Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Projected Top 2018 NBA Draft Picks

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 18, 2018

Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Projected Top 2018 NBA Draft Picks

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    NBA teams can create a best- and worst-case projection for draft prospects to assess and highlight the potential risk and reward each of them present. 

    What will Arizona's Deandre Ayton look like if he hits his stride? What kind of player will he resemble if he struggles defensively? Who will Duke's Marvin Bagley III mirror if his shooting develops? Who will he become if he can't make outside shots or defend?

    Based on their physical tools, athletic ability, skill sets and weaknesses, check out the ceiling and floor comparisons for the top 10 prospects projected in our most recent mock draft

Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    In the best-case scenario, Deandre Ayton will become the draft's top player and a perennial All-Star like DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns. 

    Neither Cousins nor Towns matched Ayton's college production, which included 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He's also in better shape than both Cousins and Towns were at the same age, with similar length and arguably more athletic ability.

    And while Ayton is still best in the post, where he ranked in the 98th percentile in points per possession this past season, he's already flashed three-point range (12 threes). That's something we didn't see much of from Cousins or Towns in college.

    If all goes to plan, Ayton should be one of the NBA's top scoring bigs and a walking double-double.

    Even in a worst-case scenario, Ayton will still produce, but he could be vulnerable to becoming a stats-over-impact player. Centers like Brook Lopez or Nikola Vucevic fall under this category.

    Ayton wasn't to blame for Arizona's disappointing season, but there were games when he could have done more. He also struggled to make defensive reads, which could hurt his NBA value if he serves as a franchise's anchor in the paint.

Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)

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    Given his unique mix of strengths for a player his size, Luka Doncic has the chance to be special. He's already averaging 16.9 points, 4.6 assists and 1.8 three-pointers at 19 years old in the world's second-toughest league (Euroleague).

    Since 1946, only 11 NBA players listed between 6'7" and 6'8" have hit those numbers in a season: LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Scottie Pippen, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Jalen Rose, Clyde Drexler, Stephen Jackson, Nicolas Batum, Chuck Person and Antoine Walker.

    Doncic differs from each of these players in one way or another, but his point-forward versatility and shooting could take him to places few pros have been. In terms of impact and star power, Doncic could fall on the spectrum near Pierce, who succeeded with skill, IQ and intangibles over athleticism. 

    In the worst-case scenario, Doncic will have a career like Jackson's, Rose's or Batum's—a high-end role player who never makes an All-Star team. 

    In this situation, Doncic has more trouble creating shots for himself. Instead of being a top scoring or playmaking option, he plays more of a complementary game as a secondary player in his team's offense.

Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Jaren Jackson Jr. became the only college basketball player in 25 years to average at least three blocks and a three-pointer in fewer than 25 minutes. At 6'11" and 242 pounds with 7'4" length and fine athleticism, the eye test shows an NBA fit. 

    He's also only 18 years old, which gives him a ton of time to improve and grow into a far more skilled and multidimensional player. That makes it difficult to confidently project his ceiling. 

    Of the 15 NBA players 6'10" or taller who've averaged at least 0.5 three-point makes and 1.5 blocks in a seasonseemingly achievable feats for Jackson based on his college production, tools and ageJackson appears closest in style to Serge Ibaka, who has never made an All-Star Game.

    But if Jackson's post scoring and two-point shooting take off, he could mirror the success of Rasheed Wallace. The four-time All-Star averaged 19.2 points on 50.1 percent shooting, 1.8 blocks and 0.7 three-point makes during his best NBA season based on win shares

Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    A 6'11" elite-level athlete with a versatile offensive skill package, Marvin Bagley III offers as much upside as any prospect in the class. 

    A monster finisher (73.4 percent at basket) with a strong post game (.952 points per possession, 78th percentile), shooting range (23-of-58 3PT) and the ability to face up and attack, a best-case projection could mirror Chris Bosh, a perennial All-Star for his inside-out scoring and rebounding. 

    Bagley needs to polish up his shot-creating and jumper, but for a 19-year-old incoming rookie coming off a 21-point-per-game freshman season, doing so is clearly in the cards.

    However, if his shooting at Duke turns out to be fluky, Bagley could look more like Julius Randle, who leans more on his mix of tools, agility and coordination but isn't as dangerous as a one-on-one scorer. Bagley also shot only 62.7 percent from the free-throw line, and that college rate often translates to the NBA. 

Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Mikal Bridges' practical projection shows a high-floor, low-ceiling NBA prospect. 

    Bridges will turn 22 in August, so scouts must ask how much they expect him to improve moving forward. Despite his breakout year at Villanova, he still appears relatively limited as a creator and scorer off the dribble, something he'd need to reach an All-Star ceiling. 

    At best, we're likely looking at another Otto Porter Jr., an efficient wing who works mostly off the ball as a shooter and slasher and offers defensive versatility. Expecting Bridges to suddenly turn into an isolation scorer or playmaker this late is tougher to buy into, but between his shot-making, athleticism and occasional flashes of special moves, he can be a team's third scorer and top defender.

    If nothing else, he'll settle into a three-and-D role like Trevor Ariza. That would make him a valued supporting cast member, but not one whom coaches expect to operate one-on-one or create off ball screens. 

    Bridges shot 43.5 percent last season from behind the arc, and like Ariza, he can guard shooting guards through power forwards. Even if his off-the-dribble game never takes off, Bridges can still be an effective two-way starter. 

Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    If a team drafts Mohamed Bamba in the top five, it will be hoping for him to change its defensive identity in the way Rudy Gobert did for the Utah Jazz.

    With a similar 7'9" wingspan, Bamba, who finished second in the country in blocks as a freshman, could be a similarly elite rim protector. He's the type of center with the potential to change how opponents game-plan. Even when he isn't swatting shots, his presence alone triggers hesitation from driving guards and finishers around the basket.

    Despite Bamba's tools, defensive stats and presence, Texas only finished 19-15 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

    There is no doubt Bamba will be a plus NBA defender, but it doesn't mean he's an automatic game-changer. 

    Without an advanced offensive repertoire, Bamba could be another Nerlens Noel in a worst-case scenario. While Noel is an active inside player, he isn't a must-play, 30-minute-per-game starter. 

    If opponents are scoring at will with Bamba manning the middle, his coach may swap him out for a more versatile offensive center.

Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Michael Porter Jr.'s NBA identity is that of a mismatch scorer. He doesn't project as an assist man, interior presence or difference-making defender, so he'll be mostly valued for his shot-making and the ability to go get a basket in the half court. 

    Whichever team drafts Porter will be hoping to land a player it can feature on offense.

    With the perimeter skills of a wing, the 6'10" Porter could be a weapon in the mold of Danny Granger or Luol Deng in their primes. He has the potential to become a lineup's No. 1 or No. 2 option, one who can create his own shots and shoot threes over smaller forwards. 

    Worst-case scenario, he could take after Rudy Gay or Harrison Barnes. Porter missed all but 53 minutes of his lone college season due to back surgery, and though Gay and Barnes could each score 20 points on any given night, they both prefer isolation ball and have never been known to make others better as passers.

Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    As an NBA pro, Trae Young seems unlikely ever to top his freshman year statistically as the nation's leader in scoring and assists. But he still has the chance to be a valuable, productive point guard due to his shot-making (he made 3.7 threes per game this past season) and playmaking.

    In the best-case scenario, he'll take after Isaiah Thomas in his prime. He'd be valued for his ability to create opportunities, both for himself and teammates, as well as catch fire and take over stretches of games. Like Thomas, Young's value will always be hindered by his defensive deficiencies, as he's vulnerable one-on-one and can't guard 2s. 

    If Young's lack of athleticism and length hold him back from getting shots off as cleanly, he'll still carve out a role as a setup man like Tyus Jones. His craftiness off the dribble, vision and passing skills aren't going anywhere. 

    There is a wide gap between Young's best- and worst-case scenario, which makes him a high-risk, high-reward option in this year's top 10.

Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Despite lacking exciting athletic ability, Wendell Carter Jr. has earned himself a spot in the top-10 conversation due to his NBA physical tools, sound fundamentals and consistent, efficient play at Duke (20.2 points on 56.1 percent shooting and 13.5 rebounds per 40 minutes).

    He plays an old-school game with skills, footwork and smarts over speed and flash. Best-case scenario, Carter is the NBA's next Al Horford, another limited leaper and decisive back-to-the-basket scorer who's developed into a stretch big with three-point range. 

    The post is still Carter's office, but he did go 19-of-46 from three-point range and average three assists per 40 minutes as a freshman. 

    If he fails to make a Horford-like impact, worst-case, he's another Greg Monroe. Back when he was with the Detroit Pistons, Monroe was a routine 15-point scorer and effective rebounder, but he didn't space the floor or add much value defensively. 

Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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    A scoring point guard, Collin Sexton resembles Eric Bledsoe with his powerful tools, athleticism and ability to put pressure on defenses.

    Sexton's upside seems capped by his playmaking limitations, and he wasn't the most convincing shooter (33.6 percent from three-point range) at Alabama. But he still managed to average 19.2 points by getting downhill and attacking the basket, which will likely remain his bread and butter. 

    His 3.6 assists per game will rise in the pros with stronger teammates around him, too. His penetration should naturally lead to playmaking opportunities. 

    But if Sexton struggles with his jump shot and facilitating, he could look more like Reggie Jackson. The Pistons floor general is productive, but he isn't efficient or valued as one of the league's more desirable starting point guards.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.