By Samuel Stands
1.) Suns: DeAndre Ayton—All signs are pointing toward the Suns selecting Ayton here. Let’s not waste the brain power to consider otherwise.
2.) Kings: Luka Doncic—The talk surrounding the second pick has centered on Luka Doncic and Michael Porter Jr. as of late. While there is a bevy of increasing hype following Michael Porter Jr. in contrast to seemingly cool feelings toward Luka Doncic at the top of the draft, the Sacramento Kings are due to get this pick right and take the clearly best player available in the draft. Given the fact that the Kings are, for whatever reason, committed to playing two traditional posts in the front court, Michael Porter Jr. at the PF position represents a departure from that thinking which we’ve yet to see in Sacramento. The Kings are thin at the SF position given Vince Carter’s free agency, Justin Jackson and Garrett Temples’ non-contributions, Iman Shumpert’s inability to shoot, etc. This void is symptomatic of one of many larger issues, that being a lack of shot creators and playmaking. Drafting and employing Luka Doncic to operate alongside Bogdonavic, Hield, and Cauley-Stein would go a long way to help Sacramento’s third to last ranked offense and literally slowest (in pace) team in the league. Doncic running pick-n-roll with a most capable roll-man in WCS and two absolute sharpshooters from deep in Hield and Bogdonavic should become the staple of the King’s offense for years to come. If the Kings let go of Zach Randolph in 2019 and if Labissiere continues to show promise as he has, especially as a trustworthy shooter and even one who can stretch the floor, they could finally open up their offense by optimizing their pieces and become a formidably modern NBA offense.
3.) Hawks: Marvin Bagley III—Choosing Marvin Bagley certainly acquiesces to the “best player available” mantra but the Pumas fit rather nicely as well. Simply put, the Hawks just need talent and upside with every pick in the draft. Bagley fits with the Hawks, more specifically alongside John Collins because he can operate out of the low post, can put it on the floor to drive, can face up with potential break down ability, he has the hint of a pull up, he can spot up which will complement Collins who is more of a PnR, dump off, clean up, spot up guy. In college, Bagley was not an EFFECTIVE defender because of his lack of awareness and know-how, but this is not the same thing as lacking capability where Bagley’s athleticism allows him to defend in space and switch which has become the more important skill for big men in the league as opposed to defending postups where the lack of incredible length isn’t as big of a concern as it used to be in the older NBA. There is a premium on modern NBA centers where the league is quickly becoming one of haves and have-nots, Atlanta will thankfully be in the former after the draft, they’ll just need to be patient as their big man of the future learns the nuances defensive fundamentals, develops a right hand, and doesn’t rush his passes.
4.) Grizzlies: Michael Porter Jr.—If the Kings pass on Porter Jr., he isn’t expected to fall any further than the Grizzlies with the fourth selection. According to reports, Porter’s medicals bore positive and promising results leading to the “he’s been promised” presumptions starting with the Kings. The common theme for this mock draft and any henceforth is that of “modernization” where the Grizzlies are in the same position as the majority of teams in the league given their needs in the frontcourt at small forward and power forward. Not only do the Grizzlies not have a long term option at either position, but they are likely to lose their primary scorer this past season in Tyreke Evans who is slated to be picked up by a contender this summer. Memphis can take steps to shoring up both with combo forward Michael Porter Jr. whose calling card is versatile scoring. This pick is critical for a franchise that may lose its first round pick next year (2019) to Boston if the pick falls anywhere from 9-30. If the Grizzlies run it back with their incumbent parts plus the addition of Porter, serious faith would be being placed on the ever-injured Parsons, recently injured Conley, and the recent draft pick who played less than a handful of games at Missouri this year. With a fairly deep 2018 crop, it would behoove Memphis to sell valued commodities Marc Gasol and Mike Conley for draft picks or young pieces as opposed to the rumored trade back in the draft just to get out of Parson’s hefty contract. It also seems optimal to start the rebuild around Porter and guarantee their first round pick in 2019 that is full of guards and small forwards. I must say I don’t love this pick for the Grizzlies given the bigs they’d be passing up, but perhaps the reports about Memphis’ infatuation is a matter of a franchise actually enamored with Porter who will also take on Parsons’ contract (most likely the Chicago Bulls).
5.) Mavericks: Mo Bamba—Chalk up the Dallas Mavericks as another team that needs to begin a complete rebuild. Unlike the Grizzlies however, the Mavericks do not have veteran assets they can sell to contenders for picks or projects thus necessitating patience until next summer when they can shed most of their less desirable contracts. As of now, Dallas is getting the most production out of Dennis Smith, Yogi Ferrell, and Harrison Barnes who is transitioning to the power forward position full time as Dirk Nowitzki has all but both feet in the grave of retirement which leaves a gaping hole at the center position. With that said, the Mavs should be thrilled if Mo Bamba falls all the way to fifth selection in the draft. We are all well aware of Bamba’s physical gifts but his intangibles and potential sewn to his stature are what making the most promising triumvirate of future success which is why I have him atop my big board. As already stated, there is a premium on modern big men in the NBA and Bamba has the attributes to be the next “unicorn” draft pick following Karl Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis. Mo Bamba’s floor seems to be Clint Capela assuming that he doesn’t develop at all. The Mavs will have their anchor down low but I see him as their franchise star for the next 12-15 years if Dallas is smart enough to do what it takes to retain him.
6.) Magic: Jaren Jackson Jr.—The Magic couldn’t be luckier if one of Mo Bamba or Jackson or fall to them at the sixth slot. Many have the Magic taking Trae Young at this spot, some even believe and are reporting that Trae Young will go as high as the third spot to the Atlanta Hawks if they are unable to trade back for the Oklahoma point guard but I am not nearly as high on Young as I am on others: namely, Jaren Jackson Jr.. Jackson is ranked third on my big board, this should be an easy decision here when adhering to best player available doctrine. Jackson is, as others have countlessly said, the prototypical modern NBA center who can spread the floor, protect the rim, switch on PnR, defend in space, and is low maintenance offensively; simply put, Jaren Jackson Jr. can be the next Al Horford and the one constant for the Orlando Magic which they haven’t had since…The Magic could have a devastatingly long and switchy defensive front court in Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, and Jaren Jackson Jr. that no team in the league could rival in that respect which would be a great starting point for an abysmal Magic team post-Dwight. As any GM, at least in the high lottery, I would be quite wary to add a sub-6’2 defensive liability at point guard in a league that consistently is going bigger and longer and more versatile, therefore I cannot in good conscience mock Trae Young to Orlando as a positive decision. Orlando desperately needs to get this pick right and can concern themselves with the backcourt in the guard-heavy 2019 draft class where we know that the Magic will doubtlessly be atop the lottery yet again.
7.) Bulls: Miles Bridges—Ultimately I see the Bulls trading up to nab Michael Porter Jr. but the fact remains that the Bulls need forwards desperately and Bridges would provide much needed versatility on both ends of the floor. Bridges is capable of playing both forward spots but in opposition to every bit of draft analysis that says he is best suited as a small-ball power forward despite his body (lack of length, height), I see his long term productivity coming at small forward. Bridges may not possess Porter’s creativity or Mikal Bridges’ safety as a three & D role player, but does a little bit of everything rather well. Villanova’s Bridges would certainly be a safe pick here but that Bridges is already the player he is going to be where Miles Bridges has the potential to be a go-to scorer off the dribble, spot-up shooter, lob threat, to draw the defense on drives with his explosiveness, the capability to finish with that explosiveness, and the ever important ability to capably defend 2-4’s in the NBA. Bridges will be an actual threat to keep defenses honest as another playmaker while Zach Lavine is tasked with carrying the load of being the franchise player.
8.) Cavs: Wendell Carter Jr.—Carter will end up being considered one of the steals of the draft when it is all said and done given his readiness to contribute in the NBA right now. It has already been discussed repeatedly that Carter played out of position at Duke whereas in the NBA he will thrive as a natural in the center position. Like many others already discussed, Carter provides what teams want and desperately need from their big men: rim protection, a big “man’s” body, ability to stretch the floor, can eat in the post, can face up, can defend down low, sets big screens, rolls hard, can pop, can pick the defense apart with passing, plays under control, and absolutely bangs on the boards. Carter’s major concern that gets pointed out is his struggles to defend in space. While Carter did get burned, it was not in my opinion due to an inability or lack of athleticism, as much as it was a matter of defensive technique which is sorely lacking at this point in time. The Cavs don’t hesitate to make and keep this pick because Carter represents a win now choice (were Lebron to stay) because of his well-rounded game but also can and will serve as the franchise cornerstone regardless of Lebron’s departure as a modern five which could not be more in demand.
9.) Knicks: Mikal Bridges—Yes, Trae Young would be the sexy pick here but it also would be one of the worst outcomes for Young and the Knicks. The smart pick is Mikal Bridges. New head coach David Fizdale has already remarked that he will play Porzingis all over the floor, most notably at the five where, if you’ve been reading all this time, is where (IMO) he should be playing all of his minutes. Were New York to bring back Michael Beasley and draft Mikal Bridges, the Knicks could be looking at a modern front court that can open up enough space on the floor which just may start enticing free agents the way Boston has and the way the Lakers and 76ers are slated to this summer. Longer term, the Knicks will, at the least, have two promising defensive staples in Frank Ntilikina and Mikal Bridges to bolster Porzingis (who is a more than solid defender on his own) as the last line of defense. With the hiring of a reputable coach and the selection of Bridges, the beginning of stability for a franchise that has been in desperate need can commence on Thursday.
10.) Sixers: Lonnie Walker—Despite the fact that the Sixers just had a significant playoff run and are now seeming contenders in the Eastern Conference (all the more with Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard rumors), the Sixers core is considerably young with ample time and room to grow. All of this is to say, the Sixers certainly don’t need to trade this pick in some sort of package to attain a superstar; the Sixers already have two in the making, last year’s number one pick who was at the time considered a can’t miss prospect, and four young role players who have carved out niches in the Sixers’ rotation (Saric, Covington, McConnell, Holmes), and by the way their oldest rotation player is only 26 years old. There is however a glaring hole at shooting guard especially with the potential JJ Redick departure in free agency and to a lesser extent Marco Belinelli’s. With the selection of Lonnie Walker, the Sixers would gain two players who can create their own shot, something that was sorely missing in the playoffs. The return of a healthy Fultz and the emergence of Lonnie Walker will help keep defenses honest after the league has had a year to adjust to Ben Simmons. Obviously Walker can initially serve as the spot-up shooter, and shooter off of screens like Redick who has made a career doing it, but Walker’s athleticism and explosiveness allow him to become a terror in transition and a lockdown defender when engaged. At the end of the day, assuming the Sixers stand put with their young core without making a big free agency or trade splash, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid ought to carry the load and the Philly brass just needs to help lighten it where it counts.
11.) Hornets: Collin Sexton—The Hornets have one of the bleakest long term outlooks of any team in the league as they don’t have any assets they can auction off to begin a rebuild except for Kemba Walker whose value depreciates every second that he isn’t traded given his contract will be up in 2019. Nicolas Batum is a nice starter but his contract is a liability. Dwight Howard is also a free agent in 2019 but also has a bloated contract and he is also Dwight Howard. Last year’s draft pick Malik Monk may be a serviceable spark plug off the bench someday but doesn’t exactly empower confidence in the roster going forward. I like Sexton here because of his mentality. Yes he has all sorts of gifts as a scorer and defender but I believe he is one of few players in this draft range that will have the stamina to survive the Hornets’ long term rebuild. The Hornets have the chance to define the identity of their team starting with Sexton and building from there and I can see Sexton as one capable of driving a young core gradually out of the bottom of the standings over the years with his relentless competitiveness and hard work. The other players available at this stage of the draft have games that complement others but not as the first piece.
12.) Clippers: Trae Young—The Clippers’ veterans offer the best opportunity in Trae Young’s draft range (which by all accounts seems to be 3-16) to optimize Young’s potential in a safe setting. Los Angeles’ back court duo of Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, not only allow Young the comfort of being brought along slowly off the bench as opposed to being thrown in the fire immediately, Williams can teach him the plurality of ways to get buckets as a smaller scoring guard (something Young is already impressive in) while Beverley can assist him with his defensive deficiencies and go at him every day in practice while complementing him on the court picking up the more difficult assignments during the rigorous 82 game season. The Clippers are said to be major players to potentially make a impactful trade to once again be in contention, as their roster is indeed built for such a possibility given its veteran roster and ability to bring back DeAndre Jordan but I see Jerry West wanting to start from scratch given that they can almost have a complete roster turnover by 2019.
13.) Clippers: Zhaire Smith—Smith represents another boom or bust prospect that has the best opportunity to flourish in the same setting mentioned above. A Zhaire Smith and Trae Young back court is enticing given how they can play off of one another: Young has sound court vision, shooting chops, and ability to run the pick and roll while Smith is an excellent cutter, solid spot up shooter, solid shooter coming off of screens, lob threat, one who can flat out fly in the open court, and can more than capably defend in isolation and help in team defense schemes which Young is going to need for the foreseeable future. Many have the Clippers taking Robert Williams with one of these two picks but I can’t imagine Jerry West selecting a duplication of DeAndre Jordan who (a) they could retain this summer or (b) has a lot of value to a certain point but not enough to spend a lottery pick on.
14.) Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander—While the Nuggets are in need of a true small forward, Kevin Knox isn’t a true 3 and Troy Brown isn’t worth the reach, therefore the possibility of shoring up their defensive woes in the backcourt is too enticing. Jamal Murray is one of the top ten offensive guards in the league but at the same time is one of the bottom ten defensive guards in the league. While I have Gilgeous-Alexander ahead of both Collin Sexton and Trae Young on my big board for his size, length, shooting potential, decision-making, defense, and positional size in a league that, you guessed it, is trending larger and longer, I can see him falling past his true value because of his utter silence during the pre-draft process and lack of a major standout skill. Gilgeous-Alexander will undoubtedly benefit in a more stable role without expectations of saving a franchise as the higher picks are expected. I love his fit next to Gary Harris who in tandem can make life difficult for opposing backcourts but also his helpful fit alongside Jamal Murray and of course the possibility of three guard lineups employing the aforementioned players. If I’m the Denver GM I also like the probability that SGA makes the starting point guard spot competitive where that competition may inspire more defensive productivity out of Murray, and if it doesn’t, Murray would make an excellent Sixth Man off the bench.
15.) Wizards: Kevin Knox—Like Trae Young, I like Kevin Knox’s potential if he gets drafted by the right team that doesn’t thrust upon him too much too soon. Others have Kevin Knox going as high as 10th in the draft, but as the youngest player in the draft, it’s going to take Knox some time and patience and managed expectations before he breaks out. With that said, there is a lot to like about Kevin Knox as he is the prototypical modern power forward who can score in a variety of ways but most importantly spread the floor. Knox also has potential to be a defensive plus given his tools but didn’t always show it at Kentucky, however, Coach Cal’s kids always out-perform their college roles so I’m not overly concerned. The Wizards should be viable contenders if one looks at their cap sheet given what they are paying Wall, Beal, and Porter, but this is a young team that can afford to be patient with the player they draft, where that patience will eventually pay dividends when Knox grows into himself. I also like this selection for the Wizards’ immediate boost off the bench which has been cause for concern for the past several years. This pick also allows for the Wizards to employ a very athletic front court in Porter and Knox who are viable options to keep Wall from pounding the ball. Most drafts do not have Robert Williams falling beyond the Wizards but I find that pick one that would be made too much out of desperation as opposed to the best possible decision to make the Wizards legitimately dangerous in the next 2-3 years.
16.) Suns: Elie Okobo—The Suns really really really verily need a point guard. Aaron Holiday has had two workouts in Phoenix and I think that ends up being their pick on Thursday as the safe long term prospect, but here I have them going for the bigger play, Elie Okobo. If you haven’t watched any of Okobo in France, imagine a shorter and French D’Angelo Russell. Okobo is a solid shooter beyond the arc, is a maestro running the pick n roll, has good court vision, and can score in bunches. I like this pick for Phoenix in going for the highest upside with this pick just outside of the lottery especially given the fact that their team is so young; there is absolutely zero reason for the Suns to rush the process in drafting complete prospects.
17.) Bucks: Kevin Huerter—Sure, the Bucks have a need at center and Robert Williams could fill that hole, but they need shooting and spacing too whereas I believe they’ll be able to land a legitimate center in free agency. Well, Kevin Huerter is the best shooter in the draft and would give the Bucks more gravitational pull that isn’t centered on Giannis when he’s playing on the ball. The Bucks could do worse than surrounding Giannis with Brogdon, Middleton, Tony Snell, and Huerter to get easier drive and dish opportunities but also to unclog the lane.
18.) Spurs: Josh Okogie—I’m surprised Okogie isn’t getting mocked higher than his usual 24-35 range. Okogie has elite athleticism, combine testing results and measurements, ability to guard 1-3, can shoot it from deep, provides weak side rim protection, receives adulation from his former coaching staff and teammates as the energy guy, and has a blossoming in-between game putting it on the floor getting his own shot. Okogie has Spurs written all over him and is one of the younger prospects in the draft despite playing two years of college ball. Okogie is raw with loads of untapped potential.
19.) Hawks: Aaron Holiday—The Hawks are likely to send Dennis Schroder off one way or another and will need a replacement, ideally one who can actually shoot and keep defenses honest. Holiday is also a more than capable off-ball threat who will gel nicely with his long-term partner-to-be Marvin Bagley III in the front court. Holiday will add maturity and much needed professionalism on a team fraught with young players and few veterans. Holiday is the stable, safe, and smart pick here providing guaranteed value where there isn’t always toward the end of the first round.
20.) Wolves: Keita Bates-Diop—Tom Thibodeau is going to select Luol Deng 2.0. isn’t he? Ok.
21.) Jazz: Robert Williams—The Jazz are set to potentially lose two of their bigs in Derrick Favors this summer and Ekpe Udoh in 2019 free agency slating Williams to become a rotation player immediately. The Jazz won’t complain that the best player still available also can slip right behind Rudy Gobert as the Jazz’s long term backup center and insurance policy incase Gobert has eyes elsewhere some day.
22.) Bulls: Chandler Hutchison—the Bulls have promised to draft Chandler Hutchison. Ok.
23.) Pacers: Troy Brown—I would love for one of Holiday or Okobo to fall to the Pacers but I don’t think the teams ahead of them are that foolish. The Pacers should continue to build around Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner who are just scratching the surface of their potential so a young player like Troy Brown fits nicely, especially in the wake of Paul George’s departure last summer. Indiana could do worse than a shooting guard, small forward, point guard hybrid who does everything well right now except shoot at only 18 years of age. Brown can help take some of the facilitating and creating burden off of Oladipo while they wait for their point guard of the future next year.
24.) Blazers: Jerome Robinson—I love this fit! Though it is beyond me, some mocks are starting to have Jerome Robinson go as high as 13th to the Clippers but this is buying really high and trying too hard to land the next Kyle Kuzma or Jimmy Butler, etc. There is certainly reason for Robinson to get an NBA Draft green room invite because he absolutely is a first round talent and the Blazers will need every bit of him on a cheap contract while they trudge through salary cap hell for a few more years. Portland could use some help in the backcourt and Robinson will oblige from the get go as he can heat it up and start cooking in a hurry with a deep bag of tricks offensively to get his own shot but he also will help spread the floor for Lillard and McCollum where I can see a three guard lineup to close out games; yes Robinson is that dangerous right now.
25.) Lakers: Mitchell Robinson—I don’t believe the Lakers have actually made any sort of promise to Robinson but I do find this to be best selection they can make given the picks that will have occurred in front of them. There are major concerns about Robinson’s maturity and camp that surrounds him given his peculiar decisions after finishing high school, but the Lakers, like everyone else in the draft, must put a premium on modern big men available where Los Angeles is in a position to take a gamble on upside since (a) the Lakers are potentially on the path for a long term rebuild and (b) they may trade this pick anyhow or (c) LA will retain this pick and thusly player but have him buried on the depth chart because of the superstar cast that will call Staples Center home. At this stage in the draft, I wouldn’t blame any team going after a 7 footer with elite quickness, athleticism, second jump superiority, shot blocking prowess, ability to switch on screens, the ability to stretch the floor out to the three point line, and ability to throw down lobs like it’s nothing to him. Robinson could be one of many steals late in the draft.
26.) Sixers: Donte Divincenzo—The Sixers are able to pluck one of two from their own backyard out of Villanova. In the actual draft I think the Sixers end up with Mikal Bridges and just miss out on Divincenzo in the early 20s but I think Philly is a good home for him. I would try to surround Ben Simmons with as many shooters as possible and Divincenzo certainly provides that but he is also an underrated defender (though he is more of a team defender than a lockdown one on one guy) but the Sixers get a two way guy who will earn a rotation spot and round out their guard depth with Fultz, Walker, McConnell, and now Divincenzo. They’ll continue to love him in Philly.
27.) Celtics: Khyri Thomas—Terry Rozier and/or Jaylen Brown could end up part or parts of a major trade while Marcus Smart is a restricted free agent so I like the Celtics’ insurance policy in Khyri Thomas. Were any one of the aforementioned players to find themselves in a different jersey next season, the Celtics would sorely miss the defense provided Thomas could help mitigate the possible loss or losses on a cheap contract as he was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row, shot over 40% from deep all three years at Creighton, finished in the 90th percentile at the rim (pun intended), and 80th percentile in transition. Steal. The rich get richer.
28.) Warriors: Jacob Evans—Wow, the league is really going to let Jacob Evans fall into the Warriors’ lap. SMH
29.) Nets: De’Anthony Melton—The Nets are still a long way away from some sort of young core or sense of stability so drafting a combo guard with lottery level talent is a good place to start at the end of the first round. Melton can heat up opposing guards on the ball, plays the passing lanes, can get gone in a hurry in transition, rebounds well in comparison to other guards, can handle the ball, can finish in traffic, and has a blossoming jump shot with altered mechanics where teams have reason to believe he will improve given his free throw shooting in college.
30.) Hawks: Anfernee Simons—With another selection four picks into the second round, the Hawks can go ahead and snag Simons before the pickings get slim around the 40 spot. Simons has the first round level athleticism and handles, but his body is not nearly NBA ready. Given the Hawks’ situation in the league however, Atlanta can afford to give Simons the reps he needs to grow at a prodigious pace in comparison to organizations in the league that see him as a G-league stash player. Given the opportunity, Simons may be ready sooner rather than later.