Top 10 sleepers in 2018 NBA Draft
Every season, the top prospects in the NBA Draft dominate the media coverage, and then the incoming season. However, in every draft there are a couple of players who just fall through the cracks. These players are unquestionably talented but nevertheless get overlooked at the very top of the draft. These ten players could be star players in the future but continue to fly under the radar.
1. Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Mikal Bridges is currently slated to go in the range of picks seven to ten. Bridges has a near flawless college record, winning two national championships at Villanova. Bridges averaged 17.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and shot 51 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc in his junior season.
Bridges also brings a seven-foot wingspan, standing at 6-foot-7 on the wing. The upside of Bridges is his versatility. He can guard both guards and small forwards, and with the way the NBA has changed, he could guard power forwards as well because of his length. Bridges has shown great strides in his overall scoring ability, shooting over 40 percent from three consistently at Villanova.
2. Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Kentucky
Shai Gilgeous Alexander was a late bloomer on the recruiting trail, finishing 35th in the ESPN Top-100 recruiting rankings. Alexander was slated to play behind Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo for Kentucky to start the season. Instead, Alexander jumped to the starting point guard position, averaging 14.4 points and 5.1 assists per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. Alexander brings a similar body type to Mikal Bridges at the guard position — standing 6-foot-6 with a seven-foot wingspan as well. Alexander brings great versatility with stout defense and the ability to dominate the pick and roll as a point guard.
3. Omari Spellman, Villanova
Three players in and we already have two Villanova players. It goes without saying the Wildcats are represented well. Omari Spellman is very much a potential star big man. Spellman played the role of a stretch-five for Villanova this season, averaging 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from three.
The seasonal numbers are not very flattering for Spellman, but college numbers do not necessarily reflect on the NBA — talent does. Spellman has shown the ability to stretch the floor, which is very important in the landscape of today’s NBA. He is projected to go late in the first round. A team like the Portland Trail Blazers, who rely heavily on guard play, could use a stretch big man.
4. Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy
Simons is a rare case, as he is going from high school to the NBA with no college in between. He was able to fast-forward to the NBA Draft because 2017-18 was his “post-grad” year at IMG Academy after graduating high school the year previous. In the past, Thon Maker entered the draft this way. Jonathan Isaac — who also attended IMG on a post grad year — nearly did the same thing before committing to Florida State.
Simons is currently projected to go in the late teens of the draft, or early twenties. Simons’ ability to score at a high rate and his explosiveness are why he has so much upside. He can also lead the break at a high level, always operating with confidence. A team like the Minnesota Timberwolves — who pick in that range — could use Simons with their guard depth being low.
5. Tony Carr, Penn State
After showing signs of upside in his freshman campaign, Tony Carr blew up on a national scale, averaging 19.6 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, leading the Nittany Lions to an NIT title. Carr is a 6-foot-5 physical scoring guard that will be imposing on defense. The X-factor for Carr is that he is built strong at the guard position. Players like Alexander and Simons still need to work on adding to their frame to prepare for the NBA. Physically, Carr will be ready for the grueling 82-game schedule right away.
6. Khyri Thomas, Creighton
Khyri Thomas is one of the best two-way guards in the country. Thomas averaged 15.1 points per game along with 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Thomas played his last season in Omaha as a combo guard for the Blue Jays. Thomas will most likely be a two-guard in the NBA and play off the ball.
Due to his slashing ability, athletic prowess and speed off the first step, he has the potential of turning into a quality NBA shooting guard. Thomas is projected to go in the late teens in the draft. The San Antonio Spurs could take Thomas at pick No. 18, as guards like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are close to the end of their stellar careers and it is important for Popovich to develop some young legs in his backcourt.
7. Jontay Porter, Missouri
A large portion of the NBA Draft hype has been directed at Michael Porter, but don’t forget about his brother Jontay. While Michael had to sit most of the season due to a lower-back injury, Jontay and Missouri still made the NCAA Tournament; largely due to Jontay stepping up as a versatile big man for the Tigers. Jontay stands at 6-foot-11 and has shown an ability to shoot the three-pointer with confidence.
Jontay averaged 9.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game along while shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc. Porter has a lot of upside as an athletic big man that can shoot the three, and he is projected to go late in the first round. Porter reclassified in high school so that he could play college ball early, so he will be one of the youngest players in the draft.
8. Bruce Brown, Miami
Bruce Brown could end up being one of the best defensive guards in this draft class. Brown averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Miami Hurricanes this season. Brown is listed as a 6-foot-5 shooting guard as of right now and it goes without saying seven rebounds per game for a guard of his stature is a very high number in college. Brown has shown upside on the offensive side of the game while dishing out an additional four assists per game this season.
Bruce Brown could be envisioned as playing the role Marcus Smart currently has for the Boston Celtics. Brown is projected to go in the middle of the second round of the draft, where the Memphis Grizzlies could scoop him up. Brown would be an ideal replacement in Grind City to play the role Tony Allen did in years past.
9. Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
Keita Bates-Diop arguably had one of the best seasons in college basketball this season. Diop led the Buckeyes with 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game along with shooting 48% from the field. Diop was known to Big Ten foes as a prolific pure scoring forward during the season. Diop has some similarities to Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram with his body type, slashing ability and shooting touch. The Brooklyn Nets should really give Diop a look at pick No. 40. They could use a forward that can score in bunches and guard small and power forwards.
10. Shake Milton, SMU
Shake Milton might have one of the best names in the draft, but he has game to back that up. Milton led the Mustangs with 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game on the season. Milton made drastic improvements from the previous season, increasing his points per game total from 13 to 18. Milton will enter the NBA with a 6-foot-6 frame at the shooting guard spot. His athletic ability and ability to slash in the lane will make him a lethal scoring threat in the NBA right away. Detroit is picking at 42nd in the second round and should certainly take a look to bolster their offense in the backcourt.