- 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.
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. Bookmark this space and check back all season long for regular updates.
Teams are sequenced in the reverse order of standings as of 12/4, with traded picks and protections considered. Last updated Jan. 2.
1. Hawks | DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last: 1
The quality and variety of talent atop this class creates a difficult decision for whichever team ends up picking first. Ayton’s freakish physical ability, dominant interior play and soft shooting touch give him the highest long-term ceiling in the draft. He’s been outstanding for Arizona and largely unstoppable on the glass and in the paint. His defensive positioning has started to improve, and he has the length and mobility to handle himself on that side of the floor as he gains experience. The total package here will be difficult to pass up for any team.
2. Celtics* | Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid | 18 years old
(Note: Boston owns the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick unless L.A. selects No. 1 or between Nos. 6–30, in which case it conveys to Philadelphia.)
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 2
Doncic continues to do his thing for Real Madrid, with superb playmaking skills and basketball smarts that serve as the foundation for his well-rounded game. He leads the entire EuroLeague in PER with a 30% usage rate, and has bolstered his team in a number of ways. He’s the most individually accomplished European teen ever and a great fit for where the pass-shoot-dribble NBA is headed. Doncic’s average athletic ability may preclude him from dominating in any one area, but he’s given teams little reason to doubt the impact he can make at the NBA level. If this Lakers pick conveys to the Celtics, Doncic could slot right into Boston’s rotation as another oversized ballhandler.
3. Magic | Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 3
There’s little arguing with Bagley’s production, and he’s coming off a massive 32-point, 21-rebound ACC debut against Florida State. He’s perhaps the best offensive rebounder in the country and has dominated in the paint since coming to college. Bagley has also shown off some ball-handling and passing skills and the ability to make the occasional jumper. He’s not as long as you’d like and not much of an interior defender, but there’s a lot of room for growth that makes him part of the conversation atop the draft. If he falls, nobody will be upset about drafting him third or fourth. Adding Bagley in with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac would give the Magic an intriguing frontcourt trio to develop.
4. Grizzlies | Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5
Bamba is starting to dominate games defensively for Texas, and his confidence and comfort level has visibly grown. There aren’t many bigs who can switch a screen out onto a ballhandler, then switch back onto a roll man and contest their shot without breaking stride. Bamba blocks shots effortlessly with off-the charts length, and can reasonably defend all five positions at his size. How much his fledgling offensive skills evolve remains the wild card in the equation. The best possible version of Bamba could alter a franchise’s fortunes. In Memphis, he could play understudy to Marc Gasol while learning the ropes and working on his body.
5. Kings | Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4
Everyone remains in wait-and-see mode with Porter as he recovers from back surgery. He’s unlikely to fall too far on draft night regardless given his upside as a perimeter-scoring combo forward. Teams have a good feel for his strengths due to his time in the prep spotlight, but it appears questions about his defensive fit and how multi-dimensional he can be offensively will remain mostly unanswered going into June. He could present extra value if he falls, and is a nice positional fit for Sacramento, as well.
6. Mavericks | Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Fr.
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 7
With a terrific physical profile and demonstrated ability to shoot from outside, Jackson is an enticing project who’s been highly impactful for Michigan State. He’s made jumpers at a high clip and helped compensate for a less-developed interior game. As a shot-blocker with great length and quickness, there’s definite two-way potential wrapped up in his frame. He’s the youngest college player in our Top 60 ranking and will need some time, but could become a uniquely valuable big. He’d fill a hole up front for the Mavericks as they rebuild.
7. Bulls | Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 21
After entering the season with less fanfare than some of his lottery peers, Young continues to win skeptics over with dazzling offensive play. He’s been the best player in college hoops so far, using deadeye shooting and deep range to open up space for the drive-and-kick element of his game. On some level, that should translate in the NBA, and should everything click for Young he could become a highly valuable floor leader. Defensively and athletically there are some questions here, but how much Young’s offensive threat has helped elevate the rest of his team can’t be undersold. The Bulls will be in position to take the best prospect available, and Young’s upside would be appealing.
8. Hornets | Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 10
Knox’s recent play has been hit-or-miss after a hot start to the season. He has the tools to play either forward spot (though most of his scoring has been perimeter-focused) and has hit some growing pains as Kentucky heads into conference play. His jumper remains inconsistent and he’s had issues creating his own shot, but he has a nice touch for a guy his size. As the Wildcats continue to figure things out over the next couple months, Knox will benefit. He has a lot to learn, but the upside here is palpable. He’s a frontcourt piece the Hornets could develop and potentially build around.
9. Cavs* | Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.
(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 9
Sexton continues to have success drawing fouls and playing his aggressive shoot-first style. He can score at all three levels of the court and has an understanding of how to find teammates, although he’s not a prolific distributor. Athletically and physically, he’s well-suited as a lead guard. While his competitiveness has been much-ballyhooed, it doesn’t always translate into game action, as he can have stretches where he appears passive on both ends. There will be teams that prefer Sexton to Trae Young, and the two will make for must-see TV in a head-to-head matchup later this month. He’d be in a good learning spot in Cleveland.
10. Suns | Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 16
The anchor of a Villanova team with a chance to contend for the title, Bridges has earned his way into the lottery conversation. He’s coupled elite tools and defensive ability with newfound offensive production. He fits the 3-and-D mold nicely, able to defend almost every spot on the floor using his length while spacing the floor at a dangerous rate (45.6% from outside). While he still has issues creating off the dribble, Bridges continues to assuage concerns about his overall aggressiveness and appears tailor-made as a valuable two-way player in the modern league. The Suns would supplement their core with a reliable, versatile piece.
11. Jazz | Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&M | So.
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 6
While the fit alongside Aggies teammate Tyler Davis upfront is far from ideal, Williams has been borderline M.I.A. this season offensively. That’s certainly concerning. He possesses great physical upside and rim-running talent and the rebounds, blocks and steals have all racked up. Still, as conference play gets underway, Williams has yet to prove he can impact games consistently as a scorer. His success has been hindered by A&M’s lack of great playmaking in the backcourt, but the best bigs in his mold find ways to create offensive opportunities for themselves. Williams needs a big second half to rejuvenate this conversation. With Derrick Favors potentially on the way out, Williams could be an eventual fit in a similar role.
12. Clippers | Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | So.
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8
Bridges continues to produce at a strong clip for the Spartans, and his strengths and weaknesses are well-defined. His explosiveness and ability to run the floor, finish and occasionally facilitate should all translate. His inconsistent jump shot and struggles to create off the dribble in the halfcourt may cap his upside, and a lack of great length will make it harder for Bridges to body up larger players. Returning to school hasn’t killed his standing, but has mostly affirmed what scouts suspected. The Clippers will simply need to add talent, and Bridges could slot in nicely as a frontcourt option.
13. 76ers | Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 11
A hard-nosed, athletic combo guard, Brown has struggled shooting the basketball this season but has ably handled a larger playmaking role. His defensive versatility will serve him well and scouts appreciate his motor. As a strong rebounder and passer, he looks tailored to provide help in a number of areas. He has mid-first round value but if he continues to have issues scoring the ball efficiently, Brown could slip. His relatively advanced age doesn’t help matters. Still, he’s probably a better shooter than he’s shown, and the Sixers could put him to use in a number of ways.
14. Knicks | Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Fr.
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 19
Over the course of the last month, Diallo has really emerged as a scorer for Kentucky and begun to contribute consistently. It doesn’t take much to appreciate his otherworldly leaping ability, and it’s translated into some impressive transition play. Diallo’s ball-handling needs work and his jumper (though effective at times) also leaves something to be desired. Defensively, he could become a stopper in theory but isn’t there yet. His exceptional athleticism and gradual improvement suggests there’s untapped ability here. The Knicks can take a chance on him.
15. Pelicans | Dzanan Musa, SF, KK Cedevita
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last; 14
Musa has set himself apart behind Luka Doncic as the next-best European prospect worth tracking, averaging 12 points per game across competitions and hitting threes at a 36.9% clip. He has nice size and array of moves for a score-first wing, although he’s not overly long or explosive and hasn’t shown a playmaking element to his game. He’s also known for being extremely competitive. The Bosnian international is advanced for his age but must either continue to score at a high clip or expand his all-around contributions to shine in the NBA. New Orleans needs size and shooting on the perimeter, and Musa would be that.
16. Pacers | Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 15
In recent weeks, Carter has begun to flash the breadth of his skill set. After coming through the high school ranks as an offensive focal point for his teams, he’s transitioned into an excellent supporting player for Duke. To be fair to him, Carter has been somewhat buried by team context. Although he’s not an above-the-rim guy, there’s inside-out versatility to his game. As a rebounder and interior defender, he’s acquitted himself quite well. There are some physical limitations to his long-term upside, but Carter is a nice prospect who should have a place in the NBA. He could be a nice fit alongside Indiana’s skilled young bigs.
17. Nuggets | Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Fr.
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 13
Duval’s jump shooting struggles are going to be a concern, but he’s generally fared well racking up assists as a primary distributor for Duke. He shines advancing the ball in transition and creating in space, which isn’t always a perfect stylistic fit on a team replete with bigs. Duval’s abilities to break defenders down off the dribble and dog ball-handlers on the other end are still impressive. He’ll be held back by the jumper, but there’s enough working in his favor to roll the dice. The Nuggets could use him as a change-of-pace ball-handler and play shooters around him.
18. Suns* | Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.
(Note: Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 17
Brown has gone through typical freshman ups and downs, but has generally given Oregon well-rounded production through the first half of the season. His size, versatility and ability to handle the ball are all intriguing, and he’s now made a three-pointer in nine straight games. As the NBA continues to trend in favor of skilled ball-handlers and uptempo play, Brown has the makings of an ideal complementary wing player. As one of the youngest players in the class, he could benefit from another year of college but will be on the first-round radar regardless. He’d give the Suns another ball-handling option and useful defensive piece.
19. Trail Blazers | Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Fr.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 12
Although Miami is a deep, guard-heavy team with high hopes for the postseason, Walker’s struggles to make a consistent impact are certainly concerning in the short-term. He’s only managed double figures in four games and been unable to secure consistently heavy minutes. It’s difficult to see a massive breakout on the horizon in ACC competition. That said, there’s still plenty to like about his tools, and if Walker strings together some strong performances late in the season, it could be all he needs to solidify himself. As it stands, he might need to come back to school. If he goes, a team will roll the dice anyway.
20. Timberwolves* | Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior
(Note: Minnesota owns Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A
In midst of a prep season and set to turn 19 in June, Simons is positioned to leap directly to the NBA should he elect to go that route. He’s an athletic, high-scoring guard who was once committed to Louisville and continues to entertain high-major offers. Simons won’t arrive NBA-ready, but his obvious upside makes him the type of prospect teams will have to consider in this range. He’s a talented shot-creator off the dribble who could be worth bringing along slowly for teams without an immediate need worth addressing through the draft.
21. Bucks | Daniel Gafford, F/C, Arkansas | Fr.
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A
Thanks to his physical gifts, Gafford has emerged as a project worth developing and a first-round caliber talent. He entered the season as a lesser-known entity, but his impressive hands and feet and tendency for jaw-dropping dunks have put him on the radar. Defensively, he’s made an impact as a shot-blocker and shown some mobility corralling ball-handlers, but has frequently encountered foul trouble. Gafford has a long way to go skill-wise, but has just begun scratching the surface. He’d benefit from a second year of college experience, but could put himself in position to make the jump now.
22. Wizards | Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette HS
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 18
Robinson is training off the grid, but remains very much on the NBA radar. The Louisiana native has been in Dallas preparing for the draft and working out, and his size and length and as a rim-running, shot-blocking center should keep him in the first round. The lost season of competitive play after leaving Western Kentucky doesn’t help things. He won’t come NBA-ready, but Robinson will be a risk-reward pick with some upside as a potential paint presence.
23. Pistons | Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 24
Double-double production continues to trickle in from McCoy, whose physical tools and rebounding instincts offer some intrigue. While he doesn’t have a developed skill set and can be an inconsistent post scorer, UNLV leans on him more heavily on offense than his future employer likely will. He’s been active and turned in some impressive performances to play his way into this range. McCoy’s ability to rim-run and score in the paint have a good chance to translate. If he can improve defensively over the second half of the season, it’ll help his case.
24. Hawks* | Shake Milton, G, SMU | Jr.
(Note: Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22
Milton checks several key boxes with his blend of length, shooting and playmaking ability. While his aggressiveness can waver at times, he leads a solid SMU team in scoring and assists and should be able to provide support on or off the ball in the NBA. Though Milton’s shooting percentages have dropped incrementally, his offensive workload has increased for a third straight year and he remains a consistent perimeter threat. He has all the ability to become a useful two-way rotation player with some upside.
25. Cavaliers | Grayson Allen, G, Duke | Sr.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 27
Allen certainly hasn’t hurt himself by returning this season, as he continues to score prolifically for the Blue Devils and has stayed away from on-court controversy. Last season’s 39.5% shooting clip may have been a bit of a fluke due in part to Duke’s lack of consistent playmaking. He’s looked more comfortable playing off of Trevon Duval, and his ability to make difficult shots from long range coupled with his toughness will endear him to teams. He isn’t necessarily a lock for the first round, but his experience at the college level should add appeal for teams in this range looking to plug in a shooter.
26. Spurs | Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona | So.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: N/A
Arizona has been bolstered by Alkins’ return to the lineup from a foot injury, and his toughness, energy and well-rounded offensive game should translate nicely at the NBA level. His well-built frame and impressive athleticism have also helped him become a standout defender. Although he’s sharing offense with DeAndre Ayton and Allonzo Trier, Alkins has become a standout in his role. After generating interest in the first round last year while testing the waters, Alkins will position himself to land somewhere in this range with continued strong play.
27. Nets* | Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Jr.
(Note: Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 23
Though his numbers are up incrementally from a year ago, Metu remains a bit of a wild card when it comes to nightly production. He’s considerably talented and has expanded his game as a shooter, but the questions over his consistency and motor haven’t been full assuaged as the Trojans enter conference play. An outstanding leaper and shot-blocker when inclined, Metu still has some work to do but will be a first-round candidate based on his untapped potential.
28. Hawks* | Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | So.
(Note: Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 29
Battle’s size, length and scoring ability have him in the conversation for a late first-round selection, but he’s struggled to score efficiently in recent weeks and has run hot and cold from outside. To be fair, he’s shouldering a massive workload for a so-so team and has played every single minute in seven straight contests (including two overtime games). His mid-range game is well-developed and his frame helps him draw contact nicely, but his secondary skills need fleshing out. His consistency will be key, but Battle could make it the seventh straight draft in which Syracuse turns out a first rounder.
29. Celtics | Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Jr.
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A
Impressive contributions on both ends of the court brought Thomas into the foreground as Creighton’s top prospect and a potential first-round selection. His on-ball defense has been extremely impressive, with a knack for applying pressure and creating turnovers. His no-frills offensive game is also a plus, as Thomas excels in transition and spotting up from outside. He may not be a primary offensive creator, but the array of things he does well makes him easy to envision fitting in as a role player with essentially any team.
30. Warriors | De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | So.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A
The #FreeDMelt movement continues as the talented guard remains sidelined due to an ongoing investigation by USC into his eligibility. That issue stems from the FBI’s probe into corruption in college basketball. Melton is a long, tough guard who filled a versatile role for the Trojans as a freshman, helping all over the stat sheet and making an especially impressive impact on defense. His biggest questionmark is his jump shot, which at this rate, he may not be able to address on the court until the pre-draft process begins.