NBA 2018 Draft: Boom or Bust Predictions

Every year, you can find about 4 busts and 4 booms among the 14 lottery picks in the NBA Draft. Who will it be this year? Read on for The VideoScope’s predictions!

A year after successfully predicting that Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell would be bonafide booms in last year’s draft (We’ll give Lonzo and Monk some time..), The VideoScope is back again trying to predict the 4 booms and 4 busts among this year’s NBA Draft Lottery picks.

I loved last year’s draft and by the looks of it, the formula of 4 booms and busts doesn’t apply to last year’s draft. That was an anomaly however, as historically there are about 4 booms and busts in the lottery each year. Just check out my run-troughs of the drafts between 2007 to 2016. Making Brandon Ingram a bust after an up and down rookie year was a mistake I’ll fix. Either way, for this draft, we’ll stick to the same formula, starting with our first boom:

Luka Dončić, PG, Real Madrid (Boom)

The no-brainer #1 pick in my eyes.

DeAndre Ayton will be a good pro and a solid #1 pick. He reminds me of a Dwight Howard type except he is talented on offense instead of defense. He won’t be the bonafide boom we are getting in Luka Dončić however.

Dončić is the Euroleague MVP at age 19, lead his manly Real Madrid team to a title in a league filled with men and has a body of a man’s man already. Unlike the other prospects, he has already shown he can do it against full-grown men. Am I making myself clear?

European prospects are still underrated when it comes to the draft and the rumors of Dončić falling out of the top 4 are bordering on ridiculous. Dončić is 6’8″, weighs 228 lbs, but still has the skills of a Point Guard. He’ll be bigger and stronger than probable NBA MVP James Harden and can probably handle and pass the ball better than Harden did at 19 years old. He may not get the elite first step or become an expert cynical foul-chaser like him, but Dončić has proven how talented he is.

Pegging down a position for Dončić isn’t easy, but that’s because he can easily fit into whatever system he’s put into. He can be a lethal 1-2 combo with Booker in Phoenix, spot up and make plays next to Fox in Sacramento or run the whole damn show in Atlanta. He’s both a scorer and a facilitator as well as being a leader, even with his much older teammates in Spain.

For me, I’d build around Dončić as the PG, the main ball-handler and decision maker as I try to build an NBA contender. The depth at the PG position in the NBA is insane, but I think Dončić can become one of the very best of them.

Collin Sexton & Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PGs, Alabama and Kentucky (Busts)

While I have high praise for the best PG prospect of this class in Luka Dončić, I’m not sure the other PGs have enough to stand out.

I’ve combined Sexton and SGA here, because if we had combined the intensity, fluidity and athleticism of Sexton with the poise, length and P&R mastery of Gilgeous-Alexander, we’d have an NBA boom on our hands. However, seeing as on their own, they have big flaws that hold them back at the next level, I’m afraid they’ll both bust.

For Sexton, I think we’ll get the answer to the question “How would a poor man’s Russell Westbrook fare in the NBA?”. My answer, not good. I love Westbrook, but what makes him special is his unbelievably special athleticism and drive. Sexton is a top level athlete and driver, but not quite at the Westbrook level. Defensively they are also a bit similar, they are quick and can lock down people 1 on 1 if they want to, but often lose focus, especially off-ball.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the other hand, is more of a long, methodical kind of PG, who shot up the draft boards throughout the year as the standout player at Kentucky.

SGA was a really good college player, running the offense, making plays on defense with his go go gadget arms and being able to show off his unique skill-set. In the NBA however, he won’t be one of the best players on the floor and won’t be able to show his strengths as a main ball-handler. Very few rookies are given the keys to the team they are drafted to and it’s usually only those with quickness and pull-up ability (see Mitchell, Donovan).

SGA is the opposite of that. His biggest weakness is creating his own jump-shot, as his shooting is not fluid at all and looks very awkward unless he’s spotting up. Even when he spots up, his release is slow, so even though he could become a good role-player, I don’t think he’ll ever be a star. That’s not what you look for in a potential top 10 pick.

MO BAMBA, C, Texas (Boom)

Talk about go go gadget arms, cause here comes MO BAMBA. Capital letters for all the easy dunks he’ll be able to get once he plays with competent guards.

Bamba is a boom and possibly my favorite prospect in this year’s draft. Like I said, Dončić is the #1 player, but with a #1 in the NBA attribute already and a captivating personality, Bamba is the one I’m the most excited to see from this draft.

If you are confused about what Bamba will have that no other NBA player will have, it’s his 7’10” wingspan(!). Bamba is insanely long, eclipsing Rudy Gobert as the man with the longest arms in the league. Gobert is also Bamba’s best comparison. Being the 2nd coming of “The Stifle Tower”, a likely defensive player of the year is enough to be excited, but the ceiling of “Gobert with a jump shot” is even more alluring.

Bamba has been working with Drew Hanlen this summer, the same man who worked on Jayson Tatum’s jumper a year ago and turned 34% from 3 in college, into 43% from 3 in the NBA. Bamba’s new found mechanics look very good and with his wingspan he’ll be in no hurry to get the shot off and ruin his mechanics. If Bamba can become even just a reliable spot up shooter, it’ll open up even more in the pick & roll for him.

If defenders jump out to him at the 3 point line, Bamba also has the speed to zoom past them and get an easy dunk. After all, he posted a faster sprint time than Russell Westbrook and John Wall(!). Yup, you read that right. Just as people need to double-take when they see Mo Bamba in person, we sometimes need to do a double-take for some of the facts about him. You’ll have to watch this dunk over and over as well.

To top it off, Bamba seems like a cool dude and it’s very apparent that he loves basketball, something you don’t always get with guys that big. He is quick-witted, confident and doesn’t just stick to the “I’m a basketball player who can play wherever coach needs me, I have a chip on my shoulder, I feel like I’m the best in the draft and I’m humble” takes you usually hear from NBA prospects.

Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke (Bust)

I don’t think Bagley will be out of the league quickly and bust Anthony Bennett style, but as the likely #2 pick, being chosen ahead of Luka Dončić, a lot of people will be wondering what the Sacramento Kings were thinking, yet again.

Heck, Bagley might even become the Rookie of The Year, but at best, I can see him as an “empty stats” type of guy, racking up numbers on a bad team. Sure, he is incredibly fluid for his size, has a rapid 2nd jump that will give him plenty of 2nd chance opportunities and can actually shoot it a bit, but is he much more than a 6’11” Shabazz Muhammad? That’s enough to be an impact player and stick in the league for a long time, but not the star potential I’d want from a #2 pick.

The biggest question marks around Bagley are defense and if he can make his teammates better. He should have the tools on defense, but is completely clueless. He will be picked on by the opposing team every time if he ever reaches the latter stages of the playoffs. Poor angles, up and down effort, slow reactions and no rim protection. Bagley might not offer enough spacing to stay on the floor in the playoffs.

He shot almost 40% from 3 in college, better than fellow Dukie Jayson Tatum who shot only 34% from 3 and became a great NBA 3 point shooter. But considering Tatum attempted 2.2 more 3’s per game and also shot 22% better from the free throw line (63% vs 85), you can’t expect the percentage to follow to the NBA.

Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan State (Boom)

Before I delved deeper into what JJJ was like as a person, I actually had him pegged as a bust as well. The theoretical star who didn’t do much in college is always a worry for me. The guy who shows in workouts that he can potentially do it all, block shots, shoot 3’s, move as quickly as Point Guards and be as big as a center, but still wasn’t dominating the college game.

Zach Collins was that dude last season and I had him as a bust, but he showed some good signs in his first season. The year before that, it was Marquese Chriss, who I think has a bright future… in China. Trey Lyles was the guy in 2015 and I quite like him, even if he’ll only ever be a role player. My first exposure to this theory, was Noah Vonleh, one of the few prospects I didn’t like in the 2014 draft, a feeling that has been proven warranted.

There are mixed results with these unproven, but tantalizing NBA hopefuls, but what usually separates them, is their personality and how ready they are for the NBA experience. This is what makes Jaren Jackson Jr. stand out from the rest of them.

The son of, you guessed it, Jaren Jackson, a former undrafted player who went on to have a decent NBA career. The work ethic seems to have continued with Jr. and will be needed if he’s going to be the boom I expect. I’m basing that on more than just his character however, as JJJ has some very intriguing skills as a big man. 40% from 3 on 2.7 attempts per game, in only 21 minutes per game mind you. Jackson Jr. can be a knockdown shooter in the NBA and his quickness on the defensive end means that he can stay on the floor against the very best of them, unlike Marvin Bagley.

He’ll also be able to grab rebounds, rim run, and block a lot of shots (5.5 blocks per 40) like you’d want from a perfect modern NBA big. Those skills, coupled with being the youngest player in the draft, his great intangibles and a 7’5″ wingspan, you have to be excited about JJJ’s future.

Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri (Bust)

Michael Porter is another Jr. who can drain 3 pointers even though he’s a smooth 6’11” athlete. His intangibles and character though… More on that later.

When you are talking straight comparisons, it’s hard not to get excited by Porter Jr. He has been described as a Kevin Durant with a more physical style of play, or a Giannis Antetokounmpo who likes to and can shoot. Some even compare him straight up to Tracy McGrady. What’s not to like? Well, all those comparisons came from Michael Porter Jr. himself…

“Right now, I’m a little, I’m a mix of Giannis and KD. You know, I like going to the hole a little more than KD does, I like bumping into people a little more physical than KD. But I also, you know I like to shoot the ball more than Giannis. So that’s what I like to compare myself to. Then also Tracy McGrady. I get compared to him a lot and I like that one a lot too. You know, those are three amazing players. So it doesn’t feel bad to be in the same conversation as them.”

Sure, his seemingly unbound confidence could be a strength, but it’s also the source of his most glaring weakness on the court. Forcing up tough long range jumpers early in the shot clock is a huge problem for Porter Jr, who’s used to being bigger, stronger and better than his opposition. That’s also partly because most of his opposition so far have been high school players.

Porter Jr. the former #1 high school recruit only featured in 2 games in his year with Mizzou. Just as the college season was starting, he suffered an injury which required him to get spinal surgery. The cause of this injury wasn’t a singular incident, but rather stems from either genetics, old age or bad posture. It might be the latter with Porter Jr. and the small injuries that made him sit out some workouts lately haven’t been encouraging either. I bet Porter Jr would’ve liked to show some of this to more NBA teams:

There are shades of Kevin Durant in that footage. At least according to Michael Porter Jr. himself.

There were similar injury and posture concerns with Myles Turner a couple years ago. He has played more than 60 games in each of his 3 NBA seasons so far, playing 81/82 in the 16/17 season. Turner also dropped down the draft because of it, but has turned out to be a boom so far. It’s not impossible the same happens with Porter Jr. There are just enough concerns with him for me, that I think he’ll end up as a bust.

Quick Hits: Steals in the late 1st to early 2nd round (20-40)

You might have noticed that I only have 3 booms and that’s because I’m not supremely confident in any of the other lottery picks. Ayton is an easy and obvious answer, but I think he’ll end up being a pretty standard #1 pick, with maybe a couple of All-Star appearances. Trae Young is further along than both Steph Curry and Damian Lillard was at his age, but he’s obviously not on the same shooting level as Steph, with lower upside on D and he doesn’t shine under pressure like Damian Lillard does.

Wendell Carter will be a solid pro, but that’s about it. There is nothing that screams NBA superstar about him and he’ll at best become Al Horford. I’d take that with a top 10 pick, but that’s his absolute upside. Kevin Knox has some intriguing qualities, similar to Jayson Tatum in some ways, but he’s more passive and doesn’t have nearly the same polish as Tatum had a year ago. Mikal Bridges doesn’t have much upside, but he can contribute to a winning team.

That leaves me with sudden lottery candidate Jerome Robinson who has shot up the boards and reliable old Miles Bridges who has seen his stock slip. Robinson could have been my Donovan Mitchell pick of this season, but he doesn’t have the athleticism or wingspan that my boy Mitchell has. Bridges has the athleticism, but his short arms are a worry as they might not be long enough to even reach the lottery now.

Instead of picking a 4th boom, I’ll do something else. This draft will be known for the depth at the picks between 20 and 40, so I’ll list some quick hits of some of my favorite prospects in that range:

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Vilanova

  • Knockdown 3PT shooter
  • Fearless rebounder
  • 6th Man potential

Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

  • Long wing with a quick first step
  • Can handle the ball and shoot at 6’7″ with a 7’1″ wingspan
  • Beautiful strides to the rim with a soft touch

Elie Okobo, PG, France

  • Shoots well off the dribble
  • Quick with long pesky arms on defense
  • Advanced handles, with Euro-moves

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy (HS)

  • Bouncy athlete, get his head over the rim
  • Nasty cross-over, step backs and dribble moves
  • Can shoot from anywhere, off any dribble

Khyri Thomas, PG/SG, Creighton

  • “This year’s Donovan Mitchell” with less athleticism
  • 40% from 3, long wingspan, pin-point passes with high velocity
  • #Khyrifense

Jarred Vanderbilt, SF, Kentucky

  • Best rebounding wing in the draft
  • Best defender in the draft, full stop
  • Great playmaker at his size with flashy passes

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