SACRAMENTO -- The top five of the 2018 NBA Draft class is turning out to be special. It will take time to figure out where they rank historically, but the early returns are stunning.
No. 1 overall pick, Deandre Ayton, rolls through Sacramento on Saturday. He’ll likely see a heavy dose of No. 2 overall pick, Marvin Bagley III.
Before that battle takes place, Sacramento will get their first live look at rookie phenom and No. 3 overall selection, Luka Doncic, Thursday evening. The sure-fire NBA Rookie of the Year has put up huge numbers for the Mavericks this season, averaging 21.1 points, 5.8 assists, and 7.5 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game.
The 20-year-old out of Slovenia has played professionally for years overseas and came into the season NBA ready. His rookie numbers are impressive, but in many regards, expected.
Sacramento’s front office liked Doncic during the draft process. In fact, Vlade Divac has known the family for years and considered him the second-best prospect in the draft.
Concerns over fit with the Kings current roster, as well as what position Doncic might play at the NBA level played a role in the Kings’ decision.
But the single biggest deciding factor for Sacramento in the evaluation process was the talent level of Bagley. The Kings believe he has the highest ceiling in the draft class and they may still be correct.
Did the Kings make a mistake drafting Bagley over Doncic? The early results might suggest that they did, but it will take years to fully assess.
Bagley is showing signs of star power. He also plays with an incredible motor and is known for his off the court work ethic.
Sacramento loves Bagley’s long-term fit with point guard De’Aaron Fox and shooting guard Buddy Hield. They believe this group can be franchise cornerstones that will eventually lead the franchise back to the playoffs after a 12-year drought.
Injuries have cost Bagley 19 games this season, but when healthy, he’s a force. The 6-foot-11 power forward is averaging 14.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and nearly a block in 24.3 minutes per game.
In eight games since the All-Star break, the former Duke star has bumped those numbers up to 19.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 26.9 minutes a night. He’s coming off back-to-back 20-point games, including a 28-point, 7-rebound performance against the Nets on Tuesday.
Expect a heavy dose of Bagley down the stretch for Sacramento and not because they’ve fallen out of playoff contention. The rookie has earned his minutes with his strong play and he adds a new ingredient to the Kings’ offense when he’s on the floor.
In addition to Ayton, Bagley, and Doncic, fourth overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. put up solid numbers for Memphis before going down with an injury. No. 5 pick, Trae Young, is posting 18.5 points and 7.8 assists this season for Atlanta.
With the season almost in the books, this has already proven to be one of the strongest top end of the draft in recent history. Doncic will take home the hardware, but it’s way too early to start passing out judgment on which player will have the best NBA career out of this group.