While the NCAA season has already begun, scouting the top prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft has been underway for months, with skilled players participating in hoop summits and international play since the spring.

There are just over 200 days until the 2018 NBA Draft, which means that it’s time for me to release my first Big Board for the next draft. It’s a time for Nuggets fans to get introduced to some of the top eligible prospects and begin friendly discussions on which player would be the best fit for the team.

Last year, nearly every player on my preseason Big Board was drafted (although not all in the first round). Some returned to school (Miles Bridges), some had health issues (Jonathan Jeanne), and some just flat out sucked (Omer Yurtseven). I also had Lonzo Ball at No. 18 – at least I’ve been consistent in thinking he’s not a talented NBA prospect, despite Stiffs big man Adam Mares’ vocal and frequent opposition to that position. I look forward to being wrong on a future Laker again this year.

As evident from the latest draft, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to predict what will happen on draft night. The purpose of a Big Board is to show you what prospects I think are most likely to succeed, while later mock drafts will attempt to predict where those players will go. I’m excited to work with Ryan Blackburn and Gordon Gross again in this area. I will also be contributing to FanSided at times this season for their draft coverage, an opportunity I’m very excited about and am hoping to succeed on another platform.

That’s enough background — time to dive into actual draft talk.

Here are some key dates for the 2018 draft:

  • April 22 – NBA draft early entry eligibility deadline.
  • May 15 – draft lottery in Chicago, Illinois.
  • May 16-20 – NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Illinois.
  • June 11 – NBA draft early entry entrant withdrawal deadline.
  • June 17 – latest possible date for the NBA Finals
  • June 21 – NBA draft.

The Nuggets own their own draft pick this year in the first round. They owe their second round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, due to a series of trades that’s actually pretty interesting to follow.

Denver traded their 2018 pick to the Utah Jazz, and received the Warriors 2018 pick as well as Randy Foye in the Andre Iguodala transaction. The Jazz then moved that pick to the Chicago Bulls as part of a three-team trade in exchange for Shelvin Mack in February of 2016. The Bulls then flipped that pick to the Lakers after the 2016 draft in a salary dump, moving Jose Calderon to Los Angeles for Ater Majok, who will likely never play in the NBA. In the end, the Nuggets 2018 second round pick was involved in transactions with five different teams.

The Nuggets also will receive the less favorable second round pick from Portland or Sacramento (less favorable to Denver, not either of those teams). The Nuggets have rights to that pick, in a series of transactions that began with the Tyreke Evans trade from Sacramento to New Orleans. Portland sent a second round pick to Sacramento that ended up being Malcolm Brogdon, who won Rookie of the Year with Milwaukee. The conditional nature of the pick was due to a prior trade, and Denver received the rights to the pick as part of the Mason Plumlee trade.

I have my opinion on positions the team may need to address in the draft, but I do want to approach the draft prospect watch season with an open mind, so if you have a player you’d like me to watch, let me know. I’ll be putting out more in-depth analysis of players as the season goes on, but those won’t come out for a while since I’ll need time to watch the players in actual games so I can form an educated opinion.

Here’s the 2018 Big Board 1.0:

Rank Name Team Position
1 Luka Doncic Real Madrid SG
2 DeAndre Ayton Arizona C
3 Marvin Bagley Duke PF
4 Jaren Jackson Jr. Michigan State PF
5 Miles Bridges Michigan State SF
6 Michael Porter Jr Missouri SF
7 Mo Bamba Texas C
8 Robert Williams Jr. Texas A&M PF
9 Collin Sexton Alabama PG
10 Wendell Carter Jr. Duke C
11 Kevin Knox Kentucky SF
12 Troy Brown Jr. Oregon SF
13 Bruce Brown Jr. Miami (FL) SG
14 Mikal Bridges Villanova SF
15 Mitchell Robinson Western Kentucky C
16 Trevon Duval Duke PG
17 Hamidou Diallo Kentucky SG
18 Jaylen Hands UCLA PG
19 Lonnie Walker IV Miami (FL) SG
20 De'Anthony Melton USC PG
21 Yante Maten Georgia PF
22 Chimezie Metu USC C
23 Killian Tillie Gonzaga PF
24 Dzanan Musa Cedevita Zagreb SF
25 Isaac Bonga Frankfurt Skyliners SF
26 Brandon McCoy UNLV C
27 Shake Milton SMU PG
28 Rodions Kurucs FC Barcelona SF
29 Justin Jackson Maryland PF
30 Nick Richards Kentucky C
31 Austin Wiley Auburn C
32 Kostja Mushidi Mega Bemax SF
33 Devonte Graham Kansas PG
34 Rawle Alkins Arizona SG
35 Moritz Wagner Michigan PF
36 Jarred Vanderbilt Kentucky SF
37 Landry Shamet Wichita State SG
38 Jalen Brunson Villanova PG
39 P.J. Washington Kentucky PF
40 Gary Trent Jr. Duke SG
41 MJ Walker Florida State SG
42 Billy Preston Kansas PF
43 Andrew Jones Texas PG
44 Grayson Allen Duke SG
45 Trae Young Oklahoma PG
46 Borisa Simanic FMP Beograd PF
47 Brian Bowen II Louisville SF
48 Jacob Evans Cincinnati SG
49 Omari Spellman Villanova SF
50 Arnoldas Kulbolkas Lithuania SF
51 Jontay Porter Missouri PF
52 Ethan Happ Wisconsin C
53 Mustapha Heron Auburn SG
54 Bryant Crawford Wake Forest PG
55 Allonzo Trier Arizona SG
56 Kris Wilkes UCLA SF
57 Yves Pons Tennessee SF
58 Rui Hachimura Gonzaga SF
59 Tyus Battle Syracuse SG
60 Svi Mykhailiuk Kansas SG

Three thoughts on the 2018 draft

The Nuggets definitely could have taken a big man in this draft. There are so many skilled bigs in this draft, it seems to me that the Nuggets front office misjudged their frontcourt options for the future. While the Nuggets shouldn’t have plans for a top-10 pick, there are players that could fill backup roles throughout the first round. A player like Brandon McCoy, a center at UNLV, just had 26 points and 17 rebounds in 27 minutes against Utah, and I have him at No. 26.

With players like DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mo Bamba in the top 10, it’s a good year for teams needing bigs and a bad year for teams trying to get rid of bigs.

Hope you got your PG last year. The point guard crop this year isn’t anything to write home about. Trevon Duval and Collin Sexton are talented, but very raw. Point guards that aren’t projected for the first round are just returning to school. Most of the point guards are more in the mold of a score-first guard, and if they aren’t, it’s because they can’t shoot. Are you comfortable gambling on athleticism and potential with a first round pick? Sometimes it doesn’t work out.

My pick for player I most want to see on the Nuggets is Mikal Bridges. The Villanova wing is my favorite player in the draft, for so many reasons. First off, he’s an elite perimeter defender. Second off, he quietly goes about destroying opponents. He’s a joy to watch on both ends of the court.

This is his third season at Villanova, and he’s become aggressive in the Wildcats offense. In past seasons, he deferred to his teammates on offense, but this year, he’s nearly doubled his field goal attempts from 6.5 per game to 11.3 per game. He had five steals and three blocks in a game against Western Kentucky, while chipping in 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.

He’s talented slashing to the rim, with the athleticism to elevate above the rim and finish over defenders. He’s an efficient 3-point shooter, and he’s money from the free throw line. I have him ranked at No. 14, which means the Nuggets likely won’t have a shot at him, which tugs at my heart.