be sharper in all aspects, from his handle and pull-up game to his three-point consistency, especially since he won't get any free points off explosiveness (2.0 free-throw attempts per game).
Playing alongside potential top-10 pick Robert Williams, Hogg will have a built-in audience of scouts watching every night. This year, they'll find out whether Hogg just looks the part or can actually play it.
Marques Bolden (Duke, C, Sophomore)
Draft ceiling: 20s
Draft floor: Second round
He couldn't crack Duke's rotation last year, finishing with more personal fouls (32) than total rebounds (26). The departures of Jayson Tatum, Amile Jefferson and Chase Jeter will now create a bigger role for Bolden, who'll have to look significantly sharper at both ends.
To re-enter the first-round debate, he must convince scouts he can become a quality post option, pick-and-roll target and rim protector.
Given his lack of versatility, his margin for error is even smaller. He isn't the stretch 5 or athletic 4 NBA teams are using at center. Bolden can only play and guard one position.
The upside he seemed to have entering Duke has already worn off. And there isn't anything too exciting about a back-to-the-basket, low-end starter or backup who doesn't shoot or defend.
Even though he's only a sophomore, Bolden must start reshaping his image right away.