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

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 19, 2018

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 13: Luka Doncic, #7 guard of Real Madrid during the Liga Endesa game between Real Madrid and Kirolbet Baskonia at Wizink Center on June 13, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Sonia Canada/Getty Images)
Sonia Canada/Getty Images

The 2018 NBA offseason is shaping up to be a summer to remember.

The rumor mill already includes names like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the free-agency market hasn't even opened yet.

That could make Thursday's draft a busy evening as clubs either bulk up in the latest weapons race or shift their focus forward to wait out the current contenders. It's a good climate, then, to feel emboldened to make bold predictions.

We'll lay out three such prognostications after running through our most recent mock.

               

2018 NBA Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke

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

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, SG, Slovenia

5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

6. Orlando Magic: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

7. Chicago Bulls: Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Wendell Carter, C, Duke

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

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova

11. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky

12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

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

14. Denver Nuggets: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

15. Washington Wizards: Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Zhaire Smith, SF, Texas Tech

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Jerome Robinson, PG/SG, Boston College

18. San Antonio Spurs: Troy Brown Jr., SF, Oregon

19. Atlanta Hawks (via Timberwolves): Elie Okobo, PG, France

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Kevin HuerterSG, Maryland

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

22. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavs): Donte DiVincenzoSG, Villanova

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

27. Boston Celtics: De'Anthony Melton, PG/SG, USC

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

29. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina

                    

Bold Predictions

Doncic Falls Out of Top Three

This has been brewing for a little while now.

Both ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony and Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman have heard Doncic isn't a top-three lock. That said, USA Today's Sam Amick has Doncic as one of three players drawing interest from Sacramento. And Sporting News' Sean Deveney says if Doncic gets past No. 2, "the Hawks probably will scoop him up at No. 3."

It should be hard to fathom that Doncic dips past No. 2.

He's the youngest MVP and Final Four MVP in Euroleague history. He's a preternatural passer as a 6'8" 19-year-old. He's atop Wasserman's big board and the No. 2 talent according to both Givony and SI.com's Jeremy Woo.

But Doncic is also unremarkable enough athletically to give executives pause on draft night.

It takes guts to spend a top-five pick on a perimeter player who might not be able to separate from NBA defenders. Execs selecting this early might not have the security needed to bank on Doncic's skills being enough to overcome his shortcomings.

                  

Sexton Is First Point Guard Taken

There's give and take with Sexton, Young and Gilgeous-Alexander, which should surprise no one when all of them are 19-year-old floor generals.

Sexton has good size and better athleticism, but he underwhelmed as a shooter (33.6 percent from three) and shot-creator (3.6 assists per game). Young boasts incredible shooting range and on-ball creativity, but he struggled down the stretch (36.1 percent shooting after Jan.) and lacks both length and explosiveness. Gilgeous-Alexander has tremendous length but isn't a great athlete or a prolific shooter.

There isn't a perfect prospect, which should lead to some spirited debates.

But given how much of this examination period is spent on measuring physical gifts, we'll boldly predict Sexton beats Young and Gilgeous-Alexander to the podium. That's how ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski had it during their most recent televised mock draft, via Blazers Edge's Sagar Trika:

As much as Orlando needs an offensive leader like Young, this front office has shown preferences for length, athleticism and versatility. Those are all bigger strengths of Sexton, who might also be a more efficient scorer than he's shown once he's not the center of defensive attention.

                 

Someone Trades into Top 10

Front-office phones are always ringing this time of year.

But the activity sounds frantic enough to produce at least one major swap early in this draft.

Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports' Chris Mannix and the New York Times' Marc Stein all reported on possible movement near the top of the draft board:

The Clippers are the only team with lottery picks, and they could combine one or both with a plug-and-play veteran. The Nuggets could package the 14th selection with an up-and-comer, a win-now piece or even an expiring salary. The Raptors' roster was talented enough to produce this past season's second-best record (59-23) and third-highest net rating (plus-7.6).

These teams potentially have the trade chips to climb the ladder. And some clubs at the top could find motivations to move down. The Grizzlies, Mavericks and Cavaliers all hope to win sooner than later and might not want to wait on a prospect's development.

It's too early to tell when or how a trade will happen, but we're guessing this smoke ignites at some point to spark a top-10 trade.

                  

Statistics used courtesy of Sports Reference and NBA.com.

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