Only five games left for the Grizzlies, so we at Grizzly Bear Blues are starting to turn our full attention towards the 2018 NBA Draft. Without any more of these gritty wins, Memphis will see themselves picking anywhere from the 1-6 range, hopefully in the top 3 if the ping-pong balls drop the right way.
With any draft coverage, there always has to be a Draft Big Board. This takes the teams and fit out of consideration and ranks the players based on overall skill.
The Big Board will be ranking the top 14 prospects. It will be split up into tiers to better differentiate the gap between draft prospects. Especially the lottery picks, there are some players who are just on another level than others even if they are slotted one number lower in the rankings.
Many of the players' descriptions are from an excerpt in a previous draft article written by some of the writers at GBB (links included in the name). However, the rankings themselves were sorted by me, so any backlash can come my way.
Now, to the rankings:
1. DeAndre Ayton
Jack Noonan: The Bahamian Big Man. DeAndre Ayton is the traditional center body that has an array of tools which instantly puts him on another tier compared to the competition. He is a 7’1” monster out of Arizona averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds a game. Ayton is the rim running center that has freaky athleticism and bounce for his size. His defense can use some work, and the same can be said for most of these prospects mentioned. Defense takes work at the NBA level, but one thing about Ayton is the rim protection, averaging 1.9 blocks per game. He has the potential to clog the paint every possession. If the Grizzlies have the chance, they must draft him.
2. Luka Doncic
Joe Mullinax: Luka Doncic, the 6’8” 225-pound European prospect from Slovenia. Playing for Real Madrid in the Euroleague, widely considered the 2nd best professional basketball league in the world behind the NBA, he has shown real potential as a creator for both himself and others off the dribble. NBADraft.net lauds his vision as a passer as well as his handle, and if you watch YouTube highlights of him (as one does late at night when the Grizzlies are losing basketball games), you can’t help but appreciate the skill set he already possesses at the age of 19.
The handle, the shot, the touch off the dribble to hit a floater or a bank shot. His game is more refined than any other high-level prospect in this draft, and at its best would be James Harden-esque. While his lack of foot speed and lateral quickness is a fair concern defensively, especially against the elite perimeter players of the NBA, you can’t help but daydream about what a Conley/Evans/Doncic/Green/Gasol lineup could do...
3. Marvin Bagley III
Joe Mullinax: While he is not as dominant an athlete as Ayton, Bagley is comparable in almost every other statistic and accolade (Bagley was the 2018 ACC Player of the Year). Where Bagley is better than Ayton at this stage is as a shooter from range, as he is a superior three-point marksman (39.7%). So while Deandre could, in theory, be a big in a “get out and run” lineup for Memphis, he would not space the floor as well as Bagley.
4. Mikal Bridges
Jack Noonan: Mikal Bridges’s stock has risen the most out of all prospects over the past two months. I have always been high on Bridges, but after these Conference and NCAA Tournament and runs, he has jumped to another tier for me. He is a 6’7” small forward type who averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He plays great man-to-man defense and has an IQ of where to be and what to do on the court that many of these freshmen lack. Bridges is a junior, so he is a bit older than most of the prospects. However, when we look back a year from now, I feel that Bridges will be a top rookie in the league. A high floor prospect.
5. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Ross Jarrar: He’s one of the youngest prospects in this year’s draft; he’ll have been 19 years old for just a month when the 2018-19 NBA season begins. Even at his young age, he’s quite developed physically. He has a Kevin Garnett-like body, great rebounding skills, and a jump-shot that’s inconsistent, but has potential to be at least league-average.
6. Collin Sexton
Jack Noonan: Collin Sexton is one of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft class (and that is hard for me to say being a Tennessee grad). He is the electric Alabama point guard who can carry an offense by being a quality ball handler and distributor. Sexton is averaging 18.5 points but only 3.4 assists. His team has been streaky around him, but he can raise the level of teammates around him by drawing the defense in and then kicking it out to other the Alabama shooters. Also, he can attack the paint and drive successfully on smaller defenders if the paint is cleared.
His two weaknesses are his three-point shooting (33.5) and defense. These are two things that will hopefully come over time. Sexton is one prospect that wins me over with the eye test. With better teammates and more spacing, he will create offense either through scoring on his own or dishing it to open players on dribble drives. Everyone is sleeping on Sexton, but if he develops a consistent shot, he will be dominant.
7. Mo Bamba
Jack Noonan: Big Mo Bamba looks like he’s on another level on the court. He is a 7-foot center out of Texas. Bamba has incredible length with a 7’9” wingspan and a 9’6” standing reach. That is absurd. It’s all defense with this kid. His length on the defensive end disrupts any shots in the paint, and is what makes him so special. Bamba is averaging 4(!) blocks per game. He may not have a developed offensive game quite yet, but the pieces are there for him to grow into, especially with lobs to the rim. He averages a double-double with 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds. Mo Bamba is definitely a longer-term project than the other prospects mentioned.
8. Michael Porter Jr.
Ross Jarrar: What we do know is that he’s an incredibly skilled, 6’10” wing with tremendous scoring ability. He has the body type and skill set of Kevin Durant coming out of college. The problem is that we don’t know if it’ll translate to the college level, let alone the NBA. With his back injury and the lack of exposure that came with it, he may be a boom-or-bust pick in the draft. For a team like the Grizzlies, he may be worth the large risk.
Jack Noonan: Some have him easy top-5 with potential alone, I think teams should be cautious. Back injuries are very serious and can have a lasting effect on an athletic big man. Plus, his couple of games back did not help his cause even though it was a very small sample size.
9. Robert Williams
Jack Noonan: Robert Williams is a sophmore prospect with many question marks around him. He is a 6’9” power forward out of Texas A&M. People may not be as familiar with him because of his injury that sidelined him for most of this season. As soon as he was out, Texas A&M went on a huge slide. In the games he was healthy, he averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds a game.
Robert Williams impact was seen as soon as he entered A&M’s lineup for the tournament. In their big matchup against North Carolina, he played elite defense that shut down the paint in all aspects. It was what he had shown flashes of throughout the season. To excel at the next level, Williams will have to work on his offensive game and jump shot. His defense, especially switching on high screens, is where I have seen the most upside in him.
10. Wendell Carter Jr.
Ross Jarrar: Wendell Carter Jr. is, quite literally, the biggest prospect in this year’s draft. He’s listed at 6’10” (7’3” wingspan) and 257 lbs, larger than the listed weight of most, if not all, draftable players in 2018. He’s got size and great defensive ability. He notches 2 blocks a game and snags almost 10 rebounds a game despite playing next to fellow draft prospect Marvin Bagley III. Not to mention, Wendell Carter Jr. shoots 60.3% from the field and 47.1% from three on almost two attempts from downtown a game. I’d like to see him shoot more from deep to see if that’s sustainable, but he has at least shown it’s possible.
11. Trae Young
Ross Jarrar: In 2017, Trae averaged 29.6 PPG on .475/.413/.856 shooting and 10.7 APG. Crazy production and efficiency. In 2018, 26.1 PPG on .394/.330/.865 and 7.5 APG. Production, but disgusting inefficiency. While he was a rocket out of nowhere the first half of the season, defenses really keyed in on him and forced his teammates to beat them.
Trae Young’s talent didn’t just disappear, though. He’ll have to prove consistency with shooting if he’s going to have a stretch of shooting as bad as 2018, but he’s incredible as a shooter and underrated as a passer. I called him Trae Fredette on Twitter when Oklahoma got bounced by URI. I don’t think he’ll be that bad in the NBA, but he isn’t the perennial All-Star lock that he was at the beginning of the season.
Jack Noonan: As many see him in the top 8 picks in the draft, I see Trae Young as a future bust in the NBA. He may find his shot again, but he will not be the complete focal point like he was at Oklahoma. I do not see him transitioning well into an off-ball type role.
12. Miles Bridges
Ross Jarrar: Miles Bridges is one of the few true SF prospects at the top of this draft. He’s going to make his bones in the NBA as a scorer. He’s super-athletic with a shot that works in all three levels of the court. That’s going to translate to the NBA. What else does remains to be seen. For teams that are scared off by Michael Porter Jr’s back injury, Miles Bridges is going to be the top wing prospect on the board.
13. Lonnie Walker IV
Jack Noonan: Lonnie Walker is another name that I have not seen creep into many others lottery picks. However, I really like Walker’s ability to score the basketball at will. He is a 6’4” freshman shooting guard out of Miami. Walker averages only 11.5 points per game but has an effective shooting percentage of 50.3%. The offensive gameplan at Miami really stunted his ability to excel at his highest level.
He has a pure stroke with a long athletic frame to drive to the rim with space. I feel that this will translate well in the right situation. Miami clogged the paint too many times that just will not happen as much in the NBA. Also, I believe that the right situation is more likely around the back end of the lottery. With the right fit, Walker will thrive.
14. Khyri Thomas
Jack Noonan: Khyri Thomas is another upperclassman score first player. He is a 6’3” shooting guard who averaged 15.1 points per game for Creighton. He shoots lights out, but there is some concern because this was his best season after two earlier years in college. Thomas lacks effort on the defensive end which may change in the league. I feel that his maturity will translate him into being another lower floor type player with some upside. I think he should sneak into the lottery.
Honorable Mention- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Gary Trent Jr, Kevin Knox
So, that’s it. Feel free to rip me apart in the comments. It is definitely a bit different than other Big Boards I have seen, but it is the prospects I feel best about after watching film.
Stay tuned to GBB for more NBA draft coverage