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2018 NBA Mock Draft: The Best Fit for Every Team

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

May 16, 2018 · 4:11 PM PDT

Luka Doncic in European competition.
Luka Doncic may be a mystery to NBA fans, but he's already a huge star in Europe. Photo by Javier Mendia Garcia (Wikimedia Commons).
  • We’ve broken down the biggest needs for every NBA team with a first-round selection and have come up with the perfect player pairing
  • Can Luka Doncic help the Kings inch towards respectability?
  • Will Mo Bamba address the Mavs’ rebounding woes?

The order for the 2018 NBA Draft is finally set following Tuesday’s lottery.

The Phoenix Suns had the best odds to land the no. 1 and did just that. The Sacramento Kings, meanwhile, climbed all the way from no. 7 to no. 2, and the Atlanta Hawks moved up from no. 4 to no. 3, meaning the Memphis Grizzlies slid from no. 2 to no. 4 and the Dallas Mavericks fell from no. 3 to no. 5.

The time for cursing Lady Luck is over, though. With the draft a little over six weeks away on June 21st, front offices need to finalize their big boards and figure out which prospects best suit their needs.

Lucky for them, NCAA expert Sascha Paruk and I are on the case. In our latest mock draft, I’ve laid out the most pressing need for every team with a first-round pick, and Sascha has slotted in the best fit from the 2018 draft class.

1. Phoenix Suns

Biggest Need Defense: The Suns ranked dead last in the NBA this season in defensive rating, and desperately need an active, long-limbed pivot to swat shots and keep opponents out of the paint.
Best Fit DeAndre Ayton (C, Arizona): Ayton’s biggest weakness is his rim protection – and this draft includes one of the best defensive center prospects in recent history (Mo Bama) — but hear me out! Bamba is too limited offensively to take first overall. Ayton is already a good perimeter defender, cleans the glass like a vacuum, has decent range and solid post moves, and is an absolute freak of an athlete. At 7’0 with a 7’5 wingspan, and still not even 20 years old, all it will take is a little coaching to make up for his lack of natural rim-protection instincts.

2. Sacramento Kings

Biggest Need A competent front office: Unfortunately, this is a draft for players and not general managers, so the Kings would be wise to target an elite shooting guard to light up the scoreboard.
Best Fit Luka Doncic (SG, Slovenia): This is a no-brainer at number two for Vlade Divac and the international-loving Kings. The 6’8 Slovenian two-guard/wing can fill the bucket myriad ways and has some of the best court vision this side of Ben Simmons. His range needs to improve, but there’s every reason to think that it will. He’s by far the best guard prospect in this draft and will be in the mix for first overall, especially since his former Slovenian national team coach (Igor Kokoskov) is now at the helm in Phoenix.

3. Atlanta Hawks

Biggest Need A combo guard: Kent Bazemore has been better than expected in Atlanta, but he’ll never be mistaken for a franchise building block. The Hawks need an athletic guard with decent size who can shoot the rock and spell Dennis Schroder at the point.
Best Fit Marvin Bagley III (Duke, C/PF): If they’re dead-set on a combo guard, the best fit is actually trading down because there isn’t one worthy of being taken in the top three. Trae Young is the next-best guard prospect after Doncic, and he doesn’t have the size element Atlanta is looking for.
But we’re not opening a can of trade worms in this mock, and Travis Schlenk has said the Hawks will “take the best guy available.” That’s Bagley, a dynamic 6’11 scorer who already finishes well at the rim, is almost as athletic as Ayton, plays extremely hard, and should be a perimeter threat in time.

4. Memphis Grizzlies

Biggest Need A perimeter scorer: Assuming Tyreke Evans leaves in free agency and Chandler Parsons continues to break down like a ‘57 Studebaker, Memphis will need a perimeter player capable of filling up the hoop.
Best Fit Trae Young (PG, Oklahoma): If what you need is a player to knock down shots from distance, Young is the best option in this draft class, which is kind of lacking in sharp-shooting guards. The comparisons to Steph Curry that followed the white-hot start to Young’s college career were ridiculous, but he’s still an elite shooter and has underrated passing skills that could make him the heir to Mike Conley’s throne in Memphis.

5. Dallas Mavericks

Biggest Need Someone to clean the glass: The Mavs ranked 30th in defensive rebounding percentage in 2017-18 and could use a big bruiser to knock opponents on their ass.
Best Fit Mo Bamba (C, Texas): Did Ayton’s 7’5 wingspan get you excited? You’re going to love Bamba, who used his 7’9 wingspan to own the rim and the glass at Texas and has a defensive ceiling that stretches up to Rudy Gobert-levels. He’s a bit on the skinny side right now, but has the frame to put on the necessary mass to box out and battle for boards in the NBA.

6. Orlando Magic

Biggest Need A point guard: The Magic subjected their fan base to 44 games of Elfrid Payton this season before mercifully shipping him off to Phoenix for a second-round pick. Orlando now needs an up-tempo guard capable of setting up teammates and creating his own shot.
Best Fit Collin Sexton (PG, Alabama): The wild hair is going to give Orlando fans traumatic flashbacks, but Sexton might be worth it. He’s a lightning quick, ultra aggressive, and well-developed scorer (for a 19-year-old) who would have top-three potential if not for his poor decision-making and lack of vision.

7. Chicago Bulls

Biggest Need A rangy wing: The Bulls have an intriguing backcourt with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, but they could use an athletic forward to pair with Lauri Markkanen.
Best Fit Mikal Bridges (SF, Villanova): The floor for the 6’7 wing is a solid 3-and-D contributor thanks to his elite athleticism, preternatural defensive instincts, and textbook stroke (43.5 3P% last year). What he lacks in height he makes up for in explosiveness, and he shouldn’t struggle to guard the three at the next level.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers

Biggest Need A franchise player: LeBron James will almost certainly bolt Cleveland this summer, leaving the Cavs with a motely crew of role players. General Manager Koby Altman should nab the best player available regardless of position.
Best Fit Jaren Jackson (PF, Michigan State): Thanks to guard-needy teams reaching ahead of them, the Cavs get a steal with Jackson at no. 8. He’s rated as high as no. 3 on some big boards and may be the safest prospect in the whole draft. There’s really nothing he doesn’t do well – finish at the rim, shoot from distance, rebound at both ends, defend on the inside and out — which gives him a tremendously high floor, though not a sky-high ceiling.

9. New York Knicks

Biggest Need A miracle: The Knicks lost 25 of their last 31 games and will likely be without Kristaps Porzingis for the entirety of the 2018-19 season. Barring Heavenly intervention, a power forward would also be nice.
Best Fit Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF): This is a high-risk, high-reward selection for a team that will already be wary of injury potential. Once the top prospect in the class, Porter’s stock fell thanks to a back injury that limited to a little over two games as a freshman.
Those two games showcased a shadow of the player scouts fell in love with. His explosiveness was almost completely absent, and he didn’t demonstrate the headiness to adjust his game and remain effective. That said, if he gets back to full health, he has franchise-player potential. He’s built in the Kevin Durant mold, but obviously has a long way to go if he ever hopes to be even a fraction of KD.

10. Philadelphia 76ers

Biggest Need Shooting: The Sixers already have a pair of superstars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Now they need more knock-down shooters to give them space to operate.
Best Fit Miles Bridges (SF/PF, Michigan State): Again, knockdown shooters are a rarity in this class. Bridges is the best option here. The combo forward has NBA-athleticism and decent range that should improve. Even though his 3P% went down in his sophomore season (38.9% vs 36.4%), his FT% skyrocketed (68.5% vs 85.3%) which is a good indicator that his three-point accuracy will get better in time. His shooting mechanics also leave a lot of room for improvement, though I’m not sure how will the Sixers will be to go down that road after the Markelle Fultz experiment.

11. Charlotte Hornets

Biggest Need A mobile power forward: The Hornets badly need an upgrade over Marvin Williams, who just recorded his lowest scoring average in three seasons.
Best Fit Wendell Carter (PF, Duke): Carter isn’t the quickest PF, but he’s more athletic than most realize. The fact that he played next to the jackrabbit that is Marvin Bagley kind of hid Carter’s own explosiveness. He’s a bit like Jaren Jackson in that he does almost everything a modern PF should pretty darn well, including shoot the three (41.3% on 1.2 attempts per game).

12. LA Clippers

Biggest Need A big man: The odds of DeAndre Jordan leaving are higher than ever now that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are no longer around to put him under house arrest.
Best Fit Mitchell Robinson (C, Chalmette HS): Robinson didn’t play college ball and is a bit scrawny at 7’1, 225 pounds. But he will fill out a little in time, and he projects as arguably the best rim protector in this class, maybe even better than Bamba. Add in a huge dose of explosiveness, and you can see Robinson finishing lobs the same way DeAndre does/did for LAC.

13. LA Clippers

Biggest Need A reliable shooting guard: Lou Williams is spectacular, but he’s better served coming off the bench. The Clippers need a hard-nosed two guard who can keep Sweet Lou’s spot warm until he enters the game midway through the first.
Best Fit Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (PG/SG, Kentucky): SGA fits the bill here, even though he projects as more of a one. At 6’6 with a 7’0 wingspan and respectable quickness, he will, at the very least, be a solid defender in the NBA. Where he really blossomed in his one year at Kentucky was as a scorer and facilitator, making up for a lack of an explosive first-step with James Harden-like hesitations.

14. Denver Nuggets

Biggest Need A small forward: The Nuggets have been trying to get rid of Wilson Chandler for years. This is their chance to start fresh.
Best Fit Kevin Knox (SF/PF, Kentucky): Knox has the diverse scoring ability and shooting mechanics to play the three or the four at the next level. The concerns are over his defense and his ability to stay with quicker wings.

15. Washington Wizards

Biggest Need A back-up point guard: John Wall missed 41 games in 2017-18 and is unlikely to play a full season next year either. The Wizards need a competent playmaker who can step up when Wall is unavailable.
Best Fit Anfernee Simons (PG, IMG Academy): Simons is one of a few US prospects who entered this year’s draft without playing college ball, so he’s one of the lesser-known commodities. But what’s certain is that the 6’4 combo guard can shoot and should be able to shoulder the offense for a second unit, in time. He projects as an above average defender, as well, but sub-par distributor, and he may wind up being more effective off-ball.

16. Phoenix Suns

Biggest Need A point guard: Elfrid Payton is a hair model masquerading as an NBA guard, and Tyler Ulis is too small to be allowed on most carnival rides.
Best Fit Aaron Holiday (PG, UCLA): This is another reach, but point guards are at a premium and Holiday seems to fit Phoenix’s needs in more ways than one. His 6’6 wingspan makes up for his 6’1 height when it comes to defense – something I hear the Suns need – and his three-point shooting (42.9% last season) will be a welcome addition to a team that shot an NBA-worst 33.4% from deep.

17. Milwaukee Bucks

Biggest Need A center who doesn’t have to run around in the shower just to get wet: John Henson and Thon Maker are both decent players, but they’re so skinny they can hula hoop with a Cheerio. The Bucks need more beef in the middle.
Best Fit Robert Williams (C/PF, Texas A&M): Williams is rawer than sashimi and only 6’9, but he is 240 pounds, an athletic freak in the vein of DeAndre Jordan, and plays just as physically. He won’t get pushed around under the rim by taller players, unless Big Diesel makes a comeback. Bonus: signs are there that his shooting/range will improve.

18. San Antonio Spurs

Biggest Need Someone – anyone – who can hit a three: The Spurs shot just 29.8% from beyond the arc during the playoffs and need a proven marksman to keep defenses honest.
Best Fit Lonnie Walker (SG, Miami): Walker was one of the best shooters in his class coming out of high school. That didn’t translate in his freshman season at Miami (34.6%), but there’s every reason to think he will be a solid three-point shooter again if he puts in the time. He’s also an elite athlete who could develop into a solid perimeter defender, and I like the chances of Gregg Popovich getting the most out of his skill set.

19. Atlanta Hawks

Biggest Need A defensive-minded forward: The Hawks allowed opponents to shoot 37.7% from deep in 2017-18 and need quick wings capable of closing out on opposing shooters.
Best Fit Chandler Hutchison (SF, Boise State): It’s a stretch to call him “defensive minded” at this stage because his Broncos team played a lot of zone, but the explosive 6’7 wing has a ton of defensive potential, given his natural attributes and unceasing work ethic. He also has a high upside at the offensive end, if put in the right role (i.e. a spot-up shooter who attacks close-outs).

20. Minnesota Timberwolves

Biggest Need A floor spacer: The Wolves shot just 35.7% from downtown last season and could use another marksmen to make the most of Jimmy Butler’s mid-range game.
Best Fit Khyri Thomas (SG, Creighton): Thomas (6’3 with a 6’10 wingspan) may wind up being the best 3-and-D prospect in this draft. He’s certainly the most polished defensively and knocked down just over 41% of his three-point attempts as a junior.

21. Utah Jazz

Biggest Need A secondary scorer: Donovan Mitchell surpassed all expectations during his rookie season, but he needs help. The Jazz could use another scorer to ease his burden and draw away double teams.
Best Fit Dzanan Musa (SF, Bosnia & Herzegovina): The 6’9 Bosnian is a shot-maker through and through. He might not give you much else, and his range needs to improve, but his ability to create his own shot should be a welcome addition to a Utah team that can stagnate at the offensive end.

22. Chicago Bulls

Biggest Need A rim protector: The Bulls ranked dead last in the league in blocks per game and need a pivot with Go-Go Gadget arms who can keep opponents out of the lane.
Best Fit Jontay Porter (PF/C, Missouri): Sorry, we’re kinda out of elite rim protectors at this stage. The best fit may be trading up with the Clippers and taking Mitchell Robinson. Barring that, Jontay Porter (Michael’s younger brother) is the best big-man left. He has tremendous upside as a scorer and decent shot-blocking skills. But he’ll never be mistaken for Mo Bamba at that end.

23. Indiana Pacers

Biggest Need A shot blocker: The Pacers mustered just 2.7 blocks per game during the playoffs and could use a menacing big man capable of sending shots into the third row.
Best Fit Keita Bates-Diop (SF, Ohio State): Did you not hear what I just said? No shot-blockers for you! The Pacers could reach for Brandon McCoy out of UNLV, but defense isn’t even his calling card. The better value here is a rangy wing like Bates-Diop, who can stretch the floor but also has the size and athleticism to develop into a solid defender at the next level, as long as he hustles.

24. Portland Trail Blazers

Biggest Need A defensive stopper: The Blazers gave up 114.5 points per game to the Pelicans in their first-round playoff sweep and could use a big wing capable of blanketing – and blanking – opponents.
Best Fit Zhaire Smith (SG, Texas Tech): Every aspect of Smith’s game needs to develop, offense and defense. But he’s a truly elite athlete who flashed his incredibly high upside as a freshman, vaulting himself from unheralded recruit to one-and-done status. If he improves as much from college to the NBA as he did from high school to college, this will be a steal, which is why he’s mocked in the top-15 elsewhere. “The ceiling is the roof,” as MJ would say.

25. LA Lakers

Biggest Need Someone to high five LeBron: If the Lakers’ summer goes as planned, the team’s only need will be signing someone to congratulate LeBron after he sets his next wave of career milestones.
Best Fit Troy Brown (SG/SF, Oregon): So what I’m hearing is “best player available”? If Brown was a better shooter, he might be a top-ten pick. His 6’7, 215-pound frame will make him a versatile defender who can guard one through three, and he has a well-developed mid-range game. If he gets better from three, he’ll become effective attacking close-outs thanks to his quickness.

26. Philadelphia 76ers

Biggest Need A 3-and-D specialist: The Sixers allowed 105.3 points per game in 2017-18 and could use a smaller, faster version of Robert Covington to shut down opposing forwards.
Best Fit Jacob Evans (SG/SF, Cincinnati): Evans, one of the best defenders on arguably the best defensive team in the country, is almost a perfect match here. He can guard a variety of positions and hits at a solid clip from deep (39.5% over his last two seasons).

27. Boston Celtics

Biggest Need A back-up guard: The Celtics have proven this year that their future is bright, but they could use another guard if Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin bolt in free agency. Barring that, another physiotherapist would be nice.
Best Fit De’Anthony Melton (PG/SG, USC): The FBI investigation into USC’s recruiting wound up parking Melton on the bench all last year. But we saw enough from the 6’3 combo guard as a freshman to know that his defensive abilities and passing will fit in perfectly with Brad Stevens’ system.

28. Golden State Warriors

Biggest Need A backup center: It feels silly suggesting the Warriors need anything at all, but they could benefit from another big body if JaVale McGee, David West, and Zaza Pachulia leave in free agency.
Best Fit Moritz Wagner (PF, Michigan): Wagner’s floor-spacing would fit well in Golden State’s offense. While he doesn’t have great defensive or rebounding instincts, he makes up for it with endless hustle and would provide great energy off the bench for a Warriors team that is understandably lacking in pep during the regular season.

29. Brooklyn Nets

Biggest Need A small forward: The Nets need a far better small forward than Allen Crabbe, whose only claim to fame is that his ears are so large they can be seen from space.
Best Fit Donte DiVincenzo (SG, Villanova): He’s really more of a two than a three, and he may still go back to college. If he stays in the draft, though, he’d be a nice fit in Brooklyn. He’s a lights-out shooter, solid defensively, and faster/springier than many realize.

30. Atlanta Hawks

Biggest Need A diamond in the rough:The Hawks can afford to take a big swing with their third pick in the 2018 draft.
Best Fit Bruce Brown (PG, Miami): His stock fell as a sophomore when his numbers dipped across the board and a foot injury sidelined him for the last third of the season. But the 6’5 point guard was terrific for Miami as a freshman (11.8 PPG, 3.2 APG, 5.6 RPG, 34.7 3P%) and will be a solid defender, at the very least, in the NBA. If he gets back on his freshman track, he’ll be a whole lot more.
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