Michigan State didn’t have anyone taken in last week’s NBA draft, thanks in part to star Miles Bridges’ decision to return for his sophomore season in East Lansing.
The 2018 NBA draft could be an entirely different story, though.
Bridges and incoming freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. both landed in the top 10 of Sports Illustrated’s list of top 20 NBA prospects for the 2018 draft, unveiled Monday. The 6-foot-10 Jackson ranks No. 7, while Bridges checks in at No. 9. That is, if they elect to enter the draft.
“Although it’ll likely take a complete season at Michigan State for Jackson to play up to this slot,” Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated writes, “he profiles nicely at the next level with his mobility, three-point range and shot-blocking skills. The son of an NBA player, Jackson will be one of the youngest players in the class if he comes out. His 7’4” wingspan will play nicely, particularly as his body fills out.
“Jackson has a well-rounded offensive skill set and an unconventional but effective jumper that makes him an ideal stretch-four prospect. He needs to improve as a rebounder and get tougher on the interior, but Jackson should be popular amongst scouts based on his potential. He’s not a lock this high, but will have a case with a good freshman year.”
Bridges had a strong freshman season at MSU, leading the Spartans in scoring (16.9 points) and rebounding (8.3), though he missed seven games with an ankle injury. He was a projected lottery pick in this year’s draft before opting to return for another season at MSU, helping to make the Spartans a national title contender next season.
“Bridges ... will need to make strides as a ball-handler and shooter in order to improve his stock, which likely would have put him somewhere inside the Top 20 this season,” Woo writes. “He’s an outstanding athlete and powerful leaper who plays above the rim and can defend multiple positions, but his lack of size (6-foot-7) to match his power forward-like role will be his Achilles heel as a prospect unless he ups his productivity. If he makes the transition into a legitimate perimeter player, it’s his best shot at a Top 10 selection.”
Incoming Missouri freshman forward Michael Porter Jr. is No. 1 on Sports Illustrated’s list. Incoming freshman center Mohamed Bamba, who chose Texas over Michigan and others in May, is No. 2.