Re-Drafting the 2018 NBA Lottery If Summer League Performance Really Mattered

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 19, 2018

Re-Drafting the 2018 NBA Lottery If Summer League Performance Really Mattered

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    Every year, summer league brings surprises and disappointments. The question is how much stock NBA teams should put in each.

    We redrafted the 2018 class based on July's results. And some major changes were made. 

    Top names have fallen because of exposed weaknesses that raise legitimate questions about their fit and transition from college to the pros.

    On the other hand, there were prospects who made dramatic rises after looking like teams flat-out missed on them during the scouting process. 

    This is how a new draft lottery would look if significant stock were put into summer-league performances.

1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 1

    No additional questions or red flags popped up on Deandre Ayton following summer league. If anything, he helped validate the Phoenix Suns' decision to draft him first overall.

    Ayton averaged 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game on 59.5 percent shooting in Las Vegas, playing to his strengths within 15 feet while resisting the urge drift outside and shoot threes.

    The 7'1", 250-pound rookie looked dominant around the basket, tapping into his strength, length and athleticism to finish lobs and his guards' drive-and-dishes. And he flashed his soft touch on short-to-medium range jumpers.

    Ayton also looked more comfortable defending from the center position after playing the 4 at Arizona. And despite the low shot-blocking rate (1.0 per game), his foot speed and wingspan point to room for improvement and plenty of defensive potential.

2. Sacramento Kings: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 4

    In a redraft, the Sacramento Kings would likely go big again, only with a different player. Jaren Jackson Jr. should now look like the better fit and higher-upside player than Marvin Bagley III, who was shooting 33.3 percent in Sacramento and Las Vegas before injuring his hip and groin.

    Jackson opened summer league by drilling eight three-pointers during his debut with the Memphis Grizzlies, and after eight games, he finished 14-of-28 from behind the arc while averaging 3.3 blocks in just 24.9 minutes per game.

    His ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim is rare and valued. And Jackson won't turn 19 years old until September. His window to continue improving as a face-up weapon and post scorer remains massive.

3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)

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    Original pick: No. 3

    Luka Doncic didn't play in summer league, but Trae Young did. And though Young came alive over his final four games, he could have given Atlanta enough reasons to think twice (30.3 percent FG, 3.7 turnovers per game) about passing on or trading Luka Doncic, even with the Dallas Mavericks throwing in a future first-round pick.

    No. 1 on Bleacher Report's board before the draft, Doncic has a unique ability to control and impact a game. And he offers the versatility to play on and off the ball, which would give the Hawks flexibility during their rebuild. 

    At 19 years old, he was the MVP of Euroleague, widely regarded as the world's second-most competitive basketball setting. And with 6'6" size, undeniable playmaking instincts, tight handles, a three-ball and a scoring ability that continues to improve, Doncic should translate his tools and skills into NBA success.

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 7

    The Chicago Bulls are one of the big winners of summer league, mostly thanks to Wendell Carter Jr. He wouldn't get past the Grizzlies in a redraft with Ayton, Jackson and Doncic gone.

    Carter averaged 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds on 55.1 percent shooting, also flashing some range (three of seven three-pointers) and rim protection (2.6 blocks per game).

    He looked slimmer and quicker in terms of first moves with the ball and lateral mobility, leading to more elusiveness as a scorer and defensive switchability. 

    Strong, long and polished, Carter seems like a smoother fit than Bagley with equally attractive upside.

5. Dallas Mavericks: Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 9

    Kevin Knox's rise started during the predraft process, and it continued through summer league after he averaged 21.3 points per game for the New York Knicks.

    He's also still 18 years old, while Mohamed Bamba, arguably the next-best prospect, turned 20 in May. 

    The Dallas Mavericks would take Knox and do what the Knicks did: Give him more freedom to handle the ball and attack, something he didn't get to show as much at Kentucky. At 6'9", Knox has a mix of size, athleticism and the ability to face up and blow past defenders. 

    But he also made 10 threes in four games, showing both shooting range and the versatility to make shots working off the ball.

6. Orlando Magic: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 6

    The Orlando Magic wouldn't do anything different if Ayton, Jackson, Doncic, Carter and Knox were off the board. They'd still see Mohamed Bamba as the best player available and the one most likely to change and strengthen the team's identity.

    He looked just fine through three summer-league games in Las Vegas, shooting 60.0 percent from the field and blocking 2.3 shots in 19.7 minutes per contest. The 7-footer presented himself as an easy-basket target high above the rim, while his mobility and extraordinary length showed up on a number of impressive rejections.

    He also flashed the exciting shooting touch (made two threes) that's fueled unicorn comparisons and projections. Bamba's mechanics looked smoother, and though the sample size was limited, it remains easy to picture the jump shot eventually becoming a part of his everyday repertoire.

7. Chicago Bulls: Mitchell Robinson (1998, C)

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    Original pick: No. 36

    Carter played himself into the top six during summer league, forcing the Bulls to scramble in the redraft. But a new exciting big man has emerged as an option. 

    Mitchell Robinson led all 2018 draft picks in player efficiency rating while in Las Vegas. His 4.0 blocks per game set a record, dating back to 2004, per RealGM.com.

    Robinson also shot 66.7 percent and averaged 13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in just 24.7 minutes per game, destroying opponents around the basket with his elite-level athleticism, energy and timing. 

    And this was a kid who hadn't played a game of organized basketball in a year, considering he skipped his freshman season at Western Kentucky.

    Robinson would fit nicely in Chicago alongside Lauri Markkanen, the more skilled, perimeter-oriented scorer.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 11

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was summer league's top rookie point guard with the third-highest PER in the 2018 draft class.

    After he averaged 19.0 points and 4.0 assists per game on 45.8 percent shooting, questions over his limited explosiveness have started to fade. Gilgeous-Alexander looked sharp and shifty off the dribble—difficult to contain despite lacking blow-by speed.

    He converted in the lane and showed promise with his pull-up jumper. His size (6'6"), length and quick reaction time also translated 2.3 steals per game, a number pointing to defensive playmaking potential that feels legitimate. 

    Collin Sexton remains intriguing, and Young should still be in consideration. But Gilgeous-Alexander has made a case for being the most complete guard available to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

9. New York Knicks: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 5

    Young started slowly before settling down and racking up at least 20 points and five assists in three of his final four games. In that stretch, the only contest in which he failed to put up numbers was the one he left early because of injury.

    Based on who's available, this a great chance for the Knicks to buy low, even over Bagley, who's questionable shot-creating and defense raise too many questions.

    Against the Bulls in Las Vegas, Young put together a signature performance, carrying the Hawks to a late comeback and 101-93 win with his shot-making and playmaking.

    He would be a strong fit next to Frank Ntilikina, who'll help mask Young's defensive limitations. Meanwhile, college basketball's leader in scoring and assists would give the Knicks needed offensive firepower.

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Troy Brown Jr. (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 15

    Troy Brown Jr. moves up five spots in the redraft after a strong summer league in which he averaged 18.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

    The Philadelphia 76ers don't have room for any more ball-handlers. After selecting Mikal Bridges and then dealing his draft rights for Zhaire Smith (and a future first-round pick), it's clear they're in the market for wings. And Brown has established himself as an attractive one for his two-way versatility and age, being that he doesn't turn 19 years until the end of the month.

    Brown was given a brighter green light in Las Vegas, and it resulted in flashes of scoring ability we didn't see as often at Oregon.

    A multipositional defender, above-average ball-handler and smooth slasher, Brown remains a consistent jump shot away from being a complete player. It's worth betting on, given his age and the eye test.

11. Charlotte Hornets: Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 8

    Sexton had a big summer league but still falls three spots in the redraft, which has more to do with surprise risers and specific needs of teams.

    He averaged 19.6 points, showcasing his signature attacking prowess and ability to score in bunches. Sexton's first step looked as explosive as ever. He put heavy pressure on opposing defenses whenever he had the ball.

    Young still has the edge on Sexton, who finished with 24 assists to 23 turnovers and made just three of his 13 attempted three-pointers. Efficient playmaking and shooting are the areas in which he's behind.

    But the Charlotte Hornets would still value his athleticism, scoring and competitive defense in the backcourt, even if Kemba Walker is there to stay.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Original pick: No. 2

    No prospect falls further than Bagley after summer league, where he averaged 10.3 points in 28.1 minutes on 33.3 percent shooting.

    The predraft concerns about his fit came to life. Can he create against a set defense? Can he shoot? Bagley's offensive upside may not be as high as his athleticism suggests it should be.

    However, he's still worth taking in the lottery for his bounce, motor and activity around the basket. Even if his skills don't radically improve, Bagley would give the Los Angeles Clippers an easy-basket target and rebounder.

    And at 19 years old, his large window to develop suggests he has plenty of time to make adjustments.

13. Los Angeles Clippers: De'Anthony Melton (USC, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    Original pick: No. 46

    Nobody took a more baffling slide on draft night than De'Anthony Melton. It still remains a mystery as to how he fell so far.

    The Los Angeles Clippers wouldn't allow it to happen again. In five summer-league games, Melton gave opponents a taste of his improved scoring and two-way playmaking, averaging 16.4 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals.

    He also made 12 threes, an encouraging sign regarding his shooting development, after he made just 21 threes on 28.4 percent shooting in 2016-17 as a freshman at USC before he was forced to sit out last season because he was linked to the FBI's pay-for-play investigation.

    None of June's lottery point guards will be available to the Clippers in a redraft. But it's also possible that Melton deserved to be one of them.

14. Denver Nuggets: Jerome Robinson (Boston College, SG, Junior)

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    Original pick: No. 13

    Jerome Robinson didn't make headlines in summer league, but all the positives highlighted before the draft showed in Las Vegas.

    He flashed his sharp perimeter-scoring skills with his spot-up and dribble jumpers. Robinson got going for a stretch in each of his three games, finishing with at least 12 points and two triples in every one.

    His NBA calling card will be clear: Robinson's value stems from his ability to put the ball in the basket, whether he's working one-on-one, off ball screens or off the ball spotting up and running around screens.