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NBA draft: Best prospects, likely picks, rankings and needs

NBA draft: Best prospects, likely picks, rankings and needs

The 2018 NBA draft is Thursday night (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), and no one is sure what’s going to happen.

Who is going in the top five? Who will be the best player in this class? What trades can teams make?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Full draft order | Trade tracker | Projections


Which player should every team draft? Our experts go pick-by-pick answering that question, with deep dives into every prospect.

  • No. 1: Phoenix Suns | Deandre Ayton

  • No. 2: Sacramento Kings | Luka Doncic

  • No. 3: Atlanta Hawks | Jaren Jackson Jr.

  • No. 4: Memphis Grizzlies | Mohamed Bamba

  • No. 5: Dallas Mavericks | Marvin Bagley III

What about the players each team will select? You can get that right here, updated with the latest intel until the draft officially starts.Insider

ESPN Insider Jonathan Givony has been updating his top-100 rankings all season with the latest intel. See which prospects top his board.

Does your team have needs at a specific position? Insider Mike Schmitz ranks the top 10 guards, wings and bigs …

Mike Schmitz position rankings

Rank Guards Wing/Forwards Bigs
1 Luka Doncic Kevin Knox Deandre Ayton
2 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Michael Porter Jr Mohamed Bamba
3 Lonnie Walker Mikal Bridges Jaren Jackson Jr
4 Collin Sexton Miles Bridges Marvin Bagley III
5 Trae Young Zhaire Smith Wendell CarterJr.
6 Kevin Huerter Troy Brown Robert Williams
7 Aaron Holiday Josh Okogie Mitchell Robinson
8 Jerome Robinson Dzanan Musa Moritz Wagner
9 De’Anthony Melton Keita Bates-Diop Omari Spellman
10 Khyri Thomas Jacob Evans Chimezie Metu

… and Schmitz and Givony break down the draft’s biggest standouts in key categories:

Best shooter

Givony: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Schmitz: Trae Young

Best defender

Schmitz: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Givony: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Best passer

Givony: Luka Doncic
Schmitz: Luka Doncic

Best rebounder

Schmitz: Deandre Ayton
Givony: Deandre Ayton

Best leader

​Givony: Jalen Brunson
Schmitz: Devon Hall

Best athlete

Schmitz: Zhaire Smith
Givony: Zhaire Smith

Most boom-or-bust potential

Givony: Michael Porter Jr.
Schmitz: Mitchell Robinson

Better NBA than college player

Schmitz: Robert Williams
Givony: Mohamed Bamba

Best 3-and-D wing

Givony: Mikal Bridges
Schmitz: Mikal Bridges


Could’ve played in the 2018 Finals

Givony: Luka Doncic
Schmitz: Luka Doncic

Get full scouting reports on the likely first-round picks here.Insider

Teams don’t always address offseason needs at the draft — and there’s a good case that they shouldn’t — but here’s how Insider Bobby Marks breaks down each team heading into the offseason.

Team needs

Team Picks Starters Reserves
ATL 3, 19, 30, 34 C PG, SF, PF
BOS 27 None SG, SF, C
BKN 29, 40 None SG, SF, PF, C
CHA 11, 45, 55 PF PG, SF
CHI 7, 22 SG, SF SF, C
CLE 8 PG, SG, SF None
DAL 5, 33, 54 PF, C PG, SG. SF
DEN 14, 43, 58 SF PG, SG. SF
DET 42 SG PG, PF, C
GSW 28 C SG, PF
HOU 46 PG, PF, C PG, SF
IND 23, 50 None PG, SG, SF
LAC 12, 13 SG, C SF, PF
LAL 25, 39, 47 SG, C PG, SF, PF, C
MEM 4, 32 SG, SF PG
MIA N/A None SG
MIL 17 PF, C SF, PF
MIN 20, 53 None SG, SF, PF
NOP 51 PG, SF PG, PF, C
NYK 9, 37 PG, SF, C (if not Kanter) SF, PF, C
OKC 53, 57 SF, PF PG, C
ORL 6, 35 PG, PF SG
PHI 10, 26, 38, 56, 60 SG SG, SF, PF
PHX 1, 16, 31, 59 PG, PF, C PG
POR 24 SF, C PG, SG, PF
SAC 2, 36 SF, PF PF, C
SAS 18, 49 SG, C SF, PF
TOR N/A None PG, SG
UTA 21, 52 PF PG, SG
WAS 15, 44 C SG, PF
Considers players under contract for 2018-19

What future picks can be combined in draft trades? We go team-by-team on all the assets.Insider

Plenty of long-time NBA players slip out of the first round. Our experts give five names to watch:

Givony’s second-round standouts

  • Justin Jackson | F | Maryland

  • Jevon Carter | G | West Virginia

  • Devon Hall | G | Virginia

  • Hamidou Diallo | G | Kentucky

  • Anfernee Simons | G | Team Breakdown

Schmitz’s second-round standouts

  • Bruce Brown | G | Miami

  • Shake Milton | G | SMU

  • Kevin Hervey | PF | UT-Arlington

  • Issuf Sanon | G | Olimpija Ljubljana

  • Rodions Kurucs F | Barcelona

Pelton

These players rank notably higher by Insider Kevin Pelton’s wins above replacement player (WARP) projections than our top-100 rankings. Insider

Projected WARP standouts

PLAYER TEAM TOP 100 WARP RANK
Trae Young Oklahoma 8 3.0 2
Mikal Bridges Villanova 14 2.9 4
Dzanan Musa KK Cedevita 19 2.9 3
Mitchell Robinson N/A 23 2.3 7
Kevin Huerter Maryland 20 2.1 8
De’Anthony Melton USC 24 2.0 10
Jacob Evans Cincinnati 30 2.1 9
Gary Trent Jr. Duke 39 1.8 13
Landry Shamet Wichita State 49 1.7 15
Kevin Hervey Texas Arlington 46 1.6 17
Kenrich Williams TCU 63 1.8 14

ESPN Analytics

Underrated prospects according to the ESPN Analytics model.

  • De’Anthony Melton | G | USC

  • Keita Bates-Diop | PF | Ohio State

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo | SF | Dayton

Overrated by the model:

Full strengths and weaknesses, scouting reports, pre-draft videos and interviews — get it all here.

The scouting process for this draft took place against the backdrop of an NBA postseason in which traditional centers had relatively little impact. As the league trends toward more 3-pointers and switching defenses, are teams drafting for an era that no longer exists?


Plenty of picks throughout the lottery could be in play for draft-night trades. Which moves should teams make? Our NBA Insiders give their six best deals.


Who will be the best player from the 2018 NBA draft? In many years, a clear favorite begins to stand out. But NBA teams are all over the place in how they value Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Mohamed Bamba and the top tier of prospects in this class.

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