After we posted our top five 2018 NBA Draft prospects, it only made sense to keep going. You will notice we’ve tried to find the method behind our madness in the evaluations below. Thus, we decided to give each prospect a total grade out of a complete 30 points comprised of 10 points each for how we view their ceiling (C), floor (F), and personality (P). As you might already know, ceiling refers to how good a player can be assuming everything goes right in their career. Conversely, floor refers to how good a player will be in a worst case scenario. The personality rating was given after watching multiple interviews for each prospect to get a sense of how well a player will adjust to the league and their how team oriented they are. These ratings are subjective but encompass criteria we feel are vital for NBA success. To give you an idea what the numbers mean:
10 = megastar potential
9 = superstar potential
8 = All Star potential
7 = well above average player potential
6 = above average player potential
5 = average potential
For some more context, you can correctly guess that a player would need a total grade of 30 to have megastar potential, 27 to have superstar potential, 24 to have All Star potential, 21 for well above average potential, and 18 to be considered a lottery talent with above average player potential. We use the word potential because obviously not every prospect will fulfill his potential due to circumstances like player development and injury. So without further ado, here are the rest of the top 10 prospects on our big board (beginning with #6).
Sadiq: Mikal Bridges, Small Forward, Villanova, freshman (6-ft-7, 200 lb, 21 yrs old)
6 Mikal Bridges
If you were fortunate enough to watch the National Champions play this year, you are very familiar with Villanova’s star: Mikal Bridges. The redshirt junior wing has the gifts of great athleticism and a fantastic shooting stroke. Bridges’ high release point when he shoots reminds me a lot of Durant’s feathery touch from deep. His long 7-foot wingspan helps him rise above defenders as he dunks and also allows him to get his fair share of blocks and steals. Mikal can also finish with both hands as he can cut to the basket albeit a little awkwardly at times. He’s a perfect player for a system like Brad Stevens’ or Gregg Popovich’s, but obviously teams in the lottery won’t provide him that.
So the question is how much star potential does Bridges have? Well, his skillset of being a high level 3&D player from the minute he steps foot on an NBA court already assures him a high ceiling. However, he can become a great player with additional strength training (something Kawhi already had when entering the league) to consistently attack the basket. Bridges’ handles must also become tighter so he can create his own shot at the next level as well. I know this is a lot to expect from a NBA prospect but Bridges has the makeup of a gym rat and highly intelligent player. If Mikal makes the improvements I mentioned, the sky is the limit as an elite two-way player like Kawhi Leonard. But if he keeps the same profile, he reminds me a lot of Tayshaun Prince who played a vital role in the success of the Detroit Pistons.
Total Grade: 25.5
Sadaab: Mohamed Bamba, Center, Texas, freshman (7-ft-0, 207 lb, 19 yrs old)
6 Mo Bamba
Mohamed is a truly special talent. My brother had him in his top three and I hated not having him in my first five but he’s here now and I think he can easily be the next Karl Towns and Hassan Whiteside at worst. Bamba is a uber confident northeast kid from humble beginnings who is also quite the specimen and natural leader, which is why I find questions about how he’s wired laughable at best. I know he’s raised questions on his college experience and his opinion of wanting to come straight out from high school; however, I believe his time at Texas was not for nothing although he was certainly capable of the transition. This is the same program that has produced KD, LaMarcus Aldridge and Mo will be next in line after a trying season where the second best player on the team received a cancer diagnosis that he helped rally the team around with his large arms during huddles. He’s a special guy, and transcendent presence which leads me to have zero doubts about his NBA future as a defensive tower/mountain like Rudy Gobert, with much better physique and potential offensive game that looks like gold right now before workout season. Be very scared because he’s made tremendous strides with his jumpshot in just the last month not having a school or class and focusing solely on basketball for perhaps the first time in his entire life. I’m hoping he can be the face of the franchise for the Chicago Bulls and give them the big they desperately need along with all their other talent as the missing piece.
Total Score: 27
Sadiq: Marvin Bagley III, Forward, Duke, freshman (6-ft-11, 234 lb, 19 yrs old)
7 Marvin Bagley III
Marvin Bagley III (outside of DeAndre Ayton) is probably the most advanced college freshman to enter the draft in a while. He stands out as a mismatch on offense as I think he can match up with both 4s and 5s with his ability to stretch the floor and finish near the rim. Bagley also is an excellent rebounder and it helps that he has great hands with soft touch. He has the ability to score from almost anywhere on the court even pushing the ball up the court as a primary ballhandler at times (it helps that he runs the floor extremely well for a big which should translate well for today’s game). He won’t be known for his great defense but he moves like a guard, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get better as an individual defender.
The question marks that have Bagley rated a little lower on my board than others is whether or not he will be able to physical enough to play in the paint as well as his over reliance on scoring with his left hand. Teams will force Bagley to his right in the NBA, you can be sure of that. I think his age and willingness to work on his craft will help alleviate those weaknesses. If he does so, Bagley reminds me more of the Chris Bosh we saw with the Miami Heat in terms of his offensive versatility but obviously not as great on defense. I like that Bagley has shown three-point ability which will keep the defense honest but he will need to make that shot more consistent.
Total Grade: 23.5
Sadaab: Mikal Bridges, Small Forward, Villanova, freshman (6-ft-7, 200 lbs, 21 yrs old)
7 Mikal Bridges
Mikal is similar in his work ethic to Bamba but it has taken him a lot longer to get to this point, which some will deduct points for – his ripe old age of 22. The grandpa is only going to have a fifteen-year career where he produces and most importantly, wins like he has as a two time national champion. This is what you’re getting, along with the most ferocious perimeter defense you’ll see in the class through his ability to switch on anyone. He’s all arms and legs at the moment but is getting bigger, and will continue to with personal trainers and all that jazz, a genre that matches his playing style. It’s ridiculous that people dreamt on someone like Michael Kidd Gilchrist, a person with the worst shot to ever enter the league and refuse to on him when he’s armed with the most fundamentally sound stroke I’ve seen thus far: one that he definitely had to reconstruct while at Villanova on his red shirt year. MKG went number two overall and has been a bust although his play on the other side of the ball has kept him serviceable. Now imagine him with Mikal’s skill set, it’s OK I’ll let you dream again. What I’m saying is that this Bridges is the secret to any playoff team just like Otto Porter is to the Wizards and Khris Middleton to the Bucks, two very good comps for him which means he’s gonna make a lot of money in his career even if he starts slow as any team can be happy with him for where and when they got the player. A Kawhi Leonard is not out of the realm of possibilities as he has a much better chance not raw.
Total Grade: 26
Sadiq: Miles Bridges, Forward, Michigan State, sophomore (6-ft-6, 226 lb, 20 yrs old)
8 Miles Bridges
Built like a safety, Miles Bridges is a kid in a grown man’s body who reminds me of a Blake Griffin type of athlete. I’ve been watching Bridges since his freshman year at Michigan State and I’m not sure if there was tape more fun to watch than his. Bridges should test fantastically at the Draft Combine as his high vertical is very noticeable as he jumps over defenders to dunk. He’s always been overpowering due to his great frame and crazy athleticism but I felt he played out of position this season with Jaren Jackson Jr. playing power forward. In my opinion, Bridges is better suited as a small ball PF at 6’6” rather than as a small forward because he’s likely to settle for jumpers when he’s a mismatch. The only problem is that when he does play the 4, Bridges has gotten pushed around in the post despite his great physical tools.
Miles is at his best when he attacks the basket because he’s built like a freight train. I was a little skeptical of his jumper in his freshman year but in his sophomore season, Miles has proven he can shoot off the dribble, as his shot often looks effortless. The major gripe I have is his shot selection. When Bridges goes ISO, he reminds me of Tobias Harris. Although the sample size is small, he is a 85% FT shooter means his shot is credible. The ceiling on Bridges can be huge if he tightens his handle some more to become more of a playmaker but the concerns I have about him being a tweener is why he isn’t ranked as highly as I would like.
Total Grade: 23
Sadaab: Zhaire Smith, Guard, Texas Tech, freshman (6-ft-5, 195 lb, 18 yrs old)
8 Zhaire Smith
This is where the draft gets a little funky for me. Here, you weigh taking risks and chances for higher talent, which so often isn’t done till a little later as we’ve seen in the preteens. Regardless, I would not let Zhaire Smith fall further than this. I know this is a stretch at the moment with him registering in even the 20s of some mock drafts but trust me when I say he has IT, that something EVERYONE is looking for and ultimately can’t find most of the time even if they try to look for their lives. It’s not hard to see his athleticism jump literally off the page but there is potentially more here when you examine deeper. Smith is an energizer bunny much like Russell Westbrook, a name that has been thrown out far too much I know.
Still, it is justified only in this instance as Smith has almost identical splits as Russ did while in UCLA when a low level intern convinced the Thunder to take the plunge early when most didn’t have him that high. He also was not recruited and ranked like 200 in the nation as a three star which is absurd for his many physical gifts. A lot of the reason for his usage not being so high other than him being a freshman for Texas Tech is how easy it is just to draw up a dunk for the guy or tell him to be a team player that he is, a big part for them doing well in the tourney. My analogy for this is a 2K player whose other packages haven’t been opened yet that he clearly has like the ability to hit the three, make up lay ups, extra passes and even swat and steal passes. He’s ready to pounce for rebounds like Mr. Triple Double and is regarded as not quite a point guard which just means he hasn’t played there enough since he’s versatile. Give him responsibility like the Jazz haven’t been afraid to for a certain somebody and watch while others are surprised.
Total Grade: 25
Sadiq: Jaren Jackson Jr, Big, Michigan State, freshman (6-ft-11, 240 lb, 18 yrs old)
9 Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (or JJJ for short) might be a coach’s dream in today’s NBA as he might be the best big man defender in terms of switchability. At only 18, JJJ played a big role defensively and showed some flashes offensively for Coach Izzo this season at Michigan State. Jackson has a long frame that looks like it will hold up defending bigger matchups at the next level along with great feet that lets him guard smaller guys on the perimeter one on one. Combine this with his ability to block shots at a ridiculous rate of 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes and you see why his name is being mentioned as a potential top five draft pick. I love JJJ on defense but it his offensive skills that have him ranked a little lower on my big board. He does have some good instincts scoring in the post but he really hasn’t shown me that he can face the basket and shoot when he needs to. Although JJJ shoots a great percentage (almost 40% from 3 and 80% at the FT line), his jump shot does look a little awkward and his midrange game doesn’t look so good. Because of this, I’m hesitant to call JJJ the next Anthony Davis as of now… instead he reminds me more of Serge Ibaka in terms of playing style and role (still great value for a guaranteed top 10 pick).
Total Grade: 22.5
Sadaab: Wendell Carter Jr, PF, Duke, freshman (6-ft-10, 263 lb, 18 yrs old)
9 Wendell Carter Jr.
Wendell is the hardest player to compare for me due to several reasons and I can see him going somewhere that might not be as great of a fit as he might hope, perhaps even in Philadelphia as he’s in between for many teams. He comes from a great family and has a good head on his shoulders since I liked the way he handled Duke turning into a different situation than he hoped. Carter just wants to ball and is hungry to produce. He has surprising two-way potential and has gotten into tremendous lean shape from high school. I can see why he looks to many as the next Al Horford or Julius Randle but I don’t like either too much, with the second being closer to what he actually is in my opinion although he’s a sneaky good passer like the Celtic big man. There’s no steak or sizzle with him the same way there’s none for Paul Millsap and no one doubts they’re tremendous for teams, even if a little under-appreciated like he’s learning to become. Statistically speaking, I think he will perform favorably to Marc Gasol once he settles himself in every category although he definitely gets his numbers a little differently. He’s easily a better athlete than any of the great front court studs I’ve mentioned too so we’re looking at someone if he goes to the right opportunity and destination who can really thrive. On draft night, I suspect there to be a little hot potato in who wants him which could eventually lead him to the Sixers off the bench where there’s obviously quite a few expendable mouths to feed already.
Total Grade: 24.5
Sadiq: Wendell Carter Jr, Center, Duke, freshman (6-ft-10, 263 pounds, 18 yrs old)
10 Wendell Carter Jr.
After Bagley reclassified for the 2018 NBA Draft and joined Duke, Wendell Carter Jr. took a bit of a backseat to his fellow freshman big man but he’s no scrub. Carter is built like a traditional power forward but would most likely see the majority of his minutes at the center position in today’s NBA. I remember watching some of his tape when he was still in high school where his game was mainly to score and he was ready to continue doing that at Duke before Bagley’s arrival. I was happily surprised to see Wendell play unselfishly and do whatever it took to adjust his game next to Duke’s other talented young big. Carter wasn’t the primary option but he still displayed a very smooth game with nice looking jump shot for a big man.
I think he should be an above average shooter from 3 at the next level with no difficulty making his free throws. He finds ways to score from the elbow and post and can get to the basket. I feel he was a bit more of an explosive athlete, he would be considered more as a top five pick. Although Carter has been very efficient this season, I was surprised his numbers weren’t better scoring in the post as he has good footwork and hands. When it comes to defense, he’s not the fast twitch defender Jaren Jackson Jr. is but Carter can hold his own defending in the paint. His unselfish play and good passing ability does make me agree with the Al Horford comparison many of have thrown out there.
Total Grade: 22
Sadaab: Kevin Knox, Forward, Kentucky, freshman (6-ft-9, 205 lb, 18 yrs old)
10 Kevin Knox
I know of all the others so highly ranked that I have not yet included and feel horribly there can’t be two or three more spots in a top ten. Kevin Knox worries me but fear subsides when you remember that some young players don’t take to being the face of a big program like Kentucky as most and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean he cannot be the elite scorer I expect him to be and Rudy Gay is proof of this during his two years at UConn. They produced similarly, almost to a tee and Gay came out like gangbusters in his second year with the Grizzlies I believe with incredibly consistency. Kevin’s effort wanes at times and he’s not the first player coached by Cal to do (i.e Boogie). There are signs he’ll do better and he checks out in interviews, aware of what he needs to learn and change.
You give him the benefit of doubt because of his youth and I see a lot to be unlocked like with Zhaire Smith because of his exceptional size. The frame needs work but not too much as skinny ones have done just fine. I’m not saying he will develop to become Giannis Antetokounmpo (who went 15 so stay tuned for the rest) but I’ve seen crazier things happen and they have some of the same graceful tendencies because of giant leaps on a court if you can get him to that point with ball handling and countless other things. It’s more likely he will become sturdy and reliable like Kyle Kuzma despite being overshadowed in another group of excellent ballplayers as a baby unicorn that’s not quite in that echelon of Tatum’s of the world due to a lack of play on both ends that can be pretty darn good when he wants it to.
Total Grade: 24
Stay tuned for Part III of 2018 NBA Draft Big Board 1.0 where we will break down prospects ranked 11-15. Tweet us at Twitter @NYSportsguys5 and let us know what you think of our board so far!