The 2018 NBA Draft is upon us as 60 players will have the dream of hearing their name called in the best basketball league in the world in New York City Thursday night.
Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton is the consensus No. 1 pick off the board in the majority of mock drafts and I don’t expect any surprises come Thursday night when the Phoenix Suns are on the clock. Ayton’s much maligned one and only season was overshadowed more so for headlines off the court, as Sean Miller has been held under much scrutiny after a report of the head coach offering $100,000 to get the Bahamas star to Tuscon.
After Ayton, things should get interesting as Duke’s Marvin Bagley and European sensation Luka Doncic are rumored to go to Sacramento at No. 2. Michael Porter Jr.’s name has also been in the mix at the second spot, but could be one of the more intriguing names on draft night due to the worrisome back injury he has and whether it’s a long-term issue.
As for projecting the draft, here goes (In no way am I an expert at this, but it’s fun to predict. My guess is I get six out of 30 right, good for 20 percent).
1. Phoenix Suns- DeAndre Ayton-C, Arizona- Ayton has been projected to be the consensus No. 1 for over a month now and who can blame Phoenix here. Ayton is one of the most intriguing big men prospects to grace the draft in recent years thanks to his unique blend of prototypical NBA size, length, athleticism, and coordination combined with a budding skill level.
2. Sacramento Kings- Marvin Bagley-PF, Duke- The Kings need a long-term answer to provide points in the paint and do so here with Bagley. Biggest concern for the Duke freshman is on the defensive side, but having Willie Cauley-Stein on help side should help.
3. Atlanta Hawks- Jaren Jackson Jr.-PF, Michigan State- I’m not buying the smoke signals the Hawks were putting out on Wednesday that they were going to make Doncic the No. 3 pick. They have playmakers in Dennis Schroeder and Kent Bazemore already, so unless they find suitors for those two, I think they go with need and get Jackson here.
4. Memphis Grizzlies- Luka Doncic-SG, Slovenia- The Grizz find their replacement for Chandler Parsons, who’s been a disaster since coming over from Dallas. Doncic possesses point guard type vision with a nice jumper to go with it. At 18, Doncic won the MVP of the Spanish League, regarded by many as the top league in Europe. Will be interesting to see how that translates to the NBA.
5. Dallas Mavericks- Mo Bamba-PF, Texas- I personally think Bamba has the biggest upside in the draft. Standing at 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, Bamba will be a force defensively and showed his offensive game can extend out to the perimeter too. He has the type of a walking double-double nightly and the projections of an annual all-star.
6. Orlando Magic- Michael Porter Jr.-SF, Missouri- If it weren’t for injuries, MPJ very well could have been the first name taken off the board. Entering his freshman year at Missouri, he was touted by many as the first pick in the 2018 Draft, but an ailing back set him back and could see his name drop even further with long-term concerns.
7. Chicago Bulls- Wendell Carter Jr.-C, Duke- Bulls go with a big man here with plenty of youth already in the backcourt.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers- Collin Sexton-PG, Alabama- Sexton is rumored to be the one that LeBron James camp covets, so feel the Cavs will do everything in their power to try and entice James to stay in Cleveland. This pick could also be shopped if the offer is right for the Cavs.
9. New York Knicks- Mikal Bridges-SF, Villanova- The Knicks are rumored to really want Bamba and willing to trade up to get him. If not, they go Bridges here. When hot, Bridges is up there as the best shooter in this draft along with Young.
10. Philadelphia 76ers- Trae Young-PG, Oklahoma- Will be one of the more intriguing names come Thursday night. Young could go anywhere from 5-15. Think he fits a J.J. Redick type role for the Sixers, who need more perimeter shooting.
11. Charlotte Hornets- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-PG, Kentucky- The streak extends to nine straight years that John Calipari has had a player get drafted in the lottery as Alexander is the first Wildcat off the board to Charlotte. The Hornets face a big decision with Kemba Walker in the coming year as he’s set to enter free agency after next season and provide a backup plan here in Alexander. This would put three former Wildcats on the Hornets roster, joining Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk.
12. Los Angeles Clippers- Kevin Knox-SF, Kentucky- Knox becomes the second Wildcat off the board to the Clippers. Knox has a sweet shot and at 6-foot-9 is tough to guard. Plays well in transition too.
13. Los Angeles Clippers- Robert Williams-C, Texas A&M- The Clippers reportedly love Williams and won’t let him slip past here.
14. Denver Nuggets- Miles Bridges-SF, Michigan State- Another Spartan wing joins the Nuggets as Bridges teams up with Gary Harris.
15. Washington Wizards- Jerome Robinson-SG, Boston College- Robinson has been soaring up draft boards with his workouts and the Wizards grab him here to bolster and bring depth to their wing play as Kelly Oubre and Jodie Meeks become free agents after next season.
16. Phoenix Suns- Lonnie Walker-SG, Miami- Walker is another one that I’m high on and nearly inserted him into the lottery. Had somewhat of an inconsistent freshman year at Miami, but feel like is a guy that will only get better with age.
17. Milwaukee Bucks- Zhaire Smith-SG, Texas Tech- The Bucks add another athletic wing to possibly replace Jabari Parker, who enters free agency this offseason.
18. San Antonio Spurs- Dzanan Musa-F, Bosnia- The Spurs continue the international pipeline route with Musa here.
19. Atlanta Hawks- Khyri Thomas-SG, Creighton- Hawks bring in an athletic shooting guard who is one of the better two-way players in the draft. The Hawks need defense, one of the bottom 10 teams in defensive efficiency last season.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves- Kevin Huerter-SG, Maryland- T-Wolves need depth in the backcourt and Huerter can provide that with his shooting.
21. Utah Jazz- Donte DiVincenzo-SG, Villanova- The darling of last year’s NCAA tournament skyrocketed his draft stock with a great showing in the dance and parlayed it into a solid couple months of workouts.
22. Chicago Bulls- Aaron Holiday-PG, UCLA- After passing on a point guard at No. 7, the Bulls get one here in Holiday.
23. Indiana Pacers- De’Anthony Melton-SG, USC- The Pacers were virtually have their entire roster off the books after next season besides Victor Oladipo, so need to hit on their pick here to help build for the future.
24.Portland Trail Blazers- Troy Brown-F, Oregon- The Blazers stay regional and add Brown here.
25. Los Angeles Lakers- Keita Bates-Diop-SF, Ohio State- The Lakers hope to hit again in the late first round like they did with Kyle Kuzma last year. Bates-Diop is a similar player to Kuzma, able to fill it up in bunches.
26. Philadelphia 76ers- Jalen Brunson-PG, Villanova- Philly kid stays home. Yes, they already drafted Young, but Young will be coming off the ball more. Brunson can bring toughness like T.J. McConnell currently does for them off the bench when needed. This sets up Philly to trade last year’s No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz as well.
27. Boston Celtics- Jacob Evans-SF, Cincinnati- Evans is a prototypical player the Celtics have went after in the draft the past few years. Lenghty and can guard on the wing. As a Bearcat, you must be able to guard and Evans can do just that.
28. Golden State Warriors- Grayson Allen-SG, Duke- Just another reason to hate the Warriors even more. They get college basketball’s demon. If there’s a locker room that can straighten him out and keep his head on sraight, I’d say it’s Golden State’s.
29. Brooklyn Nets- Moritz Wagner-PF, Michigan- Wagner is a matchup nightmare with his jump shot and size and ability to beat a big off a dribble. A lot of projections have him going second round, I just don’t see it.
30. Atlanta Hawks- Anfernee Simons-SG, IMG Academy- With three picks in the first round and four of the top 33, the Hawks go the project route here with Simons to close out the first round. This is a guy they can develop through the G-League for a year or two and work his way into the league.