With the draft order officially set and the Combine behind us, less than a month remains until the 2018 NBA Draft. Plenty can change over the next few weeks, but here’s how I envision the first 14 picks playing out, with the top two picks unchanged from my initial mock draft.
1. Phoenix Suns
DeAndre Ayton | C | Arizona
Assuming the Suns hold onto this pick, which seems likely but isn’t a guarantee, they’ll almost certainly take one of Ayton or Doncic. GM Ryan McDonough hasn’t tipped his hand yet, and the debate will likely wage on until close to draft night. While neither player is a lock to be a superstar, the Suns should still feel really good about their chances to land a franchise cornerstone and long-term running mate for Devin Booker.
2. Sacramento Kings
Luka Doncic | G | Real Madrid (Slovenia)
There have been whispers that if the Suns pass on Doncic, the Kings and Hawks could follow suit. While that would be a very Kings-y thing to do, I can’t see a team run by Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic passing on the best European prospect in recent memory. Nationality aside, Doncic is a top-two talent in the draft, so if Sacramento does ultimately decide to go in another direction, there will be no shortage of teams reaching out to explore the possibility of moving up.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Marvin Bagley | F | Duke
If Sacramento passes on Doncic, it’s hard to imagine the Hawks would do the same given how perfect of a fit he’d be, at least on paper, but for the sake of argument we’ll assume Doncic is off the board. Jaren Jackson probably makes the most sense here, but this mock is about what I think will happen, not what should happen. Admittedly, I’m lower than others on Bagley, but it’s not inconceivable that he could develop into a perennial All-Star in the right system. He’s not the greatest fit alongside promising rookie John Collins, who has a similar skill set, but at this point in what could be a long rebuilding process, Atlanta is all about stockpiling high-upside, young assets.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson | F | Michigan State
The ideal situation for Memphis would be Doncic slipping out of the top-three. If that doesn’t happen, things will get interesting. As the only non-rebuilding team in the top-eight, the Grizzlies are the team I could envision trading down or trading out of the lottery altogether if the right package is on the table. Memphis still has a playoff window with the Gasol/Conley core, and while Jackson or Mo Bamba would help bridge the gap to the post-Grit-N-Grind era, the Grizzlies -- if they’re not in love with anyone left on the board -- could move the No. 4 pick in exchange for more-immediate help. For the sake of this mock, though, we’ll assume they go with the best player available and take Jackson.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Mo Bamba | C | Texas
Bamba didn’t participate in drills or scrimmages at the Draft Combine, but he still managed to help his stock by recording the longest wingspan in the history of the event. The freshman’s offensive game is still very much a work in progress, but he has the foundation of a reliable jumper for a player of his size, and his athleticism and fluidity are difficult to ignore. Bamba is more of a risk than some of the other elite prospects, but his ceiling is as high as any player’s in this draft, and he fits the type of rim-running big the Mavs should look to pair with Dennis Smith.
6. Orlando Magic
Michael Porter, Jr. | F | Missouri
Assuming they re-sign Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a pair of promising young forwards, but that won’t stop them from adding another. Porter has the ceiling to be the best scorer in the draft, and while his back remains a concern, he’ll have a month’s worth of workouts to prove he’s still the same player some considered the favorite to go No. 1 seven months ago. Point guard is a bigger need for the Magic, so Trae Young and Collin Sexton will no doubt get heavy consideration here, but Young feels like too much of a gamble for a team that desperately needs to hit on this pick.
7. Chicago Bulls
Wendell Carter | F/C | Duke
Porter is probably the best fit for the Bulls, and they’ll be crossing their fingers that Orlando talks itself into a point guard on draft night. But with Porter off the board, things get a bit more complicated. It’s always difficult to balance fit versus need at this point in the draft, but the Bulls look to be set at guard, so they’ll go with Carter, who fills a need in the frontcourt and makes for a nice fit next to Lauri Markkanen. Carter is a better defender, but both players can step out and space the floor. After missing the playoffs for just the third time since 2004, Chicago would enter next season with an impressive young core of Carter, Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via BRO)
Trae Young | G | Oklahoman
This is the first time in either LeBron era that the Cavs have had a truly valuable first-round pick. Of course, the stakes would have been raised considerably had it jumped into the top-three, but Cleveland will still have an interesting call to make. If history is any indication, they won’t know LeBron’s plans by draft night (June 21), so they’ll likely have to make the pick with the long-term future of the franchise in mind. Young is the ultimate risk/reward in this draft, and while I think he’ll struggle to provide the level of offensive production necessary to offset his extreme defensive liabilities, Young would at least give Cleveland a new face-of-the-franchise should James skip town.
Even with the pick staying at No. 8, a trade remains very much in play, particularly if: 1. The Cavs believe they have a realistic chance to keep James; and, 2. Young is still on the board. For as risky as he is, there will be teams that fall in love with Young’s freewheeling game and convince themselves he could have a Curry-like impact at the next level.
9. New York Knicks
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | G | Kentucky
The Knicks go with a point guard for the second straight year with the goal of developing a long, versatile backcourt of the future. Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t a perfect fit next to Frank Ntilikina, but he’s already a good spot-up shooter and would give the Knicks one of the best long-term defensive backcourts in the league.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via LAL)
Mikal Bridges | G/F | Villanova
Who knows what the Sixers’ roster will look like two months from now, but as things stand in late-May, Bridges makes the most sense. After adding Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli at the deadline, the Sixers were one the deepest teams in the postseason, but both players are free agents this summer, as is J.J. Redick. One of the most NBA-ready prospects in the lottery, Bridges would be a cost-effective replacement on the wing.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Collin Sexton | G | Alabama
Sexton measured in a bit shorter than expected at the Combine, though his 6’6” wingspan and relentless motor should help compensate. The Hornets have one of the bleakest cap situations in the league over the next few years, and with a top-down rebuild likely on the horizon, Sexton would enter as the first key piece in that process.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via DET)
Lonnie Walker IV | G | Miami
Holding back-to-back picks, the Clippers will be a candidate to move up a few spots if a player they like falls. Assuming they stay put, Walker makes sense as one of the highest-upside prospects left on the board. His body of work at Miami was a mixture of up-and-down stretches, but he has the athleticism, length (6’10” wingspan), and slashing ability to develop into a very good combo guard down the road.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
Robert Williams | C/F | Texas A&M
Williams’ decision to skip the Combine was somewhat of a surprise but could also be viewed as an indication that his camp feels strongly about his chances to go in the lottery. A rangy, athletic big, Williams closed the year with a strong run in the NCAA Tournament, but he was mostly inconsistent during the regular season and didn’t demonstrate much improvement as a shooter (0-12 3PT, 47% FT) after an impressive freshman campaign. Even so, his upside as a rim-runner and shot-blocker (7’5” wingspan) will be difficult to ignore.
14. Denver Nuggets
Kevin Knox | F | Kentucky
Denver has a nice core in place, but they have to start planning for the future with Will Barton set to hit the open market this summer, as well both Paul Millsap and Wilson Chandler, who has a player option for $12 millin next season, moving into the latter stages of their primes. Knox may not be ready to contribute right away, but his athleticism, length and offensive versatility fit the prototype of the modern NBA wing.