The 2018 NBA Draft brought about a wave of new-age big men and elite offensive creators.
Every now and then, we get a batch of rookies with the potential to define a generation. The 2018 NBA Draft provided us with just that. A handful of the league’s most dominant and exciting offensive engines. An MVP candidate, maybe two. And several “modern” bigs who showcase how much the league has changed.
No draft class in recent memory has better defined the current state of NBA basketball. What kind of players are still valuable? What kind of players are products of a bygone era? Just look at the first two picks: Deandre Ayton is thriving because of his ability to defend in space and embrace the small things; meanwhile, Marvin Bagley’s scoring inefficiency and lackluster defense made him the biggest bust of 2018.
Who would go No. 1 overall if the 2018 NBA Draft were held today?
Per usual, there were several notable mistakes in the draft in 2018. There was also perhaps the most important draft-day trade in who knows how long: Dallas sending the No. 5 pick and change to Atlanta for the No. 3 pick, forever tethering Luka Doncic and Trae Young together in the NBA annals.
With the benefit of hindsight, let’s correct those mistakes and rewrite history.
C, Atlanta Hawks
Moritz Wagner can stretch out defenses with deep 3-point range. He can also score with finesse and creativity around the rim. Unfortunately, he’s easily played off the floor defensively.
G, Brooklyn Nets
Kendrick Nunn burst onto the NBA scene with two explosive scoring seasons in Miami. He has since missed a year to injuries and is now struggling to regain his footing with the wayward Lakers.
G, Golden State Warriors
Landry Shamet checks a lot of role player boxes on the wing. His movement shooting really pops and he’s capable of handling the ball a little bit when called upon.
G, Boston Celtics
Jevon Carter’s dogged on-ball defense and reliable 3-point shot will keep him on NBA rosters. He’s currently playing the biggest role of his career in Milwaukee and answering the call.
Marvin Bagley III
F, Philadelphia 76ers
Marvin Bagley III was destined to disappoint as soon as Sacramento picked him over Luka Doncic. He’s an energetic rebounder with the ability to score in bunches around the rim, but his fallible defense and relative inefficiency are hard to ignore.
F, Los Angeles Lakers
Originally undrafted, Jae’Sean Tate has been stuffing the stat sheet in Houston for three years now. He’s an effective Swiss Army Knife who might look even better once Houston’s core pieces start to play winning basketball.
F, Portland Trail Blazers
Hustle is the defining feature of Kenrich Williams’ game. The guy just plays his tail off, guarding multiple positions on defense, crashing the glass with reckless abandon, and hitting enough 3s to remain relevant on offense.
G, Indiana Pacers
Grayson Allen has developed quite the reputation over the years, but it has nothing to do with his actual talent for basketball. The NBA is a shooter’s league and Allen can shoot the rock prodigiously.
G, Chicago Bulls
Injuries have perhaps irrevocably tarnished Donte DiVincenzo’s NBA career. His first two seasons in Milwaukee might have established him as a lottery pick in this re-draft were it not for the many tribulations that have since followed. He showed flashes of his old self in Sacramento last season, though.
G, Utah Jazz
Duncan Robinson’s role has diminished in Miami, but he’s still one of the best movement shooters in the league. His unique dynamism behind the 3-point line keeps Robinson very relevant.
G, Minnesota Timberwolves
Devonte’ Graham has spent the majority of his NBA career as a starting point guard — and a pretty good one too. The Pelicans’ depth has relegated him to reserve duties now, but Graham is a nifty complementary guard because of his ability to bomb 3s and set up teammates.
Bruce Brown Jr.
F, Atlanta Hawks
Bruce Brown Jr. is one of the NBA’s most underrated role players. He doesn’t score much, but Brown’s athleticism, passing ability, and competitive defense shine through in practically any context.
Gary Trent Jr.
G, San Antonio Spurs
Gary Trent Jr. has done a lot to elevate his game since arriving in Toronto. He’s more than a simple 3-and-D wing — Trent’s ability to improvise and hit tough shots is essential to the Raptors’ oft-stagnant halfcourt offense.
C, Milwaukee Bucks
With his 7-foot-10 wingspan and bankable 3-point shot, Mo Bamba should stick in the league for a long time. Very few players can anchor the defense and stretch the floor like Bamba. Unfortunately, Orlando employs a gazillion frontcourt players right now.
F, Philadelphia 76ers
Jarred Vanderbilt does all the dirty work. At 6-foot-9, he crashes the boards with rabid enthusiasm. He can be deployed as a wing or as a small-ball five. Either way, he’s going to vacuum up errant passes and create havoc on the defensive end. The cherry on top: Vanderbilt is even starting to hit some 3s.
G, Washington Wizards
Kevin Huerter is finding the next gear in Sacramento right now. He’s the perfect modern wing: lots of 3s, some real playmaking juice, and active defense. He flies around the court on both ends and makes good things happen.