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The 2018 NBA Draft brings many promising players, especially big men. Five of the first seven picks were either centers or power forwards. Many of these players will contribute to their teams right out of the gate, while others may have to wait for their time to come. Below are the players who currently have the best outlook to contend for Rookie of the Year this upcoming season.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young took college basketball by storm this past season while playing for Oklahoma. The 6-foot-2 scoring machine put up insane numbers, scoring a ridiculous 27.4 points per game while dishing out 8.7 assists. If Atlanta feels that they are ready to move on from Dennis Schroder at point guard and hand the keys to Young, then he will look to become the focal point on offense and floor general for the Hawks, a team that severely lacks star power. Young is the best scorer in this draft, and he has nearly unlimited shooting range, drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry. There are questions as to how well Trae Young will be able to defend at the next level, but his scoring and play-making abilities should place him at or near the top of the race for Rookie of the Year next season.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton was widely expected to become the first overall pick for a while, appearing at number one in nearly every mock draft. Standing at 7 feet tall, he had a monster freshman season during his only year at Arizona, averaging 20.1 points per game and 11.6 rebounds. Ayton, a very polished post-scorer, has tremendous potential to become a superstar in the NBA. His defense and perimeter play are a work in progress, but he still has a lot of room for growth, showing just how scary he can become. With the Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton will become an immediate contributor, as he will likely start at center. Playing alongside rising star Devon Booker may limit Ayton’s scoring opportunities in his rookie season, but he has a great chance to contend for Rookie of the Year because of his tools and upside.
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings picked up a tremendous talent in Marvin Bagley III. As a freshman at Duke, he demonstrated outstanding efficiency and possessed a very high motor, posting averages of 21 points per game and 11.1 rebounds. He is a force on the offensive glass and loves to score off of second-chance points. The 6-foot-11 Arizona native can play either power forward or center and can extend his game out to the perimeter, giving him the opportunity to thrive at the next level. Despite the concerns over his length and his ability to defend bigger or stronger players, Bagley’s offensive game and athleticism give him enough tools to become an all-star and beyond in the NBA, a league that loves bigs that can stretch the floor. In Sacramento, Bagley will look to bolster the frontcourt with his scoring and rebounding abilities along with his freak athleticism. What gives Bagley a great chance to win Rookie of the Year is the fact that he doesn’t need to have plays drawn up for him in order to score and make an impact, as he excels at offensive rebounding and putbacks.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
At just 19 years old, European guard Luka Doncic has already won a EuroLeague MVP, a Finals MVP, and a title in Liga ACB overseas. Playing professional basketball in Madrid and achieving so much already makes Doncic the most NBA-ready guard in the draft. In the EuroLeague this past season, Doncic averaged 16 points and 4.3 assists per game. He has great size for his position at 6-foot-8, he has a superb basketball-IQ, and his court vision is excellent. If Doncic’s game translates to the NBA, he has a chance to become an international star for the Dallas Mavericks, just like Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki. He will likely start in the backcourt along with Dennis Smith Jr., and the duo can become a force to be reckoned with if they can compliment each other well. Doncic’s intelligence will allow him to impact games at a high level next season.
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
In what was believed to be the steal of the draft, the Nuggets decided to take a gamble on Michael Porter Jr., who missed pretty much his entire freshman season at Missouri due to a back injury. Porter was an absolute phenom in high school, scoring 36.2 points and grabbing 13.6 rebounds during his senior season. This is the reason that he was number one recruit coming out of high school before Bagley reclassified and took over the top spot. Porter, a 6-foot-10 small forward, has tremendous versatility and can become a mismatch nightmare in the NBA, given he stays healthy. It is currently unknown as to whether or not Porter will be able to be a full-time player in the NBA next season due to his back. If he can, he will become the wing player that the Nuggets needed and look to contribute in several different ways. You can still make the case for Porter being the best player in this draft class, but we will have to wait and see if he can overcome his back injury and return to the level at which he played at in high school.
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
This one really depends on what moves the Cleveland Cavaliers will try to make to keep LeBron James, and whether or not LeBron stays. The Cavs have been rumored to be targeting Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker in trade talks. If Cleveland trades for another star and keeps LeBron, Sexton likely will not be able to showcase his talents at a high level right away. However, if LeBron decides to leave, then Sexton will have the ball in his hands much more frequently and have the opportunity to score and make plays. At Alabama, Sexton showed just how good of a scorer he could be, averaging 19.2 points per game as a freshman. The 6-foot-3 point guard plays with physicality and is very active on the defensive end. Cleveland, lacking defense this past season, drafted Sexton to rejuvenate them in that category. Expect Collin Sexton to be in Rookie of the Year conversation next season if he gets the spotlight in Cleveland.