NBA Draft 2018: Early Mock Projections for 1st Round

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2017

Mar 29, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds All-American West forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) drives to the basket against East forward PJ Washington Jr (25) during the 40th Annual McDonald's High School All-American Game at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For those unhappy with projected selections for Thursday's draft, it's not too early to look ahead at who could potentially enter the league in 2018.

This year, guards Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox dominated draft headlines. Next offseason, analysts will discuss big athletic forwards and centers with low-post moves as the cream of the crop. 

Obviously, the following draft order isn't set in stone. It's a projection solely based on each team's championship odds, per OddsShark, and RealGM's trade details for 2018 first-round picks. 

Who will headline next year's draft? Will the top prospects at center find a place in a league that thrives on three-point shooting and floor spacing? Which team drafts the 7'6" center from the University of Central Florida?


Projected 2018 Draft Order - Round 1

1. Sacramento Kings: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

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2. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

3. Orlando Magic: Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia

4. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

5. Detroit Pistons: Robert Williams, F, Texas A&M

6. Charlotte Hornets: Jaren Jackson Jr., F, Michigan State

7. Atlanta Hawks: Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky

8. Utah Jazz: Collin Sexton, G, Alabama

9. Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky

11. New York Knicks: Nick Richards, C, Kentucky

12. New Orleans Pelicans: Trevon Duval, G, Duke

13. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota): Tacko Fall, C, UCF

14. Miami Heat: Mitchell Robinson, F, Western Kentucky

15. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers): Rawle Alkins, G, Arizona

16. Indiana Pacers: Isaac Bonga, G, Germany

17. Denver Nuggets: Chimezie Metu, F, USC

18. Dallas Mavericks: Lonnie Walker, G, Miami

19. Chicago Bulls: Kostja Mushidi, G, Belgium

20. Milwaukee Bucks: Bonzie Colsen, F, Notre Dame

21. Memphis Grizzlies: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

22. Oklahoma City Thunder: Allonzo Trier, G, Arizona

23. Washington Wizards: Emmanuel Akot, F, Arizona

24. Toronto Raptors: Devonte Graham, G, Kansas

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Gary Trent Jr., G, Duke

26. Houston Rockets: Grayson Allen, G, Duke

27. San Antonio Spurs: Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova

28. Boston Celtics: Marques Bolden, C, Duke

29. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyus Battle, G, Syracuse

30. Golden State Warriors: Udoka Azubuike, G, Kansas


Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri 

Jan 16, 2017; Springfield , MA, USA; Nathan Hale High School Raiders player Michael Porter Jr. (1) at Blake Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings decided to start from scratch after trading DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. On Thursday, the franchise could add two building blocks at point guard and power forward.  

With all the young talent expected to be on the roster for the 2017-18 campaign, the Kings will go into the year with a focus on development. After winning 15-20 games and some pingpong luck, Sacramento will draft Michael Porter Jr. with the No. 1 overall pick.

At 6'9" with explosiveness and a decent shooting range, the Kings could pair Porter with Willie Cauley-Stein in the frontcourt. The Missouri product should use one year on the collegiate level to extend his shooting range and perfect his stroke. 

Due to his length and scoring ability, he'll draw immediate comparisons to the 2016 No. 2 overall pick, Brandon Ingram. Unlike the Lakers forward coming out of Duke, Porter already has an NBA body ready to compete in the pros.


DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 9:  DeAndre Ayton #13 the World Select Team boxes out Jonathan Issac #11 of the USA Junior Select Team during the game on April 9, 2016 at the MODA Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

The 2018 draft will feature two talented 7-footers within the top-five selections. The Phoenix Suns will have a choice between DeAndre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba at No. 2. The former offers more help on the offensive end, but the latter has much upside.

The Suns have tried to develop Alex Len over the past three seasons after he only appeared in 42 games during his rookie year. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old has yet to reach his potential since coming into the league as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Phoenix will likely select a guard or forward on Thursday, but the frontcourt needs a centerpiece, who can play both ends. Ayton fits the description. The Arizona product would stay within the state and fill the Suns' interior void.

With the 7-footer in the lineup, Phoenix wouldn't have to rely heavily on guard play to rack up points. Whether it's Eric Bledsoe or a rookie selected on Thursday, the ball-handler will be able to dump passes into Ayton for easier buckets.


Tacko Fall, C, UCF

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 14:  Tacko Fall #24 of the UCF Knights is seen during a NCAA basketball game between the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the UCF Knights at the CFE Arena on February 14, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Alex Menendez/Getty Images

UCF's Tacko Fall isn't the best big man in this potential class, but he's the most intriguing prospect due to his height at 7'6".

For NBA history majors, once upon a time, Shawn Bradley entered the league at 7'6", and he played 12 seasons. Fall could follow a similar blueprint and become a shot-blocking specialist with the ability to contest just about every shot in the painted area.  

However, like Bradley, Fall will have to average 25-30 minutes on the court. If the Atlanta Hawks draft him at No. 13 to fill a void at center, it's important to keep an eye on his minutes. At his size, foot injuries will be a major concern. Fall's lack of athleticism could put him in trouble in a league that features dynamic swingmen and sharpshooters in the backcourt.

Fall should average a double-double through his junior campaign and work on the ability to score further away from the basket. Don't expect him to shoot three-pointers, but he'd maximize his draft value with added offensive versatility. Due to his size, he's not going to fall past No. 15.

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