2018 NBA Mock Draft (Lottery)

The 2018 NBA Draft is here ! This means, it’s the end of Mock Draft season. This is a time when a lot of insiders try to read the tea leaves, wade through the smokescreens and prognosticate the upcoming Draft.

It’s important to know the caveats of my mock, as all mock drafts are not created equal … Points to consider:

*Most Mock drafts either are predictions of what they think teams will do (brave), or predictions of what the writer would do (usually with no consequences in later years) … I’m going to do both ! 

*I’m not predicting any trades even though I’m sure there will be several in the Top 14 that completely shake things up.  It’s just too hard to figure out and the wrong one will throw you off.

Okay let’s go !!

1. Phoenix Suns 

What I Think They Will Do: C DeAndre Ayton. This one is as close to a no-brainer as it gets. While the NBA has shifted to a league where perimeter players are at a premium and bigs are devalued, there are some big men who skills destroy the modern narrative. Ayton is one of them. HOF-level talent. PHX has a nasty core in he, Booker and Jackson +  the #16 pick.

What I Would Do: Ditto.

 

2. Sacramento Kings 

What I Think They Will Do:  F Marvin Bagley. I like Bagley a lot, although he’s become a bit of a pariah in the Draft community. People question his jumper, his defense, and his offensive polish. However, I think things can be overblown at times. He will have to work on all 3 things, but I see a guy that is a relentless rebounder, has a high motor, and elite scoring instincts. He should settle in as a 16-20 ppg scorer and double-digit rebounder from Year 1. He also fits the athletic core that Vlade Divac appears to be building in Sacramento with DeAaron Fox and Harry Giles.

What I Would Do: G Luka Doncic. He is the second best player in this Draft. He has a high floor and a pretty high ceiling. At the end of the day, the modern NBA revolves around being able to pass, dribble and shoot. He does those three things better than almost everyone else in the Draft, is 6’8, 18 years old, and just dominated the second-best basketball league in the World. Not rocket science.

 

3. Atlanta Hawks – 

What I Think They Will Do: G Luka Doncic. There has been a lot of discussion about Jaren Jackson and Trae Young with this pick. I think that in the end they go with Doncic. GM Travis Schlenk is rebuilding this team, essentially from the ground up, and Doncic is the best playmaker in the Draft. He also has a star power that is lacking, and he could be the face of the franchise for Atlanta for the next decade.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

4. Memphis Grizzlies –

What I Think They Will Do: F Michael Porter. The Grizzlies have been trying to move this pick attached to Chandler Parsons, but unfortunately for them, no one wants to touch that contract with a 10 foot pole. Actually, scratch that, fortunately no one does, as I think moving a pick this high,just to accommodate a salary dump, would be incredibly short-sighted. Memphis needs to begin building for the future. Michael Porter is by far the biggest boom or bust player in this Draft.  And not just because of his back and hip injury concerns. There are legitimate questions about his defense, ball handling and playmaking ability. But without a doubt, he is the best pure scorer in this draft, with tremendous jump shot, elite length, and a scorer’s mentality. Memphis needs a player like him.

What I Would Do: Ditto.  

5. Dallas Mavericks –

What I Think They Will Do: C Jaren Jackson Jr. There are quite a few decision makers that believe Jackson will long-term be the best player from this draft. Indeed Jackson is a unicorn. He’s a 40% long distance shooter, with simply fantastic defensive potential. He has the ability to both mirror guards on switches and protect the rim (averaged almost 6 blocks per 40 minutes in college) with elite length. His stats are not as pretty as others because he was poorly used by Tom Izzo, but his defensive upside is through the roof. He needs a bit more work offensively, but even if he just becomes a lob threat, that can knock down open jumpers, his value is tremendous. Nothing in the NBA is rarer than a stretch 5 that can also be a defensive anchor.  Lots of rumblings that the Mavericks will go Mo Bamba with this pick instead, but I think Jackson will be the Mavs pick in the end.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

6. Orlando Magic – 

What I Think They Will Do: C Mo Bamba. Bamba is probably even more of a unicorn than Jackson is, in terms of measurables. His reach is absurd and he combines that with a deft shooting touch, and high level intelligence, that teams have simply raved about. I don’t think he has quite the same upside as Jackson, as he is not quite as mobile, nor does he have the college production as a shooter that Jackson does, but there are many scouts that think due to his measurables he has as high an upside as even Ayton. A lot of teams think that the Magic will target a point guard, but if you study John Hammond’s draft picks in Milwaukee (John Henson, Greek Freak, Thon Maker) and even here in Orlando (Jonathan Isaac) he loves to take raw, high upside, big men who offer a lot of length. Bamba takes that to a new extreme, so no way Hammond passes on him here.

What I Would Do: C Wendell Carter Jr. This is not a knock to Bamba as I feel the gap between him, Jackson and Carter is infinitesimal. But Carter is one of my favorite players in the Draft, and while not the defensive specimen Bamba is, I believe he is still very good on that end, but offers more offensive value. Orlando truly needs more balance, as they project to become an elite defensive team with the Aaron Gordon+ Jonathan Isaac core, but there are sill question marks about those two offensively.

7. Chicago Bulls – 

What I Think They Will Do: C Wendell Carter Jr. The Bulls have been linked to a lot of players, but I think the best fit for their roster is Wendell Carter Jr. They have been looking for a big man who can fit next to Lauri Markkanen, and if they do not trade up, I expect them to take whichever C of the aforementioned trio falls. Carter is the one that does here, and I think he actually fits best with Markkanen, as he compliments him both defensively AND offensively. A skilled and deft post scorer, who also has an excellent outside jumpshot, and is a high level passer. But unlike lots of other skilled big men, Carter is also a defensive anchor with elite length and decent mobility. I think the Cavaliers secretly covet him, as he is the perfect big to pair with LeBron, but in this scenario, Chicago nabs him before they do.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

8. Cleveland Cavaliers –

What I Think They Will Do: PG Trae Young. There is a lot of growing steam that they will be using this pick on Shae Gilgeous Alexander, and in many ways it makes sense they would do that. SGA is an excellent perimeter defender, has a functional and improving outside shot, and can both play on and off the ball, as a finisher and a playmaker, important traits if you want to play with LeBron.  But the Cavs did not workout SGA (that we know of), have no idea if LeBron will be back (probably not) and are likely looking to add some star power. Trae Young has huge question marks about his defense and his measurables. But no one denies his elite level of skill. He has an elite handle, an elite jumper, and is probably second only to Doncic as a passer in this draft. Add in the fact that the Cavs had a (not-so) secret workout with Young on Saturday, and that LeBron deemed Young a “very special player” earlier this season … all signs are pointing Young’s direction. Now it is very possible that the Cavaliers leaked the workout news to the media, and are trying to set up a smokescreen to allow SGA or Wendell Carter Jr. to fall to them. But I have very little confidence in the acumen of the Cavs front office, and doubt they would be pulling off such an effective bout of misdirection, based on how they have bungled things in the past.  

What I Would Do: Trade this pick. They need to trade this pick for one of the young stars on the market. I have heard Kawhi Leonard (in a package with Kevin Love-unlikely) and Kemba Walker (good fit) as possible trades, and those are the right moves to make. You have to keep LeBron at all costs. For as much as Trae Young helps offensively, defensively he is a sieve. Walker is a much more balanced player to assist LeBron and might be enough to keep him.

9. New York Knicks – 

What I Think They Will Do: F Kevin Knox. Knox apparently wowed the Knicks in his workout and many in the league believe that if he is still on the board, this is where he will go. I still have questions about his defense but there is no denying, he is a high level shooter with the upside to become more. He and Kristaps Porzingis would form a very intriguing duo together. But that defense … A lot of people think it will get better, as early in his AAU and HS career he was excellent on that end. We will see …

What I Would Do: G Shae Gilgeous-Alexander. Pairs well with Frank Nkitilina but is versatile enough so that if the Knicks ever do get that elusive superstar (like maybe Kyrie Irving… I know unlikely, but Knicks fans can dream) he can play off the ball. In the meantime, he can be their new hope at PG. 

10. Philadelphia 76ers- 

What I Think They Will Do: SF Mikal Bridges. There may not be a better pure fit. Bridges is right there with Carter for my favorite players in the Draft. Elite defensive potential. Dead-eye shooter on high volume of 3s. 7’2″ wingspan.  Yes there are questions about his ability to create his own shot. No, he’s not a future superstar. But paired with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid, he won’t have to be. A whole lot of Klay Thompson to his game. Probably not THAT good as a shooter, but he’s going to be a good one. And he’s a Philly kid, who played at Villanova (and won 2 titles) and whose mother works for the 76ers. It’s so perfect it probably will not happen lol.

What I Would Do: Ditto.

11. Charlotte Hornets – 

What I Think They Will Do:  G Shae Gilgeous-Alexander. This will come down to Colin Sexton vs. SGA and I think SGA will win out. He has greater defensive versatility, playmaking ability and outside shooting range than Sexton, all 3 of which are tenets of the modern NBA. He also fits much better next to Malik Monk, and the Hornets need to be prioritizing their future over their present, as they are stuck on the mediocrity treadmill.

What I Would Do: Package #11 + Kemba to try get into the Top 5. Kemba is about to put the Hornets in a difficult situation. The team is not good enough to justify giving him the supermax, and yet losing him for nothing would be a tough pill to swallow. The time is now to move him and try to get up high enough for a Michael Porter or Luka Doncic. Whether that is moving him to Cleveland and then packaging the picks to get higher or whatever, Kupchak has to make a move.

12-13. Los Angeles Clippers – 

What I Think They Will Do:  F Miles Bridges , C Robert Williams. Jerry West knows what he is doing. And so while everyone is convinced that they will take Colin Sexton, I think he will take these two. Both Bridges and Williams are high level athletes, who will be better pros than college players. Both played out of position in college, which really hampered their effect on the game. Both will thrive with the space the NBA game provides. Bridges has a very well-rounded game, as he has a solid outside shot, and can finish with ease at the rim with touch and power. He’s also a solid defender who can guard both forward positions, and is a hard worker and coachable kid. Williams is a highly athletic and long big man who can run the court, finish on lobs and protect the paint. Neither will likely be studs, but both can be solid NBA players, as West tries to re-build this Clippers team.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

14. Denver Nuggets – 

What I Think They Will Do: Ok, breaking my own rule here … I think it is highly likely the Nuggets trade this pick (along with Kenneth Faried) . They have a very precarious luxury tax situation, and they would love to get from under Faried’s contract, as it would allow them to sign Nikola Jokic to a max deal this summer, AND re-sign Will Barton, one of the best 6th men in the NBA, (and their 3rd leading scorer) without heading into the luxury tax . Without knowing who they would trade this pick to, it’s difficult to guess who would go here. Could be Lonnie Walker, Jerome Robinson … or …..

What I Would Do:  PG Colin Sexton. I actually think that whoever they do trade this pick to will be targeting Sexton because he is a tremendous value this low in the lottery. Sexton has some flaws to his game but he has an elite ability to attack the basket, and his upside is big-time. That paired with the fact he has a reputation as a tireless worker and competitor is enough for me. He’s shown enough to make me believe he can knock down jumpers in time, and you can’t teach the gifts he has. He would fit really well as the captain of the Nuggets second unit as he can be what Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be in a lot of ways. A 3 guard rotation of him, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray could be very interesting and dynamic. Besides, if they want to get rid of Faried, they could always pair him with a lotto protected 2019 first round pick, and they likely would still be able to move him.

Comments ? Let me know ! 

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