Draft day is upon us. After weeks of speculation and gamesmanship stemming from private workouts, combine performances and medical evaluations, the time has come for NBA teams to make their selections. If a wild draft night from 2017 tells us anything, it's that anything is on the table when the clock starts.
As the 7 p.m. ET event inches closer, it seems obvious the Phoenix Suns will scoop up 7-foot phenom Deandre Ayton with their first overall pick. As for the Kings at No. 2, it's a toss-up. Duke's Marvin Bagley III is No. 2 in my latest mock, but Slovenian star Luka Doncic may also be a darkhorse after winning the EuroLeague MVP with Real Madrid. And I'm not completely ruling out Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr., either.
Let's check in with the last version of my mock draft -- beginning at No. 1 with Phoenix selecting Ayton out of the University of Arizona.
Deandre Ayton | Arizona | Fr | C
Don't overthink this one, Phoenix. Ayton is the best player in the draft, and at 7-foot-1, he's got throwback big man qualities with a seasoned 3-point shot tucked away in his limitless arsenal. He's an ideal fit alongside Devin Booker.
|Kings pass on international star Luka Doncic at No. 2 and instead grab Duke's Marvin Bagley III, a 6-foot-11 rim-running big man to pit alongside De'Aaron Fox in their promising young core. Bagley's athleticism is off the charts and he has a knack for yanking down rebounds on either side of the floor. His efficient 3-point shot coupled with his defensive versatility and ability to space the floor makes him a Swiss Army knife talent who can impact the game at every level for the Kings.
Luka Doncic | International | SG
Doncic, a Slovenian superstar, has the physical makeup to be the next European-turned-NBA star. He's far more than a run-of-the-mill developmental international prospect, and at 19 years old, he seems to have every tangible -- and intangible -- attribute that suggests he's worth shaping your franchise around. The Hawks would be thrilled if he falls to them at No. 3.
Jaren Jackson Jr. | Michigan State | Fr | PF
Jaren Jackson Jr. was little more than a role player for Michigan State as a freshman, but there's been no prospect whose stock has soared more in the pre-draft process than him. A 6-foot-11 big who shot 39.6 percent from 3 in college, Jackson fits the mold of a perfect modern-day big man: He can stretch the floor, protect the rim and has really great mobility to boot. If Jackson's on the board at No. 4, the Grizzlies will snatch him up in hopes he develops into the promising prospect to build around long-term.
Michael Porter Jr. | Missouri | Fr | PF
Sure, there are questions about Michael Porter Jr. -- specifically how healthy he is and his long-term outlook after missing most of his freshman season due to a back injury that required surgery. But his potential to develop into a go-to scorer drives his ceiling to an All-Star-level player if he's able to stay on the court. He's worth taking a risk at No. 5, even for a Dallas franchise that may be hoping for a quick return on its investment.
The Magic need a point guard, and Trae Young is the most transformational talent at the position not named Luka Doncic in this draft. Young's a lights-out scorer with above-average court vision and limitless range. His ability to shoot off the dribble and create shots for himself and for others will be a boon for a Magic team that ranked T-23 in total offense last season and lacks in star power at the position.
The Bulls just need talent at this point, so taking a risk on Bamba at No. 7 is a no-brainer. In Bamba, they get an immediate rim-protecting big man who can develop into a defensive anchor -- and perhaps more if his 3-point shot falls into place.
Kevin Knox | Kentucky | Fr | SF
Cleveland selecting Kentucky standout Kevin Knox gives the franchise the best of both worlds -- if LeBron stays, they've got a versatile offensive weapon who can create his own shot and knock down open 3-pointers. If LeBron leaves, the Cavs have a young talent to potentially build around. He's only 18, and the youngest player in this draft class.
Even if Frank Ntilikina is a long-term option in the backcourt, he hasn't proven to be the Knicks' long-term answer as a primary ball-handlers. Sexton is a best-of-both-worlds pick, which allows them to play Ntilikina off the ball and provide relief for their 2017 draftee who has flashed upside as an elite perimeter defender.
If Mikal Bridges slips to No. 10, the Sixers will waste no time processing internally whether or not he's the fit for them in Philly. At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, he's a plug-and-play perimeter defender whose 3-point shot will be an ideal weapon to throw on the court alongside Ben Simmons.
Wendell Carter Jr. | Duke | Fr | C
With Dwight Howard out the door and Timofey Mozgov in, it seems an upgrade at the center position is in order. So grabbing Wendell Carter, the lesser-known Duke big man in this draft, is a smart choice for the franchise. Carter is a wizard in the paint who has above average vision and play-making skills as a big man, and possesses an efficient 3-point shot that showed promise in college. He's talented enough to earn significant playing time immediately.
Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley all enter 2018 with contracts set to expire at the end of the season. So the Clippers would be wise to start thinking ahead with a pick like Shai Gilegous-Alexander, a prospect with upside aplenty but probably best served not being thrust into an immediate starting role. Gilgeous-Alexander has the potential to be a lock-down perimeter defender, and if his shot follows, he could eventually be the Clips' starter.
The NBA has changed drastically over the last half-decade, but there's never too many Robert Williams-like talents in the league. A lob-finishing, dazzling dunker, Williams projects as a shot-blocking big who can defend the rim at a high level, switch onto smaller guards, and even work his way to the bucket with his dribbling ability. With Montrezl Harrell slated for restricted free agency and Tobias Harris entering the final year of his deal, drafting Williams will keep L.A. fresh with talent at power forward for the long haul.
Miles Bridges | Michigan State | So | SF
By selecting Miles Bridges, the Nuggets add yet another playmaker on the perimeter to put alongside an already promising roster centered around Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris. Bridges doesn't need the ball in his hands to be productive, and could be an excellent role player with the Nuggets.
Lonnie Walker | Miami | Fr | PG
Washington locked up John Wall last summer to a deal that will keep him in town for the next half-decade, but it would be wise to secure a serviceable backup with Ty Lawson and Tim Frazier headed to free agency this summer. Lonnie Walker could be that and then some. With an extremely high basketball acumen and capable handles to run an offense, Walker can play either guard position and has Donovan Mitchell-like potential as an offensive weapon.
Grabbing Ayton at No. 1 is a low-risk play for the Suns, so they can afford to take a flyer on Oregon forward Troy Brown at No. 16. Brown was a solid playmaker as a freshman last season, and could complement Devin Booker tremendously off the ball in Phoenix.
The Bucks love their long, rangy prospects -- (looking at you, Thon Maker) -- so Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop should be an excellent fit in the Bucks' system. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-3.25 wingspan, he can guard multiple positions and has the offensive skillset to be an instant contributor as a spot-up shooter.
Zhaire Smith is a bit undersized as a small forward, but he plays well above what his 6-foot-4 frame may suggest. A thunderous dunker with athletic ability the size of Texas, Smith has the capability to develop into a productive 3-and-D wing in the league. Smith moves well without the ball and his playmaking, both as a passer and creator off the bounce, is promising. I don't see the Spurs letting him leave the state if he's still available at No. 18.
Anfernee Simons | No college | SG
With Doncic in tow, the Hawks have a chance to take a chance at a developmental guard in Simons who has the potential to become his sidekick down the road.
Sharpshooting Maryland guard Kevin Huerter would be an injection of talent and youth at shooting guard for Minnesota -- a team that was giving 38-year-old Jamal Crawford close to 25 minutes per game in the playoffs. Huerter is a good finisher around the rim and does so with surprising efficiency by contorting his body when driving inside the lane. But his biggest selling point is his scoring ability in spot-up situations and off the dribble on the perimeter.
Donte DiVincenzo | Villanova | So | SG
The Jazz already drafted a franchise-type guard last year by swiping Donovan Mitchell in the back of the lottery, and do the same here at 21 by taking DiVincenzo -- a player who could've easily been a top-10 player in next year's draft had he returned to Villanova.
A 6-foot-7 wing who served as a primary offensive option for Boise State in college, Hutchison could be an overqualified 3-and-D talent for the Bulls with the potential to develop into an excellent building block alongside Lauri Markkanen and Bamba.
Elie Okobo | International | PG
Depth at point guard behind Darren Collison is a glaring weakness for the Pacers, who get a chance to upgrade at No. 23 and pounce on France prospect Elie Okobo. Okobo is a lefty who specializes in bucket-getting and is a tremendous finisher from the perimeter off the dribble. If his shot translates to the NBA, he and Victor Oladipo could be a formidable 1-2 punch in the backcourt.
Damian Lillard is the unquestioned man in Portland, but drafting a well-equipped backup capable of giving him relief would be a wise move -- especially with Shabazz Napier's contract set to expire following the upcoming season. Holiday is an above-average scorer for his position and able to hold his own defensively, which suggests he would see meaningful minutes in relief of Lillard as a rookie.
An excellent two-way player from Creighton, Khyri Thomas may be a steal at No. 25 for the Lakers if he's still available. He may also be a formidable solution to help replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, should he leave in free agency this summer.
The Sixers grabbed a potential 3-and-D wing at No. 10 with Villanova's Mikal Bridges, so why another at No. 26? Two reasons. The first: Okogie has the potential to be a playmaker on offense and, at Georgia Tech, showed he can create for himself off the dribble. The second: Okogie, like Bridges, can be a multi-positional defender at the next level. Hard to poke holes in his all-around game.
The overall impact Melton can bring at every level of the game -- snatching steals, blocking shots, pulling down rebounds, dishing out assistants and scoring points -- makes you wonder why Melton won't likely hear his name until late in the first round. The long and short is that he was held out of competition last season due to the FBI probe into college basketball, but regardless, his defensive presence gives Boston yet another talented two-way player who could be insurance should it let Marcus Smart walk this offseason.
Grayson Allen | Duke | Sr | SG
The Warriors don't exactly need anything. So with Duke sharpshooter Grayson Allen on the board at No. 28, this is a luxury pick. Allen would fit perfectly in Golden State's system as a spot-up 3-point shooter, and he showed himself to be versatile enough to run the point and play off the ball in college. His competitive streak, athleticism and tenacity on defense is a bonus for a team that already has plenty of it.
Jacob Evans | Cincinnati | Jr | SF
The NBA is becoming increasingly more position-less, so players like Jacob Evans -- a 6-foot-6 wing who can defend at a high level and produce offensively off the catch -- are full of value. This is a long-term selection for the Nets, who may opt to use Evans as a DeMarre Carroll replacement down the line.
Mitchell Robinson | No college | C
Mitchell Robinson has virtually no tape after spurning college life at Western Kentucky to spend the year preparing for the NBA. But 7-footers with his lob-finishing ability and potential to develop into a rim-running, shot-blocking big man is intriguing. With Doncic and Simons, two swing-for-the-fences guards, in the fold Robinson completes an impressive first-round haul for the Hawks.