We’re past the NBA Combine and heading full steam towards the NBA Draft. This mock draft reflects how players improved or worsened their stock at the combine. For the Colorado Buffaloes fans here, peep the Mavericks’ second round pick.
(Please keep in mind that they aren’t my personal rankings. I would never in a million years have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander behind Miles Bridges or Kevin Knox.)
1. Minnesota Timberwolves (trade with Suns) — Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
Player comparison: More athletic DeMarcus Cousins
Surprise! The Suns won the draft lottery, but will trade the 1st pick and Josh Jackson to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Karl-Anthony Towns. (Alex Len, Phoenix’s 16th pick and Gorgui Deng are also involved.) This trade probably won’t happen, but it is fairly well-known that Towns is not happy being horribly misused by Tom Thibodeau. Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but Towns and Devin Booker would be one of the best foundations in the NBA. For Minnesota, they get the promising Jackson, plus the right to choose Ayton, who is a very similar player to Towns with his devastating combination of size, athleticism and skill.
2. Sacramento Kings — Luka Dončić, SF, Slovenia
Comparison: James Harden mixed with Manu Ginobili
The Kings are in a great spot after having jumped from 7th into the second spot during the lottery. Unlike seemingly every year, the Kings can’t screw this up. If Phoenix (or Minny) takes Ayton, the Kings will pick Luka Dončić, who should at the very least will be one of the best offensive players in the NBA. There’s the added bonus that the Kings love players from the former Yugoslavia more than anything.
3. Atlanta Hawks — Jaren Jackson, Jr., C, Michigan State
Comparison: Better version of Myles Turner
Jaren Jackson has been overlooked because of just how good Ayton and Dončić are. He won’t ever be an MVP contender, but he should be an All-Star as a two-way standout. Even for a center, Jackson is an exceptional shot blocker thanks to his length, quickness and defensive fundamentals. He can easily be the anchor of a good defense. On of the other end of the floor, Jackson will provide tons of value as a floor spacer and pick-and-pop threat. He may not be able to create offense for himself, but the Hawks would have an essential piece for their rebuild.
4. Memphis Grizzlies — Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke
Comparison: Young Amar’e Stoudemire
The last mock here, the Grizzlies reached and picked Michael Porter. I read more about Memphis’s strategy and apparently they’re looking to select a big here, either Bagley or Mo Bamba most likely. Considering they have two aging stars, they would probably favor Bagley because he’s more pro-ready. Additionally, Bagley’s weaknesses — shooting and interior defense — will be covered up by Marc Gasol.
5. Dallas Mavericks — Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
Comparison: Faster Rudy Gobert, maybe with a jumpshot
Besides maybe Ayton, Mo Bamba likely has the most upside of anyone in this draft. At the combine, he measured at 6’11 (without shoes) and had an absurd 7’10 wingspan, which would easily be the largest in the NBA. With that length and quickness, Bamba can be an elite defender in the interior and on the perimeter. Plus, there’s reason to believe he can develop his shot to make him even more dangerous as the screener in a pick-and-roll offense. There’s significant bust potential here, so please don’t make fun of this article three years from now.
6. LA Clippers (trade with Magic) — Michael Porter, Jr., SF, Missouri
Comparison: Harrison Barnes
Another trade happens here when the Clippers give up the 12th and 13th picks to move up to No. 6 to draft Michael Porter. This would be hilarious to see because Porter is possibly the most Clippers-y player in the past several drafts. His shot selection is questionable and his defense is theoretical right now. But he can score, and he’s ready to play big minutes even if the Clips can actually sign a free agent like Paul George this summer.
7. Chicago Bulls — Wendell Carter, Jr., C, Duke
Comparison: Al Horford
Carter has been drastically underrated and will be a star role player. He has a superb basketball IQ, plus great quickness and length that make him a solid defensive anchor despite being an undersized center. He’s also a good shooter and has a skilled all-around offensive game, which would make him the perfect glue guy to complement Lauri Markkanen at the 4.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Comparison: Mike Bibby with hints of Stephen Curry
Trae Young is a possibly transcendent offensive talent whose shooting and passing ability can distort the dimensions of the basketball court. But he’s frail, not very athletic and will be a defensive liability no matter how hard he works. The Cavs would take a chance on him because if and when LeBron James leaves this summer, they’re going to need someone who can lead what they hope will be a dangerous offense.
9. New York Knicks — Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
Comparison: More athletic, but shorter Tobias Harris
Miles Bridges is a huge, explosive athlete who should be able to play either forward position. He also has a solid jumper and can get to the rim easily. He has all the makings of a great role player, but he’s held back by himself. The Knicks probably won’t be the team to teach him to stay within himself, but he could still be quality next to Kristaps Porzingis.
10. Philadelphia 76ers — Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Comparison: Better version of Robert Covington
I love Mikal Bridges so much. He’s a deadeye shooter who can catch fire and drop 15 points in three minutes — no hyperbole. He’s a long, versatile defender who should be an above average perimeter defender. Those traits make him an ideal 3-and-D player. He also has latent ballhandling and playmaking ability that if developed would make him a star. Whether or not he realizes his potential, the 76ers have the perfect compliment to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
Comparison: Detlef Schrempf
Kevin Knox is a good shooter and shows potential to be a versatile player on both ends of the floor. But like Miles Bridges, he struggles with consistency and often lacks the discipline to focus on what he’s good at. If the Hornets can keep him centered and help his realize his potential, they can finally have a quality wing. If not, well, that’s why Charlotte is in the lottery every year.
12. Orlando Magic (trade from Clippers) — Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Comparison: Young Eric Bledsoe, but crazier and less buff
If you just looked at Sexton’s individual skills in a vacuum, he’s not that special of a guard. He’s not a great shooter, he needs to dramatically improve his playmaking, and he’s not athletic enough to blow by defenders to create offense by himself. But Sexton plays beyond his skill level because he’s relentless and fearless, and that not only effects his teammates positively, but it makes all of his skills better than they are. There’s a chance his attitude isn’t enough in the NBA, but there’s a better chance that he’s able to get on the court enough for him to develop his game and thrive as a lead guard.
13. Orlando Magic (trade from Clippers) — Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami
Comparison: Little bit of Rodney Stuckey, little bit of J.R. Smith
With their second pick of the first round, the Magic can swing for the fences. Like Sexton, much of Walker’s appeal comes from his attitude. He’s a gunner and isn’t afraid to chuck wild shots or attack the hoop at full speed. With his athleticism and shot-making ability, he could be a dangerous scorer if developing correctly.
14. Denver Nuggets — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Comparison: Dejounte Murray
It’s obvious that the Nuggets need a guard to compliment Jamal Murray. Murray has a bright future as a score-first guard, but he’s often a liability on defense and could use some help as a facilitator. Enter Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the 6’6 guard who’s touted for his lockdown defense and deft passing. SGA can’t really shoot right now, but he has decent mechanics that can be polished; his 82% free throw percentage shows he has a good touch.
15. Washington Wizards — Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
Comparison: DeAndre Jordan with worse defense
Robert Williams is a ridiculous athlete who should be a dangerous pick-and-roll rim-runner. If he can work a bit on his overall defense and develop a midrange jumper, he could be an excellent role player beside Washington’s core.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (trade with Suns) — Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF, Ohio State
Player Comp: Jae Crowder mixed with Jonas Jerebko
Without Towns, Minnesota will need to find a big man who can space the floor. Bates-Diop won Big Ten Player of the Year after immensely improving his game in his junior year. Even if that rapid improvement doesn’t continue, he will be a versatile forward who can shooter and do the little things on offense.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Zhaire Smith, SG/SF, Texas Tech
Comparison: Michael Jordan
Zhaire Smith is the best, most amazing player in the 2018 NBA Draft. He would also be the best player in the 2015 draft, the 2012 draft, and even the 2003 draft. Try to watch these highlights and not lucidly imagine him winning MVP with his otherworldly athleticism, unfair perimeter defense and the potential of his smooth, high-rising jumper. Seriously, though, watch those highlights.
18. San Antonio Spurs — De’Anthony Melton, SG, USC
Comparison: Marcus Smart but not as thicc
After sitting out the entire season due to eligility issues, Melton showed up at the combine with a much improved jumper to go along with his feisty perimeter defense. He flashes a ton of potential as a 3-and-D and the Spurs would look to develop him into an essential supporting player.
19. Atlanta Hawks — Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia
Comparison: Rodney Hood
Musa is never going to be anything more than a liability on defense, but he is a gifted offensive player. Not only can he shoot the lights out, but he has shown vision running the pick-and-roll and he can drive past people with his length and crafty movement. Atlanta has a great track record of developing wings and they would try to get the most of him.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves — Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (HS)
Comparison: Hassan Whiteside, maybe
Mitchell Robinson is a complete unknown right now. He’s a freak athlete who has been touted for his shot blocking ability, but he didn’t play in college this past year so there’s really no way to tell if his skills show up on the court.
21. Utah Jazz — Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
Comparison: Tony Allen with a jumper, smaller Gerald Wallace
Besides Zhaire Smith (and George King), Khyri Thomas has to be my favorite player in this draft. He’s never going to be an average playmaker or create his own shots, but that’s fine. What Thomas will bring is destructive perimeter defense and a proven jumper. It’s rare to find a defensive stopper who can space the floor on the other end. He also happens to fit perfectly next to Donovan Mitchell.
22. Chicago Bulls — Chandler Hutchinson, SF, Boise State
Comparison: Landry Fields, but actually good
Hutchinson didn’t compete in the scrimmages at the combine because apparently he has been promised by a team in the 17-24 range. The Bulls may want him because of his potential as a glue guy to hold together Chicago’s foundation. With Hutchinson and Wendell Carter playing alongside Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, Chicago would suddenly be looking at a promising core that would age together splendidly.
23. Indiana Pacers — Troy Brown, SF, Oregon
Comparison: Evan Turner, but in a good way
Troy Brown is prospect known for his all-around skill and feel for the game. He’s not a great athlete or shooter, both of which the combine proved. He’s a curious prospect because his tools are obviously there and they’re mostly NBA ready, but if defenders don’t respect his shot and he’s too slow to get by them, those proven skills might not matter. It will be interesting to see if Brown’s game can translate to the NBA. My guess is that he just needs to improve his shooting to be a quality role player.
24. Portland Trail Blazers — Melvin Frazier, SF/PF, Tulane
Comparison: Larger Patrick McCaw, maybe Maurice Harkless
Frazier has been rising draft boards the past few weeks and the combine has only accelerated that. Frazier measured out at 6’6 with a gigantic 7’2 wingspan. He also showed up in the athletic testing as the bounciest and fasted wing there. (George King was right with him on the leader boards.) Frazier’s physical gifts combine with his shooting skill to make him a player that should immediately earn heavy minutes, all while continuing to improve. The Blazers would be wise to pick him because they desperately need help on the wings.
25. Los Angeles Lakers — Afernee Simons, PG, IMG Academy (HS)
Comparison: 76ers Jrue Holiday, but less athletic
Simons is a mystery of a prospect as he comes straight out of the IMG Academy. He’s unproven against NBA-quality opposition, but he has upside as large guard because of his quality jumper and smooth ball handling. His size also gives him defensive potential that could combine with Lonzo Ball to be one of the best defensive backcourts in the NBA.
26. Philadelphia 76ers — Josh Okogie, SG/SF, Georgia Tech
Comparison: More Gerald Henderson than Will Barton
Okogie is only 6’4 with shoes on, but he plays significantly larger than that because of his 7’0 wingspan and above-average athleticism. He’s going to be a versatile defender who should also be able to contribute three-level scoring and even some playmaking. He also excels in transition and could be a fun energy guy.
27. Boston Celtics — Jarred Vanderbilt, PF, Kentucky
Comparison: Slender Julius Randle
Vanderbilt only played 14 games for Kentucky last season, but in those games, he showed that he can excel as a physical defender, superb rebounder and a surprisingly deft playmaker. There is talk that Vanderbilt will return to the Wildcats, but if he stays, he would be an ideal forward for the Celtics.
28. Golden State Warriors — Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU
Comparison: Malcolm Brogdon without the consistency
Milton remains a quality prospect because of his size, shooting ability and rangy defense. But he’s known for his inconsistency and he disappeared during the scrimmages at the combine. That may see him fall in the draft, but he’s still a great value pick at 28. He’s also the exact type of player that the Warriors look for to play in their switch-heavy defensive strategy.
29. Brooklyn Nets — Kevin Hervey, SF, UT-Arlington
Comparison: James Ennis, but like 10 times better
Hervey has rapidly ascended draft boards as teams grow familiar with his game. At 6’9 with shooting and suprising quickness and fluidity, he shows potential as a 3-and-D forward. He’s on the old side and has a history of knee injuries, but he’s plenty skilled and would be able to play big minutes from the get-go. The Nets are in a position to take a risk and hope he can be a starter-quality forward.
30. Atlanta Hawks — Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinnati
Comparison: Wesley Matthews
I apologize to Evans for waiting this long to have him picked. There’s no good reason why someone with his skillset, hard-nosed defense and leadership qualities should fall this far. Maybe I subconsciously wanted the Hawks to round out their draft with a 3-and-D player suited to lead their young team?
31. Suns — Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
32. Grizzlies — Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
33. Hawks — Isaac Bonga, SF, Germany
34. Mavericks — Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland
35. Magic — Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
36. Kings — Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan
37. Knicks — Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College
38. 76ers — Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State
39. Warriors (pick bought from 76ers) — Bruce Brown, SG, Miami
40. Nets — Elie Okobo, PG, France
41. Magic — Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
42. Pistons — Justin Jackson, SF, Maryland
43. Nuggets — Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia
44. Wizards — Malik Newman, PG, Kansas
45. Nets — Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky
46. Rockets — Grayson Allen, PG/SG, Duke
47. Lakers — Austin Wiley, C, Auburn
48. Timberwolves — Gary Trent, SG, Duke
49. Spurs — Jarrey Foster, SF, SMU
50. Pacers — Tony Carr, PG, Penn State
51. Pelicans — Alize Johnson, PF, Missouri State
52. Jazz — Kostja Mushidi, SG/SF, Germany
53. Thunder — Devon Hall, SF, Virginia
54. Mavericks — GEORGE KING, SF, COLORADO
55. Hornets — Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas
56. Bucks (bought from 76ers) — Kostas Antetokounmpo, PF, Dayton
57. Thunder — Chimezie Metu, PF, USC
58. Nuggets — Tadas Sedekerskis, SF/PF, Lithuania
59. Timberwolves (from Suns) — Trevon Duval, SG, Duke
60. 76ers — Tryggvi Hlinason, C, Iceland
Note: This mock assumes the following are going back to college: Donte DiVincenzo, Jontay Porter, Tyus Battle, Omari Spellman, Sagana Konate, Casen Edwards, Cody Martin and Jalen Hudson.