2018 NBA Mock Draft: Predicting 1st-Round Results Post-NCAA Tournament
The end of the NCAA tournament officially signifies the start of NBA draft season.
We're still waiting on underclassmen to decide if they'll be declaring. So far, the only surprise name to announce he'd be returning is Arkansas' Daniel Gafford, a projected first-round pick.
Otherwise, from here on out expect announcements and workouts to start materializing between prospects without agents and teams.
The mock draft order was based on the NBA standings heading into April 3.
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)
With one win since February 2, the Phoenix Suns are running away as the 2018 lottery favorites.
And despite Deandre Ayton's early exit from the NCAA tournament, he's still the most likely target for Phoenix after he averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds on 61.2 percent shooting.
Alex Len will be a free agent and Phoenix hasn't gotten much offensive production out of its other bigs. The Suns could see Ayton as an anchor to build with at center, as well as another top scoring option to pair with Devin Booker.
If Phoenix is concerned with Ayton's suspect defense, which was exposed, even against Buffalo in his final game at Arizona, the Suns could look to move down for rim protectors Mohamed Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr. However, it's more likely they'll value Ayton's upside as an inside-out scorer and hope to coach up his defensive awareness.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)
After missing two weeks with a thigh injury, Luka Doncic returned in style, recently going for 24 points and a game-winning step-back three in the closing seconds on Monday.
The Memphis Grizzlies won't be worrying about anything other than drafting the best player available at No. 2. And once Ayton is gone, it's difficult to argue against Euroleague's leader in player efficiency rating, per RealGM.com.
The Grizzlies could start by playing Doncic alongside Mike Conley, given the Slovenian's versatility as a 6'8" combo guard who can facilitate or work off the ball as a shooter. But with Conley on the decline, both physically and offensively, Memphis would eventually turn the team over to Doncic.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
The Atlanta Hawks will look at Bamba and Jackson, but they'll find it too hard to pass on Marvin Bagley III, whose volume production suggests he's safer, while his superior athleticism and potential versatility point to a higher ceiling.
He was relatively quiet in Duke's NCAA tournament loss to Kansas, finishing with 16 points in 44 minutes. There are questions about his shot-creating ability and defense, and whether his 62.7 percent free-throw mark is a better indicator than his 39.7 percent three-point clip on 58 attempts.
But he only turned 19 years old in March and still averaged a remarkable 21.0 points without a great deal of polish. The Hawks could see a contributor at baseline just with his quickness and bounce around the basket. They'll take their chances on Bagley continuing to develop his ball skills, jumper and defensive IQ.
4. Orlando Magic: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)
The Orlando Magic seem to like interchangeable, versatile players, and Jaren Jackson Jr. fits that mold. He also qualifies as a best-player-available candidate for his enormous defensive ceiling, shooting stroke, low-post game and flashes of face-up offense.
He finished his freshman year as one of six players since 1992 to average three blocks and a three-point make, and he did so in the fewest minutes (764) at 18 years old, per Sports-Reference.com.
If Orlando is reluctant to add another big, trading down for Trae Young, Mikal Bridges or Collin Sexton deserves consideration. Taking any of them at No. 4 would be a reach, though not every team operates with that line of thinking.
It's worth questioning how Jackson would fit with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. But fit shouldn't affect Orlando's evaluation on the most intriguing long-term prospect on the board. He could get the nod over Bamba, who'll turn 20 before Jackson turns 19.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
The Dallas Mavericks have been noncommittal with Nerlens Noel and could look at Mohamed Bamba to anchor their defense.
Bamba has the potential to change a game with his length in the paint like Rudy Gobert, and he'd give Dennis Smith Jr. an enormous finishing target at the rim, where he shot 74.5 percent.
At Texas, he flashed glimpses of an over-the-shoulder game and jump shot, but those are the skills he'll have to improve, along with his body.
Michael Porter Jr. will get consideration, but between the back surgery and poor performances after returning to Missouri, Dallas should feel more confident in Bamba's unique defensive presence.
6. Sacramento Kings: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)
It was encouraging just to see Michael Porter Jr. return to the floor after back surgery early in the season.
At No. 6, the Sacramento Kings will look past his two rusty performances in losses to Georgia and Florida State. At 6'10", Porter still showed confident three-point range and the mobility of a wing.
And assuming he continues to improve his conditioning and ball skills, he should have the potential to become a top scoring option for an uninspiring Kings frontcourt that features Justin Jackson, Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)
Fresh off a 19-point effort in the national championship, Mikal Bridges should interest the Cleveland Cavaliers for his shooting and defense.
He'll fit the roster, regardless of what it looks like following free agency. Bridges plays an efficient brand of offense, having shot 59.3 percent inside the arc and 43.5 percent behind it.
Trae Young will create debate inside Cleveland's front office, but it should decide against adding a ball-dominant rookie who'll steal dribbles from Cleveland's veterans. The Cavaliers will value Bridges' ability to score within an offense and defend multiple positions.
8. Chicago Bulls: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)
Wendell Carter Jr., Kevin Knox and Collin Sexton will be in play for the Chicago Bulls. However, with Kris Dunn's shooting and durability issues, and Zach LaVine unable to return to form this year following ACL surgery, Chicago could have trouble passing on Trae Young, who'd give the Bulls' No. 28-ranked offense, via ESPN.com, a needed playmaker.
Eight picks deep, this could be a worthwhile buy-low opportunity. Young's stock dipped over the last month of conference play when opponents' scouting reports improved and defenses started to game-plan around him.
He still finished the year as the nation's leading scorer and assist man. Given his quickness, skill level and basketball IQ, Young's ability to set the table and make shots remains convincing.
9. New York Knicks: Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG/SG, Freshman)
The emergence of Trey Burke has become an interesting storyline in New York. He shouldn't have an impact on who the Knicks draft, though.
General manager Scott Perry will ignore the roster to focus on selecting the best player available, and with Trae Young gone, Collin Sexton could be the pick.
He'd put more pressure on defenses as a downhill driver than Frank Ntilikina, who looks better suited for the 2-guard spot. The Knicks could also overvalue Sexton's competitive nature and toughness, characteristics that haven't been associated with the team's identity over the past decade.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
Some may call for Kevin Knox at No. 10 to Philadelphia, but the sense among scouts is Wendell Carter Jr. is rated the superior prospect one tier up. And the Sixers shouldn't pass on their best player available to fill a need.
A rare off game against Kansas in the NCAA tournament won't damage Carter's stock. One of the steadiest, most fundamentally sound prospects, he mirrors Al Horford with skill and finesse over athleticism.
The Sixers' could stand to improve their frontcourt depth, and they can't expect Joel Embiid to play 82 games year after year. Carter could give them another big and source for post offense, rebounding, finishing and shot-blocking.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)
Knox would give Charlotte needed scoring from both forward positions. He finished his freshman year averaging 15.6 points, showing the ability to make shots working off the ball as a spot-up option and shooter off screens. Knox needs to improve his shot-creating and defense, but for an 18-year-old, his tools (6'9", 215 lbs), production and skill set create too strong of a case at No. 11.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Scouts saw the best and worst of Bridges in the NCAA tournament, when he followed a 29-point game against Bucknell with a 4-of-18 effort in a loss to Syracuse. Overall, his numbers from one year to the next were relatively similar, but he showed some improvement to his pull-up game and ball-screen offense.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)
Instead of breaking the bank for DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers could draft Williams and look to groom him as their next defensive anchor. He looked more engaged during the NCAA tournament when he averaged 11.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks on a combined 15-of-20 through three games. Williams doesn't possess any ball skills or realistic shooting potential, but with tremendous tools and athleticism, he can give L.A. easy baskets and rim protection.
14. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)
Gilgeous-Alexander had a strong run in March before finishing 2-of-10 in Kentucky's loss to Kansas State in the NCAA tournament. He lacks the jets of a typical starting NBA point guard, and it showed in his final game. He still did enough to warrant consideration from the Nuggets. At 6'6", Gilgeous-Alexander has terrific size and length, which he uses to pass over defenses and guard multiple positions. And he averaged 14.4 points and 5.1 assists on 48.5 percent shooting by compensating for limited athleticism with crafty footwork, ball skills and finishing instincts.
15. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Anfernee Simons (USA, SG, 1999)
A fifth-year high school star eligible for the draft, Simons has already hired an agent, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and begun to use intrigue and mystery to his advantage. He just pulled out of the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit, per ESPN's Jonathan Givony. Without any surefire NBA starters on the board outside the lottery, the Suns could be enticed to gamble on upside. And Simons has it with explosive athleticism and takeover scoring ability.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Bucks): Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)
With three first-rounders including the No. 1 overall pick, the Suns can afford to take a risk here on Robinson, who's loaded with athleticism but hasn't proven much in terms of skill or feel after skipping college and sitting out the season.
17. Washington Wizards: Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)
Walker only shot 41.5 percent, but he'll benefit from promising eye-test results that reveal an NBA physical profile and believable shooting stroke. The Wizards will overlook the stats for his tools, athleticism, three-point shot-making and potential to improve off the dribble.
18. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, SF/PF, Junior)
Bates-Diop combined for 52 points between Ohio State's two NCAA tournament games, capping off a breakout year that's put him on first-round radars. The idea of Bates-Diop is certainly attractive—a long, 235-pound combo forward with three-point range (1.9 3PTM), post skills and face-up scoring ability. He'll have to prove he can execute without the exciting athleticism and show that his strong defensive tools actually translate to strong defense. That hasn't always been the case.
19. Atlanta Hawks (via Timberwolves): Dzanan Musa (Bosnia and Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)
Wit three first-round picks, the Hawks jump out as a candidate to draft-and-stash Musa, widely considered the next-best international option behind Doncic. Musa was slumping before erupting for 33 points last Tuesday. It wasn't the first time he's shown the ability to take over a game. Musa isn't a flashy athlete, but he's one of the most productive young players overseas, and with NBA size for a wing, unique ball skills and obvious scoring instincts, he'll draw first-round looks.
20. Utah Jazz: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)
Hutchison finished his career at Boise State with 39 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort. He took his scoring (20.0 points per game) to another level this season, though questions remain over his three-point numbers (35.9 percent on 4.1 attempts) for a senior and jump-shot form. An athletic, 6'7" slasher, Hutchison's swing skill will be shooting.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)
The Wolves could value Thomas' three-and-D behind Andrew Wiggins. Creighton's athletic 2-guard screams role-player potential after shooting 63.9 percent inside the arc and 41.1 percent behind it, and then winning Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
22. San Antonio Spurs: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)
We're still waiting on a decision from Porter, who could likely go higher in the 2019 draft. But he could also look to start his career early and declare with his brother. Jontay stands out as a fit in today's NBA for his ability to shoot, pass and use the dribble to attack closeouts.
23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)
UCLA's First Four loss to St. Bonaventure won't negate Holiday's breakout junior year in the minds of scouts. After averaging 20.3 points and 5.8 assists on 42.9 percent shooting from three, it's become easier to picture Holiday carving out as a scoring spark role off an NBA bench. Cutting down on turnovers (3.8 per game) will be a top priority moving forward.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Senior)
Add another national title to Brunson's resume. He has well-documented flaws related to his athletic limitations, but between his winning track record, skill level and intangibles, the Sixers could decide he's worth gambling on in the 20s using a second first-round pick.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavaliers): De'Anthony Melton (USC, PG/SG, Sophomore)
The FBI investigation kept Melton from playing in 2017-18. It won't keep NBA teams away. Melton created enough intrigue last year with his NBA tools and two-way playmaking. He's a candidate to rise if he can show teams in workouts his jumper is better than his freshman numbers suggest.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)
Despite being raw without a great deal of skill, Smith has become an interesting name in the draft discussion for his explosive athleticism, defensive playmaking and flashes of shot-making (18-of-40 3PT). He hasn't made a decision on whether to enter his name, but long-term potential could be enough in the 20s of a top-heavy draft that appears to lack depth.
27. Boston Celtics: Troy Brown (Oregon, SF, Freshman)
Brown wasn't overly productive, but this late in the first round, his point-forward versatility still fuels enticing potential. At 6'7", he's flashed playmaking, slashing ability and promising defense, though he'll need to improve his shooting to help compensate for average athleticism on the wing.
28. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Shake Milton (SMU, PG/SG, Junior)
Milton missed the last two months with a hand injury and should be able to return to relevance during the predraft process. He isn't an explosive athlete, but Milton has 6'6" size, ball-handling ability and one of the most consistent three balls in the draft, having shot over 40.0 percent from deep in three consecutive seasons.
29. Golden State Warriors: Tony Carr (Penn State, PG, Sophomore)
Carr led Penn State to an NIT championship after impressing scouts at Madison Square Garden during the Big Ten tournament. In the finals against Utah last Thursday, he finished with 15 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. The 6'5" scoring combo has decided to hire an agent, after a productive, yet inefficient season that saw him average 19.6 points and five assists on 40.8 percent shooting.
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Elie Okobo (France, PG, 1997)
Okobo could be making a late push up boards with some big games in February in March. He's roughly a year older than New York Knicks French guard Frank Ntilikina, who wasn't nearly as productive last year in the same league (Pro A). But even at 20, Okobo's play has been noteworthy, as he's opened eyes with his pull-up shooting and pick-and-roll feel.
Anfernee Simons (USA, SG, 1999)
With no big risers from the NCAA tournament, Simons could benefit. He's going to look more enticing than some of the older projected mid-first-round options. From here on out, it would be surprising to see Simons do much outside of individual workouts for teams, where he can hide his weaknesses as a facilitator and excite with his athleticism, handles and shooting.
Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)
Elie Okobo (France, PG, 1997)
Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Freshman)
Gafford announced he'd be back at Arkansas despite generating first-round buzz throughout the year. Assuming he can match this year's production, plus add a little more to his offensive arsenal, he should be right back in the lottery mix in 2019, when the field will be weaker.
Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Shamet didn't look sharp in Wichita State's loss to Marshall in the NCAA tournament. He missed all seven of his threes and struggled to generate offense inside the arc without the burst to blow by defenders. We'd slot him at No. 31 as a safer option in the second round. He's still worth a look in the 20s for his size, jump shot and high-IQ passing.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports unless otherwise noted