With the NBA draft fast approaching and just nine days away, it is time for the association’s bottom dwellers to have hope for their respective futures. Loaded with star big men along with arguably the best international prospect to enter the draft, the 2018 NBA draft is going to be an exciting one. Important to note this mock lottery was created considering no trades, which is a rarity when it comes to the draft. Nonetheless, here’s a look at what you may see come June 21st.
1. Phoenix Suns
The Pick: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
It appears to be a lock that the Suns are going to take Ayton with the number one overall pick. On a roster full of weaknesses, adding Ayton to pair with their young core of Devin Booker and Josh Jackson may be just what this team needs to get back on track. The only question mark with this pick is that Ayton is going to struggle on the defensive end until he fully grows into his body. This makes you question the fit, considering the Suns were a bottom three defensive team in the league last year. With former first-round picks Alex Len, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss not seeming to pan out, it would be wise for the Suns to grab one of the start centers in this class. Ayton is going to be a dominant scorer out of the gates, and he and Devin Booker could create a pretty deadly pick and roll over the years.
With that said, the Suns could choose another path by shocking the world and going with Mo Bamba. Standing at 7’0 with a 7’9 wingspan, Bamba could be a game changer on the defensive end right out the gates. Considering the Suns lack a true rim protector, and certainly would not be getting that in Ayton, Bamba could make sense here. He has also flashed his potential as the unicorn prototype with his ability to shoot threes, with a relatively quick release time. The knock on Bamba is that he is probably the rawest of all the elite prospects in this class, and the Suns may not want to stay in purgatory in the near future. Expect Ayton, but don’t be surprised if it’s the seven-footer from Texas.
2. Sacramento Kings
The Pick: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke
After Ayton presumably goes first, here is where the draft will get a little tricky to predict. Sacramento has a roster full of holes almost everywhere you look. With De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings probably won’t be looking to add any guards. And while big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere have flashed their potential at times, neither seems certain to make a real impact on a winning team in the NBA. If the Kings select Bagley second overall, he will instantly become the team’s best rebounder and probably go to scorer on the blocks. Bagley is a freak athlete with great size at 6’11 and weighing over 230 lbs. He also has the ability to shoot it from outside, and if he learns to develop that aspect of his game, he will be one of the premier scorers in this league. This pick also makes sense because his fit next to Harry Giles also makes sense. The Kings selected Giles 20th overall last year, however, he missed his entire rookie season due to knee injuries. Like the Kings, I am also very high on Giles, as he was once the number one player coming out of high school until injuries slowed him down. With him finally being healthy for the first time in years, the combination of the two former Duke bigs could be a tantalizing one.
3. Atlanta Hawks
The Pick: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan State
Although the record may not show it, the Hawks core of Dennis Schroeder, Tauren Prince, and John Collins isn’t that far off from making the playoffs in the weaker eastern conference. Collins flashed his potential as an elite rim protector during his rookie campaign, while Prince started to explode as a scorer late in the season. Add in an elite defender and three-point shooting prospect in Jaren Jackson Jr and this nucleus is going to compete for years to come. His ability to switch one through five is an elite trait, and his pairing with Collins in the frontcourt could be a nightmare to score on for the next five years. Even if Ayton or Bagley remains on the board, it is hard to see the Hawks passing on Jackson Jr, who is the best fit for their team among the elite prospects.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
The Pick: Luka Donic, G/F, International
After a season of never-ending injuries, which derailed the Grizz’s hope of making any noise this year, things could be a lot worse. They still have two premier players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, with the ladder playing in his prime. They also still have time to make a decision on Tyreke Evans, who scored at an elite level this year and could fit nicely next to Gasol and Conley for the rest of his career. Without adding anything else, if all three of the guys are healthy, the Grizzlies are likely a playoff team even in the wild Western Conference. Enter Luka Doncic, who thrives with the ball in his hand, yet still has the size and ability to play any position from one through four, the Grizz will be in contention next year. Doncic just wrapped up his domination of the Euroleague (widely considered the second-best basketball league in the world), and for he could be used in many different ways for the Grizzlies. He could start at small forward with Conley and Evans in the backcourt and then handle the backup point guard duties, or Memphis could opt to go small and start him at the four next to Gasol with Evans at the three and then look to find shooting in free agency. Like the previous pick with Jaren Jackson Jr, the fit is there, and this team could get back into the playoffs as soon as next year.
5. Dallas Mavericks
The Pick: Michael Porter Jr., G/F, Missouri
Before going down with a back injury, Michael Porter Jr. was on track to making his case for the number one overall selection. He was the consensus top high school player in the country and unfortunately did not get to put his talents on display this past season. Nonetheless, his appearance during the NCAA showed scouts that he’s healthy enough to play so he must be close to what he was prior to the injury. As a lights-out shooter with good size along with his ability to play either wing spot, or even some spot four minutes as he gets stronger, his fit in Dallas works. Dennis Smith Jr. is absolutely the face of this franchise after a dazzling rookie season. Harrison Barnes is an elite role player with the ability to thrive at the three or the four. One knock on both of them is that they are good shooters, not great, but would greatly benefit from great shooters around them due to both of their natural abilities to drive the lane. At his worst, Porter Jr. will find a way to be a solid three-and-d guy, and at his best, he could be the go-to scorer that the Mavs are missing.
6. Orlando Magic
The Pick: Mohammed Bamba, C, Texas
One of the worst managed teams in the league, the Orlando Magic finally have a chance to spike optimism across their fan base. The core of Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Evan Fournier isn’t bad, as all three of the guys can certainly score at a high level. The problem with this organization has been on the other side of the ball. Elfrid Payton was a complete failure and getting rid of him was actually a blessing. The Serge Ibaka signing was also a complete miss, along with paying clueless Bismack Biyombo $17 million a year. All three of these guys were supposed to be the missing piece on the other side of the ball, but to put it nicely, this has just not panned out. Enter Mohammed Bamba, the 7’0 unicorn from Texas who thrives on the defensive end while he has also shown the potential to shoot it from deep. By picking him and making him their center of the future, they give the team lots of options. They could either try to move on from Vucevic or slide him over to the four while also sliding Aaron Gordon down to the three. This would work extremely well if Gordon can develop consistency on his outside stroke. This would also allow Fournier to play the two, but he could run the show as the primary ball handler, which is what he’s best at anyway. The other option is to go small and slide Gordon to the four slot, Fournier to the three, and try to move Vucevic for some guard play. This could also work, but option one is superior in my mind.
7. Chicago Bulls
The Pick: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova
The Chigaco Bulls are in a very interesting situation. They have a good amount of talent in players such as Lauri Markkannen, Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and Bobby Portis. If they think Portis and Markkanen can play together in the frontcourt, then the pick should definitely be Mikal Bridges. Bridges burst onto the scene during his time at Villanova, but really put his talents on display during their most recent title run this past season. He’s a lights-out shooter, with unlimited range on his spot up three’s, with the size and length to guard four positions. The perfect fit for the modern NBA and would slide perfectly into that three spot that the Bulls are lacking. However, if the Bulls are convinced that Portis and Markkanen are both fours, then they will also need to take a long look at Wendell Carter Jr. here.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Pick: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke
Lebron is going to leave this summer, it is just a matter of where that has the basketball world going crazy. Without Lebron, the collection of players the Cavs have will add up to something around a bottom eight team in the league. Due to that, they will be looking for a face of their franchise from this pick. With three elite options in Trae Young, Collin Sexton, and Wendell Carter Jr., the Cavs are going to go with the big man. After trading for Jordan Clarkson and George Hill, there is certainly room for improvement at the point guard spot, except your not going to draft another point guard when you already have almost $30 million locked into the previously mentioned players for the next couple of years. Carter Jr. has the size of an old-school big, but his game is much more than back-to-the-basket post-ups (sorry Jahlil Okafor). With a great feel for the game, along with great hands, great shot blocking instincts, the ability to see to passing lanes from the high post, and his touch from outside, Carter Jr. has all the makings of a franchise player and actually would fit quite nicely alongside Kevin Love.
9. New York Knicks
The Pick: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Yes, the Knicks did just draft a point guard last season in Frank Ntilikina, however, his flashes during his rookie campaign suggest he may be better suited off as an off-ball guard who fits the role of three-and-d with secondary playmaking abilities. The Knicks are a mess, and poor Kristaps can’t find a way to stay healthy as he’s being asked to do way too much for this team. Enter Trae Young, a flashy point guard in the mold of Steph Curry, with range on his pull-up threes that come from long beyond the three-point arc. Not to mention his incredible passing instinct in the pick and roll as well. With him taking the load off of Kristaps Porzingis, while also pushing Tim Hardaway back into a role player’s mindset, this Knicks team could actually sport a potent offense with Ntilikina at the two and Mudiay coming off the bench to back up Trae Young.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
The Pick: Kevin Huerter, SG/SF, Maryland
No one has seen their draft stock rise the way Huerter has. Originally considered a prospect for the 2019 draft, Huerter has worked his way to being a lock for the first round this year. With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and hopefully Markelle Fultz running the show, the needs are obvious, shooting. Through the combine and pre-draft process, Huerter is coming off to scouts as the best pure shooter of this class. And with length and size standing at 6’7, he has the potential to become a versatile defender. 10 may be a little high for him, but there might not be a better fit for the Sixers and he may be this missing piece.
11. Charlotte Hornets
The Pick: Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami FL
Michael Jordan‘s group is constantly one of the more disappointing teams every season. With a star in Kemba Walker and solid role players all around including the re-vamped Dwight Howard, whether it be injuries or poor play, this group has yet to find a way to find a way to win together. Last year’s first-round pick Malik Monk did not get his opportunity until late in the season where he flashed his potential as an explosive scorer making many think he suited to be the sixth man in this league. If his shooting is going to come off the bench, the Hornets are going to need to find a wing in this draft who can drain shots from the outside. Step in Lonnie Walker IV, arguably the most tantalizing prospect in the draft. On sheer potential, skies the limit. He has the stroke, the wingspan, the athleticism, and the charisma to star in this league. On the other hand, he is ultra raw and found himself struggling many times during an up-down season at the University of Miami. Michael Jordan loves to gamble, and if this one pays off, the Hornets could finally find their way back into the post-season.
12. Los Angeles Clippers
The Pick: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Collin Sexton is an elite prospect and will likely not fall this far, If he does, the Clippers will be quick to grab him. With a roster full of solid NBA rotational players centered around stars Deandre Jordan and Lou Williams, the Clippers would be wise to package the 12th and 13th picks for a higher pick in the lottery. As mentioned before, we are doing no trades so in this scenario it would be very easy for the Clippers to be convinced on Sexton. Patrick Beverley is coming off a season-ending knee surgery while Austin Rivers seems better suited to come off the bench, leaving the Clippers with a hole for the starting point guard spot. Add Sexton’s explosiveness and elite defense alongside lockdown defender Avery Bradley and supreme rim protector Deandre Jordan, and the Clippers will boast one of the best defenses in the league.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
The Pick: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
After mistakenly coming back for his sophomore season after his stock was sky-high after his freshman campaign, Miles Bridges comes into the draft without much momentum, but still a highly regarded player. His fit with Clippers also works out nicely as they could use a backup to Tobias Harris in the three/four slot. As mentioned before watching for this pick or the Clippers previous pick to get traded as their roster doesn’t feature many holes. However, if they walk out of the draft with Sexton and Miles Bridges, they should feel pretty good about themselves moving forward.
14. Denver Nuggets.
The Pick: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
After missing the playoffs by just one game, the Nuggets are poised for there encore and expectations are going to be sky-high. With one of the finest young cores in the game with Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamaal Murray, and one of the best sixth men in the league in Will Barton, the Nuggets are oozing with talent. The only weakness is on the defensive side of the ball, due to Jokic being an inferior rim protector. Step in Robert Williams, who many consider the best defender in this draft, however his lack of shooting is what separates him from the other bigs in this class. Nonetheless, he is still an elite prospect and there isn’t a better landing spot for him. He would step in immediately at the four spot and focus on help defense the way Draymond Green does for the Warriors. As good as the fits were mentioned in the earlier part of this draft, this one takes the cake and elevates the Nuggets not only to playoffs but maybe even to the second round.