Losing their franchise player recently to an ACL tear, the Knicks and their fanbase (for good reason) now look to the NBA Draft as a source of hope for 2018 and beyond. The top of the 2018 NBA Draft class looks to be as good if not better than any I’ve seen in recent history. While I think you can make a case for as many as three players to hear their names called as the #1 pick this year, my brother Sadaab and I tried to differentiate each of our respective top five players in this draft class. This was much tougher than it seems with such a talented pool of prospects, but here goes nothing! Enjoy each of our player rankings and descriptions:
Sadiq: Trae Young, Point guard, Oklahoma, freshman (6-ft-2, 180 pounds, 19 yrs old)
Trae has been (in my opinion) the most fun player to watch in college basketball. The Stephen Curry comparisons are warranted because of Young’s unlimited range. Although a lot of people have now left the Trae Young bandwagon after Oklahoma’s rough end to the season, I believe he will only get better at the next level with NBA talent and spacing around him. The league as it is today plays to all of Young’s strengths and he needs a coach like Lon Kruger that will give him freedom to play his game. He needs to get better at moving without the ball (if he really wants to live to the Steph Curry hype), but he already has a pretty good handle and shifty moves to the basket. Young isn’t as tall as Curry but I am not worried about his size greatly hindering his offensive talents at the next level. He reminds me a lot of a healthy Celtics version of 2016-17 Isaiah Thomas as Young is not afraid of contact, a little turnover prone but will get better when he learns to not force as many shots. While people will rave about Trae’s shooting ability, it’s his passing that gets me as equally as excited about his prospects as a great NBA point guard.
Sadaab: Michael Porter Jr., Forward, Missouri, freshman (6-ft-10, 214 pounds, 19 yrs old)
The biggest wildcard of the entire draft is also the most talented. He is a unicorn in every way and has to be if you place him above defensive monsters like Mo Bamba and Jaren Jackson, both of whom could turn into major problems if their offensive games continue to develop like they have on the perimeter. If the medicals check out like they should, it doesn’t matter how he does in his trial run for Mizzou down the stretch where he was hitting all the buckets pre-game and none during his actual time back. He’s basically a 7-foot-tall Paul George who’s every bit of the athlete and defender! A true wing, he’s worth the wait for any franchise as trust me – this is not some overhyped Harry Giles. Seems like the type of star Gotham needs while we wait for the return of Kristaps Porzingis. Could you imagine the two together? It’s never going to happen but it sure is fun to dream of even if he’ll be a Dallas Maverick or something. Also, his siblings can really play basketball too if you didn’t know.
Sadiq: DeAndre Ayton, Center, Arizona, freshman (7-ft, 243 pounds, 19 yrs old)
It feels almost wrong to rank Ayton as only my fourth best prospect in this year’s draft but it speaks to strength and depth of this class. Despite Arizona’s early exit from this year’s NCAA tournament, Ayton has arguably been the most dominant player in all of college basketball. Ayton is a man-child with a frame looking like it was built from a lab. Although it is really easy for him to power over people near the rim, he does like to faceup with what looks like a clean jumper. Ayton is probably the best athlete in the entire draft, is an easy rebounder with advanced footwork. The game looks too easy for him at times. Surprisingly, Ayton is also a very willing passer and won’t force his shot. Watching him play really reminds me of Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing with a body type similar to a young Dwight Howard.
Sadaab: Marvin Bagley III, Forward, Duke, freshman (6-ft-11, 234 pounds, 19 yrs old)
The safest player in the draft, in my opinion is this man. He’s boring at times, perfect for the Grizzlies (I saved him from going to Sacramento so you’re welcome Marvin), but gets it done as a walking bucket just like the legend Michael Beasley. He rebounds really well too even with another lottery pick sharing his front court and it’s silly that he was close to still playing in AAU ball if he didn’t skip his senior year. A good head on his shoulder, there’s no reason why he can’t be like Chris Bosh on the offensive side of the ball. You wish he was a little longer considering his height, however, we can’t have everything. The downside is he might be a little bit of a tweener not in the sense of size due to him not fitting either the traditional three or four too well. Luckily, Marvin is smart and able to use the most of his abilities unlike some of the bounciest players in the country who have underwhelmed in comparison. Even still, it’d be interesting to see the Blue Devils play him as a small ball 5 as they did with their lineups when he was out from necessity to see if he fares like KD does with the Warriors as that’s who he wants to be.
Sadiq: Mohamed Bamba, Center, Texas, freshman (7-ft, 207 pounds, 19 yrs old)
Harlem’s own Mohamed Bamba might be the best defensive player in this draft not named Mikal Bridges. It’s kind of ridiculous he averages almost four blocks per game but a little less surprising when you factor in his 7-foot-9 wingspan. After his teammate, Andrew Jones, was diagnosed with leukemia in mid-January, Bamba began to take on more responsibility on offense. He is highly intelligent and looks like he will indeed have the all-important three point shot at the next level. His raw tools at such a young age reminds me of Joel Embiid’s Kansas days. I believe Bamba knows how great he can become one day so it wouldn’t shock me to see him as the best two-way player in this draft in five years.
Sadaab: Trae Young, Point guard, Oklahoma, freshman (6-ft-2, 180 pounds, 19 yrs old)
Trae Young is slumping! Who would’ve thought? And guess what. I don’t care because he is the real deal. That court vision with his immense scoring skills, the best in the class, make him an elite point guard prospect. Whether you call him Steph Curry is up to you. All I know is he can hit the same kind of shots and has put up these types of numbers throughout high school and now college. He’s not someone that just gets his either, and don’t say he stuffs the stat sheets for assist hunting like Russell Westbrook. By all accounts, he’s a great kid with big goals and a desire to rebuild programs. He is comfortable with all the attention and media so the reason for his struggles is more likely teams planning for him by double and triple teaming, something that almost certainly won’t happen in the NBA in his first few years. I know some think he’s shorter than his listed height but I don’t buy that either and believe these things are being said to deny him a chance at the top few picks even with a strong tourney like they did with someone else from a local school like say, Davidson. Unfortunately, he’s more likely to go to Orlando than be LeBron’s Kyrie in Cleveland.
Sadiq: Michael Porter Jr., Forward, Missouri, freshman (6-ft-10, 214 pounds, 19 yrs old)
It’s really a shame college basketball fans weren’t able to see vintage Michael Porter Jr. this season. He’s the very definition of a position-less player. It was a little different scouting Porter Jr. because of the obvious difference between him and high school completion (and no I didn’t care how bad he looked in two games post back surgery). But he has the potential to be a strong defender as he often chases down during transition for blocks. He doesn’t have the prettiest shot but it’s clear he has put in a lot of work into it where he should be an above average shooter. Even though he can technically play power forward, he can handle the basketball. When healthy, his athleticism jumps off the charts and he is very graceful going to the basket. MPJ is not the gifted passer Ben Simmons is but that was the player he most reminded me of (well Simmons with a jumper anyway) but it’s usually a good sign when there is no real good comparison for a draft prospect.
Sadaab: Luka Doncic, Point Forward, Real Madrid (6-ft-8, 228 pounds, 18 yrs old)
Luka is doing something never seen before, dominating the European leagues at such a young age when most can’t even get off the bench. He’s the best player overseas bar none, however, some are going to get scared away because of his athleticism. That’s a shame because Brandon Roy, Manu Ginobli, Joe Johnson and Gordon Hayward were all subpar athletically. He’s always on the move and is a joy to watch. Ben Simmons playing the way he is should get teams to see him in a similar light as he has something the 76er doesn’t and that’s a jump shot. He’s not quite Larry Bird from three but he’s already better than Hedo Turkoglu starting his rookie year. Yes, there’s quite a range for this type of guy but that could be quite exciting as well – even more so if the point forward finds himself in a European style system like in Atlanta for instance where he’d match up quite well with their young talent.
Sadiq: Luka Doncic, Point Forward, Real Madrid (6-ft-8, 228 pounds, 18 yrs old)
The wonder kid from Slovenia is a basketball prodigy of sorts. Playing for Real Madrid since he was 16, he would make the easiest transition to the NBA already playing against grown men in the Liga ACB. Luka has a very fluid shot, and seems like he should be shooting higher percentage than currently is. The reason why everyone is in love with Doncic of course is his ability to be such gifted passer with the height to play in the frontcourt. He has extraordinary vision, advanced handles, albeit with average athleticism but takes advantage of his height. Doncic is not afraid to shoot from deep, and looks to be a competent defender as he plays hard. His ability to move gracefully on the court, shoot and pass at will reminds me a lot of “Pistol Pete” Maravich. A more modern comparison is most likely a taller James Harden. Either way, Doncic is one of if not the best player to come out of Europe in a long time.
Sadaab: DeAndre Ayton, Center, Arizona, freshman (7-ft, 243 pounds, 19 yrs old)
To me, DeAndre Ayton is the best player in this draft. He is a total throwback and some will say he doesn’t have the game for the modern NBA. I think that’s BS as the era of the big man is starting to finally come back. Ayton is a bruiser and looks like he was born this chiseled. There is the potential for a David Robinson type player here and to me, you can’t pass that up especially since I see the defense only getting better as he learns. I think the OFF court concerns are a little overblown at this point with the NCAA investigation as I think he seems like a hard working kid if you can call him one at his size. He’s been well coached, and Phoenix seems like a good match as he’d go well with Booker, Jackson and even Bender and Chriss. Needless to say, losing in the first round did nothing to help his stock which is shame with that team.
Do you agree with our top 5 and player comparisons? Let us know what you think by tweeting us at @NYSportsguys5 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org