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The odds are your team is out of the playoffs. The odds are even more likely that you’re bored with the Finals. Those feelings tend to suggest it’s past time to start studying up on the NBA draft, which is now a meager two weeks away. Given that all available college prospects have now committed to turning pro and teams are beginning to make promises to players and concrete plans, June is where everything gets more serious and far less speculative.
This year, it feels like the draft’s first major inflection point comes at No. 2. All indications are that Deandre Ayton will be first off the board to the Suns, unsurprisingly. Based on ongoing conversations I’ve had with league personnel in recent weeks, the sense is that nobody knows exactly what the Kings are going to do with the second pick. Though Sacramento’s recent draft history is certainly dubious, they’re justified in exploring their options. And whether it’s the right decision or not, there’s a realistic scenario where the Kings pass on Slovenian prodigy Luka Doncic in that spot, one which we’ll dive into with this mock.
In Sacramento’s position, in midst of a full rebuild, convention would suggest you take the best player available. Doncic has been touted all season as a candidate for the No. 1 pick. In that context, it’s worth wondering why Sacramento would pass on the opportunity to pair him with point guard De’Aaron Fox, last year’s No. 5 overall pick and the Kings’ most promising piece for the future. Doncic likes the ball in his hands and is a terrific playmaker, but given his limitations working in isolation against athletic opponents, placing him next to a smaller guard who specializes in shot-creation might be one way to maximize his skill set. Conversely, neither player is a consistent three-point shooter at this stage, so playing them together could end up bogging the floor down—at least initially.
Some view Doncic’s lack of elite athletic ability and already-developed skill set as factors that could limit his long-term potential, but others view him as the type of player who could be an unselfish tone-setter for a franchise. It’s possible that the Kings are trying to steer the conversation to mask their intentions, but it’s objectively fair to reason that although eminetly workable, the fit in Sacramento isn’t completely perfect.
If not Doncic, the conversation would seem to center around Duke’s Marvin Bagley, who put together a prolific statistical season and is viewed as the most readymade NBA player of the bigs on the board in that scenario. Sacramento has a slew of younger big men on the roster, but are far less invested in any of them than they are Fox. Bagley has deficiencies on the defensive end, but scouts love how hard he plays and the fluid, explosive athleticism that could help him become a difficult mismatch as his skill set continues to expand. At this stage, he looks like a real option, and while his preseason hype dimmed a bit during the season, Bagley is still a high-end talent. It will come down to who actually calls the shots and makes the pick within the Kings’ braintrust.
While it seemed unlikely two months ago, the dark horse to watch in all of this is Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., whose health situation has to be viewed as the biggest variable in the entire draft. Porter and his surgically-repaired back are said to be feeling much better in recent weeks, and there is presently reason for optimism as it pertains to Porter’s long-term health. He’s expected to participate in Priority Sports’ pro day on Friday. While carefully structured workout environments are generally viewed with a grain of salt by team personnel, it’s a critical opportunity for Porter to show how well he’s moving physically and that he’s proceeding toward full health.
According to multiple league sources, the Kings showed significant interest in Porter over the course of the past year, despite the fact he appeared in just three regular-season games due to the injury. A strong showing will likely re-ignite the Porter hype machine. It’s yet to be seen which teams will receive his medical information as June 21 approaches, but all indications are that things are trending in the right direction, and if there’s nothing to hide, convention says Porter’s camp starts at the top of the draft and works down. With all this in mind, it’s worth wondering if Sacramento likes him enough to try and trade down and draft him later—as well as how far he might fall.
Keep in mind that while the NCAA’s early entry deadline has passed, international and non-collegiate prospects have until the NBA’s June 11 deadline to withdraw. The mock draft serves to project the state of all 60 picks on a given day, while our Top 100 player rankings provide a more comprehensive look at the talent pool. You’ll find the latest information and buzz on teams, prospects and the landscape of the 2018 draft by scrolling down.
Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Mock: 1
Stats: 20.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 61.2% FG
It would be a surprise at this point if the Suns went in a direction other than Ayton, who most view as the draft’s top prospect and fits neatly into their situation. The top-rated prospect on our Big Board since the start of the season, Ayton possesses elite physical traits, a developing inside-out skill set and a superstar ceiling if all goes according to plan. He’ll immediately be one of the most athletic centers in the league. He needs to improve defensively but has all the tools to be a quality rim protector given time. There’s a sense he may need to be pushed harder than some to reach his full potential, but Ayton has the best chance of anyone in the draft to become a true franchise player.
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Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 4
Stats: 21.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 61.4% FG
As discussed above, the Kings are exploring all options at this spot. They are looking closely at Doncic, but if they pass, Bagley would make for a natural fit. Sacramento isn’t pivoting into full win-now mode anytime soon, but pairing Bagley with De’Aaron Fox gives them an extremely athletic inside-out pairing that should favor an uptempo style. Bagley has a low-maintenance game and should be able to help immediately, given he’s an extremely productive rebounder and manufactures easy baskets. He has enough of a skill level that he could eventually help stretch the floor as a four-man as he grows. There are major strides he needs to make defensively, and in expanding his offensive arsenal (he’s extremely left-handed), but Bagley still does plenty of things well at this stage. He could eventually become a nightly double-double without requiring heavy touches, and if he can broaden his offensive impact, there’s more upside than that. The Kings are also said to be high on Michael Porter, who may still constitute a reach at this spot.
Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 3
Stats: 10.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 BPG
Atlanta would surely think hard if Doncic is available here, and with three first-rounders (plus pick No. 34), there are a wide variety of pathways the Hawks can take. They lack much firepower to place around Doncic at this stage, and investing in Jackson’s extreme youth and attractive long-term potential on both ends of the floor may be more prudent for a team still in the early stages of its rebuild. Atlanta already has John Collins in place as an athletic, rim-running big, and Jackson’s burgeoning skill level coupled with his defensive mobility and shot-blocking makes him a terrific complement. He possesses a critical duality for modern bigs: he can step out and shoot from outside, while also defending in space and protecting the rim. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally before he can become a mainstay, but with the strides he’s made over the last couple years, he’s worth a substantial investment.
Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Last: 2
Stats (all competitions): 14.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.6 APG
The Grizzlies are generally viewed as Doncic’s floor, and his mature game fits neatly with Memphis’ need for an immediate bounce-back year. Fresh off a Euroleague title and Final Four MVP honors at the ripe age of 19, Doncic’s aptitude for moving the ball, ability to make reads as a ball-handler and overall skill set make him a safe bet to become a quality contributor at minimum. Having an experienced playmaker like Mike Conley alongside him would immediately make life easier, allowing him better looks away from the ball and splitting playmaking duties. A more seasoned Doncic could end up leading the franchise as Conley and Marc Gasol near the end of their prime years. There’s skepticism around the league about Doncic’s potential return to Real Madrid, and he’s still expected to remain in the draft as his season nears a close in Spain. The Grizzlies are an ideal on-court marriage.
Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 7
Stats (2016 U18 FIBA Americas): 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG
As mentioned above, the health arrow appears to be pointing upward for Porter right now, and his forthcoming pro day (and any subsequent workouts) will start to dictate his eventual landing spot. There’s a definite level of doubt as it pertains to his back in front offices given the lack of information that’s been given to teams at this stage, but expect that conversation to accelerate as the draft approaches. Porter is the biggest wild card in the lottery right now, and while some of his luster has worn off as a prospect, he was extremely well-regarded as a scorer coming out of high school. There are still concerns beyond his long-term health—his lack of interest in playmaking for others and ability on the defensive end are worth questioning, and teams have some questions about his leadership qualities and makeup, given Porter will likely be framed as a franchise cornerstone. In terms of talent and potential value, it’s hard to see a mostly-healthy Porter falling too far. The Mavericks could certainly use his shooting ability, and justify him as a long-term investment here. Dallas will also look at whichever bigs are available at this slot.
Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG
Orlando would be thrilled in this scenario, with Bamba and his substantial defensive upside slipping out of the top five. While measurements are never everything, his 7’10” wingspan and 9’7” standing reach make him a true physical outlier, and provided he can fill out a bit physically, Bamba is almost certain to impact the game as a rim protector with his sheer, difference-making verticality. His offensive game is rudimentary, but his skill level and touch around the basket continues to improve and he might be able to space the floor as he becomes more confident in his jumper. It’s unlikely Bamba becomes someone you run offense through. Chief concerns from NBA teams have centered on his competitiveness, but his intelligence and coachability will favor him in the personality conversation. He’d be an ideal fit, with defensive-minded Steve Clifford now in place coaching the Magic.
Bulls: Wendell Carter, C, Duke | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 6
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Carter would be a strong fit in Chicago, where center is the biggest remaining long-term need and the front office has consistently valued college prospects with winning pedigrees. Carter is widely viewed around the league as a prospect with a high chance of reaching his full potential, and with few holes in his skill set. At Duke he was overshadowed by Marvin Bagley, but wasn’t that far behind him in terms of productivity while cast into a flexible support role to help the team. He has a clean jump shot that projects to three-point range, nice touch and footwork on the inside, and is a good (though not elite) athlete. Carter offers a nice mix of talent and intangibles, with his main knock being a lack of elite vertical lift and mobility defending ball screens. He offers both safety and upside, and would be a terrific frontcourt partner for Lauri Markkanen.
Cavaliers: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 11
Stats: 19.2 PPG, 3.6 APG, 33.6% 3FG
This spot may end up being a major inflection point in the draft given the Cavaliers’ circumstances. Reason suggests Cleveland should take the best player available regardless of position given the distinct possibility LeBron James leaves in free agency, but will also need to keep the door open to improve the team if he returns. It’s an unenviable position. If all else remains constant, Sexton might make more sense than Trae Young given his chances of maximizing his potential are less dependent on on-court fit. While he may not evolve into a star, he should be able to get downhill and attack the paint, and most scouts view Sexton’s work ethic as a positive. To become a starting-caliber guard, he’ll need to step up and make an impact defensively, learn to get his teammates involved and play a more efficient style of basketball. Rather than risk throwing Young into the fire in a less-than-optimal situation here, Sexton is a safer play, and also offers more immediate value than the available wing players if the Cavs are forced to reboot.
Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.