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2018 NBA Draft: Clips Nation’s Big Board

We’re ranking our top prospects going into draft

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Kansas vs Duke Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After a long wait, and much anticipation, it’s finally NBA Draft Day. The 2018 NBA Draft is today, and the Clippers have the 12th and 13th picks—two late lottery selections that represent endless possibilities for slides, reaches, and trades up, down, or out of the draft.

So, Robert and I decided a nice tool for readers to have on draft day would be a big board: our top 20 players, ranked 1-20 by each of us. This way, you should have both of our opinions on anyone the Clippers end up with tomorrow, whether it’s with the 12th and 13th picks, a higher pick that they traded up for, or a pick later in the teens that they traded down for.

I kicked off the conversation with my #1 prospect, and then Robert gave his 1st and 2nd ranked players, followed by my 2nd and 3rd ranked players, etc., all the way until he concluded with his 19th and 20th-ranked players and I finished the exercise with my 20th. Here’s our conversation, with just our respective boards listed at the bottom.

Lucas: My #1 overall player in the draft is Luka Doncic. I know he won’t go first overall, but I think he’s the best player, which is why I’d be thrilled if the Clippers manage to get him. I really think that his combination of skill, size, age, individual success, and team success are unique--he checks all the boxes. It’s possible that one of the big men in this range end up better than him, but given the positional value that comes with a versatile 1/2/3 6’8” distributor compared to a 7’ center in today’s NBA, I’ll take him over anyone else in the draft and be happy I did.

Robert: My #1 is Doncic: he has the highest floor in the draft, and one of the highest ceilings. A tremendous shot-creator and shot-maker with very few real weaknesses.

Second on my board is Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s one of the best defensive prospects in recent memory, and an ideal fit for the way the NBA is trending.

Lucas: After Doncic at 1, my board gets a little shaky--I have spent most of my pre-draft research looking at prospects more in the Clippers’ range at 12 and 13, so I don’t know a ton about very many of these guys.

I’m going to mirror you with Jaren Jackson at #2, and then go with DeAndre Ayton at #3. He’s a little traditional for the modern NBA, but the talent is there, man. I think, in this case, the talent is enough for him to find a way to evolve and adapt in the modern NBA--and, maybe, force opposing play styles to adjust to him a little bit.

Robert: At 3 is Wendell Carter Jr., who is the most well-rounded big man in this class, and I think has the easiest path to being an above-average player on both ends of any player in the draft. His upside is a little less than some others, but he has a super nice floor.

I’d go with Trae Young at 4, as I think he might have the opportunity to turn into the best offensive player in this draft. The bust potential is there, but I think he’s more likely to reach his ceiling than Ayton, Bagley, or Bamba.

Lucas: I love Carter, but I just have to go with higher-ceiling guys over him with the top few slots on the board. That’s why I’ll also go Trae Young at 4, whose point guard instincts I think are underrated because of a bad situation in Oklahoma. I don’t know if he’ll be Steph, or even Dame, but I feel pretty good about him being a top-15 point guard, which is saying a lot with the depth at that position in the NBA. The All-NBA upside is there, too, which is enticing.

At 5 on my board is where I’ll slot in Carter, who is one of my personal favorites in the draft because his role projects so nicely onto nearly any NBA team. A lot of other guys either need to hit their ceiling as a star or reinvent themselves. While Carter might not have an MVP ceiling, he’s a versatile big man whose outcomes range from above-average starter to perennial All-Star. He’s a safer bet to give you a decade of quality starter’s minutes than anyone else in the draft.

Robert: 5 is where I’ll finally slot in DeAndre Ayton. His defensive issues are well chronicled and important, but I actually think his offensive game is overrated a bit too. He’s not a great passer or shooter, and he has a tendency to float during games. While I don’t think he’s Jahlil Okafor 2.0, I think there’s a relatively good chance he’s mostly an empty-calorie stats guy in the NBA. That said, he’s ridiculously athletic, highly skilled, and could make all the skeptics look silly in short order.

At 6, I’ll put in Mo Bamba. He’s probably the biggest boom or bust guy in the draft. I can very easily see him on the fringes of the NBA in 4 years, yet I could also see a Rudy Gobert-level defensive player who can hit 3s and is one of the 10 best players in the NBA. I do have worries about his offensive game outside his shot, and he needs to add some mass, but he could be incredible if he puts it all together.

Lucas: Hey, we have the same top 5 (though in different order). It makes the recent mocks where Trae Young slides all the way to 12 super enticing. But I think my next pick is going to be where a major divide starts on our two lists.

After playing it save at 5, I’m going with two of the riskiest top-level prospects at 6 and 7.

At 6, I’m going to go with Michael Porter Jr., who is honestly a guy who I think we’d all be in love with (right up there with Luka Doncic) if he’d been healthy all year. His combination of size and skill projects really well at the modern 3/4 position and I think he has the potential to be a real star. Once we get to this point in the draft, I’m cool with taking the big gamble on Porter’s health.

At 7, I’ll go with Mo Bamba, a guy who I think is also high-risk, high-reward, although with a slightly higher floor (at least we know he’s going to be healthy enough to play if his game is good enough), and slightly lower ceiling (the truth is I have a hard time seeing a top-tier big be as impactful as a top-tier wing any time soon).

Robert: Yeah this is where we start to differ. But if Trae Young falls to 12 and the Clippers don’t take him, I’ll be quite upset. He’s at worst a top 7 prospect in this draft.

At 7, I’m going with Mikal Bridges of Villanova. At age 22, and with good but not great athleticism, he’s not a super high-upside play. But he’s almost a certain lock to be a decent rotation player as soon as he enters the league, and there’s no reason he can’t keep building on his skills. I think at his best he could resemble a Khris Middleton type of player, which is the second best player on a good team, or the third best on a true playoff contender. He’s long, smart, is a strong defender, can shoot, and has enough overall skills that he will be a capable offensive player in a more fluid offense.

At 8, I’ll go with Miles Bridges. While he has some weaknesses (not a great finisher, eh defensively, questionable decision-making), he’s a superb overall offensive player with the size and athleticism to be a star NBA wing. Again, he’s a guy who should be at the least a nice rotation player, and could be a better playmaking and scoring Tobias Harris if all goes well.

Basically, wings are important in today’s NBA, and I think the Bridgii are the best bets to be good wing players outside of Luka Doncic.

Lucas: Not only are wings vital, but you probably need 3, or 4, or 5 good ones to build an ideal team. You really only need one big man. So while we agree that a lot of these big men are very valuable, any team that already feels good about their center probably needs to either move their pick, or reach for a wing.

At 8 and 9, I’m actually flipping the Bridgeses from your preference. I don’t know what it quite is--maybe I have more faith in Miles’ ability to defend multiple positions because of his strength, or maybe it’s that he’s two years younger, but I have Mikal and Miles as neck-and-neck, so the contrarian in me likes to flip them from the order that most are going with. I think both of these guys become starting caliber wings, which is enough reason to justify a selection in the back half of the lottery, though I’d stay away from them as long as players with clear, visible star upside are available.

Robert: Yeah that’s fair. I really like both guys, and if the Clippers pass on either (unless someone else even higher up drops) I think it won’t end up looking like a great decision.

At 9 I finally place Marvin Bagley III. I do have issues with his defense (it’s horrible), and that he’s kind of a tweener in between power forward and center. But he’s a truly outstanding athlete who should be able to dominate the glass on both ends from day one of his NBA career, and who can at the very least make a living as a garbage man around the hoop. If his shot develops, that projection than morphs into a pretty deadly scorer with some gaps as an overall player. Still, he could be quite good.

At 10, I have Zhaire Smith. He’s a bit undersized for a wing in today’s NBA, but his athleticism, instincts, and defensive aptitude make up for it. I don’t really see him becoming much a scorer, ever, but he’s a super versatile player who can do a little bit of everything, and those players are useful on any team. His upside is Andre Iguodala with maybe more consistent shooting, and that’s an All Star.

Lucas: I agree with you that it’s time to put Bagley on the board, which puts us both significantly lower on him than the general population, but I’m not ready to jump to Zhaire at 10. Bagley gets the 10th spot for me.

My 11th-best prospect is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. We’ve gotta figure out some things with his shot, but I love his size and versatility at the guard positions as a defender and distributor. While he’s obviously not as good of a prospect as a lot of the guys ahead of him, there’s a lot of enticing stuff here that makes him a favorite of mine in this class, along with Wendell Carter and Miles Bridges.

Robert: I too will go with SGA, putting him at 11th on my board. He’s one of the safest prospects in this draft in my opinion. He’s a solid playmaker, defender, and scorer around the hoop. Even if his shooting is just ok at the next level I think he’s a pretty nice starting point guard in the NBA. That’s worthy of the 10th pick in my opinion.

At 12 I have Troy Brown. He is another versatile wing with shot issues, but I like his defense, passing, and rebounding well enough to look past it for right now. Shooting is something that legitimately can be worked on, and Brown has the reputation of a guy who wants to be the best possible player that he can be. His size is another big bonus. Again, he’s a bit iffy as a shot creator, but that’s why he’s not in the top 10.

Lucas: At 12, I’m going with Collin Sexton. I have a lot of doubts about Sexton, which is why I’m putting him lower than SGA on this board, but I still think he has the skillset to contribute immediately, with high upside, which keeps him ahead of other guards/wings who I view as more of long-term projects towards fulfilling their potential.

At 13, I’ll take Zhaire Smith. I don’t know if he’ll be a better pro than guys like Lonnie Walker, Robert Williams, Kevin Knox, and others, but I’m a sucker for a guy who gets off the floor like he does. Hard-nosed defense and the most effortless athleticism this side of Zach LaVine makes Zhaire so magnetic that it’s hard to pull myself away from ranking him highly.

Robert: At 13 is probably the most controversial player in the draft, Michael Porter Jr. The biggest question mark for him, of course, is his injury situation. Herniated discs are bad, bad news, and his experiencing hip spasms as an after-effect is equally scary. Even moving that aside, he’s also the only top prospect for whom intangibles/personality is a real concern. He seems arrogant, and there have been reports of conflicts with teammates at times as well. Even on-court, I’m not a fan of his scoring-first ways. If he stays healthy and rounds out his game he could be an All Star wing, which is incredibly valuable. I am just less confident in his reaching that ceiling than any of the prospects above him.

Robert Williams comes in at 14. He’s a big man in the DeAndre Jordan/Clint Capela mold, which is still very valuable in the NBA, if less exciting than the “unicorn” types that have become prominent over the last couple years. There are some concerns about his work ethic and attitude, which are all the more troubling from a player who is from a mold that relies perhaps more than any other on effort (on the glass, running the court on both ends, giving second efforts on defense around the rim). He’s also somewhat shorter than Capela and DJ, and while he does have a lengthy wingspan, I think he will be somewhat less effective against big men as a result. On the other hand, he’s thunderously athletic, has promising defensive instincts, and has already worked on his free throw shooting. A better shooting DJ is a phenomenal player, and I don’t care what trends are sweeping the NBA at the moment.

Lucas: While our boards differ in a few areas, that chasm between our rankings of Porter is staggeringly massive. The gap between 6 and 13 is enormous in terms of draft value, and it just shows how volatile Porter’s stock is--we’ve seen him reportedly in consideration with the 2nd and 4th overall picks (although it looks as though Atlanta will take either Jackson or Doncic, and the Grizzlies will trade their 4th overall selection), and even watched him slide past the Clippers in one ESPN mock draft.

At 14, I’m going to agree with you on Robert Williams. I don’t hate Williams and I don’t think he’s a bad basketball player or likely to be a bust--the question is whether he’s an energy backup big, or if he’ll be focused and effective enough on both ends to become a quality starter in the right spot. There’s a pretty good chance that the Clippers end up with him, so we’d better get used to the idea of figuring out how the Clippers can manage his development. I think both of us ranking Williams at 14 is a great description of how we feel about him--he’s neither a bad basketball player nor a tremendous reach at picks 12 and 13, but the Clippers are guaranteed to have players at least a chance to take two players we prefer, with likely more than two on the board to choose from.

With 15, I’m coming in with Lonnie Walker. We’re reaching the end of the players I’m comfortable with, if unexcited by, with the Clippers’ late lottery picks. Beyond this point, I’d rather see the Clippers trade back and pick up some extra value for a pick later in the teens.

Robert: Yeah Michael Porter is one of those guys who everyone has an opinion about. I’ve seen some people rank him as a top 3 guy, others in the mid teens. Even outside of injuries, he’s just really divisive. And I completely agree on Williams. He’s a fine prospect, but very unexciting, and I think that with a couple lesser prospects (notably Kevin Knox, who neither of us have placed yet) going higher, as many as three or four better prospects might be available at 12/13. Not someone I’ll probably be upset with them drafting, but if they pass on a couple guys who I like quite a bit better (either Bridges, Trae), I’ll hold them to task on it.

At 15 I have Josh Okogie. He projects really well by my statistical model as someone who did quite a few other things besides score and shoot on the basketball court, and his massive wingspan (almost 7 feet as a 6’4.5” wing) gives him a ton of versatility on defense.

Lonnie Walker falls in at 16. I love the guy’s competitiveness, and he has all the tools to be a 3 and D guy in the NBA. I’m just not quite sure the decision-making is at an NBA level, and his technical skills still trail far behind his athleticism. Again, I wouldn’t be *angry* if the Clippers picked him at 12 or 13, but I think there will be a bunch of better prospects available.

Lucas: At 16, I’m going to go with Kevin Knox. He’s my least favorite of the guys in this range who are probably in the conversation at 13, but it’s hard to deny that there’s a shot of talent, versatility, size, and shooting combining to make Knox into an effective player. I’m not buying his stock, and I know you aren’t either, but I can at least talk myself into why someone else would believe in him at 13. I feel pretty good with saying that anyone below here is someone the Clippers should probably trade back to take.

I’m going to go a little off the reservation with Kevin Huerter at 17. I know there’s a tendency, on both of our parts but also in the NBA as a whole, to go with stud athletes and hope that the jumpshot comes along later. That’s not the case with Huerter, who is a natural shooter with a shot down the line at being a plus wing defender and well-rounded offensive player. He isn’t a guy who we’re hearing talked about with regards to the Clippers at 12 and 13 at all, and I think that’s probably justified, but if the Clippers make a choice to accept Atlanta’s offer of 13 for 19 and 30, he’d be a stellar choice.

Robert: I’ll also go with Huerter at 17. Some draft guys who I respect on Twitter have him much higher than this even, but I think they rate his playmaking and creation skills more than I do. Still, he’s relatively big, he can shoot, he has some defensive awareness, and he can at least make simple reads/positive decisions with the ball in his hands. There’s always a place in the NBA for those guys.

Collin Sexton is at 18 for me. Look, I love the guy’s personality. I’m sure when the rookie polls come out (who’s the nicest, funniest, etc) he will win for most competitive. Dude is intense, and wants to win, and that’s awesome. But I just don’t know what he adds to a team besides scoring, and that’s not all that valuable in the NBA today, especially from the point guard position. He’s small-ish, not a great shooter, not a particularly gifted passer, and his athleticism is overrated. Really, if he didn’t have that drive and hunger, he wouldn’t even be this high for me. I absolutely think he’s worth a gamble in the late teens and early 20s, but as a lottery pick he’s underwhelming.

Lucas: At 18, I’m going with Troy Brown, a prospect who, like Huerter, I’m really intrigued by, but don’t feel totally comfortable with in the lottery. I got into looking at Brown when I noticed that most of the players projected in the teens are combo or shooting guards 6’4” and under. I was trying to find larger wing prospects for the Clippers to look at, since I’m less than enthused with the Clippers continuing to build an army of 6’4” players to run three-guard lineups with. Frankly, alongside Huerter (who, while 6’6”, is probably best suited at shooting guard anyway), Brown is the best capable small forward this side of the Bridgii.

At this point, my big board really starts to deteriorate. I’m not saying that no good players are left on the board, but the guys I really have my sights on have mostly come and gone.

Josh Okogie is my guy at 19. When we talk raw athletes whose size probably limits them to a pro career at shooting guard, I have him below Zhaire and Lonnie, but his physical profile alone is intriguing enough that the Clippers have had him in at least twice during the pre-draft process.

Robert: Yeah I’m with you. I personally think the draft starts falling off right around that 11-12 range, which is why the Clippers are both in a good position (at least one or two very good prospects should be there) and bad (if the teams above them select wisely, they might only have one easy choice).

At 19 I’m going with Jacob Evans. He’s another decent-sized wing with 3 and D potential. He’s a smart player with at least a bit of versatility on offense, so I think he’s a fine pick if the Clippers trade down.

Kevin Knox falls to 20 for me. I understand he’s big, and reasonably athletic, and has a nice shooting stroke. But he just wasn’t very good in his freshman season at Kentucky, and despite some of the weirdness that happened there last year, I can’t look past that. He’s more of a stretch 4 than a wing to me, and I don’t think he’s nearly ready to defend NBA-sized power forward, even in this perimeter oriented era. If he pans out he could approximate Tobias Harris, but I could also see him as a worse shooting, better-rounded offensively Ryan Anderson, which is a lot less useful.

Lucas: My last guy at #20 is Donte DiVincenzo from Villanova. I might be a little bit clouded from watching him beat up my St. John’s squads in the Big East during his collegiate career, but he shows to me as having the right blend of skill, athleticism, size, and intangibles to be a prototypical shooting guard in the NBA. In college, he was able to slide around different positions and roles despite being just 6’5”, because his athleticism, positioning, and basketball IQ let him play much bigger than he really is. Some of that will go away in the NBA where everyone is bigger and better, but I have no reason to believe his jumper won’t translate at a high level, rendering him incredibly useful (if not able to score at will like he did in the NCAA).

Final Big Boards:

Clips Nation 2018 Draft Big Board

Pick Lucas Robert
Pick Lucas Robert
1 Luka Doncic Luka Doncic
2 Jaren Jackson Jaren Jackson
3 DeAndre Ayton Wendell Carter
4 Trae Young Trae Young
5 Wendell Carter DeAndre Ayton
6 Michael Porter Mohamed Bamba
7 Mohamed Bamba Mikal Bridges
8 Miles Bridges Miles Bridges
9 Mikal Bridges Marvin Bagley
10 Marvin Bagley Zhaire Smith
11 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12 Collin Sexton Troy Brown
13 Zhaire Smith Michael Porter
14 Robert Williams Robert Williams
15 Lonnie Walker Josh Okogie
16 Kevin Knox Lonnie Walker
17 Kevin Huerter Kevin Huerter
18 Troy Brown Collin Sexton
19 Josh Okogie Jacob Evans
20 Donte DiVincenzo Kevin Knox