Home Featured 2018 NBA Draft Re-grade: Eastern Conference

2018 NBA Draft Re-grade: Eastern Conference

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

The spirit of this re-grade series was to assign grades based on actual information rather than knee-jerk reactions just hours after a draft is complete. With that in mind, the 2018 re-grade will be the last in this series since we still don’t really know what the 2019 draft class will be and might be pushing the limits with this one as well.

The 2018 NBA Draft will be defined by a trade among teams in the top five of this draft. Both teams ended up with an all-star, but it will be a league-defining trade and one team will go down as a massive loser. 

It might also end up being defined by an elite prospect who fell all the way to No. 14 in this draft because of his back problems at Missouri that terrified teams to their core on draft night who is now becoming an important part of a top three seed in the West.

Luka Doncic and Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., and an array of lottery picks who are already making high level impact for good teams in the NBA. Let’s re-grade the 2018 NBA draft.

Atlanta Hawks

Picks (Pick No.): Luka Doncic (No. 3), Kevin Huerter (No. 19), Omari Spellman (No. 30), Devonte Graham (No. 34)

What an impressive list of players, huh? Unfortunately, half of these players never actually played for Atlanta, including Doncic. The Hawks traded their third pick to Dallas for the fifth pick and a 2019 first round pick. They walked away with Trae Young, who is already an all star and leads this draft in points but it still might be one of the most franchise-defining trades of all-time. We’ll get to Doncic more extensively when we re-grade the Mavs, but it ended up being the painfully wrong move even though Young has been phenomenal in his first two seasons. 

Huerter will be a good 3-point shooter in this league for a long time standing at 6’7. He improved in every way from his freshman to sophomore seasons and has a sought after skillset in this league. Graham began his career in Charlotte and had a case for Most Improved Player in the NBA in 2019-20.

Grade: B+ | Without context, Young and Huerter are absolutely an A level class. But when they give up a player who’s already a top-five guy in the NBA, you just can’t get an A grade out of principle. 

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Orlando Magic

Picks: Mohamed Bamba (No. 6), Melvin Frazier (No. 35), Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41)

Mo Bamba’s career has been very uneventful so far due, in large part, to a stress fracture in his left leg in February of 2019. He’s only started one game in his career and was essentially the same from his rookie to second year in the NBA. He’s just 10th in rebounds and 27th in points thus far. There’s not much more to say thus far, but he, along with Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, is the future in Orlando in an ideal situation. The Magic’s young core is a lot better than most teams in the NBA right now.

Frazier and Vanderbilt have played a combined 57 games in the NBA. The Magic traded Vanderbilt to the Nuggets for Maryland’s Justin Jackson, who has yet to play an NBA game. 

Grade: B- | Hopefully, Bamba can find his footing, but for right now his performance, along with the other members of this class, only warrant an average grade.

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Chicago Bulls

Picks: Wendell Carter (No. 7), Chandler Hutchison (No. 22)

Bam Adebayo has redefined the modern NBA center. Wendell Carter fits the criteria almost to a tee. Adebayo is 6’9, 255 pounds. Carter? 6’9, 259. He’s not quite the playmaker Adebayo is, but he rebounds at a high level and is a consistent presence on the offensive end averaging 11.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in 2019-20. The Bulls have quietly put together a really solid young core of Carter, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White. Injuries have hurt Carter a little bit and he’s only played 87 games over two seasons but is still fourth in this class in rebounds and top 20 in points scored.

Hutchison hasn’t been anything special over his 72 NBA games and he has shoulder surgery in March that will sideline him for four months. 

Grade: B | A solid draft for the Bulls, but nothing spectacular. 

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Cleveland Cavaliers

Picks: Collin Sexton (No. 8)

LeBron left in the summer of 2018 and the Cavs handed the keys to Collin Sexton. He’s already started 137 games in his NBA career, averaging 18.5 points, three assists and three rebounds in two seasons. He’s third in points and fifth in assists in this draft class. His next step is being a better playmaker. Nobody who plays as many minutes as section at the guard position and has a usage rate in the top 40 in the NBA should have just three assists per game. With that being said, he’s been a very solid NBA player since being drafted in 2018.

Grade: A- | He’s exceeded production in his first two seasons. Whether or not he’s capable of being the point guard and top player on a good team has yet to be seen. But that’s not his fault.

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New York Knicks

Picks: Kevin Knox (No. 9), Mitchell Robinson (No. 36)

Knox went from 12.8 points per game in 75 appearances in his rookie season to just 6.4 points in 65 games and 53 less starts. His rebounds and assists went down as well. Ultimately, Knox is just in no-man’s land into today’s NBA. He’s only 6’7, so not quite the physical presence of the aforementioned Carter, and he’s also not a great 3-point shooter, shooting just 33% for his career. 

Robinson has been a productive second round pick, averaging 8.5 points and seven rebounds in two seasons. We’ll see what his ceiling is, he hasn’t attempted a single 3-point shot in his career and bigs who don’t do that at all have to be really good elsewhere to prolong their careers with the way the game is played today. 

Grade: B | Knox on his own is a little lower than a B, but Robinson’s production as a second rounder bumps them back up.

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Philadelphia 76ers

Picks: Mikal Bridges (No. 10), Landry Shamet (No. 26), Khyri Thomas (No. 38), Isaac Bonga (No. 39), Ray Spalding (No. 56), Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60)

Another year, another draft where Philly drafts everyone and their mother. Trivia time: how many of the players listed above still play for the Sixers? Zero. 

What I want to focus on is the trade that the Sixers made that sent Mikal Bridges to the Suns for Zhaire Smith from Texas Tech. Over the last two seasons, Smith has played in 13 NBA games. Bridges? 155 games, 4,459 minutes and 1,351 points. Bridges has been the exponentially better player and his skill set would have fit nicely in Philly when he was drafted. But alas, he was traded and so was every other player in the Sixers draft class.

Grade: C | A ton going on here, but nothing to write home about.

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Charlotte Hornets

Picks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11), Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55)

The Hornets made a couple good decisions and a couple of bad ones. The good one: they traded their 2019 second round pick and a 2023 second round pick to Atlanta for Devonte Graham. As mentioned previously, Graham was awesome in Charlotte this year and increased from four points per game last season to 18 this year.

The bad decision they made was trading Gilgeous-Alexander to the Clippers for Miles Bridges, a 2020 second round pick and a 2021 second round pick. SGA is going to be a really good point guard in the NBA for a long time. Bridges has been solid, especially in 2019-20, but the only reason he’s ever making headlines is with showcases of athleticism, not because he’s a starter on a playoff team like SGA. 

Grade: B- | Bridges isn’t horrible and Graham will ultimately be high value as a second round pick. But not having SGA is a blow, for sure. 

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Washington Wizards

Picks: Troy Brown (No. 15), Issuf Sanon (No. 44)

Brown has been incredibly average relative to his draft spot since joining the Wizards. He’s 17th in points, 12th in rebounds and 12th in assists out of this draft class. His numbers were much better in 2019-20 than his rookie season but a lot of that is due to his increased playing time to the tune of 11 more minutes per game. Whether or not he’ll be a part of the Wizards for the future is yet to be seen, but he made significant strides and took advantage of the playing time he got as a result of injuries. He scored at least 15 points in five of the eight games he played in the bubble. 

Grade: C+ | Very, very average draft for the Wizards. 

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Milwaukee Bucks

Picks: Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17)

DiVincenzo was drafted in the first round due to his 31-point performance in the national championship game just a couple months prior to the draft. He was incredible, and he rode that momentum into the NBA. Personally, I was skeptical and still am to a certain extent. He played just 27 games for Milwaukee in his rookie season but got a significant increase in playing time in year two. He’s made 24 starts and is averaging 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists for the best team in the Eastern Conference. His 3-point shooting needs to improve for him to reach his potential, but he’s solidifying himself as a reliable NBA player in his second season in the league.

Grade: B- | If his production continues to improve, DiVincenzo’s grade will get better, but for right now this is pretty appropriate.

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Indiana Pacers 

Picks: Aaron Holiday (No. 23), Alize Johnson (No. 50)

Holiday is a really good NBA player, he just hasn’t really gotten the chance. With Victor Oladipo out at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Holiday was playing lots of minutes and playing really well as everyone’s role changed. When Oladipo came back, Holiday went back to the far end of the bench and once again was not playing in games and missing out on opportunities. Eventually, he’ll either be valued in Indiana, or go somewhere else where he’ll get much more playing time. 

Johnson has played in 31 games but has spent a lot of time on the Indiana bench, as well.

Grade: B- | If Holiday was used differently, this would be a higher grade.

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Boston Celtics

Picks: Robert Williams (No. 27)

One pick, 61 NBA games and 231 total points. The most exciting thing to happen to Williams is that he missed the flight to take him to Boston after he was drafted because of a time zone mistake.

Grade: C | There’s just not much going on here.

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Brooklyn Nets

Picks: Dzanan Musa (No. 29), Rodions Kurucs (No. 40), Hamidou Diallo (No. 45)

All three of these players have played both seasons. Kurucs started 46 games for Brooklyn two seasons ago and Diallo was traded to Charlotte for Diallo almost immediately after the draft. 

Grade: C+ | Just a lot of decent dudes in this draft. And they’d probably want Diallo back if they could. 

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Detroit Pistons

Picks: Brue Brown (No. 42)

Brown has played more minutes, 3,083, than any other player drafted in the second round. He’s 13th in his draft class in that category as well as being top 20 in points, rebounds and assists. There isn’t a whole lot to be excited about in Detroit and Brown isn’t a game changer, necessarily. But Brown was absolutely a hit with the 42nd pick.

Grade: A | When considering his draft position, Brown was a very good pick.

Photos by: Christina Ruiz, Alexander Jonesi / Wikimedia Commons

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