2018 NBA Mock Draft

This draft has a big target on its back.  Following up the amazing class of 2017 is not gonna be easy.

This year, there’s two guys in the top tier, 6-8 guys in the 2nd, and then a major fall off.  This draft is loaded with bigs at the top and plenty of versatile wings later.

As always, my mock drafts are 50% what I think will happen and 50% what I think should happen.  It’s also important to note that I do not watch nearly as much college basketball as I do NBA, and usually that consists of only the top prospects.  Scouting is the only reason I watch the college game.

Anyways, here’s my 2018 Mock Draft.  There are definitely going to be some surprises.

No.1, Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

DeAndre Ayton might as well be sculpted by Michelangelo.  He has a rectangle of a torso, with back muscles popping out from his jersey and a thin, sleek upper body.  Ayton looks like he was chiseled out of stone.

Luka Doncic is the No.1 player on my board in this draft, but the Suns need for a rim protector and possession of Devin Booker makes Ayton the better fit.

Ayton’s old school post game would scare off efficiency/small-ball geeks like me, but this is different.  Offensively Ayton is a juggernaut.  If given a mis-match, he has 90s-like post moves to put on a defender.  When guarded by someone his size, Ayton’s massive 8’11 reach towers over most centers in the league.  He can catch lobs and get easy buckets down low.

Small-ball doesn’t have to kill big men offensively.  The days of feeding centers are over (Get over it, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside).  Few teams realize the advantages that small-ball give big men like Ayton.  Easy post entry passes are being given to you when PJ Tucker is playing the five.  It doesn’t take a 5-8 second post-up to put the ball in the basket anymore.  It’s inefficient for one, taking time off of future possible possessions.  But most importantly it’s just not necessary.  You really think a 6’8 guy is stopping Ayton in the post?  With that standing reach, Ayton literally puts the ball in the basket.  He just picks it up and puts it in.  It’s like playing pickup on a seven foot hoop.

The Suns want to go modern; it seems like Devin Booker will playing a lot of point guard next year, and Phoenix has made a heavy investment in athleticism and versatility (Though guys like Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss haven’t worked out.  At least they’re trying!).  Ayton’s offensive package fits today’s NBA.  He doesn’t need to be fed, but can get easy buckets quickly.  He also has the ability to space the floor, though he’s probably not putting the ball on the deck and attacking the rim.  The three point shot was at 34% at U of A last season.  That’s a good start.

That’s just half of what Ayton brings to the table.  The true value of big men in today’s NBA is on the defensive side.  If you’re playing a big guy, he has to be able to do two of the three:  Protect the rim, shoot, or get easy buckets down low.  If your big man can’t do that, then you’re better off playing another wing.

Ayton’s defense at Arizona was much better than people give him credit for.  He was a shot blocking monster who didn’t let anyone get to the rim on him.  It’s the awareness that needs work.  He struggles on helps and looks lost occasionally.  I think he’s a little raw.

Ayton has too much talent to fail defensively.  His frame is undeniable, and he’s an incredible athlete for his size.  In a switch heavy league, you have to have lateral quickness.  Ayton does, allowing for those switches onto wings and guards to work.  NFL front offices wish they had linebackers who are as much of an athletic freak as Ayton.

As a Suns fan, passing on Luka Doncic hurts.  His talents are the most valuable in the league right now.  But we already have that, and it’s now about getting Booker help. That means tightening up defensively and adding another offensive option.  Ayton provides both of those while projecting as a top 15 player in the league someday.

At the same time, the Suns did hire Doncic’s national team coach.  It feels like more of a coincidence than anything.  Doncic and Booker together would be fascinating, but as we’ve realize over the years, situations might be the most important factor in determining whether a rookie is successful.  Both Doncic and Booker need the ball in their hands; they’re both amazing play-makers and can score the ball.  If the Suns and Igor Kokoškov can figure out how to make those two co-exists, then we’re looking at a potentially devastating offensive team with two dynamic play-makers.  I’m all game if it’s possible, but I’m just not smart enough to figure it out.

No.2, Sacramento Kings: Luka Doncic, Slovenia

I guess you can forget all I said about situation and two creators co-exsisting with one another above.  The Kings are in a similar dilemma as Phoenix.  They already have their guy to hand the car keys to in De’Aaron Fox.  Worse, Fox has a horrific three pointer, making him essentially nonexistent off the ball.  You’re playing 4-on-5 when he doesn’t have it in his hands.  Devin Booker is a fantastic shooter, so in the case where him and Doncic are on the floor together, your offense isn’t as limited.

But this is the Kings.  If anyone is more desperate or has a worse owner than Phoenix, it’s them.  They’re more starved for talent than Phoenix, and only have one guy you can have any sort of confidence in for the future (Fox).  The Suns aren’t good and have sucked for years.  But at least they have a plan and a path.  The Kings are still looking for more talent.  The Suns are developing their’s  There’s a difference.

If you’re going off of that, the Kings should take Doncic and figure out the rest later.  He’s not only the best player available but the best player in the draft, simply because his talents are more coveted right now than Ayton’s.

Doncic is a prodigy.  He was the best player in the 2nd best basketball league in the world this past season, and he’s 19.  He’s 2-6 months older than most of my friends (I’m extremely young for a high school graduate).  That’s insane for me to think about.

I’d give him the car keys to my offense right now.  I would have done it two years ago as well.  He’s an amazing passer and has already mastered the pick and roll.  He can shake and bake any defender and get by anyone.  He’s a go-to scorer who can handle the ball and run the offense.  Sounds like James Harden, right?

That’s probably the best comparison.  He’s essentially Harden with a better passing game.  That’s… scary.

Doncic is big and thick, and doesn’t have a ton of athleticism.  Defense is going to be an issue, but there’s plenty of teams getting away with poor defense by their No.1 offensive option.  The nice way to put Doncic’s defense is that it’s lacking.

The only reason the Kings shouldn’t take Doncic is if they don’t trust themselves to figure out to make him and Fox work together.  The Kings probably aren’t actually smart enough to do that, but it’s a whole other issue if they don’t even trust themselves to. That would be the least surprising thing ever, by the way.

The Kings only draft need is talent.  Doncic has the most of it.

No.3 overall, Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley Jr, Duke

Bagley is not your traditional center.  He’s really not your traditional anything.

Bagley is 6’11, played power forward in college and looks like a wing.  He has a center’s skills but can’t play defense.  He can’t shoot but has an incredible one-on-one game offensively, and can get to the rim like a guard.

Bagley is either a lot of different things or nothing really at all.

Offensively, I see a lot of Anthony Davis in Bagley.  Sure they have different bodies, but the ability to get easy buckets, put the ball on the deck and get to the rim looking like that is beyond impressive.  Bagley’s jump shot isn’t great, but with work it could come along.

Defense is a problem.  In Duke’s 2-3 zone defense, they had to use Bagley on the wings and Wendell Carter Jr. (More on him later) under the rim to make up for Bagley’s liabilities.  He is never going to be rim protector.  The instincts and body frame make him not suitable for that type of role.

On the Hawks, that’s okay.  John Collins is gonna be really good at the stretch five position, so Atlanta can use Bagley’s lateral quickness and athleticism defensively on the perimeter instead.

The trick will be making sure the two bigs can coexists offensively.  Collins was a decent shooter in his rookie season, so spacing him out to the perimeter and letting Bagley play the five offensively should work.  It’s more likely, considering Bagley’s skills, that they just play five out since Bagley doesn’t have a lot of post moves, and comes off isolations and pick and roll dives instead.

There are serious questions about Bagley.  If he puts everything together, he’s going to be unstoppable.  But there’s a question in every area of his game.

No.4, Memphis Grizzlies: Michael Porter Jr, Missouri

If I had to give a plus, minus or neutral grade on my feelings about every prospect in this draft, Michael Porter Jr. would be the first negative of this mock.

I’m just not a huge fan.  The lack of college games/minutes, the constant injury buzz and even though his high school mixtapes were sick, that won’t be his game in pros just doesn’t ride with me.

Porter is going to be the type of player who isn’t good enough to be the No.1 option on a team but needs the ball all the time to be effective.  He’s an inefficient scorer and doesn’t like defense, which is disappointing considering his frame and athleticism.  If he puts the work in, he could be above average on that end.

But the offensive game just doesn’t work unless he’s getting drafted by Houston.  He’s a heavy isolation player who takes bad shots and dribbles for five seconds more than he should.

So why is he going No.4 overall?

Remember the rule with all of my mock drafts:  It’s 50% what I think will happen, and 50% what I think should happen.

If I’m Memphis, I am not taking Porter here.  But if he’s available, which for some odd reason is looking less likely, the Grizzlies will take him.  If they do, they can run out Mike Conley, MPJ, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol.  Memphis wants to try and make the playoffs next year.  That team might be closer than we think.

If they decide to blow up (Probably the right call!), then Porter is a future building block along side Dillion Brooks and Ivan Rabb.  That’s not a bad start either!

No.5, Dallas Mavericks: Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State 

This has been a popular landing spot for Mo Bamba, but Jaren Jackson Jr. is much, much higher on my board.  I’ll explain later.

Jackson projects as beautiful stretch five who can protect the rim, shoot threes and switch onto guards and wings on the perimeter.  He doesn’t demand the ball on offense and stays focused.  He’s perfect.

He falls to five because that’s his ceiling.  He’s never going to be the monster Ayton is; he’s not aggressive on the offensive end and has troubling finishing on dump-ins.  Plus, he’s a little too aggressive on the defense end and can get into foul trouble fast.  Still, his defense will be his strength.

It’s a great pick for Dallas, who can replace Nerlens Noel and have Jackson as a future Dirk replacement, allowing them to play five out instead of two big men occasionally cramming the paint.  A floor spacer like Jackson is especially necessarily with Dennis Smith Jr. barreling toward the rim.

No.6, Orlando Magic: Trae Young, Oklahoma 

Remember when college basketball revolved around Trae Young?  That feels like forever ago.

We’ve learned our lesson from the draft enough.  Never trust the guy who gets too much attention, hits crazy shots and lights the world on fire, leading to a massive bandwagon following.  These are the Johnny Manziels, Jimmer Fredettes, Lonzo Balls, and Buddy Hields of the world.  It’s also the Stephen Currys, Kyrie Irvings, and Kemba Walkers of the world.

These type of guys are either superstars or complete busts, and there is NO in between.  Sometimes they’re obvious and sometimes they’re agonizing.

This one is agonizing.

But if you’re Orlando, you have to do it no matter what.  Based on their draft last year, it seems as if they’re all in home run picks.  At the same time, Young doesn’t fit the John Hammond proto-type of lengthy, athletic guys who can be interchangeable at all five positions.

Still.  Shelvin Mack is currently your point guard.  You’ve sucked since you traded away Dwight Howard.  Just give the fans something, even though it may not work out.  You have a point guard to put guys around now.

Theoretically, Young is a transcendent offensive player capable of hitting any shot.  He’s a good passer, but they aren’t as magical as Lonzo Ball’s last year.  He’s not very athletic, standing only 6’1, but if the shots go in off the dribble anyways, then it doesn’t matter.

He’s gonna get cooked on the defensive end.  The talent on that side is just not there.  This is where Young’s lack of athleticism hurts.  At 6’1, he can’t guard wings, and with no speed or lateral quickness, opponents are gonna blow right by him.  There was a major lack of care of the defensive side at Oklahoma by Young, receding all hope of him possibly turning into a scrappy little guy.

Young is a huge risk, and No.6 is really, really high.  But Orlando needs something to build around.  With Young, you have your point guard and your rim protector of the future (Jonathan Issac).

No.7, Chicago Bulls: Mikal Bridges, Villanova 

Mikal Bridges is the “Don’t overthink it” player of this draft.  At Villanova, Bridges was the best player on the best team in the country.  He won two titles and has plenty of experience in big games.  He made huge shots in those big games, and showed a little bit of crunch-time ego (Get me the ball!), which was a new addition to his game.

The Cavaliers and 76ers are devastated by this pick.  It makes one or both of them have to trade for a 3-and-D wing.  Bridges is exactly that; a lockdown perimeter defender with a sweet stroke.  With his age and experience, he could help a team win right now.  For Philly, he could be the final piece.  For the Cavs, he would have greatly improved their defense.

The Bulls take him because they need a star.  They need someone on the wing who can score consistently and efficiently.  Taking Bridges probably means letting Zach Lavine go, which is the right move in multiple facets.  Bridges gives Kris Dunn someone to kick out to,  which will result in not having Lauri Markkanen’s usage rates balloon.

No.8, Cleveland Cavaliers: Wendell Carter Jr, Duke

Wendell Carter Jr. was the No.2 big on my board behind Ayton, with Jackson 3rd and Bagley 4th. He falls to No.8 simply because he is being undervalued, and there is no way he goes in the top five.

The key to this Cavaliers pick is whether the organization has a feel for what LeBron James is going to do.  I believe taking Carter here is a solid choice either way; he is a dominant rim protector, something the Cavaliers don’t have (Tristan Thompson deciding to take every other game off is just not gonna fly).  Taking care of that doesn’t solve all the defensive issues, but it at least helps.  Secondly, Carter is a menace of the offensive end.  He’s a fantastic passer for his size, can score easy buckets with his massive 9’1 standing reach, and can space the floor when needed.  He’s nothing like the Cavaliers have had during LeBron’s tenure.  It would make them more dynamic offensively and give them at least one defensive presence (Carter’s impact might count for two).

But is the next Al Horford enough to convince LeBron to stay?  There’s still 4/5 guys not trying defensively, and who knows how any rookie is going to preform once they actually get to the NBA, let alone the Finals next June, assuming Cleveland even makes it (It’s going to be much tougher next year).  No offense to Carter, because he’s gonna be really good, but he’s probably not enough of a splash to convince LeBron to stay.

It feels like the only way this pick will help the chances of LeBron staying is if it is traded or if they land Trae Young.  I don’t know if this plus Kevin Love is enough for Kawhi Leonard, and the chances Young is here are slim.

Cleveland isn’t much better either way.  Once again, I’m taking Carter no matter what.

No.9, New York Knicks: Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Kevin Knox was a guy I was really high on before the college basketball season.  But then he got to Kentucky and it turned out he couldn’t shoot.

But if you’re the Knicks, you have your crafty point guard and your star down low in Kristaps Porzingis.  You’re paying Tim Hardaway Jr. an ungodly amount of money and don’t have any real 3-and-D guys who fit the current style of play in the league.

Knox does.  He’s tall and strong and has that length teams want on the wing.  The problem is that it’s not all there together.  His jumper is crisp even though the threes don’t go down.

He’s a bucket-getter.  He’s good off screens and good in motion.  You can run plays for him.  He has good pick and roll skills.

I don’t know if I see the star factor in him though.  He’s climbed lately mostly due to the souring on Michael Porter Jr, not due to some skill that’s underrated.

The other problem with Knox is that defense is an issue.  Given his size, he could be a really valuable defender, but there’s a major lack of effort on that side right now.

I prefer Knox to Miles Bridges because of the potential, but it’s easy to question whether that potential will blossom.

No.10, Philadelphia 76ers: Miles Bridges, Michigan State

A high floor low ceiling player, Bridges, like Mikal, is another guy who can come in right now and help a team.  He’s an excellent defender who’s offensive game needs work.  We’ve read this book a million times when it comes to the draft.  Based on the past, it seems like there’s a 50% success rate of these defensive wings who develop an offensive game.

Bridges has a knack for attacking the rim from the perimeter.  The skills that make him a excellent, tough defender come in handy on layups.

He isn’t an amazing shooter though, making him a tough fit on modern NBA offenses.  He’s not someone you’re going to run the offense through due to poor ball-handling skills.

The offense needs work.  But the skills he has an attacker fits with what the Sixers need.

In the playoffs, the only crunch-time plays the Sixers had was JJ Redick and Marco Bellinelli running off screens.  With Ben Simmons a little timid, him going to the rim was out of the question.  The Sixers were too predictable, and didn’t have anyone who could just get buckets.

Bridges’ ability to get to the rim could be the answer.  I’d prefer them to get Mikal, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George or even LeBron James, but that requires giving up significant assets and/or a lot of luck.  Those options would give Philly a much more consistent option who they could have confidence in.  Bridges is a little risky, but at No.10 he’s the best option available.

No.11, Charlotte Hornets: Robert Williams, Texas A&M

I had this mock draft done before the Dwight Howard trade.  This pick now makes a lot more sense.

Williams projects as the perfect modern center.  He can protect the rim and switch onto wings and guards.  He score easy buckets without taking time to post-up.  He’s not a three point shooter, but his athleticism and passing skills allow him stretch out to the perimeter if necessary.

Getting Dwight out of town was step one.  You’re just not able to play him anymore and have a shot at winning.  It’s harsh but true.

Frank Kaminsky isn’t looking the future five for the Hornets.  Taking Williams gives them a rim protector to pair with Malik Monk down the road.

No.12, Los Angeles Clippers: Lonnie Walker Jr, Miami

No.13, Los Angeles Clippers: Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech

The Clippers could package these picks to move up or in a Kawhi Leonard deal (I don’t think they have the assets to pull that off, though).

The Clippers have a ton of guards and no wings.  They address that here with Lonnie Walker Jr, who’s a long shooting guard who can defend at least two positions and make shots, and Zhaire Smith, a lockdown defensive wing who can be a glue guy offensively.

I don’t think either of these guys are going to be superstars, but they’re the perfect players to put around one.  They don’t need the ball, can defend and hit shots.  Walker has some sneaky offensive skills; he has the pieces of creating his own shot and taking over games.  But his shooting isn’t supreme, leading some of those shots to be horrible ones.

No.14, Denver Nuggets: Mo Bamba, Texas

A massive fall for Mo Bamba, who could go anywhere from No.4 to No.9 in the draft.

I want to make it clear:  He will not fall this far.  This is one of those picks that is 100% what should happen, not what will.

I’m not a huge fan of Bamba.  Anyone over seven feet tall draws eyes simply because of the fact that they’re over seven feet.  Teams get too starstruck with height and wingspan.

Bamba is kind of a stick.  He isn’t very strong, limiting his offensive potential and his defensive presence.

It’s important to note that with Bamba, it’s simply the 7’10 wingspan and 9’7 standing reach that point to him being a good defender.  Being a good defender is not just blocking shots anymore.

When you’re that tall and long, there’s limits to your athleticism.  Bamba fits the lanky rather than long description.  There could be trouble when NBA teams stretch him out to the perimeter.

There’s also trouble with rebounding and and one-on-one defense.  Even with that 9’7 presence, he could get out-muscled and scored on.

Offensively, he can be a guy who can catch lobs and get easy buckets.  But he doesn’t have the shooting ability yet, and it may never come.

So why does Denver take him when they already have Nikola Jokic?

The Nuggets are staring at Jokic’s free agency next Summer, and it’s going to be a tough decision.  As good as Jokic is, he’s not going to be the best player on a championship team, and there’s not a lot of evidence that running your offense through a big like Jokic works.  Denver’s failed to put a good enough team around him to even test it.  The problem they face?  Paying Jokic max dollars to find the right players, put them around him, and see if it works.  Are you sure you want to spend five years on that when there’s a good chance it doesn’t work?

If you take Bamba and use him to replace Jokic next Summer, you’re upgrading defensively and giving the keys to Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.  If those guys can’t get it done, then you’re looking at a blowup.  But if they do succeed, then you’re not far away.

Essentially, if you let Jokic leave next Summer and replace him with Bamba, you’re closer to knowing your direction for the next five years.

This is where the draft starts to fall off.

No.15, Washington Wizards: Dzanan Musa, Croatia 

I don’t know a lot about Musa, but he projects as a good bench scorer, something the Wizards have lacked for years, leading to an overpay at every trade deadline.

The Wizards will not be getting over the hump by drafting though.  Unless someone takes a massive fall, no one in this draft makes them significantly better.  There are much bigger moves that need to happen in D.C.

No.16, Phoenix Suns: Troy Brown Jr, Oregon 

Loaded with youth and with roles pretty much solidified, the Suns can now look to upgrade their bench, or have a replacement for Dragan Bender.  Brown fits both of those.

Brown’s an excellent defensive player who play anywhere from positions 2-4.  His offense is half there; he has good vision passing-wise for a wing, and could actually take over some ball-handling responsibilities if asked.  His jumper needs work though, as his percentages aren’t great.

No.17, Milwaukee Bucks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky

First of all, how has Collin Sexton not been drafted yet?

A couple reasons:  One, I prefer SGA over him.  Two, the Sexton mold is being ran out of the league.  Ball-dominant point guards who are undisciplined and take bad shots just aren’t able to be successful anymore.  And three, there’s a massive point guard glut.  Everyone has one already!

I fell in love with SGA this season.  He’s electric with the ball in his hands but knows when to get rid of it; that sometimes works against him however, as he is a little careless when making passes.

He’s also a long, scrappy defender who can guard at least three positions.  This is how he fits in with the Bucks.

Milwaukee went all-in on length the past three years and have no defense to show for it.  Part of it is poor skills by those lengthy guys, part of it is effort, and part of it was system.

SGA has none of those concerns.  He’s going to play his butt off on the defensive end and make an impact.  The Bucks desperately need that impact defender.

His offensive role is a little cluttered on the Bucks with his lack of a jumper and Giannis dominating the ball, but if he’s contributing on the other end, the Bucks can deal with it later.

No.18, San Antonio Spurs: Elie Okobo, France

The Spurs biggest need, with or without Kawhi Leonard, is more offensive firepower.  They were torched by the Warriors in the playoffs as they just couldn’t keep up.

If Kawhi is dealt, which seems likely, the Spurs are tasked with finding their next superstar to build around.  It’s unlikely that guy is here at No.18.

But Elie Okobo helps the Spurs get more offense whether Kawhi is around or not.  Okobo’s offensive game is pure.  He can shoot effectively in any situation; off-screens, off the dribble, catch and shoot.  His one-on-one game is improving, and he could be a crunch-time guy down the stretch for the Spurs.

The other pluses to Okobo?  He’s French and is an improving defender.  Those are things the Spurs love!

No.19, Atlanta Hawks: Aaron Holiday, UCLA

This is high, and for him to go above Sexton is insane, but I just like the fit better.  If the Hawks take Sexton, they’re basically taking Dennis Schroder 2.0.

Holiday projects as the perfect point guard who can distribute the ball and shoot.  He’ll excel if shooters are put around him, and the Hawks are working on gathering wings and shooters to fit today’s league.  It’s questionable that he can be a long-term starter rather than a backup, as his ceiling isn’t much higher than his ball distribution and shooting ability.  His lack of athleticism makes his pick and rolls skills limited, and his 6’0 foot frame makes switching difficult defensively.

Holiday is a better fit than Schroder right now.  In five years will he be the Hawks point guard of the future though?  Probably not.

No.20, Minnesota Timberwolves: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

Minnesota is yet another team stuck in the middle due to a roster that’s not fit today’s league.  They’re poor defensively and settle for too many bad shots.

Here we kick off a slew of wings being taken off the board.  The best available is Keita Bates-Diop, who can guard 3-4 positions and play off-the-ball as a wing, making threes when he needs to.  He’s a good cutter too, so if the Wolves decided to stop isolating every possession, he can be used in plays that get the ball moved around.

No.21, Utah Jazz: Kevin Huerter, Maryland 

Like San Antonio, the Jazz lack offensive firepower around their star.  Some scouts see Huerter as the next Klay Thompson; a sharp-shooter who doesn’t need the ball but can get hot and takeover at any moment.  Unlike Thompson though, Huerter isn’t a very good defender.  That’s probably okay on Utah, who was a top three defensive team in the league last year.

No.22, Chicago Bulls: Chandler Hutchinson, Boise State

With Mikal Bridges already in hand, the Bulls continue to load up on wings to put around Kris Dunn and a future big man.  Chandler Hutchinson is a fantastic shooter who can defend effectively on-and-off the ball.  Like Bridges, he has a little bit of a one-on-one game that could lead to some crunch-time scoring, but it’s not nearly as developed as Bridges’.

N0.23, Indiana Pacers: Jerome Robinson, Boston College

Indiana has their superstar and their rim-protector.  Assuming they don’t make a play for Kawhi Leonard, they are now tasked with surrounding Victor Olidipo with shooters and defenders.  Jerome Robinson is the best wing left.  He’s extremely athletic, allowing him to guard multiple positions, and can shoot the three.  You’re probably not running plays for him as he’s much better catching and shooting the ball rather than off of screens and in PNRs, but that doesn’t limit his effectiveness too much.

No.24, Portland Trail Blazers: Khyri Thomas, Creighton

Portland isn’t going to have whoever they take here make a reasonable impact on their team until they make some major roster moves, but for now they need more defense and a 3rd option offensively.  Khyri Thomas is one of the best defensive players in this draft, and can shoot the lights out.  There’s a chance he turns into create-his-own-shot guy who doesn’t need the ball all the time, which is exactly the type of player Portland needs.  Him plus whoever they get for one of their starting guards would make the Blazers very, very interesting next season.

No.25, Los Angeles Lakers: Jacob Evans, Cincinnati

Another wing off the board.  The Lakers need to upgrade the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Julius Randle spots, and Evans can do that with his defense and shooting.  He may be a little limited switching though, as he’s not the best athlete.

No.26, Philadelphia 76ers: Collin Sexton, Alabama

Like Mo Bamba, Collin Sexton will not fall this far.  In every mock, and every actually draft, there’s a certain set of events that lead to one massive fall.  Bamba and Sexton are the two that fall in my mock.

I hinted at it above, but Sexton isn’t high on my board.  He’s a supreme athlete who can scrap on defense due to his wingspan and insane athleticism, but I worry about his ability to lead an offense, as he loves the ball a little too much and can try to do too much.  There’s too much Russell Westbrook in him.

The difference is that Sexton doesn’t have a jumpshot, and he knows it.  He won’t be forcing bad jumpers, but could be taking contested layups at the rim.

It’s also tough for him to get out of those situations.  For a point guard, he’s not a good passer.

The Westbrook parallels are just too scary.

So why would Philly take him here when they already have Ben Simmons?

When Simmons comes off the court, the Sixers were forced to slow it down.  It killed them against Boston in the playoffs.  If Sexton runs the offense when Simmons is resting, Philly isn’t forced to slow their offense down and fall behind.  Sexton isn’t the passer Simmons is, but the athleticism and fast pace may make up for it.

No.27, Boston Celtics: Mitchell Robinson, Chalmette High School, Louisiana 

Robinson had a complicated and essentially non-extisient college career, which poses off-the-court risks to start when it comes to effort and love of the game.  But Robinson projects as a mobile center who can run the floor and protect the rim.  He’s a fantastic shot blocker as well.

With Robinson, you’re looking at a Clint Capela type who’s a little more athletic.  Capela’s very athletic for his size, but is torched when he’s switched onto guards.  Robinson has the ability to do that.

For Boston, their front-court is aging a little bit.  Robinson would be a great backup for Al Horford, who has a contract extension looming a lot sooner than we think.

No.28, Golden State Warriors: Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova 

This is the most Golden State pick ever.  The Warriors don’t really need anything, so they’re in best player available mode, and that’s Donte DiVincenzo.

He’s a lights out shooter who can defend on and off the ball.  Sounds like Klay Thompson, right?

He’s essentially the backup to Andre Igodoula on this team.  Can you imagine DiVincenzo getting Iggy’s missed minutes in the playoffs?  That’d be fun.

No.29, Brooklyn Nets: Melvin Frazier Jr, Tulane 

We’ve severely overrated the Nets roster the past two years.  With every move they’ve made, our reaction has been “What a move by Brooklyn to screw over another team!” or “Ooooh I sneakily like Player X,” when in reality they 1) Don’t have any future stars (I’m close to out on D’Angelo Russell) and 2) Have a whole roster of role players.  That’s really all they have.  A bunch of role guys who are all good in their own respects but will never come together as a successful team.

The Nets are smart and probably know this, and without their pick this year or in year’s pasts, we’re probably looking at another 4-5 years just for them to clear what they currently have and start over.

Frazier is the first piece to those next 4-5 years.  He’s another 3-and-D guy who can shoot well and defend.  He could be a crunch-time guy down the road, but needs to improve his ball-handling.

No.30, Atlanta Hawks: Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech 

At the end of this draft, Atlanta could have a lineup of Schroder/Holiday-Taureen Prince-Okogie-Bagley-Collins.

It’s gonna require some development, but at its peak, that’s pretty good.

Okogie is yet another 3-and-D guy who rounds out Atlanta’s future lineup.  He’s also a good rebounder, which would give the Hawks a massive advantage on the boards with Bagley down there as well.

NBA Finals Recap

The only way to describe the 2018 NBA Finals is by saying that it wasn’t even close. Any other description or analysis of the series is just someone trying to sound smarter than they actually are.

There really wasn’t a lot to these Finals, and we knew it coming in.  As soon as the Rockets started bricking threes in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, we knew we were headed for a dud of a Finals.  The Cavaliers would have no shot against Golden State.  Houston winning would have made things very interesting, however.  And Boston, well, Boston would have been fun either way.  Who knows what that team could have done to either Western Conference team!  The Celtics could have switched everything against the Warriors with their length, and defended one-on-one quite easily against Houston.  Matching offensive output might have been an issue, but it would have at least been a compelling series.

Just because the Finals sucked though doesn’t mean we have to blowup the playoff format, have the league regulate how many good players each team gets, or go to a hard cap.  When Warriors owner Joe Lacob said the team was “light years ahead,” it caused some steam to rise.  People didn’t like it.  And yeah, it was a little cringeworthy.  But the reason people cringed and seethed at it was because he was 100% right.  Nobody, not even LeBron James, who just had possibly the best year of his career, can catch up to it.  Not one other team in the league has an answer yet and it’s been four years.   That’s not the league’s or the Warriors’ fault.  Sorry for smart people making smart decisions, I guess.  And sorry that there’s 10+ atrocious GMs in the league right now as well.  I didn’t know taking advantage of those things was considered unfair.

The Warriors demolished Cleveland.  And the saddest part was that they didn’t really have to try.  Game 1 was right there for the Cavaliers until JR Smith decided to make what might go down as one of the greatest gaffes in NBA history.  And the craziest part was that Cleveland played a typical Cleveland game with poor defense and no one besides LeBron hitting shots which led to LeBron having to do everything.  Per my preview, that was not the formula for Cleveland to even stay in a game, let alone win.

The formula did prove correct though, thanks to JR and thanks to a mysterious overturned charge call on Kevin Durant, which should have absolutely stayed as called originally.  I understand that LeBron was standing at a weird angle when his feet were set, but they were set square, and he took the brunt of the contact.  Aren’t these the things that replay is supposed to show us?

I understand that call will drive Cavs fans crazy considering the way the game ended, but it’s not like it didn’t give them a chance to win.

It’s been said enough, but Game 1 was really the only chance Cleveland had to win a game this series.  They got a ridiculous LeBron performance and another guy to show up (Kevin Love, who was 9-20 with 21 points), and caught Golden State only shooting 36.1% from three.  But poor defense and the rest of the team shooing only 34% from the field sunk them; you just can’t afford either one of those against Golden State.  Add in the JR gaffe, and you’re toast.  The Cavs knew they couldn’t win in overtime, and it showed.

Game 2 didn’t get any better for Cleveland.  You could tell LeBron was gassed after Game 1, and wanted to get his teammates going.  Good thing they showed up.

Cleveland shot only 33.3% on threes and could not give a crap defensively.  They never switched on pick and rolls, leaving two guys guarding the ball-handler and the roller wide open for a layup at the rim.  They didn’t closeout.  Game 1 was still fresh in their minds.  They knew they couldn’t win, and they didn’t want to try.

LeBron had help, actually more than he did in Game 1.  But the Warriors came out much more prepared than I expected.  Their effort fluctuation has been so great this season that it can span weeks to minutes within a quarter.  This time, it turned around within a couple days.  They were all-out firing:  Hit every soul-crushing shot, tried on the defensive end (Which, against some of these Cavs, is like locking down), and flat-out obliterated Cleveland.  Good offensive showings form George Hill and Kevin Love didn’t matter when Golden State was shooting 57.3% from the field.  Stephen Curry hitting nine threes was a nice boost as well (It’s kinda insane he didn’t win Finals MVP, by the way).  Games 2 and 4 from him were a treat.  He had at least three “He did not just hit that” shots in those two games.

If the Warriors were gonna let one go, Game 3 would have been it.  Their effort should have been poor based on the trends we observed all season.  “Eh, we’re up 2-0!” should have been the attitude.

That wasn’t exactly the case.  The effort was poor, but it wasn’t as dramatically poor as we might have expected.  Kevin Durant certainly put some effort it, single-handily winning Golden State Game 3 thanks to his 43 points, 13 rebounds and six threes.

KD was the only Warrior who gave a crap in Game 3.  Poor shooting performances from Curry and Klay Thompson were probably just cold shooting nights rather than being rooted in poor effort, but both of those sources still lead to the same outcome.  Defensively, the Warriors were checked out.  This allowed the Cavaliers to get some of their role guys going.  Love had 20 points and 13 rebounds.  JR Smith was terrible but still had 13 (When you’re talking about this Cavaliers team, 13 points from someone who’s not LeBron or Love is incredibly valuable), and Rodney Hood showed up after not playing all series and poured in 15 off the bench. Seriously, he was cooking.  A bunch of people used this as an excuse to hit on Tyronn Lue for not playing him earlier.  I’m sorry, but when was Rodney Hood every reliable in any game ever?  Let alone the Finals?  Oh yeah, and what did he shoot in Game 4?  4-14?  Yeah, sounds about right.  Lue’s not great, but lets not harp on him for not playing Rodney Hood in a freaking NBA Finals game.

Game 3 came down to the wire.  The Cavaliers missed some shots down the stretch, and Durant made them pay with that 33 foot dagger from beyond the arc.  I mean, that shot was completely ridiculous.

I thought losing Game 3 was almost equally as bad as losing Game 1 for Cleveland.  Golden State shot 3/17 from three if you remove Durant’s attempts.  Curry and Thompson were horrific.  LeBron had 33 with another triple double, and Cleveland got two role players to show up.  And still lost.

Sometimes against the Warriors, there’s just nothing you can do.

Game 4 was the Steph Curry show.  The Cavs weren’t stopping that whether it was in Game 1 or Game 7, let alone down 3-0 in Game 4.  Once he got hot, it was over.  The Cavs knew it and weren’t gonna do anything about it.

Cleveland lost to Golden State not only because the mismatch was so great, but because they didn’t try to do anything reduce its impact.  LeBron’s performances were ridiculous, but he needed to have more on the table, and it was a little surprising that he didn’t.  Somehow, it felt like LeBron had more in the tank this series.  The constant differing to teammates, lack of aggression going to the rim, and what almost felt like nerves when Cleveland needed him to takeover, in 3rd quarters or at the end of games, cost the Cavs two games this series.  Whether it was whatever hand injury was self-inflicted after Game 1, a belief that he knew this team couldn’t beat the Warriors and didn’t want to embarrass himself trying, a simple lack of care considering he could be on a new team in a couple weeks, or simply the grind of the season and the workload catching up to him, LeBron’s passiveness hurt the Cavs.  I don’t know how many times this series I went “Why are you kicking out?” while watching Cleveland’s offensive possessions.  He knew those shots were not going in.

Even if LeBron did complete the superhuman task I described above, it probably wouldn’t have been enough.  LeBron’s best is still no match for Golden State.  LeBron’s best individual performance might have come with this Cleveland team, but his greatest career achievements, and what will push him over Michael Jordan, just won’t.  They didn’t come this year, and won’t next as well.