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Explaining Every First-Round Pick of the 2018 NBA Draft

Brian Freeman looks at all 30 first-rounders, how they make sense, and the impact they’ll have on their teams.

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NBA is in the history books and the fortunes of many NBA teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, will rise or fall based on last night’s event. If you missed the proceedings or are wondering how picks will impact the immediate future, here’s a synopsis of each selection and its merits...or lack thereof.

No. 1: Phoenix Suns

DeAndre Ayton | C | Arizona Wildcats

Ayton was the rumored pick and the obvious one here. He has a great frame, great athletic potential and solid skill for a big his age. Ayton meshes well with the young Suns core, and gives Phoneix a lot of hope for the future. I have my doubts that Ayton will be the best player in the draft, as there are other players with high ceilings, but Ayton is the closest to a sure thing that there is.

No. 2: Sacramento Kings

Marvin Bagley III | PF | Duke Blue Devils

Bagley walks on the floor as the best player for the Kings. He’s my guess as the rookie of the year favorite. He has all of the offensive skill you could hope for in a 19 year old, plays hard and is physically elite. He has the skills to be a rim defender but has not shown that to be part of his game. He will put up monster stats with the Kings but only time will tell if he is able to help them become a winning franchise.

No. 3: Atlanta Hawks (Traded to Mavericks)

Luka Doncic | PG | Real Madrid (Spain)

The Hawks swapped out the 3rd pick to the Mavericks for the 5th pick and a future lottery protected first. In doing so, Dallas trades up for one of the best players in the draft with an incredible ceiling. Doncic has the best resume of any prospect after winning league MVP for the Euro-champions Real Madrid. At just 18 years old, Doncic has great size, is a great passer, should be able to compliment Dennis Smith.

No. 4: Memphis Grizzlies

Jaren Jackson Jr | PF | Michigan State Spartan

This was the best case scenario pick for Jackson. He’s a terrific athlete for his size, one of the better big men defenders in the draft and can shoot the ball from deep. His pairing in the front court with Marc Gasol is ideal. Jackson is young so a veteran group like the Grizzlies will only help his growth.

No. 5: Dallas Mavericks (Traded to Hawks)

Trae Young | PG | Oklahoma Sooners

The Hawks clearly wanted Trae Young and managed to get another future first-round pick in addition to getting their man. This certainly does not bode well for the future of Dennis Schroeder, but that relationship may have already been beyond repairing. Expect a trade shortly. In grabbing Young, Atlanta takes a gamble on a player that is undersized, but led all of the NCAA division in both points and assists. The guy is a danger to pull from anywhere on the court at any time.

No. 6: Orlando Magic

Mohamed Bamba | C | Texas Longhorns

Can’t mention Mohamed Bamba without mentioning his nearly 8-foot wingspan—currently the longest in the NBA. Orlando is no where near ready to compete yet, but the Magic frontcourt of Mamba, Johnathon Isaac, and Aaron Gordon becomes ones of the longest the NBA has ever seen.

No. 7: Chicago Bulls

Wendell Carter Jr | PF/C | Duke Blue Devils

The Bulls add a ying to the yang of Lauri Markkenan. Carter can defend the rim and rebound but he also is a high-IQ player with a soft touch from outside and great court vision. His mobility raises some questions about his ceiling, but his floor is about as high as anyone’s in the draft.

No. 8: Cleveland Cavaliers

Collin Sexton | PG | Alabama Crimson Tide

This seemed like a reach for the Alabama guard but it’s a defensible one. Sexton is a tough little guard with great speed and body control. He’s also a high character guy. It should probably be mentioned that LeBron James is on the record as a Colin Sexton supporter.

No. 9: New York Knicks

Kevin Knox | SF | Kentucky Wildcats

New York Knick fans booed when Knox was selected, only because they hoped for Michael Porter Jr. They may not understand exactly what they have. Knox has an NBA ready body, great toughness and the bones of a good shot. His ceiling is high, especially with his defensive versatility, and New York will love him soon.

No. 10: Philadelphia 76ers (Traded to Suns)

Mikal Bridges | SF | Villanova Wildcats

The 76ers traded this pick to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and a future first. The Suns get a proven winner, and an NBA ready three that can do a little bit of everything. Adding Bridges and Ayton to an up-and-coming team and the Suns walk away with the best draft of any team.

No. 11: Charlotte Hornets (Traded to Clippers)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | PG/SG | Kentucky Wildcats

The Hornets knew that the Clippers wanted Alexander and grabbed two second-rounders from the Clippers to allow a swap. It’s no surprise why Los Angles was so enamored with SGA. He has great size for a point guard, great length and can hit consistently from deep. The Clippers came into the off-season with some confusion at the point guard spot, but Gilgeous-Alexander may have just solved all of those problems.

No. 12: Los Angeles Clippers (Traded to Hornets)

Miles Briges | SF/PF | Michigan State Spartans

Bridges was the guy the Hornets wanted and got a couple picks along with him. Bridges has an interesting profile. He is undersized to play the four, but he doesn’t have the ball handling or shot to be a three. That said, Bridges is a phenomenal athlete and uses his physical gifts well. He plays with passion and owns a non-stop motor. His position is questionable but his activity allows him to contribute anytime he steps on the floor.

No. 13: Los Angeles Clippers

Jerome Robinson | SG | Boston College Golden Eagles

Jerome Robinson flew under the radar more than any other player in this draft, but make no mistake. This is not a reach. Robinson is one of the better shooters in the draft and has one of the most complete scoring arsenals as well. He is not a defender but when he’s on the court, his job will be to get buckets. That’s something he can do at a very high level.

No. 14: Denver Nuggets

Michael Porter Jr | SF | Missouri Tigers

The talk of the draft early was the fall of Michael Porter Jr. Porter is arguably the most talented player in the entire draft, but a back injury in his first collegiate game cost him most of the season and raised serious questions about his health. If Porter can regain his pre-injury form, one of the better up-and-coming teams may have added the best player in the draft with the number 14 pick. The Nuggets arguably did the same thing last year by taking rookie of the year candidate Donovan Mitchell with the 13th pick, but traded him before he was ever able to put on a Nuggets jersey.

No. 15: Washington Wizards

Troy Brown | SG | Oregon Ducks

The Wizards have needed a player with size who can create for awhile now. That’s exactly what Brown brings. He is a suspect shooter and scorer, also not a great athlete. But he has great size, superb vision and is skilled with the ball. He brings another dimension to a Wizards team in need of a few.

No. 16: Phoenix Suns (Traded to 76ers)

Zhaire Smith | SF | Texas Tech Red Raiders

The 76ers drafted Mikal Bridges 10, and it seemed to be a great fit. The 76ers then swapped Bridges for Zhaire Smith and a future unprotected first. Smith does not have the same fit. He is a jaw-dropping athlete and future dunk contest winner with a good-looking shot out to 3-point range. But he is not nearly as NBA ready as Bridges, which seems important to a team on the cusp of contention like the 76ers are. It will be interesting to see if the 76ers are able to use that extra first round pick to make a bigger splash in free agency.

No. 17: Milwaukee Bucks

Donte DiVincenzo | PG/SG | Villanova Wildcats

Milwaukee already has Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon, two capable point guards, but Divincenzo gives the backcourt some depth and another option at shooting guard, their weakest position. DiVincenzo is athletic, can shoot, and plays with swagger that can help the Bucks in the short future.

No. 18: San Antonio Spurs

Lonnie Walker IV | SG | Miami Hurricanes

This was one of the better picks in the draft. The Spurs get a bona fide scorer and high ceiling prospect. Walker has all the physical tools a team wants in a guard. Once he finally took over as the go-to option at Miami, things began to click and his potential became clear. San Antonio needs backcourt scoring and Walker will be able to provide that right away.

No. 19: Atlanta Hawks

Kevin Huerter | SG/SF | Maryland Terrapins

The Hawks took used their two top-20 picks to nab arguably the two best shooters in the entire draft. Huerter can hit coming off screens, he’s a lights out spot up shooter, and he has the size to get his shot off against most defenders.

No. 20: Minnesota Timberwolves

Josh Okogie | SG/SF | Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Minnesota grabs an athletic wing to strengthen the rotation. Okogie has some work to do on the offensive side of the ball, but he can come in defensively and make a difference on day one. I’m sure head coach Tom Thibbideau has no complaints about that.

No. 21: Utah Jazz

Grayson Allen | SG | Duke Blue Devils

Utah’s offense is based almost completely on guards Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio making plays for other people. The Jazz just added another option by getting a big-time shot maker who can run the shooting guard position. Allen is a tough kid, a guy you want taking big shots, and helps fill a void in Utah.

No. 22: Chicago Bulls

Chandler Hutchison | SF | Boise State Broncos

The worst-kept secret in the league: Chicago takes Chandler Hutchinson, whom they promised to select weeks ago. The Bulls have former lottery picks at all their starting positions other than small forward, so the fit makes a lot of sense. Hutchinson has a broad skill set and can come in and contribute on day one.

No. 23: Indiana Pacers

Aaron Holiday | PG | UCLA Bruins

One of the more underrated picks in the draft, Holiday provides a good complement for Victor Olidipo, as he can play off the ball and is a lights-out shooter. His 6’1 size is a red flag, but he can score at all three levels and his length will allow him to compete defensively.

No. 24: Portland Trail Blazers

Anfernee Simons | PG | IMG Acadamy (Prep)

The Blazers were in need of immediate help to get them to the next level but elected to take a high-potential project who may not have much effect over the next few years. Simons is an impressive athlete with a great shot for a 18 year old and has a potential to stick around in the league for awhile. The timing and fit here are the biggest questions.

No. 25: Los Angeles Lakers

Moritz Wagner | PF | Michigan Wolverines

Wagner is a warrior on the court. He plays with passion. He is a suspect athlete but he has a deadly ranged shot and can also put the ball on the floor. Offensively, he’ll be able to create matchup problems for opposing bigs. The Lakers’ future is filled with uncertainty, but no matter who else is on the roster, Wagner will be an asset.

No. 26: Philadelphia 76ers

Landry Shamet | PG/SG | Witchita State Shockers

This was a bit of an interesting pick. The fit here is unclear. The 76ers have mutliple different options available already at the point guard position in Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, and TJ McConnell. It’s hard to see where Shamet will find playing time. Shamet is one of the more intelligent leaders in the draft. He makes the right play and avoids turnovers. He is neither a great athlete not strong, but his size, ability to hit shots, and basketball IQ are all more than NBA-ready. He may be used more as a shooting guard, where his shooting ability will show.

No. 27: Boston Celtics

Robert Williams | C | Texas A&M Aggies

Sometimes teams get extremely lucky in drafts. This is one of those times. Williams is a phenomenal athlete, strong and aggressive, and can control the paint at a level few of his draft mates can. His offensive game is developing, but as a rebounder and defender, he can help the Celtics immediately. Rebounding and paint protection are some of the biggest areas of need in Boston. Williams is a lottery-type talent with needed skills who dropped in their laps at 27. Great pick for the Celtics.

No. 28: Golden State Warriors

Jacob Evans | SG/SF | Cincinnati Bearcats

Jabob Evans gives the Warriors depth at the wing spots and is fit to play the “switch everything” defense Golden State has made famous. Evans is NBA-ready defensively, and is a true athlete. His offensive game will not be his strong suit, but he does have the tools to knock down an open shot if necessary.

No. 29: Brooklyn Nets

Dzanan Musa | PF | Cedevita (Croatia)

Musa could have helped his draft positioning had he wanted to stay in Europe as a stash player, but the Croatian was determined to get a taste of the NBA this year. He doesn’t have much of an NBA body and will need to work on that before he makes much of an impact. He is a below-average defender, but he has a tough demeanor at least. Offensively he’s skilled as a passer and a shooter...not great at any one thing but solid across the board.

No. 30: Atlanta Hawks

Omari Spellman | C | Villanova

I’m surprised Spellman went in the first round. Don’t get me wrong, he has talent, but he’s not a great athlete and is undersized as an NBA big. Atlanta may have been tempted by his shooting, something he developed in his lone season at Villanova. Omari could find his niche in the NBA with his shooting and a mature face up game. Although undersized, he has great lower body strength and should be able to hold his own in the post against other bigs.