Home Featured 2018 NBA Draft Re-grade: Western Conference

2018 NBA Draft Re-grade: Western 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.

Phoenix Suns

Picks (Pick No.): Deandre Ayton (No. 1), Zhaire Smith (No. 16), Elie Okobo (No. 31), George King (No. 59)

Luka Doncic will always be the guy who should’ve gone No. 1 in this draft, but that’s not to say that Ayton hasn’t been good in Phoenix, and he’d be even better if he hadn’t been suspended for 25 games for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug Policy. He’s the only player in this draft averaging a double-double — 17 points, 10.7 rebounds — and he’s fifth in this class in points despite playing less games than players six through 13 on the same list. He’s going to be a part of the Suns future and any No. 1 pick averaging a double-double in his second season is a good pick.

Smith was traded for Mikal Bridges on draft night. Bridges has been the exponentially better player in the NBA and continues to improve. Okobo has also played more than 100 games and is averaging just under five points per game in 15.5 minutes per contest. King has played six NBA minutes. 

Grade: A | It can’t be an A+ because Doncic was still on the board. But when you add Bridges and Okobo to the class, it’s hard to argue it’s anything less than an A.

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Sacramento Kings

Picks: Marvin Bagley III (No. 2), Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37)

Phoenix might be kicking themselves a little bit for drafting Ayton, but it’s nothing compared to what the Kings are feeling after drafting Bagley with Doncic still on the board. That’s not to say Bagley has been horrible. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in 62 games as a rookie. But he struggled minorly with injuries last season and he only played 13 games in 2019-20 due to a nagging foot injury. Bagley’s injury is a major question, but when healthy his second jump explosion and back-to-the-basket abilities really are impressive.

Trent was traded to Portland on draft night and has turned into a valuable three-point shooter off the bench for the Blazers. Sacramento just got a pair of second round picks in the transaction. 

Grade: C+ | If Bagley can stay healthy, this grade will improve. But right now, it’s hard to justify a higher grade especially with Doncic on the board.

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Memphis Grizzlies

Picks: Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4), Jevon Carter (No. 32

Bagley, Doncic and Ayton were going to go top three in some order. Things got a little more interesting after that. Memphis went with the high upside big from Michigan State. JJJ wasn’t spectacular for Tom Izzo, but the talent was clear. Jackson Jr. has been good, there’s no debating that. He’s averaging 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in two seasons, but his health is, at least, concerning. Both of his seasons have been cut short due to lower body injuries. They haven’t been incredibly severe, but warrant attention. He, along with Ja Morant, is the future in Memphis and his health is very important.

Carter was traded to the Suns after 39 games in Memphis. He will never be an incredible NBA player, but he’ll play elite defense and be a valuable back-up guard. 

Grade: B+ | We’ve spent a lot of time bashing the Grizzlies front office. This was undoubtedly a good draft. We’ll stay at a B+ because of injuries, but it’ll be an A ultimately if Jackson stays healthy.

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Dallas Mavericks

Picks: Trae Young (No. 5), Jalen Brunson (No. 33), Shake Milton (No. 54)

As we touched on in the Eastern Conference half of this draft, Young was traded to Atlanta for Doncic. The Mavs, even though they traded away an all-star in Young, got a player who will end up being one of the all time greats (in my opinion). Doncic is averaging 24.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists. He’s second in points, second in rebounds and second in assists in this class and he’s currently in the middle of a playoffs series against the Clippers that it looks like they have a chance of winning after two contests.

Everyone should be happy with Brunson on their team. He’s a winner in every sense of the word and is one of the winningest college basketball players of all time. He, like Carter, will never be an elite guard, but he’s a smart player that’s going to be in the league for a long time.

Grade: A+ | I don’t feel the need to justify this one. 

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Los Angeles Clippers

Picks: Miles Bridges (No. 12), Jerome Robinson (No. 13)

How the Clippers had two picks late in the lottery and didn’t take a chance on Michael Porter Jr. with either of them is beyond me. Instead, they went safe and got two guys that played a total of 33 games in LA. Now, Bridges was traded to Charlotte for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, which was definitely a good move, and SGA went into getting Paul George to Los Angeles. With that being said, the ceiling for the grade is only so high. I feel like the 12th and 13th picks are a great spot to take a chance. Can you imagine if MPJ was on the current Clippers team as well?

Grade: B- | Walking away with SGA is a win, even if they had to trade him to get PG. If only they would’ve taken a shot on MPJ.

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Denver Nuggets

Picks: Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14), Justin Jackson (No. 43), Thomas Welsh (No. 58)

Now we arrive at the team who did take a chance on MPJ. I know I gave the Clippers a hard time, but it was a risk taking Porter. He didn’t play in his first season due to more injuries and he is only playing 16 minutes per game this season. But what he’s done in the bubble is exactly why the risk was worth it. All of a sudden, the Nuggets are one of the more intriguing teams in the NBA next season when they get a full season of the Murray-Porter-Jokic trio. I expect the chance they took to continue to pay off.

Grade: B | I respect the risk that was taken, this grade will get better quickly, but the actual grade can’t be much higher than this with only 55 games under Porter’s belt. 

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San Antonio Spurs

Picks: Lonnie Walker (No. 18), Chimezie Metu (No. 49)

The Spurs are at a weird point in their franchise where it’s time to embrace the young talent they have while still holding on to LaMarcus Aldridge and Demar DeRozan. Hopefully, Walker will be a part of that new era. We’ve talked about the backcourt they drafted in the last couple re-grades and now we add the Miami (FL) product to the list. Walker improved from year one to year two with a significant bump in minutes and games played. Whether or not he will continue to improve can’t be answered yet, but there’s reason to believe he will.

Grade: B | We aren’t really sure what Walker will ultimately be, yet. But he hasn’t been bad.

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Minnesota Timberwolves

Picks: Josh Okogie (No. 20), Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48)

Okogie has outperformed his 20th selection in points, rebounds and assists. He’s top 17 in all three categories and top 10 in minutes played. He’s averaging 8.1 points and 3.6 rebounds through two seasons. Bates-Diop transformed himself into a NBA pick in one season at Ohio State. He rode that momentum to the draft. Saying he’s a needle mover would be generous, but nobody drafted after him has played for NBA minutes and he’s outperformed 48th in most categories. 

Grade: B | Not bad considering the place in the picking order, but these players aren’t blowing anyone out of the water.

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Utah Jazz

Picks: Grayson Allen (No. 21), Vince Edwards (No. 52)

In terms of college basketball pedigree, no team drafted two players with more of it. Two veterans of the sport, Allen and Edwards haven’t been nearly as impactful as they were in college. Allen was traded to Memphis and has played his way into minutes after playing well in the bubble, but Edwards has played just 16 NBA minutes. He’s currently playing for the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers G-League affiliate.

Grade: C | It’s not like the pick position is ideal, but you’d hope for a little more production with a top 22 pick in Allen.

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Portland Trail Blazers

Picks: Anfernee Simons (No. 24)

Simons was a five-star recruit who was supposed to go to Louisville but decided to go straight to the draft as a postgraduate who satisfied NBA draft requirements. He’s played 90 games in his first two seasons and is averaging 8.3 points per game in 2019-20. The Trail Blazers also walked away with Gary Trent Jr. who we touched on in the Sacramento Kings portion of this re-grade.

Grade: B | Another very average draft, but Trent might have something to say about that if he  continues his level of shooting that we’ve seen in the bubble.  

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Los Angeles Lakers

Picks: Moritz Wagner (No. 25), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (No. 47)

Just two years later, neither one of these players still plays for the Lakers. Wagner was a part of the massive trade that got Anthony Davis to the Lakers and almost every meaningful Laker to New Orleans. Mykhailiuk was traded in February 2019 to the Pistons for Reggie Bullock.

Grade: C | Wager was technically a piece of the puzzle that got AD to Los Angeles, but neither player really made a significant impact as a player or an asset for the Lakers.

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Golden State Warriors

Picks: Jacob Evans (No. 28)

Golden State had just won their third Finals in four years and once again didn’t need much help from the draft. That’s good because they didn’t get much from Evans. He played 57 games in the Bay Area before being part of the trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins on Feb. 6, 2020.

Grade: C | Golden State drafts have been boring the last five years for the best reason possible. This is another example.

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Houston Rockets

Picks: De’Anthony Melton (No. 46)

Melton was traded before the beginning of the 2018-19 season along with Ryan Anderson for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight. The USC product was then traded to Memphis where he averaged 7.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game off the bench. If his 2019-20 performance is any indication, he’ll probably be a piece of the Memphis bench again next season.

Grade: B | Melton has become a respectable NBA player, which is relatively rare for a player picked in the bottom 15 of the draft. 

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New Orleans Pelicans

Picks: Tony Carr (No. 51)

One pick. Zero minutes played in the NBA. That’s all you need to know.

Grade: Incomplete | They just shouldn’t have showed up.

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Picks: Devon Hall (No. 53), Kevin Hervey (No. 57)

The Thunder had two bottom seven picks in this draft. Hall and Hervey combined to play 21 games and 133 minutes worth of NBA basketball. Those numbers from draft picks that low shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Grade: C | A valiant effort to find value that late, but it was a swing and a miss. 

Photos by: Christina RuizAlexander Jonesi / Wikimedia Commons

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