Each year fans, owners and management are left scratching their heads as to certain selections made in the annual June draft. Whether it be out of left field first round selections or those that fall into the second round, there are players who enter the draft far to soon and would have been better off staying in school for another year of fine tuning. On the flip side, each year there are players who not only meet but often exceed expectations and find success right out of the gate. Some of these players are obvious, some are surprises.
Look, we aren't going to tell any youngster to not follow his dream of making the league, that would be crazy, especially considering the amount of money that is potentially available and the fact that one slip up in college and a future professional career is toast. And let's not forget the studying and tests that are involved in college. However, with that being said, there are a number of players who put their names into the 2018 NBA Draft, took an agent and committed themselves to their future, halting any chance of returning to school to better themselves and their draft stock.
There are a couple of obvious players who will succeed, which we have left off this list, but the following 24 individuals certainly make for interesting discussions as to whether or not they will in fact have a successful rookie season or would have been better off spending one more year in school.
24 Kostas Antetokounmpo (Stayed In School)
Did the Dallas Mavericks draft Antetokounmpo because of the potential that he could be at least half the player his brother is, or do they know something that we don't? After being selected with the final pick in the draft and traded by Philadelphia, Kostas has a lot of work ahead of him in hopes of catching on with Mark Cuban's roster, or any roster for that matter.
With averages of only 5 points and 3 rebounds per game during his one and done season with the Dayton Flyers, the athletic forward has plenty of work to do to catch up to his more talented brother. Although the athletic gene runs through the family, the hoop skill isn't as prevalent in the younger brother who struggled on the offensive end of the court and could use a lot more polish before he sees any time in the NBA.
23 Moritz Wagner (Succeed)
In today's NBA game, having a big man that can handle the ball in traffic and step out to shoot from downtown is every team's dream. For the Lakers, adding the Michigan Wolverine will certainly help spread the opposing defence and extend the offence.
With only a late first round pick at their disposal thanks to a mid season trade with the Cavs, LA may have found a diamond in the rough with Wagner.
Speaking of rough, that's one thing fans won't have to question about Wagner who showed a gritty side during his time in Michigan. While he may not be the defensive presence that Brook Lopez provides, Wagner's ability to knock down the three is going to be the key to gaining minutes in the Lakers rotation.
22 Trae Young (Stayed In School)
The Atlanta Hawks added Young in place of Doncic or Jackson, or pretty much any other player not named Ayton or Bagley. Sure, they got a 2019 pick from the Mavs as well, but that's assuming that Dallas will be a magical mix of horrible, but not horrible enough. Yes, the freshman from Oklahoma had everyone talking last season and comparisons to Steph Curry were plentiful, and in the unknown world of what could happen next year, why wouldn't he declare.
After leading the nation in points and assists, matching those stats next season could be an impossible feat.
From a size and strength standpoint Young needs to develop. When pressured by opponents towards from the midpoint of the season onward, the sizzle and flare that we all fell in love with seemed to fizzle. We aren't going to judge Young by the fact that he missed his first 10 shots in summer league, but for a guy who is a shooter, it isn't a great sign.
21 Lonnie Walker IV (Succeed)
His draft cap may not have fit, but Walker will fit in perfectly with the San Antonio Spurs. Why? Because name one draft pick that hasn't. Really, it's like the Spurs have some magical way of making all their draft picks successful. Throw in the Kawhi Leonard trade and Walker could potentially slip right in to his spot.
With natural scoring ability, explosive athleticism and the ability to guard multiple positions. The Spurs are potentially in a retool (they never rebuild) mode, which fits Walker perfectly beside Dejonte Murray in the backcourt.
20 Justin Jackson (Stayed In School)
After a fairly successful freshman season in which the Canadian forward started in 30 of 33 games played and averaged 10ppg and 6rpg, leading to some chatter about potentially being a late first round pick in 2017, Jackson's sophomore season saw his stock drop.
Instead of receiving a guaranteed contract, Jackson will have to compete with other second round picks and free agents for a roster spot.
Although his rebounding and assist numbers saw a slight increase, Jackson's scoring and shooting percentages took a major hit, especially his ability to hit from deep, which was once his calling card. With size and athletic ability to guard both forward positions, Jackson could have used another season in Maryland to reestablish his credentials.
19 Collin Sexton (Succeed)
He has a motor like Russell Westbrook, a comparison which can work for him or against him, only time will tell. When the Cleveland Cavaliers selected the Alabama point guard they were either adding a piece to complement or build from the departure of LeBron James.
With a fearless swagger and approach to the game, the Cavs are hoping to build around their young point guard and possibly Kevin Love.
Having JR Smith and Tristan Thompson as mentors will only hurt Sexton's growth as a player both on and off the court. With little expectation on the team for next season, Sexton will be able to play without the pressures of the King. If the Cavs and Ty Lue are willing to turn up the speed on their offensive attack, which will feed into Sexton's style of play, chances are the team may actually surprise many and compete for a playoff spot in the East.
18 Anfernee Simons (Stayed In School)
Simons found a loophole in the prep to pro rule that was set out to detract high schoolers to enter the league out of high school. At 19 years old and a year removed from his senior prom, Simons spent a year at prep school before committing himself to the NBA Draft. The questions surrounding Simons is who is he and is he ready to compete against grown men? Originally slated to play for Louisville, the 6'4" guard out of Orlando also had interest from Florida and NC State.
There is little chance of Simons playing meaningful minutes in Portland this season, so look for stats and stories from the G-League.
Although he scored plenty at IMG Academy last season, Simons body and mental approach needs maturing to handle the NBA grind.
17 Donte DiVincenzo (Succeed)
He left two years at Villanova remaining on the table, but the Big Ragu managed to leave his NCAA career in the rearview with two National Championships (ok, we are stretching that truth a bit as he got his first one during a medical redshirt freshman season) and a NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
Coming off the bench for the Wildcats, DiVincenzo posted 13.4pts, 4.8rpg and 3.5apg in just over 29 minutes. We aren't saying that Donte will be a star out of the gates, but as part of the Milwaukee Bucks second unit, it is easy to see him replace pretty much anyone off of the Bucks bench at either guard spot (assuming Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe are starting). Think of him as an Avery Bradley type player.
16 Kevin Knox (Stayed In School)
Apparently the Knicks think higher of Kevin Knox than they do of Miles Bridges, Mikal Bridges or Michael Porter Jr., three small forwards chosen after Knox in the draft. With the Unicorn sidelined at least until Christmas, Knox may get the opportunity to step in right away to prove his worth in front of the New York crowd. As with many of his peers, Knox needs to work on filling out his body frame if he wants to play with the big boys, especially if he is to play the power forward spot.
Could another year at Kentucky help Knox with his lack of explosiveness and ball handling? Probably.
Although he posted 15ppg with the Wildcats, Knox's offensive game has holes, primarily his distance shooting and his passing. More importantly due to his lack of quickness, Knox will struggle to stay in front of quicker opponents on the defensive end of the court. As one of the younger players in the draft, Knox has a lot of time to work on these faults, but are Knicks fans willing to wait?
15 Michael Porter Jr. (Succeed)
A year ago, Porter Jr. was plotted by many to be one of the first three picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Then came a back injury that limited his one and done season in Missouri to three short games. After receiving a clean bill of health, Porter's draft stock ranged from a top five pick to no less than top ten.
Luckily for the Denver Nuggets, Porter fell into their laps at fourteen.
Some think that Porter should have stayed in school to improve his game, but even before he stepped on campus, Porter was a man-child. Denver doesn't have to rely on Porter to produce out of the gate, taking their time with their small forward of the future. In a high reward, low risk pick, the Nuggets will come out of the draft looking like geniuses if Porter is in fact healthy. Heading back to school would have done nothing for Porter considering how highly he was rated before the 2017-18 season.
14 Troy Brown (Stayed In School)
Brown was the Oregon Ducks very first "One and Done", but questions as to whether he should have stayed one more year have come up since the day he declared. As a potential point forward (think Scottie Pippen, or more realistically Kyle Anderson), Brown has the ability to play multiple positions for the Wizards, but will he find the playing time?
One of the biggest weaknesses that Brown has to work on is his shooting, or lack of it.
Shooting only 29% from downtown in a league that has fallen deeply in love with the three ball won't cut it. Considered a project, do the Wizards, specifically John Wall and Bradley Beal, have the time to wait to see what Brown becomes?
13 Aaron Holiday (Succeed)
Lopez, Gasol, Morris, Grant, Zeller, Plumlee - just some of the names of brothers that have successfully made the league and played at the same time. With the Pacers selecting the UCLA point guard, the Holiday family has three members in the NBA. Although Indiana still has Darren Collison (former Bruin) and Cory Joseph under contract for next season, Holiday's ability to play off the ball will provide him minutes at the off guard spot behind Victor Oladipo.
Growing up with two brothers already having NBA experience leans in favor of the youngest entering the league, having two in-house mentors to draw reference to.
Look for the Pacers to potentially part with one of their returning guards at some point either before the season or by the trade deadline to allow Holiday room for growth.
12 Zhaire Smith (Stayed In School)
Much was made of Smith being the first ever player drafted who wasn't a top 100 player coming out of high school. Guess that shows how much you can learn playing in the college system. How could someone say that a player who went from outside the radar to the 16th pick would be better off staying in school?
Despite being an elite athlete, Smith's position on the 76ers roster is unknown.
He doesn't have the ball handling skills to be a primary point guard, nor does he have the stroke to be a shooting guard. As a small forward, if Smith can't get to the paint in transition, he may struggle battling the bigger bodied threes in the league. All of the tools are there, they just could have used another season of sharpening.
11 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Succeed)
The LA Clippers are once again the little brother to the Lakers and the rebuild will allow the Canadian point guard time to show his value on the court.
With the departure of Austin Rivers, minutes at the lead guard position are up for grabs.
While Patrick Beverley may have a nod towards being a starter due to being the veteran, SGA could grab meaningful minutes in the mold of former Clipper Shaun Livingston. With height, the ability to guard any of the backcourt positions and his improvement in the scoring and distribution of the ball as the season progressed in Kentucky leans towards success entering his rookie season.
10 Hamidou Diallo (Stayed In School)
Athletically, the Kentucky freshman may be one of the best in the class of 2018, but just because you can run and jump, it doesn't necessarily translate to NBA success. Even before he put on his first professional jersey, the Wildcat guard has been part of three different teams as the Nets, Hornets and now the OKC Thunder have all had Diallo's name listed as part of their organization.
After testing the waters in 2017, Diallo withdrew from the draft, returned to play for Coach Cal and his freshman season. Although he started all 37 games he played, he was overshadowed by peers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and PJ Washington. Being the 45th pick brings little expectations, however Diallo would have benefitted from returning for one more season to work on his inconsistent shot (considering his position at off guard, this is a priority), which wasn't his calling card last year with 45% from two, 33% from the arc and 61% from the line.
9 Jalen Brunson (Succeed)
He will have to battle Dennis Smith Jr. for minutes and potentially Luka Doncic, but chances are Brunson will successfully bulldog his way into the Dallas Mavericks rotation. It is rare to see a two time NCAA Champion and National Player Of The Year (among numerous other individual accolades) fail in the NBA.
In each of his three seasons at Villanova, Brunson started every game he played and saw an increase in his stat line each year. With a steady handle, court vision and the ability to score off the dribble or from downtown, Brunson offers the Mavericks a variety of options as the team looks to rebuild around a core of young talented players.
8 Robert Williams (Stayed In School)
He may have the physical talents (11ppg, nearly 9rpg and 2.5bpg in two years) but from a maturity and professional standpoint, Williams has shown that he is still a kid. After two years at Texas A&M, Williams should have enrolled in another semester of clock reading and alarm setting. Prior to the draft there were some saying that Williams could have been a top 15 selection.
The Celtics drafted him 27th. Many say the reason for the drop in his stock was due to his lack of work ethic and desire. Throw in the fact that Williams missed a conference call and a flight to his first practice with his new team and one has to think that Coach Brad Stevens has his work cut out for him.
7 Khyri Thomas (Succeed)
As one of the older players of the 2018 draft, Thomas was already 22 years old when the Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the 38th pick. That means the rookie would be older than Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, both of which would hold similar positions to the Creighton point guard.
Traded on draft night to Detroit, Thomas now has the opportunity to earn valuable minutes for Dwayne Casey right away.
As a 3 and D type player, Thomas can play off the ball for the Pistons in the mold of a Gary Harris or Avery Bradley type player.
6 Gary Trent Jr. (Stayed In School)
There are some, like Gary Trent Sr. who think that his son is capable of far more than was shown during his one and done with Coach K, there are others who feel that Jr. needs a bit more seasoning. Obviously NBA GM's felt differently than pops, as the Blue Devil freshman fell to the 37th pick in the draft.
Had he stayed with Sacramento, Trent may have gotten some minutes, but after being traded to the Blazers, he joins a logjam in the backcourt that will most likely result in G-League appearances. Had he stayed at Duke, the three point specialist could have improved his draft stock and not been stuck pulling splinters at the same time.
5 Kevin Huerter (Succeed)
He may never amount to more than a sixth or seventh man, or he could be the second coming of Kyle Korver. Chances are the former Maryland Terrapin will end up somewhere in the middle. Not too shabby for a kid who was projected as a second rounder and ended up drafted 19th by the Hawks.
With Atlanta looking to rebuild its roster and identity, Huerter has the ability to provide the team with outside shooting, while also contribute on the defensive end of the court. Don't think that Huerter is going to be one of those guys who is stuck in the corner and asked to jack from downtown, as he possesses a 38 inch vertical and has the ball handling ability to get to the rim.
4 Mitchell Robinson (Stayed In School)
In theory he would have had to attend school in order to stay in in, but the Knicks rookie big man to a very unconventional path to the NBA. Unlike Simons who at least attended a prep school, Robinson was playing pick up games and having individual workouts leading up to the draft. After committing to Western Kentucky and then dropping out, the seven footer found himself as the rare player who did not play overseas or in any college ranks, but yet coveted by NBA teams.
Talk about confident, Robinson did not even participate in the NBA combine. Is there hope for Robinson, sure, you can't teach height or athleticism, both of which he has in spades, but the NCAA could have taught him teamwork and systems, both of which he will need in order to compete at the highest level.
3 De'Anthony Melton (Succeed)
As the 46th pick in the draft, there is little expectation on the Rockets rookie to succeed, however Houston may have found a diamond in the rough with the USC Trojan point guard. If you put aside the financial scandal that surrounded the USC coaching staff and Melton (among others), as a player, he proved that he can deliver a little bit of everything on the court.
As a pass first point guard, Melton will learn from two of the best backcourt players in the league with Chris Paul and James Harden. Although his numbers from his freshman season do not jump off the stat page, he provided the Trojans with a little bit of everything they needed on both ends of the court. Chances are the Rockets will be on the receiving end of the same type of output.
2 Jarred Vanderbilt (Stayed In School)
By way of trade with the Orlando Magic, Vanderbilt's rights became property of the Denver Nuggets. However chances are slim that the Kentucky freshman will be fortunate enough to pull on a NBA jersey, at least to start the season. With only 14 games, none of which he started and a shade under 6ppg and under 8rpg, the 6'9" forward would have been better off playing another season for Coach Cal than he was entering the 2018 draft.
While he proved to be a presence on the glass and on the defensive end, Vanderbilt's lack of offensive game is a glaring absence in his game. Considering that he basically plays the same position as fellow draftee Michael Porter as well as Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles, there is little room for playing time on the Nuggets roster.
1 Josh Okogie (Succeed)
Think of a mix between Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler and you get the 6'4" Georgia Tech shooting guard who the Timberwolves selected with the 20th overall pick. Most people, unless they are NCAA diehards have no idea who Okogie is, which will make fans and potentially opponents sleep on him for most of his rookie season.
With a 38% three point range during his two seasons with the Yellow Jackets and strength, length and agility to guard all three backcourt positions, Okogie is a prototypical Coach Tibbs player. With the eventual departure of Jamal Crawford, a natural gap of playing time opens for Okogie to battle for.