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No. 11. Charlotte Hornets: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
Carter could go as high as No. 6, but if the Bulls and Kings opt for wing or forward scorers, he could slip to the Hornets. He should be interchangeable between the 4 and 5, particularly if his jumper starts working early. Ideally, he would eventually replace Dwight Howard and give the Hornets another post option, rebounder and rim protector, but he could also step outside and stretch the floor.
No. 12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG/SG, Freshman)
The Clippers can add their next point guard and another scorer to their backcourt in Sexton. Athletic and highly intense, he puts pressure on opponents at both ends by attacking the rim and competing defensively. Sexton will need to work on his floor game and jumper after averaging only 3.6 assists and 2.8 turnovers and shooting 33.8 percent from three. But once his confidence starts pumping, he’s the type of player capable of taking over a game.
No. 13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)
Signs are pointing to the end of DeAndre Jordan’s time in L.A. That makes Robert Williams an intriguing replacement and immediate plug-and-play option for his identical strengths as an explosive leaper, lob target, rim protector and rebounder. Williams will attempt to follow in Jordan’s footsteps as a center who can impact games around the basket with his tools and athleticism despite lacking much skill.
No. 14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox II (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)
Already set with cornerstone guards in Jamal Murray and Gary Harris to go with a glut of bigs, the Nuggets’ only need is on the wing. This could be a trade-down (or out) spot for Denver, but the Nuggets could also lean toward Knox, a 6’9″ forward who’s still 18 years old and led Kentucky in scoring. He’ll need time to develop, but between his mismatch tools, athleticism and shot-making skills, there is obvious long-term offensive upside to unlock.
No. 15. Washington Wizards: Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)
Without any must-draft stars available outside 2018’s lottery, this is a good opportunity for the Wizards to swing for upside at a position of need. Though he skipped the season to train for the draft, Robinson will prove during workouts he’s one of the field’s elite athletes. Given the Wizards’ current frontcourt, which features below-the-rim bigs Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat, there is extra incentive to take a chance on a raw-yet-explosive center who has enormous room to improve.
No. 16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
The Suns add more backcourt depth with Gilgeous-Alexander, whose facilitating ability and defensive versatility point to role-player potential, even if he lacks the speed and athleticism that traditionally hint at upside. At worst, he’ll run Phoenix’s second unit while guarding multiple positions, though late-season signs of improved shooting suggest he can take his scoring to another level.
No. 17. Milwaukee Bucks: Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Freshman)
The Bucks think defense with Smith, an explosive leaper who guards multiple positions and plays with an edge. He’s limited offensively, but he’s also still 18 years old and he shot a promising 18-of-40 from behind the arc. Smith looks poised to create buzz during athletic testing at the combine. He can take Shabazz Muhammad’s (or Jabari Parker’s) spot in Milwaukee.
No. 18. San Antonio Spurs: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)
San Antonio ignores the Kawhi Leonard situation before the draft and looks to go young with Porter. He won’t turn 19 years old until November, yet he finished as one of two players in the country to average at least a three-point make, 1.5 blocks and 2.0 assists per game. He isn’t a high-level athlete, but his size, NBA-friendly skill set and basketball IQ should appeal to the Spurs, a team without any exciting young bigs to develop.
No. 19. Atlanta Hawks (via Timberwolves): Anfernee Simons (USA, PG/SG, 1999)
The Hawks can afford to gamble on long-term upside with one of their three first-round picks. And Simons is the type of wild card worth rolling the dice on, given his athleticism and scoring potential, which is higher than Kent Bazemore’s. Coming straight from high school as a post-graduate, Simons will likely require patience, but his quickness, bounce, ball skills and shooting scream future NBA combo guard.
No. 20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)
Attempting to strengthen their backcourt with Jamal Crawford likely gone, the Wolves can look overseas at Musa, who just turned 19 years old last week and averages double figures in scoring in the Adriatic League, Croatian League and Eurocup. Despite questions over his athletic ability, he has produced at every level since 2014, doing so with size for the position, scoring instincts and competitiveness.