In short, pretty good.
I don’t think this draft class has as much upside as last years. Fultz-Ball-Tatum-Mitchell-Smith-etc. looks to be the draft class of the decade.
That said, Bagley-Ayton-Bamba-Porter-Doncic-Young looks pretty good too.
I used to have a NBA Draft Tiers system to project different prospects upside at the next level. It was a useful, although imperfect, way to distinguish between a player’s ceiling, and the likelihood that they would make that ceiling. In the system, the five tiers are Franchise, All-star, Starter, Role player, bench player. Each Tier also include three sub-tiers; one is a “sure-thing” to reach his ceiling, but 3 is “risky” to reach his ceiling.
2017 NBA Draft Tiers (in hindsight)
Franchise 1 – None (reserved for Lebron James, Tim Duncan, and Shaq prospects)
Franchise 2 – None
Franchise 3 – Fultz, Ball
All-star 1 – Tatum, Mitchell
All-star 2 – Jackson, Smith Jr.
All-star 3 – Fox
Starter 1 – Markannen, Isaac
You get the point. If a player has character issues, or significant flaws to his game, it lowers his sub-tier, but his tier is determined by basketball feel, athleticism, and general impact on a game. This system shows us why you might take Tatum or Mitchell over Fultz, because they are in adjacent tiers, but you probably wouldn’t take Jackson over Fultz, because Fultz’s ceiling is higher and there is still risk with Jackson.
2018 NBA Draft Tiers
None. No players have been that dominant on both sides of the ball, without significant questions about their game.
Doncic is a great NBA prospect. His overall impact and athleticism (including size), combined with his young age, clearly puts him a Franchise-type tier. He is a franchise-changer. There are concerns with European guards transitioning to the NBA. He also doesn’t have elite quickness. These concern lower him one sub-tier in this system.
Bagley’s scoring ability looks absolutely elite. His natural feel inside, outside, and everywhere in between is formidable. While not a great shot-blocker, he does contest well on the defensive side. He also has excellent agility which is a must for a big guy defending on the perimeter in the NBA. What lowers him to sub-tier 2? It’d be ideal to see him wreaking more havoc defensively.
Franchise 3 – Ayton
Ayton has elite size and athleticism for an NBA big. He shows a good shooting touch, inside scoring moves, rebounding prowess. However, his competitiveness comes and goes and he is not a great rim protector. These qualities lower him to Franchise sub-tier 3.
Young’s overall impact on the game is elite, but his athleticism is not. It’s good, not great. Also, I have questions about the Sooner system that let’s him jack as many shots as he wants (Buddy Hield is a recent example of a player who had inflated stats in that system). I still think Young has all-star upside, but I don’t think he is the second coming of Curry. He will compete with the next crop of young guards for supremacy, but Smith Jr., Mitchell, Fultz, and Ball all have as much, if not more, raw talent.
Porter’s skinny frame was already concerning, but back issues for a 19 year old kid raise serious questions about his longevity in the NBA. Still, the length and scoring ability are there for him to have All-star upside.
Bamba’s competitiveness combined with this size (7’1” with a 7’9” wingspan) are enough to catch most scouts eyes. His ability to block shots puts him in this tier, but his overall impact, lack of feel, and poor post maneuvers are serious questions about his game.
Comparing the 2017 to the 2018 Draft
So the top 6 in 2018 are at least comparable to the top 6 from the 2017 draft. The problem is that the 2018 draft has a huge drop off after the top 6, but the 2017 draft had another 5-10 starter-level prospects.
As I do more research and watch more games, these tiers remain flexible. What do you think? Email me your questions or comments on the draft tier system.