2018 NBA Mock Draft: This two-round projection is dominated by big men at the top
Let's look at all 60 picks in this month's NBA Draft
If the NBA is moving toward smallball principles and getting away from the idea of the big man, then riddle me this: Why are six of the top 10 prospects in this mock draft power forwards, forward/centers or true/modern centers?
It's because nothing tempts general managers like a big who could change your team for five, seven or 10 years.
The big man will never die. In fact, adaptation of power forwards and centers have only enhanced professional basketball. Look no further than what Kevin Durant has done in his career.
So keep that in mind on draft night, and right here, as we take a mock draft stroll through all 60 picks. Bigs are aplenty in the early rounds, with slim pickings in the back half of the draft.
Here's my debut look at the 2018 NBA Draft, which takes place for real June 21.
Seems like we're making our way toward consensus status on Ayton to the Suns. The Arizona freshman, who I dubbed as a "power center" when he was swatting away mortals in college, has the body, skill set and dominant streak to potentially become a Hall of Fame player. That's why he's thought of as the No. 1 pick. You don't want to pass, in the event he becomes a 10-time All-Star. He's a great fit for Phoenix.
I've been confused over the developments in the past month that have turned the No. 1 overall discussion into an Ayton-or-Doncic-only debate. Bagley's oddly been pushed to the side for most, but not here, not with me. While I still have Ayton ever so slightly ahead, I think Bagley's got a much higher floor and makes a lot of sense for Sacramento at No. 2. I would not be surprised if he wound up going No. 1.
Luka Doncic | International | SG
The Slovenian's credentials are undeniable. Doncic is considered by many scouts to be the most pro-ready prospect in this class, due in good part to the fact he was outstanding for two-plus years playing in Europe. He recently became the youngest player ever to earn MVP in EuroLeague. Atlanta has slipped in recent years, after flirting with becoming a top-three team in the Eastern Conference, and so drafting Doncic could give the franchise a preternaturally gifted talent that could be the key building block for the next four years.
Expect the Trae buzz to build between the end of the Finals and draft night. He became the first player, as a freshman, to lead men's Division I in scoring and assists. He had unreliable teammates and was burdened with far too much ... and yet he still was impressive, given how the offense was basically his. Young would make for an ideal understudy to Mike Conley, who knows a lot about leaving college earlier than initially expected.
Jaren Jackson Jr. | Michigan State | Fr | PF
Opinions on Jackson differ. I'm not as high on him as some, but others think he could wind up as a top-two player from this class. He's 6-11.25 in shoes -- and maybe still growing? Gobs of upside here. Going to Dallas would allow him the room to grow but also get playing time fairly immediately. Most importantly for Jackson is the coaching situation. He'd get to learn from Rick Carlisle, who is unquestionably considered a top-10 coach in the game.
Michael Porter Jr. | Missouri | Fr | PF
The Magic need a face-of-the-franchise player. If Porter's back is OK, he's got the skill and the size (will be listed as a power forward but has the tangibles of a small forward) to be an All-Star. He barely played at Missouri last season because of the back problem, but if he's still on the board at No. 6 and you're Orlando and you're good with his medical report, you have to take him.
Bamba recently worked out for the Bulls. He'd be a great fit in Chicago, which needs upgrades defensively in the paint. Bamba was an elite shot-blocker in college and someone who was given freedom (perhaps too much freedom) on offense. His game is still growing, and he's a smart player. If he wants to, he'll last 15 years in the NBA because of his length, athleticism and wits.
The Cavaliers need more versatility and better second- and third-level defensive options. Bridges, who spent the past two years growing his game to where he blossomed into top-10-pick material, would be among the best natural fits in Cleveland as almost any player outside the top three in this year's draft. Much more than a 3-and-D guy, in my estimation.
Sexton is smaller than people realize, and I think that could hurt him when it comes to being selected in spots 5-8. Hard to see how he gets past No. 9, though. New York has a nice current point guard in Frank Ntilikina, but Sexton has the athleticism and competitive streak to step in and be a star in New York.
Wendell Carter Jr. | Duke | Fr | PF/C
Thrived at Duke but was overshadowed by Bagley and, to an extent, Grayson Allen's general stardom. Carter (13.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg) is never going to be the A option on a team, but you're not looking to get that at No. 10. Instead, he'll be a three-level option (perhaps as soon as his second year) and would do more for the 76ers than the messy, ongoing Markelle Fultz experiment.
Lonnie Walker | Miami | Fr | SG
Quite simply: My nominee for 2018-19 Donovan Mitchell Candidate. Which is to say: An under-the-radar player taken outside the top 10 with the best shot at challenging for Rookie of the Year. Walker, highly regarded coming out of high school in 2017, was occasionally wowing with the Hurricanes last season and has only improved his stock since he declared.
An athletic 4 who will enter the NBA with a skill set that will allow him to average 10 rebounds and three blocks in no time. Very athletic, sporting a 7-5 wingspan. Williams passed on the combine this season. Confident, or not wanting further exposure? I'm banking on a team being smitten with his ceiling. The Clippers have lottery insurance, so why not?
Gilgeous-Alexander joins Trae Young as the two projected lottery picks who were nowhere near the first round -- let alone the top 60 picks -- back in early November. The Kentucky point guard proved to be high-IQ, constantly making winning plays and largely indefatigable. Plus, it wouldn't be an NBA Draft in the modern era if John Calipari didn't provide at least one lotto pick.
Miles Bridges | Michigan State | So | SF
A year after opting to stay on at MSU, Bridges' stock remains largely unchanged. I think he falls to 14 due to players ahead of him offering up a bit more well-rounded, NBA-style skills. This is not a knock on Bridges, though, who if anything might be a tad underrated at this point. One of the most athletic prospects in a fairly athletic crop of players.
Kevin Knox | Kentucky | Fr | SF
Knox is going to be drafted high because he looks the part, and general managers will see a solid third option on offense if he finds his ceiling. Knox was the most talented player on Kentucky's roster last season. He needs more aggressiveness to his game, but ultimately he's equipped to fit well in Washington's scheme.
It was a huge March for Smith, who made it to the Elite Eight with the Red Raiders. Remember how Zach LaVine popped in the draft a few years back? Smith has a lot of similar attributes. He can't create his own shot yet, but won't be asked to do that in Phoenix.
Melton hasn't played competitive basketball in more than a year; he sat out 2017-18 due to being associated with the FBI's investigation into college basketball. Yet as a freshman he posted 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He was a stud, and his well-rounded numbers didn't do him enough justice. I think he becomes a surprisingly high first round pick.
Another player I'm slotting higher than most others. Think he'd be a great fit with San Antonio, and think if he wound up going to the Spurs their system would wind up turning him into a lesser version of Kawhi Leonard. Maybe the best two-way player in this draft, and he's bigger than his 6-3 frame indicates on paper.
The Hawks have some interesting decisions to make in this draft. Bates-Diop is a gamble (was last year a sign of good things to come, or did Chris Holtmann squeeze the most out of Bates-Diop in his first year at OSU?) but when you've got a tweener forward with range and a fully developed body, you can go for it in this spot.
Holiday statistically put up one of the best seasons UCLA had seen in the past 30 years. Great lead guard athleticism and decision-making. The Timberwolves are trying to break through in the deep West. Adding Holiday is a seemingly small move that could pay off within three years. I think he can give you 15 quality minutes in the playoffs tomorrow.
Elie Okobo | International | SG
The next best Euro prospect on the board after Doncic. I've got Okobo higher than many, because recent trends suggest we won't get to 24 or 25 without at least a second international player taken. Utah has space to fill here, as Okobo can play combo guard. Perception is that his stock has steadily increased over the past two months.
I was always high on Huerter from early on at Maryland, but even as recently as four weeks ago I could not have guessed he'd be a top-25 pick. Nevertheless, he was arguably a top-three standout guy at the combine. Now it's tough to see him falling beyond the 26th or 27th slot. The Bulls make sense here, as I have them going defense-first with the Bamba pick earlier.
An unknown for most NBA and college fans, as Oregon took a big step back last season and wasn't in the NCAA Tournament. Brown's a classic case of a five-star guy coming out of high school, testing well in the evaluation period for scouts and taking full advantage of his potential. Indiana could use him in spot duty and take a flier on him.
Love stories like this. Hutchison quietly did his work, got better, and is going to come out of Boise State as a highly probable first-round pick. Yet many who read this might not know him at all. He's a regional fit with Portland, staying in the Pacific Northwest. Well-rounded wing who has among the best handles for any player 6-7 or taller in this draft.
Donte DiVincenzo | Villanova | So | SG
After his impressive combine run, I might have DiVincenzo too low, but here's why I think he's a tough read between 20-30 in this draft: What position will he play? Not that the NBA dictates position necessities in the traditional sense now, but he's clearly not equipped to run an NBA offense at this stage. He's athletic but still undersized against many NBA 2s. I think going to the Lakers makes a lot of sense. He can take his time there, on a young squad, but also arrives in LA as a big-name guy.
Bruce Brown | Miami | So | SG
Smart player, hard worker, good NBA body. Was hurt at the end of the season, so that has his stock up in the air to a degree. Not going to average 15 points or anything like that in the NBA, but we have to put value on guys who commit to defense and embrace their role. Philadelphia would be fortunate to land a rotation player like Brown.
Dzanan Musa | International | SF
Good/youthful prospect, and almost certainly guaranteed to be a third international player taken in the first round. Young, growing, already a fabulous scorer. Brad Stevens would probably turn him into a borderline All-Star by year four or something.
I. Love. This. Fit. Robinson's frame and game fit Golden State perfectly, and I mean perfectly. The BC wing averaged 20.7 points and shot 49 percent from the field last season. He was one of on-the-fence prospects heading into May, but his workouts and combine showing solidified him as a first-round talent as far as I'm concerned. Warriors only get more dangerous with a pick like this.
Jalen Brunson | Villanova | Jr | PG
If Brunson is available here, Brooklyn needs to pick him, and I means needs. There will be other prospects that are tempting, or more athletic, or more skilled in certain ways. Brunson is going to be the best basketball player available on the board at this spot. Brooklyn's a terrible team. Start the turnaround here and take someone who's going to last in the league for at least a decade.
Jacob Evans | Cincinnati | Jr | SF
Going to put him right at 30, because I think Evans is firmly in the 27-34 range. His ceiling is that of a spot role player, but Evans' defensive adeptness and his improved 3-point stroke are what make him first round-worthy. Not a top-level athlete, but also someone who isn't going to get punked in the pros. Atlanta's organization wouldn't falter by adding someone of his ilk to their franchise. He was a huge piece in the Bearcats going 31-5 last season.
His measurements at the combine vaulted his stock and solidified his choice to remain in the draft. If Phoenix takes him, the Suns will be one of the most entertaining bad teams of the past five years.
Bob Huggins-coached player who embraces defense like a shark embraces blood. Memphis is the fit.
Grayson Allen | Duke | Sr | SG
My prediction: Allen ultimately gets remembered much, much more for his Duke career than what he does in the NBA.
Mitchell Robinson | No college | PF
Has taken a bizarre journey to this point, but he's going to get picked and beat some red flags because he's a beast of a player.
Gary Trent Jr. | Duke | Fr | SG
Offensively has a chance to blossom into a double-digit scorer in the NBA. At this stage of the draft, that's enough to warrant a pick.
The vision of a Wagner-Porzingis international team-up playing in Manhattan seems like a ton of fun.
Hamidou Diallo | Kentucky | Fr | SG
Underwhelming last season at Kentucky, but Diallo is a top-five athlete in this draft. If he commits to playing defense, everything must grow from that.
Under-the-radar prospect out of the American Athletic Conference who has the length and offensive acumen to surprise a lot of people. He'd be JAG with Philly initially, but don't discriminate based off college affiliation.
Rodions Kurucs | International | PF
Seems like an ideal draft-and-stash option here, given how many picks Philly has in this year's draft. Don't be surprised if Philly trades out, either.
Omari Spellman | Villanova | Fr | PF
Reliable 3-point shooting tweener forward who has low-post ability and noticeably improved on defense from November to March. Would be a win for the Nets.
Anfernee Simons | No college | SG
A sign of things to come? Simons was eligible because of his age/playing clock to commit to the draft without having attended college. Good player but unquestionably a project.
A lot of potential hidden gems in the second round. Obviously a lot of players will flame out of the league. Milton is more likely to be the former.
Rawle Alkins | Arizona | So | SG
Opinions vary on Alkins, who at his best is a top-30 player in this year's crop. Problem is, he fails to show his best too frequently.
Kevin Hervey | UT Arlington | Sr | PF
Hervey's been viewed as a future pro for the past three years. He's in terrific shape, and has a wingspan of nearly 7-feet-3-inches despite standing a shade under 6-6 without shoes.
Justin Jackson | Maryland | So | PF
Project player who has the body and rebounding ability to validate getting picked in the final quarter of the draft.
Could be a perfect fit here. Shamet has size and would be a great third option to play point at Houston by the end of his second season.
Chimezie Metu | USC | Jr | C
Lakers stay local and bring Metu over from Southern Cal. Rare case of a true center who will get picked late in the second round but not because he's a big project.
Trevon Duval | Duke | Fr | PG
Toughest player to project, pick-wise, in this draft. Athletic but very inconsistent. T'wolves have the roster insurance to take a chance.
Undervalued because of his size. Winning player. Yes, the Spurs make sense here.
Jarred Vanderbilt | Kentucky | Fr | SF
Despite an injury-plagued past eight months, I think Vanderbilt's going to get picked. He was a projected NBA player coming out of high school. Those guys usually get a second chance.
If he goes to New Orleans and can log 15 minutes playing behind Anthony Davis, it's a coup.
Not efficient, but a stat-stuffer in one year at UNLV. Needs time.
Malik Newman | Kansas | So | SG
Looks like an NBA player, but worry about his streakiness. Wins the workout.
Isaac Bonga | International | SF
Ball-control small forward who's 6-9 and is going to wind up on a roster one way or another eventually.
Hornets stay in ACC country and quietly pick a player who got almost no run during his career for being an NBA prospect. Tony Bennett's going to have 10 guys in this league before you know it.
Issuf Sanon | International | SG
Slender shooting guard from the Ukraine who's only 18 and is obviously a draft-and-stash here. Expect a few of those, per usual.
Karim Jallow | International | SF
German combo forward who sizes up well to be a potential rotation player/glue guy on a team with needs in the mid range and interior.
Carr helped himself last season when his reputation changed from being a player without a lot of passion for the game to being someone who became invested in his teammates and the outcome of games.
Billy Preston | Kansas | Fr | PF
Seems too tempting a prospect for a team not to take a chance on. Preston never played at Kansas (eligibility issues), then moonlighted in Europe during the back half of the college hoops season.
Gary Clark | Cincinnati | Sr | SF/PF
When you get into the final five or six picks, teams are normally looking for proven players who might be able to stick on a roster if all breaks right. Clark has the size and work ethic to warrant a pick.
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