After we posted our top ten 2018 NBA Draft prospects, it only made sense to keep going and round out our top 15. As we did last time, 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. The section of the lottery in this year’s draft figures to be very deep and we believe there will be quite a few steals available. So without further ado, here are the rest of the top 15 prospects on our big board (beginning with #11).
Sadiq: Lonnie Walker, Shooting Guard, Miami, freshman (6-ft-5, 196 lb, 19 yrs old)
11 Lonnie Walker
You don’t see many highly recruited freshmen go to Miami these days but Lonnie Walker came on late for the U in his freshman season. The 6’5″ shooting guard was always an intriguing fit next to Bruce Brown, another fantastic athlete. Lonnie looks, on tape, a bit smaller than his listed height but he has fine size for a guard. I thought he was a point guard at first but I don’t see much passing vision from him. Walker is extremely talented not only with his athletic skillset as he looks like a decent ballhandler with the ability to cut explosively and play above the rim. He also has a nice looking jump shot which will keep defenses honest. Walker is very fun to watch as he can be acrobatic going to the rim as he makes plays in mid-air. If he was a point guard, I think he would be a top 10 pick easy. His flaws mainly are that sometimes his tunnel vision gets the best of him and he isn’t a gifted passer. Walker also needs to improve his rebounding as he has the vertical needed to secure more of those as well as increase the number of free throws he gets per game. A safe comparison for him in my opinion is Will Barton, a terrific athlete who can defend, shoot, as well as cut to the basket. However, this cerebral young man has visions greater than basketball and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him become one of the steals in the draft a la Donovan Mitchell.
Total Grade: 24
Sadaab: Miles Bridges, Forward, Michigan State, sophomore (6-ft-6, 226 lb, 20 yr old)
11 Miles Bridges
I love Miles and like with Robert Williams, I wish he declared last year in a weaker class but you have to respect his will and desire to win with a reloaded Spartan team. Both are insanely talented to have turned down a big pay day and gone in the same slot (mid to late lottery) but there are some lingering concerns about their makeup that would be dispelled if their sophomore performances were improved, although this kid worries me a whole lot less. He’s a superb athlete even with the weight he put on and has since lost to intelligently play the perimeter, but I do now like him as a four like Carmelo Anthony even with their ability to obviously play the wing. You’re seeing the benefits of Aaron Gordon being there probably many years too late so it’s good to have perhaps the better Bridges there from the get go even if he’s trying to play the three by forcing the issue with his explosiveness. It’s hard to watch him and not think of Vince Carter, who has the same measureables as him and dominated the NBA for a time.
There’s definitely a lot to dream on which is why I have him over a more hyped teammate. If his lefty stroke can get more consistent, there are few times that wouldn’t like to have him with his ability to be a glue guy at the very least in the mold of Andre Iguodala where you tell him exactly what’s needed for your squad and he’ll adjust. This leads me to believe he’s a quiet rookie of the year candidate if he has the opportunity, as he’s better on switch defense than he is credited for and has upside with the body type to thrive while taking hits because of Flint toughness. I’d like to see him use his strength more to go to the line and get some free and easy points to make him an even more competent scorer than he is. His own coach called him a “weirdo in a complimentary way” and I’m not too sure how to take it other than to say there are so many better things you can say about him for being steady by knowing exactly what you’re getting even if he’s not the tallest or longest like some others. Light on his feet, Miles has gotten better with the ball, could’ve been a top pick in previous eras and might want to work on his selling skills to get some calls his way. I was also surprised not to see so many iso plays for him even though this will change and we don’t want him turning into Josh Smith.
Total Grade: 23.5
Sadiq: Zhaire Smith, Guard, Texas Tech, freshman (6-ft-5, 195 lb, 18 yrs old)
12 Zhaire Smith
I didn’t seriously consider Zhaire Smith as a one and done prospect till the end of Texas Tech’s amazing season. Smith was a big reason for their success as he filled his role as a freshman guard playing both ends of the floor beautifully. Zhaire is a fantastic athlete needless to say as you don’t see guards dunking as much as this kid who might be the best dunker in this class. He looks more like a 2 guard than a point and does a lot of his damage offensively in the paint (which is weird when you don’t consider he was basically the center in his high school playing days). His shot looks fluid although he doesn’t have much shot attempts. His game reminds me of the former rookie of the year – Malcolm Brogdon- as he is a two-way player with a big frame for a guard. Smith has a great ability to track the basketball so I believe he can be a high rebounding guard. In his time at Texas Tech, I’ve seen limited action of him as a ballhandler and him creating his own shot, or else he would be much higher on my board. But all indications are that Smith blew away combine testing, and I have zero concerns about his mentality as he seems like a gym rat and a coach’s dream.
Total Grade: 24
Sadaab: Jaren Jackson Jr, Big, Michigan State, freshman (6-ft-11, 240 lb, 18 yrs old)
12 Jaren Jackson Jr.
Yes, I know Jaren is likely to go maybe even ten spots higher than this but I’m buying the buzz. What I disagree on, as you’ll probably see in my ratings, is how safe of a prospect he is. Some will say there’s no possible way he busts; however, where he’ll likely go, I wish there were higher standards for that. There’s no doubt he’s a great kid which is why I love his personality, and this very well could be the part where outperforms my expectations. His shot is promising as I’m sure his sharp shooting father who played in the league had something to do with that but it’s not something he used with regularity, at least not yet. Side note: has there ever been a group of players who are have the same name as their dad being Jr.? My main gripe is easily one he can fix and control: his propensity to get into foul trouble. I appreciate his continuous effort and intensity on the defensive end, still, I’d rather have him for the most important moments of a game than an extra block on the box score. Nevertheless, this is something professional teams can pick on and exploit, as he’ll never win those calls being so much bigger and stronger than everyone else.
JJJ has value as a floor spacer which is why he’s needed so much but his actual production is not in the same caliber as his contemporaries in the front court, although he did the best he could in limited minutes. You also have to consider that he’s the youngest player in the draft and while this is a great thing in the long term, there’s going to be a very steep learning curve I feel most aren’t taking into account when they say he’s perfect for the “modern game.” He’s deadly from top of the key when he trails behind but this too can be defended against when it’s shown how much better he is there than anywhere. Marquese Chriss had people drooling just as much and here we are with him and his stalled development even when the skills are clearly present. Jackson could also be as frustrating as a Myles Turner, who I was a BIG fan of and still am or at worst turn into Noah Vonleh or Biyombo if put into the wrong situation. Zach Collins and John Collins weren’t too much different either a year ago, and I’d be much, much more comfortable pulling the trigger in this range here rather than there.
Total Grade: 23
Sadiq: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky, freshman (6-ft-6, 180 lb, 19 yrs old)
13 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Gilgeous-Alexander really came out of nowhere for me during this college basketball season despite being a Kentucky freshman. In my opinion, the young point guard was arguably Coach Cal’s most consistent player. He has great size for a PG at 6’6″ along with a long wingspan but won’t wow you with his speed or burst. I am impressed with his sense of body position as he knows how to contort his body so he can get to the rim. Gilgeous-Alexander knows how to run a team, and while his jump shot isn’t pretty, he should be a solid shooter at the next level. Like many young guards, he has to work on his floater as well as his finishing ability. The young guard has decent handles, takes pride in his defense, and will be a steady point guard who gives me kind of a Jeff Teague vibe.
Total Grade: 22.5
Sadaab: Lonnie Walker, Shooting Guard, Miami, freshman (6-ft-5, 196 lb, 19 yrs old)
13 Lonnie Walker
Lonnie is a spark plug, always moving and running so he’s incredibly fun to watch. This proved to be a detriment when I first started watching him and thought why he wasn’t doing anything else other than dunking mercilessly on opponents but that was before my transformation. Similar to how I first saw Jaylen Brown, he grew on me and fast – especially when I heard him speak. He’s someone that would probably be special at anything and it shows if you can just disregard some of his crazy earth theories like a Mr. Kyrie Irving. The duo were slept on and seen as reaches without many seeing what they’re actually made of or their background that they’re incredibly proud to represent. Their motivations are rarely questioned but Walker is not as tall, even though he might be with the signature hair. His bounce reminds some fans of what Iman Shumpert could’ve been before injury, still, I think this is a little low for how good he can be. We should aim higher as I’m sure he is and look at the history of other thirteenth picks like a Donovan Mitchell. It’s probably not a good idea to be looking for the next one as they don’t happen every year; however, they’re more alike than you’d realize. Mitchell is Dwyane Wade with a jumpshot and can even remind you of Ray Allen in his current form, but the latter is Lonnie’s idol and who he tried to perfect his form after.
Even though the mid range has slowly died off in the league, it shows you how pure someone’s shooting really is better than many metrics and if they’re capable of expanding further, boding well for him as that’s his go to offensive move. His pull up jumpers are often pretty to watch, which is usually not the case. The ball sometimes stops when he’s playing with one on one match ups ensuing like a good JR Smith, where everyone just has to watch what happens. The big difference is his head is on right and there aren’t an abundance of tools being wasted. Interestingly, this can also be seen defensively as he locks up his man with ease and he is also a terrific finisher. The injury to Bruce Brown, who I adored, helped the combo guard assume bigger responsibility and role where he put up 40 some nights.
Total Grade: 22.5
Sadiq: Collin Sexton, Point Guard, Alabama, freshman (6-ft-2, 183 lb, 19 yrs old)
14 Collin Sexton
Regarded by some as the “best point guard in the class”, Collin Sexton is another freshman guard who objectively speaking had a great season for Alabama. I was impressed he went there as his head coach, Avery Johnson, has a lot of NBA experience as both an undersized point guard and as an underrated basketball mind. Sexton is essentially best described in one word: quick. He is also a great finisher attacking the basket and I like his ability to draw free throws. His shot works but he might just be an average shooter at the next level. Sexton doesn’t really look to pass despite being a point guard with his assist to turnover ratio being one of his more major areas of concern. While I don’t think he has the physical attributes to earn a comparison to Eric Bledsoe or Russell Westbrook, he certainly has their mentalities. I do think Sexton is a bulldog on defense as he is a great competitor. His game most reminded me of Reggie Jackson who can be a very good scoring point guard but lacks the vision to be an elite PG.
Total Grade: 21.5
Sadaab: Collin Sexton, Point Guard, Alabama, freshman (6-ft-2, 183 lb, 19 yrs old)
14 Collin Sexton
Collin is a competitive son of a gun, possibly the hardest on himself as well as others. His fiery character definitely motivates and inspires he and his teammates who look like they’re going to war every time they lace up. This is what he expects out of them and he might’ve received the best individual coaching of any player in the draft with Avery Johnson for what he does for generals so he’s clearly very smart on how he went about choosing his future since I couldn’t have advised any greater. Sexton does it old school with no social media, until recently so he could increase brand awareness for a growing fan club and he seems to show up at important moments. With that being said, there are some holes and red flags in his game that I’d be remiss not to bring up. For a point guard, his paltry just over 3 assists a game are very concerning at the college level. He did not register a performance where he had more than seven dimes the entire season and does not appear to show the ability to attract defenders and dish out to open shooters like many at his position do.
For the flack Trae Young takes for his turnovers, Sexton’s not much better and he rarely takes as many risks when a play goes wrong for a first option. The decision making has to make strides in the shots he chooses to take, especially when it’s not the most fundamentally sound although it is workable with a few minor release adjustments. He needs to learn how to play without the ball some and can’t let not having the rock dictate what he does. Most importantly, Collin has to get used to things not always going his way and not let his emotions that he wears on his sleeves get the best of him or make his team look at his intensity negatively in the wrong light like Rajon Rondo. Of course, as a six foot guard, he’s put himself in this position with hard work but he can’t leave everyone else on an island. He is blessed with lighting quick speed and is a dog defensively, making him a must for teams and markets like the Clippers. We all know the Bledsoe comparisons that I don’t hate as much as ones linking him with a completely different kid in De’Aaron Fox but see early Brandon Jennings in him.
Total Grade: 22
Sadiq: Kevin Knox, Forward, Kentucky, freshman (6-ft-9, 205 lb, 18 yrs old)
15 Kevin Knox
As the youngest player in the draft at just 18 years old, Kevin Knox is one freshman I had high expectations for entering the college basketball season. I was slightly disappointed with the lack of impact he had on Kentucky. He has a very clean jumper and looks like he should be shooting above his 44 FG% and 35 3PT%. Knox (with his good wiry frame) runs the floor extremely well. He also moves without the basketball outstandingly and really has a lot of value as a cutter but I didn’t see him make much impact without scoring. I’ve seen him sometimes take plays off defense (which he can be better at if he puts his mind to it). Knox has a diverse scoring skillset as his jump shot looks clean, can shoot both from 3 and midrange, can attack closeouts, and also has some one handed hook shots. Maybe it’s just his age, but he looked very raw in terms of his ISO game and ball-handling skills. His talent level reminded me a little of Jeff Green and Knox has the potential to be a top 10 pick but his production just didn’t do it for me. With the right coaching, Knox will be a fine piece of clay to mold.
Total Grade: 21.5
Sadaab: Josh Okogie, SG/SF, Georgia Tech, sophomore (6-ft-5, 211 lb, 19 yrs old)
15 Josh Okogie
My fifteenth is a lot different than most, and some might say a reach but not to me. Josh Okogie should be in this conversation but unfortunately, too many have lumped him in with three and D wing players like Jacob Evans and Melvin Frazier. There’s nothing wrong with them or that phrase we all go to that I don’t like very much. I guess my sales pitch is this: he is going to produce with little doubt as his track record shows this. Okogie made the ACC All Freshman team with names like Jonathan Isaac, Jayson Tatum and Dennis Smith along with team USA 19 U so please don’t sleep on him. For me to choose to rank him ahead of the normal darling names Shai Gilgeous Alexander or DeAnthony Melton, who I don’t see contributing right away, should show how much I believe this to be true. The next batch don’t have his combination of physique and athleticism, making them solid starters to truly elite role players depending on who we’re talking about.
The one he finishes off might have not put it all together but are extremely close to in my eyes to take that next step. He, for one, has personally come a long way in a short time as a late bloomer when he couldn’t even interest most scouting services in Georgia. Parlaying that into a scholarship with Ga. Tech, he might’ve not had the most spotlight in the world but it gave him a quiet, familiar place to keep improving to the point of staying in the draft after a very impressive combine showing. I could hardly blame those who were afraid of his 6’4″ build but he plays bigger than that and now terrifies us all on what he can potentially be with an extremely unusual seven (!!!) foot wingspan. Not only is this unheard of with his frame, he also had the best shuttle times; indicating his chance to stick on players maybe not on a Marcus Smart level but close. To top all this off, he had the highest official max vertical leap at 42 inches that needs to be brought in games for him to play above the basket more. Does anyone else not get why there is even a sliver of hope that he doesn’t go in the first round because it’s beyond me? Such decisions could jeopardize prospect careers, even moreso in a position as deep as shooting guard. He may not have as beautiful a shot like Malik Monk but I think he matches up well with the current Charlotte Hornet in his ability to score in many ways.
Total Grade: 21.5