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2018 NBA Mock Draft 9.0: Trade Speculation Heats Up

The pool of available prospects is locked in and the trade chatter is heating up. The Front Office provides all the latest news, intel and projections as the 2018 NBA draft approaches.

For an in-depth and up-close look at the potential number 1 pick Deandre Ayton, watch SI TV's latest episode of SI Under the Cover. Sign up here for a FREE seven-day trial

Projecting the NBA draft is an annual exercise in predicting the unpredictable, or rather predicting in spite of it. One of the inherent flaws in mock drafts is their inability to perfectly account for traded picks. Those plans, of course, tend to remain close to the vest until the actual minute they go down. And for better or worse, there’s a lot of speculation surrounding potential trade scenarios at the top of the draft right now.

The Suns appear set at No. 1 and are expected to draft Deandre Ayton. Things get complicated immediately after that, with the Kings said to be making calls and feeling out potential returns in deals in which they’d move down from No. 2 and try to extract some added worth out of that pick. There’s enough noise surrounding Sacramento right now to think that it’s probably leaking for a reason as the team (presumably) angles to create more value. The Kings have continued to scout Luka Doncic during the postseason in Spain and have been interested in Michael Porter Jr. all season, at which point it seemed like they were more likely to pick in the mid-lottery. It’s yet to be seen if their efforts will gain any serious traction.

Another team to watch closely is the Mavericks at No. 5, who are in position to move either up or down in the draft and could try and dangle that pick to teams interested in Porter or potentially Trae Young, both of whom are generally expected to fall no lower than the 6-7-8 range of the draft. There is some chatter that Dallas wants to be competitive again next season, whether it’s by targeting an NBA-ready prospect like Luka Doncic or by moving down and acquiring a piece to add to its rotation. The Mavericks are armed with cap space and are expected to try and make pitches to big-name free agents, which could accelerate their competitive timeline.

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Others to keep an eye on are the Suns and Hawks, each of whom have multiple picks to dangle. Phoenix could package Nos. 16 and 31, potentially with a player attached, to try and add another pick in the lottery. Atlanta could also look to flip 19 and 30 or 34 for a better selection. There’s also a sense they might consider offers to move down from No. 3, and are known to have interest in Trae Young in that scenario. The Clippers are also known to be assessing options for pick Nos. 12 and 13 and have some interest in Porter, but it‘s unclear as it stands whether they can put together an attractive enough package to move up high enough to select him.

Given all the fluidity in the lottery and the number of teams expect a whole lot of posturing and smoke screening in the days to come. Now that June 11 has passed, the pool of available prospects is locked in, with the top international-based players mostly choosing to remain eligible. 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 below.

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1.

Phoenix Suns

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 star ceiling if all goes according to plan. He’ll immediately be one of the most athletic centers in the league. Ayton needs to improve defensively but has all the tools to be a quality rim protector given time. The Suns have worked out Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mohamed Bamba in the past week, but those moves are more likely due diligence. If they can successfully package their other draft picks, it’s certainly possible Phoenix will address their perimeter needs somewhere else in the lottery. Ayton may need to be pushed harder than some to reach his full potential, but he has perhaps the best chance of anyone in the draft to become a true franchise player.

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2.

Sacramento Kings

Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 2
Stats: 21.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 61.4% FG

There is still uncertainty over exactly what the Kings will do with this selection, but Bagley’s athleticism and offensive talent seems like a strong fit He should be able to help immediately, given he’s an extremely productive rebounder and manufactures easy baskets. Bagley 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). Luka Doncic isn’t off the table here, and there’s also substantial chatter around the league that some in the Kings’ front office have strong interest in Michael Porter Jr. There remains warranted skepticism that Sacramento would actually pull the trigger on him at No. 2, unless their hand was forced by another interested team picking in between those spots, but there’s a lot of talk abut the Kings aiming to move down in the draft.

3.

Atlanta Hawks

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, as he’d immediately be the best player on their team. Given they’re in no hurry to start competing, it makes long-term sense to invest in Jackson, who is the best long-term prospect available here. His extreme youth and attractive potential playing both ends of the floor is the prudent move for a team still in the early stages of its rebuild. 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. 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 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. The Hawks are known to have interest in Trae Young as a long-term solution at the point, but would need a way to comfortably move down in order to draft him.

4.

Memphis Grizzlies

Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Last: 2
Stats (all competitions): 14.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.6 APG

The Grizzlies would likely jump at the opportunity to draft Doncic, who makes sense with their immediate needs and is the most NBA-ready player in the draft. 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. This is likely his floor. The Mavericks are also said to have interest, which might require them to trade up.

5.

Dallas Mavericks

 Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 5
Stats: 10.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 33% FG

There’s talk that the Mavericks may prefer not to draft a center in this scenario, with a potential eye on DeMarcus Cousins in free agency. It’s possible they look to move this pick. If they keep it and are willing to take the risk, Porter makes sense as a fit with their personnel. He’s a wild card in the draft as he continues to work into peak shape, but seems to be trending toward full health. His situation will clarify now that some teams atop the draft have access to his medical information. Porter’s pro day was well-attended, and he’ll work out again in private on Friday for lottery teams only. The game comes easily to Porter, and in a total vacuum his offensive gifts would make him a top-five selection. The risk of re-injury as well as background intel on his personality may continue to give some teams pause. Though he could still end up falling in the draft, there appears to be enough interest to keep him safely in the Top 10.

6.

Orlando Magic

Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 6
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG

Orlando would be in a strong position choosing between Bamba and Trae Young in this scenario. The Magic’s front office leadership is known for favoring players with length, good physical profiles and skill potential, and should Bamba slip to here, he fits the bill. Young is a clear option but makes less sense given those proclivities. His defensive shortcomings also don’t mesh as well with newly-hired coach Steve Clifford’s preferences. Bamba’s length and defensive upside fits the Magic’s profile, and he brings some risk but also a potentially massive reward. He’s 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.

7.

Chicago Bulls

Bulls: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 9
Stats: 27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3FG

The state of Chicago’s rebuild remains in enough flux that it wouldn’t be a shock to see them add another guard despite the presence of Kris Dunn and figure things out later. The Bulls are also viewed as a logical destination for Michael Porter if he falls out of the top five. If Young is available at this spot, it’s possible another team tries to come get him. Of the players on the board in this scenario, Young has the most upside, though he comes with more risk than Wendell Carter, who should also be in the mix if Chicago picks here. His high-end shooting ability and unique flair for the game help compensate for a lack of standout physical traits, and he’s slippery off the dribble and able to score from deep and initiate offense. Defensively Young will pose some challenges, but if a team were to adequately maximize his strengths, it could mitigate that issue. Teams love his talent, and if the Bulls were to pass in this scenario, he wouldn’t fall far.

Marvin Bagley III Says Draft Talk of Deandre Ayton at No. 1 'Disrespectful'

8.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavaliers: Wendell Carter, C, Duke | Fr.

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 7
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG

Given Cleveland’s unusual circumstances as they await a decision from LeBron James, it’s fair to reason they’ll explore their options with this pick. If there’s an opportunity to move down and add more draft assets it could be worthwhile, or if the Cavs see a worthwhile last-ditch scenario to package it for a big enough star to convince James they can make over the roster appropriately. They probably don’t have enough to move up. Carter would be a terrific option at No. 8, giving them a legitimate building block for the future and also an early-career rotation player if they need to stay competitive. 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’s widely viewed as a prospect with a high chance of reaching his full potential, and with few holes in his skill set.

9.

New York Knicks

Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 10
Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43% 3FG

Barring Trae Young or Michael Porter unexpectedly falling to this spot, the Knicks appear likely to select from this next group of available wings. Bridges is said to be high on their list, given the relative level of safety he offers as a floor-spacer and versatile defender. He’s older and closer to contributing in an NBA role than Miles Bridges or Kevin Knox, and fits in nicely on the perimeter as the Knicks build around Kristaps Porzingis. Bridges isn’t perfect—creating his own shot off the dribble is a weakness, and some around the league feel the actual caliber of his man-to-man defense may be oversold. But given what he brings to the table, he should be able to carve out a place for himself and has a chance to become a starting-caliber player.

10.

Philadelphia 76ers

76ers: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami | Fr.

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 13
Stats: 11.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG

Philadelphia owns a whopping six draft picks and doesn’t necessarily need to seek immediate help with this first selection. Their roster could use an athletic perimeter scorer for the long-term, and Walker makes the most sense as an upside play if you take the timeline factor out of the decision. He’s a high-caliber athlete and big-time leaper still at an early stage of his development. Walker was a mixed bag this season and hasn’t figured out how to consistently impose his will on games yet, but his explosiveness, ability to get to the rim and jump shooting potential are all intriguing. He needs to become a consistent defender and has just an average offensive feel, but is young enough to hope he’ll mature into a legitimate scoring threat. The Sixers can find more NBA-ready help further down in the draft.

11.

Charlotte Hornets

Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12
Stats: 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 34.1% 3FG

With nearly all their key pieces set to return under contract, it might make sense for Charlotte to draft with an eye toward long-term development here. A prospect like Knox, who’s full of long-term upside, makes sense here in that scenario. While Knox is still figuring things out, he has a lot of appealing tools and should be able to make an impact as a scorer as he matures physically and learns the game. Athletic combo forwards in his mold are in demand right now, and he offers an appealing blank slate at a valuable position. Knox appears to still be getting used to his body and is one of the youngest players in the draft, which leaves room for optimism as he builds out his offensive skill set and gets used to putting the ball on the floor.