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2018 NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Trae Young Continues His Upward Climb

In our latest NBA Mock Draft, Trae Young continues to climb up the board, DeAndre Ayton holds steady at No. 1 and Collin Sexton tumbles out of the top 10.

With the passing of the trade deadline, it’s fair game to start looking at rosters and assessing team needs as the draft nears. With that in mind, it’s a good opportunity to revisit the first round after some picks have changed hands and as the college season winds to a close.

As it stands, there’s a great group of players atop the draft that have established themselves as top prospects. And that aside, first-round picks are especially valuable this season, as evidenced by teams’ hesitance to part with them. Only the Cavs and Pelicans moved first-rounders before the deadline, and both were operating with degrees of desperation. Given the large number of teams still fighting (tanking?) it out at the bottom of the standings, there was added downside to moving a likely lottery pick. And as it stands, there are eight teams sitting between 17 and 19 wins, all with a real chance to end up picking in the top three save for the Nets, whose pick will go to the Cavs.

As far as the deadline was concerned, the upcoming salary crunch facing most teams added value to the safety of the locked-in, guaranteed cap number of a rookie contract. So even if this year’s draft ends up as top-heavy as it seems, it will still be worthwhile as ever to take big swings late in the first round, quality of the draft aside. Depth is a factor more easily determined later in the process once prospects can be taken out of their team environments and placed into better contexts. And of course, there’s still tournament season to leave a lasting impression on scouts. As always, the aim of our mocks is to project what the first round of the draft might look like if the season ended today, based on team needs and which players are trending.

Teams are sequenced in the reverse order of current standings, with traded picks and protections considered. Last updated Feb. 12.

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1. 

Sacramento Kings

Kings | DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last: 1

Although the Kings have a number of bigs on the roster, it shouldn’t preclude them from selecting the best player available. Luka Doncic would receive heavy consideration here, but Ayton’s star potential, tantalizing athletic ability and floor-spacing promise will be hard to pass up. From a physical standpoint, Ayton is an extremely rare prospect, as strong and agile as any seven-footer in recent memory. One scout I spoke with this week likened his athleticism to Patrick Ewing at this same stage. With his burgeoning offensive skill level, he can be as dominant as he wants to be. Defensively he’s been inconsistent, but has improved over the course of the season and has the tools to be impactful once he gets up to speed. He remains the top prospect on SI’s Big Board.

2. 

Atlanta Hawks

 Hawks

 | Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 2

The Hawks aren’t tied down to much of anything on their roster beyond John Collins, and are in search of a foundational player. Doncic’s talent is no secret, and he’d be able to take over the offense right away. With his ability to read the floor and see over defenses, he’ll be able to make others better and benefit from additional space to operate. The question is whether you see Doncic as your franchise player long-term, or project him more as your second or third-best guy. His ceiling will be tied to his individual shot creation (and whether he can shoulder a superstar’s workload), or if he’s best-suited playing off a star teammate at the NBA level. He’s a safe bet to produce great value among the top picks and won’t fall far, if at all.

3. 

Phoenix Suns

Suns | Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

The Suns appeared to address their point guard issues by adding Elfrid Payton at the deadline. Until that experiment resolves itself, Phoenix can focus on adding to its frontcourt, with center being the biggest need. There’s no question that Bamba has insane defensive potential with his length and mobility, and he’d be an ideal complement to a scoring-minded core group headlined by Devin Booker. He may not need to max himself out offensively to be an immensely valuable player, but has shown potential shooting jumpers and is a marvel to watch when he’s on. The chief concerns I’ve heard from league personnel center on Bamba’s motor, and how badly he wants to compete at times. If he can lift Texas to the NCAA tournament and plays well, he can answer those questions.

4. 

Dallas Mavericks

 Mavericks

 | Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 3

After hitting on Dennis Smith last year, Dallas will be well-positioned to complement him atop the draft. Bagley’s long-term potential and high-energy rebounding makes him a nice fit, and he could potentially spend time at center with Harrison Barnes at the four in smaller lineups. His production has tailed off a tiny bit in concert with Duke’s mid-season doldrums, and there are some questions about his positional fit, particularly tied to his defensive issues. That said, he’s still at an early stage of his development and couples appealing physical tools with elite college production. With shooting around him and more space to operate inside, he’ll be better positioned to utilize his mismatch. Bagley may not be as prepared for the NBA as some expected coming into the season, but as he learns and adapts in the years to come, he could become a dangerous, dynamic player.

5. 

Memphis Grizzlies

Grizzlies | Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

Memphis’s refusal to entertain Marc Gasol trades indicates the Grizzlies are aiming to be competitive when Mike Conley returns. There may not be an instant fix, but gambling on Porter, who might be the best scorer in the draft, could be a meaningful risk/reward move and terrific fit for a franchise long in need of a high-level wing. Porter says he intends to return from back surgery before the end of the season, which would be a risky choice as it pertains to his long-term health, much less his draft stock. But as long as his medicals check out, his size, shooting and polished game should keep him pretty safely among the draft’s early selections.

6. 

Orlando Magic

Magic | Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 7

Expect the Magic to lean toward long-term upside wherever they select. There’s a definite hole at point guard, and Young deserves consideration should he fall to them. There’s mixed opinion surrounding his long-term prospects, but he comes with star-level potential if everything breaks right, able to rain threes from deep, utilize high ball screens and find teammates. Defense will always be an issue given he’s physically slight, but in a spread attack with the right personnel, Young can still thrive. Pairing him with Jonathan Isaac would be a step in the right direction.

7. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

 Cavaliers*

 | Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.

(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6

Amid the flurry of deadline moves Cleveland made, they were wise to hang on to the Brooklyn pick, which is set to land in a desirable range and produce something useful. Jackson’s two-way potential has been evident all season. He’s one of the youngest players in the class and perhaps not ready to make a big impact from day one, but has the sort of skill set that fits in safely on most teams. He can space the floor, protect the rim and occasionally switch onto wings, but is still learning to make his impact felt consistently. Jackson would be a nice piece for the Cavs whether LeBron stays or goes.

8. 

Chicago Bulls

Bulls | Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 19 | Last: 16

Expect the Bulls to focus on the frontcourt in this range and find a player who fits with Lauri Markkanen. Carter is viewed by scouts as a well-rounded prospect, and his high skill level and IQ make him a nice piece. Marvin Bagley has been more hyped but Carter has arguably been Duke’s best player, and certainly its most consistent performer. He’s a terrific rebounder and versatile offensive player who should be able to add consistent three-point range to his game. His star upside could be limited by a lack of elite lift, but he’s certainly athletic enough to make his game work in the NBA. He’s established himself as a potential Top 10 selection with his play.

9. 

New York Knicks

Knicks | Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 8

The Knicks’ biggest area of need is on the the wing, where they could use a versatile player to complement Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina. An upside play makes sense with the timeline of their core, and Knox’s scoring ability, three-point shooting potential and ability to play either forward spot makes him a projectable fit. He’s made noticeable strides over the course of the season, particularly with his on-court approach, and has a lot of room to grow as he develops his ball-handling, works on his body and starts to unlock his versatility.

10. 

Charlotte Hornets

Hornets | Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 10

Charlotte won’t have to make a need-based pick here, and although the Hornets sat tight with their top guys at the deadline, it’s conceivable they get active again come draft time. With Kemba Walker still in place and Malik Monk just a season in, the wing could be the area most worth addressing. Bridges brings high-level college experience and a valuable 3-and-D skill set, with more offensive upside than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a considerably high overall floor as the Hornets try and chart their next direction. His ability to space the floor and play in transition would be an instant boost.