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By swiftly winning the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors gives the Association a rare, yet brief respite before June 21’s draft.
A monumental offseason headlined by LeBron James’ free agency threatens to forever alter the league’s landscape. Before jumping into that turmoil, many squads can bolster their ailing roster through a deep draft class.
While big man Deandre Ayton is likely to stay in Arizona to play for the Phoenix Suns, there are no safe bets after the top choice. At least seven other players could theoretically land inside the top five, and none are clear favorites to snag the No. 2 spot.
Let’s examine that group of high-end lottery prospects to see where the talented newcomers could start their NBA careers.
2018 NBA Mock Draft
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke
3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
6. Orlando Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn): Michael Porter, SF, Missouri
9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers): Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
11. Charlotte Hornets: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit): Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
14. Denver Nuggets: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
15. Washington Wizards: Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky
16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami): Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
18. San Antonio Spurs: Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon
19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota): Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City): Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova
21. Utah Jazz: Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland
22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans): Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State
23. Indiana Pacers: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech
25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland): Mitchell Robinson, C, United States
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
27. Boston Celtics: Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane
28. Golden State Warriors: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
29. Brooklyn Nets (from Toronto): Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan
30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston): Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia
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Once a possible No. 1 pick, Luke Doncic is suddenly at risk of falling outside the top three.
Three weeks ago, ESPN.com’s Jonathan Givony reported that the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks “are likely to pass” on the 19-year-old Slovenia star. Since both organizations have recently lost All-Star big men, they’re eyeing an array of frontcourt prospects.
This is not the typical “international man of mystery” case study where teams don’t know what to make of an untested, unpolished talent. The 6’8″ guard averaged 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game for Real Madrid, who won the highly competitive Euroleague title. Doncic became the youngest Final Four MVP ever.
He flaunts the frame, finesse and basketball IQ of a veteran, making the well-rounded teenager arguably the class’ most pro-ready prospect. While Doncic’s two-way prowess cements a high floor, a limited ceiling won’t cater to teams craving a franchise-saving superstar.
That assessment may shoo away the Kings and Hawks, but the Memphis Grizzlies are more likely to view it as a positive. After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10, they’re not looking years ahead like most lottery squads. They’ll instead desire an immediate contributor to extend the contention window for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
Doncic can meet Memphis’ physical style, and initially operating as the third scoring option behind two All-Stars would greatly help his maturation. Falling to No. 4 would benefit him in the long run.
Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
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One of the lottery’s biggest variables, Mohamed Bamba could use his wide reach to climb up draft boards.
Reports of eye-popping measurables will send the predraft hype into overdrive. Per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the 6’11” center sprinted three-quarters of the court in 3.04 seconds during a workout with the Chicago Bulls. Yahoo Sports’ Jordan Schultz put that mark into perspective:
Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report
From @KCJHoop, Mo Bamba posted a 3.04 3/4 court sprint
Context: Would have T-1 at Combine, faster than Zhaire Smith & Lonnie Walker
Also faster than:🤭🔥
Russell Westbrook: 3.08
John Wall: 3.14
Terry Rozier: 3.15
Gobert: 3.57 https://t.co/IRifbHXeoO
That incredible burst is merely icing on the cake for the Texas big man, who swatted 3.7 blocks per game as a freshman. Per NBA.com, his 7’10” wingspan is the longest ever recorded, exceeding Rudy Gobert’s reach by 1 ½ inches.
So he’s a faster, longer version of arguably the NBA’s premier frontcourt defender. Measurables, of course, never tell the whole story. Like The French Rejection, Bamba will also enter the NBA with unrefined offensive abilities.
Essentially starting from scratch, the Hawks need a more complete prospect to replace Al Horford and Paul Millsap. That’s why they’re instead projected to snag Jaren Jackson Jr., described by CBS Sports’ Jack Maloney as possessing “all the tools to be a perfect big man for the current era.”
The Bulls give Mamba a safety net at pick No. 7, but he won’t last that far. Bamba can stay in Texas and give the Dallas Mavericks the interior defensive stopper they wanted in Nerlens Noel. With Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes slowly taking control from Dirk Nowitzki, they can patiently develop him into a dangerous scorer.
Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
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No matter how many changes the NBA endures, teams will always want players who can score buckets.
There’s no better source of offense than Trae Young, who invigorated college basketball with a Division I-high 27.4 points per game for the Oklahoma Sooners. The 6’2″ guard showcased ridiculous range by draining 118 three-pointers, plenty well behind the arc.
Once the big men fly off the board, a few teams will devote their attention to the sharp-shooter. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, he could either help persuade James to stay or transform into a new building block. While Stephen Curry comparisons are hyperbolic, the New York Knicks find themselves in an identical position of hoping Young falls to them.
Like Curry, who went No. 7 overall in 2009, Young won’t last to the Knicks at No. 9. After finishing No. 28 in three-point percentage (35.1) last season, the Orlando Magic desperately need a shooting spark to supplement Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton.
Seeing Young in Orlando would please at least one potential teammate. Jonathan Isaac, selected last year by the Magic in the same No. 6 slot they currently inhabit, spoke fondly of the point guard to NBA.com’s John Denton.
“Trae Young is absolutely ridiculous,” Isaac said. “I think, in time, he’s going to be one of the great players from this draft class. When you think about the shots that he made this season—and none of his shots were ever open—it’s amazing. I really like his game and his personality. Getting to know him has been really cool.'”
Young is the perfect fit for Orlando, which needs a flashy headliner with star upside after failing to truly hit the lottery jackpot in multiple tries. His wait should abruptly end if he slips past the top five.