2018 NBA Mock Draft: Bamba falls to Knicks, Sexton and Young battle for top PG in latest projection

The heavily anticipated 2018 NBA Draft is on the horizon. With the NBA Draft Combine in the books and private workouts between teams and top prospects nearing an end ahead of the June 21 event, it's nearly time to learn where each prospect will begin their professional careers.

As draft night nears, pundits and talent evaluators have nearly reached a consensus with the top two prospects in this year's draft. It will likely be Deandre Ayton, the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick, and Luka Doncic, the Slovenian star fresh off a season in which he won EuroLeague MVP and guided Real Madrid to a EuroLeague title. Where Phoenix goes with the top pick is anyone's guess, but I, like many, believe Ayton is the best fit for the franchise. Conveniently for the Suns, he's also the best talent on the board.

So that's where we start with my 1-30 mock draft: Phoenix taking Arizona center Deandre Ayton at No. 1 overall.

NBA Mock Draft: First round

Deandre Ayton | Arizona | Fr | C

Don't overthink this one, Phoenix. Ayton is the best player in the draft, and at 7-foot-1, he's got throwback big man qualities with a seasoned 3-point shot tucked away in his limitless arsenal. He's an ideal fit alongside Devin Booker


Marvin Bagley III | Duke | Fr | PF 

The Kings pass on international star Luka Doncic at No. 2 and instead grab Duke's Marvin Bagley, a 6-foot-11 rim-running big man to pit alongside De'Aaron Fox in their promising young core. Bagley's athleticism is off the charts and he has a knack for yanking down rebounds on either side of the floor. His efficient 3-point shot coupled with his defensive versatility and ability to space the floor makes him a Swiss Army knife talent who can impact the game at every level for the Kings.                                           

Luka Doncic | International | SG  

Doncic, a Slovenian superstar, has the physical makeup to be the next European-turned-NBA star. He's far more than a run-of-the-mill developmental international prospect, and at 19 years old, he seems to have every tangible -- and intangible -- attribute that suggests he's worth shaping your franchise around. The Hawks would be thrilled if he falls to them at No. 3.

In-depth scouting report: Everything you need to know and see about Doncic


Michael Porter Jr. | Missouri | Fr | PF

Sure, there are questions about Michael Porter Jr. -- specifically how healthy he is and his long-term outlook after missing most of his freshman season due to a back injury that required surgery. But his potential to develop into a go-to scorer drives his ceiling to an All-Star-level player if he's able to stay on the court. He's worth taking a risk at No. 4 for a re-booting Memphis franchise lacking on talent. 

Column: What did we learn about Porter Jr. in college?


Jaren Jackson Jr. | Michigan State | Fr | PF

Jaren Jackson Jr. was little more than a role player for Michigan State as a freshman, but there's been no prospect whose stock has soared more in the pre-draft process than him. A 6-foot-11 big who shot 39.6 percent from 3 in college, Jackson fits the mold of a perfect modern-day big man: He can stretch the floor, protect the rim and has really great mobility to boot. If Jackson's on the board at No. 5, Mark Cuban's Mavericks will be on the clock for mere milliseconds before making the call to the commissioner to snatch him up. He and Dennis Smith Jr. could be a dynamic inside-out duo.

In-depth scouting report: Why Jackson is such a good fit for the modern NBA


Trae Young | Oklahoma | Fr | PG

The Magic need a point guard, and Trae Young is the most transformational talent at the position not named Luka Doncic in this draft. Young's a lights-out scorer with above-average court vision and limitless range. His ability to shoot off the dribble and create shots for himself and for others will be a boon for a Magic team that ranked T-23 in total offense last season and lacks in star power at the position.

In-depth scouting report: Will Young get pushed around by NBA defenses?


Collin Sexton | Alabama | Fr | PG

Neither Kris Dunn nor Cameron Payne have proven themselves to be Chicago's long-term option at point guard, so Sexton makes a ton of sense here at No. 7. His defense and physicality at the position is his biggest selling point, but his upside as a scorer to pit alongside Lauri Markkanen as the Bulls build for the future makes this a curveball worth throwing for the franchise.


Miles Bridges | Michigan State | So | SF

Whether Bridges is draft bait to keep LeBron in Cleveland or a selection the franchise hopes to build its future around is unclear. Regardless, Bridges is a top-10 talent with high basketball IQ, savvy off-ball ability and shot-making consistency that should translate to the NBA. He could play the 3 or 4 at the next level given his talents to finish steadily around the rim, and his defensive prowess will be a welcomed addition to a Cleveland team that was second to last in defensive rating in the regular season.


Mohamed Bamba | Texas | Fr | C

The Knicks aren't giving up on Frank Ntilikina or Emmanuel Mudiay just yet, which means they have the luxury of grabbing Mo Bamba -- who surprisingly falls to them at No. 9 and is the clear-cut best available prospect on the board at that spot. Bamba's a rim-protecting big man with an endless wingspan who, alongside Kristaps Porzingis, will help make up the most terrifyingly long frontcourt in the league. 

Interview: Bamba discusses why he studies the NBA's unicorns


Mikal Bridges | Villanova | Jr | SF

If Mikal Bridges slips to No. 10, the Sixers will waste no time processing internally whether or not he's the fit for them in Philly. At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, he's a plug-and-play perimeter defender whose 3-point shot will be an ideal weapon to throw on the court alongside Ben Simmons.


Wendell Carter Jr. | Duke | Fr | C

It's not exactly breaking news to think that Dwight Howard probably isn't a long-term option at center for Charlotte. So grabbing Wendell Carter, the lesser-known Duke big man in this draft, is a smart choice for the franchise. Carter is a wizard in the paint who has above average vision and play-making skills as a big man, and possesses an efficient 3-point shot that showed promise in college. He's talented enough to earn significant playing time immediately.

In-depth: Carter was born into basketball, and his background has strengthened him


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | Kentucky | Fr | PG

Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley all enter 2018 with contracts set to expire at the end of the season. So the Clippers would be wise to start thinking ahead with a pick like Shai Gilegous-Alexander, a prospect with upside aplenty but probably best served not being thrust into an immediate starting role. Gilgeous-Alexander has the potential to be a lock-down perimeter defender, and if his shot follows, he could eventually be the Clips' starter. 


Robert Williams | Texas A&M | So | PF

The NBA has changed drastically over the last half-decade, but there's never too many Robert Williams-like talents in the league. A lob-finishing, dazzling dunker, Williams projects as a shot-blocking big who can defend the rim at a high level, switch onto smaller guards, and even work his way to the bucket with his dribbling ability. With Montrezl Harrell slated for restricted free agency and Tobias Harris entering the final year of his deal, drafting Williams will keep L.A. fresh with talent at power forward for the long haul.


Kevin Knox | Kentucky | Fr | SF

Knox is a tremendous talent with the perfect frame to fill out into an offensive juggernaut at small forward. He's more prospect than realized potential at this point, but his upshot as a second or third option offensively is enticing. He's also long enough and athletic enough to hold his own defensively, which would give Denver extreme flexibility in its lineups as it builds around Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.


Lonnie Walker | Miami | Fr | PG

Washington locked up John Wall last summer to a deal that will keep him in town for the next half-decade, but it would be wise to secure a serviceable backup with Ty Lawson and Tim Frazier headed to free agency this summer. Lonnie Walker could be that and then some. With an extremely high basketball acumen and capable handles to run an offense, Walker can play either guard position and has Donovan Mitchell-like potential as an offensive weapon. 


Troy Brown | Oregon | Fr | SF

Grabbing Ayton at No. 1 is a low-risk play for the Suns, so they can afford to take a flyer on Oregon forward Troy Brown at No. 16. Brown was a solid playmaker as a freshman last season, and could complement Devin Booker tremendously off the ball in Phoenix.


Keita Bates-Diop | Ohio State | Sr | SF

The Bucks love their long, rangy prospects -- (looking at you, Thon Maker) -- so Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop should be an excellent fit in the Bucks' system. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-3.25 wingspan, he can guard multiple positions and has the offensive skillset to be an instant contributor as a spot-up shooter. 


Zhaire Smith | Texas Tech | Fr | SF

Zhaire Smith is a bit undersized as a small forward, but he plays well above what his 6-foot-4 frame may suggest. A thunderous dunker with athletic ability the size of Texas, Smith has the capability to develop into a productive 3-and-D wing in the league. Smith moves well without the ball and his playmaking, both as a passer and creator off the bounce, is promising. I don't see the Spurs letting him leave the state if he's still available at No. 18.


Melvin Frazier | Tulane | Jr | SF

A 6-foot-7 wing with a near-7-foot-2 wingspan who is active on defense? That's Tulane standout Melvin Frazier in a nutshell. He's long, disruptive and rangy enough to be a lockdown perimeter defender in the NBA. As for his offense, he's a respectable spot-up shooter, who, overall, has fairly tight handles for a wing of his size. Put him alongside Doncic and you've got one heck of a backcourt to build on in Atlanta.


Kevin Huerter | Maryland | So | SG

Sharpshooting Maryland guard Kevin Huerter would be an injection of talent and youth at shooting guard for Minnesota -- a team that was giving 38-year-old Jamal Crawford close to 25 minutes per game in the playoffs. Huerter is a good finisher around the rim and does so with surprising efficiency by contorting his body when driving inside the lane. But his biggest selling point is his scoring ability in spot-up situations and off the dribble on the perimeter.


Chandler Hutchison | Boise State | Sr | SF

A 6-foot-7 wing who served as a primary offensive option for Boise State in college, Hutchison could be an overqualified 3-and-D talent for the Utah Jazz. With Donovan Mitchell, Hutchison wouldn't be asked to shoulder the load. But he's plenty capable of being both a spot-up shooter and playmaker on the wing for the Jazz.


Donte DiVincenzo | Villanova | So | SG

Best known for his title-game heroics to lead Villanova to the 2018 NCAA championship over Michigan, Donte DiVincenzo quickly turned himself from role player to first-round talent. It was no fluke, either. He wowed in pre-draft workouts and at the Draft Combine. If the Bulls draft him at 22, they have both an insurance plan for Zach LaVine if he leaves after next season and an additional offensive weapon that should free up room for Lauri Markkanen to expand his game.

Column: How DiVincenzo's title-game heroics saved Villanova


Elie Okobo | International | PG

Depth at point guard behind Darren Collison is a glaring weakness for the Pacers, who get a chance to upgrade at No. 23 and pounce on France prospect Elie Okobo. Okobo is a lefty who specializes in bucket-getting and is a tremendous finisher from the perimeter off the dribble. If his shot translates to the NBA, he and Victor Oladipo could be a formidable 1-2 punch in the backcourt.


Aaron Holiday | UCLA | Jr | PG

Damian Lillard is the unquestioned man in Portland, but drafting a well-equipped backup capable of giving him relief would be a wise move -- especially with Shabazz Napier's contract set to expire following the upcoming season. Holiday is an above-average scorer for his position and able to hold his own defensively, which suggests he would see meaningful minutes in relief of Lillard as a rookie. 


Khyri Thomas | Creighton | Jr | SG

An excellent two-way player from Creighton, Khyri Thomas may be a steal at No. 25 for the Lakers if he's still available. He may also be a formidable solution to help replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, should he leave in free agency this summer.


Josh Okogie | Georgia Tech | So | SG

The Sixers grabbed a potential 3-and-D wing at No. 10 with Villanova's Mikal Bridges, so why another at No. 26? Two reasons. The first: Okogie has the potential to be a playmaker on offense and, at Georgia Tech, showed he can create for himself off the dribble. The second: Okogie, like Bridges, can be a multi-positional defender at the next level. Hard to poke holes in his all-around game.


De'Anthony Melton | USC | So | PG

The overall impact Melton can bring at every level of the game -- snatching steals, blocking shots, pulling down rebounds, dishing out assistants and scoring points -- makes you wonder why Melton won't likely hear his name until late in the first round. The long and short is that he was held out of competition last season due to the FBI probe into college basketball, but regardless, his defensive presence gives Boston yet another talented two-way player who could be insurance should it let Marcus Smart walk this offseason.


Grayson Allen | Duke | Sr | SG

The Warriors don't exactly need anything. So with Duke sharpshooter Grayson Allen on the board at No. 28, this is a luxury pick. Allen would fit perfectly in Golden State's system as a spot-up 3-point shooter, and he showed himself to be versatile enough to run the point and play off the ball in college. His competitive streak, athleticism and tenacity on defense is a bonus for a team that already has plenty of it. 

Column: What did the Grayson Allen era mean for Duke?


Jacob Evans | Cincinnati | Jr | SF

The NBA is becoming increasingly more position-less, so players like Jacob Evans -- a 6-foot-6 wing who can defend at a high level and produce offensively off the catch -- are full of value. This is a long-term selection for the Nets, who may opt to use Evans as a DeMarre Carroll replacement down the line. 


Mitchell Robinson | No college | C

Mitchell Robinson has virtually no tape after spurning college life at Western Kentucky to spend the year preparing for the NBA. But 7-footers with his lob-finishing ability and potential to develop into a rim-running, shot-blocking big man is intriguing. With Doncic and Frazier, a guard and wing, in the fold Robinson completes an impressive first-round haul for the Hawks. 

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