In preparation for the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday, get to know Field Level Media’s top five prospects.
Bigs with wheels are the prized attractions, from Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton and Duke product Marvin Bagley III, to Texas’ one-man swat team Mo Bamba and Michigan State’s 6-foot-11 Jaren Jackson Jr. All have star potential for vastly different reasons, with backgrounds as close to opposite as one could imagine.
Less familiar to most NBA observers is slick Slovenian point guard Luka Doncic. With the jump shot to play the 2 and the mind and handle to be a point forward, Doncic can find a spot to fit in the NBA — no matter a team’s roster needs.
Here are five things to know about FLM’s top five NBA draft prospects:
G Luka Doncic, International
1. Doncic is 19 but has several years of pro experience, including most recently as the starting point guard with Real Madrid, to whom he was first loaned by Slovenia at the age of 13. He signed a five-year deal and moved to Madrid and debuted as a pro in 2015 (at age 16).
2. Doncic is the son of a basketball coach (Sasa Doncic) and hurdler (Mirjam Poterbin).
3. He was named the EuroLeague rising star each of the past two seasons and became the youngest EuroLeague MVP in 2018.
4. Scouts have compared Doncic to NBA players James Harden, Manu Ginobili and Gordon Hayward.
5. Doncic said prior to the draft that he wants to see which teams make a mistake on draft night by passing on him. His nickname in Slovenia is “Wonder Boy.”
C DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
1. Ayton is 7-1 and 250 pounds, and played one season at Arizona, averaging 20.1 points on 61.2-percent shooting to go with 11.6 rebounds.
2. Ayton hails from Nassau, Bahamas, and never touched a basketball before age 12, when he was introduced to the sport in an island church league.
3. Projected as a top-three pick, Ayton worked out for only one team before the draft — the Phoenix Suns, holders of the No. 1 overall pick. After that workout (and still two weeks before the draft), he said “I know I’m going No. 1.”
4. Ayton moved to the United States — first San Diego, then Phoenix — with basketball in mind. Ayton said he made enough money working for his stepfather’s plumbing business to attend a basketball camp, where he fell in love with the game.
5. Ayton refuted an ESPN report that surfaced before the NCAA Tournament linking his family to a payment of $100,000 from Arizona.
C Mo Bamba, Texas
1. Bamba weighs just 223 pounds, or about five pounds fewer than guard Doncic.
2. Bamba’s 94-inch wingspan is the longest ever recorded in the history of the NBA draft combine. The average doorway measures 34 inches wide. A standard multi-passenger SUV stands 74 inches, road to rooftop. Houston Rockets legend Yao Ming was 7-5. You get the picture.
3. He was the No. 2 recruit in the nation in the Class of 2017 and was widely believed to be on his way to Duke or Kentucky until head coach Shaka Smart snuck in to convince Bamba to give Texas a listen.
4. Bamba averaged 3.7 blocks per game at Texas. His standing reach of 9 feet, 6 inches means he can touch the base of the breakaway rim in most college gyms.
5. On his best vertical jump during a private workout for the Suns, Bamba hit the 12-foot-6 mark to Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough. That would be a few inches above the standard top of the backboard.
F/C Marvin Bagley III, Duke
1. Bagley is 6-11, 240 pounds and just turned 19 in March.
2. An All-American in his only season at Duke — 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds per game in 33 games — Bagley said throughout the draft process he should be the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. “I think I’m the best player in the draft. That’s why I feel like I should go No. 1.”
3. Bagley is a self-described artist and rapper. He identifies most with J. Cole, Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Logic.
4. Described by scouts as advanced offensively, Bagley has a lean frame and said teams are looking for him to add muscle.
5. Regarded as the top player in the 2017 recruiting class, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski expected to have Bagley for just one season. “He’s the most unique player we’ve had here at Duke during my 38 years,” said Krzyzewski. “He’s going to be one of the great players in the NBA during his time.”
F/C Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
1. Jackson is the son of former NBA player Jaren Jackson Sr., who played at Georgetown, was on the 1999 San Antonio Spurs’ title team and was a pro for 13 years. His mother, Terri, is the acting director of the WNBA players association.
2. Jackson Jr. spent one season at Michigan State. At 6-11, 242 pounds, he is regarded as one of the better shooters Tom Izzo has coached. Jackson made 39.6 percent of his 3-point attempts at MSU.
3. Scouts have compared Jackson Jr. to Boston Celtics All-Star forward Al Horford.
4. Jackson was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and established a new school record with 106 blocks, averaging more than 3.0 per game.
5. Spartans teammate Miles Bridges is projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick in the 2018 draft.
—Field Level Media