2018 NBA Mock Draft: Would Deandre Ayton, Trae Young or Luka Doncic Go No. 1?
The nation's top tier of prospects continues to drive this year's NBA draft discussion.
Arizona's Deandre Ayton, Duke's Marvin Bagley III, Oklahoma's Trae Young and Slovenia's Luka Doncic are putting up eye-catching stat lines on a routine basis. They're creating interesting debate among scouts who each seem to have different rankings and opinions.
Over the past two weeks, a handful of lower-profile prospects have played themselves into the first-round discussion. Though this year's projected field has already taken shape, the board will remain fluid over the next six months during conference play, the NCAA tournament and the predraft process.
The mock draft order is based on the standings heading into January 15.
1. Atlanta Hawks: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)
The Atlanta Hawks will look at Trae Young, Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III, who are each making a case for No. 1 overall consideration. But Deandre Ayton's should ultimately look most attractive to the Hawks.
He's scoring in ways that appear translatable. Already appealing for his presence and athleticism around the rim, Ayton ranks in the 91st percentile in post-ups and the 91st in isolation, and he's shooting 40.7 percent on jump shots.
He projects as a centerpiece to build around and feature, whether it's from the elbows and short corners or in the pick-and-pop game. Along with 11.3 rebounds, Ayton averages 20.2 points on 63.0 percent, looking more polished than Bagley when it comes to creating his own shot against a set defense.
Young and Doncic will be in play, but their questionable positional athleticism could be the reason Atlanta leans toward Ayton. The Hawks should bite on Ayton's sales pitch, which includes textbook tools, quickness and bounce, high-level production and fit for Atlanta's roster.
2. Orlando Magic: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)
Even before Trae Young's latest gem, a 43-point outburst against TCU, NBA scouts were already buying in. He's becoming more convincing by the game, and for the Orlando Magic, presumably more enticing, given how little firepower they've gotten out of Elfrid Payton over the years.
Still leading the nation in scoring and assists, Young is generating offense at a historic rate, which helps diminish some of the concern tied to his skinny frame, short arms and limited bounce.
He's compensating with unpredictable change of speed, quickness, IQ and a remarkably high skill level made evident by his 4.3 three-point makes per game, an elite floater (98th percentile) and passing out of pick-and-rolls (81st percentile) and isolation (92nd percentile).
He'd single-handedly change the identity of Orlando's roster with the pressure he can put on defenses by breaking them down, creating for teammates and shooting off the dribble.
3. Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)
Marvin Bagley III fills the bigger positional need, but Luka Doncic's winning pedigree is the key selling point to the Sacramento Kings.
They'll put extra value into his unprecedented experience, success and leadership at the highest level outside the NBA. Plus, at 6'8" with strong playmaking skills and budding scoring ability—both inside and behind the arc—Doncic has offensive versatility that jumps out as a fit for today's NBA.
The Kings could look to play him at the point, 2 or even wing in a three-guard lineup alongside De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, though ideally, Doncic would be their primary decision-maker.
Euroleague's leader in player efficiency rating, per RealGM.com, and also ranking No. 2 in scoring and in the top 10 in assists at just 18 years old, Doncic is a legitimate No. 1 candidate in a field with three others. At No. 3, the Kings get strong value with arguably the draft's most decorated international prospect.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
With three 30-point, 10-rebound games over the last two weeks, Marvin Bagley III continues to keep the pressure on Trae Young, Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic.
Shooting 30.6 percent on jump shots and 62.1 percent on free throws but lacking Ayton's strength and length, Bagley winds up being the second big off the board, also falling behind Doncic and Young without any clear-cut, bankable, signature skill.
But the Memphis Grizzlies will welcome his athleticism and motor, which have consistently translated to easy baskets. Along with post play, he still leans on offensive rebounds (18.2 percent of offense) and transition (13.9 percent) for offense. He's excellent in all three areas.
Meanwhile, flashes of versatility show on drives to the basket and spot-up three-pointers (11 of 33).
Bagley could stand to sharpen his defensive IQ, shooting touch and ability to create his own shot in the half court. But at 18 years old and between his production (22.5 points, 11.7 rebounds), bounce and room to improve areas he's already started to develop, Bagley gives the Grizzlies their most exciting building block since Mike Conley.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)
Assuming the Dallas Mavericks approve Michael Porter Jr.'s medicals following his back surgery and recovery, this is the right spot in the draft to take him.
Even without college, he's proved himself in too many scout-attended settings, including the Nike Hoop Summit, McDonald's All-American Game, USA basketball and Adidas Nations, to drop below the No. 5 slot.
Porter stands out for his perimeter scoring ability at 6'10", which mirrors that of combo forwards Danilo Gallinari, Brandon Ingram and Gordon Hayward.
Dallas won't look hard at Collin Sexton after drafting Dennis Smith Jr., while Mohamed Bamba's offensive limitations will scare the Mavericks off this early. They'll buy low on Porter and play him alongside Harrison Barnes as an interchangeable, offensive-minded duo.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Jaren Jackson Jr. (Mich. St., PF/C, Fr.)
Ranking third in the nation in defensive box plus-minus, per Sports-Reference.com, and shooting 43.4 percent from downtown, Jaren Jackson Jr. sells the Philadelphia 76ers with three-and-D.
Between Joel Embiid and Jackson (7'4" wingspan), the Sixers could have one of the longest frontcourts in the league, with two bigs capable of protecting the rim and stretching the floor.
The Michigan State big is raw, lacking shot-creating skills. But with Jackson at just 18 years old, scouts have been willing to overlook his limitations for potential, which is fueled by spectacular tools, defensive instincts and a promising jump shot.
7. Phoenix Suns: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
He could slip to No. 7 with Trae Young blowing up and Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. making threes. Bamba has been below average as a post scorer, roll man and jump-shooter, according to Synergy Sports. But he's finishing at a 70.5 percent mark around the basket, and he shows flashes of hook shots and spot-up shooting.
Collin Sexton may be tough to pass on, given the Suns' need at point guard. But a Sexton-Devin Booker backcourt would leave Phoenix without much passing. Bamba gives the Suns a defensive centerpiece to help change and improve its identity and credibility.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)
The Cleveland Cavaliers go best player available with Collin Sexton, who'd give them another source of scoring and toughness.
With Isaiah Thomas' contract up after the year, Sexton also provides some insurance in case Cleveland finds itself hesitant to meet its 28-year-old point guard's demands in free agency.
Alabama leans heavily on its star freshman point guard, who's second in the SEC with 19.3 points per game. The Cavaliers would value his ability to put pressure on defenses in transition, his drive-and-slash game and his isolation skills, and then they'd work to improve his floor game as a passer and setup man.
9. Chicago Bulls: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)
With scorers at the 2 (Zach LaVine) and 4 (Lauri Markkanen), the Chicago Bulls could see Mikal Bridges' three-and-D skill set as a fit.
He's averaging 2.5 triples, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks, and with a stroke that's continuously improving and the tools/quickness to guard multiple positions, Bridges has strengths that should translate.
He still isn't a threat to create out of isolation or pick-and-rolls. Instead, he'll look to follow Robert Covington's star role-player recipe.
10. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)
With no obvious game-changer left at No. 10, the Charlotte Hornets will think long term and grab Kevin Knox.
Far from a finished product, he's struggled at times with finishing, shooting consistency and creating. But at 6'9", he's still averaging 14.2 points, scoring off spot-up threes, dribble jumpers, screens, line drives and handoffs.
He's rarely used in isolation (5.1 percent) or the post (4.7 percent), and he'll need years to improve his on-ball skill and jumper. But after three seasons in the NBA, he'll still be 21 years old. The Hornets should feel confident about his potential to develop into a versatile, scoring combo forward.
11. Utah Jazz: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
Carter's numbers would be bigger in a lineup that didn't already have Marvin Bagley III, Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. A skilled big with post footwork, shooting touch and rebounding instincts, Carter averages 21.9 points and 14.3 boards per 40 minutes. His value would get a boost if he can show he's quick enough to guard power forwards.
12. New York Knicks: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, F, Sophomore)
Bridges is in a tough spot playing out of position alongside two other bigs at Michigan State. He hasn't shown off anything new, but that elite explosiveness remains attractive when paired with his shot-making and scoring improvisation in the lane. Limited as a shot-creator, Bridges' key swing skill in the pros will be his three-point shooting.
13. Philadelphia 76ers: Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG, 1999)
One of the top young scorers overseas, Musa is building a lottery case, averaging double-digit points in Adriatic League, Croatian League and Eurocup play at 18 years old. He's produced at every level since 2015, though this year, he's looked more comfortable shooting from deep. The Sixers may look at Musa as a draft-and-stash option with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz expected to take on bigger roles.
14. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)
The Clippers can view Williams as DeAndre Jordan's replacement once they're ready to rebuild. Williams' skills haven't developed, but he's still finishing and blocking shots at high rates, strengths that should carry over because of his immaculate tools and athleticism.
15. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
Gilgeous-Alexander is on the rise, improving his stock with crafty scoring and playmaking. He won't wow with speed or explosiveness, but he compensates by changing speeds and playing over the top at 6'6". He's also averaging 2.1 steals per game, looking capable of guarding wings and ball-handlers. Improving his shooting range will be a point of emphasis when he gets to the league. Gilgeous-Alexander only has 10 three-point makes and gets little lift on his shot.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Bucks): Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, PF/C, Freshman)
Even without much polish or skill, Gafford continues to efficiently produce with NBA tools, athleticism and motor. Shooting 64.5 percent, he's also putting up per-40-minute numbers of 21.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. Flashes of post play hint at Gafford's eventually being a one-on-one scoring threat inside 15 feet, but until then, the Suns will value his activity around the basket and rim protection.
17. Portland Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami, SG, Sophomore)
Brown checks enough boxes, which buys him time as a shooter. He's only 12-of-46 from three so far, but he's also averaging 7.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals, playing the role of two-way playmaker and transition weapon. He'll look to improve his half-court scoring and shooting or stick as a jack-of-all-trades.
18. New Orleans Pelicans: Anfernee Simons (IMG, PG, 1999)
Despite currently visiting schools, Simons confirmed over the weekend he's likely to test the NBA waters. There were over a dozen scouts on hand to watch him play Sunday at the Hoophall Classic, where he dropped 29 points and showcased the effortless athleticism and scoring that points to such intriguing long-term upside.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (via OKC): Troy Brown (Oregon, SG, Freshman)
Brown has been up and down, but the Wolves buy into the ups that highlight point-forward versatility. At 6'7", 215 pounds, he averages 3.0 assists to go with his 11.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and defense. He doesn't excel in any one area and he needs to improve his shooting, but Brown has flashed enough promise with his playmaking, jumper and ability to guard multiple positions. The eye test says "yes," even if the inconsistent scoring numbers say otherwise.
20 Indiana Pacers: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)
Hutchison exploded for 44 points against San Diego State over the weekend, though it didn't come out of nowhere. He'd been averaging 24.2 points over his previous five games, playing with more confidence, particularly around the perimeter. At 6'7", Hutchison has an NBA wing's body and athleticism with a budding scoring attack and the ability to make plays for teammates (3.4 assists). At No. 20, it's worth finding out if his jumper will continue to improve, like it has during each year at Boise State.
21. Detroit Pistons: Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)
Teams won't get to see Robinson in college (left school) or the G-League (ineligible). They'll lean on their scouting from high school, when he was a McDonald's All-American and standout for his NBA body and athleticism. Robinson will have interviews and workouts to try sell his potential and secure a first-round spot.
22. Washington Wizards: Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, SF, Junior)
It's clicking for Bates-Diop, who's averaging 20.3 points and just had a memorable 32-point effort in a win against then-No. 1 Michigan State on Jan. 7. With excellent defensive tools and a much-improved shooting stroke (41.0 percent 3PT), Bates-Diop should be moving up boards.
23. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG, Sophomore)
Shamet continues to build a case with elite shooting (52.3 percent 3PT) and passing smarts (5.0 assists, 1.9 turnovers). He lacks strength and explosiveness, but at 6'4", he has enough size to see over the defense, the feel to create off screens and a jumper that works from anywhere.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)
Brunson won't land on every team's first-round board, but certain ones will value his floor leadership and shooting in a backup role. Athletic limitations suggest he'll struggle to blow by and finish, but as a game manager for a team already equipped with scorers and athletes, Brunson has a chance.
25. Atlanta Hawks (via Wolves): Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)
Porter would benefit from another year at Missouri, though he may be tempted to leave if his brother declares and first-round interest exists. He's drawing attention for his mix of shooting (1.1 threes per game), shot-blocking (2.2 blocks) and passing IQ (16.8 assist pct.), even if there are questions about his athleticism, which could show around the rim and perimeter on defense.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Brandon McCoy (UNLV, C, Freshman)
McCoy has taken care of business, averaging 18.6 points and 9.9 rebounds to back up his promising showing over the summer at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup. He's first-round worthy based on his NBA body and production, though his defense is far from ready, and he's limited skill-wise outside the paint.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)
Diallo hasn't run away with the No. 1 scoring role for Kentucky. Raw with shaky creating and shooting, he could be in for a longer draft night than initially expected, but extraordinary explosiveness and length won't allow Diallo to fall into the second round. He'll need to show he can offer more than just transition offense.
28. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)
Shooting 22.9 percent from three and averaging just 16.5 points per 40 minutes, Duval could be sliding down boards. He'll still be an enticing gamble in the 20s for his positional tools, playmaking and potential to improve at 19 years old. Kris Dunn's recent success creates hope.
29. Boston Celtics: Shake Milton (SMU, PG/SG, Junior)
Milton has looked more aggressive this year, and it's translated to bigger numbers and more frequent stretches of scoring. He isn't a speedster or leaper, but at 6'6", Milton has enough size for both guard spots, the handle to run the point and one of the most consistent jumpers in the draft, shooting over 40 percent from three for the third consecutive season.
30. Golden State Warriors: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)
The Warriors could see value in Allen's transition offense and shot-making, two constants in his game since he started at Duke. He's in a scoring slump, but he's also taken on more of a playmaking role, averaging a career-high 4.5 assists.
Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior): Up 5 spots
Viewed as a jump shot away after his junior season, Hutchison is shooting 42.4 percent from deep this year. The 44 points he dropped over the weekend made the headlines, but the seven three-point makes were the more important number.
Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman): Down 13 spots
Outside off fast-break offense, Diallo hasn't looked overly sharp in any skill area. And he hasn't made the strongest case on defense, despite possessing tremendous tools to guard. Athleticism alone wasn't enough for Diallo to earn first-round interest a year ago, and so far this season, it appears to be his only enticing selling point.
Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)
Shake Milton (SMU, G, Junior)
Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, SF, Junior)
Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)
Jalen Hudson (Florida, SG, Junior)
Hudson has been moved to the sixth-man role at Florida, and though he's still shooting well, he may not offer enough elsewhere to justify first-round consideration. He'll also be 22 years old in May.
Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)
Thomas is on the first-round fence with Hudson, but he falls on the wrong side without the scoring or playmaking skills to match the shooting. He finished 0-of-8 in Creighton's loss to Xavier over the weekend.
Chimezie Metu (USC, C, Junior)
USC took away Metu's captain's badge after he was ejected for a cheap shot in the Washington State game. Immaturity is only part of the reason he's slipping down the board. The more important factor: Metu continues to struggle with inconsistency as a third-year player.
Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)
Walker hasn't been involved enough, having finished with single digits in scoring during six of Miami's last eight games. He's still a first-round talent based on his tools, athleticism and jumper, but he'll have a better chance to showcase everything next year, when Ja'Quan Newton and (presumably) Bruce Brown Jr. will have left.