The NBA draft is in the books, and it’s time for the speculation to begin—which teams found their face-of-the-franchise and which teams will be left wondering what might have been? There will be article upon article about the winners and losers, analysis, and projections to come in the future, but for now, here are my favorite picks from the 2018 NBA draft.
Luka Doncic, G, Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks were a winner on draft night, highlighted by the decision to trade the fifth overall pick and a 2019 first-round pick for Doncic. Many mock drafts had him as the number-one overall pick, and this was a move that could potentially alter the future of the Mavericks. Taking the court alongside Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas could quickly find itself with one of the best backcourts in the league. Doncic has ideal size and athletic ability for a guard, and already has the experience of playing against professional players. If the Mavericks want to get back to the playoffs, this pick is a step in the right direction.
Donte DiVincenzo, G, Milwaukee Bucks
There was speculation on draft night that there were better players left on the board after pick No. 17, but there are three reasons why I love Donte to the Bucks. First and foremost, he shot the three at 40% last season, a statistical category in which the Bucks ranked in the bottom half of the league in 2018. Second, he is a superior athlete—he had the highest vertical at the combine at 42 inches. This athletic ability allows him to be very aggressive on defense. Lastly, he is a winner—as two-time NCAA Champion and 2018 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, DiVincenzo knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle.
Robert Williams, F, Boston Celtics
The steal of the draft—Williams was originally projected to go near the end of the lottery, but fell into the Celtics’ lap at No. 27. Boston was a win away from the Finals last year, and that was without Irving and Hayward—the addition of Williams only helps their cause. He’ll have the privilege of working with Al Horford for at least two more seasons, and, more importantly, Brad Stevens. He’s not quite as polished on the offensive end, but he is an elite rim protector that could be the missing piece in Boston.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, F, Dallas Mavericks
There’s a reason the last pick in the draft has the title Mr. Irrelevant—few have ever panned out into anything special. But if there is one player who has the potential to challenge Isaiah Thomas as the best last-pick ever, it’s the brother of the Greek Freak. Kostas is very raw but showed flashes of brilliance in his limited time at Dayton. He’s already a force on the defensive end and is still progressing on the offensive side of the ball. No matter what angle you look at, this was a good pick for the Mavs—if he doesn’t pan out, no harm done. If he becomes even half the player his older brother is, consider it a steal for Dallas.
Collin Sexton, G, Cleveland Cavaliers
No, I don’t think Collin Sexton will have a major impact on LeBron’s free agency decision, but I believe he has the ability to put on a show in Cleveland. If you question whether or not he’s ready to work, take a look at the tape from when Alabama was forced to play three-on-five against Minnesota. Sexton put up 40 points, 23 of those after the majority of his team was ejected. The heart and competitive spirit is there, not to mention his elite ability to finish at the rim. We don’t know what the future holds in Cleveland, but it’s bright with Sexton running the point.
Lonnie Walker, G, San Antonio Spurs
It’s a project pick for Greg Popovich, but it’s one that could turn into a great young piece for the Spurs. He didn’t wow in college, averaging only 11 points per game and two assists, but he steadily improved over the course of the season after offseason MCL surgery. Walker led the Hurricanes to their third straight tournament appearance, only to fall to the eventual Final Four representatives Loyola-Chicago. He’s an excellent shot-maker, and, while his defense needs to improve some, his athletic ability makes him a great addition to the Spurs.
Jevon Carter, G, Memphis Grizzlies
There was no order to these rankings, but Jevon Carter could be my favorite player in this draft. You can’t teach hustle and heart, and Carter has both. He’s certainly not the greatest athlete in the draft, but if J.B. Bickerstaff needs a spark, Carter is the man to call on. And although he is known for his defensive prowess, he’s no slouch on the offensive end—he put up 17.6 PPG and 6.6 assists in his senior season, including 39% from three. He will also get to work with one of the better point guards in the league in Mike Conley.