Re-drafts serve two main purposes: the opportunity to evaluate what teams would do differently if given the opportunity and to re-rank the players in each particular draft class. Unfortunately, team needs can’t be entirely ignored in re-drafts if they’re being done with logic in mind, but it only slightly impacts the exercise. To keep things simple, all the trades that happened on draft night will still happen even if it doesn’t make sense for the teams to execute the trade anymore. I don’t want to hear any “well, the Mavericks and Hawks would’ve never made that trade if Luka Doncic wasn’t available anymore.” That’s true, but it’s also trivial. Regardless of the means in which it happened, each team ultimately owned the picks they made and it will stay that way for this re-draft. Putting teams back in their original draft position is useless because even if those trades weren’t made anymore, some other unpredictable set of transactions would be. The order would still be wrong in this hypothetical alternate reality. With all that cleared up, here’s how the 2018 NBA Draft SHOULD’VE gone.
1. Suns: Luka Doncic (Original Draft Position: 3)
This should’ve been the pick on draft day for the Suns and it remains the case today. Anyone with a keen understanding of what Luka Doncic was doing in Europe at 18 years old knew he was the best player in the draft. Now, Doncic is performing like a generational talent. In just his 2nd NBA season, Doncic is already being talked about as a legitimate MVP candidate averaging 29 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists per game so far this season. Doncic and Booker could’ve formed a dynamic perimeter force for Phoenix, but the Suns just couldn’t resist the appeal of taking Arizona alum DeAndre Ayton. Hopefully the ticket sales to local Wildcats fans were worth passing on a transcendent superstar.
2. Kings: Jaren Jackson (Original Draft Position: 4)
Just for clarity, Trae Young deserves to be the 2nd player off the board in this redraft and he would be if it weren’t for De’Aaron Fox. The Kings have too many good, young perimeter players to justify taking Young in this spot, so Jaren Jackson it is. Jackson has shown the potential to be an elite two-way force in the NBA. As it turns out, draft evaluators were right to dismiss his lack of scoring production in college. Jackson’s skillset on the offensive end as an athletic big with 3-point range perfectly translated to the NBA and he looks poised to thrive as one of the top scoring options for the Grizzlies. Jackson would’ve thrived next to De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento and would’ve been a much cleaner fit on the Kings roster as the starting center than the undersized Marvin Bagley. Instead, Memphis gets to pair Jackson with Ja Morant and the two look poised to adequately succeed Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in Memphis.
3. Mavericks: Trae Young (Original Draft Position: 5)
The Mavericks haven’t been able to find an answer at the point guard position since the Jason Kidd days and Young would’ve put an end to those problems very quickly. Although Mavericks fans would be upset to lose Luka Doncic, Trae Young is a pretty excellent consolation prize. It’s hard to live up to comparisons to the only unanimous MVP in league history, but Young might actually be doing so. Young kicked off his 2nd NBA season with a 38-point, 9-assist performance on opening night and followed that up with a 39-point, 9 assist night in the second game of the season. The former Oklahoma point guards is now averaging 27 points and 9 assists this season. Trae Young looks every bit the show stopping talent that he was in college and if things continue like this, maybe Young could be in-line for a unanimous MVP of his own one day…
4. Grizzlies: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Original Draft Position: 11)
Even if we live in a world where the Grizzlies somehow ended up with both Shai and Ja Morant, the two could seamlessly coexist and form one of the most dynamic young backcourts in the NBA. Shai is already showing an ability to play at an extremely high-level alongside an elite point guard in Chris Paul, he could do the same with Morant. The former Clipper and centerpiece of the Paul George trade is averaging right around 20 points this season and should continue to shine for a Thunder team banking on the Kentucky product developing into a star. It’s hard to replace a player who has done as much for Oklahoma City as Russell Westbrook, but Gilgeous-Alexander is doing pretty well. The future of the Thunder is in good hands.
5. Hawks: DeAndre Ayton (Original Draft Position: 1)
Despite his recent suspension, DeAndre Ayton remains one of the best young players in the league. It’s hard for Ayton to get the same national attention that Luka Doncic and Trae Young are receiving when he’s the 2nd option on an unpopular Phoenix team, but Ayton’s play in the early part of his NBA career doesn’t come close to warranting the “bust” label that some have already begun to throw around as Ayton struggles with personal issues. It will be difficult for Ayton to ever live up to his draft position, especially in such a loaded class, but he has all the makings of a player who will be a really good center for a long time.
6. Magic: Marvin Bagley (Original Draft Position: 2)
Originally, I was going to have the Magic select Collin Sexton for the sake of need, but who are we kidding? The Magic don’t draft for need. What an absurd thing to do! Need didn’t stop the Magic from selecting Mohamed Bamba in the original draft, so why should it stop them from taking Marvin Bagley when given a do-over? Sure, things might get a little tricky with Aaron Gordon, Marvin Bagley and Jonathan Isaac all on the same roster, but the Magic will figure it out. Talent is the only thing that matters, right? The Magic’s organizational philosophies aside, Bagley would be hard to pass on at this point in the draft. He hasn’t performed like the Kings would’ve liked him to thus far, but it’s still early and Bagley’s skill set remains extremely enticing. He’s yet to add a consistent 3-point shot, but he’s shown enough as a shooter that there’s still hope he could develop 3-point range down the road. Bagley’s freakish athleticism help to make him a dangerous inside scoring threat and tremendous rebounder. Bagley was one of the youngest players in the 2018 NBA draft, so a bit of patience may be required for his body to develop enough to grow into a star. His potential remains through the roof. NBA fans shouldn’t write off the top pick just yet.
7. Bulls: Collin Sexton (Original Draft Position: 8)
Collin Sexton has proven that he can score at the NBA level and score efficiently. Similarly to the Mavericks, the Bulls have also been in a search for their next point guard since Derrick Rose was traded. As a matter of fact, both teams have brought in Rajon Rondo to try and solve the issue. The Bulls have gone through a number of young players at the position, but nothing has stuck to this point (though the early returns on Coby White aren’t bad). Collin Sexton and Zach LaVine wouldn’t be shutting down anyone on the defensive end, but they’d be a nightmare for opposing teams to guard. Some took the Cavaliers selection of Darius Garland in this past draft as a sign that the team was unhappy with Sexton, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The plan seems to be to pair Garland and Sexton together in the backcourt and hope they turn into something somewhat resembling what Portland has with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. While those are lofty expectations for the Cavaliers guard duo, it doesn’t seem totally out of the realm of possibility. If things go right, Cleveland’s could be in the conversation for best backcourt in the Eastern Conference and maybe even the entire NBA in five years or so.
8. Cavaliers: Wendell Carter (Original Draft Position: 7)
Wendell Carter Jr. hasn’t started his career spectacularly, but he’s been solid, which is exactly what Chicago expected to be getting when drafting Carter 7th overall. The only real knocks on Carter thus far are that his fit with Lauri Markkanen isn’t as seamless as the Bulls may have hoped for and his 3-point shot hasn’t developed the way some projected it to. Other than that, the former Duke big man has looked the part of a cornerstone for Chicago’s future. He’s putting up stats that would be good for any starting center, nevermind one in just his second year in the league. Carter’s slight drop has more to do with the rest of his draft class exceeding expectations than him underperforming. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are both likely available to other teams for the right price as the Cavaliers look to commit to their young core. Carter could immediately step into Cleveland as the big man of the future and form an intriguing young pick and roll duo with Darius Garland.
9. Knicks: Miles Bridges (Original Draft Position: 12)
Kevin Knox has been wildly inconsistent for the Knicks in the early part of his career. Meanwhile, Miles Bridges having far more success as the type of score-first, athletic forward the Knicks hoped they were getting in Knox. Miles Bridges’ scoring has stood out this season for Charlotte and though his defense leaves much to be desired, his athleticism should give his team hope that he can improve on that end of the floor as his career progresses. Bridges has the potential to be an effective 3rd scoring option and could someday compare quite similarly to someone like Tobias Harris or Marcus Morris.
10. Suns: Devonte’ Graham (Original Draft Position: 34)
Graham has quickly made a name for himself this season for the Hornets and he’s probably making them deeply regret signing Terry Rozier to a lucrative contract this offseason. Graham is averaging 18.0 PPG through 14 games this season to go along with 7.3 APG and shooting 42% from three. Graham is slowly emerging as an adequate replacement for Kemba Walker and if he can continue his incredible scoring, he should find himself much higher in future re-drafts for his class. Although Phoenix signed Ricky Rubio this offseason, the team could still use some help at the point guard position. Graham would provide them with at least a competent backup and at most a starter to replace Rubio when the tile comes.
11. Clippers: Landry Shamet (Original Draft Position: 26)
Although the Clippers ended up with Shamet eventually, it wasn’t originally through the draft. They make sure that changes this time around. Doc Rivers and company made it a point to target offensive minded guards in the 2018 draft and with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander long gone and Jerome Robinson having failed to live up to his lottery pick status, Shamet becomes the logical choice. Shamet’s shooting start to the 2019-20 season hasn’t been ideal, but he should get more open looks once Paul George and Kawhi Leonard start playing together and his percentages should improve. Despite his sophomore slump, Shamet proved during his rookie season that he has the ability to be one of the best shooters in the NBA and that he should’ve been taken well before the 26th pick.
12. Hornets: Kevin Knox (Original Draft Position: 9)
The Knicks have been patient with Knox in the early part of his career and that patience appears and their offseason moves only further necessitate that patience. The minutes are few and far between for Knox with the glut of forwards on New York’s roster. Still, the Knicks future is starting to look someone bright on the wing is with the pairing of RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox. The Hornets will be someone disappointed to lose Bridges, but Knox profiles somewhat similarly and should be able to slide into a similar role to the one Bridges currently plays for Charlotte.
13. Clippers: Josh Okogie (Original Draft Position: 20)
While Okogie’s 3-point shot still has a ways to go, his defense and energy off the bench has given Minnesota a much needed spark. Okogie’s ability to impact games without an extremely effective offensive repertoire is pretty impressive. If he can ever develop a consistent jumpshot, he’d quickly become perhaps the most coveted role player on the wing in the NBA. Okogie would fit right in with the Clippers gritty, defensive minded guards and wings and would provide and even more nightmarish defensive lineup for LA if they trotted out Beverley, Okogie, Leonard, George and Harrell all at once.
14. Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. (Original Draft Position: 14)
Porter Jr. hasn’t done much for Denver, but it remains difficult to pass up on a player with his kind of potential at this stage of the draft. MPJ is finally returning to the court and shooting the ball well, but his minutes remain limited for a contending Nuggets team. It’s hard to make any real judgements on Porter Jr. until there’s a slightly larger sample size, but the flashes he’s shown in practice and in his limited playing time still make him worth a late lottery pick.
15. Wizards: Mitchell Robinson (Original Draft Position: 36)
The Wizards have been atrocious defensively this season and if they’re going to continue to start Isaiah Thomas and Bradley Beal every night, they could use a shot blocking presence down low. Robinson has made the most of his opportunity with the Knicks and has shown that his athleticism and rim protection seamlessly translate to the NBA. Robinson’s defense is desperately needed in Washington and he’d have plenty of opportunities to rack up the blocks as defenders blow by the Wizards weak perimeter defense.
16. 76ers: Kevin Huerter (Original Draft Position: 19)
The 76ers desperately need shooting following JJ Redick’s departure and Huerter would be a nice option off the bench. Philadelphia’s love for size wouldn’t take a hit either with Huerter coming in on the tall end for shooting guards at an impressive 6’7”. Huerter hasn’t been an elite shooter so far in his NBA career, but his very respectable and consistent 38% shooting from deep would be a welcome sight for Philadelphia.
17. Bucks: Anfernee Simons (Original Draft Position: 24)
Portland searched for years for a capable backup behind Damian Lillard and they appear to have finally found one. Simons opened some eyes last season when he dropped 37 points in the season finale. His previous career-high before that game was only 9 points. This season, Simons is averaging over 11 points per game off the Blazers’ bench and forming perhaps the best 3-man scoring backcourt in the NBA. Simons would fit in nicely with Giannis and the Bucks behind Eric Bledsoe in some capacity. He’s already performing the way Milwaukee had hoped that their actual selection, Donte DiVencenzo, would have.
18. Spurs: Robert Williams (Original Draft Position: 27)
The Spurs have plenty of guards and wings, but they could use another big next to LaMarcus Aldridge and a defensive minded one at that. Robert Williams is still extremely raw as a prospect, but has excelled as a shot blocker in the early part of his career. It’s hard to know if anyone will be able to reign in Williams, coach his mental mishaps out of him and mold him into a reliable player, but Gregg Popovich would have as good a chance as anyone.
19. Hawks: Mohamed Bamba (Original Draft Position: 6)
Bamba’s fall down the draft isn’t entirely his fault. Much of the blame falls on Orlando for drafting him to sit behind All-Star Nikola Vucevic. In another situation, Bamba would likely be producing at a higher level. As the backup in Orlando, he’s shooting horribly from the floor and failing to show the shot blocking ability that he flashed in college. Maybe Bamba will get a second chance in another city sometime soon, but for now, calling him a “bust” isn’t unfair. Still, he’d be a nice fit in Atlanta with Trae Young and John Collins if he can figure some things out.
20. Timberwolves: Mikal Bridges (Original Draft Position: 10)
Bridges lost his starting role to Kelly Oubre last season and things have only gone downhill from there. The Suns probably regret their decision to trade up for the former Villanova national champion as his spot in the rotation appears to be getting diminished more and more by the game. Bridges shooting has gone completely in the tank as he’s started his sophomore season hitting just 22% of his threes and 58% of his free throws. It may be a confidence issue at this point for the Suns wing and if Phoenix keeps winning the way they have in the early part of the season, it’s hard to justify playing someone performing as poorly as Bridges much at all. Without Okogie on the board, Minnesota would likely take Bridges in the hopes that he’d find better success up north.
Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick)
Troy Brown (No. 15 pick)
Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick)
Donte DiVencenzo (No. 17 pick)
Lonnie Walker (No. 18 pick)
Photo: (Richard W. Rodriguez – AP Photo)