Best fits for SEC's first-round NBA Draft candidates
The 2018 NBA Draft takes place later Thursday night in Brooklyn, and as many as five former SEC stars could hear their names called in the first round.
From Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. to Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, there could be quite a few former SEC athletes finding out their NBA squads in the lottery portion, too.
But, as important as it is money-wise for players to be drafted as early as possible, it’s also important to go to a team that fits your particular skill set well. So, that begs the question — which teams are the best fits for the five projected SEC first-round players?
Take a look at our projections. Now, we just have to wait until tonight to see if these projections come true:
Michael Porter Jr., F, Mizzou — Dallas Mavericks
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — when MPJ is 100 percent healthy, he’s Dirk Nowitzki with a handle. The oft-injured Mizzou big man needs to prove he can stay on the court, but when he does, he’s a talented scorer and an adept ball handler.
He also shows flashes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Dirk comparisons are a bit more accurate, so why not have him learn for a year or two under the best European-born player to step on an NBA court?
The Mavericks have the No. 5 overall pick, and based on MPJ’s pre-draft workouts, that seems like about where he’ll go. Pairing him with a talented young point guard like Dennis Smith Jr. is a great idea, so we’ll see if he is still on the board when Dallas makes its first selection on Thursday night.
Collin Sexton, G, Alabama — New York Knicks
Sexton thrives when the stakes are the highest, and there’s nowhere in the NBA that the lights shine brighter than in Madison Square Garden.
Yes, the Knicks, who hold the No. 9 overall pick, are an absolute mess right now, but a good point guard can make a bad team look a heck of a lot better. And, in the 2018 NBA Draft, there are only one or two point guards who analysts consider better than Sexton (Luka Doncic and sometimes Trae Young).
Sexton could still use some improvement with his shot, but he has unreal touch around the rim, as Texas A&M can attest to:
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) March 8, 2018
Sexton’s competitiveness and desire to never let anyone get the best of him (he out-dueled Young during an Alabama-Oklahoma game in 2017) will make him a great fit in New York. Pair him with a star like Kristaps Porzingis, and the Knicks will have a solid young core they can build around in the coming years.
Robert Williams, F/C, Texas A&M — Los Angeles Clippers
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy should be admonished for criminally underusing Williams in the pick-and-roll game.
In 30 games, Williams was only used in a pick-and-roll situation 16 times, which is just ridiculous when you consider how athletic the Texas A&M big man is:
At 6'10 with a massive catch radius, elite agility + explosive leaping ability, Robert Williams was used in only 16 pick-and-roll possessions in 30 games, according to @SynergySST
— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) June 2, 2018
The Clippers hold the No. 12 and No. 13 picks. Since current C DeAndre Jordan is a free agent after this season, drafting a guy like Williams and letting him learn from one of the best lob finishers in the NBA would be a great idea for the team.
The Clippers need to rebuild after losing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and they could do a lot worse than drafting a guy like Williams in the middle of the first round.
Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky — Phoenix Suns
The Suns just took a tweener 3-4 player in Josh Jackson last year, but with the No. 16 overall pick (they also hold the No. 1 overall pick), they could do a lot worse than Knox.
Knox has been working on his pick-and-roll game in the buildup to the draft, and if he goes to the Suns, he’d get to work with fellow former Wildcats Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. That combo could prove deadly, as Knox is the ideal pick-and-roll NBA player if he becomes a better ball-handler.
Knox and Jackson could provide an uber-athletic wing combo, much like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum do for the Boston Celtics. If he’s still around at No. 16, the Suns should snatch him up.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky — Los Angeles Clippers
As mentioned above, the Clippers could use a player like Robert Williams, especially if DeAndre Jordan leaves in free agency after this coming season.
If they get him, they’ll also need a guy who can get him the ball in the pick-and-roll, and that guy is Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Clippers have a rare opportunity to reload with the No. 12 and No. 13 picks in the first round of Thursday’s draft, and they’d be wise to take long looks at these two former SEC stars. Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin may roll off the tongue a little easier than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-to-Robert Williams, but the new combo could end up being almost as effective and exciting as the two ex-Clipper All-Stars.