2018 NBA Mock Draft: With best odds in lottery, Suns grab Arizona's Deandre Ayton at No. 1
Arizona's Ayton may stay in-state if Phoenix wins the NBA Draft Lottery
The 2018 NBA Draft has long been considered special because of the star-power at the top and depth throughout the lottery. Obviously, there's no guarantee you'll get a difference-maker picking seventh -- or first, for that matter. But could you get one picking seventh? Yes, I think, you absolutely could. And that's what makes this draft more exciting than most.
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So I decided to freshen-up my 2018 NBA Mock Draft -- one that now better reflects what I think franchises will actually do as opposed to what I'd do. That's why I have Arizona's Deandre Ayton going No. 1. He's not necessarily the player I'd take No. 1. But he does appear to be the player Phoenix would take No. 1 if the Suns do indeed win the lottery next month and pick first on June 21.
Deandre Ayton | Arizona | Fr | C
There seems to be a growing consensus that most franchises would take Ayton first overall in this draft if given the opportunity. I'm not sure I would. But I'm confident the Suns would in an attempt to turn the Arizona standout into a Phoenix legend. The 7-1 forward averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in 33.5 minutes per game this season while helping the Wildcats win the Pac-12 regular-season title. His physical gifts make him unique and provide an opportunity for superstardom.
Luka Doncic | International | SG
The Grizzlies opted for full tank mode once Mike Conley was shutdown after playing just 12 games -- and it worked spectacularly considering Memphis finished with the second-best lottery odds. But now the plan is to get healthy and back to the Western Conference Playoffs in 2019. Doncic, a wing with size often described as the best young European prospect in history, seems like the player best equipped to help the Grizzlies achieve that goal. He projects as an immediate contributor given what he's already accomplished starring for Real Madrid.
Marvin Bagley | Duke | Fr | PF
The concern some have with Bagley is that his incredible production at the collegiate level was mostly the byproduct of superior athleticism and quickness when compared to literally everybody he ever played against -- point being the 6-11 forward won't be able to just physically overwhelm people in the NBA. Perhaps that's true. But a consensus top-ranked high school player who averages 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in one year of college for a great ACC team seems bust-proof to me. Honestly, I'd consider taking Bagley first overall. And I'll never believe he should fall any further than No. 3.
Bamba averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game while earning that "unicorn" label from some -- including himself. The 7-foot forward with a 7-9 wingspan alters nearly everything around the rim and projects, at worst, as a future All-Defense team member. At best, he'll develop enough offensively to join Golden State's Kevin Durant on the list of one-and-done Texas alums who went on to become franchise-changing superstars.
Young wasn't nearly as efficient or effective late in the season as he was early in the season. But I think that had more to do with his supporting cast than his potential. In other words, I still believe in the vision and shot-making ability that wowed the sport in November and December, and I still believe he has a chance to be an impactful talent for any franchise -- but especially one like Orlando that badly needs an upgrade at the point guard position. Don't ever forget, even while struggling late, Young managed to lead the nation in points and assists. He's the first to ever do it.
Jaren Jackson | Michigan St. | Fr | PF
I'm personally not as high on Jackson as most others, if only because he didn't produce at Michigan State the way so many other heralded freshmen produced on other campuses in their only years of college basketball. The 6-11 forward played just 21.8 minutes per game and often struggled with foul trouble. That's a concern. But his physical tools are undeniable, and the potential for stardom is clearly there considering Jackson is a top-shelf athlete who shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Michael Porter | Missouri | Fr | SF
It'll forever be a mystery what Porter could've been at Missouri if healthy. Back surgery is responsible for that -- and for him possibly slipping out of the top five because, if not for an early-season procedure, he'd maybe be under consideration to be selected first overall based on the fact that he's a 6-10 wing who, throughout high school, showed a unique ability to score from all over the court. Obviously, Porter's medicals will largely determine where he's picked. But as long as doctors do not red-flag him, he won't go much lower than this.
Pick acquired from Brooklyn
Regardless of whether LeBron James returns or not, the Cavaliers would be wise to just take the best available talent. And, in my opinion, that player at this point is Sexton -- the one-and-done star who averaged 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 29.9 minutes per game while leading Alabama to the NCAA Tournament. The 6-3 point guard is super-fast, super-quick and forever aggressive. Those are all great qualities for anybody entering the NBA.
Wendell Carter | Duke | Fr | PF
Is it possible to have a great freshman season but still be overshadowed by a teammate? Yes. And that's exactly what happened to Carter -- who averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.0 assists in 26.9 minutes per game for a Duke team that advanced to the Elite Eight. Carter's biggest problem, frankly, was that he wasn't Bagley, who is a better player and prospect. But the 6-10 forward is still a very good player and a very good prospect. And he's the reason why Duke should have two top-10 picks come June.
Pick acquired from Los Angeles Lakers
I'm not sure any non-freshman helped himself more this season with NBA people than Bridges -- who averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from 3-point range in 32.1 minutes per game for a Villanova team that won the national title. More than anything, the 6-7 wing spent the season making "pro shots" more regularly than ever and doing most of the things any franchise would want him to do at the next level. His ability to guard multiple positions makes him somebody who could theoretically contribute to a playoff team, like the 76ers, on Opening Night.
Miles Bridges | Michigan St. | Soph | SF
Bridges is probably a better small-ball power forward than he is a full-time wing. But stressing too much about that is overthinking it because the 6-6 sophomore is an explosive athlete who can pass and shoot and guard multiple positions. He averaged 17.1 points and 7.0 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game while leading Michigan State to the Big Ten regular-season title. In a mostly position-less NBA, I'm comfortable trusting the Big Ten Player of the Year will figure things out.
Pick acquired from Detroit
Robert Williams | Texas A&M | Soph | PF
DeAndre Jordan's future with the Clippers remains uncertain -- and Williams is the prospect available at this point in the draft who is best equipped to eventually do similar things. The 6-10 athlete averaged 10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game while leading Texas A&M to the Sweet 16. He projects as a strong finisher, rebounder and shot-blocker at the NBA level.
Gilgeous-Alexander was only the seventh-best prospect in Kentucky's 2017 class, according to 247Sports, but he could be the first Wildcat selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. The one-and-done guard averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds while leading UK to the Sweet 16. At 6-6, with a 7-foot wingspan, Gilgeous-Alexander should become a great perimeter defender in time, which is obviously a terrific skill in the modern NBA.
Kevin Knox | Kentucky | Fr | SF
Anybody looking for a combo forward this late in the lottery would have to seriously consider Knox. The 6-9 freshman averaged a team-high 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game while leading Kentucky to the Sweet 16. And he's still several months from turning 19, which makes him younger than most freshmen and almost everybody in this NBA Draft.
Mitchell Robinson | N/A | Fr | 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. The 7-foot forward never actually enrolled in another school -- meaning he did not play competitive basketball anywhere this season. That's neither ideal nor smart. And it's possibly a red flag. But there's no guarantee it'll cost Robinson much on draft night. In fact, it's actually reasonable to think it could help Robinson go in the top 20 given that he never ran the risk of being exposed in a college game before someone spends a draft pick on him.
Pick acquired from Miami
Lonnie Walker | Miami | Fr | SG
Walker's freshman season didn't get off to a great start -- evidence being how he only averaged 8.1 points in 20.9 minutes per game through Miami's first 15 contests. But the 6-4 freshman averaged 14.0 points in Miami's final five regular-season games to remind NBA scouts why they view him as a strong-framed shooting guard. Yes, he only shot 34.6 percent from 3-point range this season. But Walker shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc two summers ago on the Nike EYBL circuit. So his lower percentage at Miami isn't too concerning.
Anfernee Simons | IMG Academy | SG
Simons was a consensus top-10 prospect in the Class of 2018 who is eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft only 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. He probably won't help anybody, the Bucks included, as a rookie. But Simons' longterm future is bright.
Landry Shamet | Wichita St. | Soph | 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 sophomore averaged 14.9 points and 5.2 assists for a WSU team that finished the regular season 24-6. He shot 44.2 percent from 3-point range while taking nearly six threes per game, which makes Shamet one of the best shooters in this draft and a perfect fit for San Antonio's roster.
Pick acquired from Minnesota
Dzanan Musa | International | SF
Musa is a 19-year-old Bosnian who is averaging 20.2 minutes per game for Cedevita in the Adriatic League. The 6-8 wing has long had a reputation with scouts as a potential quality scorer in the NBA. 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. But that concern shouldn't keep somebody -- especially a franchise with three first-round picks like Atlanta -- from selecting Musa in the first round.
Pick acquired from Oklahoma City
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 showed flashes of that at Oregon. The 6-7 freshman averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 31.5 minutes per game. If he can develop a consistent 3-point shot -- Brown only shot 29.1 percent from beyond the arc this season -- he'll be capable of providing the versatility NBA franchises crave while flourishing at both forward positions.
Thomas is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year -- one who used a 6-11 wingspan on a 6-3 frame to get into passing lanes and, in other ways, just make things difficult on opposing guards. He averaged 15.5 points and shot 41.1 percent from 3-point range as a junior. So anybody looking for a 3-and-D wing should give the Omaha native a serious look.
Pick acquired from New Orleans
Holiday averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in 37.7 minutes per game this season while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range for a UCLA team that made the NCAA Tournament. His 6-6 wingspan should prove beneficial while guarding opposing point guards. His ability to consistently make perimeter jumpers means he's a threat as both a passer and shooter.
Bates-Diop went from averaging 9.7 points in an injury-shortened 2016-17 season to 19.8 points in the 2017-18 season and improved in basically every way, which is why Ohio State spent much of this season nationally ranked and finished tied for second in the Big Ten regular-season standings. Not every player who returns to school to "improve his NBA stock" actually does. In fact, most don't. But Bates-Diop clearly did. And draft night will prove it.
Chandler Hutchinson | Boise State | Sr | SF
Hutchison just had the best season of his four-year college career while establishing himself as a first-round talent. The 6-7 Mountain West star has all the tools necessary to be a quality NBA wing. He averaged 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 31.0 minutes per game for a Boise State team that won 23 times.
Pick acquired from Cleveland
Bruce Brown | Miami | Soph | SG
A lot of people projected Brown to have a breakout season this season. But it didn't really happen considering he played more minutes and took more shots but recorded a worse percentage from both inside and outside of the arc. His free-throw percentage was also down. And then he missed Miami's final 12 games with a broken foot. All that said, though, the 6-3 guard remains worthy of a first-round flyer because he projects as the type of tough defender NBA franchises need on the perimeter.
Smith could be the rare one-and-done player who was a sub-100 prospect coming out of high school, if he wants. No decision yet. But the 6-5 wing put himself in this position by displaying top-shelf athleticism while averaging 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds for a Texas Tech team that advanced to the Elite Eight.
D'Anthony Melton | USC | Soph | PG-SG
Melton is a nice combo-guard prospect who was sidelined this season by an ongoing FBI investigation. So that's not ideal. But the 6-3 sophomore still has a chance to go in the first 30 picks. And if he slips into the second round, for whatever reason, multiple franchises will be trying to move up to grab him.
Jacob Evans | Cincinnati | Jr | SF
Evans is a do-everything wing who guards multiple positions, plays tough and consistently makes outside jumpers -- evidence being how he shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range in his final two years at Cincinnati while helping the Bearcats earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season. Just seems perfect for the Warriors, right?
Pick acquired from Toronto
Grayson Allen | Duke | Sr | SG
Allen spent much of this season in relative anonymity. But he had a four-game stretch in February where he averaged 23.8 points and 4.5 made 3-pointers per game while reminding scouts why he's an intriguing NBA prospect. The 6-5 guard is a slasher and shooter who has mostly alleviated any concerns anybody might've had about his on-the-court behavior last season. He'll be ready to play meaningful minutes as a rookie.
Pick acquired from Houston
Milton missed SMU's final 11 games with a hand injury -- and the Mustangs went 2-9 in his absence. So that should tell you how much he meant to what would've otherwise been a borderline NCAA Tournament team. Prior to the injury, the 6-6 guard was shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range and averaging a career-high 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. His ability to play on or off the ball should serve him well in the NBA.
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