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Why the 2018 NBA Draft Class Could be One of the Best Ever

DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
It is certainly up for debate, but generally the 2003 NBA Draft is regarded as the best in NBA history, or at least in recent NBA history. While the 2003 Draft did see one of the sport's biggest busts ever, center Darko Milicic at No. 2, the rest of the top five featured four players all who should be Hall-of-Famers: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. It also had a good amount of depth as long-time NBA contributors such as David West, Boris Diaw and Leonardo Barbosa went outside of the lottery and have turned in very productive careers. The big question is: could the 2018 NBA Draft Class be even better? It is a lot to ask of a group of players that have been playing college ball for only a few months, but the talent and potential at the top of this Draft is truly astounding.

With the NBA trending more towards "small-ball" and frontcourts that are more athletic and versatile the most surprising thing in the 2018 Class is the abundance of superstar big men that should be available. It starts with Duke forward Marvin Bagley III, who technically should be a senior in high school, who has a very good chance of being the top selection this summer. Bagley's impressive athleticism, polish around the rim and rebounding ability have been killing ACC opponents all season long, and NBA scouts absolutely adore him. At just 18 years old, he has the potential to be something really special, particularly if he can improve as a shooter, which will turn him into a very complete offensive weapon. Bagley is also joined in the frontcourt by Arizona center DeAndre Ayton, another player that has a very good case to go first overall. The seven-footer already has NBA size and strength and is only getting better as the season continues. compares Ayton to Hall-of-Famer David Robinson, and some believe Ayton has a better shot than Robinson already as a true frosh in college. Both Bagley and Ayton have the talent and ceiling to legitimately be generational-type talents, particularly if they land on an NBA team that is able to build a supporting cast that fits their strengths. Fellow big men Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson, Wendell Carter and Robert Williams are players that would possibly go in the Top 3 in most Drafts, but could drop to the late lottery with this talent at the top. Bamba, especially, is the type of young prospect that NBA teams absolutely love. Bamba is a seven-foot, athletic center who is just scratching the surface of what he can be as a basketball player. Meanwhile, Jackson has built a terrific freshman season at Michigan State, Carter has flashed serious potential at Duke and Williams, a sophomore at Texas A&M, has all the looks of a productive NBA player. Certainly this isn't the first time we've seen big men featured at the top of the Draft, but the amount of them that could go in the Top 10 is amazing, and Bagley, Ayton and Bamba all could make the case as being the best big man prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012.

Of course, this Draft is not all big men, and the high-scoring guards deserve just as much attention. It begins, of course, with the National Player of the Year frontrunner, Trae Young of Oklahoma. As of right now, Young has a legitimate chance of becoming the first college basketball ever to lead the nation in points and assists. His silky smooth handles and unlimited range have already drawn comparisons to two-time MVP Steph Curry, and in the current, three-point heavy NBA a leader like that could be a necessity. If he continues to put up those numbers and cuts down on his turnovers, he is yet another player that could make a case to be the first player taken. Then, there is the guy that most casual basketball fans don't even know: Slovenian guard Luka Doncic. Due to the fact that he is an International prospect, there will definitely be questions about Doncic's adjustment to the NBA, but his potential is also off the charts. Doncic signed his first professional contract with Real Madrid at just 13 years of age, and many scouts who have seen play say that he has the chance to be the best non-American NBA player ever, surpassing future Hall-of-Famers like Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. Another name to watch will be Alabama guard Collin Sexton, who has drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook with his astounding athleticism and electric playmaking potential. While he may not be a serious candidate to go No. 1, Sexton is yet another talent that makes this Class so incredibly good and deep.

The amazing thing is that this Class has so many names that could go No. 1, and it could have been ever better if Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. never got injured. Porter was ranked the top prospect in the 2017 recruiting cycle, before suffering a lower back injury that is expected to completely end his freshman season. One thing is clear: if you are an NBA team that is rebuilding or still figuring things out, this is the Draft to get a high pick. There is just so much insane talent at the top, and a lot of guys that could easily be considered "generational" players. There is going to be a lot of pressure on these guys to live up to all the hype surrounding them, but they have impressed in a big way since arriving in college and many already see NBA ready. It will obviously take years to really assess how good this Draft class was, once their NBA careers have really taken off (or not). But, right now, this Class has all the talent to be something very special, and perhaps be running the Association in a short few years, particularly with LeBron's career soon reaching its inevitable conclusion.

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