Pro Player Comparisons for Top 30 Prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft
Not all NBA fans are well-versed in the NCAA; even fewer are experts on what is happening in European leagues. When the draft comes, most are trying to figure out who their team is going to get beforehand or who they got afterward.
Sometimes player comparisons are the easiest way to get the gist of an incoming player or potential draft pick.
Not all 30 guys taken in the first round are going to be career rotation players in the NBA, but these comparisons give a sense of likeness. They aren't intended to show a player's potential or ceiling so much as the style, strengths and weaknesses of an entrant.
Player comparisons are provided by B/R's Jonathan Wasserman.
Order comes via Wasserman's latest big board.
1. Luka Doncic: Brandon Roy
Read enough and talk to enough people about Luka Doncic, and you start to notice a trend: The more likely those are to have watched him and know what they're talking about, the more likely they are to be high on him.
He has an all-around game. He averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists and 5.2 boards last year in Euroleague. He was the MVP at 19. He plays defense. He's the type of skilled and all-around player that Brandon Roy was before he had his career curtailed by chronic knee problems.
The Ringer's Danny Chau thinks the comparison works stylistically too:
"The closest stylistic forebear I've ever seen to Doncic's play is Brandon Roy. The former Portland Trail Blazers superstar often turned possessions into tic-tac-toe, baiting his defender into the wrong spots on the floor and capitalizing in the sliver of space he had to exploit.
"Doncic takes that methodology and adds a supremely confident shooter from damn near anywhere behind the line (even as his percentages have plummeted as this season has progressed)."
Brandon Roy with a three doesn't sound so bad.
2. Jaren Jackson Jr.: Serge Ibaka
When you think of Serge Ibaka, you primarily think of two things: shot-blocking with a three. Jaren Jackson Jr. fits the bill.
Ibaka developed his three as his shot-blocking game started to diminish. Over the first five years of his career, he had 997 blocks and made 45 shots from behind the arc. Over the last four, he's only blocked 526 shots, but he's made 368 threes.
Jackson has range, shooting 44.83 percent from NBA-three range, according to The Stepien. That makes for a fair comparison, because Ibaka is not just a "corner three" kind of stretch-4; 86 of his deep balls were above the break as opposed to just 20 from below it.
Add in that Jackson had a massive 14.3 block percentage in college. For perspective, Anthony Davis' was 13.7.
Those two main ingredients make it a consistent comparison—only Jackson could have both going at the same time.
3. Deandre Ayton: DeMarcus Cousins
Like DeMarcus Cousins, Deandre Ayton is a versatile, powerful big man. At 7'1", 250 pounds, Ayton can put the ball on the floor, post up, rebound and shoot the three. He shot 34.2 percent from deep (albeit on only 35 attempts). He's a smart passer who can find the cutter out of a double-team.
Also like Cousins, there could be some negative issues. Norm de Silva, an advanced scout for the Houston Rockets writing for Cleaning the Glass, presents this:
"Despite all these reasons to fall in love with Ayton, he also offers legitimate reasons for concern. Teams need to consider how he will grow mentally—whether he will be able to see and understand everything at a higher level when the floor is spread more and the players are longer, faster and stronger."
Ayton looks like he can be Boogie in all the right ways—and the wrong ones too.
4. Mohamed Bamba: Rudy Gobert
All you have to do to understand the comparison between these two is look at them.
Let's just say, if they gave one another a standing high five, it would be really high. Their hands would meet just three inches below the rim.
But is it a reach to say that Bamba is the next Gobert? He's going to be an incredible shot-swatter (13.1 block percentage at Texas, according to Sports Reference). Also like Gobert, he has some ability to keep people in front of him on the perimeter and the length to make up for it when he's beat.
However, also like Gobert, he could be unplayable in the wrong small-ball situation (played off the court against the Houston Rockets in the playoffs). Bamba can also be too aggressive in chasing down blocks.
5. Trae Young: Damon Stoudamire
Damon Stoudamire got the nickname "Mighty Mouse" for a reason. He was an undersized (5'10"), bursty guy who made nifty shots and shot the three well.
Trae Young set the world on fire, particularly at the start of the season, with a similar type of game. While he's a bit taller (6'2"), he's only 178 pounds. He averaged 30.0 points and 10.0 assists over the first 16 games, shooting 40.7 percent from deep and 51.7 percent from two.
His ability to create shots from the perimeter and pull up and drain them is Steph Curry-esque. He also has shades of Steve Nash with his creative passing game.
Hence, Mighty Mouse seems a better comparison because he shares more of a pass-first tendency with Young.
6. Marvin Bagley III: Amar'e Stoudemire
When you think the name Amar'e Stoudemire, you think of one of two things: incredible springs or bad knees. Fortunately, Marvin Bagley III is getting the comparison here for all the right reasons.
Bagley is a super-bouncy dude. If he has a measured vertical, I can't find it listed anywhere. His grandfather was nicknamed "Pogo" Joe Caldwell because he allegedly had a 50-inch vertical, per Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore. Whatever Bagley's vert is, he got something from his grandad.
It's not just that height. It's the burst off the ground, the second and third leap, the ability to cut through traffic and fly. He's a tremendous athlete, but he's also skilled like STAT was, and he has a jumper (39.7 percent from deep.) All he needs is a Steve Nash and he's good to go.
7. Wendell Carter Jr.: Al Horford
"A jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one."
It's a quote I've often associated with Al Horford, who across the board is one of the most complete centers in the NBA. He passes, he shoots, he scores with his back to the basket, he rebounds, he defends. He's not the greatest at anything, but he is good at everything.
Wendell Carter Jr. has a chance of being the same type of all-around player who has a spectacular impact on a game.
The comparison is so obvious even Carter embraces it. In fact, he told The Athletic's Michael Scotto that he's modeled himself after the Celtics big man and why: "[Horford] affects the game in so many different ways. He doesn't have to have the ball in his hands to help his team win. That's what I like about him."
8. Mikal Bridges: Trevor Ariza
Trevor Ariza has carved out a nice career for himself as a solid and steady contributor, having started playoff games for five different franchises. While with the Lakers, he helped the team to a ring.
However, he's never been the first or second option. He's never been an All-Star, but year after year, team after team, he's an integral cog. He steadily worked on his game, developing a three-point shot and played versatile defense.
Mikal Bridges has the potential to be that same type of steady glue guy who can make a big difference without putting up big numbers. Jay Wright, his coach from Villanova, told Al Iannazzone of Newsday:
"He's complete as a player and as a person. Off the court, he's really high character, he's intelligent, he's a leader. On the court, he's complete as a player. He defends really well and takes pride in his defense. He's a great rebounder from the guard position, offensively and defensively. He shoots the ball well, is good in pick-and-roll and has got great basketball IQ."
He might not have the highest ceiling in the draft, but his floor is quite high. And if all he becomes is a career glue guy, that's still a solid use of your selection.
9. Michael Porter Jr.: Brandon Ingram
Per Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report:
"Michael Porter Jr. and Brandon Ingram are face-up scorers with power forward height and three-point range.
"They can be played at the 3 or 4, and both have the ability to make tough shots away from the basket. Neither started off as playmakers. Porter will want to follow Ingram's off-the-dribble improvement, as right now he's more of a catch-and-shoot or straight-line driver."
Ingram showed a big improvement last season, vaulting from 9.4 points with a 44.2 effective field-goal percentage to 16.1 and 49.7 percent. He still has to improve to vindicate his No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NBA draft, though.
"Right now, I'm a little, I'm a mix of Giannis and KD. You know, I like going to the hole a little more than KD does, I like bumping into people a little more physical than KD. But I also, you know I like to shoot the ball more than Giannis. So that's what I like to compare myself to. Then also Tracy McGrady. I get compared to him a lot and I like that one a lot too. You know, those are three amazing players. So it doesn't feel bad to be in the same conversation as them."
You have to appreciate the confidence of a guy who puts himself in a conversation with McGrady, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo and then says "it doesn't feel bad."
We'll stick with Ingram.
10. Zhaire Smith: Kent Bazemore
When Kent Bazemore came into the league, he was known more for his celebrations from the end of the bench than any basketball he played. However, after a few years and on his third team, he broke out with the Atlanta Hawks, finding a role as a consistent three-and-D wing.
Similarly, Zhaire Smith hit the college scene as a 3-star recruit who was just hoping to see playing time his freshman year. Instead, he turned himself into a potential lottery pick.
Like Bazemore, Smith is an explosive two-way player whose tremendous athleticism is as likely to produce an awe-inspiring dunk as it is a devastating block. SBNation's Ricky O'Donnell writes:
"Smith exploded onto the national radar as the living embodiment of a human highlight reel. He was an athletic supernova who effortlessly made plays above the rim on both ends of the court, turning tip dunks and chase-down blocks into regular occurrences. He was the linchpin of one of the nation’s top defenses while also turning himself into an efficient, if low-usage, offensive weapon."
Also, like Bazemore, he has range, shooting 45.0 percent from deep in college.
11. Kevin Knox: Kelly Oubre Jr.
"Like Kelly Oubre, Kevin Knox is an exciting athlete who makes his mark by shooting, slashing and getting out on the break.
"They aren't the sharpest one-on-one players, but that doesn't stop them from scoring. Knox is making 1.6 three-pointers per game and averaging .974 PPP out of spot-up situations with his catch-and-shoot jumper, pull-up and floater."
Knox has a 6'11.5" wingspan, per The Stepien, and Oubre's is unofficially around 7'1", according to Draft Express. Just like Oubre coming into the NBA, Knox lacks polish defensively, but because of his natural athleticism and length, he can develop into a nice perimeter defender as Oubre has.
Knox isn't likely to carve out a career as a superstar, but he could grow into a solid three-and-D rotation player.
12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Shaun Livingston
Shaun Livingston is a long, skinny lead guard who has had a steady role as Stephen Curry's backup with the Golden State Warriors.
Livingston's best attribute is his ability to score in the lane, either with a short mid-range jumper or finishing around the rim, even if not above it.
In all those ways, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a 6'6" point guard from Kentucky, is similar. The Stepien writes:
"Maybe the top player in the class when it comes to crafty finishing. Deep bag of crossovers, hesitation moves, spins, Eurosteps, and more to get to his spots and amazing at using his length to extend to the bucket."
Also similar to Livingston, Gilgeous-Alexander doesn't loft a lot of threes, though he did a decent job of making them when he did (40.4 percent on his 57 attempts).
13. Jerome Robinson: JR Smith
In some ways, Jerome Robinson can be a lot like JR Smith, who in his younger days was a tremendously versatile scorer who could crash the rim or nail a jumper. He could score off the bounce or off the ball.
Robinson's CBS Sports profile indicates he could be the same type of player:
"Jerome Robinson is an electrifying talent who can play either guard position and thrive because of the array of ways he can score—off the bounce, off the catch or on the run. He was a good three-point shooter at Boston College, too, and could have a game immediately translatable to the NBA as a two-way guard."
Where he has more promise is between the ears. Bryan Kalbrosky from Hoops Hype reports that Robinson is shooting up draft boards because of his sensational interviews.
Add that to JR Smith-like athleticism, and he could be promising.
14. Kevin Huerter: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is arguably the best catch-and-shoot player in the history of the game. Getting to that point, though, is more than just catching and shooting the ball. It's about getting yourself into a position where that's possible.
That's where Kevin Huerter has a lot of similarities, as The Stepien cites.
"Elite three-point shooting threat with ability to hit off curls, pindowns, and particularly backward momentum. Squares his feet to hoop and gets ball out in a hurry. Compact release with repeatable finish and little input. One of the draft's best mechanical shooters, especially when considering shot diversity."
Another similarity is that both players are semi-capable ball-handlers. Neither is going to be the primary playmaker, but both can create in a pinch.
Like Thompson, Huerter also projects to be a good defender who can guard either wing.
15. Miles Bridges: Jae Crowder
Jae Crowder has an interesting place among the league's small forwards. Most fall into one of two classifications. Some, like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George, are bonafide playmakers.
Others, such as Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter Jr., are spot-up shooters.
Crowder is a decent shooter (34.1 percent from deep for his career) who can create shots decently and can also score off the ball. EVR1022 from Fear the Sword adds:
"Overall, [Miles] Bridges' on-ball offense isn't particularly exciting in and of itself, but within the context of his overall game, it's noteworthy because high-impact off-ball players often are completely reliant on others to set them up. That isn't the case with him, as he's proven capable of scoring against defenses keyed in on stopping him.
"It also provides an avenue for long-term growth, as any improvements to his ball-handling ability and passing accuracy would make a big difference in these actions. This gives him upside that a player like Mikal Bridges lacks.
16. Lonnie Walker IV: Zach Lavine
Lonnie Walker IV finished top-15 in every athletic test at the combine, per NBA.com. He finished top-10 in everything but the standard vertical. He even tied for ninth on the bench press with 12 reps.
He could be the best athlete in his class.
When you think of the great athletes in this league, the first two names that come to mind are Russell Westbrook and two-time slam-dunk champion Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls. The Ringer's Paolo Uggetti writes about him:
"As one of the headlining wings projected to go in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft, the 6'4.5", 196-pound Lonnie stands out with his explosive athleticism, smooth pull-up shooting off the dribble, and the ability to defend multiple positions given his 6'10" wingspan. He's an active body with a hyperactive mind."
That last bit might even separate him from LaVine, who has yet to figure out how to be a contributor on the defensive end. Walker is a bit of a project, but he's one who could end up being well worth the investment.
17. Collin Sexton: Eric Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe is an undersized (6'1") but lengthy point guard (6'8" wingspan) who has generated a career for himself by being an explosive scorer and capable defender.
Chris Johnson argued for Sports Illustrated why Collin Sexton would be the guard he'd take first in the draft:
"Sexton can puncture defenses by exploding into the paint and navigating contests for close-range finishes, but opposing guards can't give him too much breathing room while protecting against the possibility of getting roasted off the bounce.
"Sexton is a willing pull-up jump shooter who manufactures space with an advanced array of dribbling moves capable of fazing the limited set of defenders not susceptible to his blow-bys."
Sexton is also a similar size (6'0.25" height, 6'7.25" wingspan). He has the length to compensate for at least some of what he's giving away in height.
18. Robert Williams III: Willie Cauley-Stein
Willie Cauley-Stein had his best year as a pro this season, averaging 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings, mostly because of his agility and hops.
He's tall and long and springy. He's the type of guy who should be a good defender around the rim.
Williams isn't quite as tall (6'9" to 7'0"), but his length (7'4" wingspan) makes up for that. Where the similarity to Cauley-Stein comes in is courtesy of his tremendous athleticism for a big man. Kendra Andrews wrote for the Washington Post:
"In his two years at Texas A&M, he won consecutive SEC Defensive Player of the Year awards and made the SEC all-defensive team in back-to-back years.
"He says the key to his defense is athleticism, which allows him to run faster and jump higher than expected for a player of his size. ... He averaged 9.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game and is one of the most productive defensive big men in this year's draft."
Cauley-Stein is a better offensive player but not the same caliber of defender, and they have the same sort of energy to get the most out of their length.
19. Donte DiVincenzo: Tyler Johnson
Tyler Johnson didn't get drafted. He came up the hard way, earning his way into the NBA through the D-League.
He's a fun player to watch. He gets good penetration to break down defenses and has a decent pull-up jumper. He's just enough of a playmaker to be a lead guard off the bench and enough of a shooter to play off another.
Donte DiVincenzo is the same type of guy, capable of scoring with the ball in his hands or as the secondary option on catch-and-shoots. He spent most of his time in college as a sixth man and projects to be the same type of player in the NBA.
On the right team that needs such a guy (say, the Utah Jazz), he could be an immediate contributor.
20. Aaron Holiday: Yogi Ferrell
Aaron Holiday will soon be joining his brothers Justin and Jrue in the NBA, but his best pro-player comparison isn't one of his siblings; it's Yogi Ferrell.
Ferrell is a good scorer in space, whether off the bounce or off the pass. He's capable of exploding on a given night, but he's not going to lead a team on a nightly basis.
Holiday is the same.
Paul Hudrick from NBC Sports Philadelphia described Holiday in a way that would fit Ferrell: "For his size, he's a good, creative finisher and features a pretty nice floater. He understands how to attack defenses, especially in the pick-and-roll. He's excellent at changing his pace and lulling defenders to sleep."
Also like Ferrell, Holiday is undersized at 6'0". As a less-than-stellar athlete, he will probably struggle defensively in the NBA.
21. Josh Okogie: Will Barton
Will Barton is one of my favorite stories in the league. Traded as a throw-in from the Portland Trail Blazers as part of the Arron Afflalo deal, he steadily developed his game until he grew into one of the most important players on the Nuggets. He averaged 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season.
Barton has a lengthy wingspan (6'9.75") and particularly this year developed into a nice defender.
Josh Okogie is similar. He has the same sort of size and more length (6'4", 7'0"). He's able to play multiple positions. He has good instincts and court awareness. Across the board, there's nothing that wows you, but there's no great weakness, either.
Like Barton, he's going to take a few years, but also like Barton, he has the potential to develop into an all-around player who can help a team as a starter or reserve.
22. Chandler Hutchison: Wilson Chandler
Chandler Hutchison's best pro comparison is Wilson Chandler, fittingly enough.
Chandler has carved out an NBA career with a well-balanced game. He's averaged 15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per 36 minutes over the course of his career. He plays both offense and defense. He's been capable both as a starter and a reserve.
Hutchison looks like he can be the same type of reliable player. According to Jake Fischer of SI, he has the handles to take over the lead ball-handling duties on occasion. At 6'7" and 200 pounds, he has the size to play the 3 but will probably need to put on some weight to play a stretch 4.
He's also a smart player who should be able to adapt quickly to the NBA at age 22. If you're looking for a steady two-way contributor outside of the lottery, this is your guy.
23. De'Anthony Melton: Marcus Smart
It would be bold to throw out the name "Marcus Smart" unless you're talking about a player with tremendous defensive potential. That's what we have in De'Anthony Melton.
Jeremy Woo of SI wrote: "Rangy defender with a good sense of anticipation. Averaged 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per-36 as a freshman. Measured with a 6'8" wingspan. Can defend either guard position given his length. Makes plays on the ball."
All of which describes Smart's best attributes.
Also like Smart, who has a 29.3 career three-point percentage, Melton shot just 28.4 percent from three. So he, like Smart, will have to do a lot of work on his jumper.
But as far as that guy who can guard either backcourt position, he's the one. He'd make a lot of sense for a team like the Portland Trail Blazers, who could use a stopper.
24. Troy Brown: Evan Turner
Troy Brown has the potential to grow into a reliable all-around player, but he's not there yet. Don't tell him that, though. He told Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest, "I feel like a lot of guys when they say they are three-and-D, it's offensive scoring and being a defensive player, but I feel like I bring more than that."
That brings up two ways he's reminiscent of Evan Truner.
First, he has decent handles and good vision. He could blossom into a capable point forward if he works on his game, but it's going to take time.
Second, he doesn't seem to have a sense of his limitations (shooting). It may be that it's going to take time for him to understand that the next level really is another level.
However, one area where he's projecting better than Turner is on the defensive end. After a couple of years to develop, he should be a regular all-around rotation player.
25. Dzanan Musa: Bojan Bogdanovic
The idea of European role players as soft guys who can shoot but not do much else has been slowly eroding over the last few seasons.
One of the guys who has helped break that mold is Bojan Bogdanovic of the Indiana Pacers. While he's still a good shooter (40.2 percent from three), he isn't just a spot-up guy. Last season, he created nearly a third of his own buckets, and over a quarter of his shots were at the rim.
Dzanan Musa also has the ability to create shots for himself. Jeremey Woo's scouting report for SI reads: "Decisive, efficient scorer with the ball in his hands. Shot 44% out of pick-and-rolls, 43.5% in spot-ups, 40% in isolation and 61.9% in transition. Totaled 47% from the field overall. Advanced for his age."
That balanced scoring attack corresponds with what Bogdanovic has been doing.
26. Elie Okobo: D'Angelo Russell
D'Angelo Russell was drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers in 2015, but he has yet to live up to that billing. He does have a complete skill set; the problem is he doesn't have elite athleticism.
In that sense, Elie Okobo is quite familiar. O'Connor presents a couple of Okobo's plusses: "Impressive shooter off the dribble. He uses step-backs, pull-ups and sidesteps to get his shot off. It's like he's mimicking James Harden. Good spot-up shooter who has potential to hit shots off screens if he focuses on mastering his footwork."
But he also presents a minus: "Lacks elite first step, burst and athleticism. So instead of attacking the lane, he end [sic] up settling for too many jumpers and floaters."
As a result, he projects to be a high-floor, low-ceiling player.
27. Jacob Evans: Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee has established an NBA career as a three-and-D guy who can guard the 2 or 3. He has a high basketball IQ and uses that to overcome what are sometimes athletic mismatches.
Jacob Evans is a similar type of player. He's a good shooter from three but not a great one (37.0 percent).
Where he really stands out in his similarity to Lee is defensively. O'Connor lists among Evans' plusses: "Spirited defender with the size and length to defend multiple positions" and "advanced off-ball defender; rotates well, communicates and has good footwork on closeouts."
Knowing where to be and when to be there is what Evans has in common with Lee most of all. You can't underestimate the value of a high basketball IQ, and it's Evans' biggest strength.
28. Khyri Thomas: Gary Harris
Gary Harris has been an underrated part of the Denver Nuggets' improvement over the last few seasons. While Nikola Jokic has understandably and deservedly gotten a ton of credit, there's an argument that Harris is almost as important.
According to NBA.com, Harris was third on the team in plus-minus, with the Nuggets being 5.8 points better while he was on the court. He was the team's best perimeter defender and hit 39.6 percent of his threes.
Two things from Khyri Thomas' scouting report from O'Connor jump out: "Elite perimeter defender who moves quick laterally, can switch onto wings and combines good technique with intensity to neutralize opponents" and "Knockdown spot-up three-point shooter who shows flashes of dynamic play off screens and handoffs."
29. Keita Bates-Diop: James Posey
James Posey had a steady NBA career that peaked when he played a significant role on both ends of the court in helping the Miami Heat to their first NBA title in 2006 and the Boston Celtics to a ring in 2008.
He wasn't a knockdown scorer, but he could make the three (38.7 percent for his career), and he was a decent post-up player. He was also a reliable defender, although he was never All-Defensive team standard.
Still, he was a guy who contributed on both ends for 12 seasons.
Wasserman wrote this on Keita Bates-Diop in March:
"Averaging 19.4 points per game, Bates-Diop has made a draft case with his scoring versatility as a long, 6'7", 235-pound forward. He's hitting 1.8 threes per game and making defenders pay for closing out too hard.
"Out of spot-ups, he's shooting 42.3 percent on pull-ups, 8-of-11 on runners and 14-of-22 on drives to the basket. He has the potential to guard 3s and 4s, so there is enough for teams to consider drafting Bates-Diop in the first round."
He might be a little slight to play the 4 in large doses, and he doesn't have the athleticism or skills to be an elite player on either end, but he does have a two-way presence to carve out a career as a role player.
30. Grayson Allen: Delonte West
Delonte West and Grayson Allen have both had more brushes with infamy than fame, but that's not why they're being compared.
"Explosiveness, shot-making (2.7 threes per game) and secondary playmaking (4.5 assists) will give Allen a chance in the pros. He's turned into a threatening pick-and-roll passer (1.1 PPP, 70th percentile), which helps his cause by expanding his all-around versatility. However, he struggles badly at the rim (42.9 percent) and projects poorly defensively, and he's been frustratingly inconsistent."
That's similar to the all-around (but unspectacular) production that West had. It's also an apt comparison to West's frequent defensive failings.
There's a chance that Allen is better than this, and Steve Wiseman of the News & Observer added: "Considered to be a second-round pick two months ago, the 22-year-old Allen is thought of more and more as a first-round pick after teams saw him at the NBA combine, in individual workouts and in one-on-one meetings."