Guard De’Anthony Melton and forward Chimezie Metu are near shoe-ins to be selected in the 2018 NBA Draft tomorrow night. Backcourt men Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin meanwhile aren’t appearing in mock drafts, but will be potential targets for teams to bring in as undrafted free agents if their names don’t get called. The Conquest Chronicles staff gives you our predictions for where all four former Trojans could land.
Writers: Aaron Hendel, Matthew Lowry, Colton Molesky
Aaron: Golden State Warriors, No. 28 overall (first round)
The Warriors certainly don’t need more offense. They’re going to look for a player who can contribute immediately on defense, and ideally give some support to Steph Curry in particular who got picked on in the playoffs. Melton fits the mold perfectly, and could have plenty of time to hone his offensive skills when the Warriors stars relax on the bench during fourth quarter blowouts.
Colton: Atlanta Hawks, No. 19 overall (first round)
The Hawks need young talent and defensive help, which Melton brings to the table. He is a long, perimeter defender who offers solid on-ball defense immediately.
He will also make for a nice rim running and backdoor cutting option off the playmaking of Dennis Schroder. The Hawks need players with lots of raw talent, upside and versatility. Melton is a healthy dose of all three.
Matthew: Boston Celtics, No. 27 overall (first round)
This is where Boston can grab a young athletic guard who can play and guard all three positions. With his length and his defensive IQ can provide the Celtics help off the bench, especially with Marcus Smart being a Restricted Free Agent this year.
Melton also provide Point Guards like Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier a player who can cut back door and run rim to rim in transition. Melton will have to find some consistency with his jumper, but has a ton of raw talent and upside.
Aaron: Los Angeles Lakers, No. 47 overall (second round)
Whether the Lakers land LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and / or Paul George, they still won’t have a stretch four. Metu isn’t one yet, but he’s shown the commitment and potential needed to become one. A freak athlete, Metu would be a perfect alley-oop target for Lonzo Ball, and the Staples Center crowd would erupt when the local product throws one down like few others can.
Colton: New York Knicks, No. 36 overall (second round)
Kristaps Porzingis is a star but has struggled with hampering injuries throughout his career, while the ninth pick will most likely go to fixing the continual strifes at point guard. Metu early in the second round gives the team some added insurance in the frontcourt.
He is an aggressive rebounder who proved he can add layers to his offensive game by taking more 3s last season (going from 2 attempts in 2016-17 to 40 in 2017-18). His ability to adjust and grow, while already possessing a solid game down low to fall back on gives the Knicks valuable depth off the bench.
Matthew: Los Angeles Lakers, No. 47 overall (second round)
I have to agree with Aaron on Metu going to the Lakers. L.A. needs a rim protector and Metu brings that. Not to mention he fits the style of Luke Walton’s play which is a stretch the floor-pace and space.
Lakers need another rebounder at the center position and Metu provides it for them, but he also gives the ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot. Metu can definitely improve in the league and staying in Los Angeles with a team that plays a very similar style as Andy Enfield at USC.
Aaron: Detroit Pistons, undrafted free agent
I firmly believe Stewart is going to play at the next level, even though he’s unlikely to get drafted. He has NBA-caliber athleticism, both above the rim and defensively. The Pistons only have one draft pick, fit the athletic mold with big men Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, and could be looking for another young guard following the apparent bust of last year’s first round draft pick, Luke Kennard.
Colton: San Antonio Spurs, undrafted free agent
The Spurs are about to lose the third best player in the NBA and are running back a so-so roster from last season. Fresh talent will be a huge factor for success in San Antonio.
Stewart will be a cheap option snagged after the draft that fits in the mold of Danny Green (also a Spur). He can stretch the floor with catch-and-shoot 3s, while also giving defensive length on the perimeter. He can be another young player post-draft that gives the Spurs a new offensive look while adding defense in the new patched together unit.
Matthew: Golden State Warriors, undrafted free agent
The thing with the Warriors is that they can always use another guy who can catch and shoot off the bench. They’re also looking to draft guys to utilize in their rotation.
In comes Elijah Stewart. Stewart will be a cheap option for the Warriors, who won’t have much cap space to play with. Stewart brings the ability to catch and shoot to space the floor and also gives the Warriors length on the perimeter defensively. We’ll see him play good minutes during summer league, but Golden State picking him up makes a lot of sence.
Aaron: Washington Wizards, undrafted free agent
McLaughlin’s path to the association is always going to be tougher because of his size, but his passing ability could land him in the G-League. The Wizards have their starting backcourt set in stone with John Wall and Bradley Beal. However, Wall has missed significant action the last few years with injuries, and his backup, Ramon Sessions, is a free agent.
Colton: Orlando Magic, undrafted free agent
Somehow, in an age when point guards are everywhere, the Magic have struggled to find reliable guard play. They most likely take Oklahoma star Trae Young at six, but McLaughlin will give the position affordable depth.
With 7.5 assists per game, the USC product averaged the fourth most in college last season. His ability to create space and find open looks for his teammates was one of the best last season. He can come in and be a valuable asset immediately for a team in needing urgent backcourt help.
Matthew: Los Angeles Lakers, undrafted free agent
This is one of the more underrated players in this years draft. McLaughlin was essentially USC’s Most Valuable Player for the last 3 years. His IQ on both sides of the ball is incredibly high and can really make plays with the ball in his hands. The knock on McLaughlin is his size, but when you watch his film you can see that he can play.
This is where the Lakers can pick him up on their summer league roster. They can use another High IQ point guard for depth off the bench. His path to the league will be a tough one due to his size, but the playmaking ability of McLaughlin will be a steal to bring in.