2018 NBA Mock Draft: Despite injury, Michael Porter still goes in the top 5
If Porter doesn't play for Mizzou, his stock will remain high
Michael Porter Jr.'s back injury that required back surgery last week possibly ended his freshman season and college career. So the big question people are asking now is this: How badly will it cost him in the 2018 NBA Draft?
My answer: Who knows?
Ultimately, that'll be decided by doctors. But as long as doctors are cool with what they see when they see it, I don't see Porter slipping out of the top five. He's just too talented and gifted. And some franchise will convince itself, probably accurately, that it cannot pass on the chance to take a potential No. 1 overall pick with the third or fourth or fifth pick. That's why, right now, I have Porter going fourth. So he'll still be a multimillionaire this time next year even if bad luck cost him the opportunity to dominate the SEC.
My full mock draft, with an order determined by Monday's standings, is below.
Marvin Bagley (Duke)
Bagley has been spectacular for Duke so far this season -- averaging a team-high 22.3 points and a team-high 11.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per game. He got 34 points and 15 rebounds in a 2OT victory over Texas, then got 30 points and 15 rebounds in a come-from-behind win over Florida. So the 6-11 freshman has proven to be both a great prospect and terrific player. Some are already calling him a "better version of Chris Bosh," which suggests a future Hall of Famer, and I'm not here to argue. From the moment he reclassified, I figured Bagley would go first in the 2018 NBA Draft. And nothing that's happened since has made me reconsider.
Luka Doncic (Slovenia)
Doncic is averaging a EuroLeague-best 19.7 points for Real Madrid and, according to some, deserving of the label of the "best young European prospect in history." That alone means the 6-7 guard, who is still just 19 years old, deserves serious consideration to go No. 1. And he'll get that consideration. Obviously, by the looks of this mock draft, I'd take Bagley first. But I realize it's not a no-brainer. Because Bagley and Doncic are both top-shelf prospects who could become stars.
Arizona is off to a horrendous and, frankly, unbelievable start. But it's no fault of Ayton's. The 7-1 freshman is averaging 20.3 points and 12.0 rebounds and has recorded double-doubles in all but one game. His 7-6 wingspan allows him to alter shots at the rim and even away from the basket -- meaning he's not just an offensive weapon. To date, Ayton has not shot well from beyond the arc. But the ability to do so is there, which is why he projects as a future floor-spacing center who punishes opponents from different places on the court.
Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri)
Unless Porter is medically red-flagged with back issues, this, I think, remains about the floor for him. The 6-10 wing won't slip much further for the same reasons an injured Joel Embiid didn't slip far in the 2014 NBA Draft, i.e., because when you can get a possible No. 1 pick with the third or fourth of fifth pick it's often wise to do it. Again, this will totally come down to how comfortable doctors are with Porter's body. But if the doctors sign off, he's still a top-five pick come June.
Mohamed Bamba (Texas)
That Bamba has already established himself as one of college basketball's best shot blockers is perhaps the least surprising thing of this season. He's a 6-11 forward with a 7-9 wingspan and better-than-average feel for the game. Offensively, the freshman from Harlem is more skilled than most realize; so the stuff is there to develop into a star. Either way, worst case scenario, Bamba should be able to make all-defensive teams at the NBA level.
Sexton started this season sidelined because of a suspension related to the ongoing FBI investigation. But that only cost him one game. And he's been outstanding ever since. The five-star freshman is averaging 25.2 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range. He should have the Crimson Tide in the NCAA Tournament for the first since 2012, then become Alabama's first first-round pick since Gerald Wallace went 25th in 2001.
Bridges was the highest-rated college prospect to return to school, and I'm betting he improves his stock because of it. The combo-forward has had to deal with an ankle injury that cost him a game and slowed him a little. But the sophomore wing is still averaging 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per contest for a Michigan State team that should win the Big Ten and possibly make the Final Four.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State)
Jackson is a 6-10 freshman who has been a nice compliment to Bridges, and the fact that he was impressive on a big stage early against Duke only enhanced his reputation with NBA scouts. His size and athleticism allow him to be a force on the defensive end, and he's skilled enough offensively to stretch the floor from either frontcourt position. Jackson's shot is a little weird. But it goes in. And it's among the reasons he could become just the second one-and-done player Tom Izzo has coached since Zach Randolph left Michigan State in 2001.
Knox can play either forward position but will probably be best as a stretch-4 who uses his athleticism and shot-making ability to cause matchup problems. The 6-9 freshman is averaging a team-best 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in a team-high 35.1 minutes per game. Most impressively, he's taking 4.4 3-pointers per contest and making 35.5 percent of them, which is the type of thing NBA scouts want to see before using a top-10 pick on him.
Trevon Duval (Duke)
Duval is a super-quick and explosive athlete who is 6-3 with a 6-10 wingspan, and those things alone are enough to make him worth a look in the top 10. The freshman point guard is averaging 13.1 points and a team-high 6.5 assists. So he's off to a great start in his college career. But the issue that concerned most in the preseason still exists. Put simply, Duval cannot shoot. Or, at least, he does not make shots consistently -- proof being how he's shooting 13.0 percent from 3-point range and 62.1 percent from the free throw line. That's bad. But the good news is that Duval is still very young, and shooting is a skill that can be developed. Plus, there's this: DeAaron Fox was a top-five pick last June even though he shot 24.6 percent from 3-point range. What that shows is that NBA front offices are willing to overlook shooting issues from uniquely athletic and quick primary ball-handlers. And that's an encouraging truth for Duval.
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Wendell Carter (Duke)
Carter has been overshadowed so far this season by Bagley, and for good reason. But the 6-10 freshman is averaging 12.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. He's really good around the rim but still developing away from it, which brings into question how he'll fit in the ever-changing NBA where traditional bigs hold less value. But the talent is obvious. And it's not totally out of the question that he could become a player who, at least sometimes, faces the basket and makes shots.
Brown developed a reputation in high school as somebody who values defense and could reasonably play at least three positions at the collegiate level, and he's shown flashes of that already this season. The 6-7 freshman is averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds -- and needs only to develop a consistent 3-point shot to prove he's capable of flourishing at either forward position in the NBA.
Williams is a terrific athlete who is averaging 10.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just 22.3 minutes per game for a Texas A&M team that's been one of this season's early surprises. The 6-10 forward with a 7-4 wingspan is still a work in progress, and he's not consistent enough for some. But the upside is undeniable and worth serious consideration anywhere in the bottom half of the lottery.
Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky)
Diallo could've entered the 2017 NBA Draft and possibly been a first-round pick. But he opted to instead play this season at Kentucky -- where he's starting and averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game. What scouts love is how the 6-5 guard runs and jumps. What they want to see is whether he can do anything else well. If he shows them he can, absolutely, the lottery is where Diallo should land.
Metu is a long and explosive center who tries to dunk everything at the rim but can also excel facing the basket. The 6-11 junior is averaging 16.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game. He's also taking about one 3-pointer per contest, which is an indication he could someday at least be the kind of threat that pulls opposing bigs away from the rim.
Mitchell Robinson (N/A)
Robinson made a mess of his college situation by enrolling at Western Kentucky and then, just two weeks later, leaving campus and asking for a release. The 7-foot forward never enrolled in another school -- meaning he's not playing competitive basketball anywhere right now. That's not ideal. But there's no guarantee it'll cost him on draft night. And it's actually reasonable to think it could maybe help him go somewhere in the top 20 given that there's no real risk of being exposed between now and June.
McCoy is averaging 20.2 points and 13.0 rebounds for UNLV and having no problems adjusting to the collegiate level. The 7-1, 250-pound freshman ranks 21st nationally in defensive-rebounding percentage and 22nd nationally in offensive-rebounding percentage. So he's a monster on the boards, already. And that's a skill that should translate to the NBA.
Lonnie Walker (Miami)
Walker's freshman season isn't off to a great start -- proof being how he's only averaging 7.0 points in 21.6 minutes per game. But he was a consensus five-star recruit coming out of high school who still projects as a strong-framed NBA shooting guard. Yes, he's only shooting 26.7 percent from 3-point range so far. But, remember, Walker shot 40.0 percent from 3-point range two summers ago in the EYBL. So his low percentage isn't too much of a concern quite yet.
Bruce Brown (Miami)
A lot of people projected Brown to have a breakout season. And he still might. But the 6-5 sophomore isn't off to the best of starts. His minutes are about the same. But his points, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage are all down. That's rough, obviously. But it's way too early to move off of Brown too much.
Bridges is a nice 3-and-D prospect who is having the breakthrough season so many expected to come last season. He's averaging a career-high 18.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 50.0 parent from 3-point range. If the Wildcats win a fifth straight Big East title, this 6-6 wing will be one of the biggest reasons.
Grayson Allen (Duke)
Allen hasn't been able to replicate that 37-point effort he had in a win over Michigan State in the Champions Classic. But the 6-5 guard is shooting a career-high 43.9 percent from 3-point range. That, combined with his ability to get to the rim, makes the All-American candidate a target for any franchise picking outside of the lottery that needs backcourt scoring.
Dzanan Musa (Bosnia)
Musa is a 19-year-old Bosnian who is averaging 18.1 points and shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range for Cedevita in the Adriatic League. Nobody questions whether he can score in the NBA. The only concern is whether he's a good-enough athlete, and mature enough, to flourish.
Shake Milton (SMU)
Milton is taking more shots than ever this season, both from inside and outside of the arc, and his percentages are noticeably down. But he's still proven, over multiple years, to be a reliable shooter who can maybe play both guard positions in the NBA. So a spot in the first round still makes sense.
De'Anthony Melton (USC)
Melton hasn't played a minute this season because of the ongoing FBI investigation; USC is holding him out of games. So this isn't the best way to remain on NBA scouts' radars. But the 6-4 guard, like other prospects not playing college basketball right now, won't necessarily be hurt by any of this on draft night.
Isaac Bonga (Germany)
Bonga is a 6-9 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan. So he's a unique and interesting prospect. But is he quick enough to play in an NBA backcourt? And does he shoot it well enough? These are the questions NBA front offices are asking.
Mykhailiuk has forever been more of a good prospect than great player. But his senior season has featured a major break through. The 6-8 wing is averaging a career-high 18.8 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from 3-point range. If he keeps that up, Mykhailiuk will get a guaranteed NBA contract.
Allonzo Trier (Arizona)
Arizona is November's biggest disappointment. But Trier hasn't really been the problem. He's averaging 24.5 points and shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range in 33.3 minutes per game. So there's no reason to think the 6-5 guard can't find a place in the NBA as an instant-offense scorer capable of hurting opponents from the perimeter.
Battle is taking about five 3-pointers a contest and making about 37 percent of them for the second straight season. He's a 6-6 guard averaging 19.7 points in 32.2 minutes per game -- and the next Syracuse player to spend time in the NBA.
Wiley, like a handful of others, is being held out of games because of the ongoing FBI investigation. But the 6-11 center with a 7-5 wingspan was so good with USA Basketball this past summer that he should still get serious looks at the bottom of the first round.
Andrew Jones (Texas)
Jones has been better in every way this season. His field goal percentage is up. His 3-point percentage is up. His free throw percentage is up. His points per game are up. And his turnovers are down. So the 6-4 sophomore is doing exactly what NBA scouts wanted to see him do.
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