With the 2018 NBA Draft looming, franchises are looking every which way to improve their team and find the next cornerstone piece to build a future around. Without further-a-do, here is a 2018 NBA Mock Draft within the draft lottery.
1. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, C (Arizona)
PTS: 20.1 REB: 11.6 AST: 1.6 STL: 0.6 BLK: 1.9
Best Overall Talent in the Draft: In a big-man heavy field, Ayton presents the perfect balance of size, strength, agility, athleticism, and basketball IQ among his fellow seven-foot contemporaries. Ayton is a great rebounder, has a reliable jumpshot to stretch the floor, has the makings of an intimidating rim protector, and he is an athletic freak of nature. What more can you ask for from a big man in this league?
With Marquese Chriss and Dragon Bender underperforming as the team’s 2016 lottery picks, Ayton could take the mantel as the primary big man in the Valley of the Sun. Ayton along with NBA All-Rookie Second Team member Josh Jackson and Devin Booker could make for a young core that could dominate the Western conference in a few years.
2. Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic, G/F (Real Madrid/Slovenia)
PTS: 14.5 REB: 5.2 AST: 4.7 STL: 1.1 BLK: 0.4
The MVP of the Best League Outside the NBA: In this past season, Doncic led Real Madrid to the Euroleague championship and earned MVP honors. Based on the eye-test, Doncic is an ideal guard in today’s NBA. As a 6’7 guard, Doncic is a crafty ball handler with an uncanny ability to finish in traffic. He can finish with finesse or power, his jumpshot is consistent enough, and his size gives him the ability to survey the floor.
Listed as a point guard, Doncic’s frame and athleticism makes him flexible enough to play as a wing in today’s era of position-less basketball. Doncic can cement his name with the likes of Hedo Turkoglu and Manu Ginobili as one of the best international guards to play in the NBA.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III, F/C (Duke)
PTS: 21.0 REB: 11.1 AST: 1.5 STL: 0.8 BLK: 0.9
Secure the Bag: Bagley is an athlete! Throughout the course of the NCAA season, he tantalized scouts with his high motor, tenacious rebounding ability, versatile scoring, and freakish athleticism. Bagley’s effectiveness in the pick-and-roll can become a bread and butter option for Dennis Schroder and the Hawks similar to Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire or Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon back in the 2000s.
The ACC twin tower set of Bagley and John Collins could be a duo that dominates on the defensive end of the floor with 24/7 shot blocking. With Schroder running the show and Taurean Prince as a quality 3-and-D wing, the Hawks would be taking a step into the right direction with Bagley.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Michael Porter Jr., F (Missouri)
PTS: 10.0 REB: 6.7 AST: 0.3 STL: 1.0 BLK: 0.3
“I believe I’m the best player in this Draft”…: Comparable to a slender yet longer Jabari Parker coming out of Duke, Porter is a dream 6’10 forward returning from spinal surgery in his L3-L4 discs. Although he is lacking defensively, Porter more than makes up for it on the offensive side of the ball with length to cover loads of ground, a sugar-sweet shooting stroke, and dynamic athleticism. If Porter can show the same intensity on defense as he does offensively, MPJ could be a First Team All-Rookie member.
The Grizzlies are in need of a wing player who can dominate a game. With an All-Star in Marc Gasol and veteran like Mike Conley, they would hope to get instant production from MPJ. They would be hoping for a playoff run sooner than later.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C (Michigan State)
PTS: 10.9 REB: 5.8 AST: 1.1 STL: 0.6 BLK: 3.0
Prototypical Stretch Big: Jackson is the kind of prospect that NBA teams thirst for. He is a deceptively quick big who can rebound at will, catch lobs, has a high motor, and can shoot lights out from three, shooting 40 percent from three as a Spartan. Jackson is the quintessential stretch big in the modern NBA.
Defensively, Jackson has the quickness to give guards and wings problems, as well as the height and length to grind down low with the bigs. He would fulfill a void for the Mavs as they desperately need a big. A relatively raw offensive player, Jackson can be the successor to the great Dirk Nowitzki and usher in a new era of basketball in Big D with Dennis Smith Jr.
6. Orlando Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C (Texas)
PTS: 12.9 REB: 10.5 AST: 0.5 STL: 0.8 BLK: 3.6
Ballin Like My Name Mo: Rapper Sheck Wes knows it and so should you. Bamba is listed to have the longest wingspan in this NBA Draft at 7’10! The former Longhorn has the potential to be the next Rudy Gobert, but with a reliable jumper. Bamba is a force to be reckoned with defensively. His 7’1 frame helped place him at second in blocked shots per game. His lateral quickness and defensive IQ is something to drool over.
Bamba has an array of finishes at the rim along with unparalleled vision to pass out of double teams and locate shooters. His use of both hands expands his finishing ability in the paint drastically. If Orlando drafts Bamba, they will posses a terrifying front court with Aaron Gordon (if re-signed) and Jonathan Issac.
7. Chicago Bulls: Trae Young, G (Oklahoma)
PTS: 27.4 REB: 3.9 AST: 8.7 STL: 1.7 BLK: 0.3
The Most Lethal Threat in College Basketball: Chicago would have to go with Young in this scenario. With near godly range, ball distribution, and shifty ball handling, he is arguably the most dynamic offensive player in the draft.
Young would be best suited playing the role of instant offense off the bench. The Bulls have a solid back court with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. Young’s start as a sixth man could position him to score at will in the second unit with little pressure. Expect near 120 points per game from the Windy City with Young dominating defenders as if they are matadors fearful of their lives.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, G (Alabama)
PTS: 19.2 REB: 3.8 AST: 3.6 STL: 0.8 BLK: 0.1
Young Bull: They don’t call him “Young Bull” for nothing. Sexton single-handedly carried a middle-of-the-road Alabama team to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. Sexton gives you passion, hunger, aggression, and an assassin’s mentality that the Cavs appear to lack.
Listed just above six feet, Young Bull is an athletic, strong guard is a blur from baseline-to-baseline and has an uncanny ability to finish at the rim with authority. His passion for the game motivates him to work hard on both ends as he has the ability to pick up guards full-court. In a draft where guard play is scarce, Sexton could give the Cavaliers instant offense upon arrival if available at this point in the draft. Regardless if LeBron James returns to “Believeland”, Sexton would be exactly what the team needs.
9. New York Knicks: Miles Bridges, F (Michigan State)
PTS: 17.1 REB: 7.0 AST: 2.7 STL: 0.6 BLK: 0.8
Glue, Staples, and Stitches: The dynamic and almost dynamite personality of Bridges makes the sophomore an absolute monster on offense. The heart and soul of the Spartans last season, Bridges is a player that posses unparalleled explosiveness that could make him the most athletic player in the draft.
Bridges has a high motor, ambidextrous finishing ability, and a feel for the game that would make him a valuable role player instantly. He could also stretch the floor to keep defenses honest. He could bring excitement to a New York team who has been dead in the water for the past five seasons.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Mikal Bridges, G/F (Villanova)
PTS: 17.7 REB: 5.3 AST: 1.9 STL: 1.5 BLK: 1.1
3-and-D Master: A reigning national champion at Villanova, Bridges is the archetypal 3-and-D swingman that every team salivates over. At 6’7 with a seven-foot wingspan, he is a lockdown defender with elite level athleticism and a reliable deep ball that would make any team happy in the NBA. Bridges seems like a good bet to be an instant impact player with his likelihood to fit in with any NBA system.
Although declaring for the NBA draft as a junior is usually frowned upon, the former Wildcat did nothing but win at Nova. A seasoned prospect with two national championships on his resume, Bridges understands what it takes to win in high leverage moments. He would be a steal for Philly as a hometown player.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Wendell Carter Jr., C (Duke)
PTS: 13.5 REB: 9.1 AST: 2.0 STL: 0.8 BLK: 2.1
Big Man Fulfillment: With a franchise that once built around the great Alonzo Mourning, the Hornets would be crazy to not take Carter. In his lone season as a Blue Devil, he was accountable for over 40 percent of the team’s blocked shots. He can play inside and out with a sweet stroke from deep. He has a nose for loose balls on the offensive end and combats double teams with counter moves to attack the rim. On the defensive side of the court, positioning is Carter’s forte allowing him to be rim protector and rebound consistently.
Carter could help replace Dwight Howard, entering final year in his contact. In addition, they could trade Howard and free up cap space as Charlotte seems poised for a rebuild.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, F (Kentucky)
PTS: 14.4 REB: 4.1 AST: 5.1 STL: 1.6 BLK: 0.5
Length and Size: Gilgeous-Alexander’s game is reminiscent of pre-injury Shaun Livingston, a tall point guard with the vision to survey the floor and run an offense. His jump shot requires hours of reps in the gym, but his seven-foot wingspan makes finishes around the rim and floaters across the lane look awkward yet effortless. He’s not the most athletic player, but his crafty ball handling and change in pace makes him a threat with the ball in his hands. His frame allows him to switch onto a myriad of guards and wings defensively without sacrificing size or strength.
Milos Teodosic is solid, Austin Rivers has veteran experience, Patrick Beverley is a pitbull defensively, and Tyrone Wallace had his moments last season, but Gilgeous-Alexander is a wiry option who possesses more two-way potential than any point guard on the Clippers roster.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams III, C (Texas A&M)
PTS: 10.4 REB: 9.2 AST: 1.4 STL: 0.8 BLK: 2.5
Big for the Future: The pogo stick that is Williams would be a defining picking if the Clippers decide to draft him. A slim copy of DeAndre Jordan, Williams is a rim-running center with supreme athleticism and intimidating shot-blocking. His play as the screener in the pick-and-roll set needs some polishing, but, if developed correctly, Williams ceiling could be All-Star caliber. If the Clippers aren’t willing to drop top dollar to renew Jordan’s contract, the former Aggie center may be an alternative with a similar effect.
14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox, F (Kentucky)
PTS: 15.4 REB: 5.4 AST: 1.4 STL: 0.8 BLK: 0.3
Pure Scorer: Knox is a gifted offensive prospect with similarities to MPJ. The former Kentucky Wildcat is a walking arsenal with the body to shoot over shorter wings and the speed and power to get to the rim against bigger defenders. His mid-range game is versatile with an array of floaters and runners. A great spot-up threat, Knox excels in straight line drives, catch and shoot situations, and dribble pull ups.
Wilson Chandler, although solid, is aging and Will Barton is testing the free agency market this offseason. It seems that Knox and Denver could be a match made in heaven to round out the lottery.