The 2018 NBA Draft goes down Thursday, June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. In preparation for the first round—in which the Trail Blazers currently hold the No. 24 pick—Blazer’s Edge staff writers Steve Dewald and Brian Freeman have mocked the first 30 selections.
We begin with the initial 10 picks, determined by the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery. The No. 1 overall selection will be made by the Phoenix Suns.
Outside of the Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies have been rumored to be looking to package Chandler Parsons with the No. 4 pick in a trade to clear their payroll. Perhaps the most intriguing team picking inside the top ten is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will be trying to decide how to navigate their future in the face of LeBron James’ potential relocation.
Let’s get started.
No. 1: Phoenix Suns
DeAndre Ayton | C | Arizona Wildcats
Class: Fr. | Age: 18 | HT: 7’0” | WS: 7’5”
Brian: Multiple reports have came out claiming the Suns were planning to offer a max or near max to the Rockets big man, Clint Capela. It makes more sense that the Suns take a player that plays the same position, has a much higher ceiling than Capela, and can be had for a fraction of the price. DeAndre Ayton is an absolute physical specimen. There are many other prospects that could take the title of best in the 2018 draft when it’s all said and done, but Ayton is still the safest bet at this point.
Steve: The Suns instantly boost their franchise’s appeal by adding a local top-level talent. Ayton has all the tools to thrive on the offensive end from his first day on the court, and he has measurements to develop into a defensive force. Building around Devin Booker and Ayton will give Phoenix a legitimate shot of attracting top-level talent when the timing is right.
No. 2: Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley III | PF | Duke Blue Devils
Class: Fr. | Age: 19 | HT: 6’11” | WS: 7’0”
Steve: The Kings will deliver the first surprise of the night by selecting Bagley over Luka Doncic. Sacramento appears to believe in the young backcourt talent already on their roster, so selecting a NBA-ready frontcourt player will fuel their decision for the 19-year-old big man. Bagley might not have the best ceiling, but his above-the-rim play will make headlines when he hits the court for the Kings.
Brian: If I had to bet on a rookie of the year award winner today, it’s Marvin Bagley. The guy averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds while leading NCAA basketball in win shares, offensive rating, and offensive box plus/minus for a reason. He has an NBA ready body and the skill to go with it. He does strike me as a “Great stats on a bad team” type of player, but it’s the Kings, and with their draft history, they’ll take it.
No. 3: Atlanta Hawks
Luka Doncic | PG | Real Madrid (Spain)
Class: INTL. | Age: 19 | HT: 6’8” | WS: 6’10”
Brian: Luka Doncic played against better competition last year than any other player in this draft, yet no other prospect was more successful. There are questions about his ability to hit the three or defend at a high level in the NBA, but his basketball resume is elite for an 18-year old. The fit isn’t perfect, as the Hawks best player, Dennis Schroder, is also a point guard, but the relationship between Schroder and the Hawks has soured. Atlanta would be foolish to pass up a talent like Doncic. It’d be smarter to see if the two can coexist. If they can’t, the Hawks should look to get what they can for Schroder and proceed with Doncic at the helm.
Steve: As Brian mentioned, Doncic’s fit with the Hawks isn’t exactly clear. Even with that in mind, the talented Slovenian is too good to pass on at pick No. 3. In five years Doncic might be the best player from the 2018 class. Atlanta will have to get creative to find minutes for the talented rookie in their pricey backcourt rotation, but the future will be bright with the 19 year old in the fold. Doncic and John Collins could blossom into one of the deadliest pick-and-roll duos in the NBA if everything goes according to plan.
No. 4: Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson Jr | PF | Michigan State Spartans
Class: Fr. | Age: 18 | HT: 6’11” | WS: 7’0”
Steve: The Grizzlies might come up short of landing Doncic, but they could recover by landing a talented post player. Jackson Jr. has all the tools to be a multi-facet threat on both ends of the court, and he will fit nicely next to established center Marc Gasol. If the Grizzlies bounce back from a down season in 2018-19 with Jackson Jr. starting, the 18-year-old rookie will easily capture a handful of votes for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Brian: In my opinion, Jaren Jackson has the highest ceiling of any player in this draft not named Mohamed Bamba. Jackson is a great athlete, that can shoot, has all the measurements, and is one of the youngest players in the draft. His unimpressive lone college season raised some red flags about effort and aggression, but Memphis has a hole at the 4 position that would be an ideal landing spot for Jackson to log minutes and gain some experience alongside a veteran core. This may be the best case scenario for both Jackson and the Grizzlies.
No. 5: Dallas Mavericks
Mohamed Bamba | C | Texas Longhorns
Class: Fr. | Age: 20 | HT: 7’1” | WS: 8’0”
Brian: Bamba has to take about 10 giant steps down I-35 to get from his college, the University of Texas, to American Airlines Arena where the the Dallas Mavericks play. In length alone, Bamba gives Dallas a substantial defensive boost on day one. They got little to no production from their center position last year so anything Bamba can contribute offensively is a plus at this point. Along with Dennis Smith and Harrison Barnes, Bamba would give them a nice young core.
Steve: The Mavericks’ search for a center could come to a quick end if Bamba is still on the board at pick No. 5. His floor is considerably higher than most rookie big men due to his unbelievable wingspan, and his offensive ceiling is impressive thanks to a soft touch on his shot. Hopefully the 20-year-old big fella can capture some wisdom from Dirk Nowitzki before his retirement.
No. 6: Orlando Magic
Trae Young | PG | Oklahoma Sooners
Class: Fr. | Age: 19 | HT: 6’2” | WS: 6’2”
Steve: As they did in 2017 (selecting Jonathan Isaac), the Magic will invest in one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the class. After scrapping the Elfrid Payton experiment at the trade deadline, Orlando will put their hopes behind Young’s ability to thrive as a NBA point guard. Michael Porter Jr. would have also been a solid choice for the Magic, but their lack of talent at guard is too glaring to ignore.
Brian: There’s a substantial drop off between the first five picks and the rest of the pack in this draft. Without a noticeable “best player available” at this spot, it makes sense to go with a high upside guy at a position of need. Orlando has not had much success in the draft game lately and there is potential bust written all over this one. Even so this is probably a risk the Magic should be taking.
No. 7: Chicago Bulls
Michael Porter Jr | SF | Missouri Tigers
Class: Fr. | Age: 19 | HT: 6’10” | WS: 7’0”
Brian: Michael Porter would have more than likely been the number one pick last year had league rules not prevented him from entering his name in the draft directly out of high school. A back injury cost Porter all but three games of his freshman year at Missouri and consequently has seen his draft stock plummet. The Bulls have good options for the future in place at the point guard, shooting guard and power forward spots. They may strike gold by grabbing a small forward with top-pick talent at 7, but it all depends on him bouncing back from injury.
Steve: The Bulls’ rebuild continues to get brighter by adding Porter in the mid-lottery. Porter is a superb talent at a in-demand position. With sharp-shooting Lauri Markkanen already in place, Porter would provide Chicago with another floor-spacing frontcourt player. There are health concerns surrounding Porter, but the Bulls’ are in excellent position to exercise caution when it comes to lingering injuries.
No. 8: Cleveland Cavaliers
Mikal Bridges | SF | Villanova Wildcats
Class: Jr. | Age: 21 | HT: 6’7” | WS: 7’0”
Steve: The Cavaliers attempt to get the best of both worlds by selecting Bridges. The 21-year-old wing will be able to contribute immediately next to LeBron James, and he will be a solid building block if James leaves Cleveland this summer. Wendell Carter Jr. might be the most talented player on the board at this point, but Bridges checks more boxes for the Cavaliers.
Brian: Yeah, I like the Bridges pick here for the reasons Steve mentioned. He’s an NBA ready guy that can fit multiple scenarios. Cleveland has to wait to find out from Lebron if the Cavs are going to be a lottery team or a finals contender next year. Either way, Bridges is versatile and a winner.
No. 9: New York Knicks
Kevin Knox | SF | Kentucky Wildcats
Class: Fr. | Age: 18 | HT: 6’9” | WS: 7’0”
Brian: The Knicks go for upside by grabbing Knox at number 9. Knox has great physical tools made for the NBA game. He’s the prototype of what NBA teams are looking for: versatile defenders with a great size and athleticism, plus a good base for a jump shot. One of the younger freshman in all of college basketball last year, Knox has a lots of room to grow and will get his chances on a rebuilding Knicks team void of depth.
Steve: The Knicks could look to move this pick if they want to give Kritsaps Porzingis a veteran running mate. If New York keeps the pick, Knox would provide coach David Fizdale with an excellent talent to develop. Like Brian mentioned, the 18-year-old wing has an impressive ceiling at a in-demand position.
No. 10: Philadelphia 76ers
Wendell Carter Jr | PF/C | Duke Blue Devils
Class: Fr. | Age: 19 | HT: 6’10” | WS: 7’3”
Steve: Carter Jr. isn’t an obvious fit for the Sixers, but he is the best player available at pick No. 10. Philadelphia could reach for Miles Bridges or Collin Sexton at this spot, but Carter’s value is too high to overlook. Joel Embiid is a phenomenal talent, but his injury history is lengthy. Carter Jr. would give the Sixers a reliable insurance policy and a future trade asset.
Brian: If the Sixers find themselves with this board, they’re trading the pick. Carter Jr. is an enormous talent at the 10 spot, but he doesn’t make much sense for Philly. He could easily go as high as six, so finding takers for the pick wouldn't be difficult. More often than not, player comparisons are ridiculous. Even so, the young Al Horford connection here is legit. Some NBA team will pay Philly for the privilege to test it out.
Let us know your thoughts on the first 10 picks in the comments below—did Brian and Steve get it right?