A few rookies made big imprints on the NBA's postseason landscape this year.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is averaging 18.4 points per game and just led his team to a 96-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons registered a 17-point triple-double against the Miami Heat in the first round and filled up the stat sheet nearly every night.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also found playoff success, as the former Louisville Cardinal scored 24.4 points per game in two rounds of play.
It will be interesting to see if the 2018 NBA draft class can yield players who make big impacts for postseason contenders in 2019. At the very least, a few prospects could jump into a rotation and help make immediate contributions. Here's a look at two who could fit that bill, in addition to an NBA mock draft.
NBA Mock Draft
1. Phoenix Suns: Arizona C Deandre Ayton
2. Sacramento Kings: Duke F Marvin Bagley III
3. Atlanta Hawks: Michigan State F Jaren Jackson Jr.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Real Madrid G Luka Doncic
5. Dallas Mavericks: Duke F Wendell Carter
6. Orlando Magic: Missouri F Michael Porter Jr.
7. Chicago Bulls: Texas C Mohamed Bamba
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets and Celtics): Oklahoma G Trae Young
9. New York Knicks: Alabama G Collin Sexton
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers and Suns): Villanova G/F Mikal Bridges
11. Charlotte Hornets: Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Texas A&M F Robert Williams
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Kentucky G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
14. Denver Nuggets: Cedevita Zagreb F Dzanan Musa
15. Washington Wizards: Missouri F Jontay Porter
16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Villanova G Jalen Brunson
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Chalmette High School C Mitchell Robinson
18. San Antonio Spurs: Michigan State F Miles Bridges
19. Atlanta Hawks: Miami G Lonnie Walker
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Kentucky F Kevin Knox
21. Utah Jazz: Boise State G Chandler Hutchison
22. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Ohio State F Keita Bates-Diop
23. Indiana Pacers: Villanova G Donte DiVincenzo
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Creighton G Khyri Thomas
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavaliers): UCLA G Aaron Holiday
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Duke G Gary Trent Jr.
27. Boston Celtics: Villanova F Omari Spellman
28. Golden State Warriors: Oregon F Troy Brown Jr.
29. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): IMG G Anfernee Simons
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Boston College G Jerome Robinson
Oregon F Troy Brown Jr.
Freshmen will largely populate the first round of this year's NBA draft, as is the case most years nowadays. A few top prospects are getting much of the attention, but the second half of the draft should yield some intriguing freshmen talent as well.
One of those players is Oregon forward Troy Brown Jr., who averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in his lone year in school. NBADraft.net calls Brown a "big-time athlete/high-flyer," as partially evidenced by this steal-dunk sequence in the Pac-12 tournament in March:
While Brown's defense and athleticism make him a solid first-round prospect, he needs to improve his shooting. The former Duck shot just 44.4 percent from the field last season, including a 29.1 percent mark from behind the three-point line.
Still, Brown has plenty of time to develop, as he isn't turning 19 years old until July 28. Chris Dortch of NBA.com, who wrote a profile on Brown on May 18, is optimistic about Brown's NBA future: "If Brown does shore up his perimeter game, he'll become a prototypical modern-day NBA player. Position-less basketball has become the norm, and Brown has the requisite size and most of the skills needed to plug into the right system."
That sentiment seems to be backed up by Brown's combine numbers. T.J. McBride of Mile High Sports also praised Brown's positional versatility:
T.J. McBride @TJMcBrideNBA
Troy Brown, the wing player from Oregon, has an ideal body & skillset on both ends of the floor to play either forward position. Height w/o shoes: 6'5.75 Height w/ shoes: 6'6.75 Wingspan: 6'10.25 Standing reach: 8'9 Hand length: 9in Hand width: 9.75in Weight: 208 Body fat: 7.05%
Opinion varies regarding Brown's eventual landing spot within the first round, as noted by Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype:
Bryan Kalbrosky @BryanKalbrosky
We looked at four of the top mock drafts from experts around the league to come up with an aggregate model. One player without consensus: Oregon's Troy Brown, who ranks between No. 12 (@ringer) and No. 23 (@NBADraftnet). Take a look via @hoopshype: https://t.co/fHQ1JNO0lf #NBA
Brown would be an excellent fit for numerous contenders in the back end of the first round, but a home with the Golden State Warriors, who drafted another Oregon forward last year (Jordan Bell), could work. The Warriors have an excess of centers on their roster and could use more players who offer more positional versatility and athleticism, which is where Brown comes into play.
One other potential landing spot is at No. 21 with the Utah Jazz, who may need to add to the forward depth chart with Derrick Favors entering free agency. Brown should be a mid-to-late first-round prospect, which means he'll most likely be playing on a contending team next year.
Creighton G Khyri Thomas
One of the best three-and-D prospects in this year's draft, Creighton guard Khyri Thomas is entering the NBA after three seasons in school. Thomas is parlaying an excellent junior year into a near-surefire first-round selection, as he averaged 15.1 points on 53.8 percent shooting.
His numbers from behind the three-point line were also impressive, as he knocked down 62 of 151 shots for a 41.1 percent success rate.
Thomas was also active on the defensive end, as he posted 1.7 steals per game. In fact, he never had fewer than one steal per game on average in any of his three seasons in school.
FS1 college basketball analyst Nick Bahe sang Thomas' praises on defense:
The two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year excels on that end thanks to his long wingspan, which measured at 6'10½" at the NBA Draft Combine. That makes up for his less-than-ideal height at the shooting guard position (6'2½").
Thomas also received compliments from the 2018 NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo, per Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest: "On the ball, he's amazing. He's long, he doesn't take risks at all, so he contains well. And he has the length to contest bigger guys, reads the pick and roll great, and he can read weakside. So he was a tough defender for us both times we played them. And offensively, he killed us (at Creighton)."
Quick also noted Thomas was interviewing with the Blazers. The two sides seem like an obvious pairing, as Portland could use a clear third scoring option in the backcourt alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in addition to some defensive help on the perimeter.
The Blazers' playoff window is also open right now, and Thomas may be one of the more polished players in this draft class, so he could help Portland stay in postseason contention (and perhaps go a bit further in the bracket) right away.