There are far more wing prospects in this draft class than point guards and big men, and they therefore have a much wider range of outcomes in terms of where they get picked, as teams each have their own favorites and “avoids”. I’m of the opinion that many of the wings in this class could be very successful NBA players— I like the crop of players as a whole. My model favors younger players with low turnovers and high assists, rebounds, and steals, and places less emphasis on points and three-point shooting. Looking at the model, here are a few players that appear to be underrated in the general draft consensus, and a few others who seem to be overrated.
2018 Wing Prospect Statistics
|Michael Porter JR||19.9||17.7||10||6.7||0.3||1||0.3||1||1||0.438|
|Lonnie Walker IV||19.5||27.8||11.5||2.6||1.9||0.9||0.5||1.2||1.8||0.527|
|Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman||23.7||32.8||11||3.4||2.6||0.9||0.2||0.9||1.5||0.566|
Underrated Wing Prospects:
There are reasons why Brown isn’t regarded as highly as I think he should be: he had a somewhat disappointing season for a disappointing Oregon team, failing to carry them through scoring, and not doing so efficiently either. But Troy is young (not even 19 by draft day), and his ancillary stats were excellent: he placed 4th in assists per game, tied for 1st (with three other prospects) in steals, and was reasonably high in rebounds as well. Those are signs that he has the “do-it-all” tools that are so important for wings in the NBA, with functional athleticism and basketball instincts to boot. Brown’s biggest weakness is outside shooting, and it’s a real issue— he won’t become a great NBA player without it. On the other hand, shooting is a skill that many, many players have improved on in the NBA, and there’s no reason Brown can’t join that group. With phenomenal size and an overall skillset that should translate to being a plus player on both ends of the court, Brown is an ideal wing for the modern NBA.
Thomas is interesting in that he’s more of a combo guard than a true wing, measuring in at just under 6’4” during the draft combine last week. However, he doesn’t let his size deter him on the defensive end, winning Big East Defensive Player of the Year in both his sophomore and junior seasons at Creighton. A lengthy 6’10.5” wingspan reduces the height deterrent, enabling Thomas to pester ball-handlers without fouling, and giving him an edge at intercepting passes. With high assist and steal numbers, and fantastic efficiency, Thomas is a prospect who looks to be one of the best in his class statistically, getting docked mostly for his age and height. Those are real factors limiting his upside, no doubt, but I don’t think they are big concerns considering his overall skillset. Khyri can shoot, he can pass, and he can play defense, and those are a rare combination of tools for a prospect. Thomas reminds me of Donovan Mitchell more than any other prospect in this draft, and while it’s highly unlikely he has the rookie season Mitchell has, I think he’s getting underrated for similar reasons.
Okogie is yet another player who appears to be getting underrated due to lack of stature (6’4.5”). Young for a sophomore, Okogie is a terrific scorer who excels at getting to the free throw line, using his strength and speed to work his way to the basket with ease. He can do everything on the court—rebound, make plays for others, get stops on defense, and score—yet is projected to be drafted at the end of the 1st round. His ability to garner free throws might not make it to the next level unless he works on his handle a bit, but everything else seems like it should translate. Okogie is hyper athletic, and, more importantly, uses his athleticism to do positive things on the basketball court. That functional athleticism is a good sign for his NBA career.
Overrated Wing Prospects:
Kevin is a young, big wing who can shoot threes, a combination of factors that has propelled him into discussions for being drafted in the mid-1st round. Unfortunately, for a player of his size, he didn’t rebound all that well, a warning sign if ever there was one. Similarly, a strongly negative assist to turnover ratio doesn’t bode well for his decision-making, though his actual number of assists weren’t bad. Finally, Knox had one of the lowest steal rates of any wing in this class, a knock against either his instincts or his in-game athleticism. Knox could well end up being a nice player, yet I worry about his ability to do much else on the court besides score. He’s young and has appealing traits, but I probably wouldn’t start looking at drafting him until towards the end of the 1st round.
Lonnie Walker IV:
Lonnie is one of the players more frequently projected to the Clippers… and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, Walker is incredibly athletic, and can score in a variety of different ways. He’s able to create his own shot as well as make plays for others (his best area statistically in my model was assists), and that talent is always important in the NBA. Walker is also solid defensively despite his low steal and block numbers, as he utilizes his wingspan and quickness well in keeping players in front of him. The concerning aspect of Walker’s game is his basketball IQ. He has horrible shot selection, yes, but it runs deeper than that. A player with his length and athleticism probably should have been able to generate more steals per game than he did, and certainly grab more rebounds. It’s possible he played in a conservative scheme on defense, limiting his steals, or that other players on his team gobbled up all the rebounds. Still, it’s a bad sign that his numbers in those categories were so poor, as it indicates a possible lack of instincts or feel for the game. Walker is one of the biggest boom or bust prospects in the draft. If he puts it all together, he could be a 20+ point per game scorer who also provides some playmaking and defense. There’s also a decent possibility his shot selection remains poor, he doesn’t contribute much else on the court, and he chucks his way to the end of the bench, or even out of the NBA entirely. He’s a big risk to take in the lottery, but does offer a strong reward.
Diallo is a player who I think should have stayed in college. He’s tantalizing due to his size and athleticism, but his actual basketball skills are lacking. He was the most inefficient scorer of any wing in this class (Michael Porter was worse but only played in three games), as he was a below-average three-point shooter who also didn’t display much ability to create his own offense. Poor rebound, assist, and steal numbers don’t really brighten the picture much. For lack of a better description, Diallo isn’t all that good at actually playing basketball yet, instead getting by more on his base athletic tools and physical traits. Diallo is young, and some team will probably take a flyer on him in the second round, but he seems like a long-term project to me, and one that doesn’t necessarily have a high chance of paying off.
- Mikal Bridges was consistently near the top of all the models, solidifying his place as my top wing prospect from the NCAA.
- Miles Bridges has fantastic efficiency, rebounding, and assist numbers, but wasn’t placed as high due to his horrifically low steals. While that is a warning sign for him, I think he’s still going to be pretty good.
- Zhaire Smith measured out very well, but at this point I don’t think he would be underrated, since his buzz has been picking up for weeks anyway. I’d draft him in the lottery.
- Kevin Huerter falls into the good but not underrated category as well, as he appears to have received a 1st round promise in the past few days.