NBA Mock Draft 2018: Latest Projections for 1st-Round ProspectsApril 17, 2018
The NBA playoffs are underway, but that may not do much for fans of lottery teams that just took part in the great tank race of 2018.
Teams outside the postseason hunt were seemingly after the top pick in this draft like Russell Westbrook chases a rebound when he's one away from a triple-double.
And when you look at this summer's draft class, it's not hard to see why.
The top is loaded. Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley and more look like potential franchise changers. And the entire lottery (the first 14 picks) is packed with possibility.
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman, 7'0")
Who does the lottery winner take at No. 1? That's one of the biggest questions surrounding this draft class. Of course, that largely depends on who emerges with the top pick.
The Phoenix Suns have the best odds and already have a number of young wings (Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson) locked into the roster.
There are plenty of big men on the roster, too, but they all come with bigger question marks. No one in the draft is ever a true sure thing, but Deandre Ayton may be the most bankable player in this class.
Sports Reference tracks box plus-minus (a metric that shows a player's overall contribution to his team) back to the 2010-11 college season. Anthony Davis is the only freshman in the site's database who played at least 1,000 minutes and topped Ayton's box plus-minus and player efficiency rating.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic (Slovenia/Real Madrid, G/F, 19, 6'8")
What Luka Doncic is doing is unprecedented. And even with all the guards and wings the Suns have, they'd have to think long and hard about adding Doncic to the bunch.
He's just 19 years old, a 6'8" point forward and one of the most dominant players at the highest level of basketball outside the NBA.
As a teenager, Doncic is averaging 15.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists (21.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.7 assists per 36 minutes). His Euroleague PER of 25.1 ranks second. His PER in the Spanish ACB ranks eighth.
He also averaged 14.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in under 30 minutes per game in Slovenia's run to its first EuroBasket gold last summer.
And when you combine the production with his physical profile, someone who can play anywhere from point guard to power forward, it's easy to see why there's so much hype.
Assuming the veterans are healthy next season, a core of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Doncic could engineer a fairly dramatic turnaround for the Memphis Grizzlies in just one year.
3. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman, 7'0")
The Dallas Mavericks could go a bunch of different directions here. Dennis Smith has plenty of potential as the team's future point guard. Harrison Barnes, in spite of the advanced numbers' disdain for him, still has some value as a young-ish combo forward who can score nearly 20 points a game.
With Dirk Nowitzki nearing the end of his career and Nerlens Noel and Rick Carlisle seemingly at odds, inside may be where Dallas looks to round out its core.
Marvin Bagley III is intriguing as a playmaking 5. Jaren Jackson may have the most defensive potential. But the pick here, for now, is Mohamed Bamba.
As is the case with most bigs, Bamba still has plenty of work to do on the offensive end, but he's already unbelievable on the other. Jackson is the only player to have played over 700 minutes with a sub-90 defensive rating and a higher block percentage than Bamba. The Texas center's defensive rebounding percentage is nearly 10 points higher than Jackson's and over five points better than his total rebounding percentage.
And the best Mavericks teams over the last several years were ones that featured a defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler at the 5.
4. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, F/C, Freshman, 6'11")
If the Atlanta Hawks stay at No. 4 after the lottery, and Bagley is available there, he seems like an obvious choice. Perhaps because he went to Duke, Bagley's game has been picked apart a bit more than others. And there's some positional redundancy with the already-productive John Collins.
But Atlanta would probably be wise not to overthink this. Bagley's raw numbers are impressive. The ACC Player of the Year averaged 21 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 61.4 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from three.
And because he already has ball skills that exceed what players his size typically bring to the NBA, he can probably play alongside Collins.
Just imagine those 4-5 pick-and-rolls.
5. Orlando Magic: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman, 6'2")
For nothing but a second-round pick, the Orlando Magic shipped starting point guard Elfrid Payton to the Suns at February's trade deadline.
Trae Young's numbers tumbled for much of the second half of the season, but he showed more than enough shooting to suggest he can help the spacing in lineups that include Aaron Gordon (a restricted free agent this summer) and Jonathan Isaac.
6. Chicago Bulls: Jaren Jackson (Michigan State, C/PF, Freshman, 6'11")
Believe it or not, getting picked sixth could be a little bit of a slide for Jackson. Only two players since 2009 matched or exceeded Jackson's block percentage (14.3) in a single NCAA season, and neither had a better steal percentage (1.6).
7. Sacramento Kings: Wendell Carter (Duke, C/PF, Freshman, 6'10")
It's probably too early to give up on Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere, but it also might be a stretch to say that either has star potential.
Wendell Carter looked like Duke's best player for stretches here and there, and he's actually about a month younger than Bagley. He'd have a chance to become a mainstay in the Sacramento Kings frontcourt for years.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, F, Freshman, 6'10")
Prior to this season, there was plenty of buzz surrounding Michael Porter Jr. as the potential No. 1 pick in 2018. Unfortunately, a back injury wiped out all but three games. And in those postseason appearances, Porter didn't look like the top-flight recruit that put him so high on last summer's draft boards.
If he does get back to full health and makes good on the potential he once showed, Porter could be a nice consolation if LeBron James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers.
9. New York Knicks: Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman, 6'2")
The New York Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina last season, but they already started playing him at the 2 this season. He's big enough to log minutes there, opening up minutes for a strong point guard prospect like Collin Sexton.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, F/G, Junior, 6'7")
This one almost writes itself. Mikal Bridges was born in Pennsylvania, won two national championships for Philadelphia's Villanova and looks like the consensus pick for this draft's most intriguing non-freshman.
Adding another switchy wing/forward alongside Ben Simmons, Robert Covington and Dario Saric makes sense for the Philadelphia 76ers.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, G, Freshman, 6'6")
There's a lot of overlap between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Charlotte Hornets rookie Malik Monk. But overlap stopped being a bad thing in the last few years.
Gilgeous-Alexander and Monk could play together when Kemba Walker is on the bench, giving Charlotte a size advantage over most reserve backcourts.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C/PF, Sophomore, 6'10")
If DeAndre Jordan signs with another team in free agency (something he committed to do before backing out the last time he was a free agent), the Los Angeles Clippers have a starter waiting in the wings in Montrezl Harrell.
Robert Williams, one of this class' most impressive athletes, could back Harrell up and give the Clippers a similar center rotation to the one it had this past season.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, F, Sophomore, 6'7")
Miles Bridges may be the next Tobias Harris, which may make it seem odd for a team that already has Harris to draft him. But as was stated earlier, overlap isn't necessarily a bad thing anymore.
Harris and Bridges could be interchangeable at the 3 and 4, giving the Clippers more switchability all over the floor.
14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox (Kentucky, F, Freshman, 6'9")
In case you don't see the trend developing here, I'll just come right out and say it. Position-less basketball is on the way.
So, even though Denver Nuggets forward Trey Lyles may provide a lot of what Kevin Knox might, the two should be able to play together at the forward spots.
15. Washington Wizards: Mitchell Robinson (N/A, C, 20, 7'1")
Marcin Gortat is already in his mid-30s, and Ian Mahinmi isn't far behind. And even though a rocky recruiting process kept Mitchell Robinson out of college basketball, his size and athleticism will still make teams consider him in the first round. In need of a new big, the Washington Wizards should be one of those teams.
16. Phoenix Suns: Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, G/F, Freshman, 6'5")
Phoenix already went big with the No. 1 overall pick in this mock draft, leaving the Suns free to join the position-less parade here.
Zhaire Smith may be a little undersized to log a ton of minutes as a forward, but his athleticism and energy should make up for that. Lineups that feature Booker, Warren, Jackson and Smith could switch 1 through 4 with relative ease.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Lonnie Walker (Miami, G, Freshman, 6'4")
Shooting guard was something of a revolving door for the Milwaukee Bucks this season. Lonnie Walker has some work to do as a shooter, but his upside would make him an intriguing option for Eric Bledsoe's backcourt mate.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, F, Senior, 6'7")
The San Antonio Spurs already have two forwards who seem tailor-made for position-less basketball: Kawhi Leonard (assuming he's not traded) and Kyle Anderson.
And right now, it almost seems like you can't have too many of those players. Senior Keita Bates-Diop may not have the most upside, but it's easier to look past that at this point in the first round.
And because of his across-the-board production (over 20 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block per 36 minutes), Bates-Diop has put himself in the first-round conversation.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy, G, 18, 6'4")
With the second of their three picks in the first round, the Hawks can look to shore up their wing rotation. Kent Bazemore was solid this season, but Anfernee Simons would be closer to the developmental timeline of Taurean Prince.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, F, Freshman, 6'8")
The 2017-18 Virginia Cavaliers were forever immortalized by being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 in the NCAA Tournament. That may not have happened if ACC Sixth Man of the Year De'Andre Hunter had played.
An injury knocked Hunter out of the tournament before it even started, and the Cavaliers severely missed his Swiss Army Knife versatility.
21. Utah Jazz: Dzanan Musa (Bosnia/KK Cedevita Zagreb, F, 18, 6'9")
The Utah Jazz have become something of a basketball United Nations, and with decent depth up and down the roster, finding another player who can log minutes at multiple positions makes sense.
Similar to Doncic, the 18-year-old Musa is averaging double-figures in one of the world's top leagues. Though he's currently more of a straight-up scorer (19.6 points per 36 minutes) than a point forward.
22. Chicago Bulls: Troy Brown (Oregon, G/F, Freshman, 6'7")
Troy Brown shot less than 30 percent on over three three-point attempts per game as a freshman for Oregon, but he showed enough defensive versatility to keep teams interested.
23. Indiana Pacers: Jacob Evans (Cincinnati, G/F, Junior, 6'6")
Teams up and down the first round will be looking for wings, and the Indiana Pacers aren't likely to be the exception. Bojan Bogdanovic had a solid season, but Jacob Evans has a higher ceiling on the defensive end.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, G/F, Senior, 6'7")
The No. 3 seed in the West is pretty set at four positions if the Portland Trail Blazers re-sign Jusuf Nurkic. The one spot that could maybe use an upgrade is small forward.
Chandler Hutchison may not be ready to take minutes from Evan Turner or Maurice Harkless right away, but his 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game from the wing this season have made him a first-round target.
25. Los Angeles Lakers: De'Anthony Melton (USC, G, Sophomore, 6'3")
Like Robinson, De'Anthony Melton missed the 2017-18 NCAA season for non-injury reasons. But he showed plenty of defensive potential as a freshman in 2016-17.
No freshman in Sports Reference's database matched or exceeded both Melton's steal (3.9) and block percentages (4.0), which have been tracked since 2009.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C/F, Freshman, 6'10")
The 76ers have a player similar to Jontay Porter overseas in Jonah Bolden, but with Richaun Holmes set to hit free agency next summer, and Amir Johnson now in his 30s, Philly may target depth behind Joel Embiid.
27. Boston Celtics: Khyri Thomas (Creighton, G, Junior, 6'3")
Marcus Smart is a free agent this summer. Terry Rozier will be the following offseason. Boston may not be able to pay all their young guards. Khyri Thomas would make sense as a backup for (almost) namesake Kyrie Irving.
28. Golden State Warriors: Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova, G, Junior, 6'5")
This may seem like a bit of a reach for a guard most NBA fans might not have known before his huge performance in the national title game, but Donte DiVincenzo has decent size for a combo guard and shot 40.1 percent from three on over five attempts per game this season.
29. Brooklyn Nets: Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, G, Freshman, 6'5")
Before pulling out of last year's draft, Hamidou Diallo looked like he may be that class' mystery man. After an up-and-down season for Kentucky, Diallo may regret that decision.
As they've done during much of general manager Sean Marks' tenure, the Brooklyn Nets may be willing to take a flier on Diallo at the end of the first round.
Perhaps Kenny Atkinson and his staff could uncover what made Diallo a five-star recruit coming out of high school.
30. Atlanta Hawks: Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior, 6'1")
This would be quite the slide for Aaron Holiday, who averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 2.7 threes (with a 42.9 three-point percentage) for UCLA this season.
But being a 6'1" junior when size, versatility and upside are all the rage may hurt Holiday on draft night.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference or RealGM.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewDBailey) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Dan Favale.