• The 2018 NBA draft is loaded with star talent like Marvin Bagley and Luka Doncic. With hoops season under way, The Crossover's draft expert dishes his first mock of the year.
By Jeremy Woo
November 13, 2017

Welcome to The Crossover’s Front Office, Sports Illustrated’s new online home for all things NBA draft and your go-to resource for up-to-date projections, scouting reports, prospect buzz and more.

If you’re already a draft diehard, you’re in the right place. If you’re an NBA fan looking for an entry point into the world of college hoops—or a college fan searching for the scoop on your school’s top prospects, look no further. The Front Office will have regular updates in this space as we get deeper into the season, all the way into June. While it’s obviously pretty early, this year’s draft is shaping up to be especially compelling towards the top.

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 which players are trending. Our Big Board (coming next week) will serve as a more definitive, fluid prospect ranking based on our own evaluations. Given it’s November, take the projected order of teams with a grain of salt—we’re simply working off the standings. We won’t waste our time on team needs or best fit at this stage. 

Bookmark this space and check back all season long for regular updates.

Teams are sequenced in the reverse order of standings as of 11/13, with traded picks and protections considered. Last updated Nov. 13.

1. Mavericks | Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.

Bagley will be under the microscope all year on a loaded Duke team. He fits the bill at No. 1 as a hyper-athletic, hybrid-style big man whose versatility is his calling card. Bagley’s extremely skilled and remarkably active on the interior, generating easy points on the glass and off lobs. A talented transition player and potential standout defender, his two-way ability will be tantalizing near the top of the draft. Bagley’s impressive motor and smooth game set him apart. We’ll have a better sense of his exact offensive role as he continues to develop his inside-out game, but the big lefty looks like a worthy top selection.

2. Hawks | Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid | 18 years old

Perhaps the most complete and accomplished European draft prospect we’ve ever seen, Doncic’s body of work is hard to argue with. He’s made big strides as a shooter this year and is dominating the Euroleague in his third go-around (21.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists through five games) at the ripe age of 18. He’s a savvy lead ball-handler and playmaker and easy to peg as the most NBA-ready player in this class. He may not possess the same athletic upside as other top prospects, but Doncic is a safe bet to have a long, productive career wherever he lands. He’s worth the price of a Euroleague TV subscription, if you want to do some scouting of your own.

3. Bulls | DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr. 

Although the conversation at No. 1 centered mostly around Bagley, Doncic and Michael Porter Jr. over the summer, it’s safe to bet Ayton will play himself firmly into that mix. He checks plenty of boxes as a mobile, skilled center who can step outside and shoot as well as bang on the interior. A summer spent working on his body should pay off big time for Ayton, who already has the size and strength to bully just about any defender in college basketball. His footwork and touch around the rim have also improved. In the past, scouts have questioned how seriously he approaches the game, but he’ll have the chance to answer that with a monster season.

4. Kings | Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.

Porter Jr. boasts elite shooting ability for a player of any size. He’s a tricky matchup and positioned to be one of college basketball’s top scorers, with a great understanding of how to create his own shot using his reliable handle. He’s long and quick enough to theoretically defend both forward spots as he fills out. Some scouts have questions about his defensive fit as well as how multi-dimensional he can be offensively, but a strong freshman year should address some of those concerns. His scoring makes him a lock for the top five, and a true breakout would give him a strong case at No. 1.

5.  Suns  | Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.

Bamba rounds out the top five, boasting off-the-charts length and defensive potential. At 7’0” with a 7’9” wingspan, he’s as projectable as they come and has just begun to scrape at what he could be. Presumably, Texas will showcase him as a rim-runner and screener on offense, and while he’s still a bit of a work in progress, Bamba is a bit further along than he’s given credit for. He will need to demonstrate a consistent willingness to compete and stay involved offensively. How Bamba’s slender frame fills out will have a bearing on his long-term ceiling. On his defensive gifts and rebounding ability alone, he has a chance to play his way into the top three.

6.  Cavaliers*  | Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&M | So.

*Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round selection.

Williams made a surprising choice to return for his sophomore season after showing considerable potential as a pick-and-pop big last year. He can make an open jumper, rebound well and protect the basket, and has the measurables to effectively play center. In all likelihood he’ll need a huge season to leap into the top five as scouts look for added polish—especially given the fact he’s already 20 years old (as a point of comparison, he’s more than two years older than Jaren Jackson). That advanced age coupled with the relative rawness of his skill set and feel could hurt him in the long run.

7. 76ers | Miles Bridges F, Michigan State | So.

*Philadelphia owns the Lakers’ first-round pick unless it falls between Nos. 2 and 5, in which case it conveys to Boston.

Athletic combo forwards who can guard, run in transition and hit an open jumper are valuable currency as NBA teams continue to play faster and smaller. Bridges does those things, and his ability to defend up or down a position should give him an instant calling-card for minutes at the next level. He can improve his draft standing by polishing up his ball-handling and offensive skill set in the halfcourt and proving he can space the floor reliably. As a baseline he has the makings of a productive rotation player, and his explosiveness attacking the basket gives him a chance to be something more.

8. Hornets | Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State | Fr.

Michigan State’s other potential lottery pick, Jackson is a more traditional stretch big who can step out to the three–point line and has great timing as a shot-blocker. He’s a very lanky 6’10” and is still getting used to his body, but makes athletic plays, competes for rebounds and has an impressive array of scoring skills as one of the youngest players in college basketball. Jackson will have to adjust to the physicality of the Big Ten, and wonky jumper mechanics make him a consistent threat only when his feet are set. Given his age, a productive season will make him a great bet for a high selection.

9.  Clippers  | Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Fr.

If it’s possible to be under the radar as a five-star recruit headed to Duke, Carter has essentially done just that in the run-up to the season thanks to Bagley’s reclassification and Grayson Allen’s oft-controversial existence. Carter is a prospect more than worthy of lottery attention, with a wide range of offensive skills, a great feel for the game and underrated athletic ability. He’s an instinctual rebounder and interior scorer who continues to develop range on his jumper. There will be some questions about his defensive versatility when projecting his eventual role, but the overall package here is plenty valuable.

10. Pacers | Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Fr.

We all lucked out when Sexton’s suspension turned out to be for just one game: trust he’ll be one of the more entertaining players in college hoops this season. He’s a hard-nosed, score-first ball-handler who plays with a well-documented mean streak. Sexton competes relentlessly on both sides of the ball, and is difficult to handle when changing speeds and attacking the rim. He’s an inconsistent but capable jump shooter and has to improve as a decision-maker to play point guard. He should have a future at minimum as a tone-setting, change-of pace player. If he reins in and maximizes his talent, the lottery is within reach.

11. Thunder | Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Fr.

Walker is a prototypical scoring two-guard with great length for his position (6’4” with a 6’10” wingspan) and the ability to attack closeouts and fill it up from the perimeter. He’s a very good jump shooter and impressive athlete who is at his best with the ball in his hands. His body and strengths also project well defensively, but Walker will need to demonstrate a commitment to guarding before we peg him as a 3-and-D wing. Additionally, learning his craft playing away from the ball is imperative. He’s been cleared to return from a meniscus tear suffered in July and should be an exciting player to track.

12. Suns*  | Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.

*Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected 2018 first-round pick.

On a Kentucky team laden with intriguing yet imperfect prospects, Knox might be the most compelling. At 6’9” with a 7’0” wingspan and 8’11” standing reach, his measurables are ideal for a combo forward and help make him a formidable rebounding presence. Knox is a capable finisher, but needs to improve as a shooter and show a commitment to whatever role Kentucky assigns him. It seems he wants to play the three, but without an improved handle, it’s tough to see that happening at this point. He will also need to gain considerable weight to fully utilize his physical gifts, although he moves well on both sides of the ball. As one of the younger players in this class, Knox is a long-term project worthy of looks in the late lottery.

13. Cavaliers  | Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.

Brown is an absolute pitbull of a combo guard with a chance to become a 3-and-D type stopper in the NBA. A former football player with a capable jumper and aggressive on-court disposition, Brown is a high-caliber athlete who had a solid showing as a freshman and has a great chance to improve his standing this year, particularly if he can improve on a 34.7% clip from three. It’s worth noting he’s already 21 (he did a prep year before arriving at Miami), and he’s probably not ready to play point guard full time. Nevertheless, Brown’s ability to defend the ball and supply complementary offense give him a great chance to carve out an NBA role.

14. Jazz | Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Fr.

Here’s a guy with a chance to shoot up draft boards before June. Duval is one of the best athletes in this potential class, at 6’3” with a 6’9” wingspan and impressive instincts and lateral quickness on defense. He knows how to leverage his size against smaller guards, and has long thrived simply by being bigger and faster than other players. He’s a beast in transition and has all the physical tools. Star-laden Duke will ask Duval to play a more focused role this season and distribute the basketball, which should ultimately be good for his development. Given that he struggles at times to play under control and make decisions, and is not a comfortable jump shooter at this stage, Duval is still a bit of a wild card. Scouts will look for improvements in those areas, and if he proves he can stand out in the halfcourt game his stock will rise.

15. Suns | Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Fr.

*The Suns own the Bucks' 2018 first-round pick if it falls between 11-16. 

Diallo’s decision to test the draft waters through a loophole without ever playing a college minute turned heads last spring, but returning to Kentucky should ultimately prove a wise decision. He’s an exceptionally explosive shooting guard whose skills need polish. His 6’10” wingspan cements his NBA intrigue, and he’s a strong finisher around the basket who can impact games offensively when right. That athletic ability is no secret, and the keys for him will be the state of his jumper and his approach to defense. He’s a lottery-caliber talent in this class, but will have some things to prove.

16. Trail Blazers | Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | So.

The other Justin Jackson (now the only one, for our purposes) is a jack-of-all-trades forward whose strength is in his versatility. He’s 6’7” with an absurd 7’3” wingspan that allows him to play big, and his skill set is an interesting fit in a league skewing small. He shot 44% from three last season, a clip that may not be sustainable but offers promise. Jackson showed enough to earn a combine invite last season, and his ball-handling, strength and defensive instincts all bode well. He won’t be an offensive focal point at the next level, but profiles as the kind of player who helps everywhere else.

17. 76ers | Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.

The appeal of Brown’s game has always been a little bit conceptual, but he’s a great fit at Oregon and should have a nice opportunity to showcase his strengths. He’s a standout transition player who puts his size (6’6” with a 6’11” wingspan) to good use as a playmaker and versatile defender. He’s used to having the ball in his hands, and his frame and skill set make sense and offer upside. His inconsistent jump shot may hold him back and limit his ability to play off the ball. He has the advantage of being extremely young for his class.

18. Pelicans | Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Jr.

Metu is an outstanding leaper who had some impressive moments last season for a good USC team. He can step out and hit a mid-range shot, attack the glass and block shots. He’s a naturally gifted big who can make difficult plays look simple. There were some concerns about his readiness for the next level last spring, but he can assuage them with added polish, composure and defensive intensity this season. He has all the tools to do it.

19.  Knicks | Mitchell Robinson, C | 19 years old

Robinson will remain a bit of an enigma after leaving Western Kentucky to prepare for the draft on his own. He has the size, length and talent to be a first-round pick, but he’s far from a lock at this stage given everything that can happen between now and next spring, when he’ll be able to work out for teams. Most NBA scouts have only seen him in quick spurts and in All-Star settings, and his feel for the game leaves something to be desired, so it’s a little concerning that he won’t play competitively at all this season. Robinson could be a valuable shot-blocker and lob catcher around the basket, and should benefit from being part of a thinner draft class.

20. Hawks* | Dzanan Musa, F, KK Cedevita | 18 years old

*Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.

A sweet-shooting wing, Musa has been dominant for Bosnia coming up as a teenager and possesses intuitive ability to score the ball. He’s only 18 and has been a contributor for Cedevita Zagreb in the Adriatic League for a couple of seasons. He starred at this year’s Adidas Eurocamp as well, displaying a more well-rounded game than some expected, and appears a likely first-rounder at this stage. He has a ways to go, but his scoring ability, experience and advanced profile makes him an intriguing long-term stock.

21. Grizzlies | Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Fr.

Richards arrives at Kentucky in the mold of Willie-Cauley Stein, as a physically promising center whose skill set needs refinement. He moves extremely well and profiles as an athletic roll man, switchable defender and potentially high-level shot-blocker. A native of Jamaica, Richards has made some strides in terms of offensive moves and footwork over the last few years, but must show he can process the game at a high level and solidify his fundamentals. Richards turns 20 at the end of November and is older than some college sophomores, which doesn’t help his case given how far he has to go. He has the talent to thrive in a simplified role for Kentucky.

22. Nets* | Grayson Allen, G, Duke | Sr.

*Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected first-round pick.

It will be in the best interest of all parties if the extra hoopla surrounding Allen dies down this season: he remains a solid NBA prospect thanks to his toughness, explosiveness, and ability to hit difficult shots. He runs hot and cold and can get in his own head at times, and teams will look for improved maturity from Allen as the de facto leader of this year’s Duke team. Allen can be turnover prone and needs to work on his handle, which makes his professional sell more difficult as an undersized shooting guard. But a return to form this season will have him on the late first-round radar.

23. Wizards | Shake Milton, PG, SMU | Jr.

Blessed with a great nickname and a lot of talent, Milton has been on draft radars for a while, but struggled with consistency last season in a bigger role at SMU. He’s a legitimate 6’6” lead ballhandler with a 6’11” wingspan and has potential to impact the game defensively with those measurables. He shot 42% from three last year, but just 45% from two, an anomaly that should sort itself out this season in a telling manner. His strengths and potential versatility make a lot of sense when it comes to pacing and spacing, and there’s a definite chance Milton takes a leap this year and delivers on his promise.

24. Spurs | Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | So.

Tillie enters the season with a big opportunity to prove himself to scouts, with plenty of minutes available in Gonzaga’s frontcourt. The presence of Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski last season meant Tillie largely had to sit and wait, and scouts accordingly have a lot more to learn here. The Frenchman has potential to become a useful floor-spacing, face-up big, with a nice shooting touch and good defensive instincts. He’s been a standout for France at youth levels and would seem positioned for a breakout. Tillie’s progress will be fascinating to follow, and a big year should square up his place on the NBA map.

25. Nuggets | Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Fr.

McCoy has NBA intrigue as a rim protector and mobile rebounder who can cover a lot of ground. His natural size and strength are clearly appealing, but he’s still putting things together scoring the ball and competing on every play. McCoy will no longer be able to rely purely on his physical advantages at the college level, and will need a productive year in the Mountain West to crack the first round conversation.

26. Magic | Devonte Graham, PG, Kansas | Sr.

As Kansas’s senior floor leader, Graham will aim to follow in Frank Mason’s footsteps and play his way into the first round. He was productive but struggled with his efficiency at times last season, and improving his percentages with what might be increased shot volume will be pivotal. His size and scoring ability have turned NBA heads, and he continues to improve as a leader and shot-creator. After flying somewhat under the radar, Graham gets his chance to shine.

27. Warriors  | Andrew Jones, G, Texas | So.

An exceptional athlete, Jones continues to learn the game after choosing to attend last year’s combine and return to Texas. His invite alone spoke volumes: he’s explosive, laterally quick and has a chance to lead the Longhorns in scoring while doubling as an ace defender. With a year of college experience, we’ll wait patiently on the breakout, and if Jones can prove himself as a lead ball-handler and add consistency to his jumper, it will go a long way.

28. Pistons | Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | So.

Alkins is slated to miss a chunk of the season as he recovers from a foot fracture, but will eventually return as a crucial component of a loaded Arizona team. He impressed at last year’s draft combine and will be given more opportunities to score and create this year, after playing a more complementary role as a freshman. If he comes back at full strength, he should be on the cusp of the first-round conversation as a strong, explosive wing who can create his shot, attack the basket and compete defensively.

29. Hawks* | Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona B | 19 years old

*Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected 2018 first-round pick.

After pulling out of the 2017 draft (where he was projected to be a late first-round pick), Kurucs returns to Europe hoping to earn additional playing time and improve his case. He’s still playing for Barcelona’s B team, which isn’t a great sign, but improved production at that level will help his case. A strong wing player who has shown impressive flashes and versatility, the Latvian product needs to show all-around improvement in order to cement his value. As a big ball-handler who can space the floor, Kurucs fits the NBA bill. 

30.  Celtics | DeAnthony Melton, G, USC | So.

Melton’s ongoing availability is uncertain due to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into corruption in college hoops, but he was highly impressive as a freshman for the Trojans, particularly on the defensive end. He put his size and length (6’8” wingspan) to good use and can be a highly disruptive presence for opposing ball-handlers. He’s quick, strong and intelligent with the ball in his hands, but his jumper is a major question mark. If and when he takes the court this season, Melton will be on NBA radars as a potential high-energy rotation player.

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