The 2018 NBA Draft is almost here! Even though the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to finally convey a top-10 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers this year, there is still plenty for fans of the purple and gold to be excited about.
The Lakers are entering a crucial offseason, one that they set themselves up for last summer. Now it’s time to execute the central focus of the plan with a big summer splash.
Before the Lakers can go after LeBron James and Paul George in free agency or try to trade for Kawhi Leonard, we first need to see what they do in the draft with the No. 25 overall pick. Who will be on the board at the tail end of the first round?
Dillon Hiser joined me to take the odd-numbered picks (1, 3, 5, etc.) while I selected for the even-numbered slots (2, 4, 6, etc.). We based this draft on what we think teams will do on Thursday night, not necessarily what we would do as general managers. Now without further ado, let’s dive in.
1. Phoenix Suns – DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
DeAndre Ayton is everything you could want on the offensive end from a young big man. He’s mobile enough to rim run, skilled in the post, and has solid range. He still has quite a ways to go defensively but the tools are there for him to become an effective defender. The Suns are locked in on Ayton and pairing him with Devin Booker provides a nice 1-2 scoring punch.
2. Sacramento Kings – Marvin Bagley, PF/C, Duke
If I’m the Kings, I would take Luka Doncic here. But there have been a lot of reports that Sacramento really likes Bagley and may not be sold on Doncic. Perhaps it’s smoke to lead teams to believe they don’t want Doncic, but if the Kings take Bagley here, they will still get a great player, one that I think is a little bit better than a lot of people are giving him credit for, even this high in the draft. Bagley could be really good for the Kings, until they trade him for scraps like the last good big guy they had.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid
In my opinion, Doncic is the best prospect in the class. He has played professionally in the second best league in the world since age 16 and this last year he has become a dominant force for Real Madrid. He is the ideal point forward as he can score from all over the floor, rebound, and has elite vision. It was reported that Doncic has risen to the top of Atlanta’s draft board recently and they’d give him a generational prospect to build around.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson, Jr., PF/C, Michigan State
Jackson has the potential to be the best player in this class. He checks so many boxes teams want in a big man. Size, length, mobility, athleticism, defense, and even the ability to shoot the ball. The Grizzlies should consider themselves lucky if he is on the board at four, and if he wants to play there, they should feel even luckier.
5. Dallas Mavericks – Mo Bamba, C, Texas
If you’re looking for the big man with the most upside look no further than Mo Bamba. He has a ridiculous 7-9 wingspan and should be an impact defender and rebounder from day one. Bamba is a bit raw offensively but does have solid touch around the rim and tools to improve as a scorer. Dallas has been looking for their big man of the future since the DeAndre Jordan fiasco, so selecting Bamba at 5 seems likely.
6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Young became the face of college basketball in his lone season with the Sooners. As an elite scorer and passer, Young is exactly the type of prospect the Magic should be hoping to fill their gaping hole at point guard. And if it doesn’t work out, I’m sure he’ll start to blossom as soon as Orlando lets him walk before offering him a second contract.
7. Chicago Bulls – Michael Porter, Jr., PF, Missouri
Going into last season, Porter, Jr. was arguably the best prospect in this draft class. However, injuries derailed his freshman season at Missouri and they are a reason that he could fall in this draft. MPJ has all the skills you could want out of a forward in today’s NBA, he can stretch the floor, get to the basket, rebound the ball, and push in transition. The injury risk is high, but the Bulls can land a top prospect to pair with Lauri Markkanen if MPJ remains healthy.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
The Cavs need guard help in the worst way. Sexton was beyond impressive as a freshman with the Crimson Tide, averaging 19.2 points per game. I would also expect him to at least know the time and score in any given situation, so there’s an upgrade already. Plus, someone is going to have to handle the ball when LeBron leaves for the Lakers.
9. New York Knicks – Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
Knox is a traditional combo forward that has one of the highest ceilings of anyone in this class. At just 18 years old, he’s extremely young and showed flashes of incredible scoring ability at Kentucky. In 32 minutes a game, he led the team in scoring and rebounding at 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a contest. The Knicks will need someone to shoulder some of the scoring load while Kristaps Porzingis recovers from injury and in the future those two could be a fun pair.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova
Bridges is a stud. He brings a lot to the table that NBA teams should love. I think his potential is extremely high. At the very least, he should be a quality three-and-D guy. Being a local product, Sixers fans should love him, but I’m sure they’ll be too busy worrying about the Lakers’ young core to really notice.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
While Kevin Knox led the Wildcats in points and rebounds last year, you could argue that Gilgeous-Alexander was the best player on the Sweet 16 team. With great size for a guard, SGA is terrific at rebounding for his position, getting to the rim, and creating for others. There are concerns about his shot but if that comes around and his defensive upside is met, the Hornets could wind up with the best point guard in the draft.
12. Los Angeles Clippers – Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke
This was simply best player available. Carter has the talent to get picked much higher than this, but the Clippers get a really good player to fall in their lap here and they didn’t even need David Stern’s help this time.
13. Los Angeles Clippers – Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
Bridges probably could have come out last year and been a lottery pick but he decided to stay in East Lansing and his stock remained about the same. In his two seasons as a Spartan, Bridges showed the versatility that NBA teams will covet as a do-it-all player offensively while being able to cover multiple spots defensively. The Clippers could package both picks to move up in the draft but if they stay put, Carter and Bridges is a perfect haul.
14. Denver Nuggets – Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
I’m a big fan of Walker. His skill set should fit in really well in today’s game, and the Nuggets could use him if they want to make that next step. I just hope Jamal Murray teaches him early on not to piss off Julius Randle whenever they have to play him.
15. Washington Wizards – Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
Zhaire Smith is the top athlete in this draft class. The kid has unreal bounce. As a freshman at Texas Tech, he was able to use that to his advantage in averaging 11.3 points and 5 rebounds a game. While he’s still super young, he should find ways to contribute early due solely to his athletic ability, however, if his shooting is legit (45 percent on only 40 3PA) and he can become a versatile defender, he could be the steal of the draft.
16. Phoenix Suns – Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland
Huerter has skyrocketed up draft boards since the start of this whole process, for good reason. A sharpshooter with excellent size to potentially play and defend either spot on the wing? Teams are going to like that. A recent injury could force him to slip on draft night, but he played through injury at the combine and at team workouts and still lit it up. I think he’ll be fine.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
The Bucks could really use an athletic, lob catching, rim-protecting big man (*cough* should’ve traded for DeAndre Jordan), and Robert Williams is exactly that. At Texas A&M, he showed the ability to completely change the game with his defensive ability and would be a perfect rim runner in transition for Milwaukee. There is some potential he could be more offensively but even if he doesn’t improve there, Williams has the tools to be impactful.
18. San Antonio Spurs – Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College
Robinson could really fill it up at Boston College. Averaging 20.7 points on 48.5 percent shooting and 40.9 percent from three in the ACC is no joke. His shooting efficiency numbers were fantastic, and the Spurs will need that offensive punch after they trade Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
Holiday is a well-polished player on the offensive end already as he averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists while shooting 42.9 percent from three as a Junior. The Hawks should likely try to move on from Dennis Schroder and selecting Holiday here would make that transition a bit easier.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
Bates-Diop has the physical tools to play multiple positions and do it effectively on both ends of the floor. He proved to be a quality shooter and scorer for the Buckeyes, so if he can round out the defensive aspect of his game, Tom Thibodeau will definitely play him at least 46 minutes a night in the future.
21. Utah Jazz – Elie Okobo, PG, Pau-Orthez
Okobo is one of my favorite prospects in this class. As a 20-year-old he’s already got three seasons of professional basketball under his belt and a really smooth feel for the game. Okobo is one of the better pick-and-roll orchestrators in this class as he can maneuver around defenses to get to the rim, find bigs on the roll, or use his size to get a shot off from deep. He has a beautiful looking jumper and showed his efficiency by shooting 39.4 percent on 4.7 three-point attempts a game this year.
22. Chicago Bulls – Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School
Since the Bulls addressed a need on the wing earlier in this draft, I have them taking Robinson here, a big man with a ton of potential. He’s young and will need time, but Robinson has the physical tools to work with at the center position. A freakish athlete with potential as a stretch big, Robinson could fit in well with Chicago’s rebuild.
23. Indiana Pacers – Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State
This is a perfect fit for both sides. Hutchison is one of the more complete scorers in the draft and has the size to get anywhere he wants on the floor. In his senior season at Boise State, he showed an improvement as a passer that will help him at the next level. The Pacers might be losing Thad Young this offseason and Hutchison could slide right in and take some of those forward minutes.
24. Portland Trail Blazers – Troy Brown, SG, Oregon
You might see Brown go earlier in a lot of mock drafts, and there is plenty of reason for that. Brown didn’t shoot the ball well last season for the Ducks, but he can put the ball on the deck and create offense for himself or for others. His upside as a secondary creator (which comes from his point guard background) is intriguing.
25. Los Angeles Lakers – Jacob Evans, SG, Cincinnati
The Lakers strike gold here with Jacob Evans. Cincinnati had an elite defense last year and a lot of that had to do with the play and leadership of Evans. As a 6-6 guard, Evans has the ability to switch on multiple positions defensively and that is exactly what the Lakers want to help bolster their improved defense. Offensively, Evans can stretch the floor as he shot nearly 38 percent from deep in three seasons at Cincy but he’s also very effective in transition both as a ball handler or filling the wing.
26. Philadelphia 76ers – Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech
Okogie was a quality scorer and three-point shooter last season at Georgia Tech. He got it done as a 19-year-old playing in the ACC. His 7-foot wingspan could help him become a quality defender, or at least someone who can reach out and snatch the phone away from the next Sixers front office executive to have burner accounts on Twitter.
27. Boston Celtics – Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
Doesn’t this just seem like a perfect match for both sides? In all seriousness, Allen is a solid prospect that has as much experience in big games as anyone in this class. He is uber-athletic and can stretch the floor as a shooter. The defensive side of the ball will likely give Allen issues but if he can turn into an average defender then he likely will have great value in the league.
28. Golden State Warriors – Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova
Don’t be surprised if DiVincenzo gets picked higher than this on Thursday night. He has done everything he could on the court to boost his stock in the spring. He helped lead Villanova to another national title on the shoulders of his monster championship game performance, and continued his stellar play into the NBA Draft Combine, creating quite the buzz for himself. He would fit well with the Warriors, as Kevin Durant could teach him to hide his worrisome tweets by creating a few burner accounts.
29. Brooklyn Nets – De’Anthony Melton, PG, USC
Melton is an excellent player in pick-and-roll situations and with his size and length, he causes havoc on the defensive end. He had some off the court trouble with the FBI that caused him to miss all of his sophomore season but hopefully that matured him a bit as he’ll need it trying to deal with Dwight Howard in the locker room.
30. Atlanta Hawks – Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy
Simons just turned 19 years old, but his game appears to have a pretty high level of offensive polish. There have been multiple reports that he has impressed in team workouts, and for the Hawks, why not swing for the fences on a home run prospect with a lot of upside? Even if he’ll just demand a trade in a few years like your current point guard, you might as well try.
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