With most college basketball teams officially starting practice next week, here is a preseason 2018 NBA Mock Draft that reflects how I think the draft will look as of right now.
1. Michael Porter (SF Missouri, Fr.)
Porter is the most talented offensive player in the nation. He’s a legitimate playmaker on the wing at 6-foot-10 that has an arsenal of moves to get his shot off. If there’s one area to work on this year, it’s being a consistent presence on the defensive end, where he has the physical gifts to be a plus player.
2. Marvin Bagley (PF Duke, Fr.)
It looks like Bagley has the potential to be a juiced-up Chris Bosh if he maximizes his potential. After spending the summer going off versus NBA players, he reclassified and comes into Duke as the top post prospect. I always have some questions about guys who jump around high schools like he did, but every the smoothness and power of his game points to a future as a franchise cornerstone.
3. Luka Doncic (SG Slovenia)
Though Bagley and Porter have star upside, no college player is more ready to play in the NBA right now. That says a lot for an 18-year old. Outside of sheer athleticism, I love everything about Doncic’s game. His mental makeup is impressive, he has a projectable 6-foot-8 frame, and is advanced as a playmaker. He’s received some top pick speculation following a string of dominating Eurobasket performances against NBA stars. He’s easily one of the top overseas prospects I have ever seen.
4. DeAndre Ayton (C Arizona, Fr.)
Ayton definitely looks the part of a top-5 pick. He has a self-reported 43.5-inch vertical, which is insane if it’s anything near that for a 7-footer. Arizona is loaded with talent, so we may only see Ayton’s face-up potential and explosiveness in spurts early on. I’m looking forward to seeing how he competes in the Pac-12 against other NBA prospects. If all goes as expected, Ayton will prove to be the top center in the country.
5. Miles Bridges (SF Michigan State, So.)
Nothing but respect to Bridges for making the decision to pass up a late lottery selection to play for a top-10 lock this year. All eyes are on East Lansing as the 6’7 is expected to lead a deep group late into March. That’s not too much to ask for a kid who averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and shot 39% on a lot of threes as a freshman. As a bit of a tweener, Bridges would really help himself by proving his handle has made great strides.
6. Mo Bamba (C Texas, Fr.)
For a while I was certain that Bamba was going to be ineligible due to accepting outside benefits. Thankfully we will get the chance to see the freakishly long post put on a show for the Longhorns. He has a long way to go as a reliable offensive player, but his defensive impact is going to be right up there in the country. NBA teams will salivate over the chance to develop a 7-footer with soft touch, quickness and a 7-foot-8 wingspan.
7. Wendall Carter (PF Duke, Fr.)
The Bagley addition definitely is going to put a hamper on Carter’s stock, as his touches will go way down from what many expected. That doesn’t mean that scouts will forget about the footwork and proficiency of the man-child from Georgia. Rebounding and making the most of his offensive touches will be key.
8. Robert Williams (PF Texas A&M, So.)
As the year went on, Williams emerged as the best pro post prospect in the SEC. With the goal of development on his mind, he returned to a team bringing back all of the key pieces. Arguably the most tenacious rebounder in this draft class (11.4 rebounds per-36 minutes), he started to play around with a three-point shot. That addition would be a pleasant addition to a guy that is at worst a lifelong energy big.
9. Jaren Jackson (PF Michigan State, Fr.)
Jackson is one of those active, raw post players that grows on you. He runs the floor with ease, finishes above the rim, and has great hands. Playing on a top-5 team definitely won’t hurt his exposure throughout the year. The scary thing is I don’t think he even knows how good he can be. If a team is willing to be patient, the payoff will be great.
10. Bruce Brown (SG Miami, So.)
Though he is an old sophomore, Brown is still learning how to make the most of his God-given tools. He is already a defensive stopper that suffocates wings and overpowers guards. His jumper is a little iffy, but his versatility as a passer, rebounder, and penetrator lets that slide for now. Some may want to see him get this time at lead guard, though I think his NBA future is as a defensive slasher that can make plays when needed.
11. Trevon Duval (PG Duke, Fr.)
Duval is the prototypical NBA point guard, with good size and explosiveness in the open floor. Being forced to manage a bevy of NBA talent will be good for him at Duke. He is the premier point guard in this class and I would be shocked if that changed.
12. Kevin Knox (SF Kentucky, Fr.)
Knox is about 6-foot-9, possessing a guard’s skills. Scoring is his calling card right now, using his size and change of pace to get to where he wants to go. I do worry a little bit about his combination of moderate athleticism and a tendency to dribble too high. Kentucky will fix that while he continues to extend an already consistent jump shot. Playing a lot of four should allow for Knox to show off his game.
13. Hamidou Diallo (SG Kentucky, So.)
I would have been ready to bet that Diallo was going to go pro after not playing a single game at Kentucky. Now the uber-athletic two-guard is going to suit up and give scouts more tape to dissect his game. They’ll see an elite slasher with flashes of a lockup defender that has a streaky jumper. We will also learn a lot about his leadership, as the other starters will likely be freshmen.
14. Collin Sexton (PG Alabama, Fr.)
I would take Collin Sexton on my team any day. His relentless competitiveness and confidence will turn some evaluators off, but most will appreciate the way he backs it up. As a shorter scoring guard, he will really need to prove that his jumper is trustworthy. Defensively he has the ability to be the best guard in this draft class.
15. Moritz Wagner (PF Michigan, Jr.)
Wagner flirted with the NBA last year. By coming back, he can give the scouts the missing piece that they wanted: physicality. Because offensively, he can throw the whole kitchen sink at you with post-ups, face-up attacks, or knocking down deep threes. A stronger, more rebound-focused Wagner should ensure he gets a first-round grade.
16. Rodions Kuracs (SF Latvia)
Something must be in the Latvian water. 2018 should mark the third time in four years that a Latvia player goes in the first round. Kuracs does a little bit of everything well. His size (6’9) is the real differentiator since it aids in his ability to finish off drives over length. Whether he is a draft-and-stash is still unknown.
17. Lonnie Walker (SG Miami, Fr.)
A knee injury will keep Walker out a few more weeks. The good news is that it wasn’t more serious, but people will definitely be monitoring his knee as the year goes on. Once back to health, the electric guard should be ready to be one of the top options for the Canes. At close to 6’5, he has good size and athleticism to guard multiple spots at the next level. Scoring is basically a second language to Walker.
18. Dzanan Musa (SF Bosnia)
Musa is a lanky wing with a clip. He also won’t turn 19 until May, so the best is yet to come for the Bosnian star. The one thing that stands out is how fierce he is during the course of a game, something that will be appreciated once he gets in the league. Occasionally his competitiveness can get the best of him and lead to bad turnovers, but that can be fixed over time.
19. Troy Brown Jr. (SF Oregon, Fr.)
Brown is going to enter a perfect situation at Oregon that will give him the platform to display his abilities. He has NBA size and strength for a wing player and a calmness to his game that isn’t usual for a freshman. Where he thrives is in a point forward role, where his size and IQ create a problem for defenses. Though not the most explosive athlete, Brown’s steadiness will warrant first-round attention.
20. Chimezie Metu (PF USC, Jr.)
The former heralded recruit took a big step forward as a sophomore, increasing his averages to 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. Metu is long and lean with really nice touch from 15 feet and in. His post game has made significant strides to go along with an already impactful defensive presence. Hopefully the NCAA scandal won’t have an immediate impact on seeing USC back in the tournament where Metu showed out last year.
21. Bonzie Colson (PF Notre Dame, Sr.)
Colson is arguably the most proven returning player in college basketball. Obviously people want to question if he can legitimately play post at 6’5. If torching the ACC, which produced 7 frontcourt first-rounders last year, doesn’t convince you then maybe his 7-foot wingspan will. With the way basketball is played now, a player with the versatility (17.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 43% 3PT) and efficiency of Colson will find a way to be in someone’s rotation.
22. Grayson Allen (SG Duke, Sr.)
Last year couldn’t have been any worse for Allen’s stock, playing worse and reverting back to childish habits on and off the court. With Duval on the team, he can play his true position as an off-guard instead of being a pseudo-point. Though he’s a good slasher, Allen should have a shoot first mentality. His jumper is wet but too often he tries to use shear athleticism to force drives. If he allows the game to come to him, scouts may be a little more bullish towards him.
23. Malik Newman (SG Kansas, So.)
Newman sat out last year after transferring from Mississippi State where he was a lock to be a one-and-done. Transferring to Kansas instead of leaving early may have been one of the better financial decisions that a player of his talent has made in the era. He is an instinctive scorer with range well past the NBA line. His game is similar to a Lou Williams as an undersized bucket getter. Newman has a chance to turn some heads this year.
24. Andrew Jones (PG Texas, So.)
There were times last year when Jones would attack the basket and everyone in the gym could see he was an NBA talent. He just needs to tinker his outside stroke a bit and show that he can make consistently sound decisions with the ball. With his physical tools and motor he should be a monster on defense. That should come as he has the green light this year.
25. Justin Jackson (SF Maryland, So.)
Jackson has two traits that the NBA loves in wings: size and shooting. After shooting 44% from deep last year, the bruising 6-foot-7 Canadian will look to prove he can be just as good in a leading role. Maryland has some gifted playmakers on their team, but I’d like to see Jackson show some type of passing ability. He probably needed another year to truly cement his spot in the first round.
26. Mikal Bridges (SF Villanova, Jr.)
Bridges has the body type of a created player in NBA 2K. His arms seem to extend forever, he’s about 6’7, and he could measure up athletically with most people in a gym. Defensively, he is the most elite wing defender in this class. It will be interesting to see if his shooting (39% from three) can continue with a higher volume. If it does, and his handle shows some improvement, we could be talking about Bridges in the late lottery.
27. Isaac Bonga (SF Germany)
Bonga is Giannis-esque. After the World Cup, he looks like the type of player that could be a real problem if given the right coaching. He is a point-forward in the truest sense of the word, preferring to make plays off the bounce as opposed to looking for his own shot. His handle looked a lot tighter than I had seen before and his jumper was at least developing. But as a defender, he could really special with his length and timing. Bonga is still a significant project though.
28. Shake Milton (PG SMU, Junior)
Milton has now shot over 42% from three in both of his college seasons, improved as a playmaker, and shown he can run a team as a 6’6 point guard. He plays with great tempo to make up for the fact that he’s not as athletic as some top-tier floor generals. Being able to create his own shot will be an important determinant of how high his stock rises.
29. Mitchell Robinson (C, Fr.)
The whole “I’m transferring before the year starts” fiasco kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Now he decided to take the year off to train for the NBA. Robinson is still one of the top center prospects and a deserving McDonald’s All-American. His broad shoulders look like they could add a remarkable amount of strength. That would do a lot to contribute to his rim-running and shot-blocking. He’s in that same mold as a DeAndre Jordan but I worry about a guy taking a year off of competitive basketball.
30. P.J. Washington (PF Kentucky, Fr.)
Washington is the top freshman post player for the Wildcats. That usually translates to a first-round return, right? In all seriousness, he has a big’s body with a lot of guard instincts. He can take a rebound and go coast-to-coast or knock down an open jumper. Washington already has NBA size and potential, he just needs to find a skill to differentiate himself from the pack.
31. Joel Berry (PG North Carolina, Sr.)
32. Drew Eubanks (C Oregon State, Jr.)
33. Brandon McCoy (C UNLV, Fr.)
34. Allonzo Trier (SG Arizona, Jr.)
35. Deng Adel (SF Louisville, Jr.)
36. Arnoldas Kulboka (SF Lithuania)
37. Austin Wiley (C Auburn, So.)
38. Vince Edwards (SF Purdue, Sr.)
39. Jacob Evans (SG Cincinnati, Jr.)
40. Rawle Alkins (SG Arizona, So.)
41. Sviatoslav Mykhauliuk (SG Kansas, Sr.)
42. Kostja Mushidi (SG Germany)
43. Omer Yurtseven (C NC State, So.)
44. De’Vonte Graham (PG Kansas, Sr.)
45. D.J. Hogg (SG Texas A&M, Jr.)
46. Tyus Battle (SG Syracuse, So.)
47. V.J. King (SF Louisville, So.)
48. Matthew Fisher-Davis (SG Vanderbilt, Sr.)
49. Trevon Blueitt (SG Xavier, Sr.)
50. Alize Johnson (PF Missouri State, Sr.)
51. Anas Mahmoud (C Louisville, Sr.)
52. Laurynas Birutis (C Lithuania)
53. Jaylen Adams (PG St. Bonaventure, Sr.)
54. Isaac Haas (C Purude, Sr.)
55. Ethan Happ (PF Wisconsin, Sr.)
56. Thomas Welsh (C UCLA, Sr.)
57. Tadas Sedekerskis (SG Lithuania)
58. Yante Maten (PF Georgia, Sr.)
59. Jeffrey Carroll (SF Oklahoma State, Sr.)
60. Jalen Adams (PG UCONN, Jr.)