The 2018 NBA Draft will always be remembered for the Luka Doncic-for-Trae Young swap on draft night, but take a second look at this class and you’ll quickly realize it’s deeper than you think.
While there were undoubtedly some misses in the lottery, there were also a lot of franchises that struck gold with later picks.
To name a few: The Suns landed Mikal Bridges at No. 10, the Clippers got Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11, injury concerns saw Michael Porter Jr. fall to the Nuggets at No. 14, Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons (No. 24) and Celtics’ Robert Williams III (No. 27) both went outside the top 20, and the Mavericks selected Jalen Brunson in the early second round.
While the majority of these players are just beginning to establish themselves in the NBA, now feels like an interesting time to revisit the lottery picks with a redraft. Four years removed from the draft, TSN’s Kyle Irving and Gilbert McGregor alternated picks and made their selections based on who they thought deserved to go in each draft spot, regardless of what the team selecting needs most at the moment.
Understood? Great. Let’s dive right into it.
Redrafting the 2018 NBA Draft
1. Luka Doncic, Phoenix Suns
Original pick: Deandre Ayton
There isn’t much debate to be had here. As great as Ayton has been, if the Suns were to redo this pick 10 times, they would take Doncic all 10 times.
From the second he stepped foot in the league, Doncic has looked like a future Hall of Famer. In just four seasons, the 23-year-old already has three All-Star nominations, three All-NBA selections and a Rookie of the Year trophy. For his career, he’s averaging jaw-dropping numbers with 26.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game.
This season, in Year 5, Doncic looks ready to take an MVP leap, posting a league-leading 36.0 points to go with 8.4 rebounds and 8.3 assists over the first nine games.
This is a no-brainer. The No. 1 pick is Luka.
— Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
2. Trae Young, Sacramento Kings
Original pick: Marvin Bagley III
This will surely change in due time but as of now, Young is the only other All-Star from this draft class. He’s also the only other member of this draft class to earn an All-NBA selection, picking up Third Team honors after leading the entire league in total points and assists during the 2021-22 season.
Oh, and he’s also been the best player on a team that reached the conference finals, going off for 48 points and 11 assists while stealing home court from the eventual champion Bucks in 2021.
You talk about a no-brainer, Ice Trae is another.
He’s accomplished everything I just listed before turning 24 and in Year 5, is averaging 28.2 points and 9.4 rebounds for a revamped Hawks team looking to make noise.
— Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Atlanta Hawks
Original pick: Luka Doncic
While I gave Ayton some serious consideration here, Gilgeous-Alexander seems more suited to be a No. 1 option and franchise cornerstone than any other player available.
While we had already seen plenty of flashes from Gilgeous-Alexander in the past, the 24-year-old looks ready to take the leap to All-Stardom in Year 5. SGA has been one of the best players in the entire league to start the season, averaging 30.8 points, 5.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.
MORE: What SGA’s leap to stardom means for the Thunder
Just as the Thunder have committed to him as their future of the franchise, I would do the same with the No. 3 overall pick in a redraft.
4. Deandre Ayton, Memphis Grizzlies
Original pick: Jaren Jackson Jr.
To get the No. 1 overall pick at No. 4 is an absolute steal, although there won’t be much argument from me about picks one through three.
Ayton has been a walking double-double since entering the league, as he averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over the first 71 games of his career. For consistency’s sake, Ayton is now averaging 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds over the first five years of his career.
As for team success, Ayton anchored a Suns defense that came within two wins of an NBA title in 2021 and, as an encore, won a franchise-record 64 games in 2021-22. Recently, things have been a little murky in Phoenix, but Ayton’s future is still very bright.
5. Mikal Bridges, Dallas Mavericks
Original pick: Trae Young
This was a tough decision between two Villanova Wildcats — Bridges and Brunson. In hindsight, I probably would have taken Brunson but there is no wrong answer between these two consummate professionals.
I originally selected Bridges because he is the type of glue guy who can fit on any team or roster. In four seasons, he has very quickly become one of the best 3-and-D players in the entire league and he has continued to improve each year.
Bridges has turned into a reliable secondary scoring option, he has shot over 40 percent from 3 since the start of the 2020-21 season and he’s the type of player you can stick on any perimeter scorer and force an off-night.
On top of that, Bridges has been an iron man in the NBA, yet to miss a single game!
6. Jalen Brunson, Orlando Magic
Original pick: Mo Bamba
The $104 million man is the first to make a major leap in our redraft.
Brunson went 33rd in 2018, which is almost certainly a product of the fact he would be 22 years old in his first NBA game. In retrospect, that decision looks pretty bad.
The 2018 NCAA Player of the Year has been just as solid in the NBA, if not more. He averaged 21.6 points during Dallas’ 2022 playoff run and now, is restoring hope in Knicks fans — that alone is a generational skill.
7. Jaren Jackson Jr., Chicago Bulls
Original pick: Wendell Carter Jr.
This time around, it was a difficult decision between a trio of promising bigs — Jackson, Williams and Carter. All three have proved how valuable they can be when healthy, but I elected to go with the 23-year-old who led the NBA in blocks per game (2.3) last season.
Jackson is one of the best young rim protectors in the NBA but can also step outside and knock down the 3-ball. It feels like we have yet to see the best of Jackson because of injuries but even in a small sample size, I’d feel more than comfortable taking him with a top-10 pick in this redraft.
8. Robert Williams III, Cleveland Cavaliers
Original pick: Collin Sexton
When you talk about defensive anchors, Williams has to be one of the first names to come up. The man they call Timelord came into his own during the 2021-22 season, earning consideration for Defensive Player of the Year and Second Team All-Defensive Team honors.
Injuries have been a cause for concern but when he’s on the floor, there are few members of this draft class that have as big of an impact as Williams.
9. Wendell Carter Jr., New York Knicks
Original pick: Kevin Knox
Carter is an interesting case in this redraft because it really feels like we’re just starting to see the best of him in the NBA. Since the start of the 2021-22 season with the Magic, Carter has averaged 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and his skillset is still evolving.
He went from averaging 0.2 3-pointers made per game through his first three seasons to knocking down over one per game since the start of last year and he’s also developing as a playmaker out of the post.
If we did another 2018 redraft a couple of years down the line, I could see Carter sliding up even further than this.
10. Michael Porter Jr., Philadelphia 76ers
Original pick: Mikal Bridges
The same availability issues that caused MPJ to fall to 14 in 2018 are exactly why he falls to 10 here. Porter is without question a top-five talent, but he missed the entirety of his rookie year and 73 games in Year 3.
When available? Porter is a problem, efficiently putting up numbers with relative ease. Couldn’t pass that up anymore.
11. Collin Sexton, Charlotte Hornets
Original pick: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Sexton has had an up-and-down beginning to his career but there is no denying his ability to score the rock. At 23 years old, he already has two seasons of averaging over 20 points per game under his belt.
He’s coming off of a torn meniscus that cost him all of last season, but I expect the Young Bull to bounce back and once again prove how lethal he can be on the offensive end.
12. Anfernee Simons, LA Clippers
Original pick: Miles Bridges
When the opportunity comes, Simons is ready. He showed flashes as a rookie, but the trade of CJ McCollum paved the way for Simons to share the backcourt with Damian Lillard. The results have been a success.
After averaging 17.3 points over 57 games last year, Simons is averaging 22.3 points per game in his first season as a full-time starter. He’s just 23 and only getting better from here.
13. Gary Trent Jr., LA Clippers
Original pick: Jerome Robinson
Every NBA team needs shooting and if scouting departments realized Trent would turn into the long-range sharpshooter he is, he would’ve gone much earlier than 37th overall in this draft the first time around.
Since 2021-22 — his first full season with the Raptors — Trent has averaged 18.3 points per game while shooting 38 percent from 3. He has also made massive strides on the defensive end to become a disruptive perimeter defender.
This version of Trent is, without a doubt, a lottery pick in a 2018 redraft.
14. Kevin Huerter, Denver Nuggets
Original pick: Michael Porter Jr.
Do you recall Young’s Eastern Conference Finals performance that I referenced above? It doesn’t happen without Huerter going off for 28 points in a Game 7 victory over the East’s No. 1 seed.
Huerter checks a number of boxes. He’s an efficient scorer, a career 38.5 percent 3-point shooter and an underrated playmaker. Based on his production, he’ll soon be a very rich man.
Best players still available: Bruce Brown, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba, Marvin Bagley III, Landry Shamet, Devonte’ Graham, Donte DiVincenzo, Grayson Allen, De’Anthony Melton