The NBA Draft is one of the best days of the NBA season. For sixty young men, this is the best day of their lives as they finally achieve the dreams they have been working towards for years. As the big day approaches, some teams are looking to unload their previous roster and rebuild for the future. Others are looking to remain relevant and contend for the playoffs, while some continue to build for their championship contending squads.
Now mock drafts are merely a way to project where these players will land and are rarely accurate. As we saw in last year’s draft, there were multiple trades and there will most likely be more in this year’s. This is my mock draft on how I believe the night will proceed for these lucky young men and their teams based on reports, team needs, and player stock without considering draft night trades.
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona (7’0, 265)
The Phoenix Suns need a franchise cornerstone to pair with 21 year old guard Devin Booker. Cue Deandre Ayton. Ayton is a burden to handle in the low post where he can score with a wide array of post moves. He has shown the ability to stretch the floor from the midrange and from behind the 3PT line after shooting 34.3%. The Arizona big man has the potential to be the next NBA “unicorn” with his athleticism and inside-out ability. He has shown cause for concern on the defensive end but he played out of his natural position in college alongside Dusan Ristic. At the center position, Ayton can use his athleticism and strength to contest cutters and other big men more efficiently.
2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke (6’11, 235)
The Kings seem to be locked in with their three guards De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Recent reports have said the Duke forward is the favorite to land number two to the Kings (Stein). Bagley currently gets most of his points from put-back and transition opportunities, as well as showcasing a feel for hook shots and timely cutting. After showing flashes of a three-point range jumpshot, Dave Joerger and his coaching staff should focus on further developing his skills to reach his full potential. The Kings have flirted with the idea of drafting Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr here, so this spot is a possible trade-down situation.
3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic, G/F, Slovenia/Real Madrid (6’8, 225)
Over the past couple days, the Hawks have seemed to focus on the European wing (Woj). After winning the Euroleague Championship and MVP, Doncic is the most accomplished of any prospect in this draft pool and has erased any concerns about his underwhelming athleticism and quickness. With a lights-out jumper and reliable playmaking abilities, Doncic has the requisite skills to play next to Dennis Schroder or even replace him as the guard’s contract ends after the 2020 season. Doncic may never lead the league in scoring, but his ability to contribute in every facet of the game will hold immediate value to the Hawks.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan St (6’11, 235)
The Grizzlies will draft the Big 10 Freshman of the Year to pair with 33 year old Marc Gasol as he nears the end stages of his career. Jackson is one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in this rookie class with an emerging three point game. With the ability to attack closeouts and guard the perimeter, Jackson will allow Gasol to contest shots under the rim where he is most comfortable. The Michigan State big man has the potential to live up to his top-five status if he can continue to hone his jumpshot into a viable weapon at the next level.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas (7’1, 225)
With a wingspan of 7’10, Bamba will come into the league as one of the most feared rim protectors after almost 4 blocks per game in his one year at Texas. Out of every player in this draft class, Bamba may have the highest upside due to his evolving 3PT presence, smooth mechanics and quick release as shown in his recently released workout videos. The Mavericks will have a new franchise cornerstone to pair with electric guard Dennis Smith and wing Harrison Barnes. Bamba needs to build muscle over his first NBA offseason to become a bigger threat in the post to battle with some of the NBA’s strongest bigs.
6. Orlando Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma (6’2, 180)
Orlando desperately needs a lead guard of the future and land one with the NCAA leader in points and assists in Trae Young. With a plethora of young bigs in Johnathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon (RFA), and Nikola Vucevic, the Magic cannot draft another big man while DJ Augustin mans the point guard position. Young can shoot with the best of the best and has the potential to be a Steph Curry-lite type of player with his shiftiness and lethal pull up game. I am going to chalk up his turnover-prone behavior to being the only decent player on the Oklahoma roster last season. Surrounded by other NBA caliber players, Young should flourish.
7. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke (6’10, 250)
The Bulls get a big man to pair alongside rookie sensation Lauri Markannen who is most comfortable at the power forward spot where he can stretch the floor. Carter is a decent shot blocker after averaging over 2 per game and has a blossoming 3PT game after hitting 19/46 at Duke. Carter has a better post game and is a better rebounder than Markannen so it makes sense to slot Carter in at the center position. In any other draft, Carter is a top-5 pick but the 2018 draft is very top-loaded with big men Ayton, Bagley, Jackson, and Bamba.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Michael Porter Jr, F, Missouri (6’10, 215)
MPJ struggled to get on the floor his freshman year at Mizzou with a back injury that limited him to 3 games that showed a lot of rust, which could lead to a decent slip in the middle of the lottery. When healthy, Porter can light up the scoreboard from all three levels with stepbacks, pull-up jumpers, and floaters. After entering college as a contender for the number one overall pick, the Cavs get a high risk, high reward player with LeBron James most likely leaving The Land. If Porter can stay healthy, the Cavs found their new franchise cornerstone after The Decision 3.0. If teams believe his injured past is behind him, I would not be surprised if Porter lands in the top five.
9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova (6’7, 210)
The Knicks need talent and must take the best player available approach in this draft. With Porzingis coming back from injury and drafting point guard Frank Ntilikina in the lottery last draft, the Knicks pick two time NCAA champion Mikal Bridges, a versatile 3-and-D player who can guard the 1 through 4 spots on the floor. He is a reliable spot up shooter after shooting 40% from 3 for his college career. He has the opportunity to become a deadly sniper and lockdown defender for the Knickerbockers.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via LAL): Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky (6’9, 215)
With Mikal Bridges off the board, the Sixers could use a scoring wing to relieve some pressure off fellow SEC Freshman of the Year Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. After leading Kentucky in scoring with 15.6 PPG with a slashline of 44.5/77.4/34.1, Knox will bring the ability to score without needing the ball in his hands. He has to improve on his playmaking ability and the defensive end in order to become a reliable member of Brett Brown’s rotation but should be able to get minutes right out of the gate for his scoring prowess alone. Sixers have also brought Knox in for two separate workouts to show their interest in the forward. Another prospect they are reportedly looking at is Zhaire Smith of Texas Tech, but I believe Knox currently fits with the current roster better than Smith.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama (6’2, 185)
With Kemba Walker on the forefront of trade rumors and his impending free agency in 2019, the Hornets get their point guard of the future in the form of Collin Sexton. Sexton, the co-SEC Freshman of the Year, led his Crimson Tide to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2006 after a buzzer-beating three. Within fifteen feet, Sexton will find a way to score due to his competitiveness and relentless behavior on the court. Sometimes his aggressiveness gets in the way of proper decision making but helps him harass defenders on the opposite end of the court. Watching him almost defeat Minnesota 3-on-5 should erase any doubts in his ability to lead a team.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech (6’4, 200)
One of the best athletes in the draft (41.5 inch vertical at the NBA Combine), Smith will fit in nicely in alongside Miles Bridges and Tobias Harris. The Red Raider showed accuracy from behind the line in a small sample size 45% on 18/40 shooting and has all the physical tools to fit a tenacious defensive frontcourt next to Patrick Beverly. He could rise if lottery teams are sold on his potential.
13. Los Angeles Clippers (via DET): Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan St (6’7, 220)
A tremendous athlete with a blossoming three point game, Bridges is a special talent for the Clippers in the second of consecutive lottery picks. If Doc Rivers can find the correct positional fit, preferably a small-ball 4 where he can use his quickness and athleticism against other bigs, the Clippers will have a player capable of stretching the floor and defending at a high level. Expect Bridges to take over the power forward position after Harris’ contract is up next offseason.
14. Denver Nuggets: Lonnie Walker, G, Miami (6’5, 195)
This pick is based on upside as Walker was a little underwhelming in his lone year at Miami. He showed inconsistency on the offensive end, indicated by his 41.5% shooting from the field. Walker has the ability to create his own shot, catch and shoot from 3, and finish at the rim but needs to be more consistent in order for Mike Malone to give him valuable minutes. He has the athleticism and quickness to become an above-average defender alongside Gary Harris and Jamal Murray in a three guard lineup next to Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. The Miami product will most likely spend his rookie season coming off the bench.
15. Washington Wizards: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M (6’10, 240)
The Wizards need athleticism in their frontcourt with aging Marcin Gortat still holding down the fort. The thought of John Wall to Robert Williams lobs should excite the Wizards fans. Right now, Williams will serve in an energizer role, finishing anything near the basket, blocking shots at a high rate, and rebounding in bunches. If his offensive skillset enhances, the Wizards will have an exciting big man for the future.
16. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky (6’6, 180)
To be frank, the Suns need a point guard to replace non-shooter Elfrid Payton and diminutive Tyler Ulis. At 6’6 with a 7’0 wingspan, Gilgeous-Alexander will fit in seamlessly with Devin Booker to mask some of his defensive deficiencies in the backcourt. As an above-average playmaker and increasingly threatening shooter (40.4% from 3), the Kentucky product will add much needed firepower in the pick-and-roll with number one overall pick Deandre Ayton and give Booker more catch and shoot opportunities. He will cement his future as the lead guard of the Suns after an offseason building muscle with the Suns training staff.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Aaron Holiday, PG/SG, UCLA (6’1, 185)
With Eric Bledsoe nearing the end of his prime, his athleticism will soon diminish. With only one year left on the five year/$70 million contract he signed in 2014, the Bucks find their next starting floor general in Aaron Holiday. After playing alongside star point guards Steve Alford and Lonzo Ball at UCLA, the Bucks could even throw him out there alongside Bledsoe in a two guard lineup. There is no doubt that the youngest Holiday brother can light it up from three after shooting over 41% from behind the line for the third straight season.
18. San Antonio Spurs: Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova (6’5, 200)
“The Michael Jordan of Delaware” and Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four finds a home in San Antonio after his stock skyrocketed from his phenomenal championship game in which he scored 31 points to lead Nova to their second championship in three seasons. A lights out shooter and above-average athlete, DiVincenzo can contribute to Gregg Popovich’s lineup right out of the gate. Amidst the whole Kawhi Leonard debacle, the Spurs front office is just trying to find any talent in order to remain competitive post-Kawhi.
19. Atlanta Hawks (via MIN): Khyri Thomas, PG, Creighton (6’4, 200)
The Hawks will most likely try to package this pick along with the 30th overall to obtain a second lottery pick, but for the mock draft’s sake, Atlanta will take Khyri Thomas, a 3-and-D guard from Creighton to serve as Schroder’s backup and possible replacement in a few years’ time. One of the best defenders in the draft, Thomas will be able to lockdown both guard positions fairly easily while firing away from three as a career 40.6% shooter.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF, Ohio State (6’9, 225)
I expect the Wolves to play this safe and pick a player with collegiate experience and appears to be pro-ready. It also helps that Bates-Diop could fill a hole in between Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins at the 4 slot. In his third season as a Buckeye, he led the team in scoring with just under 20 points per game and just under 9 rebounds per game. He will have to prove that his redshirt junior season was no fluke and that Tom Thibodeau can trust him to help the Wolves finally make that next step.
21. Utah Jazz: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State (6’7, 200)
The Jazz want to build on their unexpected success last season with the emergence of Donovan Mitchell as a team leader and electric scorer. Hutchison reportedly received a promise by a team drafting in the 20s that if he were available, he would be selected. With Rudy Gobert protecting the rim, coach Quin Snyder could use Hutchison as a small ball four to provide more spacing for the big Frenchman and slashing room for Mitchell. After four years at Boise State with continuous improvement, Hutchison seems to be a safe bet for a team drafting in the 20’s.
22. Chicago Bulls (via NOP): Dzanan Musa, SF/PF, Bosnia & Herzegovina (6’9, 185)
Musa has been in the late first round conversation for the past couple of years due to his size on the wing with a smooth jumper, decent athleticism, and his ability to create his own shot. The Bulls take a chance here on a European wing with the hopes of filling a need.
23. Indiana Pacers: Elie Okobo, PG/SG, France (6’3, 180)
With Darren Collison aging and no replacement in sight, Larry Bird and the Pacers jump on the Frenchman after his breakout season in the highest level in the French league. He has good size and length at the lead guard position (6’8 wingspan) and was a prolific scorer in the LNB Pro A after scoring 44 points against Monaco in May. He has the potential to be a two way player to fit the needs to play alongside Victor Oladipo and Co.
24. Portland Trailblazers: Kevin Huerter, SG/SF, Maryland (6’7, 195)
The Trailblazers love to shoot threes and the Maryland product can do just that. After hitting 138 threes on 39.4% shooting in two seasons, the Blazers pull the trigger on Huerter to place him alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to create one of the deadliest shooting lineups in the league. He will be sidelined for the next two months with a broken hand, so he will miss Summer League but should be ready for training camp.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (via CLE): Jerome Robinson, PG/SG, Boston College (6’5, 190)
A 20 point per game scorer in his junior year at Boston College, Robinson goes to the Lakers for some backcourt depth behind Lonzo Ball and Isaiah Thomas. He can provide a spark off the bench in the form of spot up opportunities, taking defenders off the bounce, or easy cuts to the basket. The Lakers need to do anything and everything they can in order to persuade LeBron James or Paul George to sign there or set up a package appealing enough to poach away Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs.
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech (6’5, 210)
The Sixers could go numerous ways with this pick. There have been rumors of them wanting to trade into the top five for a chance at Doncic, or they could go with other guards such as Grayson Allen, Gary Trent, or Troy Brown. Here they take Josh Okogie, a capable 3-and-D wing with a 7 foot wingspan who averaged almost 20 points per game last season. He is a more athletic shot creator and better defender than Marco Belinelli who may walk after his half-season rental.
27. Boston Celtics: Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV (7’1, 250)
The Celtics have a boatload of wings on their roster in Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart and two starting caliber point guards in Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier. They can use a backup for Al Horford in the middle. Aron Baynes is a free agent this offseason while McCoy averaged 16.9/10.3/1.8 in just under 29 minutes per game for UNLV. He has the body and athleticism to eventually become Horford’s replacement once his contract has expired.
28. Golden State Warriors: Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon (6’7, 210)
The Oregon product would fit seamlessly in to the reigning champions’ defensive scheme that relies on switching and versatility. Brown can cover positions one through four adequately. If his three point shot comes around, the Warriors could land themselves another steal at the end of the first round.
29. Brooklyn Nets: Mitchell Robinson, C, USA (7’0, 225)
With D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie locked in at the backcourt and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the forward spot, the Nets may think about going big here. After the acquisition of Dwight Howard from the Hornets, the Nets can stand to have Robinson develop in the G-League for a year or two. Robinson dropped out of Western Kentucky prior to the season and began training for the NBA draft. There is not much tape of Robinson but was a five star recruit coming out of high school with explosive athleticism. The Nets take a gamble here in an attempt to find players with upside hoping it pays off.
30. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan (7’0, 240)
With their third pick of the first round, the Hawks take the stretch-5 from Michigan who led the Wolverines to the Final Four in his junior season. Wagner is able to punish opposing big men from outside with his 38.5% stroke from deep but his defense is almost nonexistent. His ceiling is close to that of Frank Kaminsky as a backup, floor-spacing big man.
31. Phoenix Suns: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinatti (6’7, 200)
32. Memphis Grizzlies: Grayson Allen, SG, Duke (6’5, 198)
33. Atlanta Hawks: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia (6’9, 205)
34. Dallas Mavericks: Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky (6’6, 195)
35. Orlando Magic: Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova (6’2, 200)
36. Sacramento Kings: Gary Trent Jr, SG, Duke (6’6, 205)
37. New York Knicks (via CHI): Omari Spellman, PF, Villanova (6’10, 250)
38. Philadelphia 76ers (via BKN): Svi Mykhailiuk, SG/SF, Kansas (6’8, 210)
39. Los Angeles Lakers (via NYK): Jarred Vanderbilt, PF/C, Kentucky (6’9, 215)
40. Brooklyn Nets (via LAL): Bruce Brown Jr, SG, Miami (6’5, 195)
41. Orlando Magic (via CHA): Chimezie Metu, C, USC (6’10, 220)
42. Detroit Pistons: De’Anthony Melton, PG, USC (6’3, 195)
43. Denver Nuggets (via LAC): Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita St (6’5, 190)
44. Washington Wizards: Anfernee Simons, PG, IMG Academy (6’3, 185)
45. Brooklyn Nets (via MIL): Kostas Antetokunmpo, SF/PF, Dayton (6’11, 195)
46. Houston Rockets (via MIA): Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU (6’6, 210)
47. Los Angeles Lakers (via DEN): Melvin Frazier, SG/SF, Tulane (6’6, 200)
48. Minnesota Timberwolves: Devonte Graham, PG, Kansas (6’2, 185)
49. San Antonio Spurs: Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia (6’2, 195)
50. Indiana Pacers: Kenrich Williams, SF, TCU (6’8, 200)
51. New Orleans Pelicans: Trevon Duval, PG, Duke (6’3, 190)
52. Utah Jazz: Tony Carr, PG, Penn State (6’5, 200)
53. Oklahoma City Thunder: Malik Newman, PG/SG, Kansas (6’3, 190)
54. Dallas Mavericks (via POR): Kevin Hervey, SF, UT-Arlington (6’8, 215)
55. Charlottes Hornets (via CLE): Ray Spalding, PF, Louisville (6’10, 215)
56. Philadelphia 76ers: Alize Johnson, PF, Missouri State (6’8, 220)
57. Oklahoma City Thunder (via BOS): Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona (6’4, 215)
58. Denver Nuggets (via GS): Justin Jackson, SF, Maryland (6’7, 230)
59. Phoenix Suns (via TOR): Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona (6’5, 200)
60. Philadelphia 76ers (via HOU):Brian Bowen III, G, University of South Carolina (6’7, 200) Go Cocks!
Just Missed the Cut:
These 15 players all have chances of being drafted, but if not, have the highest chances of securing a Summer League opportunity.
Trevonn Blueitt, SG, Xavier
Joel Berry, PG, UNC
Anas Mahmoud, PF/C, Louisville
Gary Clark, F, Cincinatti
Vincent Edwards, F, Purdue
Isaac Bonga, G, Germany
Billy Preston, PF, Kansas
Marcus Foster, PG/SG, Creighton
Issuf Sanon, G, Ukraine
Wenyen Gabriel, PF, Kentucky
Brandon Randolph, G, Arizona
Justin Bibbs, SG, Virginia Tech
Manu Lecomte, PG, Baylor
Bonzie Colson, F, Notre Dame
Theo Pinson, SG/SF, UNC
By Mike Johnston
University of South Carolina ’21