By Ian Laird
Barring any trades the draft order is set for the 2018 NBA draft following the lottery this past Tuesday. While this order is unlikely to remain this way (an average of 8.3 first round picks have swapped owners on draft night in the past ten years) I decided to make a mock draft. With each pick I listed their position(s), where they played last year, and their basic stats for the 2018 season. For each team I listed what their best lineup would be if they were able to bring back everyone from the roster they had this year. With that said let’s jump into the selections.
-Note * denotes an impending free agent, ✝ denotes a team option for 2018-19, + denotes a player option for 2018-19
- 1. Suns | Deandre Ayton | C | Arizona | 20.1 ppg 11.6 rpg 1.6 apg 0.6 spg 1.9 bpg
Current Lineup For The Suns | Payton* | Booker | Warren | Bender | Len*
With Alex Len set to become a free agent and Tyson Chandler nearing the end of his contract Deandre Ayton provides a good fit for the Suns along with being the prospect most deem to be the best in this draft class. Ayton has the size and athleticism to bang with most centers in the NBA and in his one year in college showed he could be the focal point of an offense. In a league that is trending towards bigs being able to shoot the three Ayton’s 34.3% three point percentage isn’t ideal, but it comes from a small sample size (12 makes on 35 attempts), and because of his dominance down low in college Ayton didn’t necessarily have to use his outside shot too much. Given time this could develop into a deadly weapon to add alongside Ayton’s arsenal of offensive weapons.
- 2. Kings | Luka Doncic | SG | International |16.9 ppg 4.8 rpg 4.6 apg 1.2 spg 0.4 bpg
Current Lineup For The Kings | Fox | Temple+ | Bogdanovic | Labissiere | Cauley-Stein
Some have said that Doncic should go first in the draft and if he did it would be no surprise, but if he were to fall to the Kings he would make a good addition to a young roster. His experience in Euroleague and with Real Madrid makes him probably the most NBA ready prospect and he is considered by many to be the best passer in the draft. At 6’8” he would offer good size as a secondary ball handler behind De’Aaron Fox initially, although he could eventually take on more offensive responsibility as his career progresses. His size also would allow him to slot defensively against opponents playing the 1-3 and maybe even some smaller power forwards. Offensively he can create his own shot and despite a dip in his three point percentage this year he is a fairly capable shooter as suggested by his career percentage of 34.1%.
- 3. Hawks | Jaren Jackson Jr. | PF/C | Michigan State | 10.9 ppg 5.8 rpg 1.1 apg 0.6 spg 3.0 bpg
Current Lineup For The Hawks | Schroder | Bazemore | Prince | Collins | Dedmon+
This pick will likely come between Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson. Between the two Jackson would be the better fit for the Hawks because of his ability to stretch the floor better. Either of these picks would likely replace Dedmon in the lineup to create a young frontcourt tandem of with John Collins who had a superb rookie year. Pairing Jackson with Collins would put two capable rim-protectors on the floor without compromising offense as both have shown a knack as rim-runners in the pick-and-roll and both are shooting relatively well on three pointers. Jackson got in foul trouble a lot in college, but this is an issue that can be addressed over time as he continues to mature in the league.
- 4. Grizzlies | Marvin Bagley III | PF/C | Duke | 21.0 ppg 11.1 rpg 1.5 apg 0.8 spg 0.9 bpg
Current Lineup For The Grizzlies | Conley | Brooks | Evans* | Green | Gasol
After being pushed out of the top three on lottery night the Grizzlies would be more than happy to end up selecting a player that could have very possibly been in their top three anyways. Bagley could help replenish a front court that outside of Gasol lacks a clear second starter, and eventually overtake Gasol as the centerpiece of this team moving forwards. For much of the college season Bagley was downright dominant in a division that many consider to be the best in the sport. While the ability to dominate college opposition doesn’t always translate to the NBA Bagley has the physical tools and is young enough to grow in the league. Like Ayton he had a relatively low sample size for threes, but he was accurate when he chose to shoot it. That trend will need to continue in the league if he really wants to become a perennial all star.
- 5. Mavericks | Michael Porter Jr. | SF/PF | Missouri | 10.0 ppg 6.7 rpg 0.3 apg 1.0 spg 0.3 bpg
Current Lineup For The Mavericks | Smith Jr. | Matthews | Barnes | Nowitzki✝ | Noel*
Obviously with Porter there are questions of how he will recover from his back injury which ultimately required surgery. Back surgery is no joke and when he returned Porter didn’t look nearly as good as he did in high school when he was generally believed to be the number one pick. Having seen him in person during his senior year of high school and from the small amount of time he played in college it is clear the mechanics and skills are there for Porter to become an all-NBA talent and even with some lingering effects from the injury Porter would be able to utilize well-above average athleticism. For the Mavericks initially the fit might be a little awkward as they currently have Barnes and Nowitzki two of their better players already in the forward spots. Maybe they could convince Dirk to take on a 6th man role or they could have Porter that role and allow him to control the offense when the bench mob is in, either way Dirk will likely retire soon and when he does Porter will get his chance.
- 6. Magic | Trae Young | PG | Oklahoma | 27.4 ppg 3.9 rpg 8.7 apg 1.7 spg 0.3 bpg
Current Lineup For The Magic | Augustin | Fournier | Simmons | Gordon* | Vucevic
The Magic have a fairly hard decision to make with this pick as they must decide between Trae Young and Collin Sexton. I find it hard to see them taking anyone outside of these two if they do in fact choose to pay Gordon this summer and elect to keep hold of Vucevic for the final year of his contract. Between the two Trae Young would seem to fill a more pressing need due to his superior shooting which would help an NBA roster that ranked 27th in three point percentage with a paltry 35.1% all while jacking up over 29 threes a number that puts them in the top half for attempts. If the Magic choose to continue to run this type of offense acquiring better shooters is a must, and drafting Trae Young, who was often compared to Steph Curry throughout his one year of college, would almost certainly help. Young doesn’t come without risk though as he had a pretty bad slump during the months of February and March. While I’m not as bullish on Young as others he could definitely pan out to be an all-NBA talent.
- 7. Bulls | Mohamed Bamba | C | Texas | 12.9 ppg 10.5 rpg 0.5 apg 0.8 spg 3.7 bpg
Current Lineup For The Bulls | Dunn | Lavine* | Holiday | Markkanen | Lopez
The Bulls should be looking to replace an aging Robin Lopez who doesn’t fit their timeline currently and is backed up by Amir Asik and Cristiano Felicio. Bamba would fit that description and could possibly become the defensive anchor for this young Bulls team that is looking to rebuild. With a freakish wingspan of 7’9” to go along with his 6’11” height Bamba can become an elite rim protector. His offensive game clearly needs work and for now developing a post game and a short to mid-range jumper would be of significant help. Another issue could potentially be rebounding, because while he gobbled up boards in college this was mostly due to his reach and athleticism. He would rebound by rising up above other players rather than planting himself in front of someone and boxing them out. In the NBA this won’t work as well and Bamba will have to learn to find a body when a shot goes up.
- 8. Cleveland (via Nets) | Collin Sexton | PG | Alabama | 19.2 ppg 3.8 rpg 3.6 apg 0.8 spg 0.1 bpg
Current Lineup For The Cavaliers | Hill | Smith | Korver | James+ | Love
The path for the Cavs looks fairly clear as they will likely take whoever remains between the duo of Sexton and Young. The Cavs need point guard help badly since George Hill will be 32 next season and has had a history of injuries and the other guards on the roster aren’t exactly inspiring (the point guard situation in Cleveland was so bad that Jose Calderon started 32…yes 32 games this season). I have them taking Sexton because I believe the Magic will take Young first. In Sexton the Cavs will be getting an uber athletic point guard who attacks the rim relentlessly, and shows promise in terms of playmaking. The elephant in the room for Cleveland is whether or not LeBron will choose to return in the offseason. If he chooses to do so Sexton might have to come off of the bench because he is a non-threat in terms of shooting and would cramp floor-space if he played with LeBron. If LeBron does leave though getting Sexton big minutes leading the offense would become an important part of the potential rebuild the Cavs would have to endure.
- 9. Knicks | Wendell Carter Jr. | PF/C | Duke | 13.5 ppg 9.1 rpg 2.0 apg 0.8 spg 2.1 bpg
Current Lineup For The Knicks | Mudiay | Lee | Hardaway Jr. | Porzingis | Kanter+
With Kanter saying that he is likely to opt-out and look for a long-term contract from the Knicks, New York could be left with a hole in the front court if they don’t see Kanter in their plans for the future. Porzingis’ future also seems somewhat uncertain as there are reports that he might sit out the entire 2018-19 season, and if that is the case who knows how he will look when he returns after missing one and a half seasons. If that is the case Wendell Carter could be plugged straight into the starting lineup for yet another year of rebuilding. Carter is the less athletic, but more polished of the two Duke bigs, as his feel and shooting touch are more refined than Bagley who is much more explosive. Carter’s skills translate well to the NBA and he looks like he is NBA ready immediately when he is drafted. Carter would be a solid pick for the Knicks and could become an integral part of the Knicks core along with Porzingis and Hardaway Jr.
- 10. 76ers (via Lakers) | Lonnie Walker IV | SG | Miami | 11.5 ppg 2.6 rpg 1.9 apg 0.9 spg 0.5 bpg
Current Lineup For The 76ers | Simmons | Redick* | Covington | Saric | Embiid
Walker would provide some much needed shooting for a sixers team that was disappointingly bounced from the playoffs. Walker also has a large frame that he can utilize to get to the rim with ease and would allow him to guard multiple positions. Walker has shown promise as a defender, but is far from a finished product on that end, he will need time to grow on both sides of the ball and might not take on a large role right away. If the 76ers do bring back JJ Redick or capture a certain big name free agent from Akron then Walker would likely take on a bench role which would be good for him because he could continue to develop and learn from the savvy veterans ahead of him.
- 11. Hornets | Mikal Bridges | SF/SG | Villanova | 17.7 ppg 5.3 rpg 1.9 apg 1.5 spg 1.1 bpg
Current Lineup For The Hornets | Walker | Batum | Kidd-Gilchrist | Williams | Howard
The Kidd-Gilchrist experiment clearly isn’t working (he shot 36% on jumpers last year) as he has failed repeatedly to develop any sort of offensive game outside of occasional cutting to the rim. Bridges would bring more to the table offensively without requiring the ball to score, and while it is unlikely he will equal MKG’s defensive output he would still be a solid wing defender who could shift up or down a position or two defensively. As a catch and shoot option Bridges could develop into a productive starter on opening night for Charlotte who sorely need to take advantage of Kemba Walker’s production while they have him on a relatively cheap contract if they want any hope of reaching the playoffs.
- 12. Clippers (via Pistons) | Miles Bridges | SF | Michigan State | 17.1 ppg 7.0 rpg 2.7 apg 0.6 spg 0.8 bpg
Current Lineup For The Clippers | Beverly | Bradley* | Gallinari | Harris | Jordan+
Bridges made the decision last year to return to college despite many believing he would of been one of the first players to go in the 2017 draft. While he may have matured as a player the extra year doesn’t hide the fact that at 6’6” Bridges will be undersized at the two forward positions. His athleticism might make up for some of these deficiencies, but he will have to develop a more consistent jumper to really make himself a threat in the league. As for the fit the small forward position has been a revolving door for the Clippers for many years and as last year showed Gallinari’s health cannot be relied upon. Bridges would provide some depth immediately to an area of need.
- 13. Clippers | Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | PG | Kentucky | 14.4 ppg 4.1 rpg 5.1 apg 1.6 spg 0.5 bpg
Gilgeous-Alexander burst onto the scene for the Kentucky Wildcats outperforming more highly touted players like Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo. His length allowed him to smother opponents and he often directed Kentucky’s offense in the half court. He was fairly good at getting to the basket in college too, but he will need to add weight so he can absorb contact at the rim. After CP3’s departure the point guard position was a disappointment for the Clippers as both Teodosic and Beverly were sidelined for much of the season. Gilgeous-Alexander would provide a long term solution who could sit behind the two veteran guards as he grows and strengthens himself.
- 14. Nuggets | Kevin Knox | SF/PF | Kentucky | 15.6 ppg 5.4 rpg 1.4 apg 0.8 spg 0.3 bpg
Current Lineup For The Nuggets | Murray | Harris | Chandler+ | Millsap | Jokic✝
Drafting Knox here for the Nuggets is based more off of taking the best player available rather than drafting for a need. The Nuggets already have a roster full of forwards with players like Millsap, Trey Lyles, and Kenneth Faried all under contract for next year, and Chandler with a player option for $12.8 million. Knox might struggle to break into the rotation right away but he could offer something as a small ball power forward or a more traditional small forward. The foundation is there for a good jumpshot which, if it improves, could turn him into a high scoring forward. There is still work to do defensively, but his length and size bode well for his potential defensively.
- 15. Wizards | Robert Williams | PF/C | Texas A&M | 10.4 ppg 9.2 rpg 1.4 apg 0.8 spg 2.6 bpg
Current Lineup For The Wizards | Wall | Beal | Porter Jr. | Morris | Gortat
The Wizards have a lack of young frontcourt talent as there rotation there consisted of Gortat, Morris, Mike Scott, and Ian Mahinmi. Williams at 6’10” might be a bit undersized for a center, but his athleticism and length might make up for some of that disadvantage. Offensively he won’t add much outside of some athletic finishes down low or on the block. Williams’ real strength is in rebounding and rim protection where he could become a high level talent.
- 16. Suns (via Heat) | Troy Brown | PG/SG | Oregon | 11.3 ppg 6.2 rpg 3.2 apg 1.6 spg 0.2 bpg
Following the departure of Bledsoe earlier in the season the Suns will be looking for a starting caliber guard to pair alongside Devin Booker. Troy Brown could possibly fill that role, and act as more of an off ball guard if the organization wants Booker to take on more ball-handling duties. Brown’s defensive potential could also allow him to take the harder matchup defensively so Booker can hide on the lesser of the two opponent guards which would allow him to focus almost solely on the offensive end. Brown won’t turn 19 until over a month after the NBA draft giving the Suns plenty of time to develop his offensive game. If Brown’s jumper becomes more consistent and he fills his defensive potential he could easily become a 10 year starter.
- 17. Bucks | Khyri Thomas | SG | Creighton | 15.1 ppg 4.4 rpg 2.8 apg 1.7 spg 0.2 bpg
Current Lineup For The Bucks | Bledsoe | Middleton | Antetokounmpo | Parker* | Henson
The Bucks lack shooting and if they want Giannis to continue to work as a point forward then they need to add more shooters around him to prevent defensives from clogging the lane on his drives. Thomas is a more than capable shooter and could be immediately plugged into the rotation coming off the bench. At 22 there will be less time for the team to develop him, but if they choose to draft him the Bucks will only focus on developing his game as his body seems NBA ready at 6’3” and over 200 lbs. If he grows defensively he could turn into a decent 3 and D starter.
- 18. Spurs | Dzanan Musa | SF | International | 10.5 ppg 3.2 rpg 0.9 apg 0.7 spg 0.3 bpg
Current Lineup For The Spurs | Murray | Green+ | Leonard | Aldridge | Gasol
Musa has been and elite scorer in Europe with his per 36 minutes scoring nearing 20 pts. With the uncertainty around Kawhi and Green possibly choosing to leave in free agency Musa would fill a position of need for the Spurs, while giving them a potential go-to scorer in the future. If Kawhi does return though Musa could provide a nice second scoring option or be threat off the bench when Kawhi sits. His limits athletically might cap his potential lower than other first round prospects, but he is a proven scorer who could help most rosters immediately.
- 19. Hawks (via Timberwolves) | Zhaire Smith | SG | Texas Tech | 11.3 ppg 5.0 rpg 1.8 apg 1.1 spg 1.1 bpg
Smith showed incredible athleticism in his one year of college which would allow him to contribute as a slasher and defensively right away for the Hawks. While he shot well from three in college he didn’t shoot enough (18 for 40) to inspire confidence in his shot. If he is truly to produce in the NBA his jumper must become better so he isn’t hesitant to shoot. Smith would be able to improve his shooting behind Kent Bazemore who only has two years left on his current contract, one of which is a player option.
- 20. Timberwolves (via Thunder) | Anfernee Simons | SG/PG | IMG Academy
Current Lineup For The Timberwolves | Teague | Wiggins | Butler | Gibson | Towns✝
Wiggins was disappointing following his massive extension and if his progress continues to stagnate the T-Wolves could attempt to find alternative options further down the road. If this is the case they could look to draft a 2-guard this year and develop them over the next year or two. Simons fits this role as he isn’t expected to contribute right away, and that is just fine for the Timberwolves with Wiggins and Teague set to start next year and possibly 2019-20 (Teague has a player option that year). They will need to be patient with Simons who has shown a good shooting touch, but is not ready for the NBA physically or mentally yet.
- 21. Jazz | Mitchell Robinson | C | W. Kentucky | (Left school and without ever playing)
Current Lineup For The Jazz | Rubio | Mitchell | Ingles | Favors* | Gobert
With Favors possibly departing in free agency the Jazz could be looking for another player to pair in the front court with Gobert or come of the bench for him. Mitchell was a top freshman recruit last year, and many were surprised when he enrolled at Western Kentucky instead of some of the top tier schools who were recruiting him. Things got more interesting when Robinson left school and didn’t enroll anywhere else electing to focus on preparing for the NBA. Since he never played in college it is unknown how he will do against high level competition and his decision making is a major red flag for many teams. Still he was a top recruit for a reason and his potential could easily persuade a team to draft him.
- 22. Bulls (via Pelicans) | Gary Trent Jr. | SG | Duke | 14.5 ppg 4.2 rpg 1.4 apg 1.2 spg 0.1 bpg
Trent is an elite shooter and could make an interesting perimeter trio with Dunn and Lavine although it would be shaky defensively. He will have to get used to being less ball dominant in the NBA because at his best he will likely be behind Lavine, Dunn, and Markkanen as a scoring option.Trent doesn’t have the length to become a high level defender, but if he becomes even an average defender his shooting prowess could allow him to start.
- 23. Pacers | Aaron Holiday | PG | UCLA | 20.3 ppg 3.7 rpg 5.8 apg 1.3 spg 0.2 bpg
Current Lineup For The Pacers | Collison | Oladipo | Bogdanovic | Young+ | Turner
Holiday has good offensive potential as he is quick off the bounce and has improved as a shooter throughout his three year college career. He is a bit undersized, but has good length to help defensively and is a good, but not great playmaker. As one of the older prospects in the draft what you see with Holiday is likely what you will get as his ceiling and potential will likely be somewhat limited compared to younger prospects.
- 24. Trail Blazers | Landry Shamet | PG/SG | Wichita State | 14.9 ppg 3.2 rpg 5.2 apg 0.7 spg 0.2 bpg
Current Lineup For The Trail Blazers | Lillard | McCollum | Harkless | Aminu | Nurkic
Shamet is yet another Wichita State guard who will likely reach the NBA without top tier athleticism. Shamet instead has gotten this far by relying on a silky jumpshot and a high IQ that let him direct Wichita State’s offense. His low athleticism and strength will make him a liability defensively, but playing alongside McCollum and Lillard they will likely be targeted just as much if not more than him.
- 25. Lakers (via Cavaliers) | Omari Spellman | PF | Villanova | 10.9 ppg 8.0 rpg 0.8 apg 0.7 spg 1.5 bpg
Current Lineup For The Lakers | Ball | Caldwell-Pope* | Ingram | Randle* | Lopez*
A good shooter for the 4 position Spellman would fit right in with the way the NBA is progressing as a pick and pop option. He showed enough defensively that he could possibly hold his own in the post or against bigger player as a small ball center. He might be slightly redundant alongside Kyle Kuzma, but both are young and can learn to play off of one another.
- 26. 76ers | Jontay Porter | PF/C | Missouri | 9.9 ppg 6.8 rpg 2.2 apg 0.8 spg 1.7 bpg
The younger of the two Porter brothers played well in his brothers absence. Jontay is a well rounded prospect who offensively can shoot the three, post up on the block, and finish down low. He isn’t the most athletic player which will limit him defensively. A good young player overall he will have to continue to refine his game to be able to contribute consistently.
- 27. Celtics | Chandler Hutchinson | SG/SF | Boise State | 20.0 ppg 7.7 rpg 3.5 rpg 1.5 spg 0.3 bpg
Current Lineup For The Celtics | Irving | Brown | Hayward | Tatum | Horford
A good scorer both at the rim and from outside Hutchinson could be an immediate contributor on the wing. As a senior he is one of the more NBA ready prospects though his athleticism isn’t ideal and playing for Boise State he hasn’t had to face top tier competition consistently in college.
- 28. Warriors | Donte DiVincenzo | SG | Villanova | 13.4 ppg 4.8 rpg 3.5 apg 1.1 spg 0.2 bpg
Current Lineup For The Warriors | Curry | Thompson | Durant+ | Green | McGee*
DiVincenzo will definitely benefit from his excellent title game performance where he scored 31 points off the bench. He is a good shooter and showed some ability defensively, giving hope that he could become a 3 and D player which is exactly what the Warriors look for in their wings. He might struggle to keep up with bigger more athletic guards defensively until he bulks up, and he will have to win over the locker room wherever he goes due to his twitter fiasco.
- 29. Nets (via Raptors) | Hamidou Diallo | SG | Kentucky | 10.0 ppg 3.6 rpg 1.2 apg 0.8 spg 0.4 bpg
Current Lineup For The Nets | Russell✝ | Crabbe | Hollis-Jefferson✝ | Carroll | Allen
Diallo had a disappointing 2018 season with Kentucky, but his athleticism and high potential won’t turn away to many teams. His athleticism provides a good base to build upon, and his shooting which was shaky at best will likely improve. Diallo will likely be a long term project which won’t be a problem for the Nets who are in the middle of a long reuilding process.
- 30. Hawks (via Rockets) | Jalen Brunson | PG | Villanova | 18.9 ppg 3.1 rpg 4.6 apg 0.9 spg 0.0 bpg
With Schroder expressing frustration with the current state of the Hawks they could be looking at drafting a potential replacement for him in this draft. Brunson could be an ideal fit as he was the unquestioned leader of the Wildcat’s championship team and could help lead this young Hawks’ team. He also showed an ability to score at all levels though he will be targeted defensively because he is undersized.
10 other prospects to keep an eye on:
Keita Bates-Diop, Grayson Allen, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Devonte Graham, Malik Newman, Shake Milton, Elie Okobo, Bruce Brown, Moritz Wagner, Chimezie Metu