Denver Nuggets | NBA mock draft 2018: Deandre Ayton to go No. 1 … but then what?

Denver Nuggets | 	 				 			NBA mock draft 2018: Deandre Ayton to go No. 1 … but then what?
Denver Nuggets | 	 				 			NBA mock draft 2018: Deandre Ayton to go No. 1 … but then what?

With a week to go before this year’s NBA draft, there is a historic level of uncertainty about the top of the lottery at this late stage of the proceedings.

While Arizona center Deandre Ayton seems to be emerging as a consensus choice for the top pick, after that, things are completely wide open.

Here, then, is our best stab at how the first round will play out seven days before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will take the stage at Barclays Center in Brooklyn to announce all 30 first-round selections:

1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

The Suns have worked out several players, and coach Igor Kokoskov has ties to the other top candidate, Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic, who is still playing in Europe and thus hasn’t worked out in Phoenix. But Ayton feels like he’ll be the pick. He’s a physical specimen, and it can’t be overstated that Suns owner Robert Sarver is a prominent Arizona booster and alum.

2. Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic, SF, Real Madrid

There has been a lot of talk lately about Doncic slipping out of the top three — and, equally, about a lot of teams attempting to trade up to get their hands on him. That said, I can’t see a scenario in which the Kings, a team run in part by a pair of Serbians in Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic, pass on a potential superstar from the Balkans.

3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson, Jr., PF/C, Michigan State

Expected to be the youngest player drafted, Jackson, 18, projects to be an intriguing prospect as a 40 percent shooter from 3 (80 percent at the free-throw line) who can also block shots and switch screens. That is exactly what every team is looking for in today’s NBA — something Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who spent a long time in Golden State, knows better than just about anyone.

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke

With owner Robert Pera saying this week he thinks his team can win 50-plus games next season, it would make sense for Memphis to find a player who complements veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Bagley would be able to step in next to Gasol at power forward on Day 1.

5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

A massive human being, Bamba has intrigued plenty of teams at the top of the draft. He also is the type of prospect with massive boom-or-bust potential. Still, given how long Dallas has been searching for an anchor in the middle, bringing Bamba north from Austin feels like the pick here.

6. Orlando Magic: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

This is where things could start getting weird. Bamba could be an Orlando pick if he’s on the board. Duke center Wendell Carter would also make sense. But for a team desperate for scoring, star power and a point guard, we’ll put Young here.

7. Chicago Bulls: Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri

Assuming Porter’s medicals check out, it feels like this will be his floor in the draft. Chicago really needs a dynamic wing player, and Porter was projected to go in the top three before he suffered a back injury.

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8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn Nets): Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke

The Cavaliers would love to have either Young or Porter sitting on the board here — and if Carter goes to Orlando, they almost certainly will. In this case, though, Carter will go to Cleveland — giving the Cavaliers a skilled, long big who could wind up better than Bagley long-term.

9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova

Like Cleveland, New York would probably love to get its hands on Porter or Young — or potentially even move up and snag Doncic. With those options not likely to present themselves, though, giving David Fizdale a mature wing such as Bridges, who can step in and immediately knock down 3s and play defense, will help the new coach establish a culture.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers): Zhaire Smith, SF, Texas Tech

Smith has skyrocketed up draft boards in recent weeks and now appears to have a shot at making it into the lottery. This may be ambitious, but for a team that needs more athleticism and shooting on the wings, Smith would be an intriguing long-term swing to pair with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and, if he can get his shot right, Markelle Fultz.

11. Charlotte Hornets: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

Originally expected to be a top 10 pick, Sexton has dropped a bit in recent weeks. Still, his personality and game will give Charlotte a fallback option if general manager Mitch Kupchak considers trading Kemba Walker this summer — as, given how the team’s long-term prospects look, he’d be wise to do.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit Pistons): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Alexander went from an off-the-radar secondary prospect to arguably Kentucky’s best NBA talent this season, capped by an impressive showing in the NCAA Tournament. He could become the long-term successor to Chris Paul in Los Angeles.

13. Los Angeles Clippers: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami

With a second straight pick, the Clippers can get another long-armed, long-term prospect in their backcourt. Gilgeous-Alexander and Walker could become a fearsome defensive tandem in time and give the Clippers something to build on moving forward amid a lot of roster uncertainty.

Kevin Knox (5) of the Kentucky Wildcats handles the ball against Xavier Sneed (20) of the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta.
Kevin Knox (5) of the Kentucky Wildcats handles the ball against Xavier Sneed (20) of the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half during the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta.

14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky

Every team is searching for combo forwards, but Denver, in particular, is in need after cycling through many options this season. Knox is young, as is much of Denver’s core. Despite consistency issues, he has a lot of talent.

15. Washington Wizards: Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

This spot could go in a few directions. Smith will be a consideration if he’s on the board, as could Knox and Troy Brown. But Bates-Diop should be able to immediately step in and provide shooting and defense on the wings, plus true size to defend big forwards — something the Wizards need in a bad way.

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16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat): Jerome Robinson, PG, Boston College

With Phoenix going with Ayton over Doncic at the top of the draft, Robinson would be an intriguing pick here as a long-term piece next to Devin Booker in Phoenix’s backcourt. His skills would complement Booker nicely, and it would help adding an older player (Robinson is 21) to a team that already has so much youth.

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

Bridges slips out of the lottery, where he’s always been expected to go. If he does, it would be Milwaukee’s benefit, as he’s the kind of versatile, jack-of-all trades player the Bucks need to fit around Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton — and, more importantly, one who can play right away.

18. San Antonio Spurs: Troy Brown, SG, Oregon

Brown could go anywhere in the teens, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him land a few spots higher. The Spurs desperately need athleticism on the wings, no matter what happens with Kawhi Leonard, and Brown has a lot of long-term potential — particularly if his shot improves. There would be no one better for him to be paired with than Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland.

19. Atlanta Hawks: Dzanan Musa, SF, Cedevita (Croatia)

A 6-foot-9 forward with a 7-foot wingspan, Musa would be another long-term pick to pair with Jackson atop the draft for Atlanta, which has three first-round selections.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City Thunder: Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Hutchison canceled workouts and skipped the combine amid rumors of getting a promise from a team. And while Minnesota hasn’t been linked with those rumors, the Timberwolves taking him here would make a ton of sense. The Wolves need scoring on the wing, and depth there in general. Plus, as a 22-year-old senior, he should be ready to play for coach Tom Thibodeau.

21. Utah Jazz: Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Heading into the combine, it wasn’t clear if Huerter was going to stay in the draft. But a terrific week in Chicago convinced him to move on from being a Terrapin. Now it’s just a question of where he lands in the first round — with Utah, a fan of his, a logical destination.

22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans Pelicans): Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Williams could have come out last year but didn’t. Then he had a bit of an up-and-down season at Texas A&M before deciding to come out this year — only to then skip the combine and then change agents. While it would be surprising for him to fall this far, it wouldn’t be shocking, given the needs of the teams ahead of him and the odd nature of his past year.

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23. Indiana Pacers: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

The Pacers could use a long-term option at point guard, and Holiday — the younger brother of NBA guards Jrue and Justin — would be a nice fit. He should be a good complement to Victor Oladipo.

24. Portland Trail Blazers: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati

Assuming Portland keeps Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, they need more help on the wing — and, in particular, shooting and defense. Enter Evans, who feels like a potential long-term version of Trevor Ariza, who has basically become the model for “3-and-D” players in today’s NBA.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland Cavaliers): De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG, USC

The Lakers should know as much about Melton as anyone after the player was shut down early last season because of the FBI’s probe into college basketball. But his defensive versatility makes sense in Los Angeles whether the Lakers strike it rich in free agency or not.

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Donte DiVincenzo, PG/SG, Villanova

This would be a fun story, with DiVincenzo staying in Philadelphia after winning a national title for Villanova. It also makes sense. The Sixers need more depth on the perimeter, and having first Smith and now DiVincenzo to play on the wings would go a long way toward getting it.

Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke ...
Grayson Allen of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after hitting a 3-pointer in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the quarterfinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament Verizon Center on March 10, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

27. Boston Celtics: Grayson Allen, SG, Duke

Allen was one of the big winners at the combine, impressing with his athleticism. More importantly for Boston, though, he can give a team that lacked scoring in the playoffs an added boost — and should be ready to step in right away on a contending team.

28. Golden State Warriors: Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane

The Warriors would likely be happy with any of the four players taken prior, as the goal here has to be additional wing help. Frazier played for longtime NBA coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. at Tulane, and as a 6-foot-6 wing with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he’s exactly the kind of player Golden State needs.

29. Brooklyn Nets (from Toronto Raptors): Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech

The Nets will be looking for upside here, and Okogie could provide it. A long, positionally versatile player, he could slot into one of a few spots in Brooklyn’s backcourt under Coach Kenny Atkinson, as the Nets finally escape from being under the weight of the Celtics trade.

30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets): Elie Okobo, PG, Pau-Orthez (France)

Sense a theme here? The Hawks, who already went with young, long-term plays in Jackson and Musa in this draft, take another one in this French point guard who appears set on coming to the NBA next season. He shot over 40 percent from 3 last season in France and could be a long-term replacement for out-of-favor point guard Dennis Schroder.

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