NBA Draft surprises
THERE were but a few surprises during the 2018 National Basketball Association draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York last June 21.
Expectedly, the topnotch U.S. college prospects and one high-publicized international candidate who were projected to go early in the annual grab-bag made it as lottery selections.
Then again, six of those 14 lottery picks had their draft rights shipped to other teams just hours after the draft that was dominated by big men.
With the franchise’s first-ever No. 1 overall selection, the Phoenix Suns took hometown hero DeAndre Ayton of the University of Arizona. A first-team Associated Press All-American, the 7-foot, 243-pound Ayton owns a wingspan of nearly 7-foot-6 and a standing reach of 9-foot-3. Ayton is a native of the Bahamas, just like Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson’s dad Mychal, who was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA championship teams in 1987 and 1988.
In his lone season with Arizona, Ayton, who turns 20 in July, posted averages of 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks and shot .612 from the field. He had 24 double-doubles, tied for the second-most ever by a frosh in NCAA Division I history.
With the second selection, the Sacramento Kings corralled Duke University’s versatile 6-foot-11, 234-pound power forward-center Marvin Bagley III. A first-team AP All-America choice, Bagley normed 21.0 points and 11.1 boards and owned a 61 percent field clip. His 22 double-doubles with the Blue Devils were the most by a freshman in the Atlantic Coast Conference, shattering the record held by Virginia’s 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson Jr., who eventually was picked No. 1 in the entire 1983 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets.
Bagley became the first Duke player to pace the ACC in both scoring and rebounding and is just the fourth ACC player to accomplish the feat in the past 30 seasons.
Bagley and Ayton, who were high school teammates for one season at Hillcrest Prep in Arizona, are among the five players from a major conference in the past 25 seasons to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 60 percent or better from the field.
At No. 3, the Atlanta Hawks grabbed decorated European star Luka Doncic and then immediately shipped his draft rights to Dallas for the draft rights to the Mavericks’ No. 5 selection, guard Trae Young out of the University of Oklahoma. Dallas also sent a protected 2019 first-round draft choice to the Hawks in the trade.
A 6-foot-8, 228-pound swingman from Slovenia, the 19-year-old Doncic recently led Real Madrid to the title in the premier Spanish pro league with a 3-1 win over Kirolbet Baskonia in the best-of-five Liga ACB finals. He earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Spanish league, adding to his collection of top-player hardware he brought home from this year’s EuroLeague tournament — regular and Final 4 (youngest ever) MVP — after powering Real Madrid to the title over 2017 champion Fenerbahce of Turkey in the finals.
Doncic averaged 14.7 points, 5.1 boards and 4.6 assists with Real Madrid this past campaign. Along with the Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic, he also helped Slovenia to the EuroBasket crown a year ago.
With the fourth pick, the Memphis Grizzlies corralled Michigan State power forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. A son of former NBA guard Jaren Jackson, the 6-foot-11, 236-pounder won the Defensive Player of the Year award in the Big Ten Conference.
At No. 5, the Dallas Mavericks selected Oklahoma’s Young, whose draft rights were then peddled to the Atlanta Hawks for the rights to Doncic.
A 6-foot-2, 175-pound playmaker, Young earned first-team AP All-America honors in his lone season with the Sooners and is the first player in NCAA Division history to win both the scoring (27.4 ppg) and assists (8.7 apg) titles since assists became an official stat during the 1983-84 wars. He had three 40-point games, including a program-record 48 on the road against rival Oklahoma State, and reset the Division I single-game assists mark with 22 against Northwestern State.
Young has been compared to sweet-shooting guard Stephen Curry of the back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors for his offensive prowess and ability to shoot from almost anywhere beyond half court (36 percent shooting from three-point territory).
At No. 6, the Orlando Magic hooked up with the University of Texas center Mohamed Bamba. A native of Harlem, New York, the 7-foot-1, 226-pound Bamba posted a double-double average in points (12.9 ppg) and rebounds (10.5 rpg) and ranked second nationally in shot blocks at 3.7 an outing. (Note: The NCAA Division I shot-blocking leader, 6-foot-9 Bosnian forward Ajdin Penava from Marshall University, was tops at 3.94 bpg. The 21-year-old junior was bypassed in the entire 2018 NBA draft.) Bamba has a mind-boggling 7-foot-10 wingspan.
At No. 7, the Chicago Bulls got Duke’s 6-foot-10 power forward-center Wendell Carter Jr. The 19-year-old Carter averaged 13.5 scores and 9.1 rebounds in his lone season with the Blue Devils.
With the No. 8 choice, the Cleveland Cavaliers picked Alabama guard Collin Sexton, reportedly with the blessings of The King LeBron James. The 6-foot-2, 19-year-old playmaker registered averages of 19.2 points and 3.6 dish-offs for the Crimson Tide. Sexton was named co-Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman of the Year with Kentucky’s Kevin Knox.
The Cavs’ eighth pick was the highest by a team coming off from an NBA Finals trip since the Boston Celtics chose Maryland forward Len Bias with the second overall selection in 1986. (Two days after being drafted, Bias succumbed to a heart attack due to cocaine inhalation.)
At No. 9, the New York Knicks picked Kentucky’s Kevin Knox. It came as a surprise as Knox, a 6-foot-9 forward, was projected to be selected in the lower half of the first round). He shared SEC top-freshman honors with Alabama’s Collin Sexton with averages of 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game with the Wildcats.
Eight of the first nine selections in the draft were one-and-done American collegians, with the lone exception being the much-heralded Doncic.
At No. 10, the Philadelphia 76ers snared Mikal Bridges out of reigning NCAA titlist Villanova University only to trade the hometown star’s draft rights to the Phoenix Suns minutes later.
In surrendering Bridges, the Sixers secured the draft rights to the Suns’ No. 16 selection, Texas Tech’s 6-foot-4 shooting guard Zhaire Smith, and a 2021 first-round draft choice (via Miami).
A 6-foot-7, 200-pound junior swingman, Bridges netted 18 points a game with the national champion Wildcats, earning third-team AP All-America honors and being selected to the 2018 all-NCAA Final Four mythical squad after helping guide his school to its second championship in three years.
At No. 11, the Charlotte Hornets grabbed Kentucky’s 6-foot-6 point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander but the draft rights of the Canadian-born playmaker were later jettisoned to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for the rights to the Clippers’ No. 12 selection, Michigan State’s 6-foot-7 small forward-power forward Miles Bridges, and second-round draft choices in 2020 and 2021.
At No. 13, the Clippers picked Boston College’s 6-foot-5 shooting guard Jerome Robinson.
At No. 14 (the final lottery selection), the Denver Nuggets chose Michael Porter Jr., a
6-foot-11, 211-pound small forward out of the University of Missouri. Porter’s draft stock fell sharply due to lower back problems that limited him to just three games in his lone season with the Tigers varsity. In addition to the back injury, he was plagued by a hip strain and back spasms leading up to the draft. Porter, who turns 20 on June 29, had been projected to go as high as No. 4. The drop may have cost him nearly $26 million on a four-year deal.
The other players drafted in the first round were: 15-Oregon small forward Troy Brown Jr. by Washington, 16-Smith by Phoenix (traded to Philadelphia), 17-Villanova shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo by Milwaukee, 18-Miami shooting guard Lonnie Walker by San Antonio, 19-Maryland shooting guard Kevin Huerter by Atlanta, 20-Georgia Tech shooting guard Joshua Okogie by Minnesota, 21-Duke shooting guard Grayson Allen by Utah (the first senior taken in the draft), 22-Boise State swingman Chandler Hutchison by Chicago (also a senior), 23-UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday by Indiana (younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue and Chicago’s Justin), 24-IMG Academy shooting guard Anfernee Simons by Portland, 25-Michigan power forward Moritz Wagner by the LA Lakers, 26-Wichita State point guard Landry Shamet by Philadelphia, 27-Texas A&M center Robert Williams by Boston, 28-Cincinnati shooting guard Jacob Evans by Golden State, 29-Cedevita Croatia small forward Dzanan Musa by Brooklyn, and 30-Villanova power forward Omari Spellman by Atlanta.
Only six international players were taken in the first round of the NBA draft – Ayton (Bahamas), Doncic (Slovenia), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada), Okogie (Nigeria), Wagner (Germany) and Musa (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
The non-American second-rounders were Phoenix’s Elie Okobo (a playmaker from France), Philadelphia’s Isaac Bonga (a playmaker from Germany), Brooklyn’s Rodions Kurucs (a small forward from Latvia), Denver’s Justin Jackson (a small forward from Canada), Washington’s Issuf Sanon (a point guard from Ukraine), Los Angeles Lakers’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (a shooting guard from Ukraine and University of Kansas), Charlotte’s Arnoldas Kulboka (a small forward from Lithuania), and Philadelphia’s Kostas Antetokounmpo (a small forward from Greece and Dayton University).
All in all, 14 international players made it to the 2018 NBA draft.
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