2018 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Pre-NCAA Tournament Edition. Mo Bamba Rising, Michael Porter Falling
By Jason McIntyre
The 2018 NBA Draft is in four months. NBA fans who ignore the regular season but closely watch the NCAA Tournament will want to keep an eye on many of these players over the next four weeks. Our last 2018 NBA Mock Draft was in mid-December, and a lot has changed. And as usual, we had one in June after the 2017 draft.
1. Memphis – DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
Not as polished as Bagley offensively right now, but much better defensively. Ayton will ease in as a rookie with Marc Gasol at center. Gasol was a defensive Player of the Year (2013) and All-NBA 1st team (2015). With a healthy Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, the Grizzlies should be able to rebuild on the fly.
2. Phoenix – Mo Bamba, C, Texas
The Suns need a point guard and someone who plays defense, and even though Luka Doncic is a better prospect, I’m not sure they can pass up Bamba. I was lukewarm on Bamba before the calendar turned to 2018, but he started to look for his offense more in late January. He only had three games attempting double-digit shots before Christmas; he did that in three straight games in February.
3. Dallas – Luka Doncic, G/F
The hype machine will be in overdrive for months ahead of the draft, and it wouldn’t shock me if Doncic went 1st overall. The Mavericks have an awful roster, among the worst in the league. They’ll be right back here next year barring something lucky in free agency, but Doncic will contend for ROY and be the best scorer on the team.
4. Cleveland (via Brooklyn) – Marvin Bagley, F, Duke
Interesting spot for the Cavs, who may consider Trae Young here to sell tickets and have a draw when LeBron leaves for the Lakers. The emergence of Larry Nance – plus Tristan Thompson’s onerous contract – make Bagley a tough sell here, but ultimately, the reason is this: If they’re trading this pick after the draft, plus Kevin Love, in exchange for A Disgruntled Superstar, I think you want that pick to be Bagley.
5. Orlando – Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
The Magic have more needs than any team in the NBA. Mostly that’s because 1) there’s no telling what will happen with Aaron Gordonand 2) who is their 2nd best player? Michael Porter may wow scouts in workouts, but we’ve seen Young decimate a very good Big 12. I’ve seen some Tracy McGrady in Porter, but you’ve got to have a point guard to start a team, so I’ll lean Young here.
6. Atlanta – Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri
Was the most acclaimed freshman until Bagley reclassified; then the 6-foot-10 scoring machine got hurt in his 1st game and he hasn’t played since. If Porter wants back in the Top 3-4 discussion, he’s got to actually play. The Hawks hit on John Collins (10.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, probably 2nd team All-Rookie) in the 1st round last year, and Porter has the potential to be a home run.
7. Sacramento (via Brooklyn) – Jaren Jackson, F, Michigan St.
There seems to be a pretty clear “Super 6” at the top of the draft, and Jackson, a long, bouncy forward with massive upside, is at the top of the next tier. He’s shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers, though he’s slumped from deep heading into March (3-for-17 in his last five games). Who would have guessed the Kings most impressive rookie this year was Bogdan Bogdanovic? He’s 25. De'Aaron Fox is 20, Skal Labissiere turns 22 this month and Willie Cauley-Stein is 24.
8. Chicago – Miles Bridges, F, Michigan St.
Pegged as a Top 5 pick in the preseason, Bridges projects as a valuable rotation player in the pros, not a star. Robert Horry was a versatile lottery pick who spent 16 years in the NBA. After shooting 25 percent from deep as a rookie, Horry expanded his game and was invaluable for the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs. The Bulls have their backcourt of the future, and Lauri Markkanen projects as a star. Chicago is collecting terrific young talent.
9. New York – Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
He’s a scorer, and not much else. The Wildcats have struggled due to bad guard play, but Knox has been a bright spot (15.7 ppg). I project him as a SF, but can see him at PF (6-foot-9, 215 pounds) in a small ball lineup alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
10. Charlotte – Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova.
Turns 22 in August. Shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers and scoring 17.6 ppg, he’s a strong candidate to go as high as 7 if the play continues in March. Projects as a perfect 3-and-D wing – the player MKG never became.
11. Philadelphia (via LA Lakers) – Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
Defensive-minded shooting guard would be pretty damn filthy alongside Robert Covington. But is Walker a good enough shooter (35 percent on 3’s) yet? Not at 19 years old. Will be one of the top athletes in the draft.
12. LA Clippers (via Detroit) – Collin Sexton, PF, Alabama.
Doc Rivers has been tremendous this year, but what if the Clippers move on? Then does Austin Rivers stick around? Sexton is only shooting 30% on 3-pointers.
13. Utah – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SG, Kentucky.
Has only made 17 3-pointers this season, which is less than ideal for a shooting guard, but he’s a plus defender and a good passer (4.9 apg) for his size (6-foot-6). They’ve got Ricky Rubio for one more season, and then you could slide Mitchell to point guard alongside Gilgeous-Alexander or Dante Exum (remember him?).
14. Denver – Robert Williams, F, Texas A&M.
Ideally, he’d be a Larry Nance Jr. pick-and-roll big who inhales alley-oops. They did try that a few years ago with Kenneth Faried, which worked briefly. The Nuggets have a very good roster, but will Jamal Murray or Gary Harris emerge as a star?
15. Phoenix (via Miami) – Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia.He’s a 6-foot-9 18-year old who they could stash for a year or two.
16. Phoenix (via Milwaukee) – Shake Milton, G, SMU.
17. Philadelphia – Anfernee Simons, SG, High School.Could slide into the draft – the same way Thon Maker did – as he’s a year removed from high school. Only 19, he’d need at least a year in the D-League.
18. LA Clippers – Wendell Carter, C, Duke. Tremendous finisher around the rim and above average defender and should have no problem eventually replacing DeAndre Jordan. 19. Indiana – Gary Trent, G, Duke. His dad averaged double figures scoring for four straight years as a F/C.
20. Minnesota (via OKC) – Troy Brown, SG, Oregon.
21. Portland – Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky. If he doesn’t pop in the SEC or NCAA Tournament, he might have to stay in school. He’s lost complete confidence in the last two months.
22. Chicago (via New Orleans). Keita Bates-Diop, PF, Ohio State. Emerging as a promising pro, the Big 10 Player of the Year averaged 19-8 and shot 35 percent on 3-pointers. Finally healthy, is he just scratching the surface?
23. San Antonio. Omer Yurtseven, C, NC State. He’s 19-years old and made the leap from 5 points, 4 rebounds per game last year to 13 points and six rebounds.
24. Washington – Chimezie Metu, F, USC. Disappointing season for the Trojans, but not Metu, an athletic 6-foot-11 post player who had 10 double doubles this season.
25. Atlanta (via Minnesota) – Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV. Slowed down after a torrid start, and finished averaging 16-10.
26. LA Lakers (via Cleveland) – Trevon Bluiett, F, Xavier. The Lakers struck gold with Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart outside of the lottery in the 2017 draft, and Bluiett is a high IQ player who shot 43 percent from deep this season.
27. Boston – Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia. Totally feels like a Brad Stevens player, a defensive hound. Also shot 38 percent from deep each of the last two years.
28. Brooklyn (via Toronto) – Nick Richards, C, Kentucky. If he stays in school, he’s athletic enough that he could blossom into a lottery pick.
29. Golden State – Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova. They lost Ian Clark to free agency and Patrick McCaw regressed after last season.
30. Atlanta (via Houston) – Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame.