2018 NBA Mock Draft Ahead of 2017-18 CBB Season Tipoff

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterNovember 6, 2017

2018 NBA Mock Draft Ahead of 2017-18 CBB Season Tipoff

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    NBA scouts are already out making their rounds with college basketball season ready to tip. And the excitement regarding this 2018 draft class continues to build. 

    The top five could be stronger than last year's. It's going to feature potential All-Star bigs, a scoring wing and arguably the most intriguing international prospect we've ever seen predraft. 

    The depth of the 2018 field will be determined by the offseason improvement of the nation's top returning prospects. 

    What follows is an early look of how the 2018 NBA draft could play out, with team needs factored in. At this early juncture, though, most teams wound up selecting the best available player.

1. Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)

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    Luka Doncic's No. 1 overall case gets stronger by the month. And the Dallas Mavericks could look to pair him with rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who's a more explosive player but is a weaker decision-maker and shooter.

    At 19 years old, Doncic leads Euroleague in scoring. The 6'8" swingman has demonstrated unteachable vision and feel as a pick-and-roll facilitator. And he shows strong scoring instincts by improvising with runners and floaters. His three-ball also keeps improving, as does his ability to create separation and make jumpers off the dribble. 

    The Mavericks can buy not only into Doncic's unmatchable winning track record and production against proven pros, but also his fit in their rebuilding plans. 

2. Sacramento Kings: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Missing a go-to scoring forward, the Sacramento Kings are likely already doing their homework on Michael Porter Jr.

    He's a good bet to average at least 20 points a game with his 6'10" size, athleticism and shooting. Porter can convert from all three levels, showing confident range and the ability to make shots off the dribble.

    Carrying Missouri to the NCAA tournament would eliminate questions about whether he's the type who can make teammates better. But Porter won't fall outside the top four, particularly given the team needs of those projected to pick early. Depending how dominant he is, he's also a threat to go No. 1.

3. Atlanta Hawks: DeAndre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    The Atlanta Hawks could look at DeAndre Ayton as their next anchor to build around in the middle. 

    He has the potential to check all of the boxes scouts look for in today's centers. Listed at 7'1" and 250 pounds with a 7'5 ½" wingspan, Ayton is a presence around the basket, but he's also a skilled shot-maker away from it, with a jumper that extends out to the three-point arc. 

    We could be talking about a full-package, Karl-Anthony Towns-esque big man who's capable of scoring in the post, from the short corners or from three as a spot-up or pick-and-pop weapon. 

    At Arizona, he'll have to show he can consistently serve as a defensive intimidator. Ayton's energy and awareness aren't always the strongest, but his tools were built for rim protection. He'll have the chance to be a two-way stretch 5 and a walking double-double.

4. Chicago Bulls: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    The Chicago Bulls could view Marvin Bagley III as both the best player available and a fitting complement to Lauri Markkanen in the frontcourt.

    Bagley is going to double-double often for Duke with his athleticism and hunger for rebounds and putback chances. He's constantly putting himself in position to pick up an easy basket, whether it's by running the floor, cutting or crashing the glass.

    With his 6'11" size, he's also a threat to take opposing bigs off the dribble and score off one foot.

    He could fall behind DeAndre Ayton and Michael Porter Jr., more convincing scorers and shooters. But in terms of upside, Bagley may have the most due to his quickness, bounce and potential two-way versatility.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers could look to move this pick for an established veteran. Conversely, they could bet on Mohamed Bamba developing into the game's next unicorn.

    He'd be the only player in the league with a 7'9" wingspan. Bamba would bring extraordinary length to Cleveland's frontcourt, something that should interest the league's worst defense.

    Bamba also has a developing offensive skill set from the post out to the three-point arc, where he's become a competent open shooter.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Jaren Jackson Jr.'s youth, tools, shot-blocking and budding offensive game are going to light up NBA radars. 

    Between his 7'4" wingspan and nimble feet, Jackson has the chance to be a high-level defender for his rim protection and pick-and-roll coverage. And he's going to give Michigan State a big target and second-chance points around the basket.

    Flashes of shooting potential could ultimately push Jackson into the top six. He's still raw in terms of creating his own shot, but he also just turned 18 years old in September, making him one the youngest players in the country and this projected draft class.

7. Phoenix Suns: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, PF, Sophomore)

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    Miles Bridges should be a lock for lottery looks after positioning himself for them last year.

    It's tough to beat his mix of power and explosiveness, which will continue translating to easy baskets around the rim. But whether he can justify being picked this high will come down to his skill development with his shot-creating and shooting. 

    Between his shot-making, physicality and ability to guard bigs or wings, the Jae Crowder comparison could build steam.

8. Miami Heat: Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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    The last prospect from Alabama to go in the first round was Gerald Wallace in 2001. Collin Sexton puts the Crimson Tide on scouts' must-watch list for the first time in years.

    He needs to show he can run an offense and set the table, but NBA teams that could use a jolt to their backcourt will be all over Sexton. Always in attack mode, he puts pressure on defenses with his first step, driving and athleticism in the lane.

    Shooting and decision-making, common issues for freshman guards, could hold Sexton back. But he's a good early bet for the lottery based on his explosiveness, expected production and sharp competitive edge.

9. Milwaukee Bucks: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF/C, Sophomore)

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    A potential lottery pick in 2017, Robert Williams could rise even further by looking more polished and threatening offensively.

    Without a great deal of skill in terms of creating or shooting, he still finished with at least 10 points in 21 of 31 games as a freshman. Strong, long and explosive, Williams' NBA tools and athleticism translate to easy baskets, rebounding (12.6 per 40 minutes) and shot-blocking (3.8 per 40). 

    If he improves his jumper and post footwork, he'd become that much more enticing to NBA scouts. But even the same player from a year ago will draw first-round interest. The Milwaukee Bucks should buy into Williams' defensive potential and effectiveness around the basket as a finisher, putback machine and lob target.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder: Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF,

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    Versatility is the name of the game for Troy Brown, who's going to fill up box scores with rebounds, assists and steals.

    Brown's ability to facilitate for a 6'7" wing is his distinguishable core strength. And he should have the ball in his hands a lot this season after Oregon lost its top five scorers. 

    Scouts will be watching to see whether a lack of explosiveness holds him back, but if he shoots it well enough, Brown could build a case for lottery consideration with three-and-D plus playmaking.

11. Indiana Pacers: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Wendell Carter Jr. would help beef up any NBA team's front line with his 6'10", 259-pound frame and a 7'3" wingspan. But he also brings an Al Horford-esque skill set with back-to-the-basket moves, short corner face-ups and mid-range shooting touch.

    He's going to shoot a high percentage for Duke with his finishing, low-post scoring and offensive rebounding.

    He'll want to show scouts his jumper can become an every-game weapon, and that he's nimble enough to defend pick-and-rolls and switch on defense. But Carter could come off as one of the safer bets for his NBA physical tools and polish. 

12. New Orleans Pelicans: Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

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    As he works his way back from an offseason meniscus tear, Lonnie Walker IV may start slow or come off the bench. But he won't need big, productive minutes to illuminate his NBA potential. Scouts will see it, even if he plays more of a supporting role, the way Jonathan Isaac did at Florida State before going No. 6 overall. 

    The scouting lens easily detects his size, length, athleticism and shooting stroke for an NBA 2-guard. He'll rise up boards by scoring and defending.  

    The New Orleans Pelicans have needed a wing and could look at Walker, a potential two-way player and shooter, to pair with Jrue Holiday.

13. Utah Jazz: Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Kevin Knox is going to stand out for his face-up scoring at the power forward position.

    At 6'9", he's always a threat to grab a defensive rebound and initiate the break on offense. The shooting consistency isn't there yet, but he's flashed three-point range and the ability to make pull-ups and runners.

    Between his size and agility, he's going to regularly get those easy finishes by running the floor, cutting or putting back misses.

    Unless inconsistency or shot selection set off alarms during his freshman year, Knox should show enough flashes of skill and versatility to go in the top 20 after one season.

14. Denver Nuggets: Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Hamidou Diallo wasn't able to secure himself a first-round guarantee last June. Athleticism alone won't be enough. It made sense for him to come back and build a draft case as one of Kentucky's top options. 

    An explosive leaper who'll score even without the sharpest skill level, Diallo will convert easy baskets in the open floor and around the rim.

    We've seen signs of improvement to his handle and jumper, but they're still behind, and it wouldn't surprise to see Dlallo shoot poorly or look unrefined. On the other hand, he's only 19 years old and possesses extraordinary length, quickness and bounce. 

15. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Mikal Bridges should see more shots and chances to create, though NBA teams will value his three-ball and defense. 

    He's built up a solid reputation for his ability to guard multiple positions and make plays (1.7 steals per game). 

    Bridges has also been a master of efficiency offensively. He shot 69.4 inside the arc, 39.3 percent behind it and 91.1 percent from the foul line as a sophomore. He takes good shots in role-player fashion as a spot-up shooter, driver and cutter.

16. Charlotte Hornets: Gary Trent Jr. (Duke, SG, Freshman)

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    Gary Trent Jr. gives Duke an immediate source of offense and scouts a prospect to track for his scoring potential.

    A 6'6" 2-guard, he works on and off the ball with the ability to shoot off spot-ups, screens and dribbles. He's a bucket-getter, capable of hitting tough jumpers and improvised runners, though he's also vulnerable to taking questionable shots.

    Shot-making remains Trent's most valued skill, but he'll have to work on being more creative to compensate for average burst.

17. Washington Wizards: Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky, PF, Freshman)

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    Jarred Vanderbilt shouldn't need a full season of reps to make a first-round case, but he's expected back from a foot injury earlier than originally thought. 

    He'll earn fans for his versatility as a 6'9" forward who can handle the ball and facilitate. Bigs will have a difficult time containing him off the dribble in space. 

    A strong rebounder and defensive playmaker, Vanderbilt checks boxes across the board—except for shooting. If he can hit open shots, that could be enough to crack the top 20 after just one season.

18. New York Knicks: Bruce Brown (Miami, SG, Sophomore)

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    Bruce Brown Jr. returns as a first-round prospect. How much he rises will come down to his shooting percentages and overall consistency.

    Quick and springy with 6'5" size, Brown will be Miami's top scorer and likely second-leading assist man.

    A two-way playmaker capable of creating for teammates off ball screens and forcing turnovers with defensive pressure, Brown's athleticism and backcourt versatility should attract attention from teams like the New York Knicks in need of guard depth.

19. Philadelphia 76ers: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech, PG/SG, Fr.)

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    Nickeil Alexander-Walker comes off as a full-package guard equipped with scoring and playmaking skills, as well as the size to play either backcourt position. 

    He's in position to produce as a top option for Virginia Tech. Alexander-Walker has sound pick-and-roll instincts with the ball and the ability to work off it as a shooter.

    Questions over his athleticism shouldn't scare off teams this late. Big numbers, physical tools and versatility will be compelling enough.

20. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Dzanan Musa (Bosnia and Herzegovina, SG, 1999)

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    Dzanan Musa is already drawing attention after going for 20 points in consecutive games. 

    Behind Luka Doncic, he's the most productive teenage European out there. A 6'9" wing, Musa is highly skilled with obvious scoring instincts off the dribble. 

    He's been an offensive machine for years, having averaged 25 points through 31 FIBA games dating back to 2013. Teams will have to accept he'll never be a defensive stopper, but one will take the chance on his knack for putting the ball in the hole. 

21. Los Angeles Clippers: Chimezie Metu (USC, C, Junior)

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    Chimezie Metu was on the scouting radar last year but didn't make a big enough mark. He'll look to make one this year by being more dominant, since he clearly has the talent and skills.

    At 6'11", Metu has developed into tough scorer from foul line to baseline with back-to-the-basket footwork, one-handed touch and a passable mid-range jumper.

    Defense, rebounding and consistency should be his priorities in 2017-18. 

    On paper, Metu ultimately comes off as a fitting backup to DeAndre Jordan, who brings the rim protection and physical presence, but not the post moves or shooting potential. 

22. Orlando Magic: Brian Bowen (Louisville, SF, Freshman)

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    Per ESPN's Jeff Borzello, the FBI cleared Brian Bowen following the alleged pay-to-play scheme during his recruitment. And that means it's up to Louisville now to reinstate the highly-touted freshman.

    That makes it a lot more likely we'll see him this season. Bowen could eventually have a significant role on a team that could do some damage in the ACC. A 6'7" wing, he'll draw NBA interest for his scoring and shooting. 

    Bowen has an easy, convincing release on his jumper and the ability to knock it down off the dribble. He isn't an explosive athlete, but his positional size and shot-making could win scouts over.

23. San Antonio Spurs: Billy Preston (Kansas, PF, Freshman)

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    Billy Preston won't be Kansas' top player, but NBA teams could be intrigued by his size, athleticism and offense. 

    He plays above the rim and can shake free and score in the post. Preston also has some shooting touch, which could improve his stock, though it will be interesting to see how bright of a green light he'll have to take jumpers alongside a guard-heavy rotation.

    Keeping his motor revved and impact consistent will be key. Those are the potential issues that could lead to Preston falling out of favor with scouts. Still, enough flashes of inside-out scoring could be enough for a late first-round team.

24. Memphis Grizzlies: Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Teams will see Trevon Duval's upside. It's convincing them he'll reach it that will be the challenge for the score-first ball-handler who struggles from outside.

    He could also have some explaining to do during interviews after Duke suspended him for an exhibition game.

    He's a first-round talent just based on his size, length and explosive athleticism. He'll put pressure on defenses in transition and the half court with his speed and driving ability. 

    The key numbers and skills to watch for Duval: Three-point shooting and assist-to-turnover ratio. It wouldn't be surprising if neither wind up being particularly efficient. 

    Still, the potential reward tied to Duval sharpening his game is worth the risk this late in the 20s.

25. Portland Trail Blazers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should fill it up this year with Kentucky in a combo role as a scorer and playmaker.

    His size and length should help ease concern over the fact he doesn't explode off the floor. But he also continues to show an improving skill level as a shooter, ball-handler and distributor. 

    There is a lot to like about Gilgeous-Alexander from a defensive standpoint, something that should earn him big minutes right away for coach John Calipari. He should produce his way into the first-round discussion with a strong-enough package of tools, versatility and two-way potential. 

26. Detroit Pistons: PJ Washington Jr. (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    PJ Washington Jr. could emerge as Kentucky's most productive big, but also an NBA prospect for his tools, agility and skill level.

    He compensates for 6'7" height with a giant 7'3" wingspan and 230-pound frame. Strong, long and nimble, Washington uses good footwork and soft touch to score around the key. And he's starting to show more face-up maneuvering to go with his back-to-the-basket game.

    Washington isn't explosive and won't stretch the floor, which plays to the idea that he isn't a high-upside option. But his body, fundamentals and mobility still say NBA rotational 4 or small-ball 5.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves: Isaac Bonga (Germany, F, 1999)

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    Still 17 years old, Isaac Bonga found the radar with his youth, tools and unique versatility.

    At 6'8", he's a natural facilitator capable of handling the ball and passing over defenses. He's playing big minutes (for his age) in Germany, and is already showing some promising signs of improvement as a shooter, though it's clearly a weakness in his game scouts will monitor closely.

    Otherwise, Bonga plays active defense and can cause problems with his playmaking. Teams in the 20s must decide how much stock to put into his lack of burst and shaky jumper.

28. Golden State Warriors: Alize Johnson (Missouri State, PF, Senior)

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    MVP of Adidas Nations, Alize Johnson isn't flying under the radar anymore. 

    He shouldn't have last year, when he averaged a double-double and made 40 three-pointers. Johnson's rise should sit well with scouts who'll put stock in his improvement from junior-college player to NBA prospect. 

    But they'll also be enticed by his versatility as a 6'9" forward who handles the ball, actively rebounds and shoots threes.

29. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)

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    Slotting Grayson Allen in the first round means expecting a season free of setbacks like technical fouls and meltdowns. 

    He's in a good spot to bounce back after a rough junior year, both statistically and mentally. Now the clear-cut leader and No. 1 option with Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum gone, Allen should play a similar role as the one that netted him 21.6 points per game as a sophomore. 

    If he can avoid lapses in judgment and make teams believe he's learned from last year's drama, one is bound to gamble on Allen's explosiveness and shot-making. 

30. Boston Celtics: Brandon McCoy (UNLV, C, Freshman)

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    Raw and without a great deal of skill, Brandon McCoy could leave after a year and still draw first-round interest for his tools and room to improve.

    He's going to shoot a high percentage, rebound and block shots at UNLV. And in all likelihood, that will be his long-term role—to finish around the rim and provide a physical interior presence. 

    The upside kicks in with McCoy if his post game and jumper ever take off.