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Way-Too-Early NBA Mock Draft: Who goes in the Lottery?

Andrew Bailey, Sports Reporter

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As the 2017-18 NBA season is less than two weeks away, we take a very early look at the 2018 Draft. But the question is: who will be selected #1?

1. Chicago Bulls- PG/SG Luka Doncic, 1999, International

The Chicago Bulls are the worst team in the league. Barring an unexpected rise of Lauri Markannen and Zach LaVine, the #1 pick is the Bulls’ to lose. With the pick, the Bulls will have the option of improving their frontcourt (Marvin Bagley III, who’s also Jay-Z’s nephew), wing play (Micheal Porter Jr), or backcourt (Doncic). And seeing as they have Robin Lopez, Markannen, Nikola Mirotic, and LaVine to play the 3, 4, and 5, the guard spot is the area to improve. Doncic himself is a 6’7″ combo guard who is renowned for his decision-making and handles, making him a prototypical 2-Guard in the modern NBA.

2. Atlanta Hawks- PF/C Marvin Bagley III, Freshman, Duke

Atlanta already have an elite young scorer to build around (German PG Dennis Schroeder, 24), but lack creativity, athleticism, and talent in their frontcourt. Bagley, who will only be 18 when the draft rolls around, would be the ideal partner next to rookie John Collins. A Taurean Prince-Collins-Bagley frontcourt trio would be devastating offensively, and if Collins learns to slide in and protect the rim to free up Bagley’s defensive duties? Forget about it.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Boston via Brooklyn)- SF/PF Micheal Porter Jr., Freshman, Missouri
Porter is the closest thing to Kevin Durant then we’ve seen in the draft in the past 10 years. He’s six-11, shot 47 percent from three in his senior year in high school, and has the defensive and finishing instincts necessary for a modern wing. He is the perfect blue-chip prospect that the Cavs need to succeed LeBron, in case he jets in in free agency in 2018.

4. Sacramento Kings- PF/SF Miles Bridges, Sophomore, Michigan State

Bridges does not project as a high-level prospect in the NBA. But what Bridges will give to the young Kings team is a winning attitude. The sophomore has the best work-rate of any player in this draft. He will run his butt off every night, defend with constant energy, and lead the Kings on and off the court. And because of his dedication, I believe that he has Kawhi Leonard-like potential in the league, and if he does hit that level, a #4 selection is an absolute steal for Sacramento.

5. Orlando Magic- PG Collin Sexton, Freshman, Alabama

The Magic’s frontcourt is loaded, with Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Afflalo, and Jonathon Isaac all potential starters at either the 3, 4, or 5 spots. A big worry for the Magic, however, is the point guard spot, where Elfrid Payton has been disappointing to start his career off. Sexton is explosive in the lane, and naturally talented as a scorer. His playmaking is gradually progressing to a high level. He could be the perfect addition to a Magic squad that could push for the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

6. Phoenix Suns- C Mohamed Bamba, Freshman, Texas

The Suns need a talented rim protector to heighten a squad that finished 28th in defensive efficiency last season. Mohamed Bamba is not the most talented center in the draft, but he is the best defensively. Imagine Rudy Gobert on the Suns, just with the name “Bamba” on the back of his jersey. That is what the UT freshman will offer the Suns.

7. Indiana Pacers- PG Trevon Duval, Freshman, Duke

The Pacers need talent at every spot on the court except center. Duval is a long, quick playmaker that can turn on his scoring instincts in a Mike Conley-type way. Expect the Pacers to thrive off the Duval-to-Myles Turner lob pass for many years to come.

8. New York Knicks- SG Lonnie Walker, Freshman, Miami

Walker is the kind of wing the NBA values right now. He’s a sniper, can attack off the dribble, and drive to the basket from the corners. His 6’10″wingspan projects him as a high level perimeter defender as well. Expect the Knicks to address this position of need and use Walker as a secondary scoring option, after star center Kristaps Porzingis (the only reason that they don’t take Ayton here).

9. Los Angeles Lakers- C DeAndre Ayton, Freshman, Arizona

If DeAndre Ayton is still available after the first eight selections, it would be shocking. Ayton is arguably the biggest talent in the entire draft, and offensively is the best center. He could be a star with a young LA team, and will thrive off Lonzo Ball’s playmaking abilities. These two young guys could be stars together, and with Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma also offering star potential from the wings, the ‘Lake could be back in business as a potential Larry O’Brien trophy winners.

10. Detroit Pistons- SF Kevin Knox, Freshman, Kentucky

Detroit are a franchise in limbo. They have All-Star caliber players that haven’t reached their true potential, and are running out of time to do so. Kevin Knox could usher in a new era in Detroit. The 6’9″ wing can slash, shoot, and score like no other in this draft, and has elite quickness that could regenerate D-Town.

11. Dallas Mavericks- PF Wendell Carter, Freshman, Duke

Carter is the most talented player in the drat still available. Sometimes, that is all that matters. Dallas have Dirk Nowitzki to man the 4, but he is 39 and won’t be getting any better. Carter could be a massive help to the Mavs.

12. Memphis Grizzlies- PF/C Jaren Jackson, Freshman, Michigan State

Jackson is a potential star defender, and is perfectly molded to play the 5 in today’s NBA. He is 6’10, but with a 7’5 wingspan, can defend the rim and stop shooters on the perimeter. Jackson and Marc Gasol could compliment each other greatly as twin towers, seeing that Gasol can shoot the three and a long jumper like no other center in the big leagues, and Jackson can use his special talents to make up for Gasol’s defensive inefficiency.

13. Utah Jazz- SG/SF Troy Brown, Sophomore, Miami

Brown is similar to his teammate Lonnie Walker in the fact that he projects as an off-ball scorer, sniper, and wing defender. The difference is that Walker looks more like a Bradley Beal, and Brown looks more like a Danny Green. Still, Brown fits well into a Jazz team with no real bench depth or a spot-up threat.

14. Portland Trail Blazers- PF/C Robert Williams, Freshman, Texas A&M

Once again, the best talent on the board needs to be snapped up in the lottery. The Blazers are good at the center position, but not great. Williams has high upside on the defensive end, and could also be an offensive threat in the post. It’s not a great fit for Williams, but it could be a fantastic pickup for Portland.

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Way-Too-Early NBA Mock Draft: Who goes in the Lottery?