With the NBA Draft finally upon us, it is time to predict which direction teams will go with this 2018 NBA draft class. Although most of these players will probably need a few years to fully reach their respective potentials, the proper selection could lead to serious success in future seasons for any given franchise, which makes the draft extremely important. Here are my predictions for the first round selections in the upcoming draft.
1) Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
As a 19 year old old freshman, Ayton dominated opponents with his size and strength on his way to becoming Pac-12 Player of the Year. Ayton is over seven feet tall and weighs roughly 260 pounds which makes him practically unguardable in the post. Ayton used his frame to average 20.1 points per game along with 11.6 rebounds per game. However, what separates Ayton from other prospects are his skills on the offensive end. Ayton was a 73% free throw shooter in college and has tremendous footwork and touch near the basket. Ayton is the best player in this draft class and should be a great addition to the Suns’ young core which consists of Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.
2) Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF/C, Duke
In his only season with Duke, Bagley averaged 21.0 points per game along with 11.1 rebounds which helped him win the ACC Player of the Year Award. Bagley can be a man among boys in the paint and uses his length and quickness to give opponents serious issues. I think the Kings will select him because the front office always seems to draft big men in the first round. I personally think that Luka Dončić is the better fit for this team, but I expect the Kings to stick to their long-standing love for young big men.
3) Atlanta Hawks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
In his only season with Texas, Bamba averaged 12.9 points per game along with 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. Despite some offensive limitations, Bamba is definitively the best defensive player in this draft. He has the potential upside of Dikembe Mutombo on the defensive end of the floor due to his ability to affect shots with his huge frame and insane wingspan. The Hawks currently lack frontcourt talent and selecting Bamba will definitely fix that concern.
4) Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Dončić, G/F, Real Madrid
Dončić has been playing for the Real Madrid basketball team in Spain for the last four years. This past season, he won the Liga ACB MVP award after averaging 12.8 points per game along with 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists. What makes this more impressive is the fact that Dončić is only 19 years old. Dončić has been playing against hardest competition than anyone else in this draft class which should help ease his transition into the NBA. Dončić is lethal at creating separation off the dribble which has allowed him to get to the hole with relative ease. Although there have been some rumors about the Grizzlies potentially trading this pick, Dončić is a home-run prospect and I expect him to be a great fit wherever he ends up going.
5) Dallas Mavericks: Jaren Jackson, F, Michigan State
Last season, the Dallas Mavericks addressed its backcourt issues by selecting Dennis Smith Jr. in the first round. Now, it makes all the sense in the world for the team to add some youth to its aging frontcourt. With Dirk Nowitzki on the verge of retirement, the Mavericks should add a young big man to potentially take his place in the rotation. Although Jackson plays nothing like Nowitzki, he is a phenomenal defensive player and will drastically help out the team as a result.
6) Orlando Magic: Trae Young, G, Oklahoma
The Orlando Magic have been in the basement of the NBA for the last couple of years due to some questionable decisions regarding personnel within the front office. After trading away rising star Victor Oladipo a few season ago, the Magic never really filled that void by finding a replacement which superstar potential. I think that the Magic will attempt to select a potential “game changer” if that is available which leads me to believe that the organization will select Young due to his three-point shooting and Steph Curry level upside.
7) Chicago Bulls: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri
Despite struggling for the majority of last season, the Bulls managed to see development from its young backcourt consisting of Kris Dunn and Zach Levine. The Bulls also saw extremely solid play from Lauri Markkanen in his rookie season last year. Now, the Bulls will look to improve its depth on the wings by selecting Porter who has the ability to play both small forward and power forward. The main concern surrounding Porter is his durability but the Bulls were willing to bet on Levine despite a torn ACL so I can see the Bulls pulling the trigger on Porter with the seventh pick.
8) Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, G, Alabama
With LeBron James still available as a free agent, the Cavs will need to do whatever they can to potentially sway him to stay. With that being said, the team lacks depth at the guard positions and Sexton would probably start immediately as a result. He single-handedly carried Alabama to the NCAA tournament and possesses a swagger that will help him succeed at the next level. In my opinion, Sexton was the best point guard in college basketball this past season and the Cavs should be thrilled if he is still on the board at eight.
9) New York Knicks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky
One problem with predicting this selection is the fact that the Knicks need help at every position. With star forward Kristaps Porzingis projected to miss part of the upcoming season, this season is essentially a lost cause for the Knicks. Although Trey Burke shined once he joined the Knicks at the end of the season, it would not surprise me to see the Knicks take Gilgeous-Alexander to pair him with Frank Ntilikina as the team’s starting backcourt for the future.
10) Philadelphia 76ers: Mikal Bridges, SG, Villanova
For me, this pick is a no-brainer. The 76ers need more depth at the guard position and have the ability to select the local kid who won two championships in college. He can shoot the three-point ball well and plays solid team defense which will help the 76ers potentially reach the next level.
11) Charlotte Hornets: Wendell Carter, Jr., PF, Duke
Yesterday, the Hornets made headlines when the organization traded center Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets. That move leaves a glaring hole at the center position which I think the Hornets will address on draft night. Carter Jr. is a solid big man who should be able to fill that void quite nicely.
Last season, the Clippers traded forward Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons for multiple assets. Now, the Clippers have the ability to select two of the best athletes in the draft with Miles Bridges and Robert Williams. I personally think that Bridges will be a solid NBA player due to his athleticism and improved shooting. Williams’ game is vaguely similar to Griffin’s due to his insane athleticism and well-rounded game. Williams is also a fantastic rim protector which would give the team added flexibility when it comes to potentially trading star center DeAndre Jordan.
14) Denver Nuggets: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami (FL)
Last season, the Nuggets fell one game short of a playoff spot. The team possesses quality players at every position but could use a bit more depth in the backcourt. Walker is a great athlete who can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He should gel quite nicely with the other young guards on the team’s roster and could provide a much needed spark off of the bench.
15) Washington Wizards: Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
The Wizards still have one of the best backcourts in the league with John Wall and Bradley Beal. However, the team could still use more depth on the wings and Knox should be a solid fit with the current roster. Knox can score in bunches and will be a solid contributor for a team looking to get over the hump and compete in the Eastern Conference in what may be the “post-LeBron” era.
16) Phoenix Suns: Kevin Huerter, SF, Maryland
The Suns already have a solid backcourt with Booker and Jackson along with a strong frontcourt assuming that the team takes Ayton with the first overall pick. That leaves a hole at small forward and Hurter is a perfect fit for the team due to his solid three-point shooting. He did just have hand surgery but is projected to be back before the start of the regular season so the injury is not that much of a concern moving forward.
17) Milwaukee Bucks: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
The Milwaukee Bucks made headlines this offseason when the organization named Mike Budenholzer as the new head coach. The current roster possesses lots of young talent but could use more consistency from the shooting guard position. The team also struggled mightily on the defensive end and Thomas, a two-time conference defensive player of the year in college, should help rectify that issue.
18) San Antonio Spurs: Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
With star forward Kawhi Leonard potentially on his way out, the Spurs will need a backup plan to fill the void at small forward. Bates-Diop is an experienced college player who can score in a variety of ways. He also has a high basketball IQ which should make him a solid fit with Coach Popovich and the Spurs.
19) Atlanta Hawks: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
The Atlanta Hawks currently lack athleticism from the guard positions and Smith can rectify that concern all by himself. Smith is extremely fast in the open court and has an amazing vertical which he showcased throughout his career at Texas Tech. He should be a nice addition and will use his physical gifts to provide quality minutes off the bench.
20) Minnesota Timberwolves: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
The Timberwolves managed to make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade last season but struggled with consistency at the point guard position. Starter Jeff Teague has flashes of brilliance but was unable to sustain that high level of play for long periods of time. I expect the Timberwolves to take Holiday due to his experience and offensive skills. Holiday will probably come off the bench when he enters the NBA but should become the team’s starting point guard eventually.
21) Utah Jazz: Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova
The Utah Jazz are known for being extremely physical and smart on the basketball court which makes DiVincenzo a perfect fit for this team. DiVincenzo is an extremely intelligent player who plays with a level of intensity that other players do not even come close to. He should provide valuable minutes off the bench both offensively and defensively as the Jazz continue to grow around star guard Donovan Mitchell.
22) Chicago Bulls: Anfernee Simons, SG, IMG Academy
Although Zach Levine can technically play both point guard and shooting guard, this team should be look to improve the guard depth within the current roster. Personally, I am not a big fan of Justin Holiday‘s game and Simons has the ability to become an efficient scorer at the next level. He is a bit raw and will come off the bench in his first few seasons but he has the talent to provide valuable minutes down the road.
23) Indiana Pacers: Chandler Hutchison, SG, Boise State
The Pacers possess a quality roster but could use more sharpshooters on the wings. Hutchinson has the ability to score points in bunches and is a solid three point shooter. He should be able to provide a scoring spark off the bench which the Pacers desperately need.
24) Portland Trail Blazers: De’Anthony Melton, SG, USC
Although the team already has an amazing backcourt which consists of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Trail Blazers could use some added depth at those guard positions. Shabazz Napier is a solid backup point guard but he lacks a fellow guard to assist him with the second unit. Melton did not play last season at USC due to some NCAA violations but he is a solid player who should be able to contribute immediately off the bench.
25) Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV
The Los Angeles Lakers possess a plethora of young talent on the roster including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball. However, the team has a glaring weakness at the center position and McCoy will be able to fix that immediately. McCoy averaged a double double last season in college and should be able to provide meaningful minutes at the center position as a rookie.
26) Philadelphia Sixers: Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke
With J.J. Redick gone, the Sixers will now need another three point marksman to take his place. Trent Jr. was a great three point shooter in college and should be able to provide valuable minutes off the bench as a result. He will help space the floor for Embiid and Simmons on offense and can capitalize on open looks if teams attempt to double team them in the post.
27) Boston Celtics: Mitchell Robinson, C
The Boston Celtics have a loaded roster but currently lack depth at the center position. Besides Aron Baynes, the team does not have another quality center which needs to be addressed. Robinson is a relative unknown but he can develop under Coach Stevens and become a rotation player over time.
28) Golden State Warriors: Moritz Wagner, PF, Michigan
The two-time defending champions can now get a three point shooting center to help space the floor for their elite backcourt. Wagner is a solid shooter who also possesses a level of intensity that is contagious among his teammates. He probably will not play that much in his rookie season but could provide some quality minutes off the bench down the road.
29) Brooklyn Nets: Dzanan Musa, SG, Cedevita (Croatia)
GM Sean Marks stems from the Spurs organization originally which makes me believe that he is a huge fan of international prospects. Musa is a solid scorer who could potentially develop into a starter over the next couple of seasons. The Nets could use more depth at the guard positions and Musa has more of an upside than other prospects that are still on the board.
30) Atlanta Hawks: Bruce Brown, Jr., SG, Miami (FL)
The Hawks conclude the first round by taking the best player left on the board. Brown Jr. did not play college basketball last season but looks like he can develop into a quality player on the wing in due time. Luckily for Brown Jr., the Hawks have all the time in the world.