Few surprises in NBA draft

By Steve Sell
June 22, 2018

The NBA Draft, for the most part on Thursday, was predictable.

Much of the focus is on the lottery round, which consists of the first 14 picks — those teams that don’t make the mammoth and exhaustive 16-team playoffs.

The main headscratcher was Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. falling to the 14th and final lottery pick, taken by the Denver Nuggets.

Had Porter been able to be drafted right out of high school, he certainly would have been among the Top 5 picks in last year’s somewhat weak draft.

But this draft was loaded, especially with big men. What also worked against Porter was that he missed all but three games of his freshman season for the Tigers with a back injury, that eventually required surgery.

Numerous reports on Thursday indicated that teams were scared off by what his medical information was revealing. Teams drafting in the lottery can’t afford to miss and if Porter’s injury turns out to be serious and he would have to sit out part or all of next year, it would be a wasted pick.

Many analysts were saying Thursday if Porter is 100 percent, it’s going to be the steal of the draft as he’s an offensive machine.

The other somewhat surprise to me in the lottery was that Oklahoma’s Trae Young went as high as he did. He was picked No. 5 by Dallas, who immediately shipped him to Atlanta for Luka Doncic, who was picked No. 3 by the Hawks. 

Young has drawn immediate comparisons to Golden State superstar Steph Curry. He led the nation in scoring and assists as a freshman, but he also turned it over considerably and he’s not very big. He does have Curry-like range and is a terrific passer, but the games I watched his defense was only an afterthought. He’s certainly a boom-or-bust type of guy.

The rest of first round went with only mild surprises. I was happy for Wichita State’s Landry Shamet, who went to Philadelphia with pick No. 26. I thought Shamet was making a mistake when he came out early as I thought had he stayed at WSU he could have been a Top 10 pick in 2019. I wasn’t even sure if he’d go in the draft as he’s rather slight of build, but reports indicate he had a very good combine and he’s joining a 76ers team that is making an all-out run at LeBron James, though I think they’ll come up short.

As for the KU players, Devonte’ Graham went just about where I thought he would, the 34th pick by the Atlanta Hawks, who then dealt him to Charlotte, which is his home state. Former KU star Frank Mason also went No. 34 last year and contributed to Sacramento.

Svi Mykhailiuk went No. 47 to the LA Lakers, which is about where I thought he would. He’ll be joined by Jayhawk teammate Malik Newman, who went undrafted but signed a free-agent deal later in the evening.

I was really surprised that Billy Preston, who was with KU but never played a game due to eligibility concerns, wasn’t picked. The draft is so much about potential and given Preston’s pedigree, I thought he certainly deserved a flyer by somebody. He’s got the NBA look and is skilled, but apparently his lack of experience caused teams to take a pass.