The 2018-2019 NBA regular season is coming to a close this week. From start to finish we saw plenty of young stars either break out onto the scene or reiterate their greatness. With this in mind, I figured I’d put my general manager cap on and do a current NBA players mock draft. Factoring in ability, age, and capability of building a team around them long term, here’s the top ten players.
First overall pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Forward- Age 24
The likely MVP of the 2018-2019 season is a no brainer as the first choice in this draft. The “Greek Freak” lives by his nickname as he is an unstoppable force. The 6’11 “small forward” who really plays point center does it all for the league’s best Milwaukee Bucks (61-20).
Giannis is averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and nearly six assists this season. Oh yeah, and he’s a versatile lockdown defender to go with it. The “Greek Freak” is one successful playoff run away from taking the throne from LeBron James as the best player in the association.
Second overall pick: Joel Embiid- Philadelphia Center- Age 25
The great Hakeem Olajuwon, who won two titles with the Houston Rockets back in the 1900’s is arguably top twelve NBA player of all time. The Cameroon native Embiid is the closest thing we’ve seen to “The Dream” in the league. Only Embiid may already be a more polished offensive player, showing an ability to step out and hit mid range and three point shots.
Like Antetokounmpo, Embiid also plays both ends. And more importantly, doesn’t back down from challenging any of his opponents, both verbally and with his play. He should exude this confidence, he’s the best big in basketball, and with continued health that shouldn’t change.
Third overall pick: Anthony Davis- New Orleans Forward- Age 26
Anthony Davis solidified himself as a top five player in the world a couple years back. He trails Embiid by a margin thats razor thin. The difference stems from “AD” being a slightly worse defender and having more injury problems than Embiid in recent memory. But make no mistake, any NBA team would gladly accept starting their franchise with his guy in the lead. Just look at all of the hoopla he created with his trade request from the Pelicans back in January.
Fourth overall pick: Kawhi Leonard- Toronto Forward- Age 27
For most guys, age 26 is a line of demarcation for starting a team. There’s so many great young stars in the league now, and it’s a grind of an 82 game season each year, normally you’d side with the fresh legs. But Leonard, who is an outstanding two way player, is a surefire exception to this.
Despite sitting out nearly a quarter of the Raptors season, Leonard has shut down all of the talk that he may not be the same player after his quad injury, or won’t be the same without the Spurs system and all time great head coach Gregg Popovich.
Fifth overall pick: Devin Booker- Phoenix Guard- Age 22
This young pup out of Kentucky is a walking bucket. When you score 70 in the TD Garden against the Boston Celtics before you’re able to legally buy a beer in the U.S, you deserve serious props.
Unfortunately Booker doesn’t have the team or competent organization to translate his monster games to anything important. Hopefully with a few more successful draft picks at the top of the lottery, Booker will grab everyone’s attention in due time.
Sixth overall pick: Kevin Durant- Golden State Forward- Age 30
That exception I mentioned earlier about players over twenty-six years of my age, there’s no bigger example, literally, than the 7’0 monster that is Kevin Durant. A consensus top two player in the league for several years now who is firmly in the conversation for most unstoppable offensive player in league history.
Since coming to Golden State, he’s also proven to be a viable rim protector, having been one of the top league leaders in blocks since his arrival. He’s also taken advantage of the other all stars he’s playing with and a fluid system predicated on ball movement to help him mold his game as a complete team player. KD is the lone seasoned veteran on this top ten list, but a few more elite years of Durant is more valuable than most players entire prime. He’s that lethal.
Seventh overall pick: Ben Simmons- Philadelphia Guard- Age 22
If you asked me a year ago where I thought Simmons would fall on this list by this point, I’d say top three without hesitation. The 6’10 Aussie has a special passing gift that is similar to that of the great Magic Johnson, the best player to ever play the point guard position.
Simmons is also a solid rebounder and already one of the best defenders at his position in the league. He has the chance to be an all time pantheon player, but first needs to be able to shoot consistently outside of eight feet.
Once he’s able to add that to his game, Philadelphia will be absolutely unstoppable and win multiple titles. But until then, he hinders his team’s ability to flourish to the best of their ability by being an scoring liability from the perimeter.
Eighth overall pick: Nikola Jokic- Denver Center- Age 24
Nikola Jokic, affectionately dubbed “The Joker” is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA. Averaging a double double of roughly 20 and 10, it’s no secret this dude imposes his will on people. But what separates him and has vaults him into this top ten draft this year is his incredible passing ability. He’s averaging a career high 7.5 assists in 2019. The next step for Jokic to take is helping his team make noise in the playoffs, which he’ll have an opportunity to do very shortly.
Ninth overall pick: Karl-Anthony Towns- Minnesota Center- Age 23
It’s no secret in NBA circles that “KAT” showed some serious mental weakness for a face of the franchise during the Jimmy Butler saga. Instead of channeling an anger that would elevate his play when Towns was challenged by Butler for his soft tendencies on the court, Towns wilted even more.
But that chapter is behind him now, Butler has moved on to Philly, and Towns is still very much a beast in terms of production. Averaging 24 points and 14 rebounds this year, he’s a force to be reckoned with amongst young NBA stars.
Tenth overall pick: Luka Doncic- Dallas Forward- Age 21
Doncic is in a unique position amongst the other 21-23 year olds on this list. He played professionally in Barcelona for nearly seven years before being drafted by the Mavericks in last years draft.
His time in the European league clearly paid off, as he’s averaged 21.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and just under six assists. Expect the Slovenian sensations immediate splash in the to earn him Rookie of the Year honors.
Honorable Mentions: Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, DeAndre Ayton, Trae Young