NBA Draft 2018: Mock Draft Projections for Safest Lottery Prospects

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 27, 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

The odd part about all professional sports drafts is that preconceived notions prior to draft day can be thrown entirely out the window a few years later.

For example, the best (and most successful) player from the 2011 NBA draft is arguably San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who was taken one pick outside of the lottery. In that same draft, All-Star forward Jimmy Butler went 30th overall. It's unlikely too many people thought Leonard and Butler were two of the safest bets to have productive careers prior to the 2011 draft.

In this year's draft, it looks like the safest bets to have excellent NBA runs are in the lottery, but it wouldn't be too shocking to see someone else picked outside the top 14 have a great career.

It will be interesting to see how everything develops, but until then, here's a look at five prospects who may be the safest bets to have solid NBA careers, in addition to a new mock draft.

             

NBA Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: Arizona C Deandre Ayton

2. Sacramento Kings: Duke F Marvin Bagley III

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

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Real Madrid G Luka Doncic

5. Dallas Mavericks: Texas C Mohamed Bamba

6. Orlando Magic: Missouri F Michael Porter Jr.

7. Chicago Bulls: Duke F Wendell Carter

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

9. New York Knicks: Alabama G Collin Sexton

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

11. Charlotte Hornets: Michigan State F Miles Bridges

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

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

14. Denver Nuggets: Kentucky F Kevin Knox

15. Washington WizardsChalmette High School C Mitchell Robinson

16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): UCLA G Aaron Holiday

17. Milwaukee BucksTexas Tech G Zhaire Smith

18. San Antonio Spurs: Miami G Lonnie Walker

19. Atlanta HawksCedevita Zagreb F Dzanan Musa

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Creighton G Khyri Thomas

21. Utah Jazz: Ohio State F Keita Bates-Diop

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

23. Indiana Pacers: IMG G Anfernee Simons

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Cincinnati F Jacob Evans

25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavaliers): Villanova G Jalen Brunson

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

27. Boston Celtics: Missouri C Jontay Porter

28. Golden State Warriors: Tulane G/F Melvin Frazier

29. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors)Villanova G Donte DiVincenzo

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets)Boston College G Jerome Robinson

                            

Arizona C Deandre Ayton

Athletic centers who can score, rebound and stand over seven feet tall aren't exactly common in NBA draft classes, but that's the case in 2018 with Arizona big man Deandre Ayton in the mix.

At 7'1" and 250 pounds, Ayton would immediately become one of the biggest centers in the NBA. He was a problem for opposing bigs in school, as he averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Those scoring and rebounding skills should translate to the next level, although he needs to improve his defense in the pros, as Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer highlighted.

Still, Ayton has Hall of Fame potential if he can develop his all-around game.

               

Duke F Marvin Bagley III

Duke forward Marvin Bagley III was named the ACC Player of the Year in his lone season in school, as he posted 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. While collegiate production doesn't necessarily translate to pro success, Bagley was considered the fourth-most efficient player in Division I men's college basketball last year, per ESPN.

It's hard seeing Bagley become a bust. At the worst, he will be a high-energy big who isn't the centerpiece of a team but can provide scoring and rebounding help. However, he has a tremendous ceiling and could be a perennial All-Star if he falls with the right team.

             

Michigan State F Jaren Jackson Jr.

It wouldn't be surprising to see Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. develop into the best NBA pro from the 2018 draft class. He showcased a ton of potential in his one year in school, knocking down 39.6 percent of his three-pointers and blocking 3.0 shots per game. The latter stat was helped by his 7'5 ¼" wingspan, which was third-longest in the NBA Draft Combine.

Jackson barely played more than half the time, as he averaged 21.8 minutes per contest. Therefore, it's hard seeing him being asked to play 30-plus minutes on average right away. That being said, Jackson doesn't even turn 19 until September, so he has a lot of room to grow and develop his game.

                 

Real Madrid G Luka Doncic

At just 19, Real Madrid guard Luka Doncic is a stat-sheet stuffer in the highest level of basketball in Europe. He just led his team to a 30-4 ACB Liga record and a EuroLeague championship, posting 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists along the way. The remarkable thing is he put up those stats with limited minutes, as he averaged just 25.1 per game.

The primary issue for the 6'8" Doncic on the next level would seem to be his three-point shot, which only fell 30.7 percent of the time this past season. However, Doncic is so good in other areas of his game at such a young age that it's hard seeing him as anything less than a productive starter for the next 10-15 years. At best, he could be a Hall of Famer and nightly triple-double threat.

           

Villanova G/F Mikal Bridges

Mikal Bridges is the wing version of Jackson in the lottery in that he seems like a great fit for today's NBA. His three-point shot gradually improved while at Villanova, topping out at 43.5 percent during his junior year. Furthermore, he amassed 1.4 steals per game during his collegiate career.

Excellent three-and-D prospects are coveted in today's NBA, where teams shoot three-pointers 29.0 times per game on average. Not only is that attempt total an all-time league high, but that figure has also gradually increased since the beginning of the decade.

Therefore, it's hard seeing Bridges becoming a bust if his three-point success and defense carry over to the NBA. At the very least, it should keep him in the league as a reserve for a decade-plus.

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