Re-Drafting the 2018 NBA Rookie Class: Where Would Luka, Trae, Ayton Go Today?
An NBA re-draft of the 2018 class would look vastly different from the original.
If its No. 1 pick changes, so does every other selection in the top 10. Based on the start of three specific prospects, the Phoenix Suns would have a tough call atop the board.
Teams would have to decide how to value what they've seen this season versus the scouting they've done on these prospects for years prior.
The goal remains the same: Find the best player available for the long term who also fits in with the franchise's direction and roster.
1. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic
As productive and efficient as Deandre Ayton has been, the Phoenix Suns could be better off with an initiator like Luka Doncic and instead fill the 5 hole with a defensive-minded, rim-protecting center.
The Suns could build their franchise around a Doncic-Devin Booker backcourt, which can become one of the NBA's toughest to guard for its size, firepower and passing.
The original No. 3 pick currently leads all rookies in scoring, but his facilitating and vision suggest he can work as a 6'7" mismatch at point guard. Of all the options at No. 1, Doncic is the player who can make the biggest impact on the team's identity.
2. Sacramento Kings: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Though the original No. 1 pick is still available, Jaren Jackson Jr. gets the nod from the Sacramento Kings for his two-way versatility and fit.
He's also a year younger than Ayton and clearly the more threatening shooter and rangy defender.
Jackson's ability to stretch the floor and play power forward would work nicely alongside the interior-oriented Willie Cauley-Stein.
The original No. 4 pick wasn't nearly as productive in college as Ayton or Marvin Bagley III. But after almost a half season in the pros, it's become clear that Jackson's blossoming skill set is better suited for the NBA, and his defensive ceiling surpasses every big's in the class.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Deandre Ayton
The Atlanta Hawks wouldn't have to think much at No. 3 if Doncic and Jackson went No. 1 and No. 2. Right there in the Rookie of the Year race, Ayton would look like the easy best player available following his start in Phoenix.
He and John Collins could form an overwhelming frontcourt for the Hawks, especially if both continue to develop their jump shots. Ayton is still more of an anchor who Atlanta can feed in the post for high-percentage looks. He's been remarkably efficient as a finisher and back-to-the-basket scorer while flashing enough touch in the mid-range for the Hawks to feel confident in his potential to eventually become a three-point threat.
Early questions about his defensive feel and energy—plus Doncic and Jackson both looking like future difference-makers—knock the real No. 1 pick down to No. 3. But that could just make Ayton the steal of the re-draft.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Wendell Carter Jr.
The Memphis Grizzlies won't get Jackson in a re-draft. Instead, they'll buy Wendell Carter Jr.'s start in Chicago, where he's given the Bulls an inside scorer, physical presence and high-IQ defender.
The team can groom him into Marc Gasol's eventual replacement. In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to give Carter minutes alongside him to expedite the development of his three-ball and perimeter defense.
Regardless, given the Grizzlies' start and roster, a franchise rebuild may have to come soon. Memphis needs the best player available at No. 4. Carter offers upside but also more stability than others due to his already-efficient offense and the likelihood of him becoming a plus defender for years to come.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Kevin Knox
Suddenly receiving full-time minutes in December, Kevin Knox is building rhythm and a case to be re-drafted in the top five.
He's scoring from all three levels with three-point shooting, runners and hard drives to the rim. And at 6'9" with his shooting and driving ability, he poses a matchup problem for smaller wings and heavier 4s.
The Dallas Mavericks won't be able to trade for Doncic during a re-draft given what teams know now. Knox gives Dallas a needed weapon next to (or in place of) Harrison Barnes and allows Dennis Smith Jr. to continue developing as the primary ball-handler.
6. Orlando Magic: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Mohamed Bamba could still be the best player available at No. 6, but so could Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who'd fill the Orlando Magic's biggest need.
He's been highly efficient as well as productive for a player who's sharing the ball with veteran guards and star-caliber forwards.
Gilgeous-Alexander would give the Magic a 6'6" point guard capable of defending both backcourt positions. And though he was knocked for his shooting out of Kentucky, he's making the open threes that become available.
7. Chicago Bulls: Marvin Bagley III
Marvin Bagley III has looked good when he's been healthy and Sacramento Kings coach Dave Joerger has been willing to play him for long-enough stretches.
His bounce and motor around the basket would complement Lauri Markkanen's perimeter and finesse scoring in Chicago.
Bagley is already effective playing to his strengths as a rim runner, cutter, finisher, cleanup man and post scorer. But flashes of driving ability, open shot-making and defensive activity suggest there would be far more upside for the Bulls to unlock.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Mohamed Bamba
Mohamed Bamba may have shown he isn't ready for full-time minutes, but the perceived predraft upside remains the same.
He's still flashed exciting potential with his unique mix of length, shooting range and shot-blocking. And he'd be a fit alongside a scoring forward like Kevin Love.
Bamba will likely require patience, but the Cleveland Cavaliers aren't going anywhere in the near future.
9. New York Knicks: Trae Young
The New York Knicks have point guards, but none they should feel confident in building with during their pursuit of high-profile free agents. They'd be wiser to add Trae Young and decide in the offseason if Emmanuel Mudiay is worth bringing back based on how he closes and what he'll cost in free agency.
Young hasn't been efficient in Atlanta, but the lack of support there hasn't helped. He's still been a dynamic off-the-dribble threat and creator, which the Knicks could use for Kristaps Porzingis' eventual return.
Young's playmaking and passing are legitimate, and though his scoring hasn't been as convincing, it's worth betting on his shooting consistency improving given his high-level shot-making skill.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Kevin Huerter
Zhaire Smith, who the Philadelphia 76ers acquired on draft night via trade, could be the target again. But they also don't know what they have yet in Smith, since he's been out all season. Meanwhile, it's clear Kevin Huerter fits and fills a need in the short term.
The original No. 19 pick continues to prove himself as a shooter who can eventually join the league's elite based on his early success, projectable stroke and shot-making versatility.
Along with his three-ball, his passing and defensive IQ help round him out into an ideal role player to surround three NBA stars.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges
Even though the Charlotte Hornets haven't given Miles Bridges a consistent role, they'd still want to draft him again.
Their frontcourt needs his explosiveness and versatility. Bridges has already played three positions for Charlotte, and he's shown the ability to make plays at the rim, shoot threes and slide defensively.
He needs more touches and shots than he's getting. Once his confidence reaches a level more accustomed to a veteran's and his role becomes stabilized, Bridges should emerge as a valuable starter for his shot-making, athletic finishing and ability to guard multiple spots.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Mikal Bridges
The Los Angeles Clippers need forward depth, and Mikal Bridges' package of shooting and defense should be welcomed.
He's stealing minutes from 2017 No. 4 pick Josh Jackson in Phoenix. Bridges hasn't demonstrated any shot-creating or playmaking ability, but that's not what the Clippers will be after.
He works as a spot-up shooter and opportunistic slasher who'll only take open shots in rhythm, and he'd give the Clippers a multipositional defender.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Collin Sexton
With Gilgeous-Alexander now a top-10 pick, the Los Angeles Clippers must settle for Collin Sexton, who'd add scoring firepower to a backcourt that doesn't get much from Patrick Beverley or Avery Bradley.
Able to get downhill and put pressure on defenses, he has also shot well early, burning defenses with his pull-up jumper.
In L.A., Sexton would be forced to work on his facilitating and passing with the offense running through Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari. In Cleveland, he's struggled to use his dribble to create for others.
14. Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr.
Given who's available at No. 14, there isn't any reason for the Denver Nuggets to change their thinking from the original draft. Michael Porter Jr. is still the highest-upside player available, even if he doesn't suit up until 2019-20.
The Nuggets also don't have immediate needs that any prospect here can fill.
Once considered a potential No. 1 overall candidate before injuring his back, Porter remains an enticing buy-low candidate. And in Denver, where the Nuggets have a deep, talented roster, he has the luxury of being able to come back slowly, rehab and rebuild confidence over time.
15. Washington Wizards: Robert Williams III
The Washington Wizards could use Robert Williams III right now for his easy baskets and rim protection.
He flashed them for a short stretch last month, reminding teams why he may be better suited for the NBA game than college. Forced to play out of position at power forward last season, Williams has taken advantage of more space and threatening teammates in Boston, tapping into his explosiveness as a rim runner, lob catcher, offensive rebounder and shot-blocker.
Dwight Howard isn't a long-term answer for the Wizards, who could use another athletic frontcourt weapon. The real No. 27 pick, Williams won't slip in a re-draft. In real life, he's going to give the Celtics serious value on his rookie contract.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Aaron Holiday
A brutal point guard situation in Phoenix could lead the Suns to Aaron Holiday in a re-draft.
Even with his shot not falling at the rate he's used to, the original No. 23 pick has been convincing enough in limited minutes.
He puts pressure on opponents at both ends with his pull-up game and on-ball defense. If Phoenix secures Doncic at No. 1 of the re-draft, Holiday makes sense at No. 16 because he's a guard who can provide a bench spark and run the Suns' second unit.
The team could also call Philadelphia again and look to trade up for Mikal Bridges. He's been a useful, fitting two-way wing right way.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Josh Okogie
Josh Okogie has managed to carve out an early role in Minnesota, adding value with energy and defense despite struggling with his offense.
By originally selecting Donte DiVincenzo, the Milwaukee Bucks were likely looking for a similar type of hustle player. But Okogie has made the greater impact early, and with stronger tools and explosion, the Bucks could also view him as the higher-upside option.
Shooting will be the swing skill that could turn the original No. 20 pick into a higher-end role player.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Rodions Kurucs
One of the early steals (No. 40) after barely playing last year for Barcelona, Rodions Kurucs should earn a first-round grade during the 2019 re-draft.
He's made an impression in Brooklyn with his scoring versatility and flashes of defensive potential. At 6'9", Kurucs is slashing and cutting through defenses like a wing. And though not a shooter yet, he's looked competent and on track toward becoming a routine three-point threat.
The San Antonio Spurs' frontcourt will soon need a major upgrade, particularly at the 3 and 4 spots. Kurucs would give it a young forward to develop.
19. Atlanta Hawks (via Timberwolves): Allonzo Trier
Originally undrafted, Allonzo Trier has played like a first-rounder for the New York Knicks.
He'd have the chance the start in Atlanta, where the Hawks would value his ability to create his own shot and score against set defenses.
He's surprised early with his one-on-one execution and spot-up shooting.
Trier turns 23 years old later in January, but he's clearly established himself as an NBA-level scorer. And the Hawks could use one in their backcourt, particularly if they were to take a big man at No. 3 of a re-draft.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Mitchell Robinson
Even at his floor, Mitchell Robinson has found ways early to make his presence felt just by maximizing his quickness and athleticism with high energy and effort.
Defensively, he flies around covering ground and airspace, using his speed, length and leaping ability to chase down drivers and contest three-pointers. Offensively, he's strictly a lob target and putback machine, but he won't take any dribbles, bad shots or time off the shot clock.
Given his projected role as an off-ball energizer and rim protector, the Minnesota Timberwolves won't worry about his nonexistent feel for the game.
21. Utah Jazz: Jerome Robinson
Robinson hasn't been given a chance yet in L.A., but he's played like a lottery pick in the G League. An athletic 6'6" 2-guard, the original No. 13 pick would give the Jazz a backup scorer behind Donovan Mitchell.
22. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Lonnie Walker IV
An early-season injury kept Walker sidelined, but he just started cooking in the G League. The Bulls just need talent, and Walker's explosive athleticism and shot-making put him in the best-prospect-available discussion at No. 22.
23. Indiana Pacers: Troy Brown Jr.
The Pacers re-draft Brown based on what he flashed at Oregon since he hasn't played much in Washington. He lacks a speciality skill, but Brown also checks boxes with his slashing, passing and defensive versatility. His shooting development will wind up determining his value as an NBA wing.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: De'Anthony Melton
Melton slipped during the real draft after being forced to miss last season because he was linked to the pay-for-play scandal. In limited minutes with Phoenix, he's made a case for first-round consideration of a re-draft for his passing, on-ball defense and potential to improve as a shooter.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavaliers): Anfernee Simons
Simons needs time in the G League, which he's not getting since Portland doesn't have an affiliate. The Lakers would take him here after looking through the long-term projection lens that approves his athleticism, ball-handling skill and shot-making.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Landry Shamet
Shamet has quickly become a key shooter off the Sixers bench, so why not grab him again. He's already an established fit for his ability to stretch the floor and contribute without needing dribbles.
27. Boston Celtics: Moritz Wagner
Wagner hasn't found the floor much in L.A., but the Celtics would value his shooting and shot-making from Michigan. General manager Danny Ainge would also approve of Wagner's competitive nature and passion.
28. Golden State Warriors: Donte DiVincenzo
The Bucks may have reached on DiVincenzo, whose offense is behind. Golden State would be a suitable destination for his development. With the Warriors, he'd be able to focus strictly on effort and defense while letting the scoring chances come to him.
29. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Hamidou Diallo
Diallo's limited ball skills and shooting range hold him back, but his agility and explosive leaping have still served him well with more space and pace in the NBA. He's been efficient without a jumper. The Nets would value Diallo's talent at baseline and bet on his shooting to improve.
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Elie Okobo
After taking Ayton over Young, the Hawks could use a ball-handler. Of the point guards remaining, Okobo has flashed the most potential with his size, shot-making and playmaking.