The draft order for the 2018 NBA Draft is set, with the Phoenix Suns picking first, the Sacramento Kings selecting second and the Atlanta Hawks choosing third. Barring a big rise, there likely won’t be an SEC player taken in the top 3. But there will be multiple SEC players selected in the top half of the draft, with many ending up as lottery picks.
There’s a chance that as many as 5 SEC players hear their names called in the top 14 on draft night, thus making them lottery picks. But as many will report, it’s not so much where a player gets picked as what kind of team and situation he realizes.
Collin Sexton could possibly end up in Orlando, which wouldn’t be great, given that the Magic don’t have a lot of shooting to surround the Alabama point guard. Texas A&M’s Robert Williams could wind up in Denver, where he would join a very crowded front court.
Below, we’ll examine which former SEC standouts could be lottery picks and what situations would best allow them to succeed early in their NBA careers.
Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri
No prospect has more riding on the pre-draft process than Michael Porter Jr. A year ago, many saw the Missouri forward as Deandre Ayton’s equal. But while Ayton put up monster numbers at Arizona, Porter Jr. spent a lot of time on the bench recovering from back surgery. Porter Jr. played in just three games for Missouri and hardly looked like the player many thought he would be.
Porter Jr. is a shot maker, but there are concerns about his defense and position at the next level. He’s not exactly Jayson Tatum, but their games are similar. One area Porter Jr. has to improve is his ball handling if he’ll want to match the Boston Celtics rookie.
As for fits, Porter Jr. makes for an interesting fit as high as No. 3 to the Atlanta Hawks, especially if the Hawks are looking to rebuild for another year. He could also be an interesting option in Orlando, as that team needs a lot of shooting. But his best fit might be Memphis, where he could play alongside Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. But if the back injury leads to more questions, he could fall out of the top 10, and potentially land with Charlotte.
Range: 3 (Atlanta)-Charlotte (Memphis Grizzlies)
Best fit: Memphis (pick No. 4)
Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Sexton figures to be either the first or second point guard taken in the draft. He’s not the shooter that Trae Young is, but he projects as a much better defender and finisher at the rim. He’s not a huge point guard, but he possesses good length to help compensate for that. He’s also a great athlete and is incredibly competitive.
As mentioned above, Orlando might be the worst possible location for Sexton, given that team has no shooting, and while there isn’t much point guard competition, there are other spots that better fit Sexton’s skill set. Sexton probably won’t be a top 5 pick, but it’s safe to say he’s a top 10 pick. Worst-case scenario, he falls to 12, where the Los Angeles Clippers would happily take him.
Charlotte could be an option at 11, given that Kemba Walker only has one year left on his contract. But the best option for Sexton would be New York. While the Knicks did take Frank Ntilikina a year ago, he projects more as a shooting guard. The pair would make for an excellent defensive back court. Sexton also seems like he should be able to handle the New York atmosphere, given that he helped lead Alabama back to the NCAA Tournament this past year.
Range: 6 (Orlando)-12 (Los Angeles Clippers)
Best fit: New York Knicks (pick No. 9)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
No one thought that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be the first Kentucky player off the board this time a year ago, but after an incredible season, there’s a very good chance that ends up being the case. Gilgeous-Alexander is incredibly long and showed that he can play without the ball. He made big strides as a shooter during the season.
Similar to Sexton, he likely won’t be a top 5 pick, but starting around pick No. 7 or No. 8, he could hear his name called. If the Knicks draft Sexton, the Clippers could also be a very intriguing option. But Gilgeous-Alexander’s ability to guard multiple positions and not dominate the ball on offense, he could be a great fit with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons dominates the ball for Philadelphia, leaving some concern about how Sexton would fit in there. That concern doesn’t exist with Gilgeous-Alexander.
Range: 7 (Chicago)-12 (Los Angeles Clippers)
Best fit: Philadelphia (pick No. 10)
Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
Many pegged Williams as a potential top 5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. But he elected to come back for his sophomore season. He had to share the Texas A&M front court with Tyler Davis and while the Aggies made it to the Sweet 16, Williams saw his stock dip as he really didn’t improve as a player.
He still projects as a lottery pick, though, given his size, shot-blocking ability and athleticism. Williams fits the model of a rim-running center who can block a shot at one end and finish with a dunk at the other. He also led the SEC in rebounding last season.
The Knicks could pair Williams with Kristaps Porzingis, but the team that really stands out for his services is the Los Angeles Clippers. DeAndre Jordan could be a free agent this offseason, making center a big need. But even if he opts into the final year of his contract, the Clippers would still be covered if he leaves in a year. And Jordan would be the perfect player for Williams to learn from at the start of his NBA career.
Range: 9 (New York)-14 (Denver)
Best fit: Los Angeles Clippers (picks 12 and 13)
Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
Kevin Knox showed flashes of being a dynamic scorer at Kentucky, but he didn’t shoot 3-pointers as well as he should have. He was playing out of position as well, but he didn’t rebound the ball all that well and there are questions about his defense.
Still, his ability to score should make him a potential lottery pick. The two places in the lottery where he fits best would be Philadelphia, where his shooting would help space the floor for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, or in Charlotte, which could look to take advantage of his immense upside. There’s also a chance he slides out of the lottery, but with teams such as Washington and Phoenix needing help on the wing, he shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name on draft night.
Range: 10 (Philadelphia)-16 (Phoenix)
Best fit: Charlotte (pick No. 11)