Our latest predictions for the 2018 NBA Draft
1. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton | C | Arizona
– Let me start off by saying this — I believe Luka Doncic is the best player in this draft and I don’t think it’s particularly close. However, this mock draft isn’t an exercise in what I believe should happen. All signs point to the Suns planning on keeping Ayton in the state of Arizona. For his part, Ayton is a promising center prospect who showed signs of a bigtime offensive game and developed nicely as the season went on. While his defensive attributes do leave you wanting more, Ayton has the potential to grow into a franchise-level bigman.
2. Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic | G | Real Madrid
– While selecting Jackson Jr. or Bagley may be a cleaner fit, the Kings simply can’t pass up on the chance to add a talent like Doncic into the mix. While there’s typically a good deal of risk associated with international players, it’s easy to make the case that Doncic is the safest selection in this year’s draft class. The 19-year-old dynamo became the youngest player to be named MVP in the history of the EuroLeague this season. At 6-8 he can play any position from the 1-3 and will pair nicely alongside De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic in the backcourt.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr. | C | Michigan State
– This Hawks team is a mess and looks like the early contender to have the worst record in the NBA next season. With point guard Dennis Schroder looking to be moved, Atlanta will now build around their frontcourt pairing of John Collins and Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson is a tantalizing talent who flashes the ability to protect the rim and stretch the court on offense. While he may need a little more time to grow, the Hawks can afford to be patient with him as they continue their rebuild.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Marvin Bagley | PF | Duke
– Bagley may not have the high-end upside of the players picked before him, but he may be the readiest to contribute immediately of the bunch. Memphis didn’t expect to be picking this high and they aren’t looking to be back in the lottery next season. Bagley is ready to score and rebound at a high-level right away and playing next to Gasol can help mask his defensive limitations. Look for Bagley to become a strong contender for Rookie of the Year next season.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr. | F | Missouri
– If there’s a team that’s going to swing for the fences, it seems like Dallas would be that team. Porter Jr. is a complete mystery right now. He played just two minutes in the Tigers first game this season before undergoing spinal surgery. When he returned for the conference tournament and March Madness, he looked like a shell of the player we expected. It’s worth the gamble here for Dallas that Porter returns to his previous form — a player we believed could wind up as the #1 overall pick this season.
6. Orlando Magic: Trae Young | PG | Oklahoma
– This is the biggest no-brainer so far. The Magic are a team who lack star power and Young has the chance to be that and more. They’ll turn the keys to the offense over to him right away and while it may be a while before he figures out how to defend effectively at the NBA level, he should gives fans a reason to be excited right away.
7. Chicago Bulls: Mohamed Bamba | C | Texas
– This presents something of a worst-case scenario here for the Bulls who had to be hoping for one of Porter Jr. or Young to fall to them at 7. Bamba should pair fairly well with impressive rookie Lauri Markkanen in the team’s frontcourt, but he won’t do much to add wins for the team next season. Depending on whether or not Zach LaVine can bounce-back, and what happens in free agency, Chicago fans could be in for another long season in 2018-2019.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (From NETS): Wendell Carter Jr. | C | Duke
– Wendell Carter Jr. has been one of the hottest names in NBA Draft circles over the past couple of weeks as he impressed at the combine with his wingspan and improved outside shooting. The Cavaliers were nearly 10/1 (+1000) underdogs entering the NBA Finals and, after falling down 2-0 in Golden State, are now closer to 12/1 (+1200) on most online sports betting web sites. The long and short of it is this: The LeBron James era in Cleveland is about to end and Carter Jr. could end up being one of the first pieces in a post-LeBron world for the Cavs.
9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges | SF | Villanova
– The Knicks are in a tough spot here as superstar bigman Kristaps Porzingis could miss all of next season as a result of the ACL tear he suffered in early February. The Knicks could go in a lot of directions here — and they reportedly like Alabama point guard Collin Sexton a lot as well, but Bridges is the safest pick for a team looking for some semblance of stability.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (From LAKERS): Elie Okobo | PG | Élan Béarnais
– I bet you didn’t see this coming. Okobo entered the draft last year but wisely made the decision to pull out and head back overseas. In the last year, his game has really taken off as he flashed impact potential on the offensive side of the ball. The French point guard is an elite athlete who excels in creating scoring opportunities for himself. While his scoring is ahead of his playmaking right now, that’s no problem in Philadelphia as the team should have Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz handling the ball the majority of the time anyway.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | PG | Kentucky
– The Hornets are a team that will seriously considering starting their rebuild this summer, and that could include dealing Kemba Walker. Gilgeous-Alexander came in perhaps the least heralded of the Kentucky freshman this year, but leaves as the likely candidate to be the first Wildcat picked. The 6-6 guard is considered to be an extremely hard worker and should continue to improve his overall game.
12. LA Clippers (From PISTONS): Robert Williams | C | Texas A&M
– While Williams didn’t have the breakout season some thought he would this season, he’s still an appealing option for NBA teams looking for a rim-running, shot-blocking athletic center. He’ll likely never turn into a star, but he has Clint Capela-type upside and there’s a lot of value in that in today’s NBA. He could step in at center next season if DeAndre Jordan leaves in free agency.
13. LA Clippers: Lonnie Walker | SG | Miami (Fl)
– Walker is one of the draft’s more polarizing prospects. An elite athlete with a reputation of being a strong shooter, Walker failed to live up to expectations while playing on a poorly coached Miami team last season. Walker’s going to get some Donovan Mitchell comps leading up the draft.
14. Denver Nuggets: Miles Bridges | SF | Michigan State
– It looks like Bridges made a mistake returning to school for his sophomore season. The 6-6 forward is something of an odd prospect. His handle isn’t quite where you’d like it to be for Bridges the small forward, and he’s shorter than you’d like for a small-ball four. Still, one of the draft’s most explosive leapers, I wouldn’t bet against his long-term success.
15. Washington Wizards: Collin Sexton | PG | Alabama
– Sexton is another guy who you either love or you hate as a prospect. A bulldog on offense, few guards possess Sexton’s ability to get into the lane and score. However, his shooting hasn’t come along like some expected and his ability to initiate an offense as the primary ball-handler is also questioned. With all that said, he probably shouldn’t be on the board here and the Wizards pounce on the chance to add scoring to their bench.
16. Phoenix Suns (From BUCKS): Zhaire Smith | SG | Texas Tech
– The Zhaire Smith hype-train is a little out of control right now. When things settle down, and you look past the freakish athleticism, you find a 6-2 (w/o shoes) shooting guard with questions regarding his handle and outside shot. Phoenix can afford to bring him along slowly and reap the rewards when they’re closer to contending for a playoff spot.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Troy Brown | G | Oregon
– A McDonalds All-American, statistically, Brown’s freshman campaign was a little disappointing for the Ducks. His outside shooting was below average and isn’t a springy athlete. There are things to like here though. It’s rare to find players Brown’s size with the ability to handle the ball and run a team the way he does. In the right offense he can be a valuable player as a secondary ball-handler.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Kevin Knox | SF | Kentucky
– I’ve just never quite understood the Kevin Knox love. After his freshman year, the biggest strength I can find seems to be “he’s still very young”. If everything breaks right, he looks like he could be a Tobias Harris type of player, but for that to happen his outside shooting needs to improve and he needs to get more aggressive on offense. His rebounding is poor, he doesn’t make a defensive impact and turns the ball over more than he sets teammates up. But hey, he’s still young…
19. Atlanta Hawks (From TWOLVES): Anfernee Simons | G | High School
– Missed out on Zhaire Smith? Just grab Simons. Actually, you could make the argument that Simons is Smith — with more combo guard ability. An electric athlete, expect Simons to spend most of next season in the G-League as he adjusts to the prep-to-pros move.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (From THUNDER): Mitchell Robinson | C | N/A
– It’s pick 20 and Minnesota had a disappointing end to their season, why not gamble of upside here? Robinson committed to Western Kentucky but left during the summer after some bizarre behavior. The former prep star is an athletic bigman with real skills. The question is what’s going on between his ears. This pick is bad news for the Lakers who reportedly made a promise to Robinson to pick him at #25.
21. Utah Jazz: Chandler Hutchison | SF | Boise State
– Two picks in a row we have players who have reportedly received promises (this time to the Bulls at #22) going before that team gets to the podium. Hutchison is a sensational fit for the Jazz and he pairs nicely with impact rookie Donovan Mitchell. The small forward was asked to carry the team at Boise State and his efficiency suffered as a result. Heading into the NBA, being able to play a complementary role, Hutchison will shine. He won’t have a Mitchell-esque impact, but I believe he’ll be in the running for Rookie of the Year next season if this scenario plays out.
22. Chicago Bulls (From PELICANS): Gary Trent Jr. | SG | Duke
– You can never have too much shooting, right? Trent Jr. got a little bit lost on that Duke team last season as they basically forced him into a “stand in the corner and shoot on kickouts” roll, but make no mistake he’s one of the elite shooters in this draft. He’ll have a chance to plug right into the lineup and help the team from day one. Adding Bamba and Trent Jr., the Bulls future now looks quite a bit brighter.
23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday | PG | UCLA
– I really believe that Holiday is one of the single most underrated players in this draft class. An outstanding shooter with gorgeous mechanics and a quick release, he’s going to score at the next level. If he were 3 inches taller I believe we’d be talking about him as potentially being the draft’s top point guard. The youngest of the Holiday kids, Aaron is fearless and should carve out a long career in the NBA.
24. Portland Trailblazers: Dzanan Musa | SF | KK Cedevita
– Džanan Musa is one of the draft’s more gifted offensive players. however, he’s also a poor defender and doesn’t yet have the strength to play in the NBA. He’s a prime candidate to keep overseas for a couple of seasons as he continues to develop physically.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (From CAVS): Khyri Thomas | SG | Creighton
– Thomas is going to draw a lot of Avery Bradley comps going into the draft. Like Bradley, he’s undersized for the shooting guard position, but makes up for it with his wingspan. He’s also a competitive defensive player who doesn’t like to get beat and has a jumper that’s better off the catch than off-the-dribble. He’s a safe bet to be a long-term, useful rotational piece who’ll help teams win games.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Kevin Huerter | SG | Maryland
– It’s unlikely that the 76ers keep this pick, and if they do, it’s likely that they’d use it on an international stash like Isaac Bonga, Rodions Kurucs, or Goga Bitadze. However, for a team in dire need of shooting, passing up Huerter here would be tough to do. One of the purest shooters in this class, Huerter could provide floor spacing for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
27. Boston Celtics: Donte DiVincenzo | SG | Villanova
– Back-to-back athletic redheaded shooting guards — how often has that happened in the history of the NBA Draft? As a 76ers/Villanova fan, it’s heartbreaking to consider a future where this happens, but DiVincenzo apparently has a real fan in Danny Ainge and would make sense for the Celtics here.
28. Golden State Warriors: Gary Clark | F | Cincinnati
– What do you get the team that has everything? How about one of the draft’s more intriguing players. The combo forward makes a strong case as being the most impactful defensive player in this class. Quite simply, he does everything well, including shooting 43% from the outside on 1.7 attempts a game. The only downside to Clark is his tweener status.
29. Brooklyn Nets (From RAPTORS): Landry Shamet | PG | Witicha State
– The Nets love shooting the 3-ball and they find a kindred spirit here in Shamet. The Wichita State guard connected on 44% of his 3-pointers while taking nearly 6 a game. He’s never going to provide a ton on the defensive side of the ball, but Shamet’s ability to make threes and get his teammates involved should equal a long NBA career.
30. Atlanta Hawks (From ROCKETS): Josh Okogie | SG | Georgia Tech
– Maybe my favorite player in the draft this year. Built like a rock at 6-4 with a mind-blowing 7-0 wingspan, Okogie is tailor-made for the new NBA. At worst, you’re getting an aggressive guard to projects as a plus-plus defender and strong rebounder. If things click and he learns to be smarter with his shot selection, Okogie could develop into an all-star level player.