The NBA draft is here, which means the top prospects in the 2018 class descended upon New York City to discuss pre-draft workouts, their NBA futures, and everything in between with scores of media.
While potential top picks like Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley were relatively soft-spoken in the face of questions, Wednesday’s availability produced plenty of sights and sounds from other draftees. Let’s run through the event’s highlights.
Michael Porter Jr.
Porter’s lone college season was marred by a back injury that kept him off the court for all but 53 minutes, thus causing his draft stock to sink. A recent flare-up in his hip caused Porter to miss a workout, which he addressed with the media on Wednesday.
Every team in the NBA could use a skilled, supersized wing like Porter, but his health could dictate which teams are willing to take that risk on draft night.
Like Porter, Young is one of the most divisive prospects in the draft, ranging from high- to low-lottery on various draft boards. Some teams are higher on Porter, but if you ask Young, there’s no question as to which is the better player.
“I’ve played a lot of one-on-ones with Michael Porter in high school,” Young said as he glanced at Porter a table over. “I didn’t play him in college. He don’t wanna see me. He don’t wanna see me. He knows what happens when we play one-on-one.”
Despite only working out for four teams prior to the draft, Young said he’s open to several landing spots.
“I just want to go to a place where they want me,” he said. “The way I play I can fit into any system. It doesn’t matter. Being able to control my own team, that’s something you’ve got to earn. You don’t get handed that.”
Young also said he’s gained 14 pounds since the college season ended, and though he isn’t worried about holding up over the course of an NBA season, he made his body a focus of his offseason workouts.
“That’s something I knew I had to work on and get better at,” he said. “I think people get too caught up in all of that. You look back in recent memory and recent drafts—they were saying the same thing about Steph, same thing about Kemba. When Chris came out, I mean, you get the same things every year. But I know that’s something I needed to show and work on, and so that’s something that I’ve been working on.”
The Miami combo guard isn’t a flat-Earther, but he still has plenty of unconventional takes on the planet. At the combine, Walker proclaimed that the Earth was “an illusion.” He offered more insight into that theory on Wednesday:
“I can elaborate, but I’m gonna keep it simple because that would take some time for me to truly explain," Walker said. "But a quote that you gotta live by is, ‘The man who knows he knows everything knows nothing at all,’ meaning as much as you think you might know, anything might be false. That’s like me being a scientist for 12 years, and then out of nowhere I come up with a theory that ‘such and such is this.' What are you going to believe? You’re going to believe it because I’m a scientist. At the end of the day, you can’t believe anything that [people] are telling you.”
So, does he believe in Simulation Theory?
“Oh, absolutely Simulation Theory. That’s my favorite. Absolutely.”
It’s a shame the Celtics aren’t drafting high enough to get Walker.
Wendell Carter Jr.
Carter has seen his draft stock rise since the end of Duke’s season and could work his way into the top five. After meeting with the Mavericks, he picked up some pro tips from point guard Dennis Smith Jr.
“It went really well,” Carter said of his workout in Dallas. “I have a really good relationship with Dennis Smith, so he talked to me a lot and gave me some great pointers on what to expect in the league. So I had a lot of fun down there.”
He also discussed the influence Dirk Nowitzki has had on his game and this generation of bigs.
“Dirk is a phenomenal shooting big man,” said Carter, a 41.3% three-point shooter in college. “He’s someone I used to watch growing up and just how he would score the ball, the fact that he could score over anybody because of how he shot the ball—I just watched him and tried to take little bits and pieces of his game and put it into mine.”
The 18-year-old swingman models his game after Kevin Durant. But while he’s excited about squaring off against his idol in the NBA, Knox said he won’t let his admiration for the two-time Finals MVP erode his competitive edge.
“Growing up I always watched him,” Knox said. “I gotta compete now. The whole ‘favorite player’ [has to] go away. You gotta go onto the court with a different mindset. He’s your favorite player but you’ve got to try and compete when you go against him.”
Knox also shared one of the stranger parts of his pre-draft interviews:
Mikal Bridges & Donte DiVincenzo
Villanova could have four players drafted Thursday night in Bridges, DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson, and Omari Spellman. The former two spoke to the media on Wednesday about going through the draft process with such close teammates.
“We talk every day,” DiVincenzo said. “I hope all of us go as soon as possible so we can see each other as soon as possible. There will be a number of moments when coach [Jay] Wright is going to be able to sit between me and Mikal at the table. I think that’s really cool for him.”
Bridges, a Philadelphia-area native and potential target for the 76ers, also discussed what it would mean to play for his hometown team.
“It would be really cool, just being around the Sixers,” Bridges said. “My mom obviously works there, they’ve got ‘Nova guys. Other than that, the Process with them—how they got better, how they played—it’s how I play. Playing behind Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid], I feel like I can be a nice piece for them.”
Bridges also joked with Miles Bridges, who addressed the media just one table away from Mikal, about the potential of playing on the same team.
(It’s worth mentioning that the Clippers have the 12th and 13th picks. If both Bridges fall to the back of the lottery, that possibility could come to fruition.)
Bridges likely won’t be the top pick in the draft, a reality he tacitly acknowledged when asked who he would take with the first selection.
“I don’t know,” Bridges sighed. “It’s tough. It’s such a great draft class I don’t know who I would pick. I really don’t know, for sure. It depends on team needs.”
When pressed further, he finally gave an answer … sort of.
“Probably a big,” he admitted. “It’s between Deandre, Marvin, Mo Bamba, and Jaren. Those four.”
Jaren Jackson Jr.
The lanky Michigan State prospect will likely hear his name called early on Thursday night, but Jackson says he pays little attention to speculation surrounding the draft and simply wants to help an NBA team win games, regardless of fit or position.
“There’s like four thousand [mock drafts],” Jackson said. “I kind of just play my game and work on getting better. Just wait for that moment.”
Though he’ll spend the majority—if not entirety—of his NBA career as a big man, Jackson has taken bits and pieces from bigs and guards alike to round out his game.
“Definitely when you look at guys my size like Anthony Davis. He’s one of the best players in the NBA, so you try to pick parts of his game. But you also pick parts of a bunch of the stars in the game. So you look at a guy like Steph Curry. You can’t just pick your position.”
Jackson has enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with sharing the pre-draft experience with the rest of his class, and relishes the friendships he has with his peers. But he also looks forward to finally hearing his name called, turning those friends back into competitors.
“Tomorrow is the day,” Jackson said. “So there’s no more mocks. It’s gonna be the regular draft.”