With the dust newly settling on the outcome of the 2018 NBA Draft, we saw a myriad of new faces find employment in new places. It’s always something of a silly exercise to try and grade the performance of teams in the draft, considering we still have to see how the careers of their draft picks play out.
That being said, three teams definitely took huge steps towards creating a brighter future for their franchise, based on their work in the draft.
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Phoenix Suns — The simple truth is that the Phoenix Suns walked out of the 2018 NBA Draft taking the guy who was the #1 player in most people’s eyes (DeAndre Ayton from the University of Arizona), trading for a two-time national champion whom most people had as a top 10 value (Mikal Bridges from Villanova University), and a potential long-term answer at point guard whom many people had as a mid-1st round value (Elie Okobo from France). If Ayton’s motor comes anything close to his talent, he’ll be a dominant player in the league for a decade. Bridges will add toughness, intangibles, and a winning attitude to a Suns’ locker room that sorely needs it. Okobo is a deceptively creative facilitator who’s not afraid of taking big shots in big moments. This entire haul represented an enormous step forward for Phoenix.
Dallas Mavericks — In the eyes of many NBA analysts, if the Phoenix Suns didn’t walk out of the NBA Draft with the best player, then the Dallas Mavericks did, after striking a deal with the Atlanta Hawks to secure the services of Luka Doncic, the Slovenian teenage basketball prodigy from Real Madrid. Even though Doncic is listed as a point guard, and would theoretically conflict with Dallas’ topic pick last year (Dennis Smith Jr.), Doncic’s height (6’8), court vision, shooting, and creativitity will allow Dallas to play him in the off-guard spot next to Smith. And as if they didn’t have enough playmekers in the back court, Dallas added point guard Jalen Brunson from Villanova University, who happened to be the consensu National College Player of the Year in 2018, and a first-team All-American in college. As the Mavericks look at “life after Dirk Nowitzki,” suddenly that horizon is much brighter thanks to all this new talent.
Atlanta Hawks — Before we theoretically slam the Atlanta Hawks for passing on a guy who looks like a potential star for the next decade, let’s not forget that they also walked out of the draft with one of the most intriguing (if not exciting) names in the class in point guard Trae Young. As the folks in Atlanta would have you believe, new General Manager Travis Schlenk was a member of the Golden State Warriors staff that built the team’s current incarnation with Stephen Curry, and Schlenk seemingly saw a lot of “Curry-like” traits in Young. There’s probably a lot of truth to this idea, considering Schlenk then used the 19th overall pick to select guard Kevin Huerter from the University of Maryland. With these two picks in place, many people saw Schlenk assembling a “splash brothers 2.0”-type of backcourt, with Young playing the role of Curry, and Huerter playing the Klay Thompson role. That has to be exciting for Hawks fans.