Final NBA Mock Draft
The 2018 NBA Draft finally gets underway Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Our staff makes first-round predictions below:
1. Suns - DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
In a draft loaded with potential, DeAndre Ayton is the safest pick to make an immediate impact at the highest level. Despite Arizona’s early March exit, Ayton averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in his lone season with the Wildcats, en route to winning both Freshman and Player of the Year in the Pac-12. His freak athleticism and strong ability in the post will give any big man problems, and his 7’1 frame will blend well with Phoenix’s young backcourt of Devin Booker, Elfrid Payton and Josh Jackson. For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009, Ayton could be the lifeline the Suns need to return to relevance. -Tom Shively
2. Kings - Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia
Arguably the best player in the draft, Luka Doncic has already proven with Real Madrid that he can be a star. After winning Euroleague MVP and capturing a Spanish League title this year, there is nothing left for him to prove in Spain. His effortless scoring and elite passing will impact the Kings from day one in whatever role they need him to play alongside De’Aaron Fox. - David Arroyo
3. Hawks - Jaren Jackson Jr, C, Michigan State
The Hawks are fully invested in a rebuild, and Jaren Jackson will give them a high upside big that they can pair with John Collins their first-round pick a season ago. Jackson has modern day big man tools as he can stretch the floor (40% from 3 last season), defend the rim (3 blocks per game), and has shown the ability to defend on the perimeter when switched on to a guard in the pick and roll. - Jerome Taylor
4. Grizzlies, Mo Bamba, C, Texas
The Mike Conley-Marc Gasol tandem has been a talented duo for Memphis. Yet, with both stars over the age of 30, this is the perfect time to take a chance on Bamba. The former Longhorns’ big man might have the highest ceiling in this draft, with measurables that rank off the charts. The 7-foot-1 center has a wingspan of 7’10”, contributing to the 20-year old’s elite shot-blocking (3.7 BPG) and rebounding (10.4) abilities. With a developing perimeter jump shot (28% on 3PT FG) and ball-handling skills that are better than your average big man, Bamba reminds me of Clint Capela with handles. A raw offensive prospect at this point in his development, Bamba could end up becoming the best two-way player in this draft class. -Mitch Stewart
5. Mavericks - Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke
Landing Bagley at five would be an absolute steal for Dallas. People forget that Bagley re-classified to the 2017 high school recruiting class to land at Duke a year earlier, and he still averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds on his way to ACC Player of the Year honors. At 6’11, 235 lbs. he is incredibly fluid and explosive for his size and has a budding offensive skill set. His jumper keeps improving and will only get better with time and repetition. He has to improve his defensive awareness, but that should improve as he continues to mature. Bagley has a chance to be the best player in the draft and a perennial all-star. -Will Desautelle
6. Magic - Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Taking the college basketball world by storm in the first couple months of the season, Trae Young quickly turned into a household name for the Sooners. Young led the NCAA in both points per game (27.9) and assists per game (8.8) and was a consensus First-Team All-American. However, Young did drop in production once he reached Big 12 play, which many attribute to his inability to deliver against strong defenses under pressure. Whether or not this is true, there is no better environment for Young to grow without pressure than Orlando, a team in desperate need of some excitement that doesn’t involve Aaron Gordon dunking over a mascot on a hoverboard. While his size (6’2, 180 lbs.) has called into question his ability to be effective at the next level, his shooting ability is through the roof, even drawing some comparisons to Warriors star Stephen Curry. We’ll see about that. -Tom Shively
7. Bulls - Wendell Carter Jr, F, Duke
Paired alongside Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter can really meet his full potential. Carter needs to continue to build out a perimeter game Markkanen already has, allowing him to be physical around the basket where his strengths lay. Carter will be an elite rim protector and another great young prospect for the Bulls to build around. - David Arroyo
8. Cavaliers - Michael Porter Jr, F, Missouri
The Cavaliers’ offseason is primarily consumed by trying to retain the services of LeBron James and that outcome is far from a sure thing. By taking Porter the Cavs will be taking a risk on a player who only played 53 minutes of college basketball due to a back injury. But standing at 6’10” Porter was highly touted in high school, for his size, athleticism and versatile scoring ability. Porter’s health and defense are big question marks, but if James decides to leave this offseason Porter’s offensive skill set can make him a centerpiece of a Cleveland rebuild. - Jerome Taylor
9. Knicks - Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
New York has a lot of needs, with a roster full of average veterans and journeymen. However, they have one of the best young big men in the league in Kristaps Porzingis (when he can stay healthy), and 2017 lottery pick Frank Ntilikina will have had a full offseason to grow at point guard. Knox looks the part of today’s common two-way wing player, standing in at 6-foot-9 with a wingspan greater than seven feet. He’s not he the most explosive athlete, but he can knock down shots at all three levels offensively. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a Calipari disciple, and I think Knox has the potential to be the type of player that fellow Kentucky alum Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was supposed to develop into in the NBA. -Mitch Stewart
10. 76ers - Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova
The Sixers could definitely trade out of this pick, but assuming they keep it Bridges is a great fit for them. He offers great size, length and athleticism for an NBA wing. Those traits will allow him to guard one through four at the next level, and the Sixers love to switch on everything. His shooting and overall scoring improved each year he was at Villanova. If he can continue to round out his offensive game, he will be a very nice complementary two-way player.
11. Hornets - Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State
Shocking many by deciding to stay a second year in East Lansing, Bridges really didn’t improve his draft stock all that much. The 6’7, 225-pound forward was outshined by fellow lottery pick Jaren Jackson Jr., and didn’t ultimately make any significant strides defensively. However, he still has tremendous range for his size on the offensive end and can have success both beyond the arc and in the paint. A 38 percent shooter from deep, Bridges is exactly the kind of hybrid player most NBA teams are looking for. -Tom Shively
12. Clippers - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Gilgeous-Alexander can play either the one or the two, making him a good fit alongside Milos Teodosic. Both of these are willing and quality passers as well which could help to instill a culture of high basketball IQ from the other team inside the staples center. Gilgeous-Alexander needs to improve as a shooter, but he can step in from day one and slot in well next to Teodosic. - David Arroyo
13. Clippers - Robert Williams, F, Texas A&M
With uncertainty surrounding DeAndre Jordan as he hasn’t indicated what he plans to do with his player option, the Clippers may begin looking to a future without him. Enter Robert Williams, as one of the best rim-running big men in college last season he averaged 2.6 blocks per game and his 7’5” wingspan and impressive leaping ability makes him one of the better lob targets in the draft. If Jordan returns to the Clippers, Williams will be a rim protector and roll option off the bench. - Jerome Taylor
14. Nuggets - Lonnie Walker IV, G, Miami
Denver has drafted their fair share of backcourt prospects over recent years, but they’ve done a solid job of developing most of them into good NBA players. However, veteran Will Barton and 35-year old Devin Harris will both become free agents on July 1. Walker could improve his game slowly behind the likes of offensive-minded starters Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, where his athleticism and length could make him a valuable defender for the Nuggets. However, the former Hurricane guard needs to improve his ball-handling skills and make better shot selections. Awareness will be the only thing that can hold back Walker from becoming yet another talented young guard to play in the Mile High city. -Mitch Stewart
15. Wizards - Zhaire Smith, G, Texas Tech
The Wizards need to add some depth in their backcourt to take some pressure off John Wall and Bradley Beal. Smith is still just 18 years old and has plenty of room to grow both physically and skill wise. He already has great burst to beat defenders off the dribble and can finish at the rim in traffic. He’s also a disruptive defender, who is nimble enough to contain guards and can hold his own against hefty wings. He shows potential to develop into a plus perimeter shooter, having shot 45 percent from deep on a low number of attempts this past season at Texas Tech.
16. Suns - Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State
17. Bucks - Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton
18. Spurs - Troy Brown, G, Oregon
19. Hawks - Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA
20. Timberwolves - Collin Sexton, G, Alabama
21. Jazz - Elie Okobo, PG, France
22. Bulls - Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova
23. Pacers - Kevin Huerter, G, Maryland
24. Trailblazers - Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College
25. Lakers - De’Anthony Melton, PG, USC
26. 76ers - Josh Okogie, G, Georgia Tech
27. Celtics - Grayson Allen, G, Duke
28. Warriors - Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan
29. Nets - Jalen Brunson, G, Villanova
30. Hawks - Chandler Hutchinson, F, Boise State
David Arroyo is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Shively is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jerome Taylor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will Desautelle is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Mitch Stewart is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.