2018 NBA Draft: Strengths and Weaknesses for Top Prospect at Each Position
Bleacher Report's top prospect at every position has strengths and weaknesses that each NBA draft lottery team will assess.
Teams must determine which strengths will translate and how much stock to put into weaknesses of players who are between the ages of 18 and 21 years old.
Except for our top point guard, everyone else could wind up spending time at different positions, but the spots where we listed them either project as their primary position or the role in which they'll maximize their potential.
Point Guard: Trae Young (Oklahoma, Freshman)
Pick-and-roll offense (36.7 percent of offense, .881 PPP, 76th percentile)
When Oklahoma needed a bucket, putting Trae Young in a pick-and-roll situation was usually the play. Between his shiftiness and ball skills, he effectively used the space that each ball created for him.
He generated 1.053 points per possession as a passer in these situations, grading in the 65th percentile passing to spot-up teammates, the 60th percentile dishing to roll men and the 47th percentile finding cutters. Regardless of the numbers, given Young's general lack of support at Oklahoma, he demonstrated poise and impressive vision as a pick-and-roll setup man, capable of breaking down defenses and opening up looks for shooters. It's a strength that's likely to carry over with more space and talent around him in the pros.
As a scorer, he was most effective dribbling off the pick into a runner (16-of-22). Dribbling off picks into dribble jumpers, he made 35 of 100 shots, but he averaged 1.059 PPP on those attempts, which points to his three-point prowess and ability to pull up over screens from deep.
Isolation offense (17.2 percent of offense, 1.019 PPP, 85th percentile).
One of the nation's most efficient isolation scorers, Young has a one-on-one game fueled by advanced handles, change of speed and direction and the ability to hit shots off the dribble.
He preferred the right side of the floor—49 possessions compared to 15 on the left and two in the middle. Overall, he generated 1.080 PPP on isolation drives and pull-up jumpers, ranking in the 84th percentile.
Young was also a threat as an isolation facilitator (1.140 PPP), particularly with drive-and-kicks.
Runner (46.8 percent FG)
Young converted 29 of 62 runners, a shot he'll need at the next level, where he could have trouble finishing among the trees inside the restricted area. He shows soft touch and the ability to slow down his drive and release with balance off one foot.
Shot-making (1.058 PPP on jump shots, 80th percentile)
Young had a green light to fire away, and he did, making 118 three-pointers (3.7 per game) in 32 games. Many came well behind the arc or with hands in his face.
Overall, he shot 46.6 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 35.6 percent off the dribble, though his 1.045 PPP on dribble jumpers ranked in the 88th percentile.
Thriving on confidence and momentum, Young is one of those scorers who can make shots in bunches and take over stretches of games.
There is concern over Young's potential to contain stronger, longer and more explosive NBA point guards. After expending so much energy on offense at Oklahoma, he was often beaten at the other end, appearing easy to shake free from or lose with a screen. His effort on defense has also been questioned.
Finishing at the rim
Young plays below the rim and struggled to consistently finish around it, having shot 49.6 percent at the basket in the half court. He leaned on drawing fouls (8.6 FTA per game) or acrobatic trick finishes. How much will he be able to get away with against NBA rim-protectors?
Mid-range scoring (16.7 percent from 17 feet to arc)
Analytics departments may admire Young's shot distribution, but unlike scoring NBA point guards Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook, Young doesn't use the mid-range. He made only four jump shots all season inside the arc. How much will he be able to lean on his three-ball for offense when he isn't given the freedom to regularly launch from 25-plus feet away?
Young often settled for low-percentage shots, which had something to do with having teammates who struggled to create. But he doesn't get a full hall pass.
He shot 29.6 percent on early jump shots out of pick-and-rolls. And Young also led the country in turnovers, averaging a whopping 5.2 per game. Even with a heavy workload, Young had the tendency to play overly casual as a passer, whether he was being trapped or baited into making the highlight assist.
Shooting Guard: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, 1999)
Physical tools for position
NBA teams will be looking forward to finding out Luka Doncic's official measurements, which could range in the 6'6" to 6'8" range for height and 218- to 228-pound range in weight. He projects best as a secondary playmaker in the NBA, and with that size and strength, Doncic has the chance to be a physically overwhelming cover when handling the ball.
Doncic compensates for limited blow-by burst with tight ball-handling skills, which he uses to get to his spots on the floor. From there, he shows excellent passing instincts with a 31.5 assist percentage, per RealGM.com, (Euroleague, Spanish ACB, Spanish Cup combined) that's higher than top NCAA guards' like Alabama's Collin Sexton, Miami's Lonnie Walker, Creighton's Khyri Thomas and UCLA's Aaron Holiday.
Doncic's passing arsenal is deep, particularly in pick-and-roll situations, as he's capable of delivering dimes through tight spots by bouncing it through traffic or lofting it over the top with precision. His accuracy, IQ and timing are on point, and he has the size to make plays without being disrupted.
Two-point scoring efficiency
Despite not being overly explosive, Doncic is still shooting 59.0 percent inside the arc against grown men and professionals bigger and stronger than college defenders. He plays with noticeable balance, particularly off one foot with his runners and floaters.
Developing perimeter scoring
Though his repertoire isn't diverse, Doncic's shot-creating ability is improving, as he's developed a signature step-back to separate into three-pointers. He's also become a routine threat to dribble over a ball screen and shoot a three off the dribble. He's made 88 triples through 60 games, a promising sign regardless of his 30.4 percent mark.
For a guard, Doncic rebounds well and has grabbed more than six boards in 24 of 60 games. He uses his strength and motor to go up and get loose balls in traffic on both sides of the glass.
Doncic isn't a lost cause defensively, but lateral quickness isn't a strength, and the speed of opposing guards only picks up in the NBA. He's a smart player and therefore isn't a problem off the ball. However, defending on the ball in space could spell trouble against certain opponents.
Creating against quickness/length
There have been instances where Doncic struggles to separate from defenders one-on-one. He has a tendency to dance with the ball for lengthly stretches of the clock without going anywhere. Will he be able to break down defenses or get quality shots off cleanly against length?
Finishing against length
Doncic doesn't explode off the floor, raising questions as to how effective he'll be as a finisher at the rim.
Doncic appears more comfortable shooting off the dribble than the catch. He's making 33.1 percent of his threes in Euroleague and fewer than 30 percent of them in the Spanish ACB and Spanish Cup.
Small Forward: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, Junior)
Offensive efficiency (576 possessions, 1.217 PPP, 99th percentile)
Mikal Bridges' 1.217 PPP was the highest in the country for a player with a minimum of 400 possessions. Missed shots were rare, and made ones often counted for three points apiece. Bridges shot 59.3 percent inside the arc, including 67.3 percent around the basket, taking quality looks the defense gave him. He produced (17.7 points per game) playing within the offense, a good sign when projecting his fit at the next level.
Shooting (104-of-239 3PTM-A, 65.5 true shooting percentage)
Bridges shot well as a sophomore (39.3 percent 3PT), but he took his shooting to another level in 2017-18, finishing with 104 three-point makes and a 43.5 percent three-point mark. Mostly a catch-and-shoot threat from spot-up position (75.8 percent of time), Bridges elevates high and snaps his wrists into a convincing, high-release stroke. It was also the second straight season he converted at least 85.0 percent of his free throws.
Though still not an advanced one-on-one player, there were more signs this season of Bridges improving his shot-creation. He generated .984 PPP as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (90th percentile), converting 12 of 15 drives to the basket off ball screens. He made 15 of 33 attempts out of the post, and though he only saw 27 possessions in isolation, his .926 PPP on them ranked in the 73rd percentile.
Bridges improved his reputation as a scorer, but he'd always been known for defense, both in terms of versatility and playmaking. At 6'6" with long arms, he's guarded ball-handlers, wings and forwards, demonstrating both lateral quickness and anticipation while averaging 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Transition (18.1 percent of offense, 1.337 PPP, 90th percentile)
An elastic athlete with good explosiveness, Bridges was one of the nation's most effective scorers in transition, his second-most traveled avenue for offense behind spot-ups. He was even dangerous as a ball-handler on the break, having finished 11 of 18 of those plays himself.
Bridges still worked mostly off the ball without showing a great deal of skill as a face-up shot-creator. We saw occasional flashes of one-dribble pull-ups but not enough to be considered a strength, especially given his age.
He converted just nine field goals in isolation all season, while his 10.6 assist percentage (1.9 assists in 32.1 minutes) was underwhelming.
If Bridges wants to become more of a threat in the half court, he'll have to improve his in-between game. He only made three runners all season and shot just 18-of-52 on pull-up jump shots, which represents an obvious hole in his offensive game.
The scouting report shows Bridges only finished two of nine drives going left out of spot-ups, where he spends most of his time. NBA defenses will pick up on that quickly.
Bridges turns 22 years old in August, raising questions over his upside and window to expand his game. Though his three-and-D floor appears high, teams must decide whether he's worth taking over some of the freshmen, who may not be as ready but could wind up with higher long-term ceilings. Nobody will want to be the team who repeats the mistake the New Orleans Pelicans made when they took Buddy Hield over Jamal Murray.
Power Forward: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, Freshman)
At 6'11", 242 pounds with a 7'4" wingspan, Jaren Jackson Jr. aces the eye test, even for an NBA center, though his mobility and skill set should allow him to play the 4 depending on what teams selects him. Jackson's strong physical tools unsurprisingly give him the biggest advantage on defense.
Defensive potential/Rim protection (14.3 block percentage)
The only player in the nation to block at least three shots in fewer than 25 minutes per game, Jackson has tremendous reach and instincts in rim protection. He swatted shots at a spectacular rate while playing mostly power forward at Michigan State alongside Nick Ward. Jackson's wingspan is an obvious weapon, but his ability to slide and anticipate are equally important.
While opponents shot just 8-of-40 against Jackson at the basket, he also graded in the 87th percentile or better defending against spot-ups and isolation. Jackson moves his feet well enough to switch and contain around the perimeter, a major selling point that bigs like Houston Rockets center Clint Capela have shown can be extremely valuable.
Shooting (38-of-96 3PTM-A, 64.7 true shooting percentage)
Jackson shot 39.6 percent from three, making 38 shots behind the arc, more than Duke's Marvin Bagley III, Arizona's Deandre Ayton and Texas' Mohamed Bamba. And then he backed it up by shooting 79.7 percent from the free-throw line. Bigs who can protect the rim and stretch the floor are both rare and highly coveted in today's league.
Post game (14.2 percent of offense, 1.226 PPP, 98th percentile)
Jackson flashed a basic post game, but he was effective on the block, making 22 of 30 shots, including 14 of 16 from the right side. With position, he established himself as an option to feed down low, capable of releasing into a high-percentage, over-the-shoulder hook.
He remains limited off the dribble, but late in the season, Jackson flashed glimpses of being able to attack closeouts and make a play off the dribble. This would ultimately take his game to another level by making him a more multidimensional offensive threat in the half court.
Jackson won't turn 19 years old until September, meaning he'll finish his third NBA season and still be 21. That suggests he has enormous room to grow and plenty of time to continue transforming and expanding his offensive repertoire.
Jackson looked raw with the ball, unable to create shots for himself that weren't from the low post. He was 2-of-10 out of isolation and 9-of-23 off drives from spot-ups. He also totaled just 39 assists to 62 turnovers through 35 games.
Despite his physical tools and athleticism, Jackson only made 52.3 percent of his shots at the basket, a surprisingly low number.
Jackson's numbers were impressive, but the eye-test results on a small sample size raise questions. His form is unorthodox. Jackson has a low-release pushing motion on his shot, and teams may wonder whether his shooting success will translate with a deeper NBA arc. He'll want to erase these worries during workouts.
Jackson averaged 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes and occasionally took himself out of games early. He picked up three fouls in 15 minutes against Syracuse in Michigan State's NCAA tournament loss, when he finished without a field goal.
Center: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, Freshman)
Deandre Ayton pops with his chiseled, 7'1", 250-pound grown-man body and massive 7'5 ½" wingspan. He's a sight to behold, overwhelming with a mix of power, length and athleticism. Even if his skill level fails to develop, his presence around the basket seems guaranteed to carry over.
Post game (28.9 percent of offense, 1.052 PPP, 90th percentile)
The post was Ayton's office, where be began to demand double-teams. He shot 50.0 percent from the left block and 59.6 percent from the right. Ayton burned defenders with spin moves, drop-steps and fadeaways, but also the ability to face up and take a short jump shot.
He often made defenses pay for doubling down. On those possessions, he generated 1.29 PPP (95th percentile), with teammates shooting 56.9 percent on his pass outs (1.491 PPP, 91st percentile).
Finishing (1.48 PPP, 96th percentile)
Ayton was a monster inside, where he finished at a 71.5 percent clip. He plays through and above contact and shot 69.7 percent off cuts. Given his tools and determination, he should continue to be a high-percentage target at the rim.
Offensive rebounds/putbacks (14.0 percent of offense, 1.44 PPP, 93rd percentile)
Ayton used the offensive glass as a source of offense, having recorded 49 successful putbacks on the year. His strength and length naturally translated to second-chance opportunities off misses.
Shooting potential (12-of-35 3PTM-A, 65.0 true shooting percentage)
Consistency may take a few years, but Ayton flashed shooting potential out to the arc with 12 made threes. He also shot 39.0 percent on two-point jumpers outside 17 feet and 73.3 percent from the free-throw line, looking confident with his release. Ayton connected 22 times as a pick-and-pop man.
Ayton was forced to play out of position at power forward, but his defensive impact was still disappointing when considering his foot speed, size, length and strength. He blocked a pedestrian 2.3 shots per 40 minutes and often didn't react right or quick enough as a help defender, showing poor awareness off the ball.
General managers with an early pick must ask how much he'll bring down the team defense if he struggles to protect the rim as an anchor.
Ayton looked confident squaring up to shoot, but he rarely put the ball on the floor to make a move. It makes him more predictable and forces him to take lower-percentage, contested shots. He'll need to improve his handle and footwork on the move.
Sometimes overconfident in his jumper, Ayton shot an average 37.5 percent on all of his jump shots. He shot a below-average 34.1 percent on the attempts when he was guarded.