By Jackson Daignault ’18
With the NBA playoffs starting this week, the regular season is officially closed. While the contenders are focusing on advancing in the playoffs, lottery teams are finally in NBA draft season. This is one of the more talented drafts in the last 10 years, so it figures to be pretty unpredictable, with multiple potential franchise cornerstones throughout. The Phoenix Suns have the best chance at the number one overall pick (25 percent) with the Nuggets in the rear (0.3 percent).
Below is my mock first ten picks for the 2018 NBA draft in June, based off of the record of teams who did not make the playoffs.
- Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Arizona
Ayton is a generational talent. He averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in his lone season at Arizona. He has elite physical traits, at 7’0” with a 7’5” at 243 pounds. He has shown flashes of intense potential on the offensive end, but needs to put it together on defense. In terms of fit in Phoenix, the Suns lack a go to scorer up front. A Devin Booker-Ayton pick and roll will be deadly, with both having the capability to score from almost anywhere on the court.
- Memphis Grizzlies
Luka Doncic, 19 years old, Real Madrid
Doncic is the best international prospect in 10 years. His unique blend of scoring and facilitating puts him in a class of his own. He has a smooth three point shot, but also runs the pick-and-roll very fluidly. He can rotate from the 1-3, and figures to fit in very well in the new positionless NBA. The Grizzlies are in no position to pass on talent, and Doncics upside is high enough for Memphis to take him to become the face of their franchise.
- Atlanta Hawks
Marvin Bagley Jr., Freshman, 19 years old, Duke University
Bagley is one of the more difficult prospects to scout. His athleticism is no doubt, at 6’11” with 7’0.5”, but he lacks a position in the NBA. He seems to have the defensive tools to succeed regardless, but does not have a reliable enough jump shot to play the three. He scored well in college, averaging 21 points on 64 percent shooting, but his half court offense remains a question mark. Still, the Hawks need a culture change, and Coach Mike Budenholzer is known to maximize the talent out of his players. If Atlanta doesn’t hop onto the Bagley Jr. hype train, expect him to be drafted within the next two picks.
- Orlando Magic
Michael Porter Jr., Freshman, 19 years old, University of Missouri
Porter is another extremely interesting prospect to scout. After being highly sought after out of high school, he suffered a back injury and was forced to miss the majority of his senior season. Injuries aside, the upside for Porter is unlimited. A dynamite scorer, Porter can hit shots from anywhere on the court. He needs to work on his decision making both when shooting and handling the ball. Still, his confidence doesn’t waver, and he has the potential to be a very dangerous scorer in the NBA. Similarly to the Hawks and Grizzlies, the Magic are in talent acquisition mode. Last years lottery pick Jonathan Isaac will continue to be a project for Orlando and figures to be a small ball four, depending on the future of Aaron Gordon. Porter will become the go to guy in Orlando immediately.
- Dallas Mavericks
Jaren Jackson Jr., Freshman, 18 years old, Michigan State
Jackson is the youngest player in the top five, but is also one of the safest bets. He is one of the best defenders in the nation this season, averaging three blocks per game. He is a prototype switch-everything type defender, which proves he deserves a place in the NBA. Still, his offensive skills will need to catch up with his defensive talent. Regardless, Jackson is a great fit for the Mavs. After the Nerlens Noel fiasco, the team is looking for a long term answer to man the middle. They already have a young star in Dennis Smith Jr., and a reliable, defensive and athletic center to run the pick-and-roll will do wonders for both of their developments.
- Sacramento Kings
Mo Bamba, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Texas
An absolute physical specimen (7’0’’ tall, 7’9” wingspan, 9’6” standing reach) has the potential to be something special in the NBA. Similar to Jackson, he was a great defender with 3.6 blocks per game. His physical tools and length allow him to move around the court with ease, guarding multiple positions. His shot does need work, despite his attempting of 51 threes during his lone collegiate season. Many experts agree that if Bamba can put it all together, he will be a three-point shooting Rudy Gobert. The Kings would finally have a piece to replace their Demarcus-Cousins-sized hole. The Willie Cauley-Stein project is still a work in progress, but the Kings would be silly to pass on Bamba. The team lacks interior scoring, especially after Zach Randolph retires after this season, and Bamba will do wonders to fill that spot. If Bamba reaches his full upside, he will be a great potential cornerstone for the Kings.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (Via Brooklyn)
Collin Sexton, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Alabama
Sexton solidified his lottery status with his post season play. He lead the Crimson Tide to the SEC semi-final game, and was instrumental in defeating Virginia Tech in March, with 25 points on 50 percent shooting. Sexton plays hard with an infectious swagger. Sexton is a score-first point guard that plays with a ton of grit. His overall relentlessness gives him the potential to be a lockdown defender. If Lebron James leaves Cleveland in free agency, Sexton gives the Cavs a new, hard nosed identity. They may flip back and forth between Sexton and Oklahoma star Trae Young, but Sexton seems to be the safer pick who will fit in Cleveland regardless of Lebrons next decision.
- Chicago Bulls
Wendell Carter Jr., Freshman, 18 years old, Duke University
The Duke product has rare quickness and poise for someone of his size (6’10”/263 lbs). Similarly to Al Horford, Carter Jr. is a “do-it-all” big man. He does not have terrific athletic ability, but instead gets by with sound fundamentals. He can shoot spot up threes, finish lobs and is also a great passer. He is a very strong rebounder and a talented interior defender. The Bulls could use someone of Carter Jr.’s nature, as a glue guy that does not have a lot of weaknesses. He currently does not have the roaring upside that players like Ayton and Bamba have, but for a Bulls team with no clear future, getting someone as reliable as Carter Jr. seems like a win.
- New York Knicks
Trae Young, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Oklahoma
Trae Young is the most complex prospect in the 2018 class. He started off the year on a tear, compiling highlight plays for a living. He looked unstoppable from beyond the arc, being compared to Steph Curry. He also passed the ball very well, proving that he was not one dimensional. He looked like a bonafide top five pick and potential franchise cornerstone. Fast forward a couple of months, and Young’s stock has plummeted. He has been criticized for his shot choice on a bad Oklahoma team and his poor defense. Both of those issues were caused by his Oklahoma team that couldn’t compete without him. If he wasn’t scoring 30 points a game and playing the entire game, the Sooners couldn’t compete, so he developed poor shot selection and saved his energy for the offensive side of the ball (see Hero Ball in dictionary). Still, there is no denying his talent, as he lead the nation in points (27.4 per game) and assists (8.7 per game). Young seems like a no brainer for New York. A team that has been looking for a point guard since Steve Francis, Young will become a New York hero. His rare combination of outside shooting and crafty passing screams Madison Square Garden. He will have to play second fiddle to Kristaps Porzingis, but will thrive when KP is doubled and he’s squared up at the top of the key. New York seems like the perfect fit for the star from Oklahoma.
- Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles)
Mikal Bridges, Junior, 21 years old, Villanova University
Fresh off his second national championship, Bridges is no stranger to winning. Bridges is the prototype 3-and-D player. He averaged 17.8 points per game on the best team in the country. He excelled in catch-and-shoot situations, with 43.6 percent from beyond the arc. He also averaged 1.5 steals along with 1.1 blocks per game. Bridges is also strong driving to the lane, and is no stranger to swinging the ball. Bridges will excell on the defensive side of the ball, where his speed and length will give him the ability to defend guards and wings. Bridges will fit in perfectly in Philadelphia. While the Sixers have Robert Covington on the wing, NBA teams will never turn down another player who can guard four positions on the floor. Bridges will not be a go-to-scorer in Philly, but instead will play off of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He will not be asked to shoulder the load, but instead will be in prime position for spot up threes and shots off screens – either on the fast break or in half-court scenarios with Simmons. Philly seems like the perfect landing place for Bridges.