Below are predictions for how the rookie seasons for the seven SEC Players in the selected in the 2018 Draft might play out. These are of course predictions sure to be wrong, but hopefully you will have a better idea of what these players will be facing in their first seasons.
Collin Sexton-Cleveland Cavaliers
This prediction of course depends a lot on if LeBron James is going to be a Cleveland Cavalier next season so let’s play this out both ways.
If LeBron stays: Sexton will be playing with arguably the best to ever lace up basketball shoes. It will do nothing but help how the Alabama guard will come along in his introduction to the league.
Also, the Cavs will yet again be making a deep postseason run which means Sexton will get a lot of valuable experience playing on some of the biggest stages in the sport so notoriety will come his big time like it did for Tatum on the Celtics.
If LeBron leaves: Sexton will be playing on a bad team apart from Kevin Love. Instead of LeBron, he will be having to look up to George Hill which is a big difference. However, don’t forget that Hill played the role of mentor for De’Aaron Fox at the start of last season.
Prediction: Sexton is a pure competitor. Expect him to hit the rookie wall and struggle like all rookies do, but he will showcase that he is a valuable young asset no matter what LeBron does. Worst case scenario he fails to make the All-Rookie First team and instead settles for the second team.
Kevin Knox-New York Knicks
Knox’s rookie year will have some ups and downs so prepare for them. First off, I expect him to struggle A LOT at first. Remember, this is an 18-year-old we are talking about here.
Don’t expect anything special this year, or possibly the next. Knox needs time to let his game and more importantly his body get adjusted to the NBA and that will take time. He isn’t as NBA ready as Sexton or other prospects are in my opinion at this moment.
And that’s perfectly fine. I think Knox will eventually blossom into a potential star player once he nears his mid-20’s. Go back and watch that West Virginia game from this year. He annihilated the best defense in the nation. That’s when I knew he would become a dependable NBA player at worse.
Prediction: Porzingis will more than likely miss the entire first half of the season so there will be playing time and stats for Knox to go for as the Knicks are going to truly stink. Overall, he will be a guy battling to get on the all-rookie second team, but he will pull it off after getting somewhere in the ballpark of 9-11 points and 5-6 rebounds per game.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-LA Clippers
This is the hardest prediction to make out of the seven SEC players. I love Shai’s defensive potential even as a rookie. However, he is on a team with three other point guards who all averaged at least 25 minutes per game last season (Patrick Beverly, Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic).
However, they spent too high of a draft pick on Shai so I expect him to somehow get decent playing time this year. I predict that at least one of those guards above won’t be around at the start of next season. There have been some rumblings that the Clippers are looking to trade Beverley which would give Shai added playing time.
Prediction: Shai is on a team that badly needs his defensive capabilities. As far as stats go, don’t expect anything impressive. Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, Danilo Galinari and possibly DeAndre Jordan if he returns will handle the scoring load on this team.
Where Shai will make his impact is in the steals and assists departments for the Clippers. An all-rookie team is a stretch, but he will get some votes. The important thing for him is to just show that he belongs on this team as a team-first player, which he will do.
Michael Porter Jr.-Denver Nuggets
Porter Jr. had an unfortunate draft night as he experienced an embarrassing fall to the No. 14 overall pick as teams had growing concerns over his back injury.
Michael Porter Jr. falls to Denver, sneaks into the lottery at No. 14! pic.twitter.com/VFPjlCtCvQ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 22, 2018
However, falling to Denver is a win for him. This is a stable franchise with a talented young core that just missed the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.
Rumors are swirling that Porter Jr. may miss half or even all his rookie season. If he does, it would greatly put a dimmer on whatever I predict for him, but it may pay dividends for him in the long run. Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons both missed the entirety of their rookie season and they turned out just fine.
Prediction: If Porter Jr. does get to play at least half of this season, don’t expect too much from him. He is returning off a bad injury and will take time adjusting to that while also adjusting to a new league. Plus, the Nuggets are pretty good to go roster-wise so he will be coming off the bench at first.
If he makes the impact that I think Kevin Knox will make in New York, it would be an impressive accomplishment for Porter Jr. in his first season.
Robert Williams-Boston Celtics
Many experts called this the steal of the draft. I for one was shocked that a player with Williams’ talent fell this far to Boston. This was bar-none one of the best picks in the draft considering his value and the Celtics’ need for a dominant rim protector.
He doesn’t always play his hardest at times, which is why he almost fell into the second round. However, expect Brad Stevens to push and get the most out of Williams.
Prediction: The centers on the Celtics are currently Aaron Baynes, Greg Monroe, and Daniel Theis. I really think Williams is going to crack this rotation and potentially even start some games. I see him having a very similar year as Bam Adebayo had with the Miami Heat. He will have several ESPN Top 10 plays (like the one below) while making a strong case that he is this team’s future at the center position.
Robert Williams is officially a Celtic.
We assume that means Boston automatically gets his windmill partner as part of a package deal. pic.twitter.com/YFeMCjw32B
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) June 22, 2018
Jarred Vanderbilt-Denver Nuggets
I did not expect a team to select both Porter Jr. and Vanderbilt in this draft but here we are. Coming into the draft I assumed that a pretty talented team would pick him to provide energy off the bench so that is a positive sign.
As far as Vanderbilt’s rookie season is going to go, I expect him to start out in the G League at first. Strangely like Porter Jr., he is coming off an injury as well so that is probably a good place for him to start.
Prediction: Hopefully the Summer League (if he plays in it) and the G League will be platforms for Vanderbilt to show off his first-round talent. I’m not for sure if he makes an impact as a rookie this season, but I do predict that he eventually makes the full-time roster by season’s end, which would be a massive win for him.
Hamidou Diallo-Oklahoma City Thunder
I for one am glad Diallo fell to the Thunder in this draft. That’s an organization that is routinely in the playoffs and one that also has a solid front office.
Plus, the Thunder are not an NBA team known for having a deep bench, let alone a good one. Depth at the guard position behind Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson looks like this: Corey Brewer, Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, and Raymond Felton.
If Diallo can unleash his athletic game in the Summer League and prove that he should be on the active roster there is a small chance he can get into that rotation and see some playing time.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 22, 2018
Prediction: Diallo is the definition of a project. His skills are so raw that it will honestly take 2-3 years to fully polish his game if he ever wants to be a reliable player in the league.
If he can earns playing time at any point this year with a team that will be back in the playoffs, that will be a huge accomplishment at this early stage of his development. But my optimism for that happening is low.