In a few short hours, the 2018 NBA Draft will commence, emanating from the Barclay’s Center in New York. While the team that inhabits the building 41 times a year, the Brooklyn Nets, will be absent from the early proceedings as they continue to pay the price for a lack of foresight in the past, many NBA entities will look to turn the corner from their franchise’s bleak fortunes of late.
Yet before we go too much further down the path of predictions, prognostications and proclamations of the draftees-to-be, lets clear one thing up right away. Mock drafts are fundamentally pointless, as with one swift swap of a card into Adam Silver’s hand, all of the best laid mock plans (also known as guesses) are wiped away. All it takes is for one previously unforeseen GM to get ambitious and shake completely shake things up in a way nobody saw coming (refer back to the Jimmy Butler to Minnesota situation of last summer for further details).
But when executed correctly, a mock draft can provide a temperature check of sorts; a place to check back in at throughout the night as a base of comparison and expectation. That is what the effort of this 13th-hour mock draft serves as. I have already addressed the disaster potential of each team headed into tonight’s activities, so this serves as a final heat check for where the chips could lay. So entertain yourself and appease us, as we take a final pointless, yet entertaining look at taking an almost educated guess at how tonight’s NBA talent infusion will go down.
I promise this content to be outdated no later than 30 minutes into the tonight’s program, or unpaid your money back. More on how this all shook out tomorrow.
1. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton-Center-Arizona
There is no other way this goes. The local product is far from a perfect product, but when the upside comparisons are Boogie Cousins, Patrick Ewing and Karl-Anthony Towns, you take that offense at number one and worry about if he’ll ever commit on defense later. Looking at Boogie alone, there are plenty of teams (what up Sixers, Nets and Wolves) that would gladly rewind eight years not pass on him.
Backup plan: There isn’t one. This the guy.
2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III-Power Forward-Duke
While there will be many that clamor for Luka Doncic here -and he could very easily be the better player- it appears that the Kings want the Duke scoring and rebounding machine to be their guy. He has embraced being a King (a rarity of the highest order) and does fit in as a clear day one starter.
Backup plan: The trade back to get Michael Porter Jr (as well as the risk that comes with him) seems like a very Kings thing to do. But it is hard to blame them if they do; Porter’s boom or bust potential is understandable, but the boom could be a nuclear one if he’s healthy.
3. Hawks: Luka Doncic-Guard-Slovenia
This is a great grab for a Hawks team that could get the best talent in the draft by staying pat at number 3. Doncic is an experienced pro already at 18 and could slide into either slot in the Hawks backcourt, alongside Dennis Schroeder at the two guard or as a primary ball handler if they choose to move him. At either spot, he is instantly the best offensive weapon they possess.
Backup plan: With two more picks in the first round (19 and 30), Atlanta could be completely open for business tonight. While sliding back from three is unlikely, a move up with the latter two picks could influence what they do with the early pick. This could pull Jaren Jackson Jr or Mohamed Bamba into the scene at #3.
4. Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr-Forward/Center-Michigan State
Jackson brings arguably the most enticing skill set of all to the table. Projectable as a phenomenal stretch four that offers shot blocking upside that could allow him to patrol the paint as well, he can fit onto a Memphis roster that slated for a number of changes in the upcoming years very well.
Backup plan: The Grizz have also made it very clear that they are willing to deal here. With plenty of teams hungry to move up (including the Knicks, Clippers and Bulls) or back (Kings and Hawks), they could really call their shot here. Many of top prospects fit well into their profile, so it would not be surprising to see Memphis on the move.
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba-Center-Texas
With his freakish wingspan and natural ability as a shot blocker, Bamba is a guy that could instantly be what the Mavericks hoped that Nerlins Noel would be two years ago. The Mavs are unlikely to be back in the competitive picture in the next year, which could give Bamba plenty of time to grow into the role and his frame.
Backup Plan: With Dallas, the backup plan could very well end up being the main plan. It is said that Mark Cuban loves Michael Porter Jr and there are few owners that have more of a basketball say than Cuban does. In addition, the pick makes sense for the team’s post-Dirk strategy as well. If no one jumps ahead to take MPJ, he could be the guy here.
6. Orlando Magic: Trae Young-Guard-Oklahoma
If we know anything beyond a shadow of a doubt about the Magic, it is that they love two things: projectable 6’10 and above guys and European shooters. While Young doesn’t fit into either of those categories, he does add something the team desperately needs on two other fronts: name recognition and point guard potential. Young’s stock is all over the place, but this is a best fit situation for player and team.
Backup plan: If their usual fetishes take over however and Mohamed Bamba is already gone, this could be where Duke center Wendell Carter lands. It just makes sense, in a Magic type of way.
7. Chicago Bulls: Michael Porter Jr-Forward-Missouri
While it makes sense to some and none to others, MPJ’s ‘slide’ stops here. Porter provides another 6’10 scoring wing to complement last year’s number 7 overall in Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls desperately need scoring options and he fits the bill as one absolutely worth taking a shot on here.
Backup plan: Wendell Carter’s name could come up again here, as the Bulls need to fortify their frontcourt. But unlike with the Magic, there is an absolute fit for Carter in Chicago’s needs list.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton-Point Guard-Alabama
This pick remains complicated by what its purpose is within the LeBron James sweepstakes, but for pure current roster value Sexton is the guy here. A versatile presence that can contribute a bit of everything the Cavs need, with or without LeBron.
Backup plan: This could be the stopping point for a number of names already mentioned, if they slide some. Both Michael Porter Jr and Trae Young could hear their names called here, as could a rising name such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Kevin Knox.
9. New York Knicks: Kevin Knox-Forward-Kentucky
The winner of the workout process so far has been Knox, who has risen from the middle of the first round a month ago to being what appears to be an absolute top 10 pick. The Knicks are said to be enamored with him and it makes sense, as their current roster features no one close to his caliber of athleticism on the wing.
Backup plan: While New York and new coach David Fizdale would be plenty happy to land Knox if they stay put, there is a hunger for more as well. They are in prime position to move up in round one, with an eye on Michael Porter Jr. If Jaren Jackson Jr stays on the board for too long, he could also become a target of NY.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Mikal Bridges-Forward-Villanova
There is so much to like about this pick, as it is the perfect fit for what is already in place in Philly. Bridges immediately pops in mature and ready to contribute as part of the Sixers rotation. He can easily find a place among their diverse roster and provide perimeter scoring and defense.
Backup plan: Both Wendell Carter and Trae Young are exciting to consider as fits with Philly if they slide on the board. But it really, really seems unlikely that Bridges isn’t the guy here.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Shai Gileous-Alexander-Point Guard-Kentucky
The tug of war over who actually makes this pick between Michael Jordan and Mitch Kupchak is something that deserves camera time itself. But regardless of who makes the call, the Hornets need to come away with a succession plan for Kemba Walker that can help out in the interim too. Enter SGA, who would fit in nicely alongside Malik Monk in upcoming years.
Backup plan: Charlotte would be over the moon if Collin Sexton fell to this point, but that seems increasingly unlikely. Another interesting choice could be either Miles Bridges, Zhaire Smith or Lonnie Walker IV, who could be the scoring punch the team needs immediately from someone besides Walker.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Wendell Carter-Center-Duke
The Clippers are reportedly looking to move at least one of their back-to-back picks late in the lottery, if not both. But if that doesn’t take shape and they are stuck at 12, landing Carter at this point would be a gift. While he may not be a natural fit with DeAndre Jordan in town, Carter does at the very least allow Jerry West to entertain how to work a deal for his star center soon.
Backup plan: There is a definite need for help at both point guard and on the wing. Taking Miles Bridges here is a solid decision to get more athletic outside as well.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerome Robinson-Guard-Boston College
The Clips can get creative at 12, because their next pick will be point guard focused regardless. While Robinson profiles as more of a combo guard, versatility is needed. Robinson can do enough to immediately complement both Austin Rivers offensive inconsistencies, Patrick Beverly’s defensive ability and Lou Williams’ need to be at the two guard primarily.
Backup plan: If the run on guards has swooped up Robinson already, defaulting back to adding an athletic wing can’t hurt.
14. Denver Nuggets: Miles Bridges-Forward/Guard-Michigan State
The solid build out of the Nuggets over the past few years is still short of a true difference maker at small forward. Bridges is a talent that speaks to how deep this year’s draft is that he could still possibly be available and represents a perfect fit for Denver as they fully expect to depart from the land of the lottery eligibles going forward.
Backup Plan: Zhaire Smith’s name has been ringing out of late and a mostly finished product such as the Nuggets could easily take him and see where he fits into the picture. Texas A&M big man Robert Williams could add some needed beef to the Denver front as well.
Before we wrap up this again more likely-than-not fruitless, yet still fun endeavor, let’s take a shot at predicting some of the madness that could follow. Here is a shot at predicting what teams are most likely to move up, move WAY up, move out or shake things up in a major way tonight.
Lottery range teams most likely to move back from where they started: Kings, Grizzlies and Hornets.
Lottery teams most likely to move up: Knicks, Clippers, Hawks, Suns (Hawks and Suns both have other first round picks outside top 3)
Lottery teams most likely to abandon picks altogether for new players or future picks: Sixers, Grizzlies, Clippers
Most likely to be right back here again next year after taking the wrong guy: Magic and Nets (this time representing themselves again, finally).Most likely to be here again next year, continuing to respect the process: Hawks, Mavericks, Knicks, Celtics (via the Kings).
I’m a firm believer that the closest I’ve gotten to Heaven is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I’ll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, I70 Baseball, and ‘Live From The Cheap Seats’.