In comparison to some weak draft classes such as 2013 and 2016, 2018 looks like it could be an all-time loaded class with several perennial All-Star candidates. Now in year two, this is how NBA executives would have likely changed their original picks in a re-drafting, knowing what they know now.
1. Phoenix Suns select: Luka Doncic
Original: Deandre Ayton
While Deandre Ayton is far from a bust, the Suns would not be able to pass up on Luka Doncic had they known how good he would become. Doncic ran away with the Rookie of the Year award last year and is already a dark-horse MVP candidate this season at the age of 20. Outside of Devin Booker, the Suns have lacked scorers in years past, so Doncic would fit in nicely with Phoenix.
Doncic also isn’t suspended 25 games for PEDs like Ayton is. In just his second season, Doncic is already putting up close to triple-double averages of 29.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 9.3 assists per game. The Mavericks won the lottery by trading up to get him, and he is arguably a top-10 NBA player already. He became the second player in NBA history to have a 40 point triple-double before the age of 21 Monday night.
2. Sacramento Kings select: Deandre Ayton
Original: Marvin Bagley III
Sure, Trae Young is easily the second-best player right now from the 2018 draft class. However, I’m giving Sacramento Deandre Ayton simply because I don’t think Young and De’Aaron Fox, who are both ball-dominant players, fit well together. While not attention-grabbing, Ayton is a very consistent and reliable player, leading all rookies in double-doubles last season.
The Suns had high expectations for Ayton coming into the season, but he’s only played one game so far due to his suspension. The Kings are without an elite or high-ceiling center, so Ayton would fit in nicely with Sacramento. The two-man game between Fox and Ayton could have been fun to watch.
3. Dallas Mavericks select: Trae Young Original: Luka Doncic
The biggest question here is whether or not the Hawks and Mavericks would still complete their trade with Doncic off the board. For the sake of the re-draft, let’s say the two teams don’t, and the Mavericks wind up with Trae Young. After coming on strong in the second half of the season last year, Young is off to a hot start this season, putting up 27.0 points and 8.7 assists per game while shooting 36.9-percent from three.
Trae can pull up and effortlessly knock down shots from the logo as he and John Collins give Atlanta a bright future. While Jalen Brunson is solid, Young would be the Mavericks’ point guard of the future, although the team would definitely be worse without Doncic.
4. Memphis Grizzlies select: Marvin Bagley III
Original: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Dropping down two spots, Marvin Bagley III would be an upgrade at power forward over Jaren Jackson Jr. for Memphis. I considered Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for this pick, given they wouldn’t have known they’d be taking Ja Morant a year later. But at the time of this draft, Mike Conley was still the Grizzlies point guard.
Bagley III has the potential to be a top-10 power forward in the NBA, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the court so far. After missing 20 games with shoulder and knee issues last season, Bagley III broke his thumb on opening night this season and has been out ever since. Jackson Jr. hasn’t been bad, but Bagley III is better when healthy, in my opinion.
5. Atlanta Hawks select: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Original: Trae Young
Originally taken 11th in the 2018 draft by Charlotte (and immediately traded to the Clippers), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be the Hawks future point guard with Trae Young off the draft board. Gilgeous-Alexander is super quick and athletic and is a front-runner to win Most Improved Player this season.
After a solid rookie campaign in which he earned All-Rookie Second Team honors, Gilgeous-Alexander got shipped to the Thunder as part of the Paul George trade. So far this season, he is putting up an impressive 19.7 points per game and 5.2 boards on 45.9-percent from the field. The Hawks would be almost as exciting as they are now if they replaced Trae Young with Shai.
6. Orlando Magic select: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Original: Mohamed Bamba
Originally taken fourth in the draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, Jaren Jackson Jr. would fall into the hands of the Orlando Magic at pick 6. While I still believe Mohamed Bamba has a bright future in the NBA, he is severely limited by being forced to play behind Nikola Vucevic.
Unlike Bamba, Jackson Jr. is capable of dropping down to the four and creating his shots. Jackson Jr.’s best moment in his career so far was his 36-point performance against Brooklyn last season. Having Jackson Jr. likely bumps Aaron Gordon down to the three, and would make Orlando a much more competitive team.
7. Chicago Bulls select: Wendell Carter Jr.
Original: Wendell Carter Jr.
With the seventh pick in the draft, Chicago keeps its original selection of Wendell Carter Jr., who compares well to Al Horford. He is someone who does all the little things well, and helps his team win games, despite not being flashy. After missing 38 games with a thumb injury last season, Carter Jr. returned this season and has played well, putting up 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game on 59.2-percent from the field. He is solid in the paint, too, shooting 76.7-percent from within three feet, and the Bulls should be satisfied with this pick.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers select: Mohamed Bamba
Original: Collin Sexton
This pick may draw some criticism, but I still believe Mohamed Bamba can have a bright future in the NBA. Additionally, while Collin Sexton has good scoring numbers, he is inefficient and doesn’t work well with Darius Garland.
Plain and simple, the way I see it, Bamba won’t be able to develop while playing less than 14 minutes a game behind Nikola Vucevic. For him to reach his full potential, either he will need to be traded, or Vucevic will need to be traded. With the Cavaliers more in the state of a rebuild, they would be more comfortable giving Bamba more minutes and having Tristan Thompson take a step back.
9. New York Knicks select: Collin Sexton
Original: Kevin Knox
I’ve hit on this several times since the start of last season, but I’m not very high on Collin Sexton. While 16.9 points per game for his career so far is solid, his 102 offensive rating and an even worse turnover percentage of 25.4-percent hurt his team. Despite scoring well, his career OBPM is -1.3, too.
While Darius Garland has also had his growing pains, he’s looked solid this season, and I think he’ll ultimately be the Cavaliers’ point guard of the future. Frank Ntilikina is a bust, and Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t lived up to his full potential, so Sexton would carve out a role as the Knicks’ starting point guard.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Mitchell Robinson
Original: Mikal Bridges
Initially, this pick was the 76ers taking Mikal Bridges and trading him to Phoenix for the 16th pick in Zhaire Smith. However, for the sake of the re-draft, let’s say the trade did not happen, and the 76ers kept the pick. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s realistic to say if Mitchell Robinson was on Philly last season, they’d have won the NBA finals.
During Game 7 against Toronto, Joel Embiid was a plus-10 in 45 minutes, while the backups were a minus-12 in the three minutes he was out. Robinson is worlds better than Greg Monroe and would have been a reliable backup for Philly. (Don’t get me started on Greg Monroe.)
Of course, Kawhi Leonard hit a buzzer-beater, and the Raptors went on to win the NBA Finals. Robinson is an elite defender and an absolute steal at pick 36 for New York.
11. Charlotte Hornets select: Devonte’ Graham
Original: Shai Gilgeous Alexander
Initially, the Clippers had both picks 12 and 13 but traded up one spot to take Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. With the Hornets keeping the pick, they will secure Devonte’ Graham, who they initially took at pick 34.
I’ll be honest; I did not see this coming. After an underwhelming rookie season, Graham has broken onto the scene and is a legitimate MIP candidate. Someone had to score for the Hornets, and not only has Graham done that, but the Hornets are also winning games. It will be interesting to see if Graham can keep up his play for the whole season.
12. Los Angeles Clippers select: Miles Bridges
Original: Miles Bridges
Miles Bridges will stay in the same spot he was initially taken with, but will now be a part of the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc Rivers likes to bring Montrezl Harrell off the bench, and keep guys like Patrick Patterson and Moe Harkless as the starting power forward.
Miles Bridges would fill in that starting role for this Clippers team. Bridges is one of the best in the NBA at making highlight dunks and putbacks. So far this season, he is putting up 11.7 points, and 5.1 boards per game on 45.1-percent from the field and 36.1-percent from three.
13. Los Angeles Clippers select: Landry Shamet
Original: Jerome Robinson
Also landing on the team he is on now will be the sharpshooter Landry Shamet. Shamet was taken initially 26th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, and later got traded as part of the deal for Tobias Harris.
What’s more interesting to think about is where Tobias Harris would be now if the Clippers had initially taken Shamet. Harris likely wouldn’t have been traded last season, but also probably wouldn’t have re-signed after the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
In this alternative universe, could he have joined Luka Doncic and Devin Booker in Phoenix? We’ll never know. Shamet is an elite shooter but is out indefinitely with a high right ankle sprain. Ironically, Shamet is everything Jerome Robinson, the man taken 13th-overall in 2018, hasn’t been: a three-point shooter who can shoot off the dribble and play some defense along the perimeter.
14. Denver Nuggets select: Michael Porter Jr.
Original: Michael Porter Jr.
Here’s the thing: there are many players such as Kevin Huerter and Josh Okogie who deserve to get picked in a re-drafting. However, Michael Porter Jr. still has a high ceiling, and if he fell to the Nuggets at 14 again, I can’t see Denver not taking him.
Porter Jr. hasn’t played a massive role for the Nuggets this season, but they want to keep him healthy and he has to be rusty as he had only played three games of organized basketball in the previous two years coming into this season.
Other players who I considered for this spot include Robert Williams III of the Boston Celtics, Moritz Wagner of the Washington Wizards, and Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks.