Many of the top prospects in the 2018 NBA draft won’t participate in the NBA Combine next month, but there will still be many talented players in attendance.
Last season, De’Aaron Fox (No. 5 overall), Frank Ntilikina (No. 8 overall) and Zach Collins (No. 10 overall) were the only players selected in the top 10 who attended the event in Chicago. The only other lottery picks who went were Donovan Mitchell (No. 13) and Bam Adebayo (No. 14).
Here are the best players who were reportedly invited to this year’s combine and are actually expected to attend.
Zhaire Smith, Guard
NBA draft analyst Jonathan Wasserman has Smith ranked just outside his top (via Bleacher Report):
“The 18-year-old is one of the draft’s most explosive athletes. He’s a project without a great deal of skill, but he might not need it early on. Smith has a chance to impact games with his athleticism, defensive versatility and effort alone.”
Smith averaged just 11.3 points per game but shot 45.0 percent from downtown during his season at Texas Tech. The athletic guard has a remarkable 6-foot-11 wingspan and boasts a 45-inch vertical.
While he is not a remarkable playmaker on offense, he averaged over one block and one steal per game on the defensive end. Knowing Smith will continue to develop, he has a high upside for an NBA team.
Kevin Knox, Forward
The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.6 points per game while he was at Kentucky. He impressed Sam Vecenie, who has him slated as a lottery pick (via The Athletic):
“His mechanics are better than what his percentages looked like as a shooter, and the wide-open floor provided to him by the Nuggets — as opposed to the closed-off floor he saw with the Wildcats this year as they often played 3-4 big men on the floor together — will serve him well.”
Knox took 4.5 three-pointers per game and while he was not very accurate, it’s something he can improve on moving forward. It’s certainly worth mentioning he was 6-for-9 from three-point range during a game against West Virginia in January.
The versatile player can fill in as a spot-up shooter for almost any team in the league. Knox will be one of the youngest players selected in the upcoming draft.
Mitchell Robinson, Big
While he did not play in college due to eligibility issues, there is still a strong chance he can become a lottery pick.
Mike Gribanov was impressed with his talent as a rim protector (via The Stepien):
“One of the most talented defensive centers in a class full of great defensive centers, Robinson is a tantalizing big man with his combination of commanding size and quick twitch athleticism … His talent is too hard to pass on once you get outside the top 10.”
On the defensive end, the 7-footer averaged 5.6 blocks per 36 minutes at Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) D1 Circuit.
Jontay Porter, Big
Missouri product Jontay Porter is an above-average shooter from long distance and plays well near the basket on offense. He is a strong interior defender, averaging 1.7 blocks per game.
Porter wasn’t much of a scorer, but is a surprisingly skilled ball-handler for a big man. He is a good passer with the ability to find open teammates.
If he bulks up a bit, Porter will be even more coveted considering his 7-foot wingspan gives him an ideal framework for an NBA player.
Troy Brown, Forward
Even though Troy Brown did not have a very productive year at Oregon, he is still an interesting draft prospect.
Ricky O’Donnell recently wrote about what makes him such an appealing young player (via SB Nation):
“Brown checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He’s got good size (6’6), he’s a skilled ball handler and passer from years spent being groomed as a point guard in high school, and he’s also a developing shooter. Ideally, he’s a versatile two-way player who won’t necessarily be a big scorer but can contribute in a lot of other areas.”
The young wing has a high-basketball IQ, which will help at the next level. If he can get more efficient on his jump shot, he can be a valuable rotation player.
Anfernee Simons, Guard
Much like Robinson, Anfernee Simons did not play in college but will be eligible for the draft.
According to an NBA scout, there is a good chance he will be selected in the first-round (via Bleacher Report):
“He’s got as good a chance as anyone. Sometimes there’s a little fatigue with scouting the college guys, and he’s going to benefit from having been somewhat under the radar. Once NBA people get a close-up look at him, I think he’s got a chance to really rise.”
He is a high-volume scorer with a nice touch on his shots taken from downtown. Simons also has an eye-catching vertical leap, which will certainly be on full display during the combine.
Aaron Holiday, Guard
While the former UCLA guard is smaller than his older brother Jrue Holiday, he plays with a tenacity that will be worth watching in the NBA.
Expect the 6-foot-1 guard to fill in as a catch-and-shoot player on offense for whichever team selects him next season. Holiday carried his collegiate team on offense, averaging 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game last year.
He is more experienced than most other players who will be at the combine. Holiday will likely be a backup in the pros because he is not particularly fast but can score in bunches off the bench.
De’Anthony Melton, Guard
Cole Zwicker sees nothing but potential in the 6-foot-4 guard, who missed all of last season due to a suspension (via The Stepien):
“[Melton] projects as a high-level role-player in the NBA as a two-way combo guard with high-level functional athleticism, elite defensive instincts and who can also play make for others offensively. As with most players, shooting development is crucial for Melton. If he develops a workable spot up three-point shot, he profiles as a potentially excellent two-way secondary creator at the next level as someone who contributes to winning basketball and who is ideally paired with a wing primary creator.”
While he is not particularly tall, his 6-foot-8 wingspan will absolutely help on defense. He is known for good on-court awareness and while we have not seen him play in over a year, his shot may have improved during his absence.
Regardless, he is a defensive specialist who can make an immediate impact. During his sole collegiate season, Melton averaged 1.9 steals and 1.0 block per game.
Jacob Evans, Guard/Forward
Many teams will clamor for Cincinnati wing Jacob Evans, who can shoot the three-pointer and is also a good defender.
Evans has an ideal assist-to-turnover rate and Vecenie views him as a low-usage player that can distribute well (via The Athletic):
“He’s a guy who can really handle the basketball, he can pass the ball, he can create plays for his teammates in a pretty significant way. He’s definitely going to be a wing and not a lead guard in the NBA, but he is going to be a guy who can at least attack close-outs or kind of excel in spot-up situations both as a passer and as a scorer.”
According to Vecenie, many executives believe he is “pretty darn close” to being ready for the pros.
Landry Shamet, Guard
The former Marshall guard is a projected first-round pick, according to NBADraft.net.
Zwicker recently wrote about why he could earn that spot (via The Stepien):
“Shamet has the one dynamic skill that every team covets, shooting, and he can do so dynamically and in a diverse amount of ways. Shamet isn’t just a shooter, however. He’s an intelligent player on both sides of the floor and can bring some playmaking in secondary fashion. Shamet’s defensive upside is capped due to his size and lack of strength, but he can compensate some with quick feet and by knowing where to be.”
The 6-foot-4 guard shot 44.2 percent from long distance last year, which will be worth monitoring for most scouts and executives.
Top 10 Other Players To Watch
Donte DiVincenzo, Guard
Tyus Battle, Guard
Melvin Frazier, Guard
Omari Spellman, Forward
Jerome Robinson, Guard
Rawle Alkins, Guard
Melvin Frazier, Guard
Josh Okogie, Guard