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2018 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions for Most Intriguing Prospects

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 20, 2018

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 02:  Collin Gillespie #2 and Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats watch 'One Shining Moment' while celebrating after defeating the Michigan Wolverines during the 2018 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 2, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. Villanova defeated Michigan 79-62.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NBA is in the midst of a whirlwind stretch that starts with the conference finals, is followed by the draft and ends with free agency.

Although the conference finals are in full swing, it's never too early to talk about the draft, especially considering that 26 teams are counting down to next year.

Here's a look at a new NBA mock draft, with notes below on two of the more intriguing prospects.

                 

NBA Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: Arizona C Deandre Ayton

2. Sacramento Kings: Duke F Marvin Bagley

3. Atlanta Hawks: Michigan State F Jaren Jackson Jr.

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Real Madrid G Luka Doncic

5. Dallas Mavericks: Duke F Wendell Carter

6. Orlando Magic: Missouri F Michael Porter Jr.

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7. Chicago Bulls: Texas C Mohamed Bamba

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

9. New York Knicks: Alabama G Collin Sexton

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

11. Charlotte Hornets: Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith

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

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

14. Denver Nuggets: Cedevita Zagreb F Dzanan Musa

15. Washington WizardsMissouri F Jontay Porter

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

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Chalmette High School C Mitchell Robinson

18. San Antonio Spurs: Michigan State F Miles Bridges

19. Atlanta Hawks: Miami G Lonnie Walker

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (originally via Oklahoma City Thunder): Kentucky F Kevin Knox

21. Utah Jazz: Boise State G Chandler Hutchison

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

23. Indiana Pacers: USC G De'Anthony Melton

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Creighton G Khyri Thomas

25. Los Angeles Lakers (originally via Cleveland Cavaliers): UCLA G Aaron Holiday

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

27. Boston Celtics: Villanova F Omari Spellman

28. Golden State WarriorsOregon F Troy Brown Jr.

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

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

          

Most Intriguing Prospects 

UCLA G Aaron Holiday

The younger brother of NBA veterans Jrue and Justin Holiday, Aaron made a name for himself in three years at UCLA, capped off by averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in his junior year. A solid shooter, Holiday also knocked down 46.1 percent of his field-goal attempts and 42.9 percent of his three-pointers.

He also ranked 13th in NCAA Division I men's college basketball in minutes per game (37.7). In fact, Holiday was off the court for just one minute during his past seven games combined.

The issue Holiday faces during this predraft process is that he measured at just 6'0 ¾" in shoes at the NBA Draft Combine. He's small, even for a guard, but that hasn't stopped many others in his height range from having success in the NBA.

It helps that Holiday is receiving high marks in the intangibles category leading into the draft. Mike Schmitz of ESPN offered high praise for him:

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

He may not be quite as big or naturally gifted as older brother Jrue, but NBA fans are going to love having a third Holiday brother in the league next year. Easy to see why Aaron Holiday plays w/ such toughness. One of my favorite non one-and-done prospects in this year's draft.

And Fran Fraschilla of ESPN noted that teams speaking with Holiday at the combine were impressed as well:

Fran Fraschilla @franfraschilla

.@NBA has never been in better shape. Friends with teams told me today they interviewed more high character guys than ever. Aaron Holiday, the Michigan State kids, Mikal Bridges came to mind.

Look for Holiday to find a home with a team near the end of the first round. In particular, the Los Angeles Lakers make a lot of sense, as the team could use a backup behind starter Lonzo Ball.

Zack Buckley of Bleacher Report made the case for Holiday to stay in L.A. given the Los Angeles Lakers' need for more depth at point guard, noting that they have "lost 1.2 points off their net rating per 100 possessions when [Lonzo] Ball has needed a breather."

Holiday could help fix that problem.

         

Villanova G Jalen Brunson 

Like Holiday, Villanova guard Jalen Brunson faces questions about his size as he heads to the NBA. He is 6'2 ¼" without shoes and has a 6'4" wingspan, the latter of which ranked as the third-shortest at this year's NBA Draft Combine.

While Brunson will compete against taller and longer guards in the NBA, he didn't become the Naismith Player of the Year by accident. He's a two-time national champion who shot 51.0 percent from the field over the course of three years at Villanova, in addition to a 39.3 percent mark from behind the three-point line. He also lost just 13 games while in school.

Granted, excellent collegiate production doesn't necessarily equate to pro success, but Brunson also impressed at the NBA Draft Combine in agility drills, notably finishing fourth overall in lane agility with a mark of 10.59 seconds. He also fared well in the max vertical leap at 37.0 inches.

Although it may seem early, a potential fit exists with the Phoenix Suns at No. 16. The Suns have needs at point guard and center, and they can take care of the latter if they draft Arizona big man Deandre Ayton first overall. Afterward, the Suns could solve their other problem by taking the best available point guard, which could be Brunson.

At the very least, adding Brunson to the team would create a good competition between him and Tyler Ulis for the starting role in 2018-19—Elfrid Payton, who started 19 games for the Suns last season, is a restricted free agent and may not be back with the team.

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