Gary Kester’s 2018 NBA Mock Draft

Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; General view of the stage before the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Are you tired of looking at mock drafts for the 2018 NBA Draft yet? Well, if not, then you are in luck.

We are down to the final hours leading up to this year’s draft, which just so happens to be the last thing standing in the way of the Los Angeles Lakers and their enormous aspirations in free agency when the clock strikes 12:01 AM Eastern Time on July 1st.

Before the Lakers can go after LeBron James, Paul George or even Kawhi Leonard, they have three selections to either be made or traded in this year’s draft. The Lakers acquired the 39th overall pick from the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, giving them Nos. 25, 39 and 47 in this draft.

Will the Lakers use all three selections or deal them in a trade? We will know the answer soon enough, but let’s take a look at what could happen in the first round of Thursday’s draft. The following picks are how I think teams will make their decisions, not necessarily who I would pick if I was the team’s general manager, which is a scary thought. Let’s do this.

(To check out the mock draft I did with Dillon Hiser, click here. To see Wednesday night’s mock draft podcast with myself, Jacob Rude and Kyle Hartwick, click here.)

1. Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

Personally, I would take Luka Doncic here, as I think he is the best prospect in this class. But I get the appeal with Ayton for Phoenix. He’s a local product that the team can sell as a potential face of the franchise alongside Devin Booker. I’m not as high on him as most, but all signs point to Ayton being the top pick.

2. Sacramento Kings – Marvin Bagley, PF/C, Duke

Again, I would take Doncic here, but there are too many reports swirling around Sacramento that Bagley is their guy and they might not be sold on Doncic. Bagley is an excellent prospect who had an outstanding freshman season at Duke and should benefit from NBA spacing and not having to share room down in the paint with another key big man like he did in college. The key for him will be rounding out his defensive game.

3. Atlanta Hawks – Luka Doncic, G/F, Real Madrid

The Hawks probably never envisioned Doncic being on the board when they landed the third overall pick, but here we are. I still wouldn’t be surprised if he is picked before Atlanta is on the clock, but signs are pointing to the Hawks getting Doncic. I have concerns about him on the defensive end because of his lateral quickness, but the kid can play. He doesn’t project to just be a youngster with upside. He produced at a high level at the age of 19 in what many believe is the second-best league in the world.

4. Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson, Jr., PF/C, Michigan State

I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson ends up being the best player in this class. His ceiling is through the roof. Jackson checks so many boxes that teams would want in a big man, especially in today’s NBA. He’s big, very mobile and athletic, can shoot from the perimeter and defend at a very high level. Jackson could be a special player if he fulfills his potential.

5. Dallas Mavericks – Mo Bamba, C, Texas

The Mavericks have recently been linked to a number of free agent big men that will be on the market, but they can get one right here. Bamba has an insane size and wingspan combination. He has a ton of upside because of his physical tools, but all indications are that he’s a smart kid that will work hard. If that continues, there is plenty to work with there.

6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

The Magic badly need a point guard and Young is an absolute stud. He became the face of college basketball as a freshman with the Sooners. His ability to score, shoot from range and create offense for others with his vision is top notch. A lot of people seem to think Young might slip in the draft, but I don’t see it. The kid could be special if he cleans up some decision making and becomes a better defender, which will hopefully come with a little more support than he had in college.

7. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke

With two picks in the first round, I think the Bulls will try to get a big man and a wing if they can. Here, they get probably the best player available in Carter, who definitely had his moments as Duke’s best player last season. Carter has a polished offensive game that includes the ability to step out and knock down shots from the perimeter.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

If by chance LeBron James decides to stay in Cleveland, the Cavs will keep their frontcourt of James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. What they need is effective guard play. Guys like JR Smith, George Hill and Jordan Clarkson couldn’t offer much when it mattered in the playoffs. Sexton could fill it up as a freshman with the Crimson Tide. The Cavaliers could use his offensive firepower to provide some support.

9. New York Knicks – Michael Porter, Jr., SF/PF, Missouri

The Knicks badly need help on the wing. They should definitely have options to fill that need with this pick, but I think Porter has the highest upside of the options presented. The question is: will the Knicks have seen enough in team workouts to use a top-10 pick on Porter? There is virtually no college tape to evaluate, so high school footage and team workouts will be big. With Porter’s physical attributes, he could grow into a really good NBA player.

10. Philadelphia 76ers – Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

I really like this fit for both sides. The Sixers could use more shooting around Ben Simmons, especially with a couple of their shooters entering free agency. Bridges was a sharpshooter at nearby Villanova while bringing so much more to the table along with it.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Kentucky

If the Hornets are getting ready to hit the reset button by trading Kemba Walker, they need a new guard to take over. Gilgeous-Alexander really impressed me with his play last season under John Calipari. He would bring a polished offensive game to Charlotte, along with plenty of upside.

12. LA Clippers – Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky

Knox is a super young prospect that can shoot the basketball. The Clippers can probably just go best player available here, knowing they have the next pick as well. Knox gives them a young piece that could blossom on the wing next to Tobias Harris down the road.

13. LA Clippers – Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

DeAndre Jordan could be on his way out of Los Angeles, leaving a void in the middle for the Clippers. Enter another supremely athletic big man from Texas A&M.

14. Denver Nuggets – Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami

Denver doesn’t have a ton of true needs when you look at their roster, but some guard depth could really help. Walker was impressive for the Hurricanes. Rumor has it that he has done well in a lot of team workouts as well. The Nuggets could get a steal here.

15. Washington Wizards – Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

Bridges can play a couple different positions. That versatility could help him fit with a number of teams, but he falls to the Wizards here. If his shooting is consistent from NBA three-point range, look out.

16. Phoenix Suns – Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

The Suns got Ayton with the top pick. Now, they get even more athletic by taking the high-flying Smith. If you watch any of Smith’s highlights at Texas Tech, you’ll see plenty of exciting dunks. He’s an excellent athlete. Smith with Ayton and Josh Jackson is a trio that could bother teams with their athleticism.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – Kevin Huerter, SG/SF, Maryland

Perhaps nobody’s stock has risen quite like Huerter’s has in the pre-draft process. With excellent size on the wing, Huerter can really shoot the basketball from deep. His shooting combined with flashes of potential defensive versatility has really helped boost his draft value.

18. San Antonio Spurs – Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College

Robinson put up some terrific scoring numbers playing in the ACC with a poor supporting cast. Granted, there’s the “inflated numbers on a bad team” argument, but Robinson was the focus for teams on defense and he still averaged 20.7 points per game. The Spurs would know what to do with a guy like that.

19. Atlanta Hawks – Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Dennis Schroeder wants out of Atlanta, leaving a hole at the point guard spot for the Hawks. Holiday is another player that has probably boosted his stock in the pre-draft process. Adding the sharp-shooting Holiday here provides a little insurance with the team’s current starter demanding a trade.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Troy Brown, SG, Oregon

Brown has the potential to be an excellent piece out on the wing. He can put the ball on the deck, get inside and finish in the paint. If his perimeter shooting becomes more consistent, the rest of his offensive game should round very nicely into form.

21. Utah Jazz – Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

DiVincenzo has seen his draft stock skyrocket since March. He played well in the NCAA Tournament, leading Villanova to the 2018 national title and winning Final Four Most Outstanding Player in the process. That momentum carried into the combine and beyond to this point. If you watched the national championship game, you saw what he is capable of.

22. Chicago Bulls – Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

Hutchison canceled his workouts scheduled with teams and withdrew from the combine just before it started. This led many to believe that he received a first round guarantee from at least one team. A lot of people think it was the Bulls. They got their big man earlier in this draft, so they add a quality wing with great athleticism and the ability to knock down shots from three.

23. Indiana Pacers – Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

The Pacers have a nice collection of young talent. Here, they add an extremely versatile player with a smooth offensive game. Bates-Diop has the size and length to potentially guard multiple positions. Offensively, he’s a solid shooter and can finish inside. Don’t be surprised if he goes earlier than this.

24. Portland Trail Blazers – Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane

Frazier was an efficient offensive player from two and from three at Tulane. His size and length could help him really become a quality defender at the NBA level.

25. Los Angeles Lakers – De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, USC

Speaking of quality defenders, the Lakers snag one here with a local product. We haven’t seen Melton play competitively in over a year, but he’s an absolute dog on defense. The kid gets after it on that end. Combine that with his playmaking ability and the Lakers could get another steal at the tail end of the first round. The key will be his perimeter shooting.

26. Philadelphia 76ers – Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech

Okogie was a quality shooter and scorer at Georgia Tech. His free throw shooting should lead many to believe that his shooting will translate to the next level. Okogie is also still just 19, so there is plenty of time and room to grow for him.

27. Boston Celtics – Mitchell Robinson, PF/C, Chalmette High School

Robinson has been linked heavily to the Lakers at No. 25. That could certainly be where he ends up, but the Lakers have a log jam up front as is, so that dynamic would be interesting. Instead, he falls to the hated Celtics, who have a team ready to win now, which gives a project with high upside time to develop with no immediate pressure.

28. Golden State Warriors – Grayson Allen, SG, Duke

If anyone falls on draft night, it’s probably because this guy tripped them.

29. Brooklyn Nets – Dzanan Musa, SF, Croatia

Musa has been an efficient scorer with excellent size on the wing, listed at 6-foot-9 (editor’s note: nice). He might need some time to adjust to the NBA, but he could be worth the wait. There is definitely a foundational offensive skill set to like.

30. Atlanta Hawks – Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

There seems to be some buzz around this youngster. Coming out of high school, he seems to be performing well in team workouts. Simons is super young but looks like he could be a three-level scorer with quality size and length at the lead guard position. If you’re the Hawks with three picks in the first round, why not use one to swing for the fences on a high upside guy like Simons.

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