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NBA Mock Draft 2018: Players and teams shuffle at the top after lottery sets the draft order


Deandre Ayton | Arizona | Fr | C

There’s little doubt, now that the lottery order is set, that the Suns will take Ayton first overall and hope the Arizona star becomes a Phoenix legend. The 7-foot-1 forward averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in 33.5 minutes this season while helping the Wildcats win the Pac-12 regular-season title and Pac-12 Tournament title. His physical gifts make him unique and provide an opportunity for superstardom. He’s not a sure thing, in my opinion. But Ayton definitely looks the part.


Luka Doncic | International | SG

The Kings were the big winners on lottery night — moving up to second even though they only had the seventh-best lottery odds. Now the prediction is that they’ll select Doncic, the Real Madrid star whom some have described as the best young European prospect in history. He’s a 6-8 shot-creator and maker who seems like a plug-and-play prospect. His ceiling might not be as high as some other’s in this draft. But it’s hard to imagine Doncic not being a capable starter in the NBA for a long time.


Marvin Bagley III | Duke | Fr | PF

I know I’m in the minority. But let the record show that, if I were in charge of a franchise, I’d probably take Bagley first in this draft. Yes, I understand the concerns about him — specifically that his incredible production at the collegiate level was mostly the byproduct of superior athleticism and quickness to literally everybody he ever played against, point being the 6-11 forward won’t be able to just physically overwhelm people as a professional. And, I concede, he’s neither an ideal power forward nor center for the modern NBA. But Bagley is still a consensus top-ranked high school player who averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in one year of college for a great ACC team. Simply put, I think he’ll figure it out. And I personally project him as a future All-Star.


Michael Porter Jr. | Missouri | Fr | SF

Back surgery robbed Porter of his first and only season of college basketball, which is unfortunate. But that won’t stop franchises like Memphis from taking a serious look at the one-and-done former high school All-American because, this time last year, Porter projected as a serious contender to be the top pick of the 2018 NBA Draft — meaning the Grizzlies could get real value here the way Philadelphia got real value when it snatched up an injured Joel Embiid with the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. To be clear, if doctors show concern, drafting Porter is a non-starter for Memphis. Period. But if everything checks out OK, I will not be surprised if the 6-10 combo forward plays his home games inside FedExForum and becomes the high-scoring/athletic wing the Grizzlies have needed forever.


Jaren Jackson Jr. | Michigan St. | Fr | PF

I’m not as high on Jackson as most others, if only because he didn’t produce at Michigan State the way so many other heralded freshmen produced on other campuses in their only years of college basketball. The 6-11 forward averaged just 21.8 minutes and often struggled with foul trouble. That’s a concern. But his physical tools are undeniable. And the potential for stardom is clearly there considering Jackson is A) a top-shelf athlete, B) somebody who shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, and C) an asset, in a variety of ways, on the defensive end of the court.


Trae Young | Oklahoma | Fr | PG

Scouts seem to be all over the place on Young — who was the story of college basketball for much of this season while leading the nation in points (27.4) and assists (8.7). Some believe he could become something similar to Stephen Curry thanks to his shot-making ability and range. But others think the player who mostly struggled in February and March is a truer version of this little point guard literally nobody projected as a one-and-done lottery pick coming out of high school. My opinion: Young will be really good. Probably not good enough to be a two-time NBA MVP like Curry. But good enough to make him a worth pick in the top half of the lottery.


Mohamed Bamba | Texas | Fr | PF

Bamba, at worst, projects as a menace on the defensive end of the court — where his 7-9 wingspan should allow him to alter shots at an elite level and rebound well. But he’s not just a defensive player. There’s also potential on the offensive end — even if it’s a work in progress, at the moment. So this 7-foot forward who averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 30.2 minutes at Texas absolutely has a chance to develop into an All-Star in the frontcourt. The only concern I’ve heard is that he’s such a bright young man with so many interests that some wonder if he actually wants to live in the gym, which is a prerequisite to NBA stardom. But his positives seem to outweigh any negatives, real or otherwise. So even if he doesn’t go this high, he won’t go much lower.


Pick acquired from Brooklyn

Collin Sexton | Alabama | Fr | PG

Regardless of whether LeBron James returns or not, the Cavaliers would likely be wise to just take the best available talent. And, in my opinion, that player, at this point in this mock draft, is Sexton — the one-and-done star who averaged 19.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 29.9 minutes while leading Alabama to the NCAA Tournament. The 6-3 point guard is super-fast, super-quick and forever aggressive — all of which are great qualities for anybody entering the NBA. He puts pressure on the defense basically every possession.


Wendell Carter Jr. | Duke | Fr | PF

Carter was Duke’s “other” frontcourt one-and-done standout — not quite as productive as Bagley but still really good. The 6-11 forward averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.0 assists in 26.9 minutes while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range (on limited attempts) for a Duke team that advanced to the Elite Eight. His versatility on the offensive end of the court makes him an intriguing prospect. But whether he’ll be able to handle pick-and-roll situations on the defensive end is a reasonable concern unless Carter improves his foot speed.


Pick acquired from Los Angeles Lakers

Mikal Bridges | Villanova | Jr | SF

I’m not sure any non-freshman helped himself more this season with NBA people than Bridges — who averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from 3-point range in 32.1 minutes for a Villanova team that won the national title. More than anything, the 6-7 wing spent the season making “pro shots” more regularly than ever and doing most of the things any franchise would want him to do at the next level. His ability to guard multiple positions makes him somebody who could theoretically contribute to a playoff team, like the 76ers, on opening night. Bridges likely isn’t equipped to create his own scoring opportunities, at least at this point. But he’s a great catch-and-shoot prospect — perhaps the best in this draft.


Miles Bridges | Michigan St. | Soph | SF

Bridges is a better small-ball power forward than he is a full-time wing. But stressing too much about that is probably overthinking it because the 6-6 sophomore is an explosive athlete who can pass and shoot and guard multiple positions. He averaged 17.1 points and 7.0 rebounds in 31.3 minutes while leading Michigan State to the Big Ten regular-season title. In a mostly position-less NBA, I’m comfortable trusting the former Big Ten star will figure things out.


Pick acquired from Detroit

Robert Williams | Texas A&M | Soph | PF

DeAndre Jordan’s future with the Clippers remains uncertain — and Williams is the prospect available at this point in this mock draft who is best equipped to eventually do similar things at the NBA level. The 6-10 athlete averaged 10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 25.6 minutes while leading Texas A&M to the Sweet 16. Williams projects as a strong finisher, rebounder and shot-blocker who could be a 10-year starting center in the NBA if his motor and focus improve and get consistent.


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | Kentucky | Fr | PG

Gilgeous-Alexander was only the seventh-best prospect in Kentucky’s 2017 class, according to 247Sports, but he should be the first Wildcat selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. The one-and-done guard averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds while leading UK to the Sweet 16. At 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan, Gilgeous-Alexander could become a great perimeter defender in time, which is obviously a terrific skill in the modern NBA where perimeter players dominate the league.


Kevin Knox | Kentucky | Fr | SF

Anybody looking for a combo forward this late in the lottery would have to seriously consider Knox if he’s still on the board. The 6-9 athlete with a strong frame averaged a team-high 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 32.4 minutes while leading Kentucky to the Sweet 16. And he’s still only 18 years old, which makes him younger than most freshmen and almost everybody in this NBA Draft. Knox didn’t shoot it well from 3-point range at Kentucky. But there’s nothing obviously wrong with his shot, which is why he could thrive as the type of stretch-4 every NBA franchise values.


Keita Bates-Diop | Ohio St. | Jr | SF

Bates-Diop went from averaging 9.7 points in an injury-shortened 2016-17 season to 19.8 points in the 2017-18 season and improved in basically every way, which is why Ohio State spent much of this season nationally ranked and finished tied for second in the Big Ten regular-season standings. Not every player who returns to school to “improve his NBA stock” actually does. In fact, most don’t. But Bates-Diop clearly did. And draft night will prove it.


Pick acquired from Miami

Lonnie Walker IV | Miami | Fr | SG

Walker’s freshman season didn’t get off to a great start — evidence being how he only averaged 8.1 points in 20.9 minutes through Miami’s first 15 contests. But the 6-4 freshman averaged 14 points in Miami’s final five regular-season games to remind NBA scouts why they view him as a strong-framed shooting guard with a future. Yes, he only shot 34.6 percent from 3-point range this season. But, remember, Walker shot 40 percent from beyond the arc two summers ago on the Nike EYBL circuit. So his lower percentage at Miami isn’t too concerning.


Troy Brown | Oregon | Fr | SG | 6-7

Brown developed a reputation in high school as somebody who values defense and could reasonably play at least three positions at the collegiate level, and he showed flashes of that at Oregon. The 6-7 freshman averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 31.5 minutes. If he can develop a consistent 3-point shot — Brown only shot 29.1 percent from beyond the arc this season — he’ll be capable of providing the versatility NBA franchises crave while flourishing at both forward positions.


Khyri Thomas | Creighton | Jr | SG

Thomas is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year — one who used a 6-11 wingspan on a 6-3 frame to get into passing lanes and, in other ways, just make things difficult on opposing guards. He averaged 15.5 points and shot 41.1 percent from 3-point range as a junior. So anybody looking for a 3-and-D wing will give the Omaha native a serious look.


Pick acquired from Minnesota

Dzanan Musa | International | SF

Musa is a 19-year-old Bosnian who averaged 20.2 minutes this season for Cedevita in the Adriatic League. The 6-8 wing has long had a reputation with scouts as a potential quality scorer in the NBA. The only concern is whether he’s a good-enough athlete, and mature enough, to guard his position and flourish in general when he moves to the United States. But that concern shouldn’t keep somebody — especially a franchise with three first-round picks like Atlanta — from selecting Musa in the first round.


Pick acquired from Oklahoma City

Mitchell Robinson | N/A | C

Robinson made a mess of his college situation by enrolling at Western Kentucky and then, just two weeks later, leaving campus and asking for a release. The 7-foot forward never actually enrolled in another school — meaning he did not play competitive basketball anywhere this past season. That’s neither ideal nor smart. And it’s possibly a red flag. But there’s no guarantee it’ll cost Robinson much on draft night. In fact, it’s actually reasonable to think it could help him go in the top 20 given that he never ran the risk of being exposed in a college game before someone spends a draft pick on him.


Zhaire Smith | Texas Tech | Fr | SG

Smith is the rare one-and-done player who was a sub-100 prospect coming out of high school. It’s a remarkable story — one that features the 6-5 wing putting himself in this position by displaying top-shelf athleticism while averaging 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds for a Texas Tech team that advanced to the Elite Eight.


Pick acquired from New Orleans

Aaron Holiday | UCLA | Jr | PG

Holiday averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in 37.7 minutes this season while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range for a UCLA team that made the NCAA Tournament. His 6-6 wingspan should prove beneficial while guarding opposing point guards. His ability to consistently make perimeter jumpers means he’s a capable passer and shooter.


Anfernee Simons | IMG Academy | SG

Simons was a consensus top-10 prospect in the Class of 2018 who is eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft only because he’s one year removed from high school graduation and will turn 19 this calendar year. The 6-4 combo guard out of IMG Academy in Florida is a nice athlete who shoots it well. He probably won’t help anybody, the Pacers included, as a rookie. But Simons’ long-term future is bright.


Chandler Hutchison | Boise St. | Sr. | SF

Hutchison had the best season of his four-year college career while establishing himself as a first-round talent this season. The 6-7 Mountain West Conference star has all the tools necessary to be a quality NBA wing. He averaged 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 31 minutes for a Boise State team that won 23 times.


Pick acquired from Cleveland

Bruce Brown Jr. | Miami | Soph | SG

A lot of people projected Brown to have a breakout season this season. But it didn’t really happen considering he played more minutes and took more shots but recorded a worse percentage from both inside and outside of the arc. His free-throw percentage was also down. And he missed Miami’s final 12 games with a broken foot. So it wasn’t a great year. But, that said, the 6-3 guard remains worthy of a first-round flyer because Brown projects as the type of tough defender NBA franchises need on the perimeter.


Grayson Allen | Duke | Sr | SG

J.J. Redick is an unrestricted free agent who might not return to the Sixers. So drafting another off-guard who can shoot would make some sense. Allen is a good athlete with good size who made 273 3-pointers in his final three years of college while shooting 38.2 percent from beyond the arc. The Duke graduate should be equipped to play meaningful minutes as a rookie, even for a playoff team like Philadelphia.


Jacob Evans III | Cincinnati | Jr | SF

Evans is a do-everything wing who guards multiple positions, plays tough and consistently makes outside jumpers — evidence being how he shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range in his final two years at Cincinnati while helping the Bearcats earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He didn’t take over games often, it’s fair to note. But it’s not hard to imagine him flourishing under Brad Stevens, if only because most young players do.


Landry Shamet | Wichita St. | Soph | PG

Wichita State has made a habit of developing guards into NBA players — most notably Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Shamet should be next. The 6-4 sophomore averaged 14.9 points and 5.2 assists for a WSU team that finished the regular season 24-6. He shot 44.2 percent from 3-point range while taking nearly six 3-pointers a contest, which makes Shamet one of the best shooters in this draft and a perfect fit for Golden State’s roster.


Pick acquired from Toronto

De’Anthony Melton | Southern California | Soph | PG

Melton is a nice combo-guard prospect who was sidelined in the preseason by an ongoing FBI investigation. So that’s not ideal. But the 6-3 sophomore still has a chance to go in the first 30 picks. And if he slips into the second round, for whatever reason, multiple franchises will be trying to move up to grab him considering he’s an unselfish ball-handler who is comfortable in pick-and-roll situations. The only real concern with Melton is his jumper. He only shot 28.4 percent from beyond the arc in his one season at USC.


Pick acquired from Houston

Shake Milton | SMU | Jr | PG

Milton missed SMU’s final 11 games with a hand injury — and the Mustangs went 2-9 in his absence. So that should tell you how much he meant to what would’ve otherwise been a borderline NCAA Tournament team. Prior to the injury, the 6-6 guard was shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range and averaging a career-high 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. His ability to play on or off the ball should serve him well in the NBA.

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