The NBA Draft has come and gone. Only 364 more days until we get to do it again.
This draft had everything. It featured a major trade, with Dallas moving up to get Luka Doncic. It had several shocking falls, led by Michael Porter Jr. and Robert Williams sliding down the first round. It also had Woj breaking out his thesaurus to do everything he could to not outwardly spoil every pick in the draft.
Check out my draft grades for in depth analysis of every pick. Now, let’s talk about some steals.
Luka Doncic, G, Dallas Mavericks
Dallas got the best player in the draft at No. 3. That alone makes Doncic this year’s biggest steal.
Doncic is a true offensive initiator at 6’8. He’s an elite passer with an advanced feel for the game who has been a winner at every level he’s ever played at — first leading Slovenia to an unlikely gold medal at EuroBasket, then winning MVP and powering a title run in Euroleague for Real Madrid. His shooting numbers weren’t great in Europe, but he has a quick and compact outside stroke and has shown the ability to hit threes both off the ball and as a spot-up threat. He’s going to be an immensely valuable player for Dallas and the next face of the franchise as Dirk Nowitzki reaches the end of his career.
The pairing with Dennis Smith Jr. will be fascinating. Smith is a superior athlete who can break down defenses off the dribble, but he’ll have to become a better shooter so he can be more of a threat without the ball. Regardless, this was an amazing move for the Mavericks. No player in this draft will have a greater impact on winning at a high level than Doncic.
Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Memphis Grizzlies
Jackson was the third big man off the board in this draft, but no center prospect in this year’s class is better suited for today’s NBA. As the youngest first-round pick in this draft, it may take Jackson a few years to grow into his body and his game. But if Memphis can be patient, they’ll be walking away with a legitimate franchise talent at the fourth pick.
Jackson is a great defensive talent. He’s an elite shot blocker who also has the quickness and agility to stick with guards on switches. Offensively, he’s able to space the floor as a 40 percent three-point shooter. He has some sneaky potential as a ball handler, too.
Jackson will get to learn from Marc Gasol for a few years, which is an ideal situation if he proves to be a willing listener. Jackson didn’t put up big numbers at Michigan State, but he checks every box for an NBA big man long-term.
Michael Porter Jr., F, Denver Nuggets
It was only 364 days ago that I rated Porter as the No. 2 prospect in the draft class behind Doncic. He looked like a no-brainer as a recruit as a 6’11 forward who could score from all three levels. Then he got to college and was immediately sidelined by back surgery, an injury that lingered for so long that it tanked his NBA Draft stock.
That’s OK. While Porter is surely shocked he fell all the way to No. 14, he ended up on an emerging contender in Denver. The Nuggets already have a young star in place in Nikola Jokic with an enticing mix of talent around him, led by guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. Porter doesn’t have to be the man in Denver, just another piece in a winning puzzle. And because the Nuggets don’t need him to be a savior, they should give him plenty of time to heal up and get his back right before he takes the floor.
Robert Williams, C, Boston Celtics
Robert Williams could have been a lottery pick last year. Instead he came back to school for his sophomore season and apparently ended up hurting his stock in the eyes of NBA teams.
It’s not often a lottery-level talent slides all the way to No. 27. Williams should be better as a pro than he ever was in college. He was forced to play out of position at power forward at Texas A&M, mitigating his rim-running and lob catching ability thanks to a clogged paint. In Boston, he can focus on blocking shots and rolling to the basket.
How do the Celtics always nail the draft? No one expected Williams to slide this far. Now Boston just lucked into finding a possible center of the future.
Mitchell Robinson, C, New York Knicks
It’s almost impossible to find centers with Mitchell Robinson’s combination of size and athleticism in the second round, but there is some precedent. Two names that immediately come to mind: DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside.
Those are players who Robinson can model his game after. He’s a bouncy 7-footer who can block shots on defense and finish lobs on offense. He didn’t play at Western Kentucky, but he posted incredibly impressive and efficient stats on Nike’s EYBL circuit during his last year of high school ball.
The Knicks drafted Kevin Knox at No. 9 to give them a small ball option at power forward next to Kristaps Porzingis. In Robinson, they found a player who can slide Porzingis to the four and add shot blocking inside. Robinson is a risky pick, but he’s a worthy gamble in the second round.