NBA Mock Draft 2018: Deandre Ayton a lock at No. 1, but everything else up in the air
It's anyone's guess where the EuroLeague star will get drafted, but chances are it'll be within the first three picks
Deandre Ayton is going first overall to the Suns. Book it. But everything after that, as it pertains to the 2018 NBA Draft, seems very much up in the air. There are conflicting reports about how much the Kings do or do not like Luka Doncic, how the Hawks feel about just about everybody, and how comfortable franchises will be with what they learn about Michael Porter Jr.'s back between now and June 21. And, to me, that's now the most fascinating question connected to this draft: Where will Porter land?
A year ago, he was widely considered a top-three talent and real contender to go first overall. But back surgery cost him almost his entire freshman season. So now everybody picking after Phoenix has their doctors trying to determine if Porter's undeniable ability as a high-scoring wing is enough to trump any possible longterm concerns. Or, more likely, if there are any real longterm concerns. For what it's worth, the early returns sound positive -- although the postponement of a second workout because of a hip strain is obviously concerning. As always, we'll see. But if Ayton, Bagley and Luka Doncic go first, second and third in some order, the Grizzlies would be wise to seriously consider selecting the former high school star.
Again, it's all based on the medicals.
But if the doctors say there are no red flags, and if Ayton, Bagley and Doncic are off the board, I would, if I were the Grizzlies, lean toward selecting Porter with the fourth pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. And that way of thinking is reflected in this updated mock draft.
There's little doubt, now that the lottery order is set, that the Suns will take Ayton first overall and hope the Arizona star becomes a Phoenix legend. The 7-foot-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 and Pac-12 Tournament title. His physical gifts make him unique and provide an opportunity for superstardom. He's not a sure thing, in my opinion. But Ayton definitely looks the part.
I know I'm in the minority. But let the record show that, if I were in charge of a franchise, I'd probably take Bagley first in this draft. Yes, I understand the concerns about him -- specifically that his incredible production at the collegiate level was mostly the byproduct of superior athleticism and quickness to literally everybody he ever played against, point being the 6-11 forward won't be able to just physically overwhelm people as a professional. And, I concede, he's neither an ideal power forward nor center for the modern NBA. But Bagley is still a consensus top-ranked high school player who averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in one year of college for a great ACC team. Simply put, I think he'll figure it out. And I personally project him as a future All-Star.
Luka Doncic | International | SG
Doncic is an elite and proven shot-creator and shot-maker who seems like a plug-and-play prospect for any franchise that selects him. His ceiling might not be as high as some other players in this draft. But his floor is probably higher than everybody's given that he has, at only 19, already flourished in the second best professional league in the world. The 6-8 wing can be a primary ball-handler or play with another traditional point guard. He was the MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four, where he led Real Madrid to a championship. If Doncic slips to No. 4, the Grizzlies would probably pick him. But the smart money still has him coming off the board even second or third.
Back surgery robbed Porter of his only season of college basketball, which is unfortunate. But that won't stop franchises like Memphis from taking a serious look at the one-and-done former high school All-American because, this time last year, Porter projected as a serious contender to be the top pick of the 2018 NBA Draft -- meaning the Grizzlies could get real value here the way Philadelphia got real value when it snatched up an injured Joel Embiid with the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. To be clear, if doctors show concern, drafting Porter is a non-starter for Memphis. Period. But it should be noted that the early returns sound positive (even though the postponement of a second workout because of a hip strain is clearly concerning). Long story not so long, if everything checks out OK -- and Ayton, Bagley and Doncic are off the board -- I will not be surprised if the 6-10 combo forward plays his home games inside FedExForum next season and eventually becomes the high-scoring athletic wing the Grizzlies have needed forever.
I'm not as high on Jackson as most, 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. Proof: The 6-11 forward averaged 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) a top-shelf athlete, B) somebody who shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, and C) an asset, in a variety of ways, on the defensive end of the court. Bottom line, I don't love him. But I do understand why some others do.
Bamba, at worst, projects as a menace on the defensive end of the court -- where his 7-9 wingspan should allow him to alter shots at an elite level and rebound well. But he's not just a defensive player. There's also potential on the offensive end -- even if it's a work in progress, at the moment. So this 7-foot forward who averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game at Texas absolutely has a chance to develop into an All-Star in the frontcourt. His natural gifts are undeniable and, in some ways, unprecedented.
Scouts seem to be all over the place on Young -- who was the story of college basketball for much of this season while leading the nation in points (27.4) and assists (8.7) per game. Some believe he could become something similar to Stephen Curry thanks to his shot-making ability and range. But others think the player who mostly struggled in February and March is a truer version of this little point guard literally nobody projected as a one-and-done lottery pick coming out of high school. My opinion: Young will be really good. Probably not good enough to be a two-time NBA MVP and three-time world champion like Curry. (Who is?) But Young should be good enough to make him worthy of going in the top half of the lottery.
Pick acquired from Brooklyn
Carter was Duke's "other" frontcourt one-and-done standout -- not quite as productive as Bagley but still really good. The 6-11 forward averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.0 assists in 26.9 minutes per game while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range (on limited attempts) for a Duke team that advanced to the Elite Eight. His versatility on the offensive end of the court makes him an intriguing prospect. But whether he'll be able to handle pick-and-roll situations on the defensive end is a reasonable concern unless Carter improves his foot speed.
Frank Ntilikina is not a point guard. If the Knicks didn't know that a year ago, they know it now. Which is among the reasons 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 -- makes sense in this spot. The 6-3 point guard is super-fast, super-quick and forever aggressive. And those are all great qualities for anybody entering the NBA. He puts pressure on the defense basically every possession. He could be the additional star the Knicks need to return to the playoffs in, perhaps, 2020.
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. Bridges likely isn't equipped to create his own scoring opportunities, at least at this point. But he's a great catch-and-shoot prospect -- perhaps the best in this draft.
Bridges is a better small-ball power forward than he is a full-time wing. But stressing too much about that is probably 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 former Big Ten star will figure things out.
Pick acquired from Detroit
DeAndre Jordan's future with the Clippers remains uncertain -- and Williams is the prospect available at this point in this mock draft who is best equipped to eventually do similar things at the NBA level. 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. Williams projects as a strong finisher, rebounder and shot-blocker who could be a 10-year starting center in the NBA if his motor and focus improve and get consistent.
Gilgeous-Alexander was only the seventh-best prospect in Kentucky's 2017 class, according to 247Sports, but he should 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 could become a great perimeter defender in time, which is obviously a terrific skill in the modern NBA where perimeter players dominate the league.
Anybody looking for a combo forward this late in the lottery would have to seriously consider Knox if he's still on the board. The 6-9 athlete with a strong frame 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 only 18 years old, which makes him younger than most freshmen and almost everybody in this NBA Draft. Knox didn't shoot it well from 3-point range at Kentucky. But there's nothing obviously wrong with his shot, which is why he could thrive as the type of stretch-4 every NBA franchise values.
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 points in Miami's final five regular-season games to remind NBA scouts why they view him as a strong-framed shooting guard with a future. Yes, he only shot 34.6 percent from 3-point range this season. But, remember, Walker shot 40 percent from beyond the arc two summers ago on the Nike EYBL circuit. So his lower percentage at Miami isn't too concerning.
Pick acquired from Miami
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.
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-poiInnt 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.
Elie Okobo | International | Jr | PG
Okobo is a 6-2 point guard with a 6-8 wingspan who has been on NBA radars for years but made a big jump playing in France this season. He got 44 points in one playoff game and now looks like a lock first-round pick. With Tony Parker all but done being a meaningful player, it seems wise for San Antonio to use a first-round pick on an interesting primary ball-handler with a reliable jumper.
Pick acquired from Minnesota
Dzanan Musa | International | SF
Musa is a 19-year-old Bosnian who averaged 20.2 minutes this season 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
DiVincenzo was barely on anybody's immediate NBA radar before he made five 3-pointers and scored 31 points in the national title game against Michigan. But thanks to that effort, and a tremendous week at the combine, the 6-5 guard is now considered a likely first-round pick. On the season, DiVincenzo averaged 5.3 3-point attempts per game and made 40.1 percent of them. So he projects as a bouncy two-way player who can be a weapon on the perimeter. And the fact that he comes from the winning culture Villanova provides can't hurt.
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 capable passer and shooter.
Pick acquired from New Orleans
Hutchison had the best season of his four-year college career this season while establishing himself as a first-round talent. The 6-7 Mountain West Conference 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 minutes for a Boise State team that won 23 times.
Okogie really helped himself at the combine -- where he measured 6-4 with a 7-foot wingspan. And when you consider the sophomore guard shot 38.0 percent from 3-point range this season at Georgia Tech while averaging 18.2 points in 36.4 minutes per game, you can understand why NBA executives are becoming more interested in Okogie as a real first-round possibility even though he was just a three-star recruit in the Class of 2016.
Huerter, who was good at the combine, has reportedly also been really good in private workouts -- all of which made it sensible for the 6-6 shooter to leave Maryland after two seasons. He averaged 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 34.4 minutes a game for a Maryland team that finished 39th at KenPom. But the key stat is that Huerter made 41.7 percent of the 5.5 3-pointers he took per contest. So he projects as a wing with size who can be a reliable threat from the perimeter. No, the hand injury he just suffered isn't ideal. But there's no real reason to think it'll cost him much, if it all, on draft night.
Pick acquired from Cleveland
Smith is the rare one-and-done player who was a sub-100 prospect coming out of high school. It's a remarkable story -- one that features the 6-4 wing putting 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. Smith is bouncy and a capable shooter from beyond the arc -- evidence being how he shot 45.0 percent from 3-point range (on, admittedly, limited attempts). The fact that he didn't measure great at the combine didn't help things. But, still, I think he's a likely first-round pick.
J.J. Redick is an unrestricted free agent who might not return to the Sixers. So drafting another off-guard who can shoot would make some sense. Allen is a good athlete with good size who made 273 3-pointers in his final three years of college while shooting 38.2 percent from beyond the arc. The Duke graduate should be equipped to play meaningful minutes as a rookie, even for a playoff team like Philadelphia.
Mitchell Robinson | N/A | C
Robinson made a mess of his college situation by enrolling at Western Kentucky before, just two weeks later, leaving campus and asking for a release. Then the 7-foot center never actually enrolled in another school -- meaning he did not play competitive basketball anywhere this past season. That's neither ideal nor smart. And it's possibly a red flag. But Robinson remains a lottery talent. And it would be just like Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to land a prospect of this caliber late in the first round and then turn him over to Brad Stevens, who might be exactly the type of coach Robinson requires to reach his potential.
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. He didn't take over games often, it's fair to note. But it's not hard to imagine him flourishing with the Warriors and becoming a useful piece for a championship organization.
Pick acquired from Toronto
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.
Pick acquired from Houston
Melton is a nice combo-guard prospect who was sidelined in the preseason 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 considering he's an unselfish ball-handler who is comfortable in pick-and-roll situations. The only real concern with Melton is his jumper. He only shot 28.4 percent from beyond the arc in his one season at USC
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