As we prepare for the 2018 NBA playoffs to get started in the coming weeks, let’s take a look back at the draft and grade what rookies taken in the first round have done so far.
30. Josh Hart – Los Angeles Lakers
Joining the Lakers after a full career at Villanova, Hart has seen increased minutes as the year has gone on. The 22-year old has showcased above-average rebounding ability for a guard and a solid outside jumper. He’ll continue to share minutes with KCP for the remainder of the season once he returns from his hand injury.
29. Derrick White – San Antonio Spurs
White wasn’t expected to have a huge bench role for the Spurs but he’s been non-existent all season. To spend a first round pick on a 23-year old who’s not ready yet isn’t a win.
28. Tony Bradley – Utah Jazz
Drafted as a project after one year at UNC, Bradley has yet to find barely any floor time in his rookie year. Even with the Rudy Gobert injury, the team favored Ekpe Udoh over Bradley for minutes. He has the potential to be a solid NBA center but needs to improve offensively and get stronger.
27. Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers
Kuzma has been almost perfect for the Lakers so far and is a building block for them at the forward position. His outside shooting ability, offensive versatility, and length make him an exciting prospect and could be a 20pt scorer in just a year or two. He’ll contend for ROTY in June.
26. Caleb Swanigan – Portland Trail Blazers
Though he rarely gets minutes, Swanigan was a great pick late in the first, as the Blazers got some much needed help in the frontcourt with his toughness inside and another outside shot. Rebounding is clearly his best attribute, but his 3pt shot has a chance to develop and make him a solid rebounding-stretch 4. The Draymond Green comparisons are fair.
25. Anzejs Pasecniks – Orlando Magic
Pasecniks is already 22 and isn’t expected to make an NBA debut anytime soon. To pass up on a player like Kuzma and opt for a draft and stash with an older player is an awful choice by the Magic front office and is a symbol of the moves the franchise has made and continues to make that hinder their chances of being successful again.
24. Tyler Lydon – Denver Nuggets
Lydon has been a disappointment for a Nuggets organization with an already deep frontcourt that doesn’t have many minutes for the rookie. The Syracuse product has found himself in the G-League much more than on the Denver roster so far.
23. O.G. Anunoby – Toronto Raptors
Anunoby was a clear steal for Toronto. The rookie swingman has shown an ability to knock down threes at a solid rate and displayed defensive versatility with his unbelievable length. He’s being compared to All-Star players at the moment and is the clear future for Toronto at the 3.
22. Jarrett Allen – Brooklyn Nets
Allen looks to be another steal as he’s putting up All-Rookie type numbers while still only logging around 20 minutes per game. With the dealing of Tyler Zeller to the Bucks before the deadline, Allen holds the reigns as big man of the future for Brooklyn.
21. Terrance Ferguson – Oklahoma City Thunder
With the season ending injury to Andre Roberson, that would seem to open up some more minutes for Ferguson. He’s an explosive athlete with an improving jumpshot but he’s raw and needs to get stronger to ever be a starter for OKC. Ultimately, the Thunder are trying to compete now while they have Anthony and George, and Ferguson isn’t ready to produce yet.
20. Harry Giles – Sacramento Kings
After being highly touted coming out of high school, Giles was a disappointment at Duke and still is one with the Kings. He has massive upside but has been ruled out for the season with lingering knee problems.
19. John Collins – Atlanta Hawks
Collins may be the biggest steal of the draft as he’s stepped in and already become one of the Hawks best players. His length, athleticism, and nose for the ball down low will turn him into a double-double big man with an All-Star future.
18. T.J. Leaf – Indiana Pacers
In limited minutes, Leaf has produced pretty well but still needs to develop more to see sufficient playing time in the Pacer frontcourt. Given some of the talents Indiana passed up on here, this isn’t a win.
17. D.J. Wilson – Milwaukee Bucks
Wilson was a reach for the Bucks at 17. His length and versatility make him worth holding onto but he won’t be ready to make any impact for Milwaukee for a while.
16. Justin Patton – Minnesota Timberwolves
Patton has been another disappointment as he’s been thrown in and out of the G-League so far this year. He has great size and potential but after some injury issues early on, he hasn’t established himself at all yet.
15. Justin Jackson – Sacramento Kings
There’s still a chance for Jackson to be the forward of the future for the Kings, but he’s been a little inefficient in his first year. He’s had steady production on the wing in limited minutes and should see increases in all his numbers as Sacramento plans to start sitting veterans more as the season goes on and into next year.
14. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Adebayo has been great for Miami so far, complimenting Whiteside well in the frontcourt. In just around 20 minutes a game, Adebayo is making a case to be considered for the All-Rookie 1st team. Given that the Heat passed on fellow big man John Collins here, it wasn’t a perfect pick.
13. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz
Mitchell is currently one of the frontrunners for ROTY, leading the Jazz in scoring and keeping them on the fringe of playoff contention. After losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason, Utah knew they needed to find their new star and they’ve taken care of that quickly as Mitchell has a chance to put up over 20 a game in his first season with the Jazz.
12. Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons
Coming out of Duke, Kennard has been a reliable outside shooting option for Detroit as expected, but isn’t set to be the star that Mitchell is. Imagining Donovan Mitchell on a Pistons team with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond would be a possible home court playoff spot for Detroit. Kennard is an NBA level player and could start at shooting guard for the Pistons a few years down the road but given who Detroit missed out on, it’s a disappointment.
11. Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets
When the Hornets were on the clock with this pick, Monk seemed like the obvious choice, but the Kentucky product has been a massive disappointment for Charlotte. He’s been inefficient and sore in the Hornet backcourt. His rough start has led to him being underutilized, and Monk is a guy who needs the ball in his hands to excel. Again, Mitchell would have been the better choice at shooting guard here.
10. Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers
Despite playing on little minutes, Collins has been solid so far with Portland and looks like a future starter for the Blazers. Getting stronger to go with his long frame and possibly developing a better jumpshot should be the next steps in turning him into a star.
9. Dennis Smith Jr. – Dallas Mavericks
Though still fairly inefficient, Smith Jr. has been great for Dallas and is surely their point guard for the future. His athleticism and scoring ability will turn him into a star. When he improves his shot selection and playmaking ability he’ll be a perennial All-Star.
8. Frank Nitilikina – New York Knicks
Though Nitilikina has faced some tough criticism so far this season over not being as complete of a rookie guard as Smith Jr. or Mitchell, he’s shown some promise in his first year. Despite not getting starters minutes, the 19-year old Frenchman has displayed solid playmaking ability and has shot the 3 as well as most expected. Where he seperates himself from some of the other guards in the draft is his defensive potential. At 6’5″ with a 7-foot wingspan, Nitilikina can make several All-Defensive teams in his career.
7. Lauri Markannen – Chicago Bulls
In the Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls were able to move up into the top 10 and grab Markkanen, who’s put himself into outside ROTY contention in Chicago. The Finnish big man is putting up solid numbers while stroking it from the outside at an acceptable rookie rate. His size, combined with his somewhat guard skills could make him an All-Star soon.
6. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic
Isaac has had a quiet first year in Orlando after being drafted sixth overall by the new Orlando front office. The Bronx native has dealt with a few injury hiccups and has even spent some time in the G-League lately. At his length and athleticism, potential still reigns as the number one attribute for Isaac. More minutes and a stronger body should get him into double digits in scoring next year.
5. De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
Fox started the year coming off the bench for veteran G George Hill, but with the deadline trade of Hill to Cleveland, Fox is now running the Point in Sacramento. In a guard heavy draft, Fox went to a Kings team thirsting for a youthful PG and he seems to already be settling in as their most promising young player. Despite low numbers on the boards and a struggling outside shot, Fox has showcased All-Star potential and strong leadership for Sacramento.
4. Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns
After a fairly slow offensive start to the season, Jackson has since picked it up and been better than expected in his rookie year in Phoenix. While putting up over 10 points a game and rebounding at a fair rate, the Kansas product has played stingy D all year and should be an All-Defensive selection someday. Continuing to work on his jumper in the offseason will further develop him into a two-way star.
3. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics
Danny Ainge made a great move last June to move down and still take the most polished player in the top 10. Tatum has been lights out from deep all year, shooting over 40% consistently throughout the year, near league’s best from beyond the arc. His length and versatility on offense made him a solid replacement for Gordon Hayward who went down on opening night. Tatum should make a smooth transition to the 4 next year when Hayward returns.
2. Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers
As expected, Los Angeles took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick and have gotten nearly exactly what they expected, an inefficient scorer with an innate ability to see the floor on offense, and length on defense. Ball has dealt with a few injury spells this season but has been out there for the Lakers most of the year. While his shooting has been a dry spot in his game, Lonzo has given the Lakers a future at point guard and a special passer, putting up around 7 assists a game. He’ll never lead the league in scoring but Ball has All-Star potential and could be a starter on a championship team in the Lakers future.
1. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers
Fultz, the number one pick in the 2017 draft, has seen almost no court time all season. His nagging elbow injury hasn’t just kept him off the court but also completely transformed his jumpshot and has forced him to pretty much re-learn to shoot the basketball. If he’s able to get healthy he has the potential to be a top guard in the league and would add to the budding young stars in Philadelphia, but Fultz may not even return this year and it’s uncertain how he’ll fair adjusting to a different jumper while learning the NBA.
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