The 2018 NBA draft class has made a great case to be remembered as one of the best in recent years, thanks to the performances they have had over the years.
The 2021 NBA playoffs have seen these talented young stars take the next step in their careers. Three of the top-five picks - Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young - from the 2018 NBA draft class have led their teams by examples and are projected to be top-tier stars in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the likes of Michael Porter Jr., Kevin Huerter, Mikal Bridges and Bruce Brown Jr. have also made giant leaps and elevated their games to new levels this season.
This draft class seems to have the confidence, talent and game required to be the very best in the business. On that note, let's have a look at top five players from the 2018 NBA draft class based on their performances, impact and roles in their respective teams.
#1 Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic has been touted as the next big thing in the NBA by many, and rightfully so, considering the kind of records he has achieved so far in his three-season-long career. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and was voted as an NBA All-Star starter twice (2020 ,2021).
In the 2019-20 season, Doncic earned All-NBA first-team honors after he led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Slovenian also finished fourth in MVP voting that season, behind Giannis Antetokoumpo, LeBron James and James Harden.
After having one of the best sophomore years by an NBA player, Luka Doncic was the oddsmakers' favorite to win the NBA MVP award before the 2020-21 NBA season commenced. So far, he has been the most successful player from the 2018 NBA draft class because of his exploits in the league.
Luka Doncic's career stats at this stage of his career are also the best among his draft mates. In the three seasons he has played so far, Doncic has averaged 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. His playoff numbers are even better; he has averaged 33.5 points, 9.5 assists and 8.8 rebounds per game in 11-career-playoff games.
#2 Trae Young
Trae Young was traded to the Atlanta Hawks by the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Luka Doncic on the 2018 NBA draft night. That proved to be one of the most beneficial deals for both franchises. Like Doncic, Young also made his NBA All-Star game debut as a starter in his sophomore year and made it to the All-Rookie first team.
After missing out on making a postseason trip in the first two seasons of his career, Trae Young did a fabulous job in leading the Atlanta Hawks to the 2021 NBA playoffs. He made his debut at Madison Square Garden, where he put up a masterclass in his debut playoff game. Young became the fourth player in NBA playoffs history to tally 30+ points and 10+ assists in his first postseason game.
Young became the latest 'villain' in New York after silencing the hostile MSG crowd with a match-winning floater in the dying minutes of Game 1 and went on to lead his team to a 4-1 series win.
So far in his career, Young has averaged 24.1 points and 8.9 assists per game. He is averaging 28.8 points and 9.8 assists per game across eight appearances in the 2021 NBA playoffs, as on 14th June 2021.
#3 Deandre Ayton
Deandre Ayton was the no. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft class. The Phoenix Suns center has become one of the best two-way players in the league this season and has flourished under the leadership of veteran Chris Paul.
Ayton struggled to cope with injuries during his rookie and sophomore years in the NBA but still put up terrific numbers almost every match. He averaged 16.1 points and 10.3 boards per game in his debut season, while those numbers improved to 18.2 and 11.5, respectively, in his second year in the NBA.
He emerged as one of the key components and leaders in his team. Ayton helped the Suns make the playoffs for the first time in a decade this season and has now led them to the Western Conference Finals as well.
Ayton came up big against veterans like Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Nikola Jokic as the Suns outplayed the LA Lakers and Denver Nuggets in the first two rounds of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
Ayton, who is one of the most vocal players on and off the court for the Phoenix Suns, has been crucial for his team defensively as well. He is averaging 16 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in his regular-season career while shooting at 62.6% from the floor.
Meanwhile, his numbers in his first ten NBA playoff appearances have also been quite impressive; Ayton is averaging 15.6 points and 11 rebounds on 72.9% shooting from the field.
#4 Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. was one of the most exciting picks in the 2018 NBA draft class. However, he suffered a season-ending back injury before he even made his debut and had to wait till the 2018-19 campaign to kickstart his NBA career.
Porter did not play much in his first rookie season, seeing only 16.4 minutes per game. However, whenever he was given a prominent role, he did not disappoint.
He scored 15 points in his debut NBA match, coming off the bench and scoring multiple 20-point games that season. Porter's season-best score was 37 that campaign, which he scored against the OKC Thunder in the Orlando Bubble.
These performances proved to be instrumental in the Nuggets trusting in their young star to deliver after Jerami Grant was traded to the Detroit Pistons at the start of the 2020-21 NBA campaign.
Porter went on to start 54 of the 61 games he played after injuries plagued the Nuggets. He was also in the running for the Most Improved Player of the Year award because of his performances, eventually finishing third in the final voting.
He averaged 19 points and 7.3 rebounds on 54.2% shooting from the floor, including 44.5% from beyond the arc, on nearly six attempts per game during the 2020-21 NBA season.
#5 Mikal Bridges
The tenth-overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft class, Mikal Bridges, is quickly turning into one of the best 3-and-D players in the NBA.
Bridges, who has had decent rookie and sophomore years, has made improvements to his game at a steady pace. He was the first rookie since his current teammate, Chris Paul, to make at least one steal in a 20-game stretch.
He was the only player in the Suns' roster to play in all 82 games in his debut campaign. Bridges has enjoyed a career-best campaign in 2020-21, averaging 13.5 points and 4.3 rebounds on 54.3% shooting from the floor and 42.5% from beyond the arc on nearly five attempts per game.
His development has given the Phoenix Suns a massive boost in their successful 2021 NBA playoffs campaign thus far. They managed to defeat the defending champs LA Lakers in round one (4-2). The Suns then trumped NBA MVP Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets in round two (4-0) to reach the 2021 Western Conference Finals.
Bridges is averaging 11.8 points and 1.6 steals in his debut postseason campaign, shooting at 37.7% from beyond the arc on nearly six attempts per game.