NBA Mock Draft 2018: Bold Predictions for Low-Profile Prospects

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 18, 2018

Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith (2) during an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The teams at the top of the NBA Draft order aren't always the most fortunate. 

While there is plenty to gain by selecting the top prospects, teams further down the selection order have proved success can be achieved with low-profile picks. 

Utah's Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers were two of the biggest breakout stars of the rookie class this season, but neither entered the 2017 NBA Draft with a massive amount of hype. 

Although the best value in June's draft is expected to be in the top 10 given the plethora of high-profile players, there's plenty of gems out there if you look past the collection of heralded collegiate prospects. 


2018 1st-Round NBA Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, SG, Slovenia

3. Dallas Mavericks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

4. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke

5. Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri

6. Chicago Bulls: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

7. Sacramento Kings: Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Duke

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn): Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

11. Charlotte Hornets: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit): Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

13. Los Angeles Clippers: Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky

14. Denver Nuggets: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

15. Washington Wizards: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

16. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Mitchell Robinson, C, United States

18. San Antonio Spurs: Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina

19. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota): Troy Brown, SG, Oregon

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City): Anfernee Simons, SG, Unattached

21. Utah Jazz: Jontay Porter, PF, Missouri

22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans): Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

23. Indiana Pacers: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati

24. Portland Trailblazers: Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke

25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland): Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona

27. Boston Celtics: Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

28. Golden State Warriors: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

29. Brooklyn Nets (via Toronto): Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State


Bold Predictions for Low-Profile Prospects

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech 

Zhaire Smith didn't come into Texas Tech with the fanfare other freshmen entered college with, but his impact on the Red Raiders is comparable to the impact Deandre Ayton or Marvin Bagley III had at Arizona or Duke, respectively.

Smith averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds per game for Chris Beard's team in a season in which it challenged Kansas at the top of the Big 12 for most of conference play.

Not only is Smith, who decided to remain in the draft Tuesday, a strong shooter, he has defensive qualities that make him an intriguing prospect at the back end of the lottery.

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 25:  Zhaire Smith #2 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is defended by Omari Spellman #14 of the Villanova Wildcats during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 25, 2018 in Boston, M
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Smith was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and Big 12 All-Newcomer Team alongside Texas center Mohamed Bamba, who is expected to be taken in the top 10. 

Because he contains a polished defensive game and can only get better with time, Smith is going to be an intriguing prospect teams in the top 10 might fall in love with.

Smith is projected to go 11th overall to the Charlotte Hornets, but don't be surprised if he sneaks into the top 10, as Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia take solid looks at him to fill positions of need.

Even if he gets selected in the top 10, Smith is going to have something to prove as an unheralded pick, which could lead to a breakout rookie season, especially on the defensive side of the ball where he could earn another All-Defensive Team nod.


Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M 

Robert Williams should've received more hype during the men's basketball season, but he was ignored on a national level due to the up-and-down nature of Texas A&M's campaign and a shared spotlight with Tyler Davis in the Aggies frontcourt.

The sophomore forward totaled 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest while recording seven double-doubles for the Aggies.

After struggling at the back end of SEC play, Williams came alive in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, as he picked up a double-double against Providence in the first round and hauled in 13 rebounds in the upset win over North Carolina.

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Williams was at his best during the heart of conference action, as he reeled off 11 straight double-digit point performances, a stretch scouts will point to when talking about the player's potential.

There are potentially a few perfect landing spots for Williams in the first round, with one of them being the Los Angeles Clippers if DeAndre Jordan leaves, but he could also thrive in Denver alongside Nikola Jokic.

If he lives up to his potential and finds success in the paint, like he did during the middle of SEC play, Williams could average a double-double in his rookie season and become a nice complementary piece for a team on the verge of qualifying for the postseason.


Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami 

Lonnie Walker IV isn't the first star player you'd identify out of the ACC, but he has the skill set to be the most successful star from the conference in this year's draft class.

The Pennsylvania native found a rhythm in the second half of his freshman season with the Hurricanes, as he produced over 10 points in 14 of his final 17 games, including a 25-point outburst in an overtime win over Louisville.

Walker's three-point skills need work, as he shot 34.6 percent from beyond the arc at Miami, but he displayed during the final games of his collegiate career that he can find success at three-point line if given the opportunity.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Just like a lot of freshmen entering the draft, Walker is still raw in certain areas, but his physical traits are going to help him during the evaluation process.

Listed at 6'5" by the Hurricanes, Walker has the length at guard that most teams look for, and there will a handful of potential suitors willing to work with him to refine his shot.

Walker would be a perfect piece to add to the Phoenix Suns' rebuild at No. 16, but he might not last that long if teams fall in love with him while in search of the next Donovan Mitchell.

The Miami guard has the potential to have a similar impact as Mitchell and contend for Rookie of the Year, which is why he could end up as a lottery pick when June rolls around.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.