2018 NBA Re-Draft: Who Follows Luka Doncic?
In the instant-analysis culture of today's sports media, many expect to know who won the draft the moment it's over. NBA teams are immediately graded on every pick they make.
It's the nature of the business, but everyone realizes you can't truly know how smart a selection was until some time has passed. You have to see how the player and his team develop his game and how he's utilized within certain schemes. In some cases, players still have plenty of physical changes on the way.
For the 2018 draft class, we've now had three years to analyze those factors. And that analysis would alter the order if that first round were held today.
In an effort to determine a somewhat objective order for this re-draft, over a dozen numbers were considered, including rate (think points per game) and cumulative (think total points) catch-all metrics, shooting percentages and per-possession averages for basic indicators like points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.
But since there's still some looking forward here, FiveThirtyEight's individual player projections and a dash of subjectivity were also given consideration.
One thing you won't see weighted, however, is team need. We're not going back in time as much as guessing where players would be selected if they were re-drafted now. So, each pick will be driven by a "best player available" approach.
So, with all that in mind, let's take a look at how a 2018 re-draft might shake out.
30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston via LA Clippers): Moritz Wagner (originally picked 25th)
Moritz Wagner had an encouraging offensive season in 2019-20, when he shot 64.5 percent from two-point range and 82.1 percent from the free-throw line.
He's never been a high-impact defender, though. And his ability to stretch the floor is more theoretical than real (he's a career 31.5 percent shooter from deep).
29. Brooklyn Nets (from Toronto): Drew Eubanks (originally undrafted)
Drew Eubanks went from undrafted free agent to rotation player by the middle of his third season because of his size and good old-fashioned hard work.
He's a banger who's not afraid to crash the glass against anyone, get in the way of drives and sell out in defensive rotations.
During his career, he's averaged 14.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 75 possessions.
28. Golden State Warriors: Hamidou Diallo (originally picked 45th)
Hamidou Diallo had a mini-breakout in 2020-21, when he averaged 11.6 points in 23.6 minutes and shot a career-high 34.1 percent from three.
For the first time in his career, he looked like more than a dunk contest champion.
Work still needs to be done, though. The three-point percentage could be an aberration (he shot 24.7 percent prior to 2020-21), so continued progress there would be encouraging. A bit more volume as a playmaker and more defensive consistency wouldn't hurt either.
27. Boston Celtics: Gary Trent Jr. (originally picked 37th)
Gary Trent Jr. can only claim to be really good at one skill. And fortunately, it's one of the most important skills in the game. For his career, he's hit 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
In theory, he has the size (at 6'5") and mobility to be the kind of multipositional wing defender that so many teams are after. But he's prone to the kind of lapses on that end that so many young players are.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Mo Bamba (originally picked 6th)
Mo Bamba showed an intriguing mix of defense and outside shooting during his lone season at Texas. And though he's been wildly inconsistent over his three seasons with the Orlando Magic, we've seen hints of those two things in the league.
During his career, he's averaged 3.2 blocks and 1.5 threes per 75 possessions.
His three-point percentage (32.5) leaves something to be desired. And a little more mobility on the outside would be nice, but there are still reasons to believe he can be a positive contributor.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland): Grayson Allen (originally picked 21st)
At the end of a quiet rookie year on a playoff team with a tough rotation to crack, Grayson Allen scored 40 points in the season finale. And since then, he's looked like a rotation floor spacer.
In his second and third seasons, he averaged 9.8 points and 1.9 triples with a 39.5 three-point percentage.
It would be nice if he could show a bit more as a playmaker, but the shooting alone should be enough to ensure he has a long career.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown (originally picked 42nd)
Bruce Brown's sudden and dramatic evolution from combo guard to something of a rim runner for the Brooklyn Nets demonstrated an important ability for players in the NBA: adaptability.
Positionless basketball isn't going away anytime soon, so Brown proving he can create for others (he averaged 5.2 assists per 75 possessions in 2019-20) and be the finisher he was in 2020-21 gives him staying power.
23. Indiana Pacers: Jarred Vanderbilt (originally picked 41st)
Jarred Vanderbilt had one of 2020-21's most underrated hustle-guy campaigns.
He averaged 11.5 rebounds, 10.7 points, 2.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.4 blocks per 75 possessions. And Karl-Anthony Towns' net rating was significantly better when he shared the floor with Vanderbilt.
22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans): Marvin Bagley III (originally picked 2nd)
Scoring inefficiency and a lack of defense have doomed Marvin Bagley III's advanced numbers through the first three seasons of his career. He's never had an above-average box plus/minus, and he's been below replacement level in each of the last two seasons.
(BPM is a "...basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player's contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference).
His basic numbers suggest there's a good player to develop there. For his career, he's averaged 20.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per 75 possessions.
21. Utah Jazz: Kendrick Nunn (originally undrafted)
Kendrick Nunn doesn't provide a ton as a playmaker or defender, but he looks like the kind of combo guard who could light up second units for years.
Last season, he averaged 14.6 points while shooting 58.3 percent from two-point range, 38.1 percent from three and 93.3 percent from the line.
No one in NBA history has had a season in which he hit all four of those marks. If you drop the qualifier for free-throw percentage, all you add is two seasons each from John Collins and Karl-Anthony Towns, and one each from Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City via Jazz): Jevon Carter (originally picked 32nd)
Jevon Carter hasn't had a huge role in his career, but even in limited minutes, his effort on defense almost leaps off the screen.
He's the kind of on-ball defender who'll gladly pick up stars full court and devote all his energy to being a nuisance.
That alone might be enough to make him a rotation player, but Carter brings a little more. He's a career 38.1 percent shooter from three.
19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota): Jae'Sean Tate (originally undrafted)
Jae'Sean Tate didn't make his NBA debut until the 2020-21 season, but he's already shown enough to soar up this re-draft board.
None of his numbers jump off the page, but averages of 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per 75 possessions show a player who can make wide-ranging contributions.
And perhaps his most marketable skill, on-ball defense against a variety of players, is more difficult to measure.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Kevin Huerter (originally picked 19th)
Kevin Huerter hasn't had a season with an above-average true shooting percentage yet, but he's shown plenty of promise as a combo guard who can spot up or create for others.
During his three seasons in the league, he's averaged 11.2 points, 3.3 assists and 2.0 threes while shooting 37.6 percent from deep.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Jalen Brunson (originally picked 33rd)
Jalen Brunson has developed into one of the game's best backup point guards. Behind averages of 12.6 points, 3.5 assists and 1.2 threes, Brunson finished fourth in 2020-21 Sixth Man of the Year voting.
And because he's played with ball-dominant star Luka Doncic, Brunson has also shown he can work off the ball. During their careers, Brunson has averaged 14.7 points per 75 possessions with a 60.1 true shooting percentage when sharing the floor with Luka.
16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami): De'Anthony Melton (originally picked 46th)
De'Anthony Melton's value seemed tied almost entirely to his defensive ability in his first two years. During that stretch, he was second in the league in steal percentage and looked like a multipositional defender who could spare offensive stars from difficult defensive matchups.
Then, in Year 3, he averaged 1.7 threes and shot 41.2 percent from outside. If he can stay anywhere near that level of consistency, he has a bright future as a three-and-D guard.
15. Washington Wizards: Devonte' Graham (originally picked 34th)
Devonte' Graham has hit just 37.6 percent of his career field-goal attempts, but nearly two-thirds of those shots coming from three has helped him maintain a positive impact on offense. His 7.2 assists per 75 possessions move the needle too.
In fact, among players with at least 1,500 minutes, Graham is fifth in this class in career offensive BPM.
14. Denver Nuggets: Wendell Carter Jr. (originally picked 7th)
Wendell Carter Jr. looked like the kind of versatile big who could anchor a defense, hit threes and even create for others.
Some of the guard and wing skills haven't quite shown up yet, but he may be better in the old-school big department than anticipated.
For his career, he's averaged 15.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per 75 possessions.
13. LA Clippers: Miles Bridges (originally picked 12th)
For most of his first two seasons, Miles Bridges was known for the dunk highlights. That may have been the case in 2020-21 too, but the underlying numbers are starting to catch up with the value of the highlights.
His usage percentage went down, but he posted career highs in two-point percentage (59.3), three-point percentage (40.0), free-throw percentage (86.7), rebounds per game (6.0) and assists per game (2.2).
12. LA Clippers (from Detroit) Duncan Robinson (originally undrafted)
Duncan Robinson started his college career at a Division III school, then played three seasons at Michigan, where he averaged 9.3 points and shot 41.9 percent from three. After those four solid but unspectacular seasons, it probably wasn't surprising that he went undrafted.
Over his last two NBA seasons, though, Robinson has established himself as one of the game's best floor spacers.
His career average of 12.3 points tops any individual season he had at Michigan. And his career three-point percentage (42.2) ranks 13th all time.
Those numbers don't quite do his impact justice, though. Because he's such a dedicated off-ball mover, Robinson bends defenses in a way that creates significantly more space inside for his teammates.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Donte DiVincenzo (originally picked 17th)
It's relatively uncommon for players drafted to contenders to make a consistently positive impact during their rookie contracts, but Donte DiVincenzo has for the Milwaukee Bucks.
During his three seasons, the Bucks are plus-10.2 points per 100 possessions with DiVincenzo on the floor and plus-5.7 with him off.
And that impact is the result of plenty of skills. In 2020-21, he averaged 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27.5 minutes and shot 37.9 percent from three. His on-ball defense was also an important ingredient in Milwaukee's regular-season success.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from LAL via Suns) Collin Sexton (Originally Picked 8th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $38.3 million
Advanced numbers hated—nay, loathed—Collin Sexton's first two seasons. Among the 143 three-point era players with at least as many minutes as Sexton in their opening two campaigns, Sexton's BPM ranks 140th.
But he looked like a bona fide scoring guard in Year 3, when he averaged 24.3 points and 1.6 threes while shooting 37.1 percent from deep.
Perhaps just as encouragingly, he followed up back-to-back seasons of 3.0 assists per game by going for 4.4 in 2020-21. For someone who came into the league as a point guard, you might still want a little more, but progress is progress. And as his career develops, it may be more fitting to think of Sexton as a combo guard.
Distinctions like that don't matter on defense, though. And the 6'1" Sexton is often mismatch-hunted there. He has the tenacity necessary to be successful on that end, but the physical disadvantage can be a lot to overcome if he's forced to guard wings.
Ultimately, his destiny may be as a high-end heat-check guy off the bench, and landing that at No. 10 is a win.
9. New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson (Originally Picked 36th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $55.0 million
Mitchell Robinson has struggled with availability through his first three years, averaging just over 50 appearances per season.
And several important indicators, including BPM, block percentage and true shooting percentage, plummeted in his first campaign as the full-time starter in 2020-21.
But there's still enough evidence to suggest Robinson has the physical tools to be one of the game's best rim runners and paint protectors.
He has averaged 13.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per 75 possessions, with an astronomic 69.6 true shooting percentage.
He might chase blocks at the expense of the scheme at times, but those instances will presumably become less common as he develops.
At 23 years old, there's still time for Robinson to improve.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Robert Williams III (Originally Picked 27th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $52.0 million
The Boston Celtics haven't had developmental minutes to spare during Robert Williams III's career, but he's been incredibly productive in the relatively few opportunities he's been given.
In his 1,656 career minutes, Williams has averaged 14.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per 75 possessions with a 71.9 true shooting percentage. And he ranked 17th in the league in BPM over that stretch. Yes, 17th.
The athleticism behind those numbers pops off the screen. It has since his time at Texas A&M. He has an initial burst off the floor that gets him to the rim in a heartbeat. And that makes him a potentially elite back-line defender, lob finisher and offensive rebounder.
He's also an underrated passer, which is an element that could set him apart from some of the game's other rim runners. He probably can't be trusted to run as many possessions as Nikola Jokic or Bam Adebayo, but he makes good decisions and is generally on target with his passes.
With the presence of Al Horford and Enes Kanter, Boston's frontcourt will be crowded again in 2020-21, but it might be tough to keep Williams off the floor.
7. Chicago Bulls: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Originally Picked 4th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $80.2 million
Jaren Jackson Jr. has appeared in fewer games than Robinson. In 2020-21, he managed just 258 minutes in 11 games. But when he's on the floor, he's looked like a uniquely talented three-and-D big man.
For his career, he's averaged 2.3 threes and 2.0 blocks per 75 possessions. Kristaps Porzingis is the only other player in league history in this exclusive Two-and-Two club, and his true shooting percentage trails JJJ's by over four points.
His rebounding and passing leave something to be desired, but the low numbers there might have something to do with the Memphis Grizzlies' roster construction.
All the time he spent alongside a bruiser like Jonas Valanciunas probably suppressed the rebounds. Playing more 5 might put him in sort of a sink-or-swim situation that would force him to crash the glass more.
And being in lineups with Ja Morant, who can dominate possessions like more of an old-school point guard, probably reduces his chances to create for others.
However, if he can maintain his uniqueness while developing those other skills, he has All-Star potential.
6. Orlando Magic: Mikal Bridges (Originally Picked 10th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $126.9 million
During his first two seasons, Mikal Bridges looked like a solid fourth or fifth starter who could hit open threes and guard multiple positions.
In 2020-21, he broke out right along with the Phoenix Suns, and looked capable of more offensive responsibility. He looked every bit as capable and versatile on defense too.
Bridges averaged 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 threes, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks in 32.6 minutes. And those were far from empty numbers.
For the third season in a row, the Suns' point differential was better when he was on the floor. And for his entire career, Phoenix is plus-1.0 points per 100 possessions with Bridges on the floor and minus-4.1 with him off.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Originally Picked 11th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $94.0 million
All the caveats regarding the 2020-21 season apply. The pace of the game has risen over the last few years, and three-point attempt rates are through the roof. Individual numbers looked supercharged.
But Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still deserves credit for the development he's shown in his short NBA career.
His scoring average, true shooting percentage and BPM have gone up in each season, topping out at 23.7 points with a 62.3 true shooting percentage and a 3.8 BPM.
Transitioning from an off-ball player with Chris Paul to the lead playmaker went well too. He averaged a career-high 5.9 assists in 2020-21, using the same smooth, change-of-pace game that made him a dynamic scorer in Year 2.
On the other end of the floor, SGA hasn't shown himself to be a lockdown defender, but he has the length (at 6'6") and athleticism to guard multiple positions. And there's plenty of time for the 23-year old to develop the habits necessary to make more of an impact there.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Deandre Ayton (Originally Picked 1st)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $120.4 million
Deandre Ayton has the unfortunate distinction of being the No. 1 pick in a draft that produced potential all timers at picks behind him.
If he was free of comparison to players like Luka Doncic or Trae Young, people might be a lot higher on his career. A run to the Finals before either of those two got there helps, but it'll be hard for him to shake those comps altogether.
In a vacuum, Ayton has gotten off to an excellent start. He's one of just seven players in NBA history to play 1,000-plus minutes and average at least 18 points, 12 rebounds and one block per 75 possessions through an age-22 season. The other six are DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaquille O'Neal and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Beyond the raw production, Ayton appears to be ahead of schedule as a defender. His commitment and awareness on that end were question marks for him coming into the NBA, but his defensive BPM has improved every year he's been in the league. In 2020-21, he got to exactly average in that mark.
If he continues to improve on that end of the floor and remains a force on the boards and inside, Ayton will be a franchise player and the best big in this draft class.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Michael Porter Jr. (Originally Picked 14th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $153.7 million
Having Michael Porter Jr. above Ayton may spark a little controversy. For their careers, Ayton averages more points, rebounds, assists and blocks. And he has a less troubling injury history than MPJ, who missed the majority of his freshman campaign at Missouri and all of his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets because of back problems.
On a per-possession basis, though, Porter's numbers dwarf Ayton's. In a blind poll pitting his marks against the Suns' big man's, Porter got over 96 percent of the vote. And after seeing both play in 2020-21, it's hard to argue against MPJ having the higher ceiling.
The Nuggets forward is only an inch shorter than Ayton, but he plays offense like a wing and already looks like a generational scoring talent.
The three-point production is obvious. He shot 44.5 percent on 6.3 attempts per game in 2020-21. But there were almost no areas of the floor where he wasn't at least solid.
With his off-ball movement, quick catch-and-shoot release and accurate shooting, Porter often looks like a 6'10" Klay Thompson. On offense at least.
On the other end, MPJ still has some work to do, but he was better in 2020-21. He's still prone to some lapses on or off the ball, but he has a knack for making the occasional highlight block.
If he can become a little more consistent defensively, Porter can be a multi-time All-Star.
2. Sacramento Kings: Trae Young (Originally Picked 5th)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $144.4 million
Trae Young's way-behind-the-line three-point attempts and ability to take over games as a scorer get more attention, but the most valuable skill may be his elite playmaking.
There's a bit of a symbiosis between the two. The attention he commands as a scorer gives him more open targets to find with the pass, but the vision, decision-making and accuracy with which he passes are what make him one of the game's best offensive engines.
In his career, he's played 204 games and handed out 1,807 dimes (8.9 per game). Oscar Robertson, Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Chris Paul and Mark Jackson are the only players who totaled more assists in their first 204 games.
The combination of scoring, including a knack for drawing fouls, and playmaking have given Young a 4.5 offensive BPM for his career (the 10th highest mark for a player through his age-22 season).
Young has also shown an ability to elevate his game in high-leverage moments. In his first playoff run, he averaged 28.8 points and 9.5 assists, posted a 6.8 offensive BPM and led the Atlanta Hawks to a surprising Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
There will likely always be concerns about Young's defense. His size (6'1" and 180 pounds) will have him at a disadvantage in most matchups on that end. But his offensive ceiling more than makes up for that. Atlanta's net rating is 3.8 points better with Young on the floor for his career.
1. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic (Originally Picked 3rd)
Projected Five-Year Market Value: $379.7 million
There is no typo in that forecast from FiveThirtyEight. Luka Doncic is projected to more than double the five-year market value of anyone else in this slideshow.
After the start he's had to his career, maybe it's not all that surprising.
Over his last two seasons, Doncic has averaged 28.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 2.9 threes and 1.0 steals in 33.9 minutes (30.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 3.1 threes and 1.1 steals per 75 possessions).
LeBron James is the only player in NBA history who totaled more wins over replacement player through an age-21 season.
And, with apologies to Kristaps Porzingis, Doncic has dragged the Dallas Mavericks to back-to-back playoff appearances without another star on the roster.
As many could see before he slipped to the No. 3 pick in 2018, Doncic has the potential to be one of the greatest of all time. Three years later, it's next to impossible to think he shouldn't have been selected first. And if the class was re-drafted today, any team in the league would take him No. 1.