2018 NBA Draft: Best and Worst Landing Spots for Every Projected Lottery Pick

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 15, 2018

2018 NBA Draft: Best and Worst Landing Spots for Every Projected Lottery Pick

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Team fit plays a major role in every prospects' development following the NBA draft. 

    Young players each have different needs. Some require immediate minutes and the ability to play through mistakes. Others must have a backcourt or frontcourt partner to help mask their weaknesses. 

    For these lottery prospects who are mostly teenagers, landing in spots where they can play to their strengths and have immediate roles is typically key. 

    We suggested the best and worst landing spots for our projected top 14 picks, using only teams participating in the 2018 lottery Tuesday night in Chicago.

Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)

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    Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers 

    Best suited as a secondary playmaker from the 2 position, Luka Doncic would benefit from landing in Cleveland, whether LeBron James returns or not. 

    Doncic could thrive alongside a primary ball-handler and defensive guard like George Hill, as well as the quicker, more potent Jordan Clarkson. It seems unlikely the Cavaliers re-sign Rodney Hood, especially if they select the 19-year-old combo, which would create him a fast path to the starting lineup for a playoff team. 

    Playing with James would obviously be a dream scenario, but even if he leaves, the Cavaliers still have more weapons than most other lottery teams. And the more to surround Doncic—a playmaking specialist—the more effective he can be.


    Worst landing spot: Orlando Magic

    The Magic wouldn't have enough support at either end for Doncic, who'll want a breakdown point guard partner to take pressure away, plus a strong team defense. Orlando doesn't have either. 

    Aaron Gordon is a restricted free agent, Nikola Vucevic will be entering the final year on his deal and Jonathan Isaac only managed 27 games as a rookie. This franchise lacks stability and upside. 

    Atlanta isn't super attractive for Doncic, either, though John Collins, Taurean Prince and four top-33 picks should make it a more desirable situation.  

Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Dallas Mavericks

    Like most lottery teams, the Dallas Mavericks are still in the early stages of their rebuild. But at least they have their cornerstone point guard in Dennis Smith Jr. and a franchise that can better attract free agents.

    In Dallas, Deandre Ayton starts right away in a lineup that already has two quality scoring weapons. And after next season, the Mavericks will only be committed to Harrison Barnes and Dwight Powell (assuming they opt in) outside of Smith, which means the team will have flexibility to improve the roster.

    Until then, Ayton should receive plenty of reps and chances to develop in a 30-plus-minute role.

    He'd also fill the 5 hole in Phoenix, though the Suns were the worst-ranked defensive team last year, per ESPN, and defense is Ayton's Achilles' heel.


    Worst landing spot: Orlando Magic

    Already jammed up with Gordon, Isaac and Vucevic, Orlando wouldn't be an ideal landing spot for Ayton. 

    The team would likely have to move one of their three bigs before the season. And even if it did, the spacing—which Ayton should value as a post player—could be limited, particularly with the Magic ranking No. 28 in three-point shooting.

    Without much room to operate or any guards to run the show, Orlando would present Ayton with a tough situation.

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

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Memphis Grizzlies

    A best-case scenario for Marvin Bagley III has him landing on a team with a center who can protect the rim and stretch the floor. There aren't many of those in the league, nevermind the lottery. But Marc Gasol is close. 

    In Memphis, Bagley can play to his strengths as a high-level athlete and off-ball scorer. Ideally, he eventually transitions to center. In the meantime, he can log starter minutes and work on his perimeter skills from the 4 while receiving mentorship from Gasol, whom he can replace at the 5 once the veteran's contract is up (or he's traded) after the 2020 season (player option). 


    Worst landing spot: Atlanta Hawks

    The worst landing spot for Bagley is a coin toss between the Magic and Hawks. But at least in Orlando, he'd have the chance to pair with Jonathan Isaac or Aaron Gordon, who are better defenders. A Bagley-John Collins duo could be problematic. 

    Neither are rim protectors or perimeter defenders. And in Atlanta, where Dennis Schroder's fit and future remain uncertain, Bagley wouldn't have many veterans or playmakers to play off. 

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

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Phoenix Suns

    Jaren Jackson Jr. could be the answer for the Phoenix Suns, who have talent but have struggled to take the next step. 

    After blocking 5.5 shots per 40 minutes and making 39.6 percent of his three-pointers, Jackson would be a textbook fit for a team that finished last in defensive efficiency and three-point shooting. 

    And with Tyson Chandler's career winding down and Alex Len entering unrestricted free agency, Phoenix could use a center. Jackson would get the playing time he needs without too much of a workload in a lineup that includes Devin Booker, TJ Warren and Josh Jackson.


    Worst landing spot: Sacramento Kings

    Raw offensively, Jackson won't want to land in Sacramento. The Kings wouldn't be able to offer him much frontcourt support from either the 3 or 4, assuming he'd play minutes there at center. 

    Limited as a shot-creator, Jackson also wouldn't have any high-level assist men to set him up, with De'Aaron Fox more likely to thrive as a scorer than a facilitator. 

Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers

    During the regular season, only two teams blocked fewer shots per game than the Cavaliers, who also ranked No. 29 in defensive efficiency. They need a rim protector like Mohamed Bamba (3.7 blocks per game) as much as Bamba could use supporting talent and playmakers.

    While James would be extremely helpful to Bamba, even if he left, the Cavaliers still have drive-and-dish penetrators in Hill and Clarkson and Love to stretch the floor and create space for Bamba inside. 

    If James stays, Bamba suddenly finds himself competing deep into the playoffs from year No. 1, a situation from which any rookie would benefit. 


    Worst landing spot: New York Knicks

    While the Knicks could always use defense, Bamba's fit in New York isn't optimal. 

    He wouldn't have strong breakdown guards to set the table. And with Kristaps Porzingis potentially out for the season recovering from a torn ACL, the Knicks could be a mess offensively, led by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. 

    If Enes Kanter opts in, spacing with him and Bamba up front would also be poor.

    Even when Porzingis returns, he'd have to play power forward next to Bamba. And with the NBA going smaller and Porzingis a weaker defender guarding around the perimeter, it's the not the most ideal frontcourt pairing. 

Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Philadelphia 76ers

    Mikal Bridges shouldn't complain if he's taken by the Chicago Bulls, but ideally for his sake, he slips to the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Bridges' weaknesses are shot-creation and playmaking, so he wouldn't have to worry as much in a lineup alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

    He could start his career behind Robert Covington or even alongside him on the wing if JJ Redick leaves in free agency. Still, Bridges appears to have more offensive upside than Covington based off his age (21) and flashes of improvement as a scorer. 

    Until then, he should be interchangeable from positions 2-4 as a three-and-D complementary role player who'd fit between the lineup's more ball-dominant weapons.


    Worst landing spot: Charlotte Hornets

    Stuck in no-man's land, the Hornets also already have a handful of wings and remain committed to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams. 

    It's a situation to avoid for any prospect, particularly Bridges, who'll want both minutes and offensive support. Charlotte becomes even less desirable if the front office chooses to blow up the roster and reset.

Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Best landing spot: Los Angeles Clippers

    It wouldn't be a disaster for Trae Young if he slipped a few spots later in the lottery. He'd be a fit for the Los Angeles Clippers, who have two picks in the top 14 and need a franchise point guard.

    And the Clippers have weapons for Young, which he didn't have at Oklahoma, where he led the country in usage and was regularly forced to over-hunt for shots. 

    To start, Young can play to his strengths as a setup man and let Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris carry the workload. If the Clippers can exchange DeAndre Jordan (opt-out candidate) for more assets, even better; though Young would likely benefit from having one of the game's elite finishers and rim protectors. 


    Worst landing spot: Charlotte Hornets

    Keeping Kemba Walker and drafting Young wouldn't many any sense for the Charlotte Hornets. Both are ball-dominant guards with defensive limitations. 

    And if they take Young and trade Walker, Young would be left without any support, again. 

    Stuck between tanking and competing, Charlotte isn't a favorable situation for Young, who needs the ball and scorers, shot-makers and athletes around him.

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

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Philadelphia 76ers

    Given how little Michael Porter Jr. has played over the past year (53 total minutes) due to back surgery, he'll need to be eased in. The Philadelphia 76ers would give him a similar setting to develop as the Boston Celtics provided Jayson Tatum, another scoring forward who's benefited from not having to jump right in as a No. 1 option.

    In Philadelphia, Porter would join a franchise on the rise that already has two star-caliber players to take pressure off early. 

    He should also be capable of thriving alongside either of its versatile, interchangeable forwards in Covington and Dario Saric. 

    Porter may put up bigger numbers if he lands in Sacramento or Chicago, but his efficiency, and ultimately his value, will benefit by landing with the more competitive 76ers.


    Worst landing spot: Atlanta Hawks

    Hopefully for Porter's sake, the Hawks don't view him as the best player available. He wouldn't have much talent to play off, meaning he'd have to lean heavily on his own shot creativity. And based on what we saw in March, he looks far from being a player who can create quality looks for himself one-on-one in the half court. 

    And if he landed in Atlanta, he'd have to play the 4 with Collins at the 5, which would create a poor defensive pairing in the frontcourt. 

Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Chicago Bulls

    With Robin Lopez entering the final year of his contract, Wendell Carter Jr. would have a path to the starting center position. And he'd have a fitting frontcourt partner to pair with in Lauri Markkanen, who stretches the floor and works mostly as a perimeter scorer. 

    Carter is more of an inside post man who operates with his back to the basket and rebounds at a high level. He'd give the lineup another option in the half court who still has plenty of untapped upside fueled by his tremendous physical tools, skill level and developing shooting touch out to the arc. 

    And with Markkanen showing promise with his lateral mobility, he can help mask Carter's weaknesses guarding away from the hoop. 


    Worst landing spot: Atlanta Hawks

    Atlanta isn't a place for any interior-oriented big-men prospects. While Carter could likely start at the 5, his fit alongside Collins, another paint-scorer and limited defender, doesn't sound ideal. 

    With Collins and Carter, the Hawks could suffer at both ends without spacing offensively or great defensive switchability.

Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Philadelphia 76ers

    Philadelphia should be a desirable destination for most prospects, including Collin Sexton, who could replace unrestricted free agent JJ Redick and play more 2-guard, where he could focus more on scoring and less on running an offense. 

    And with questions about Markelle Fultz's scoring upside now that he's suddenly limited around the perimeter, the Sixers could use another player capable of generating his own offense. 

    Sexton would see more on-ball reps with the Los Angeles Clippers, but between him and Lou Williams, there wouldn't be enough playmaking for teammates.


    Worst landing spot: New York Knicks

    The Knicks are already committed to Burke, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay with Hardaway and Courtney Lee on the wings. In New York, Sexton would have to deal with a logjam and limited talent to play off since Porizingis is likely out for most (if not all) of the season.

    New York shouldn't be too high on Sexton, either, given its need for a more complete floor general to direct the offense. Though Sexton can score, his 3.6-to-2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio suggests he isn't the best fit for the Knicks.

Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Best landing spot: New York Knicks

    Forced out of position at the 3 in college, Miles Bridges would play to his strengths at power forward in New York. 

    One of the draft's top athletes, he is also coming off a sophomore season in which he made 2.1 three-pointers per game and flashed signs of improvement as an off-the-dribble scorer. 

    He'd be a strong complement to Porzingis once he returns to center. Until then, Bridges would see unlimited opportunities and freedom next season, taking over for Michael Beasley, assuming he's not brought back. 

    The Knicks' future isn't as bleak as it may appear, with Porzingis and Ntilikina to build around long-term, plus 2019 and 2020 cap space and all of their first-round picks. Adding Bridges to the mix creates more promise and adds extra explosiveness to the frontcourt. 


    Worst landing spot: Denver Nuggets

    Bridges would have to play the wing in Denver, which takes away from his advantage as a quicker 4 who can shoot. He could still have trouble finding minutes, given the team's overload of forwards with Paul Millsap, Trey Lyles, Wilson Chandler, Juan Hernangomez, Kenneth Faried and Tyler Lydon. 

    After playing 30-plus minutes per game for consecutive seasons, moving to a bench-warmer role in Denver could cause more harm than good for Bridges. 

Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)

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    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Los Angeles Clippers

    The best landing spot for Robert Williams is L.A., assuming DeAndre Jordan isn't re-signed to a long-term extension. 

    With Jordan an opt-out or trade candidate, Williams makes sense as a target given the Clippers' two lottery picks. He'd slide right into Jordan's position with nearly identical strengths and weaknesses, given his elite athleticism, finishing, rim protection and rebounding, not to mention his offensive-skill limitations. 

    He'd be best in a lineup that has scorers like Gallinari and Harris at the forward spots. 


    Worst landing spot: Sacramento Kings

    Between the Kings' lack of weapons at the 3 and 4 and Willie Cauley-Stein, a similar player, at the 5, Williams won't want anything to do with Sacramento. 

    He needs a place where he can anchor the paint, play through mistakes and work alongside threatening scorers and playmakers. Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic won't offer Williams enough support.

Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Philadelphia 76ers

    Lonnie Walker IV could come in to replace unrestricted free agents Redick and Marco Belinelli at shooting guard. 

    Philadelphia would be an ideal setting for Walker to develop, given his strengths as a shot-maker and athlete and weaknesses as a shot-creator and playmaker. He struggled at times in college as a top option, but he wouldn't have to work so hard alongside Simmons, Embiid and Saric. 

    The Sixers would value Walker's shooting and ability to explode through lanes to put pressure on defenses.


    Worst landing spot: Charlotte Hornets

    After drafting Malik Monk, the Hornets don't need another perimeter scorer with a jump-shot-heavy shot selection. And Walker won't want to land in Charlotte, where the Hornets lack an identity and overall plan.

    Between Monk, Nicolas Batum, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb and Dwayne Bacon, the Hornets are already clogged up at the wing positions. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Los Angeles Clippers

    There isn't anything wrong with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's fit in Denver, but there is a clearer path to starter minutes in L.A. 

    As a passer with defensive range, he'd be a strong complement to Lou Williams, who can carry the scoring load. 

    The Clippers could groom Gilgeous-Alexander into the team's starting point guard with Patrick Beverley coming off a major injury and heading into the final year of his deal, and Milos Teodosic better suited for a backup role. 


    Worst landing spot: New York Knicks

    The Knicks either need wings or a high-level athlete to break down defenses from the point of attack. 

    Gilgeous-Alexander already shares strengths and weaknesses with Ntilikina, who's similarly limited as an athlete and shot-creator. Kentucky's freshman wouldn't add anything new to the lineup or have an opportunity to blow up with the team's investment in Ntilikina, Burke, Mudiay, Hardaway and Ron Baker.


    Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com


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