2018 NBA Mock Draft: Trae Young joins LeBron James after Cavs pick him at No. 4
Young could either be playing with LeBron - or helping the Cavs' deal with his departure
The story of college basketball this season has been Trae Young, obviously. But it's also an NBA story because his emergence as a dynamic scorer and playmaker who regularly draws comparisons to Stephen Curry has impacted the top of franchises' draft boards. Two months ago, nobody had the Oklahoma freshman as a one-and-done lottery pick. Now everybody does based on college stardom and his potential to be special at the next level.
Is he little?
Yeah, sure. He's little.
But it's worth noting that Young is listed as 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds -- which is two inches taller than, and the same weight, Curry was listed as during his freshman year at Davidson. So I can overlook it. And in a sport that now more than ever values creativity, shot-making, vision and passing, I'm comfortable suggesting Young can be a top-five pick because he seems to possess a lot of the same characteristics Curry had in college. NBA scout after NBA scout focused so much on what they thought Curry couldn't do in the NBA that they somewhat ignored the handful of things he already did exceptionally. And I wouldn't want to be the front office that makes the same mistake with Young. So, right now, I have him going fourth overall. And, based on the latest NBA season projections from Sportsline, that means I have Young going to Cleveland to either play or not play with LeBron James.
My full mock draft is below.
| Marvin Bagley, Duke (PF)|
Bagley has been spectacular this season -- averaging a team-high 22.5 points and a team-high 11.5 rebounds in 32.1 minutes per game for a Duke team that's ranked No. 7 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one). He's scored at least 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds three different times through 15 games. 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 though I realize there's a reasonable and smart case to be made for multiple other players, for now, I'm still rolling with Bagley.
| Luka Doncic, Slovenia (SG)|
Doncic is averaging 18.6 points for Real Madrid and, according to some, further establishing himself as somebody who is deserving of the label of "best young European prospect in history." That alone means the 6-7 guard, who is still just 18 years old, deserves serious consideration to go No. 1. And he'll get that consideration. Again, I prefer Bagley. But I realize it's not a no-brainer, and it's not clearly wrong for anybody to prefer Doncic to the Duke star. Both are top-shelf prospects. Both could be stars.
| Deandre Ayton, Arizona (C)|
Ayton is the main reason Arizona has turned things around and won seven of its past eight games since losing three straight at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The 7-1 freshman is averaging 20.4 points and 11.6 rebounds -- and he's recorded 10 double-doubles in 15 games. His 7-5 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.
| Pick acquired from Nets |
Trae Young, Oklahoma (PG)
Young was a five-star prospect in high school. So it's not like he came out of nowhere. But literally nobody expected him to do what he's been doing this season. He's averaging 29.4 points and 10.2 assists, which means he's leading the nation in both categories. West Virginia bothered him some last weekend. But, short of that, Young has been consistently outstanding.
| Pick acquired from Lakers |
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri (SF)
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 (C)|
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 7-foot forward with a 7-9 wingspan who is averaging 11.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.6 blocks in 29.5 minutes per 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 make all-defensive teams at the NBA level.
| Collin Sexton, Alabama (PG)|
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 mostly outstanding ever since. The five-star freshman is averaging 20.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range -- and he finished with 30 points in a competitive loss at Arizona. Barring a surprise, Sexton should have the Crimson Tide in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Then he'll become Alabama's first first-round pick since Gerald Wallace went 25th overall in 2001.
| Miles Bridges, Michigan State (SF)|
Bridges was the highest-rated college prospect to return to school for this season -- and now the combo-forward is the leading scorer and rebounder for a team that's spent time ranked No. 1. He's averaging 16.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game. His three-point percentage is down from his freshman season. But it won't keep Bridges from going in the top 10.
| Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State (PF)|
Jackson 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. Yes, his shot is a little weird. But Jackson is still making 43.5 percent of his 3-point attempts, which is obviously great for a 6-11 freshman.
| Mikal Bridges, Villanova (SF)|
Bridges is a terrific 3-and-D prospect who is having the breakthrough season so many expected to come last season. He's averaging a career-high 17.8 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 45.2 percent from 3-point range. If the Wildcats win a fifth straight Big East title, and they likely will, this 6-6 wing will be one of the biggest reasons -- right there with All-American point guard Jalen Brunson.
| Kevin Knox, Kentucky (SF)|
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 14.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in a team-high 33.1 minutes per game. And though he's not shooting a great percentage from 3-point range, he is attempting 4.5 per game. And there's no obvious reason Knox can't eventually develop into a real threat from beyond the arc, which would make him valuable in multiple ways at the NBA level.
| Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky (SG)|
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 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 27.7 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, which is precisely why Diallo making 36.8 percent of his 3-point attempts is the type of thing that could land him in the lottery.
| Troy Brown, Oregon (SF)|
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 this season. The 6-7 freshman is averaging 12.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game -- and needs only to develop a consistent 3-point shot to prove he's capable of playing either forward position in the NBA.
| Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy (CG)|
Simons is a consensus top-10 prospect in the Class of 2018 who is eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he's one year removed from high school graduation and will turn 19 this calendar year. The 6-4 combo guard at IMG Academy in Florida is a nice athlete who shoots it well. If he attends college, Florida and Tennessee are considered the favorites. If not, absolutely, he could go in the top 20.
| Wendell Carter, Duke (PF)|
Carter has been overshadowed at Duke by Bagley, and for good reason. But the 6-10 freshman is averaging 13.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game. He's really good around the rim but still developing away from it -- although it's worth noting he has made seven of his 14 3-point attempts this season.
| Robert Williams, Texas A&M (PF)|
Williams is a terrific athlete who is averaging 8.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 25.0 minutes per game for a Texas A&M team that's been hampered by suspensions and injuries. The 6-10 forward with a 7-4 wingspan is still a work in progress. And he's not consistent enough for some. And he hasn't lived up to expectations this season. But the upside is evident and worth serious consideration anywhere outside of the lottery.
| Pick acquired from Heat|
Mitchell Robinson, N/A (C)
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. Then the 7-foot forward never enrolled in another school -- meaning he's not playing competitive basketball anywhere right now. That's neither ideal nor smart. And it's possibly a red flag. But there's no guarantee it'll cost Robinson on draft night. In fact, it's actually reasonable to think it could help him go in the first round given that there's no risk of being exposed in a college game between now and June.
| Dzanan Musa, Bosnia (SF)|
Musa is a 19-year-old Bosnian who is averaging 19.5 minutes per game for Cedevita in the Adriatic League. The 6-8 wing has long had a reputation as a scorer with NBA scouts. The only concern is whether he's a good-enough athlete, and mature enough, to guard his position and flourish in general when he moves to the United States.
| Shake Milton, SMU (CG)|
Milton is shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc for the third consecutive season and in the process establishing himself as a top-20 talent. He's averaging a career 17.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for an SMU team that's likely headed to the NCAA Tournament. His ability to play on or off the ball should serve him well in the NBA.
| Trevon Duval, Duke (PG)|
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 20. But his inability to make a shot is a major issue. The freshman guard has taken 42 3-pointers this season and missed 35 of them. So he's shooting just 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. And that's the type of number that'll maybe keep him out of the lottery.
| Grayson Allen, Duke (SG)|
Allen has gone from the story of college basketball last season to almost an afterthought this season even though he's averaging 16.8 points for a consensus top-10 team. Strange stuff. But he remains on NBA radars and has possibly helped himself by shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range this season while also avoiding any controversy.
| Landry Shamet, Wichita State (PG)|
Wichita State has made a habit of developing guards into NBA players -- most notably Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Shamet should be next. The 6-4 guard is averring 16.1 points and 4.7 assists for a team that's ranked in the top 10 and sitting on just two losses. He's shooting 52.7 percent from 3-point range and taking nearly five per game.
| Pick acquired from Thunder|
Lonnie Walker, Miami (SG)
Walker's freshman season isn't off to a great start -- evidence being how he's only averaging 8.1 points in 20.9 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 31.4 percent from 3-point range. But, remember, Walker shot 40.0 percent from 3-point range two summers ago in the EYBL. So his low percentage isn't too concerning quite yet.
| Pick acquired from Timberwolves|
Brandon McCoy, UNLV (PF)
McCoy has had no issues adjusting to college. The 7-1 freshman is averaging 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 28.0 minutes per game and has missed scoring in double-figures only once. He's not a great shot-blocker or shot-alterer, which isn't great for somebody his size. But he's still a first-round talent with lots of potential.
| Bruce Brown, Miami (SG)|
A lot of people projected Brown to have a breakout season. And he still might. But the 6-5 sophomore hasn't had one so far. His points-per-game average is the same. But his field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage are all down. That's not good -- for neither him nor Miami. But it's still too early to move off of Brown too much.
| Pick acquired from Rockets|
Rawle Alkins, Arizona (SG)
Alkins missed the start of this season with a foot injury but has been effective since returning. The 6-5 guard is averaging 15.6 points and 5.1 rebounds -- and he was shooting a decent 3-point percentage until he recently missed 10 of 13 in a three-game stretch. Alkins doesn't project as a likely star. But he could develop into a solid rotation player for a good team.
| Shai Gilgeious-Alexander, Kentucky (CG)|
Gilgeous-Alexander was a rare sub-30 high school prospect for Kentucky. But he's emerged as the Wildcats' third-leading scorer and one of their most reliable players. The 6-6 combo guard is averaging 11.5 points and 4.3 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. He doesn't take a lot of 3-pointers. But he does make 45.0 percent of his attempts.
| Pick acquired from Raptors|
Austin Wiley, Auburn (C)
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.
| Chimezie Metu, Southern California (PF)|
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 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 29.5 minutes per game. He's also taking about one 3-pointer a game, which is an indication that he could someday at least be the kind of threat that pulls opposing bigs away from the rim.
| Devonte Graham, Kansas (PG)|
Graham is the latest in a line of KU players to emerge as a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate and NBA prospect. With Frank Mason gone, he's averaging 18.6 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 44.1 percent from 3-point range for a team trying to win a 14th straight Big 12 title.
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