NBA Mock Draft 2018: Opening-Round Predictions and Rising Prospects to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 4, 2018

Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith (2) drives while defended by West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
Ray Thompson/Associated Press

Although three weeks seems like a short amount of time, it will feel like an eternity for NBA draft prospects attempting to boost their stock before the June 21 selection process. 

While the players expected to go in the top 10 are almost set in stone, there are a few collegiate prospects who could make a late push into those spots if teams come away from their one-on-one meetings impressed. 

There's also a growing collection of prospects worthy of being taken in the second half of the first round who are generating buzz.

Below is a look at three players worth keeping your eyes on as the days continue to tick down to the NBA draft.

      

2018 1st-Round NBA Mock Draft 

1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

2. Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia

3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

5. Dallas Mavericks: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke

6. Orlando Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn): Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

9. New York Knicks: Michael Porter, SF, Missouri

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers): Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

11. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State 

12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit): Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky 

13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M 

14. Denver Nuggets: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami 

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

16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami): Troy Brown, SG, Oregon

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech 

18. San Antonio Spurs: Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota): Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City): Mitchell Robinson, C, United States

21. Utah Jazz: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans): Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

23. Indiana Pacers: Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

24. Portland Trailblazers: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati 

25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland): Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

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

27. Boston Celtics: Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech 

28. Golden State Warriors: Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

29. Brooklyn Nets (from Toronto): Anfernee Simons, SG/PG, Unattached

30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston): Grayson Allen, SG, Duke 

      

Rising Prospects To Watch

Troy Brown 

Oregon shooting guard Troy Brown might work his way into the lottery picks if he continues to impress like he has over the last few weeks. 

Brown is scheduled to meet with the Los Angeles Clippers, who have the No. 12 and No. 13 picks, at the start of the week, per Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times: 

The Clippers sit in an interesting position at the back end of the lottery, as they could go in any direction with their two selections, one of which came from Detroit in the Blake Griffin trade. 

What intrigues potential suitors about Brown is his youth, as he'll enter the draft as one of the youngest prospects at 18 years old. 

As a young player with an abundance of raw talent, Brown could be seen as an immediate contributor who is also capable of experiencing growth to become a star in the NBA one day. 

In his lone season at Oregon, Brown averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. 

Brown's length could help his stock on the defensive side of the ball, even though he'll need to make some improvements as he makes the step up from a porous Pac-12 schedule to the professional level. 

If the Clippers don't take Brown with one of their selections, expect him to not fall too far, as the collection of teams right outside the lottery, including the Phoenix Suns at No. 16, would love to have Brown available for them. 

       

Zhaire Smith 

One of the other one-and-done prospects climbing up the draft board is Texas Tech's Zhaire Smith, who is also meeting with the Clippers, per Turner: 

During his Pro Day in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Smith worked on showcasing his ball-handling ability, as ESPN's Jonathan Givony showed us: 

Smith's name isn't as familiar as the other college freshmen entering the draft because he wasn't a heralded prospect coming out of high school, and although Texas Tech had an impressive season, the Red Raiders weren't on the national stage much. 

The 6'5" guard was more accurate than other shooters in the talent pool, as he shot 55.6 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range. 

In addition to those impressive numbers, Smith averaged 11.3 points, five rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. 

Being able to record a versatile stat line in a loaded conference like the Big 12 is a positive sign for NBA teams, who shouldn't have to question Smith's competitiveness. 

Smith could end up in the same situation as Brown, with the Clippers' two picks controlling how the middle of the first round plays out. 

If the Clippers go in a different direction than shooting guard, Smith could drop a bit, but keep an eye on the Suns at No. 16 and Milwaukee at No. 17 as potential landing spots.

      

Kevin Huerter

The collection of natural scorers expected to be available at the back end of the first round should have this year's playoff teams salivating.

Maryland's Kevin Huerter is one of the players who has gained steam recently in the draft process, and he could make a difference right away for an established contender. 

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Much like Brown and Smith, Huerter wasn't in the national view much due to the poor season put in by the Terrapins, but he was one of the team's standout stars. 

As he's been able to visit teams for pre-draft workouts, Huerter impressed with his natural scoring ability, and his showing at the combine only boosted his stock further. 

In his sophomore season at Maryland, Huerter averaged 14.8 points per game, which was over five points better than the mark he put up as a freshman. 

Huerter improved in rebounds and assists per game, as well as field-goal percentage and three-point shooting. 

As ESPN's Jeff Goodman noted, Huerter's size combined with shooting prowess should help him get selected late in the first round: 

The most likely landing spots for Huerter could be the Chicago Bulls at No. 22, the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 or the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 26. If Huerter somehow slips to Boston or Golden State at No. 27 or No. 28, it could be seen as a steal for both teams. 

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com

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