Every year, fourteen teams enter the NBA lottery in the hopes of drafting a prospect to turn around their franchise. Almost every one of those teams will miss out on that prospect because the talent level isn’t as deep as scouts guessed. However, once in a blue moon, a draft class will be formed that will change the landscape of the NBA forever. Years like 1984, 1996, and 2003 rewrote the history books as we know it, and the 2018 draft will no doubt have the same impact.
Only three years removed from this draft, it has yielded two all-star starters and a litter of role players on playoff teams making deep runs. Some teams missed on 2018’s draft night and some hit big, so with a lot of hindsight, here is what the lottery teams of 2018 should have done with their picks.
2017-18 Record: 21-61
Coming off an abysmal season, the draft gods blessed the Suns with their franchise’s first #1 overall pick ever. With a budding superstar in Devin Booker, this draft was a must-hit for the Suns. The Suns made a great pick originally with the big man from the Bahama’s Deandre Ayton, but pairing Trae Young in the backcourt with Devin Booker would have been deadly. Even though Luka Doncic is the best player in this draft, Young’s game pairs up nicely with Booker. I don’t think it would be unfair to say this duo could have been the splash bros 2.0.
2017-18 Record: 27-55
The Kings have had a rough history in the lottery—like drafting Thomas Robinson fifth overall in the 2012 draft, who was followed by Damian Lillard and then Harrison Barnes. Luckily, in the 2017 draft the Kings made the right pick in taking De’Aaron Fox. Because the Kings already have their point guard of the future, the Kings should stick with a big man and go with Deandre Ayton. Ayton has been a beast this postseason for the Suns and has demonstrated that he can play at the highest level. Pairing him with De’Aaron Fox’s speed would make the Kings one of the most exciting transition teams in basketball.
2017-18 Record: 24-28
In the 2018 draft, the Hawks did what all teams dream of doing on draft night. They drafted a superstar player the city fell in love with. Sadly, Trae isn’t on the board anymore, but the best player in this draft still is. Ironically enough, this was the pick that the Hawks originally made, but it was only under the pretense that the Mavericks would draft and trade Trae Young to them. Drafting Luka would pair him with Kevin Huerter, Taurean Prince and John Collins. This team would plow their way through the East with no problem. I think the Hawks would be a wrecking ball for years to come with this pick, but they definitely still could be with their original pick.
2017-18 Record: 22-60
The 2017-2018 season saw the last of the OG grind city Grizzlies together. The Grizzlies would blow up the Mike Conley and Marc Gasol duo, shipping them both off shortly after this draft. Jackson has shown incredible range for his size, especially in transition. He is one of the best shooting bigs in the league and fits the modern-day NBA mold perfectly. He was sidelined with injuries for most of the season, but when he is healthy he is a problem. I think Memphis is a great fit for him and so I see the Grizzlies sticking with their original pick.
2017-18 Record: 24-58
The Mavericks easily got the steal of this draft by trading up for Luka Doncic. Giving the greatest European prospect ever a year to be mentored by the greatest European basketball player ever (Dirk Nowitzki) is probably one of the coolest NBA moments in history. In this redraft, the Mavericks aren’t as lucky with Doncic already gone, but they get an incredible wing with untapped potential in Michael Porter Jr. MPJ was the consensus #1 prospect in this class coming out of high school. After only playing a few games for Mizzou, he was sidelined with an injury. On draft night, all the teams were alerted of a high re-injury risk in MPJ’s back and that he could be a liability. He slid down to 14th because of this. Porter Jr has for the most part stayed healthy and been a huge contributor to the Denver Nuggets. With his size and athleticism plus elite shooting, there is a distinct possibility that we might be calling him the best player in this draft in a couple of years.
2017-18 Record: 25-27
The Orlando Magic is another team known for draft night misfortunes. The Magic had a decent squad around this time with Vucevic in the middle and Jonathan Isaac coming into his own at the forward position. Originally the Magic took Mo Bamba out of Texas, who hasn’t been able to find a comfortable role on the team. No one knew the potential that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had coming out of college, but he has been a flat-out baller. In just three seasons, he has more experience than most vets, battling the Kevin Durant Warriors in the first round and getting guidance from Chris Paul. Shai would add a much-needed guard to this rotation that could’ve helped get the Magic over the hump of just an 8th seed.
2017-18 Record: 27-55
This draft was during the days of a Gar/Pax front office, so it is no surprise the Bulls missed on this draft pick. Wendell Carter Jr’s days in Chicago were filled with injuries and ultimately ended with him getting traded to Orlando. The Bulls should’ve taken Mikal Bridges with this pick. Bridges has been an integral part of the Suns’ push to a championship. He is a standout in this class because of his sleek shooting touch, not to mention he is one of the best young perimeter defenders in the league.
2017-18 Record: 50-32
The 2017-2018 season saw Lebron James play his last season in the land. One of the highlight moments of this draft was a freshly drafted Colin Sexton begging Lebron to stay mid-interview. Because the Cavs are rebuilding, they took the best available player: Collin Sexton. Sexton has been explosive on the offensive end with his high energy. Defense has been an issue, however, as he ranks amongst the lowest in the league in defensive efficiency. Sexton is definitely a project, but I think he has found his stride in Cleveland.
2017-18 Record: 29-53
A lot of fans—myself included—thought Kevin Knox was a steal for the Knicks at the nine pick. His combined length and athleticism gave him no ceiling. Unfortunately, Knox has done more to regress than to progress since joining the Knicks in 2018. Since the Knicks are in heavy rebuild mode, they should’ve taken the best available player in Bagley. Bagley is a tough player to gauge right now. He has put up some decent stats averaging 14/7, but can’t seem to stay healthy. I still believe Bagley’s career has the potential to turn around, but it has to be soon.
2017-18 Record: 52-30
The 76ers made a fatal mistake on draft night, trading down from Mikal Bridges and taking Zhaire Smith. Zhaire Smith only played 13 games for the 76ers, whereas Mikal Bridges is going to be playing in the NBA Finals tomorrow. With the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid coming into their own, Duncan Robinson would have been the perfect guard to slot on the wing. Robinson has turned into one of the league’s deadliest shooters after going undrafted in 2018. He would add some much-needed shooting to this team and even a little grit.
2017-18 Record: 36-46
Donte DiVincenzo became a breakout national star after his heroic performance in the 2018 NCAA national championship game. He has been a great piece off the bench for the Bucks. I think it would be interesting to see him in more of a starter role in Charlotte. I think it would have been smart for the Hornets take a guard to pair next to Kemba Walker and DiVincenzo does just that.
2017-18 Record: 42-40
The Clippers got a huge steal, originally trading up for Shai in this draft. Since he is gone, they would have to go in a different direction with the best available player. Wendell Carter Jr was a highly touted big coming out of Duke. He was also one of the youngest players in this draft, so going to a team like the Clippers—who have a few more vets—could help his development. WCJ still has a lot of potential, so hopefully a change of scenery can turn things around.
2017-18 Record: 42-40
With back-to-back picks in this draft, the Clippers get another late-round steal in Kevin Huerter. Huerter played at Maryland, where he averaged 15 points his sophomore season. He has been a glue guy for the Hawks this season, donning the nickname K’von from teammates. Huerter is a great wing who can score the ball well and plays in his role. I think he fits into the Clippers’ culture perfectly, so this would be a great fit for him.
2017-18 Record: 46-36
The Nuggets were blessed in this draft to catch MPJ right before he fell out of the lottery. With Porter Jr gone, the Nuggets still take a forward: Miles Bridges. Bridges has been a high-flying act in Charlotte and has been great at that role. His constant dive cutting towards the basket keeps the defense on its toes. Pair that with the superstar duo of Jokic and Murray and you have a pretty solid basketball team. I think the Nuggets are probably pretty happy with their pick of Michael Porter Jr at fourteen though.