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NBA Draft 2018: Predicting the First Round

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1. Suns — DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

Many believe that DeAndre Ayton will be the first overall pick and for good reason. Ayton is the best fit for Phoenix AND the best overall talent in the draft. Phoenix is currently starting 35-year-old Tyson Chandler, and their next best big man is either Dragan Bender or Alex Len, but either way their frontcourt doesn’t look pretty.

The Suns already have a good core of wing players with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, so drafting another 6’6” wing player doesn’t seem like a great idea if they are committed to those two players. Ayton would be able to learn from one of the game’s best defensive centers in Chandler before Chandler becomes a free agent/retires after the 2018-19 season. By combining a newfound knowledge for elite defense in the NBA with his refined offensive skills, Ayton could be a core piece to Phoenix rising from the ashes.

2. Kings — Marvin Bagley III, Duke

The Sacramento Kings need reliable talent. However, rumors have circulated that Luka Doncic will stay in Europe if he is drafted by the Kings, because he doesn’t want to play for a franchise that is as bad as Sacramento. Therefore, the Kings will take arguably better talent in Marvin Bagley III. The current big men for the Kings are as follows: a 24-year-old Willie Cauley-Stein, who is relatively unproven, Kosta Koufos, who has never averaged more than 8 ppg in 8 years in the league, Zach Randolph, who is 36 and a shell of his former self, and Harry Giles, who hasn’t played a minute in the NBA yet.

Bagley may be 19, but he is athletic and has a LOT of potential if he can put on more muscle and learn to block shots at the elite level. Offensively, this kid is everything the Kings could hope for.

3. Hawks — Luka Doncic, Slovenia

Doncic was considered by many to be a potential number one pick, but I think that his unwillingness to play for Sacramento will have him fall only to the number three overall pick. Doncic is a young 19 years old, but he plays like a 6’6” Ben Simmons, if Simmons had a jump shot! He would fit in well with the Hawks, as they may even try to feature him as a part of their rebuild. For now, Dennis Schroder, John Collins, and Kent Bazemore will give Doncic the ability to continue to build off of his 4.6 assists per game he averaged this year for Real Madrid.

4. Grizzlies — Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan St.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is a talented PF out of Michigan State, where he averaged just under 11 ppg, and 5.8 rebounds per game. However, Jackson Jr. makes his mark on the defensive end, where he averaged 3 blocks per game in his only year as a Spartan, which is a feat that just may have something to do with his 7’ 4” wingspan. Jackson Jr.’s defense makes him an upgrade over current PF JaMychal Green and compliments the offensive game of C Marc Gasol nicely.

5. Mavericks — Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

This pick may not be as common across other mock drafts you see, but hear me out. The Dallas Mavericks have the ability to give out a max contract this offseason, and I suspect they will target a big man in free agency, such as DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan, or Julius Randle. Therefore, it makes no sense for them to take guys like Mohamed Bamba or Wendell Carter Jr. if they are able to net a productive big man in free agency.

Michael Porter Jr. is a very untested pick, and selecting him is a risk given his VERY limited minutes in college due to a back injury. If the Mavericks take Michael Porter Jr., they can let Doug McDermott walk in free agency and give Porter Jr. the 23 minutes per game they gave McDermott. The Mavericks will not be instant title contenders anyways, so taking a risk on Porter Jr. and signing a big man in free agency is the best option for the future.

Mohamed Bamba

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

6. Magic — Mohamed Bamba, Texas

The potential loss of Aaron Gordon and the lackluster rookie contribution of Jonathan Isaac leaves the Magic craving one thing: talent. Therefore, I think the Magic go with the best player still available in the draft with this pick, and I believe that guy is Mohamed Bamba. Bamba averaged almost four blocks in his only year at Texas and will look to continue a tradition of elite frontcourt players in Orlando. 

7. Bulls — Wendell Carter Jr., Duke

I like this pick for two reasons. The first is that the Bulls are getting exceptional offensive and defensive talent in Carter Jr., who averaged 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game at Duke. The other reason I like this pick is because the Bulls will likely be drafting at this position again (at best) next season. Therefore, drafting a talented rookie who will replace current center Robin Lopez by 2020 is a step in the right direction for Bulls fans who will need to learn to be patient for a few more years.

8. Cavaliers (via Nets) — Mikal Bridges, Villanova

It may not be the most flashy pick for the defending Eastern Conference champions, but I believe it is the correct one for them to make. Bridges played three years at Villanova and won two championships. Therefore, this kid is already well-tested and, should LeBron stay, be able to provide some much needed help to the King in the quest for another title. Should LeBron leave, Bridges will be the next SF for the Cavaliers as they try to figure out what to do for the future.

9. Knicks — Trae Young, Oklahoma

The Knicks are a team that are similar to the Yankees in that they try to hit home runs. Trae Young proved he is, statistically, the best offensive player in the draft. However, to expect him to be the next Steph Curry is delusional, so I think the Knicks pick Trae Young higher than he probably should be.

10. 76ers (via Lakers) — Miles Bridges, Michigan St.

It’s one thing to convince LeBron to join your team and it is another thing to be able to afford him. If the 76ers are serious about LeBron, then they need to get rid of both JJ Redick and Amir Johnson. However, given his contract of $10 million and his poor performance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, I think the 76ers may look to move Covington as well. This leaves the SF position open for a guy like Bridges to provide young and cheap talent. Bridges shot 37.5% from three-point range in his two years at Michigan St. and could fit in well with LeBron James’ style of play, if he can knock down shots at that rate in the NBA.

11. Hornets — Collin Sexton, Alabama

The Hornets must know at this point that star point guard Kemba Walker will probably move on after next season. So why not draft his replacement who can learn for a year behind the All-Star point guard? Sexton averaged 19.2 points per game at Alabama and may be the guy the Hornets turn to when they lose Walker after next season or before the trade deadline.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

12. Clippers (via Pistons) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky

The Clippers are in a unique position in that they have the 12th and 13th picks back-to-back. Assuming they do not try to trade into the top ten with the picks (perhaps with Cleveland?) I believe they will take SGA at either 12 or 13. SGA is competent on the offensive end, but his 7’ wingspan with his 6’ 6” frame makes him a defensive nightmare, considering he is also a point guard. Look for him to be an Avery Bradley replacement for Doc Rivers’ squad.

13. Clippers — Robert Williams, Texas A&M

The Clippers will most likely lose DeAndre Jordan to free agency this offseason. Williams has potential to be a vacuum on the boards like Jordan, because he was able to average 9.2 rebounds per game in his sophomore season with Texas A&M. He also can provide good rim protection, as he was able to send away 2.6 shots per game last season as well.

14. Nuggets — Kevin Knox, Kentucky

The Denver Nuggets may see both SF Wilson Chandler and PF Darrell Arthur leave in free agency. So why not draft a player who can play both SF and PF? Knox can stretch the floor with a reliable three point shot, which will fit in well with the Nuggets who average 31 three point attempts per game

15. Wizards — Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech

The Wizards seem to be stuck in NBA purgatory and are unable to compete for a title, but also have a roster that is locked in for a few more years unless they trade players away. I think the Wizards will try to add wing depth to their roster, and Zhaire Smith is regarded as one of the best athletes in the draft. Outside of Wall and Beal, the Wizards don’t have many guys that can play above the rim, so adding Smith could give the Wizards a good offensive punch this year.

16. Suns (via Heat) — Troy Brown, Oregon

The Suns already have the best player in the draft, and now they need to start casting an eye for the long game. They obviously won’t be much better next season, so why not take a player who will still be 18 on draft day? Troy Brown has stated that he compares his own game to Andre Iguodala’s and, if he can live up to that, then the Suns will have found a great player to put alongside Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton in the future. Brown will look to take Jared Dudley’s role from last year.

17. Bucks — Kevin Huerter, Maryland

The most glaring need for the Milwaukee Bucks is someone who can shoot other than Khris Middleton. Kevin Huerter shot 41.7% from three for Maryland last season, but he is eager to prove he is more than just a shooter in the NBA. The Bucks need a Jason Terry replacement soon and Hurter may just be that guy.

Dzanan Musa

Credit: @DzananM13 on Twitter

18. Spurs — Dzanan Musa, Bosnia

This just seems like a pick the Spurs would make. Musa is a 19-year-old playing on KK Cedevita in Europe. Born in Bosnia and Herzagovina, Musa is listed as a guard, but he is also 6’8”. With his size and versatility, the Spurs may look to draft and stash this young man as they transition from the Parker/ Ginobili era and into the Aldridge and (maybe?) Leonard era.

19. Hawks (via T-Wolves) — Lonnie Walker, Miami

I think Lonnie Walker will fall in this draft given that many feel he did not live up to his potential in college, leaving NBA teams wary of his game. It is my belief that Walker is a ‘swing for the fences’ type of pick, and that is what the Atlanta Hawks need for their team right now.

20. Timberwolves (via Thunder) — Khyri Thomas, Creighton

Tom Thibodeau is known for not playing more than 7-8 players each game. Therefore, it makes sense that the Timberwolves would take a player who can knock down shots as well as play both the PG and SG positions. Thomas’ versatility may just earn him some minutes on the court despite being a rookie on the Timberwolves.

21. Jazz — Chandler Hutchinson, Boise State

Hutchinson’s stock has been on the rise lately and he would be a perfect fit for the Jazz. Hutchinson is 22, which scares a lot of rebuilding teams. The Jazz are in a unique position in that they have a very impressive Donovan Mitchell who, when paired with the right guys around him, could make a splash with the Jazz in the Western Conference next season. Hutchinson is 6’ 7” with a 7’ 1” wingspan, which means he would be a great SF or PF in a small-ball lineup. The concern with Hutchinson is that his game relies of taking to ball to the rim, so he will need to work on extending his jumpsuit to feature an NBA three point range capability.

22. Bulls (via Pelicans) — Gary Trent Jr., Duke

With Zach Lavine possibly on the move this offseason, the Bulls, once again, take the most talented player available and Gary Trent Jr. fits both needs of position and talent. Gary Trent Jr. averaged 14.5 ppg and shot 40% from three point range at Duke last season. He is a solid wing player to pair with Denzel Valentine.

23. Pacers — Jacob Evans, Cincinnati

The Indiana Pacers are a team that needs to continue to acquire talented players to progress in the Eastern Conference, as they were just one game away from handing LeBron an early playoff exit. Jacob Evans is a 6’6” SF who can score (13.7ppg) and defend (1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game). Evans will add to a Pacers team that is already featuring a pretty versatile roster.

24. Trail Blazers — Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

With Lillard and McCollum as a steady backcourt, the Blazers need all the help they can get at the other positions. Bates-Diop is 6’7” and has a 7’ 4” wingspan. He scored 19.8 points per game and his length helped him grab 8.7 rebounds per game last season. Bates-Diop can play SF or PF, meaning he can provide depth to multiple positions for the Blazers.

25. Lakers (via Cavs) — Mitchell Robinson, Chalmette

With Brook Lopez and Julius Randle becoming unrestricted free agents, the Lakers need to do something about their frontcourt. Obviously being able to sign two max contracts is one way the Lakers can retool, but Mitchell Robinson is a young and talented big man that offers production at the PF and C positions. Robinson averaged 25.7 ppg and 12.6 rpg as a senior for Clemente. His ability to guard both the PF and C positions makes him a solid pick in the late first round despite being such a huge unknown and risk.

26. 76ers — Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Jalen Brunson has fallen enough. Despite being a very solid guard for Villanova, the fact that Brunson is 21 years old makes him too old for rebuilding teams. The 76ers are a great blend of youth who are looking to make a splash in the playoffs next season. With Fultz as a question mark heading into next season, the 76ers play it safe with this pick in case Fultz doesn’t pan out.

Credit: Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports

27. Celtics — Grayson Allen, Duke

The Celtics may look to dump Marcus Morris, as he will most likely be unhappy with his role next season. Morris would be behind the combination of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum, with Semi Ojeleye chomping at the bit for minutes. Grayson Allen would most likely be at the end of the bench, but he has hit big shots in college and played all four years, which means he has had plenty of experience. Many are worried about how troublesome he was in college, but remember that Marcus Smart had similar concerns coming out of college and Danny Ainge has entire YouTube videos dedicated to his dirty plays in the NBA.

28. Warriors — De’Anthony Melton, USC

The defending champion Warriors will take De’Anthony Melton, who will still be available due to the fact that his controversial college career will steer away teams in the late first round. Melton is primarily a defender and is raw on offense, which is fine because that is something the Warriors have plenty of. He could also help the Warriors on defense if/when Klay Thompson departs from the team.

29. Nets (via Raptors) — Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova

DiVincenzo is a 6’ 5” SG from Villanova who does a little bit of everything. I have him falling in the draft because of the fact that he was surrounded by a really talented team that may have helped inflate his numbers. DiVincenzo is still a terrific defensive player who can knock down his shots. For almost the last pick in the first round, he brings a lot of potential to a Nets who seem to be piecing together a decent roster.

30. Hawks (via Rockets) — Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech

Okogi has the makings of a good wing in the NBA: 6’4” with a 7’ wingspan. However, he needs to develop a three point shot if he is going to find a home in the NBA. Clearly he can defend, as he averaged 1.8 steals per game, but if he can’t bump his 38% from three point range up in the NBA, things might get rough considering many scouts believe Okogie can’t take the ball to the rim with force consistently. Okogie will be a good project for the Hawks to take a chance on, because players tend to develop their offensive game better than their defensive game when they get NBA experience.

 

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