The lottery gods have spoken. Tankapalooza 2018 was a resounding success for some teams, and a flaming failure for others. The Phoenix Suns cashed in on the first pick, opening a world of possibilities on how the 2018 NBA Draft is going to shake out. Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton appears to be the odds-on favorite to become the first overall pick, but given the many positional needs the Suns have, it’s no guarantee that the draft is going to play out like many think it will.
But for now, Ayton looks to be locked in as the Suns’ new franchise center. As far as the rest of the draft? Check out our first mock draft to see who goes where.
1. DeAndre Ayton - Phoenix Suns
A franchise center with a game that’s tailored for today’s space and pace era doesn’t arrive too often. Ayton offers an intriguing blend of size, athleticism, and a surprisingly decent outside game that the Suns desperately lack. Devin Booker is entrenched as the team’s cornerstone, and he’s going to need a big man to help open more space for him. Ayton could be the guy to do just that.
2. Luka Doncic - Sacramento Kings
The Kings are in an intriguing position because if Ayton goes off the board, it might have to take the best player available, regardless of position. Sacramento has young talent across the board, but nobody stands out as a potential franchise player. That could be Doncic, who many think is the best prospect in the draft. Doncic’s versatility is arguably his biggest strength. He can’t be pigeon-holed into one specific position so he can play alongside a lot of the Kings’ young talent. Bonus points too for arguably having the biggest star power of any player in the draft. Sacramento needs a face of the franchise after the departure of the DeMarcus Cousins. That could be Luka Doncic.
3. Marvin Bagley Jr. - Atlanta Hawks
Speaking of a team that’s in dire need of some identity, the Atlanta Hawks can’t afford to mess this draft up. Fortunately, it moved up to the third pick where it can pluck Marvin Bagley Jr. The Duke big man has to answer some questions about his defensive instincts, but offensively, he’s got the tools to become a multi-faceted player in the mold of Chris Bosh. Considering that Atlanta already has John Collins, teaming him up with Bagley’s offensive potential offers a world of interesting possibilities.
4. Jaren Jackson Jr. - Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies’ epic tanking didn’t pay off with the top pick. The good news is that the Grizzlies might still find itself a gem in Jackson. He’s not the best prospect in the draft, but he has one of the best upsides on account of his built, skill, and age. Jackson is one of the youngest prospects in this draft so there’s clear room for him to grow into a multi-faceted player who could one day become the face of the Grizzlies franchise. It also helps that he’s going to a team that has Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol providing the kind of guidance that all young players need.
5. Wendell Carter - Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are stuck between multiple eras. Dirk Nowitzki is still around, and he’s flanked by young vets like Harrison Barnes and even younger guys like Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell. Then there’s Dennis Smith Jr., the team’s new franchise stud. If the Mavs want to fast track its way back to the playoffs, it’s going to need to start to build an identity that’s consistent with the timetable it has. Michael Porter offers the most intrigue among all available players, but the Mavs can’t go wrong with Wendell Carter. Carter immediately fills a position of need for the Mavs and he’s going to have one of the best big men in the history of the game on his ear for probably two seasons.
6. Collin Sexton - Orlando Magic
Here’s another team that’s in a total identity crisis. The Magic have a good mix of young players, but its roster is littered with guys that don’t have the same timetable to grow. Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Terrence Ross are good players, but they probably don’t belong in Orlando with the likes of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. For Orlando to really move forward, it needs to build its roster around Gordon, Isaac, and a dynamic lead guard that can help the team establish a new identity. For a while, the team thought that Elfrid Payton was that player. There’s the temptation to pick Trae Young in this spot, but outside of Doncic, the best point guard in this draft is arguably Collin Sexton.
7. Michael Porter Jr. - Chicago Bulls
Mo Bamba may be the safer choice given the current make-up of the Bulls, but Porter Jr. is the home run pick that could pay big dividends for the team. Before injuring his back last year, Porter was the consensus number one pick in this year’s draft. The kid is dripping in potential. He’s arguably the most potent scorer in the draft and he wraps all that up in a freakish 6’10” frame that, if he puts all of it together, could turn him into the next great scorer in the NBA. His injury issues are obviously a concern, but if Porter falls this far down in the draft, there’s no reason why the Bulls should pass up on him.
8. Trae Young - Cleveland Cavaliers
Whatever happens to LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers need a serious infusion of young talent. The Cavs could go a number of different ways with this pick, including trading it away if it means keeping James in the team. But if it ends up keeping it, Trae Young could be the pick. Young became the darling of the basketball world late last year when he went on a torrid run with Oklahoma, but his game has petered off since then. He still possesses incredible range and has excellent playmaking skills, but his height and build could be issues in the NBA. Still, even with the baggage, there’s growing sentiment that Young isn’t going to fall past the Cavs, regardless if LeBron stays or leaves.
9. Mo Bamba - New York Knicks
If Kristaps Porzigis returns to form following his devastating ACL injury, Mo Bamba would be the perfect compliment to his unicornian skills. Bamba is a raw offensive prospect, but his defensive instincts are unquestioned. Having him in the Knicks could alleviate a lot of the defensive pressure on Porzingis, giving KP the license to finally function as the unquestioned number one option of the Knicks.
10. Mikal Bridges - Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are lucking out on a prospect that could help them immediately. Not only is Mikal Bridges one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft, his biggest strength—outside shooting—is something that the Sixers could sorely need if J.J. Reddick signs elsewhere. His relatively advanced age for a rookie—he’s already 22—shouldn’t be a problem considering that the Sixers’ foundational players—Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Markelle Fultz—are all in the same age range.
11. Miles Bridges - Charlotte Hornets
The younger of the two Bridges brothers falls into a beautiful situation with the Charlotte Hornets. If there’s anything the Hornets has shown us it’s that none of its recent draft picks have lived up to their spots. With Miles Bridges in the fold, it would effectively allow the team to move on from the likes of Frank Kaminsky, Dwayne Bacon, and Trevor Graham, and give Bridges the green light to try to live up to his potential. He may be undersized as a power forward, but his versatility allows him to play the three and the four depending on who he shares the court with.
12. Kevin Knox — L.A. Clippers
The Clippers have the ability to get creative with its two draft picks. Depending on what it does with DeAndre Jordan, the Clips could go in a number of different directions. We do feel confident that one of its picks will be Kevin Knox, the high-upside wing from Kentucky that can blossom into a very good 3-and-D threat at the minimum. Knox doesn’t have the offensive pedigree as some of the players above him, but at just 19 years old, he’s got plenty of room to blossom into an impact player for L.A.’s other team.
13. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - L.A. Clippers
A 6’6” point guard is an interesting prospect. That’s exactly who Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is. He’s not a household name, but he possesses impressive physical tools and good point guard instincts that could manifest itself if he’s brought along at a pace that’s comfortable to him. Fortunately, the Clippers appear to be in no rush to throw him into the fire with the likes of Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers, and the eternal Lou Williams all with the team. This pick could be a futures pick for the Clippers. We won’t know how good Gilgeous-Alexander will be in year one, but if he fulfils his potential, he could be the steal of the draft.
14. Anfernee Simons - Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets don’t have too many holes so if it’s going to take advantage of its pick, it could go with a player that not a lot of people know about. Anfernee Simons went the IMG Academy route on his way to the NBA. With the Nuggets, he could blossom into a lights out sixth man that can help keep the team’s offense on full throttle. There are obvious questions on how his game will translate to the NBA, but Denver is in a good position of actually being a good team that found its way in the lottery because it lost what was a one-game play-in against the Minnesota Timberwolves.