Previewing the 2018 NBA Draft

Another NBA Draft is here, and the 2018 class is bursting with talent.

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Previewing the 2018 NBA Draft

Michigan State F Jaren Jackson dunks a ball during a basketball game between Iowa and Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the visiting Spartans, 96-93. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Michigan State F Jaren Jackson dunks a ball during a basketball game between Iowa and Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the visiting Spartans, 96-93. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Shiva

Michigan State F Jaren Jackson dunks a ball during a basketball game between Iowa and Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the visiting Spartans, 96-93. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Shiva

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Shiva

Michigan State F Jaren Jackson dunks a ball during a basketball game between Iowa and Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the visiting Spartans, 96-93. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

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In 2017, the NBA Draft was renowned by many, if not most, as a once-in-a-generation crop of players; such players as Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Dennis Smith Jr., and Donovan Mitchell headlined one of the most talented draft classes in recent memory.

While the 2018 draft may not share the same hype, the talent is there. And 2018 could very well bring about a better group of NBA-ready players this season.

The 2017 draft was very guard-heavy; six of the first nine selections made on draft day were true guards. That won’t be the case this year, because it’s a big-man favored class.

Mock Draft​ — Top 10 picks

1) Phoenix Suns —​ DeAndre Ayton (center, Arizona)

Ayton is going to be a force in the NBA for a while. After all, he’s got the size (7 feet, 260 pounds) to body almost any center in the league, thrives in the paint, and he can also spread the floor and knock down shots from all over the court (he was a 34.3 percent 3-point shooter at Arizona).

Ayton averaged 11.6 rebounds per game (3.4 offensive) and blocked an average of 1.9 shots per contest as well, adding a defensive presence Phoenix is desperate for. He’ll fit in perfectly with current Suns Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.

2) Sacramento Kings — Luka Doncic (guard, Slovenia)

The Kings better not botch this. Imagine a backcourt of Da’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Doncic. I can, and I like what I’m imagining.

The Kings could end up going with Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, or Jaren Jackson Jr., but it’s a fast league. By selecting Doncic, the Kings get the most NBA-ready guard in the draft. He is a winner, possesses excellent court vision, and can score from a variety of angles, either cutting to the hoop or taking shots from deep.

3) Atlanta Hawks — Marvin Bagley III (forward, Duke)

Bagely was seen by many to be one of the draft’s top prospects a year ago. One thing he has that should (and could) boost him on draft day is his versatility; he can play more of a center position in the paint, but he can also step out and play the role of a stretch-4 and work along the perimeter.

4) Memphis Grizzlies — Jaren Jackson Jr. (forward, Michigan State)

Jackson is a decently raw prospect. He’s flashed his potential while playing for the Spartans but often worked himself into foul trouble and/or struggles with consistency both offensively and defensively. What Jackson has going for him is potential. He’s a pretty decent defender as is, but his upside is tremendous.

5) Dallas Mavericks — Mohamed Bamba (center, Texas)

I’m hesitant having Bamba this high, but he’s got the physical skills to be one of the best defenders in the league (averaging his stats out per 40 minutes, Bamba grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked 4.9 shots per game). Drawing comparisons with Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Bamba has a 7-9 wingspan and a 9-6 standing reach. That’s insane. He needs to bulk up, weighing only 225 pounds, but once he gets into an NBA weight-room routine, that shouldn’t be an issue. With an aging Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas needs to find another big man. Bamba, an in-state prospect, is that guy.

6) Orlando Magic — Trae Young (guard, Oklahoma)

The Magic already have a log-jam situation of forwards and centers — they don’t need any more.

What Orlando needs is a shooter, and that’s just what it gets with Young. He’s got Steph Curry potential; Young can hit from 35 feet out at will and has solid ball vision as well. When he’s hitting shots, he’s virtually unguardable, but consistency will be his biggest question mark.

7) Chicago Bulls — Wendell Carter Jr. (center, Duke)

Here’s the big-man combination the Bulls have been looking for: second-year forward Lauri Markkanen and Carter. The Bulls might take Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. here, but I think Chicago does not let Carter slide if he falls to seventh.

Carter is a solid all-around option for Chicago at this spot; per 40 minutes, he averaged 20.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 3 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest. Throw in that he’s a 41.3 percent 3-point shooter for good measure.

8) Cleveland Cavaliers — Michael Porter Jr. (forward, Missouri)

Porter was considered to be one of the best prospects in the 2018 class a few seasons ago while he was still in high school. He’s got a strong jump shot, great athleticism, and solid strength. His game has been linked with that of Kevin Durant — both players are almost 7 feet tall but have guard-like skills.

With all that in consideration, Porter is a high-risk, high-reward pick. He was hurt for virtually his entire freshman season at Missouri and played in just three games. This is Cleveland’s last-ditch effort to sway LeBron James into sticking around.

9) New York Knicks — Collin Sexton (guard, Alabama)

The Knicks need help. A lot of help.

Sexton is the best-available player at this spot, and New York does need guard help. Ron Baker, Jarrett Jack, Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Frank Ntilikina aren’t winning anything soon. Sexton is speedy quick and can get to the basket in a hurry. Pick-and-roll scenarios with Kristaps Porzingis or Enes Kanter could leave defenses scratching their heads.

10) Philadelphia 76ers — Mikel Bridges (guard/forward, Villanova)

The 76ers might opt to select someone such as Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Zhaire Smith of Texas Tech, but Bridges gives Philadelphia another defensive specialist along the wing to pair nicely with current forward Robert Covington.

Bridges is the draft’s best two-way prospect as far as guards go. Scouts might not like his age compared with other draftees (he’s turning 22 in a couple of months) or his ability to attack the hoop (Bridges attempted just 3.4 free throws per game — not completely terrible, but that number could increase). But his outside game (43.5 percent shooting from deep) and his defensive awareness (1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game) are too much for Philly to pass up.

Other names to watch

Keita Bates-Diop (forward, Ohio State)

Bates-Diop is going to be the steal of the draft. He’s a first-round talent, but his name could slip into the second round on Thursday. Iowa fans remember his name well, as he torched the Black and Gold in Carver, dropping 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a Buckeye win.

Robert Williams (forward/center, Texas A&M)

Williams might sneak into the top 10 in the draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised. He met with the Los Angeles Clippers on June 19, and they have the 12th and 13th selections in the draft. Williams’ 7-6 wingspan combined with his 240-pound frame have scouts drooling with rim-protection potential.

Grayson Allen (guard, Duke)

Hear me out on this. Allen has built quite the reputation while suiting up for the Blue Devils for the past four seasons. But guy can ball.

Allen has a pure shooting motion and is extremely agile. He had a combine-best 10.31-second finish in the lane agility drill and 40.5-inch vertical at the combine. Size (6-4) and age (23 in October) are two concerns.

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