1 Sleeper Every Team Should Consider in 2018 NBA Draft
There are already specific prospects tied to each NBA team based on projections and predraft rankings. But those predictions are rarely accurate.
We picked a sleeper option for each team, one who should be considered despite being viewed as an odd fit or reach.
In some cases, it may make sense to explore trading down for the player we suggested.
The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors are the only teams without draft picks.
Phoenix Suns: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 1
The expected pick for the Phoenix Suns is Deandre Ayton. The sleeper one is Jaren Jackson Jr., who offers unique offensive upside with his ability to stretch the floor and use the dribble—and far more defensive potential, which the Suns should value.
They ranked No. 30 in defensive efficiency and three-point percentage, per ESPN. And in 408 fewer minutes, Jackson blocked 40 more shots and made over three times as many threes as Ayton.
Despite his age and the fact that he played mostly power forward, Jackson was the only player in the country to block three shots in fewer than 25 minutes per game, thanks to his 7'5 ½" wingspan, mobility and instincts.
Ayton will also turn 20 years old before Jackson turns 19.
Sacramento Kings: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 2
The Sacramento Kings will consider Michael Porter Jr. for his scoring, Marvin Bagley III for his versatility and Luka Doncic for his resume. They should also consider Mohamed Bamba.
Instead of looking for the next flashy offensive player, how about adding a defensive anchor to change the team's identity?
We've seen what Rudy Gobert's rim protection has done for the Utah Jazz. It's worth exploring Bamba's potential to do the same in Sacramento.
At 7'0 ¾" with 7'10" length and developing shooting touch, Bamba has the upside for the Kings to consider drafting this high, even though most boards will likely have him in the No. 4-8 range.
Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)
Draft pick: No. 3
There is a buzz around the league that if the Phoenix Suns pass on Luka Doncic at No. 1, he could fall to the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 4. The Atlanta Hawks should put that rumor to sleep by jumping on Doncic at No. 3.
The No. 1 prospect on Bleacher Report's overall big board, Doncic would also bring credibility to a Hawks backcourt that features Dennis Schroder, whose production does not reflect his value.
Even if the Hawks keep Schroder, who's best attacking the rim, Doncic would be a fitting partner because of his size, passing, shooting and competitiveness.
Memphis Grizzlies: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 4
With Mike Conley slowing down, the Memphis Grizzlies can look to Trae Young for more backcourt firepower.
They could view Young as his long-term replacement, but in the meantime, the two could form an intriguing dual point guard lineup.
While there is a perception that Young needs the ball in his hands, he did shoot 46.6 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 50.0 percent off screens last season, per Synergy Sports.
Conley's defense could also help make up for Young's, which is the main weak spot in his game.
Dallas Mavericks: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 5
Bagley and Bamba have widely been viewed as the bigs to consider at No. 5. Wendell Carter Jr. remains the sleeper option.
His production and efficiency went overlooked on Duke's loaded roster: 20.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes on 56.1 percent shooting. Scouts expect Carter to thrive in a more open NBA, especially if he's paired with a perimeter scorer like Harrison Barnes at the 4.
At 6'10" and 251 pounds and with 7'4 ½" length, he has the size, post game and shot-blocking ability to play center but also a developing jumper (19-of-46 3PTM) that's helped strengthen comparisons to Al Horford, who similarly compensates for limited explosiveness with inside-out skill and fundamentals.
The Mavericks ranked last in offensive rebounds per game. Carter would change that next season.
Orlando Magic: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)
Draft pick: No. 6
The Orlando Magic have been drafting projects, and it hasn't resulted in wins or franchise progress, particularly since Orlando hasn't been a hot free-agent destination.
The last upperclassman they took was Victor Oladipo, who they gave up on too fast. Maybe it was a sign to consider taking and holding onto Mikal Bridges, who, like Oladipo, went from role player in his first college season to breakout NBA prospect in his third.
Orlando finished No. 28 in three-point shooting, and Bridges just drilled 104 triples at a 43.5 percent clip. He's highly efficient overall, having converted 59.3 percent of his twos and averaged just 1.7 turnovers per 40 minutes.
The Magic already have to deal with a logjam at the 4 and 5, and there won't be any pure 2-guards worth considering unless Doncic miraculously slips. After drafting a project in Jonathan Isaac who's dealt with injuries, Bridges could be a low-risk, unsuspecting plug on Orlando's wing.
Chicago Bulls: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Draft pick: No. 7
With Kris Dunn still a non-shooter and Zach LaVine a restricted free agent trying to bounce back from ACL surgery, the Chicago Bulls could value Miles Bridges' shot-making and explosive athleticism.
He could be undervalued in this draft because the perception is the top freshmen pack more intrigue and upside.
Bridges could ultimately play off Lauri Markkanen at either forward spot. With Markkanen at the 5 and Bridges at the 4, Chicago would give defenses problems with a smaller, spread-out offense.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 8 (via Brooklyn)
No rookie is coming in and influencing LeBron James' free-agent decision or improving the Cleveland Cavaliers chances of beating the Golden State Warriors. The front office should be thinking long term and considering someone like Zhaire Smith, a defensive-minded prospect who turned 19 years old early in June.
One of the top athletes in the draft, Smith is a high-energy defender capable of guarding either wing position. His effort level is tremendous. But he's also flashed signs of developing offense with his jump shot and passing.
Next year, he'd only be good for athletic plays at the rim and defensive versatility. But with time, Smith has the chance to become one of the top 10 players from this draft class.
New York Knicks: Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)
Draft pick: No. 9
No. 9 sounds high for Aaron Holiday, but he's the sleeper point guard option for the New York Knicks. Trading down could be an option, although his stock is rising fast.
Holiday shot at least 41.0 percent from three in all three seasons at UCLA. He's a scoring ball-handler (20.3 points per game as a junior) and a competitive defender.
With Holiday and Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks would have two dogs on defense. Meanwhile, Holiday could carry the backcourt's offense with his playmaking (5.8 assists) and shot-making.
Philadelphia 76ers: Kevin Huerter (Maryland, SF, Sophomore)
Draft pick: No. 10 (via Los Angeles Lakers)
Nobody has risen faster since May than Kevin Huerter, who's in the mix for top shooter in the draft. But he hasn't just soared up boards because of his jumper.
Huerter is skilled off the dribble. He averaged 3.4 assists, showing the ability to make things happen using his handle. He'll also throw in deep pull-ups or surprising step-backs.
Huerter can score, though it's still his shot-making ability that should appeal to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers need shooters to surround Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and they could possibly lose unrestricted free agents JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.
Charlotte Hornets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 11
With Kemba Walker's future up in the air, it may be wise to draft another guard. And though Collin Sexton's scoring ability is attractive, Gilgeous-Alexander is the more intriguing prospect for his 6'6" size, 6'11 ½" length, superior facilitating and defensive versatility.
He'd give the Hornets a different look.
Even if the Hornets held onto Walker, Gilgeous-Alexander would be an interesting complement, capable of guarding 2s and working as a secondary playmaker while Charlotte grooms Malik Monk for the sixth-man role.
Los Angeles Clippers: Anfernee Simons (IMG, SG, 1999)
Draft pick: Either No. 12 (via Detroit) or 13
With back-to-back picks in the lottery, the Los Angeles Clippers could be willing to take a risk with one.
A 19-year-old guard straight out of high school, Anfernee Simons is an upside pick for his athleticism and scoring potential. And the Clippers' backcourt, led by 31-year-old Lou Williams, could use an injection of youth and talent.
Simons is an offensive weapon, powered by quickness, bounce and the ability to create shots and make tough ones with his three-ball and runner. Williams would ultimately be the ideal mentor being another undersized scoring 2-guard.
Denver Nuggets: Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 14
With Will Barton entering free agency and Wilson Chandler unlikely to be in the Denver Nuggets' long-term plans, Troy Brown should be considered at No. 14.
The Nuggets already have a featured scoring core with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. Brown's jack-of-all-trades versatility would work from multiple spots in the lineup.
More importantly, he's one of the most useful defenders in the draft, capable of guarding positions 1-4. And the Nuggets ranked No. 26 in defensive efficiency and No. 6 in offense.
Washington Wizards: Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)
Draft pick: No. 15
The Washington Wizards should consider taking a home run swing on Mitchell Robinson, one of the few non-freshman bigs worth looking at.
He chose to skip college and train for the draft, making him a tough assessment for NBA teams. But Robinson was one of the top recruits in his class, fueled by an elite mix of size, length and athleticism.
Marcin Gortat's run as the starting center has to be nearing its end. Robinson would give the Wizards a high-upside center to develop once they're ready to retool the frontcourt.
Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova, SG, Sophomore)
Draft pick: No. 17
Weak at the 2-guard position, assuming Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo play the forward spots, Donte DiVincenzo should be considered at No. 17.
He'd be able to play to his strengths as an energizer who uses his athleticism to make plays. But DiVincenzo also shot 40.1 percent from three and averaged 3.5 assists. As a secondary ball-handler next to Eric Bledsoe, he'd offer shooting and playmaking—and he's a pesky defender.
DiVincenzo's game may not scream All-Star, but finding a high-effort, versatile role player this late would still be considered a win.
San Antonio Spurs: Elie Okobo (France, PG, 1997)
Draft pick: No. 18
The San Antonio Spurs could look to strengthen their backcourt with Elie Okobo, a late riser who made a significant jump over the past three months.
He's a different type of guard compared to Dejounte Murray, a non-threat from outside. Okobo, who went off for 44 points in a game last month, averaged 1.9 threes per game this season at a 39.4 percent clip.
He'd give the Spurs lineup a needed jolt of scoring firepower, whether it's alongside Murray or behind him as Manu Ginobili's long-term replacement in the sixth-man role.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)
Draft pick: No. 20 (via Oklahoma City)
No team finished with fewer three-point makes than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Grayson Allen would come in to replace Jamal Crawford as the team's offensive spark off the bench who'd given them a needed, proven shot-maker to surround the team's big three.
The controversy around Allen has seemed to die over the past year, and no red flags have been raised during the predraft process.
The Wolves should consider him strictly for his basketball strengths. Allen wound up making at least 80 triples in each of his last three seasons while improving every year as a playmaker.
Utah Jazz: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)
Draft pick: No. 21
The Utah Jazz landed a steal with Donovan Mitchell in last year's draft. They could try to pull it off again with Chandler Hutchison, who's always been a jump shot away.
Hutchison combines size, athleticism and improved handles to slash and attack from either wing position. In his final season at Boise State, he averaged 20.0 points and nailed a career-best 1.5 threes per game. Though the latter is not a convincing number for a senior, he continues to trend upward.
He found ways to score without a consistent jumper in college. If it turns out the progress he flashed last season was an indicator of improvement (and more to come), No. 21 would be too low for Hutchison.
Indiana Pacers: Jacob Evans (Cincinnati, SG/SF, Junior)
Draft pick: No. 23
Jacob Evans fits the identity of the gritty Indiana Pacers, who took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games without nearly as much talent.
A versatile, interchangeable wing, the tough-minded Evans would work from multiple spots in the Pacers' lineup, particularly if free agent Glenn Robinson III ends up elsewhere.
Evans does a little of everything, from shooting and secondary playmaking to defending with pressure.
Portland Trail Blazers: De'Anthony Melton (USC, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Draft pick: No. 24
The Portland Trail Blazers have two scoring guards—Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum—and weak depth at the 2 spot.
De'Anthony Melton would give them a defensive-minded combo guard who can log backup ball-handler minutes and play behind McCollum.
A two-way playmaker, Melton makes his mark with ball pressure and passing. In Portland, he could play to his strengths and away from his weaknesses as a scorer.
Los Angeles Lakers: Melvin Frazier (Tulane, SF, Junior)
Draft pick: No. 25 (via Cleveland)
Melvin Frazier falls under the three-and-D umbrella, though it's his defense that's driving his value.
Athletic, long and quick, he should be able to guard positions 2-4. Frazier averaged 2.5 steals per 40 minutes in back-to-back seasons, a promising sign regarding his defensive ability.
With Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram being more offensive-minded, Frazier would give L.A. a potential defensive specialist who can also make shots and stretch the floor without needing touches or dribbles in the offense.
Boston Celtics: Kevin Hervey (Texas Arlington, SF/PF, Senior)
Draft pick: No. 27
The Boston Celtics like interchangeable players, and Kevin Hervey could give them minutes at either forward position. He'd ultimately be valued for his mix of size and perimeter shot-making.
With his 7'3 ½" wingspan, Hervey knocked down 2.3 threes per game as a senior, effortlessly releasing jumpers over defenders. But he can also put the ball on the floor and score in other ways.
He's projected to go in the second round because of his age (turns 22 in July) and previous knee injuries. But Hervey could be undervalued after averaging 20.5 points per game and looking like one of the top players during five-on-five at the combine.
Golden State Warriors: Jevon Carter (West Virginia, PG, Senior)
Draft pick: No. 28
Jevon Carter would give the Warriors' second-unit backcourt a different look.
The roster already has enough offensive weapons. One of the toughest defenders in the draft, Carter could come off the bench, pick up full court and pressure opposing ball-handlers into mistakes.
He'd play to his strengths in Golden State—the way Jordan Bell has—and not have to worry about creating shots. Carter also improved his floor game as a senior, averaging 6.6 assists to 2.6 turnovers. He'll be able to run the offense and move the ball to the Warriors' key players.
Brooklyn Nets: Moritz Wagner (Michigan, C, Junior)
Draft pick: No. 29 (via Toronto)
All of the Brooklyn Nets' bigs are interior-oriented. And they don't have many to begin with.
At No. 29, the Nets shouldn't be nitpicking, searching for upside. If they see a surefire contributor who fills a need, they should pounce. And Wagner, who shot at least 39.0 percent from three in consecutive seasons, comes off as a good bet to help stretch the floor and knock down open shots.
Between Jarrett Allen's finishing and rim protection and Wagner's perimeter skills, Brooklyn would have a nice mix of offense and defense from the center position.
Detroit Pistons: Omari Spellman (Villanova, PF/C, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 42
The Detroit Pistons could upgrade their frontcourt depth. And they might as well try with a big who can stretch the floor, since Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond play mostly inside the arc.
Spellman shot 43.3 percent from three while also blocking 1.5 shots per game. At 254 pounds, he's big and long but also a skilled shot-maker.
He could be more effective once he's put on an NBA conditioning program.
Houston Rockets: Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky, PF, Freshman)
Draft pick: No. 46 (via Miami)
Jarred Vanderbilt's scoring limitations wouldn't be a major problem in Houston. For the Rockets, he could focus on doing what he does best: crashing the glass and moving the ball.
One of the draft's top rebounders, Vanderbilt averaged 18.5 boards per 40 minutes. And he's shown he can grab and go, with the ability to handle the ball, initiate the break and start the offense, which would work well for a Rockets team that likes to push the pace.
Vanderbilt's struggles as a scorer and shooter are legitimate concerns, but if there was a team that could mask his offensive weaknesses, it's the Rockets.
New Orleans Pelicans: Rawle Alkins (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)
Draft pick: No. 51
The New Orleans Pelicans' wing depth isn't overly exciting. In the 50s, it's worth looking at Rawle Alkins, who could be undervalued after missing all of November and parts of January with a foot injury.
He has the NBA body and toughness, and he's capable of scoring from all three levels. The Pelicans may even be able to count on him for rookie minutes, given his defensive strength and shot-making.
Alkins just has to sharpen his ball skills and continue making strides as a shooter.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kenrich Williams (TCU, SF, Senior)
Draft pick: No. 53
A sleeper for all teams, Kenrich Williams would fit nicely in Oklahoma City for his well-rounded skill set at either forward spot.
The Thunder could value his shooting, rebounding and passing to complement their star players. He shot 39.5 percent from deep and averaged 3.9 assists and 9.3 rebounds, a rare mix of stats for a wing.
A versatile and efficient player, having shot at least 47.0 percent from the floor in three consecutive years, Williams should be on the second-round-steal watch.