The 5 Tiers of Collegiate Draft Eligible Players in the 2018 NBA Draft by Jake Zoll

Foreword- After the extreme success of forecasting the skill level of the 2017 NBA draft, I decided to keep the tradition going. These are my accounts after watching 1000’s of hours of these players throughout the college season and are devoid of influence from mock drafts or opinions produced by the main stream NBA syndicate.

Tier 1- Franchise Changing Players

Marvin Bagley– Bagley projects to be the best prospect in this years NBA draft. He has exceptional dribbling for his size, which will allow him to face up from the mid range and put other big men in a precarious position. Bagley can make this mismatch even more advantageous if he further improves his already above average shot. Bagley also elevates off the floor exceptionally quick, which will make him a top flight offensive rebounder- a skill of growing importance considering the prevalence of the three ball in the modern NBA . Ultimately, Bagley represents the more polished option in comparison to the other super prospect in this draft, Deandre Ayton. Bagley will create more possessions for his team, run the floor at a more effective level, and ultimately score easier in the NBA than Ayton with his offensive diversity. The one glaring red flag for Marvin Bagley is his defensive impotence. Coach K ran a zone more than anytime in his illustrious career, because he did not believe Bagley could stop the pick and roll or stop opponents one on one. Bagley seems to be a sure thing to average 20 points and 10 rebounds, but it could be all for naught if he doesn’t play at least average defense, because then he would just be David Lee. Ultimately, he’s a teenager and I believe his defense will progress greatly throughout his young career. NBA Projection- Chris Boshpjimage (27)

Deandre Ayton– The other blue chip prospect, Deandre Ayton represents more of a 1990’s style center than his counterpart, Marvin Bagley. Ayton’s physicality seems to be the distinctive separator at 7’0″ 260 compared to Bagley at 6’11” 235. Ayton uses that size to bully smaller defenders and to complement his power game and has a nice touch to about 18 feet. Ayton also has defensive questions, but they pale in comparison to Bagley as Ayton seems to be a clear cut above Bagley defensively. The drawback to Drafting Ayton is that he handles the ball like a center. He remains hesitant to work off the dribble and looks rigid when he does. Considering the disappearance of the post up in the modern NBA, the team that drafts him will have to consciously run their offense through Ayton to get him involved, which seems very unappealing given the current state of the NBA. Another Ayton question mark lies in Ayton’s motor, which appears to teeter and disappear at some points in games. On the Andrew Wiggins to Russell Westbrook motor scale, Ayton is about a three compared to Bagley, who is about a seven. NBA Projection- Patrick Ewing

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Tier 2- Potential Franchise Changing Players

Zhaire Smith– I considered ranking Smith as my top prospect, but he still remains too raw to compare to the extraordinarily polished Ayton and Bagley. Zhaire Smith remains a beautiful prospect- especially in the current NBA. Not only the best athlete in this draft, he may be the best athlete in the past 10 years at the college level. He projects out to be a sure fire defensive stopper on the wing. The only question with Smith is his offensive diversity. He’s a non natural shooter that is steadily progressing but still would be considered well below average as a shooter at the next level. Additionally, he doesn’t have the ability to create space off the dribble as of yet. Unfortunately, Zhaire Smith does not have the offensive package to go along with the defense, but needs to be looked at as the highest upside prospect in the class. NBA projection- Scottie Pippen

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Tier 3- NBA Starters

Michael Porter Jr.- The sample size with Porter remains too small to make any definite claims at this point. The positive takeaways from Porter are his size, offensive diversity, and shooting touch. You just can’t teach being 6’11”, especially with guard skills. Porter seems to have a shooting touch that has great potential to be above average at the next level to complement this size. As a small forward, Porter should get his shot off with ease and give opposing defenses fits trying to matchup with his size on the wing. Porter also has the ability to play the stretch 4, which will give his coach the opportunity to diversify match-ups and lineup combinations. NBA projection- Rudy Gay

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Mohamed Bamba– This Texas big man has something Ayton and Bagley lack- elite defense. Bamba represents a legit rim NBA rim protector who can keep drivers out of the lane and also collect more than 10 rebounds a game. Because he has those two verifiable NBA skills, Bamba has an incredible chance to start in the NBA. Bamba’s downside lies in the fact he has a rudimentary offensive skillset devoid of an outside shot, midrange shot, or the ability to beat defenders off the dribble. NBA projection- Deandre Jordan

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Tier 4- Role Players with potential to work way into a rotation

Collin Sexton– Collin Sexton rocketed up draft boards as he carried a subpar Alabama program into the second round of the NCAA tournament this season. At 6’2 185, Sexton stands slight of frame and undersized as a guard. He also does not have even an average shot from anywhere on the floor. Despite that fact, Sexton is an honor roll student with a reputation for unrivaled character. This reality can most readily be seen on the defensive end where he projects to be a top of the line defensive asset in the NBA and can be a vocal leader of an NBA team. NBA projection- Patrick Beverly

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Shai- Gilgeous Alexander– Coach Calipari’s least heralded prospect coming into last season, Shai Gilgeous Alexander, may be the first Wildcat to get his name called at the NBA draft this year. Alexander is not a high end prospect because he projects to have almost no shooting upside. Other than that, Alexander is an extremely hard worker that gives exceptional effort and hustle every single play. Alexander will be a guard off the bench that can inject some energy into the game and create some turnovers, which provides a great return in the middle of the first round given the talent pool this year. NBA projection- Shaun Livingston

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Mikal Bridges– A major part of Villanova’s National Championship roster, Mikal Bridges, is the classic 3 and D prospect. He has very little ability to drive the basket, pass, or create from the mid range. Despite that fact, Bridges is an elite defender, athlete, and spot up shooter. Bridges fits better on a team further along in the construction of their teams compared to a team that is in rebuilding mode. NBA projection- Trevor Ariza

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Wendell Carter– The relic of the draft award goes to the unfortunate Wendell Carter Jr. Carter has exceptionally crafty post moves and can knock down the mid range jumper. He needs to be played through to be at all effective. In addition, Carter plays below average defense. If this draft were in 1990, Carter would be a surefire top 5 pick, but most of his skills are outdated in the current NBA. NBA projection- Lorenzen Wright

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Jaren Jackson– Contrary to Carter, Jackson only has value because of the trajectory of the modern NBA. Jackson is the ultimate swiss army knife on the defensive end as he can guard centers and guards equally effective. At 6’11’ 235, the fleet footed Jackson sparks intrigue as he can guard the pick and roll and handle switches with ease, which are two talents that are growing exponentially in value in the current NBA. Unfortunately, Jackson has almost no offensive upside. This can most aptly be seen in the NCAA tournament, where he recorded 8 points on 7 shots in two games and was a major contributor to Michigan State’s underwhelming tournament run. NBA projection- Jonathan Isaac

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Tier 5- Bench Players

Donte Divencenzo– The hero of the National Championship game was introduced to the national stage during the NCAA tournament, but for hard core fans of the collegiate game, Divencenzo was largely considered Villanova’s best player throughout the entirety of the season. Divencenzo ranks as the best shooter in the draft and also ranks as a top 5 athlete prone to high flying dunks and blocks. Divencenzo’s draw back is that he did a lot of his best work coming off the bench in college, which pitted him against reserves or more fatigued players. It remains to be seen if Divencenzo can be a factor as a starter- especially in the NBA. NBA projection- JJ Redick

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Gary Trent Jr.- Gary Trent remains a high upside question mark at this point. Despite the fact he can shoot at a high level, has exceptional size for a shooting guard at 6’5″, and can play stretches of great defense, Trent was the 4th best player on his college team. Because of this, Trent’s usage was relatively low and did not get an opportunity to accomplish the exceptional at the collegiate level. NBA projection- Danny Green

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Kevin Knox– Another fantastic shooter, Kevin Knox continues a run of guards that can shoot well but have deficiencies too great to overlook. In Knox’s case, he has below average athleticism for a guard and moves slowly laterally on defense. This makes Knox almost a sure-thing to be a bench option as Knox likely can’t guard NBA talent for 30 plus minutes night in and night out. Despite that fact, Knox is a good enough shooter to provide a spark off the bench and hit a couple threes. NBA projection- Nick Young

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Miles Bridges– The Caleb Swanigan award goes to Miles Bridges, reserved for players that should have probably came out a year sooner. Miles Bridges likely needed to improve drastically in his sophomore campaign just in order to hold his top 5 status he had going into last year’s draft. Bridges does almost everything at an average level. He shoots average, plays average defense, and has average to maybe above average athleticism. Bridges is a low upside low risk prospect, if there is such a thing. NBA projection- James Johnson

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Jalen Brunson– The cerebral Jalen Brunson seems to be a perfect fit for a championship contender. Brunson has shown exemplary ability to control the tempo of the game, find passing lanes to create scoring opportunities that many other guards miss at a far higher rate, and knock down the open three. Brunson’s clear drawback is that his athleticism/ size are deficient when compared to many of the NBA guards. Because of this, Brunson likely won’t be a top flight guard, but he can provide extreme stability off the bench as a back up point guard.  NBA projection- Andre Miller

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Lonnie Walker– The only redeeming quality for Lonnie Walker is the eye test. If this were last years draft, he would not even be close to making my list of prospects, but fortunately for Walker this class is considerably weaker. At 6’5″ 195 with above average athleticism, Walker just looks like an NBA player. Despite that fact, Walker was unimpressive at the collegiate level, averaging 10 points a game and disappearing all together in many games against elite competition. Walker does not have a go to move or way to really create distinct value to an NBA team. NBA projection- Luc Mbah Moutepjimage (41)

Aaron Holiday– The next of the Holiday clan, Aaron Holiday, projects to be worse at the NBA level than both of his NBA brothers- Justin and Jrue. Holiday possesses elite speed and quickness but lacks the ability to control those assets. Holiday often looks like a chicken with his head cut off and makes way too many mistakes for a point guard. Maybe there is something in the water for UCLA point guards…NBA projection- Dennis Smith

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Trae Young– The most overrated prospect in the draft is Trae Young. Trae Young’s shortcoming is trying to play like Stephen Curry, when he clearly does not have the requisite skill set to emulate Curry at a high level. The most apt comparison would be a young baseball prospect emulating Vladimir Guerrero, who would swing at pitches well out of the strike zone and even hit pitches that bounced prior to crossing the plate at points throughout his career. Although Vladimir was able to become one of the best MLB players of all time, their has only ever been one Vladimir Guerrero. As the famous saying goes ” Do as I say not as I do.” In the case of Trae Young, he routinely shoots multiple ultra contested threes from 30 plus feet in virtually every game he competes in, which explains his 36 percent three point percentage last season. With his 5 turnover a game average, slight frame, and extremely questionable shot selection, we are not looking at the next Stephen Curry. We are looking at the next bust in the NBA draft. NBA projection- Jimmer Fredette

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