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The 2018 NBA Draft order is set, meaning the unresolved questions are on the clock.
Do the Phoenix Suns keep Deandre Ayton in Arizona, or do they reunite Luka Doncic with his Slovenian national team skipper—and Phoenix’s new head coach—Igor Kokoskov? Are the Sacramento Kings locked in to Ayton or Doncic, or might Vivek Ranadive’s club provide the night’s first wild card?
And good luck guessing what will happen once the first two selections are made.
But since we’re in the prognosticating business, we’ll take our stab at how the talent grab might go.
2018 NBA Mock Draft
1. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic, PG/SG, Slovenia
This isn’t about the Doncic-Kokoskov connection as much as it is the Suns’ need for offensive creativity. With Doncic and Josh Jackson splitting the playmaking duties and Devin Booker shredding nets at a near-All-Star level, the Association’s least efficient offense could take a big step forward.
2. Sacramento Kings: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
Ayton-De’Aaron Fox pick-and-rolls forever. Sacramento’s pick-and-roll screeners tied for the fewest points per possession on those plays (0.97). Ayton boasts a deep enough offensive arsenal to move the Kings out of the bottom-third.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan State
Sophomore-to-be John Collins would work best alongside a big man who can block shots, splash threes and defend away from the basket. Jackson checks all three boxes.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke
Athletic and always active, Bagley produced like a cornerstone big (21 points, 11.1 rebounds per game). A year or two alongside Marc Gasol might help Bagley grow into that role at the NBA level.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
Bamba’s impossibly long 7’9″ wingspan might help spring the Mavericks’ 18th-ranked defense into the top 10. His athleticism and flashes of a jumper could make him the ideal complement to Dennis Smith Jr.
6. Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri
Orlando hasn’t had a top-20 offense since Dwight Howard was manning the middle (14th in 2011-12). Porter might have the highest scoring ceiling in this draft.
7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke
While the Bulls could use this pick to address a glaring weakness on the wing, they instead use it here on Robin Lopez’s replacement. Carter has some Al Horford in him, perhaps allowing him to act as the glue that brings Chicago’s young nucleus together.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Cleveland acquired this pick by trading away Kyrie Irving and bringing in Isaiah Thomas. Considering Thomas is gone and George Hill now holds the point-guard reins, finding a longterm floor general like the athletic Sexton should be a priority.
9. New York Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Frank Ntilikina hit 31.8 percent of his threes as a rookie. Trey Burke has converted 33.9 percent of his career shots from range. Backcourt shooting is an itch, and Young—who had nine outings with five-plus triples—looks like the best way to scratch it.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Bridges is a Pennsylvania native who celebrated two championships at nearby Villanova. More importantly, he projects to be the kind of three-and-D swingman who could provide instant relief to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
Bridges brings explosiveness, shot-making and defensive versatility. In other words, he has the package Charlotte has struggled to find from its forwards.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Patrick Beverley isn’t the longterm replacement for Chris Paul. Gilgeous-Alexander could be. He’s long, slippery off the dribble and crafty with the basketball.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
If DeAndre Jordan opts out of his $24.1 million player option, the Clippers should be in the market for a younger, cheaper center. Williams has the length and athleticism to do much of the same things as Jordan at a fraction of the price.
14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky
With Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris all in tow, the Nuggets could be a wing away from interesting. Knox has the versatility to fill that void.
15. Washington Wizards: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
Underwhelming college marks aside (11.5 points, 1.9 assists), Walker would be an intriguing addition to Washington’s perennially underwhelming reserve unit. He’s a dynamic athlete and capable of creating his own shot off the dribble.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Zhaire Smith, SF, Texas Tech
No one surrendered more points per 100 possessions than the Suns (110.6). That’s reason enough to consider the high-rising Smith, who also buried 18 of his 40 three-point attempts.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Anfernee Simons, PG/SG/ IMG Academy
From Giannis Antetokounmpo to Thon Maker, the Bucks have shown a willingness to think outside the box. Gambling on the shot-making potential of Simons—a fifth-year high-schooler—is another step in that direction.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF, Ohio State
Bates-Diop doesn’t shine in any particular area, but he has a solid base in most of them. Sounds pretty Spurs-y to us.
19. Atlanta Hawks (via Timberwolves): Troy Brown Jr., SG/SF, Oregon
The Hawks are in the upside-chasing portion of their rebuild. Brown offers plenty of potential with versatility at both ends, especially if his three ball comes around (29.1 percent).
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, Bosnia & Herzegovina
We’ll let Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman take the wheel for the rationale behind this selection:
“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.”
21. Utah Jazz: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State
Utah’s second- and third-best scorers this season were Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio, respectively. Scoring is an obvious area in need of offensive attention, and getting Hutchison—a nightly provider of 20 points last season—is a good place to start.
22. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
Only one bench backcourt delivered fewer points than Chicago’s 12.2 per game. Holiday—younger brother of Bulls swingman Justin—is oozing with spark-plug potential after averaging 18 points per 40 minutes and shooting 42.2 percent outside over his three seasons as a Bruin.
23. Indiana Pacers: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
The post-Paul George Pacers finished a surprising fifth in the Eastern Conference. Adding a plug-and-play option like Thomas—a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year and 40.6 percent career three-point shooter—would keep the Circle City trending in the right direction.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinnati
Shooting and defensive versatility are two clear areas of need for Portland’s perimeter group. Drafting Evans would address both.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavs): Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
L.A.’s top two centers—Julius Randle and Brook Lopez—are headed to free agency. Porter could fill one of those voids with a contemporary skill set featuring shot-blocking, playmaking and perimeter shooting.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Mitchell Robinson, C, USA
Seeing as the Sixers just made the conference semis and are making their second selection of the round, they can roll the dice on upside. Few mid-to-late-first prospects offer more of it than Robinson, a bouncy 7-footer who could be the rim-running backup behind Embiid.
27. Boston Celtics: Bruce Brown Jr., SG, Miami
Brown is far from the surest shooter in this class (career 31.6 percent outside), but he is a ball-mover, gritty defender and active rebounder. That sounds a lot like the scouting report for Marcus Smart, who might price his way out of Boston as a restricted free agent.
28. Golden State Warriors: Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
Don’t be blinded by the perimeter prowess of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant—the Dubs need more shooting, especially off the bench. That’s what Allen, a career 38 percent marksman, can provide, along with enough athleticism and playmaking to fill more than a specialist role.
29. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, USC
The Nets can keep swinging for the fences as they try to maximize the assets left over by the short-sighted previous regime. Before the FBI’s investigation forced Melton off the floor, he had breakout potential for his defensive malleability, toughness and advanced feel for the game.
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova
DiVincenzo’s spotlight-stealing performance in the national title game put him on everyone’s radar, but he intrigued long before that with athleticism, shot-making and defensive versatility. The Hawks can use their third pick of this round to see if DiVincenzo can string more monstrous performances together.
Statistics used courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and NBA.com.