2018 NBA Mock Draft: Predictions and High-Risk Prospects Who Will Be Taken Early

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 11, 2018

AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 24: Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns runs up court against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at the Frank Erwin Center on February 24, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
Chris Covatta/Getty Images

High-risk, high-reward prospects can be found in NBA drafts every year.

One of the common reasons is injury, as some players' collegiate careers never get kick-started due to an ailment that sidelined them for the better part of a season.

Another is a lack of experience on the collegiate or European professional levels, which includes players who may have ridden the pine more often than not or those who decided to forego either route for another option between high school and the NBA.

And a third is the player's game itself: A prospect may shine in certain areas but may need significant work in others.

Below you can find analysis on three players who carry some risk for various reasons but could also blossom into All-Stars. A mock draft can also be found.

                 

NBA Mock Draft: Lottery

1. Phoenix Suns: Arizona C Deandre Ayton

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Real Madrid PG/SG Luka Doncic

3. Dallas Mavericks: Duke F/C Marvin Bagley III

4. Atlanta Hawks: Michigan State F/C Jaren Jackson Jr.

5. Orlando Magic: Missouri SF/PF Michael Porter Jr.

6. Chicago Bulls: Texas C Mohamed Bamba

7. Sacramento Kings: Duke C Wendell Carter Jr.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics): Oklahoma PG Trae Young

9. New York Knicks: Alabama PG/SG Collin Sexton

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns): Villanova SF Mikal Bridges

11. Charlotte Hornets: Texas Tech G/F Zhaire Smith

12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit Pistons): Texas A&M F Robert Williams

13. Los Angeles Clippers: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

14. Denver Nuggets: Cedevita Zagreb SF Dzanan Musa

           

NBA Mock Draft: Picks 15-30

15. Washington WizardsMissouri C Jontay Porter

16. Phoenix Suns (originally via Miami Heat): Villanova PG Jalen Brunson

17. Milwaukee Bucks: C Mitchell Robinson (Chalmette High School)

18. San Antonio Spurs: Michigan State SF/PF Miles Bridges

19. Atlanta Hawks: Miami SG Lonnie Walker IV

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (originally via Oklahoma City Thunder): Kentucky SF/PF Kevin Knox

21. Utah Jazz: Boise State SF Chandler Hutchison

22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans Pelicans): Ohio State SF/PF Keita Bates-Diop

23. Indiana Pacers: USC PG/SG De'Anthony Melton

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Creighton SG Khyri Thomas

25. Los Angeles Lakers (originally via Cleveland Cavaliers): Oregon G Troy Brown

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Duke SG Gary Trent Jr.

27. Boston Celtics: Villanova F/C Omari Spellman

28. Golden State Warriors: UCLA G Aaron Holiday

29. Brooklyn Nets (originally via Toronto Raptors): IMG PG Anfernee Simons

30. Atlanta Hawks (originally via Houston Rockets): Villanova SG Donte DiVincenzo

           

Missouri F Michael Porter Jr.

Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. was an unquestioned top-three selection in many mock drafts prior to this past college basketball season. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report had him going second overall after Real Madrid guard Luka Doncic.

However, Porter suffered a back injury that required spinal surgery, and he played just 53 minutes over the course of three games.

Those contests can more or less be thrown out. He played two minutes in the season opener before exiting due to injury, and he was shaking off rust on big stages in the SEC and NCAA tournaments when he got back.

The issue is that teams don't have much recent game tape to use in their evaluations. That isn't the case for other lottery prospects, which adds some risk to a potential Porter pick.

However, Porter was (and still is) touted highly for a reason, and that's because of the reasons NBADraft.net mentioned at the top of its scouting report. The site offered high praise for Porter, writing that "it's not often that you find an elite level size/shooter/athlete package at the high school level" and that he is an "extremely mature, focused and hard-working individual."

NBADraft also offered a Kevin Durant/Joe Johnson pro comparison, and if Porter lands somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between those two players, then some team in this draft is getting a player to build around.

        

Texas C Mohamed Bamba

An article from Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer called Texas center Mohamed Bamba the "biggest boom-or-bust prospect" of the 2018 NBA draft. That's not due to his defense, which was fantastic in his one year in Austin. Thanks to a 7'9" wingspan, Bamba became a dominant shot blocker, swatting 3.7 blocks per game in addition to corralling 10.5 boards per night.

The issue is primarily on the other end of the court. O'Connor noted the following when talking about Bamba's offensive skill set:

"The rest of his offense needs even more work. Bamba's lack of strength severely limits him on the blocks. He struggles to wall off defenders, so he gets pushed far from the rim, and he lacks advanced post moves. Post-ups are becoming a rarity in the NBA, sure, but the quality of Bamba's interior touches reveals a player who gets stripped far too frequently and lacks recognition skills to fire passes when he’s under pressure."

Bamba doesn't have a consistent long-range jumper in his skill set yet either, as he made just 27.5 percent of his three-pointers last year.

The issue is that Bamba will be playing in an NBA era where the big man isn't as valued. Many teams go small ball these days, which has put some talented centers such as Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat and Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors on the bench for large portions of games.

Still, players with 7'9" wingspans and massive upside don't appear out of the sky every season, so a team should be taking a chance on him early. His upside is a double-double and shot-blocking machine for many years as the cornerstone of a team's franchise. The question is whether he can develop his outside shot, which will make him a force to be reckoned with on the next level.

       

Texas Tech G/F Zhaire Smith

Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated provided a good note on Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith in an April mock draft: "The platform of the Red Raiders' Elite Eight run certainly helped Smith from an NBA perspective, and his impressive quick-twitch athleticism and overall instincts give him a decent base. He can't create much, if any, of his own offense right now, which adds a level of risk."

On one end, Smith's calling card is his incredible athleticism and energy, which helps on both ends of the floor. He's especially adept out in transition, as noted by T.J. McBride of Mile High Sports:

Smith also posted 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game in his lone season in Lubbock.

On the flip side, his offensive game is a work in progress. The three-point shot is not part of Smith's repertoire at this stage, as he attempted just 40 all season. Furthermore, Smith took just 7.5 field-goal attempts per game overall.

That being said, it's important to note that Smith is just 18 years old and has plenty of time to develop an outside jumper. The question is whether he can find the right home in the NBA, preferably on a team that's on the playoff fringe who could use some extra energy off the bench.

If Smith finds that spot and is given time to develop rather than given the responsibility of helping carry a franchise off the bat, his pro prospects are that much greater.

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