The 2018 NBA Draft Class was one of the most hyped in recent years. Below are five guys who have either lived up to the hype or jumped off the page and exceeded their draft expectations.
5. Mitchell Robinson
Win Shares 4.5
Drafted 36th by the New York Knicks, Robinson has been a shot blocking machine this year. He leads his rookie class in win shares per 48 minutes and his total win shares number is as many as all the other second round picks combined.
In only 19 minutes a game, the seven foot one Robinson is averaging 2.4 blocks a game. To put this into perspective, only Myles Turner and Anthony Davis have more blocks per game and they both play 28 plus minutes a night.
Mitchell Robinson gets switched on LeBron James on the perimeter. LeBron misses the stepback 3 and puts up a wedgie. Robinson walks right past him after LeBron falls to the floor on the shot. pic.twitter.com/YNZDdmlUkR— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) March 17, 2019
The “Block Ness Monster,” is a diamond in the rough for the Knicks. He has the highest on-off rating of any player on the Knicks that has played more than fifteen games.
Already a great rebounder, if Robinson can get his fouling under control, he could be an important part of the Knicks rebuild.
4. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Win Shares 3.5
Jackson has made an instant impact on a rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies team. Rookies usually don’t impact teams positively on defence. But Jackson has been the exception to this rule. He can defend out to the perimeter as well as the rim.
TRIED TO TELL YALL ABOUT ANTHONY DAVIS 2.0— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 1, 2018
Jaren Jackson Jr. brings Memphis all the way back.
34 and counting SPLASH for overtime pic.twitter.com/FKtx4BHWsk
While his rim protection numbers are excellent in both blocked shots as well as a number of contested shots. There are shades of Kevin Garnett when watching Jackson play.
He can shoot three-pointers off the dribble, he can defend, and he can pass. Shooting an impressive 35% from three-point land as well as an elite 73% at the rim, Jackson is the piece Memphis is building around long-term. One of the youngest rookies in this class, he has legitimate All-Star upside.
3. DeAndre Ayton
Win Shares 5.6
Selected with the number one pick by the Phoenix Suns, Ayton has had an impressive first season in the NBA. Coming out of Arizona, Ayton had massive wraps on his offensive package.
Deandre Ayton muscles down the rebound and hits Devin Booker for a deep three-pointer 😳— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 17, 2019
With a well-rounded post game and a nice jumper that has three-point potential, Ayton has shown all the skills that had him drafted first. Encouragingly for the Suns he is 18th in the league in two point % representing some excellent finishing around the rim. Though his defence was a concern coming out of college, he has flashed some of the skills needed to be a defence anchoring centre.
On a Suns team that has disappointed all year, Ayton has been a shining light. His strength under the rim has meant he can easily overwhelm small ball fives. Already an excellent rebounder at 10.4 a game, with his physical tools there is no reason he cant be one of the NBA’s elite big men.
2. Trae Young
Win Shares 2.3
Young has had a strong first season in the league. Drafted fifth by the Dallas Mavericks he was immediately traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Luka Doncic.
Young’s amazing shooting at Oklahoma put the basketball world on notice. Though he is a great shooter, his first NBA season he has been more Steve Nash than Stephen Curry.
Trae Young was pulling up from everywhere. 😤 pic.twitter.com/3YQ96JR4Nk— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) March 16, 2019
His exemplary floor vision and high-level passing has been on display for all to see this year. Be it finding shooters on the perimeter or throwing lobs in the pick and roll to John Collins, Young is already an elite playmaker in the league. His shooting improvements have pushed Atlanta’s record from a measly five wins in the first two month of the season to 19 and 25 since. Shooting 41.4% since the start of February, Atlanta now has a point guard for the future.
Win Shares 4.3
Luka Doncic is having a remarkable rookie year. Acrobatic buzzer beaters and step back threes have been just two parts of his offensive repertoire. There was plenty of hype on Luka coming out of Europe but his polished shooting and passing game has surprised many. Still only 20 years old, he has ability to create off the dribble, out of the pick and roll and in the half court.
With an impressive floater game, he is shooting 46% from this range. He is also comfortable shooting three pointers. Though his percentages have flagged slightly from deep he has excellent form and mechanics.
With several game winning plays under his belt already, Luka is destined to be a star in this league for years to come. The Rookie of the Year will be he his first award in the NBA but it won’t be his last.