We finally have a 2018 NBA Draft order after the lottery balls were plucked from destiny Tuesday night. That means a true mock draft season can begin. The Phoenix Suns finished with the worst record in the NBA and it netted them the top pick in the draft. The Sacramento Kings moved all the way up from seventh in the order to second. Then we saw the Atlanta Hawks creep into the top 3 by moving up from the fourth slot. Memphis Grizzlies fell to 4, Dallas Mavericks fell to 5, Orlando Magic dropped to 6, and the Chicago Bulls moved down into the seventh slot.
Everything else fell into its normal order. Let’s take an initial look at the first round, the needs of all those teams, and where they may decide to go with their draft selections.
1. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, Arizona, C
Needs: Everything except shooting guard
Maybe new coach Igor Kokoškov could convince everybody that Luka Doncic is the play here. Kokoškov has coached Doncic before for the Slovenian national team. However, DeAndre Ayton will likely be the selection for the Suns. The Suns desperately need a big man. Well, they desperately need every position that isn’t Devin Booker at shooting guard. Ayton ticks all of the boxes for a franchise cornerstone. He has the pro body with unreal athleticism and a great wingspan.
Ayton also has plenty of skill attached to those physical attributes. He should be an impact player on both ends of the floor right away. And the Suns won’t worry about how he fits with anybody other than Booker. It will be up to Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender how they fit next to Ayton.
2. Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic, Slovenia, PG/SG
Needs: You need kind of everything but don’t take a point guard
The allure of bringing in a big man like Marvin Bagley III will certainly be there. But Vlade Divac isn’t likely to pass on the European phenom Luka Doncic. His natural position in the NBA might end up being point guard and the Kings already have De’Aaron Fox. But Doncic has great size at 6-foot-8 and playing next to Fox shouldn’t be an issue. The Kings want multiple attackers on the floor. If the NBA 3-point line doesn’t deter Doncic’s jumper, spreading the floor will complement defending multiple positions decently. His size gives the Kings a lot of different looks for the future.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III, Duke, PF/C
Needs: Just grab best player available
The Hawks don’t have a ton of positions filled for the future so they can really just go with the best player on the board at 3. John Collins and Taurean Prince are both nice pieces but not definite building blocks for the future as they currently reside. The nice thing about adding Marvin Bagley III with this pick is he can complement Collins and vice-versa. Bagley might have real outside range for the NBA level and he can certainly score the ball.
This selection for Travis Schlenk will loom large for the Hawks. They can’t miss on their first pick since the regime change and the move toward tanking. Bagley should be as safe as they come here.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr, Michigan State, PF/C
Needs: Shooting guard, both forward positions, direction
Memphis should be looking to transition toward a new big man of the future with 33-year-old Marc Gasol hitting free agency in 2019. The nice thing about Jaren Jackson Jr. here at 4 is he can play both big man positions. He might be the best shot blocker in a draft class that includes Mo Bamba. Jackson can also spread the floor out to the NBA 3-point range. He needs some work in the pick-and-roll and his rebounding numbers could be a lot better. But Jackson fills a need now and in the future for the Grizzlies. Maybe they won’t tear it all down but they need young, cheap players who can contribute right away. Jackson is all of that.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mo Bamba, Texas, PF/C
Needs: Everything except point guard
Dennis Smith Jr. should be the only guy they have locked into their future plans. With Mo Bamba falling to 5 here, they get a chance to protect their rim for the next 15 years. Bamba’s wingspan and physical stature make him hyper alluring as a big man prospect. He may have the upside of a defensive player like Rudy Gobert. Except, Bamba looks to have a functional outside jumper. Pick-and-pop plays will be deadly between him and DSJ. Pick-and-roll plays could turn into human highlight reels between the two players. Bamba gives the Mavericks the big man they’ve been craving since Tyson Chandler moved on post-title.
6. Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr, Missouri, F
Needs: Backcourt, center position
Orlando would love for either Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba to fall to them at 6. But if that doesn’t happen here, they have to take the best player available. Maybe that’s Trae Young out of Oklahoma, but it’s more likely Michael Porter Jr. from Missouri. Porter would probably find himself in the top 3 if he didn’t have spinal surgery late last year. Instead, he’ll have questions about his medical upside and health moving forward. It could cause him to drop in this draft and the Magic already have Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac as their future forwards. But it’s time for them to swing for big upside with their pick to jolt this franchise out of purgatory. Porter could be that guy.
7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr, Duke, PF/C
Needs: Center, wings, point guard
This may look like a stretch for Wendell Carter Jr right now but his workouts should maximize any potential hype for him. Carter looked great next to Bagley at Duke, so there shouldn’t be any qualms about putting him next to Lauri Markkanen for the next decade-plus. Carter has a great feel for the game with his passing. He has a long wingspan that will allow him to protect the rim and defend on the perimeter. He can score a little bit from all over the floor. The Bulls will need to replace Robin Lopez soon and this gives the Bulls a nice young core of Carter, Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. It isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of young prospects but it puts their rebuilding project in a strong position.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn): Trae Young, Oklahoma, PG
Needs: Everything because plan for LeBron possibly leaving
Whether LeBron James stays for another year or bolts, the Cavaliers need to think about the future. If LeBron leaves and Kevin Love becomes a free agent in 2019, the Cavs could be in real position to jump start their rebuild. Trying to grab the next Steph Curry could be pretty ironic considering they’ve been so against him the past four years. And that’s too high of an expectation to put on Trae Young. At 8, this pick is worth the risk in hoping he helps bend the floor and change the game like the once-in-a-generation guard in Oakland. Young looks to have special 3-point range, but he needs to prove he can make the entire half court his playground.
9. New York Knicks: Miles Bridges, Michigan State, SF/PF
Needs: Fill in the wings, big man depth
The Knicks should feel pretty confident with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina. But where else do they find value on their roster? They have Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee for a couple more seasons each. From there, they need to fill in some big man depth and grab versatile forwards to help make their attack under David Fizdale more dynamic. I love Miles Bridges here because he could try to fill a lite version of the Draymond Green role at some point. Nothing suggests he’ll be the defensive force of Green, but he can play and defend multiple positions. He has great athleticism which makes up for being a bit undersized for a 4. He can shoot the ball as well.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Mikal Bridges, Villanova, G/F
Needs: Fill in the wings
76ers may not retain JJ Redick this summer and we have no idea if their pursuit of LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard or both will be fruitful. Robert Covington is locked in for them for a while, but they need a lot more depth and ability at the wings. Mikal Bridges isn’t just a local familiarity, but he’s also an incredible player. Bridges can shoot from the outside, create a bit for himself, and projects as a defender at the NBA level. He doesn’t try to do too much and will complement Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons quite nicely. If he’s available at 10, it’s a no-brainer.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Robert Williams, Texas A&M, PF/C
Needs: You’re the Hornets; you need everything
Maybe the Charlotte Hornets are ready to move on from Kemba Walker as they start rebuilding. If so, Colin Sexton should be the pick for them. But if they decide to keep Walker as part of their franchise direction, the Hornets really need just about everything available. They have Malik Monk as a potential shooting guard of the future if people aren’t too deterred by his rookie season. What else do they need? A whole lot of everything. Robert Williams out of Texas A&M probably serves as the highest upside for a non-backcourt prospect. He rebounds, he blocks shots, and he can score around the basket.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit): Collin Sexton, Alabama, PG
Needs: Fill out the perimeter
If Collin Sexton falls to 12 in this draft, the Clippers have a steal. Sexton should be a top 10 pick in this draft but he also doesn’t have definite stardom attached to his name and the depth of his position. He has a lot of problems shooting the ball, but his size and athleticism at the position project nicely. He can be tutored by Milos Teodosic to learn all of the tricks and find himself in a great position to take the position by storm in a couple years.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Kevin Knox, Kentucky, F
Needs: Still fill out the perimeter
Kevin Knox could be a really nice fit with DeAndre Jordan and Danilo Gallinari already in tow. Knox should be able to play either forward position at the NBA level but probably projects more as a stretch-4. He has a 7-foot wingspan, and while his 3-point numbers didn’t fully impress at his year at Kentucky, it looks like that will be a strength at the NBA level. Not sure how he’ll defend or make plays at the NBA level, but Knox is good value here.
14. Denver Nuggets: Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech, SG/SF
Needs: Forward positions, rim protector
Will Barton leaving could leave a hole on the perimeter. Paul Millsap hopefully won’t miss months next season. Trey Lyles hopefully will be ready to build on a solid season. If Robert Williams falls to 14, I like the idea of him paired with Nikola Jokic. If not, Zhaire Smith has good upside on the wings. Smith kind of looks a little like Barton on the floor. He has incredible athleticism and I think he’ll be able to shoot at the NBA level. His handle needs to get tighter but Smith could be an insurance policy if Barton costs too much to retain.
15. Washington Wizards: Lonnie Walker IV, Miami, SG
Needs: Big men they can play, backup wings
Ideally, the Wizards would have a sure-fire big man to pick here to start taking minutes away from Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. I’m not sure that guys exists currently, unless some workouts go really well. They also don’t need to rely on Jodie Meeks as a backup wing. Lonnie Walker looks like he can shoot at the next level, although his college numbers won’t blow you away. The shooting form looks really good. He only stands 6-foot-4 but his wingspan is in the 6-foot-10 range.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky, PG/SG
Needs: Everything but center and shooting guard
With Ayton already selected at the top of the draft, Phoenix has a chance to grab a high upside player here. That could absolutely be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If he can play point guard at the NBA level, his size at 6-foot-6 becomes a major asset. He needs to prove his decent shooting numbers on small samples at Kentucky translate to the NBA. If he does that in workouts, he probably won’t fall to the Suns at 16. But he does here and that’s a great “gamble” for them to take.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Aaron Holiday, UCLA, PG
Needs: Big men, point guard
The Bucks already have Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Matthew Dellavedova at the point guard position. So why grab Aaron Holiday here? Because Bledsoe barely showed up in the postseason, Brogdon can play multiple positions, and they’ll move Delly at the drop of a hat. Holiday was a monster as a junior at UCLA. He can really shoot the ball and his activeness on the court creates a lot of problems for the defense. He’s a little undersized at point guard but the Bucks need real playmakers next to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, SF/PF
Needs: Young big man, active wings
Keita Bates-Diop fits the mold of what the Spurs typically seek. He should be able to stretch the floor as a power forward at the NBA level. He’s versatile enough to make plays off the dribble, and I think he can move the ball in space. Bates-Diop could really put pressure on a transition defense as he puts opponents on their heels. Spurs can mold him into a nice weapon.
19. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota): Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy, SG
Needs: Fill out the perimeter
The Hawks have plenty of time before they expect to be good and competitive again. With three picks in the first round, they can reach a bit here with Anfernee Simons to grab a project. Similar to what the Thunder did with Terrance Ferguson this past year, Atlanta can mold Simons early into finding comfort at either guard position. Nobody at this point in the draft will have the upside of Simons.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City): Khyri Thomas, Creighton, SG
Needs: Wings who can shoot
While he’s a little undersized at 6-foot-3 (6-foot-10 wingspan though), Khyri Thomas is the exact type of wing Tom Thibodeau needs on his team. Thomas plays great defense and he shot the lights out all three years at Creighton. Minnesota desperately needs wing depth, players who can contribute now, and guys that can play perimeter defense. Thomas becomes a no-brainer with that criteria.
21. Utah Jazz: Chandler Hutchinson, Boise State, SG/SF
Needs: Versatile forwards, backup shooting guard
Four-year player who can defend multiple positions and improved every single season at Boise State. Utah would probably prefer a guy who can play both forward positions comfortably, but they have a lot of flexibility with their roster right now. The Jazz could turn him into a real perimeter threat at the NBA level.
22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans): Jacob Evans, Cincinnati, SG/SF
Needs: Wings and point guard
Jacob Evans can shoot the ball, he played at least three seasons in college, and he should be a plus-defender at the NBA level. This checks pretty much every box for the Bulls front office.
23. Indiana Pacers: Dzanan Musa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, SF
Needs: Depth at the wing, point guard
Ideally, the Pacers would find a player who can contribute right away. But Dzanan Musa looks like an intriguing prospect on the wing they could draft-and-stash if he doesn’t come over right away. Musa can really score in the pick-and-roll but his jumper looks a little questionable. Good value pick at 23 for Indiana.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Troy Brown, Oregon, SG/SF
Needs: Wings and big men
Troy Brown was a terrible outside shooter in his year at Oregon. However, he has really good size for the NBA wing, can defend multiple positions, and makes plays for others. Oh no, did I just describe Evan Turner? Well, imagine Evan Turner with lower expectations and on a rookie contract. Maybe he’ll learn to shoot too.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland): Jontay Porter, Missouri, PF/C
Needs: Outside shooting
I know the Lakers need outside shooting all around the floor here, but I love the idea of them reaching a bit on Jontay Porter. He can stretch the floor a bit for a big man. He also is a decent rebounder and solid rim protector. His upside at this point in the draft might be too high to pass up.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Mitchell Robinson, Chalmette High School, C
Needs: Backup big man
Mitchell Robinson didn’t end up playing college basketball this year, but he isn’t far removed from the 2017 McDonald’s All-American game. He measures out as a legitimate 7-footer and will need a few years. But the Sixers love to develop these young projects and he could be a huge value here.
27. Boston Celtics: Bruce Brown, Miami, SG
Needs: Rim protection, shooting guard
Bruce Brown regressed as a shooter in his second year at Miami, but the potential to knock down shots exists. He has a good wingspan approaching 6-foot-10 for his 6-foot-4 height. He rebounds well and defends well for his position. Brown won’t replace Marcus Smart if he leaves, but he’s solid insurance if restricted free agency gets out of hand.
28. Golden State Warriors: De’Anthony Melton, USC, PG/SG
Needs: Two-way wings
Maybe someone like Melvin Frazier or Tyus Battle is in play here, but I think the Warriors go for upside they can mold with De’Anthony Melton. He can’t shoot a lick, but he’s a good playmaker, good defender, and he can learn how to find comfort in scoring the basketball. His 6-foot-8 wingspan gives him the potential to be very disruptive in the backcourt.
29. Brooklyn Nets (via Toronto): Grayson Allen, Duke, SG
Needs: Help inside
I can’t believe I’m typing out these words but Grayson Allen gives the Nets some Joe Harris free agency insurance. That’s a real thing I said out loud before typing it into this space. 2018 is crazy. Nets need some interior depth, but not much sitting here in this scenario.
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Jalen Brunson, Villanova, PG
Needs: Fill out the perimeter, depth inside
We don’t know what will happen with Dennis Schroder, but either way Jalen Brunson gives the Hawks some nice depth at the point guard position. He could be a perfect backup point guard at the NBA level with his shooting, leadership, and scoring ability.
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