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

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 22, 2018

BELGRADE, SERBIA - MAY 20: Luka Doncic of Real Madrid in action during the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four Belgrade 2018 Final match between Real Madrid and Fenerbahce Istanbul Dogus at Stark Arena on May 20, 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

In a little less than a month, 2018 NBA draft prospects will learn the setting for the first chapter of their professional hoops stories.

Equally important, early-drafters will discover which young talents will serve as their latest sources of hope.

This looks like a loaded batch of young ballers, potentially offering both elite players at the top and plug-and-play rotation pieces further down the draft board. Consider this—the top three might feature two players who averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds as college freshmen (Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III) and a 19-year-old recently crowned MVP of the EuroLeague (Luka Doncic).

It's time to get excited—and time to lay out our most recent predictions with a fresh first-round mock.

                 

2018 NBA Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic, SG, Slovenia

2. Sacramento Kings: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

3. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State

5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

6. Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri

7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter, C, Duke

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova

9. New York Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

11. Charlotte Hornets: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

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

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

14. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

15. Washington Wizards: Zhaire Smith, SF, Texas Tech

16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

18. San Antonio Spurs: Mitchell Robinson, C, USA

19. Atlanta Hawks (via Timberwolves): Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, Bosnia & Herzegovina

21. Utah Jazz: Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF, Ohio State

22. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavs): Troy Brown, SF, Oregone

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

27. Boston Celtics: Bruce Brown Jr., SG, Miami

28. Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinnati

29. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Melvin Frazier, SG/SF, Tulane

                   

Doncic Over Ayton at No. 1

BELGRADE, SERBIA - MAY 20: Luka Doncic (R) of Real Madrid receive MVP award from Dusan Ivkovic (L) after the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four Belgrade 2018 Final match between Real Madrid and Fenerbahce Istanbul Dogus at Stark Arena on May 20, 2018
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Any debate at the top of the draft is inherently fascinating, but this one provides particular intrigue.

The Suns can either reunite Doncic with his Slovenian national team coach Igor Kokoskov, or they could snatch Ayton, who starred at Arizona—a school for which Suns owner Robert Sarver is a big booster.

While this decision could go down to the wire, Doncic comes out on top for his already decorated career—youngest ever MVP of the EuroLeague and the EuroLeague Final Four—and connection with Kokoskov.

"If I was Phoenix, it'd be hard to pass up," an executive told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. "Especially with Igor there."

Doncic is a brilliant passer both for his age and his size (6'7"). The Suns, who admittedly need help in most areas, were severely lacking in playmakers. They finished the 2017-18 campaign tied for 26th in assist percentage (55.3) and tied for the ninth-fewest passes per game (292.3).

Grabbing Doncic would allow Devin Booker to focus on what he does best—scoring at will. Doncic's creativity could also unlock previously unseen production levels from Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.

                   

Bamba Stays in Texas

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 16:  Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns looks on against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the game in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Phot
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Mavericks weren't dreadful on defense (18th in efficiency), but opposing clubs could exploit them inside. Only one team averaged fewer blocks than Dallas' 3.8 per game, and it tied for 28th in opponents' shooting at the rim (67.3).

If there's a prospect who could reverse these fortunes, wouldn't it be the one with the longest wingspan ever recorded at the combine? The 7-footer Bamba's wingspan measured an impossibly long 7'10", and he showed at Texas he knows how to use it by registering 4.9 blocks and 14 rebounds per 40 minutes.

And he offers more than absurd length. He's also nimble and explosive, a package he feels could perfectly complement the playing style of Dallas' last top-10 pick, Dennis Smith Jr.

"I believe I'm the type of big he wants to play with, who screens and rolls and can finish high above the rim," Bamba said, per Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. "[Head coach] Rick Carlisle has said himself that he thinks Dennis is best with a big who rolls hard and finishes above the rim."

The Mavs targeted pick-and-roll screeners on 7.2 percent of their offensive possessions, tied for the 11th-most in the Association. And that was without an aerial finisher like Bamba, who would not only give Smith a lob threat but also potentially draw in defenders and widen the shooting windows for Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews.

                 

Trae Young To NYC

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 15: NBA Draft Prospect, Trae Young poses for a portrait during the 2018 NBA Combine circuit on May 15, 2018 at the Intercontinental Hotel Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Something about the fit between Young and the Knicks seems too perfect not to materialize.

It takes a special kind of confidence to thrive in the Big Apple, and Young—who paced college basketball in points (27.4) and assists (8.7) as a freshman—seems to have an endless supply of it.

Young's father, Ray, recently told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that the pressure of the Empire State is "what Trae lives for." The Knicks reportedly share that opinion.

"Multiple league sources told me that the Knicks have the hots for the Oklahoma point guard, so the interest is mutual," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote.

This isn't just about Young's personality, either. He makes a lot of on-court sense for the Knicks, too.

Pairing him with last season's No. 8 pick, Frank Ntilikina, would cover up each player's weaknesses. Young is a better shooter and more natural table-setter than Ntilikina, who has the length and versatility to help hide Young's defensive shortcomings.

Between Young's scoring and the combined passing prowess of this backcourt duo, Kristaps Porzingis wouldn't have to carry such a heavy load at the offensive end. Considering the All-Star big man is working his way back from a torn ACL, anything that makes his life easier should appeal to New York.

                      

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

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