The Top Two
When it comes to this NBA Draft, I think there is a clear top two. And really, to me, there is a clear No. 1 too. But if the Magic end up with one of the top two picks, I think this is the real decision the Magic have.
Guard, Real Madrid
There quite simply has not been an international prospect with the track record that Luka Doncic has at his age entering the NBA. He is quite simply an outlier and someone who could make an immediate impact in the league while still having incredible upside.
For Real Madrid this year, Doncic is averaging 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in 24.9 minutes per game. Those are some impressive stats from an 18-year-old in a professional league. Spain’s ACB is the second-best domestic league in the world and Euroleague is the second-best league in the world overall. Coming to the NBA is a clear step up.
It is not a sure thing — nothing is. But Doncic has an innate passing skill and sense about where things are on the floor. And he hs the ability to put the ball exactly where he wants to put it. This is from an 18-year-old.
He did all this at Eurobasket too, against NBA-quality competition.
There are plenty of concerns about his defense. And those are fair. He is not a super athlete. He will always struggle on the defensive end. His lack of athleticism may make things difficult for him offensively too.
But he is such a naturally gifted passer and offensive player that everyone seems to think he can overcome these flaws. To me, he is far and away the best player in the Draft and the clear choice at No. 1.
The only other player I think you can make an argument for at No. 1 outside of Luka Doncic is center Deandre Ayton.
Ayton is more of an athletic freak in a lot of ways. The prototypical center that the league likes. An athlete who can finish above the rim and work around the basket. Ayton’s strong season with the Arizona Wildcats — 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He was just an animal.
What is there not to like about him?
There is apparently a lot. Most bigs in the modern NBA focus more on defense. And while Ayton has a developed post game, he does not have much of a jumper. A lot of his scoring came at the expense of smaller players.
The biggest sticking point with him is his defense, though.
Ayton is not known as a good defender. Not in the least. He still had some good defensive moments — averaging 1.9 blocks per game. That, at least, seems to suggest there is some defensive potential there.
But watching Ayton play, it was clear too that none of it was natural. He was often a step late with his defensive rotations. It looked like he had to think about what to do before he did it. That often means he was a hair late.
Clearly, he had the athleticism NBA teams want at the center position. The question now is whether he can learn the defensive timing and instincts he will need as a rim-protecting center in the NBA.
There are plenty who are skeptical — that is why Ayton is No. 9 in Ricky’s rankings among a few other reasons. I am not. I think Ayton can at least become passable and be a more offensive-minded version of Andre Drummond.