It’s that time of the year again folks, draft night in the NBA. A place where dreams come true, the commissioners try to blend in with the cool kids with manhugs and shiny hats while careers are swiftly ended by going to the wrong team. It’s always an exciting time in sports when the next faces of the league start their journeys.
This years draft was one of the most exciting in recent memory. All-Star Jimmy Butler being traded, the Twitter war between the 76ers and the Ball family and the drama surrounding the sheer amount of college superstars with who goes where and who made a good pick.
And you guessed it folks, that’s the title track of this one, we’re assigning draft grades at every team like they’re in high school again.
If eagle-eyed readers have noticed, I have wrote draft grades previously for the NFL’s Chicago Bears. And this time around, I am following the same formula. For every team, I will grade the value of the player to that respective team and in total, how good that player will be boiled down to one single letter.
So let’s hop to it.
Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
The Sixers are a team on the rise and this pick only solidifies that theory. They needed a great point guard and they got a great point guard. Fultz was an absolute beast in college, averaging a wicked 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and shot 47.6% from the field.
He’s a hyper athletic guard, capable of running wildly fast paced basketball and has all the offensive and defensive tools to be an complete and total superstar in the NBA. His speedy nature and pick-and-roll expertise will complement former first overall Ben Simmons almost too well. The 76ers have landed their franchise cornerstone and with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons hopefully staying away from the injury bug, this is a team to look out for in the near future.
Three future first rounders for Fultz was more than worth it in any sense.
P2:Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
With D’Angelo Russell out, the Lakers needed a court king to lead them and that’s what they got in this pick. Ignoring the mighty distraction (and honestly one of the worst things to happen to basketball) in his father Lavar, Lonzo is more than capable of being a top notch point guard.
Few players coming out of college have the rare ability to make everyone around him better just by being on the court and he showed this talent game in and game out at UCLA. There’s a good reason the team improved by 16 wins from their previous, Lonzo-less season.
Ball is a Ricky Rubio type player, a pass first yet shifty guard who can’t generate offense by himself but he ultimately will make his team much, much better on both ends through his unselfish play. With the Lakers pursuing stars like Paul George and potentially even LeBron James, a player like Ball is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Tatum is by far the most polished offensive threat in this draft. For six foot eight small forward, he has beautiful footwork beyond his years, an arsenal from midrange that rivals Batman and is smooth as cream with every bit of it.
He lacks a strong outside game and his handles are not top tier but that can be taught. But with his isolation game and complete basketball instincts, few prospects are this polished and NBA ready in terms of offense as Tatum is. The Celtics lack top scoring outside of Isaiah Thomas but the Duke superstar easily will slide right into a secondary scoring position almost immediately.
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Jackson is a highly explosive forward who plays with heart over talent. But that’s not to say he lacks talent-he has it in bunches. He stars defensively and excels in transition game, something teams covet in today’s league. He lacks incredible offensive ability, with spotty shooting and an erratic style.
Overall he’s a massive wild card. He could either be an electric competitor who plays hard game in and game out or he could be an average wing player with solid defense and rebounding. There were better players available but being mostly guards and the duo of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, there was no need to nab another near elite guard. So why not take a swing on Jackson?
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Fox is easily the most explosive and athletic player in this draft. His elite quickness and rim attacking willingness that in any other draft, would be going first or second overall. Fox is an electric player capable of changing the entire landscape of an offense by simply having the ball in his hands. Though often overstated, Fox is truly a jump shot away from being among the best prospects we’ve seen in years.
It’s a total miracle he dropped to fifth for Sacramento. They have a flat offense that’s bland and vanilla. Fox is the perfect fit for a team needing a spark. He will be the focal point of the King’s offense and he will look freaking awesome while doing it.
Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State
Isaac is one of the most defensively versatile players in this draft. Despite his weaker frame, he can easily guard any spot 1-4 and with a little more beef, he can shut down the 5 as well. He lacks offensive consistency but he has shown a reliable face-up jumper and a strong passer for a big man.
But it’s his defense that gets him drafted this high. He is incredibly quick in the paint, able to close out on everyone from massive centers to shifty guards. He can play a variety of positions and he does it all for the betterment of the team. What else could you want in a sixth overall?
Are there better players remaining? Probably. Orlando might have wanted to go offense here but a defensive star wouldn’t hurt at all.
P7:Chicago Bulls (From Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Lauri is the prototypical stretch forward. For a seven foot man, he is gracefully light on his feet and has a beautiful jumper. Fadeaways, off the dribble, even from three he was one of the most if not THE most efficient offensive prospect in the country. His defense is something to be desired, as it’s hard for him to move with smaller, quicker players and his lack of length is somewhat alarming.
Nonetheless, the Finnish power forward has all the tools necessary to be a top notch offensive threat from anywhere on the court. Being seven feet and still having the touch and smoothness of a guard a la Kevin Garnett is an intriguing combination in any forward.
However, the Bulls did not fully need a player like Markkanen. He’s not a volume scorer and after moving on from Jimmy Butler, they need a top scorer. Lauri does not fit that bill. And with Nikola Mirotic already filling that role, it almost seems that Lauri will have to fight a lot more than he should for playing time.
P8:New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina, PG, Strasbourg International
Frank (I think we can all agree that’s easier to understand than Ntilikina) is the first international player off the board and for good reason. He’s a high IQ player with a professional approach and the skills to be a versatile two-way guard. A very calculated player, he isn’t to wow anyone on the offensive end just yet. He can’t play a large role yet as he is still a raw prospect in all respects. But with the length and intelligence, the sky’s the limit for Frank if the Knicks are patient.
It’s not secret New York needs help everywhere besides power forward where Kristaps Porzingis lies. But they need young players who can contribute now, being able to flash All-Star potential often. It’s going to be a while until Frank is even ready take a starting role. If he does, he could easily be out of the league in a couple of seasons. The Frenchman has such a bright future if the Knicks can wait for it, so let’s hope they don’t mess this one up.
Dennis Smith Jr, PG, North Carolina State
Smith Jr is the second most explosive player in this draft, behind Mr.De’Aaron Fox only four picks ahead of him. He can score on every level imaginable with his wild athleticism and a highlight reel to be revered. He is a ball dominant point guard who needs the ball in his hands to succeed and his playmaking and actual point guard abilities are still in development.
However he is an exciting player to watch and will give Dallas a much-needed pop from both sides since the glory days of Dirk Nowitzki. With a very dry offensive from this past season with the generally boring Harrison Barnes leading, a player like Smith is perfect for that role.
P10:Portland Trail Blazers (From Sacramento Kings)
Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
Collins is probably the best shot blocker in this draft, best shown in his Final Four matchup against South Carolina where he threw 6 shots right back at SC. His explosiveness, timing and intensity make him an animal in the paint. He’s a hustle first player who can and will take the glass for dinner when he wants. His overall lack of polish and raw offensive ability raises a few red flags, but it’s his shot blocking that squeezes him into the top ten.
Portland has lacked a top big man since the lost days of LaMarcus Aldridge and it shows. Being ranked 24th in the league in defensive efficiency is never a winning formula. The Blazers have holes everywhere in the frontcourt but the role of rim protector now has been filled.
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Monk (such an awesome name, isn’t it?) is one of the most electric offensive prospects in this draft. Highlighted by his 47 point explosion against UNC tells all you need to know about Monk’s bag of tricks. He’s a score first, ask questions later type of player with a shot and shiftiness to blow up most defenders.
However, his lack of point guard skills and spotty decision making waves some warning flags and he isn’t going to be able to take on a top scoring role just yet. But with some patience, he can turn into a top tier scoring threat in the league. Paired next to shoot-first point guard in Kemba Walker creates a scary duo on the offensive end. With some defensive polishing, these two could create an elite offensive guard duo.
Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Kennard is one of the best all-around shooters in this draft. Midrange, three or right under the basket, his jump shot is something to behold sometimes. He can shoot off the catch, off the dribble, off of screens, you name the shot, Kennard has it in his arsenal. And being a clutch shooter that just sweetens the deal. He’s a Devin Booker type player, a solid combo guard with a shot good enough to be a top scorer on any team.
Detroit has a generally boring offense with Tobias Harris the leading scorer. Yeah. That Tobias Harris. Bringing in Kennard is igniting to this offense as now they have the elite shooting dynamic. With a little defensive work and being able to create his own offense, Kennard is going to be a fantastic scorer for the Pistons.
P13:Utah Jazz (From Denver Nuggets)
Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
Mitchell is a three and D style guard with a strong ability to shoot and defend either guard positions. His work ethic is one of the most intriguing parts of him and he’s a high character player who will turn into a great leader one day once he gets settled in the NBA.
He’s not a flashy player in any sense but he fits perfectly with the Jazz. With Gordon Hayward most likely on the outs, they need a scoring threat and they get one in this pick in the dependable spot-up shooter Mitchell.
Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky
Bam is a fantastic offensive rebounder with an oddly compelling finishing ability and an awesome first name. A little undersized for the 5 spot but with his impressive mobility and agility keeps him competitive against any position. He has a lot of potential on the offensive boards, bringing down a monster 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. This is easily his most compelling component and the most important reason why he was a lottery pick.
He’s still a little green on the offensive side unless he’s right under the basket and he suffers from inconsistency often. But with some refining, Adebayo could turn into an exceptional defender. He will one day fit perfectly into the 4 spot next to defensive stud Hassan Whiteside.
P15:Sacramento Kings (From Portland Trail Blazers)
Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
Jackson is a cultured scorer with an uncanny ability to score in bunches whenever he feels. He’s a highly instinctual player who is driven by his feel for the game. His spot up shooting ability is marvelous and he’s an incredibly intelligent player who can read defenses very well.
However he struggles in creating offense by himself, relying on others to get him the ball in good positions to score. His intelligence somewhat makes up for this as he knows the positions but there will be adjustments needed in more complex defensive schemes in the NBA. He’s not the strongest or more explosive and this limits his ability in the paint. But once he becomes more physical in his finishes, he will be a strong offensive force.
The Kings lack a dynamic offense and now with Fox in at point and a developing Jackson will one day prove to be a gnarly duo on the offense.
P16:Minnesota Timberwolves (From Chicago Bulls)
Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Patton is an ace athlete for the center position, quick on his feet and a transition game rare in seven footers. His efficiency was excellent, among the leading big men in this category. He is an explosive force at his size and could prove to be a brilliant offensive center one day.
His lack of defensive fundamentals, awareness and a rebounding ability that could be better are a turnoff for sure but it’s his offensive talent that makes him quite the prospect.
Minnesota can easily groom him into a scoring threat off the bench just behind Karl Anthony-Towns and they will be a dynamic center duo of athletic seven footers one day.
D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan
Wilson is an agile power forward capable of being a threat off the three with handles to compliment those skills well. He has all the tools to be a wicked stretch 4. He has a favorable finishing ability that teams are looking for in today’s league with versatility to be dangerous everywhere on the court.
His rebounding ability and willingness to be physical raises the red flags but having only a single real season of experience after being a late bloomer brings a ton of upside to his name.
The Bucks are a team that are starting to develop into a top tier team in the league and Wilson fits the bill as a raw prospect with the tools to a star a la new teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo. With some patience and grooming, Wilson could turn into a solid offensive 4.
T.J Leaf, PF, UCLA
Leaf makes a strong case for being the best scoring power forward in this draft. He’s versatile with a shooting ability not often found in freshmen power forwards. He has a handle ability that feeds his creativity in the paint impressive for his size. His valuable athleticism just makes him an even more intriguing prospect.
It will pay to put on some more muscle to improve his rebounding ability and defense while his physicality in the paint is sometimes nonexistent. If he could beef up some more mixed in with his offensive fluidity, he can be a scarily adaptable forward.
With Paul George to the Lakers rumours running amok, having a secondary scoring threat to develop for years to come will pay dividends once he fully develops.
John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Collins developed into arguably the best offensive player in the country and it’s a total steal he fell down to the 19th. His PER was the best in the nation making him one of the most compelling offensive prospects in this draft. His footwork and post moves made up most of his offense and he rocks a sturdy midrange game. He has quite the bag of tricks and it’s impossible to ignore his offensive presence.
However his smaller size and therefore his disability to score on larger, stronger opponents (something he will battle almost every game in the NBA) is something to beware and his decision making is shoddy at best. It will take some grooming in order to realize his full potential of a LaMarcus Aldridge type player.
But the Hawks are in no rush. With the gaping losses of Paul Millsap and Al Horford still in full effect, an offensive big man capable of achieving the levels Collins could is a sight for sore eyes in Atlanta.
P20:Sacramento Kings (from Portland Trail Blazers)
Harry Giles, C, Duke
Giles is easily the most compelling sleeper in this draft. He is an agile center who has a versatile offensive game with the physical measurements to be a sturdy starter one day.
Though his knee injuries have sapped his incredible motor and athleticism early in his career. He was a powerfully explosive player who was on NBA teams radars by the time he was 14 years of age. But after multiple torn ACLs, meniscus and MCL tears and arthroscopic surgery, his game was severely limiting from a fiery finisher with the athleticism of a guard in a seven foot body.
Sacramento isn’t going anywhere as of right now despite a strong draft so taking a risk with their third first round pick is a risk worth taking. If he can revert to his former self, the Kings are in for a show game in and game out with Giles.
P21:Oklahoma City Thunder
Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Ferguson is easily the best international shooter in this draft, excelling in spot up situations. He flashes elite athleticism and he’s gnarly team player, willing to make the extra pass and won’t ever go out of his comfort zone that could hinder the team. His defense will be something to develop but being an 18 year old going against grown men will be a challenge for him.
He’s a raw athlete with a solid shooting ability. His intelligence doesn’t blow anyone away and he is still learning to use his athleticism. He’s sometimes alarmingly green in many areas and it will be a few years until he can actually contribute on an NBA court. But his team style could fit nicely in with Russell Westbrook’s hero ball or it could clash and the Thunder’s offense runs in place. It’s a risky pick with a lot of upside if he is developed properly.
Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Allen is an incredibly unseasoned player, flashing rim running abilities and a creative finishing skill. For a center, he’s a little on the shorter size but his seven foot five wingspan makes up for it. He has great hands and this comes in handy in his trademark finishing skill. He is long player and he relies on that for points.
He is still unrefined in almost any respect, with lack of explosion on both sides and a underwhelming IQ. It will be a good long while until he can put together his soft touch with the physical strength and intelligence he’s still learning.
Nonetheless, the Nets are going absolutely nowhere right now and they have all the time in the world without having their first round pick for years to come to develop the raw Allen.
OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
Anunoby is an incredibly long player for a small forward but still retains a pretty spot up shooting ability and athleticism that shouldn’t be in players this long and lanky. He has a chiseled frame that allows him to keep up with big men despite only being a mundane six foot eight. He has a solid offensive rebounding game and has the physical tools to be an elite defender in the NBA.
But overall, his offensive game needs a lot of work. His handles are crude and has a nonexistent jump shot. He isn’t the brightest and his toughness and general lack of intensity is sometimes laughable. OG’s awareness is sometimes pathetic and will have to be improved on to become a viable NBA starter.
The Raptors are a team in the No Man’s Land and a small scale rebuild may have to be the way to go. Anunoby will be a player that will need a lot of development, but the Raptors are in no rush. At this point in the draft, they can take a few risks without getting bit.
P24:Denver Nuggets (From Utah Jazz)
Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
Lydon is a strong all-around player, capable of doing a little bit of everything. He can shoot, run in transition, finish in close and is incredibly efficient in every bit of it. He’s an excellent catch and shoot player who excels in the spot-up game.
However, his shot off the dribble is rocky and his isolation game is weak. He is an off the ball threat, needing to be accounted for more without the ball than with it. He lacks a strength and explosiveness factor that could bring him to the next level.
With a little refining, Lydon could be a sturdy player everywhere on the court. With Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay taking control of the offense, Lydon is a solid fit for this Nuggets squad.
P25:Philadelphia 76ers (From Orlando Magic)
Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Herbalife Gran Canaria (Spain)
Anzejs is a massive man, standing at a scary seven foot two and can still afford to put on some more beef from his 229 pound body. He’s incredibly agile for his size, moving very easily and is fluid in his finishes. He’s balanced and coordinated, something rare in seven plus footers. On top of that, he hasn’t a bad jump shot either. He was 5/9 from three this previous season and shows great promise from midrange.
He is still learning a feel for the game and his passing is something that is still in development. His defense is still a work in progress and will take some refining to fully realize it.
The Sixers are only getting better and better with this draft. It will only be a couple of seasons until Anzejs is a strong role player off the bench.
P26:Portland Trail Blazers
Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
Swanigan is a double double machine, bringing in 28 of them to lead the country. At six foot eight and weighing a massive 246 pounds, he’s easily one of the most physically imposing players in this draft. His strength is unmatched and he’s far from the slowest player in this years crop.
But he does lack a lot of athleticism and explosion, something that has hindered his rebounding and shot blocking. He relies mostly on his length and wild levels of strengths to bully his opponents. Competing against much stronger opponents is going to be a challenge for the borderline unathletic Swanigan.
It’s clear the Trail Blazers wanted big men in this draft and that’s what they got. With the bully baller Swanigan to develop, Portland’s frontcourt is in a lot better shape than it was yesterday.
P27:Los Angeles Lakers (From Brooklyn Nets)
Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah
Kuzma is a rare player-he can handle the ball extremely well and pass just as well from the power forward position. He’s a Nikola Jokic type player, a versatile big man who can pass and handle the ball like a guard. He’s a solid three ball shooter so Kuzma something not found all that often. A big man with the skill set of a guard is always a compelling prospect.
However his awareness is something that needs to be improved on before he can contribute. His effort level sometimes is also on the low end of the spectrum and this raises a lot of red flags.
The Lakers can afford to take in a more unrefined player though, as everyone on the team is still developing and Kuzma will slide nicely into that mold if he can raise the effort levels.
P28:Utah Jazz (From Los Angeles Lakers)
Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina
Bradley is an energetic rebounder and a strong finisher-his bread and butter and North Carolina. He rocks a 75 inch wingspan, a massive length that only compliments his intensity on the boards. He’s a high motor player and his put back ability shows that.
He lacks explosiveness and as odd as it is to say, he has a weak core that hinders a lot of his abilities. Not to mention he came off the bench for UNC as he was stuck behind veteran big men Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. But that’s fixable. He’s a hard player and worker and fits well in the style that the Jazz likes to play.
P29:San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White, PG, Colorado
Derrick White is a solid combo guard with athleticism in bunches. He plays with awesome pace but isn’t overly explosive. He loves his isolation play and working off the dribble is where he makes his money. He’s got a strong feel for the game which leads to his opportunistic brand of basketball. He is a great passer and has the potential to be a starting level point guard one day.
Defensively, he lacks elite strength to keep up with NBA level players but that can be taught. Aso how he can fare against top notch competition will be the burning question for him coming up to higher competition.
Nonetheless, he’s an absolute steal at this point for the Spurs and under Pop, he will be able to develop more than we could ever dream.
P30:Los Angeles Lakers (From Utah Jazz)
Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
Josh Hart is a complete winner and competitor. He brings a culture and an attitude to win to LA, something that the Lakers lack right now. Talent-wise, he’s a strong jump shooter from pretty much anywhere except off the dribble. He’s not a flashy player but an opportunist who will do whatever you need to score.
He’s not overly explosive or flashy, he simply does what you need and that’s it. He’s solid everywhere and efficient in it all. He isn’t going to be a superstar but he will be a sturdy role player throughout his entire career.
For the Lakers, adding bench depth was important and adding the dependent Hart was a smart move.