The 2018 NBA Draft begins tonight, as 60 players will have their professional dreams realized.
While the mock draft season can be wild and out of touch with reality, ESPN is really good at projecting how things go on draft day. Last year, they correctly predicted 10 of the first 12 picks, so it’s worth mentioning what they’re saying on Draft Day.
Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have both been projected as top-10 picks at one point or another, and the order in which they go varies on which mock draft you read.
In this case, it’s SGA, and he goes higher in this mock than any projection I’ve seen, landing with the Orlando Magic at pick No. 6.
Gilgeous-Alexander is picking up steam late, despite the fact that he hasn’t conducted a workout with any team outside of his agency’s pro day. His size, length and versatility could be very attractive this high. His offense made significant strides as the season went on, and NBA teams feel he’s only starting to scratch the surface on his potential.
Knox isn’t far behind as he goes to the New York Knicks with the No. 9 pick, which has become a popular projection over the last two weeks.
All signs point to Knox at No. 9, as it’s becoming widely assumed in NBA circles that he’s the top option for the Knicks given who will be available.
There’s a significant market in the NBA for combo forwards in his mold who can make an open shot, defend multiple positions and offer some offensive versatility. He’s one of the youngest players in this draft, so he still has plenty of room to continue to grow.
As for the other Cats, Hamidou Diallo hears his name called in Round 2, landing in Orlando with the No. 41 pick and teaming up with SGA.
Next up is Jarred Vanderbilt, who hears his name called with the No. 46 pick to the Houston Rockets.
As has been the case throughout the draft season, Wenyen Gabriel does not hear his name called in this projection. That should be the expectation tonight, but then again, Round 2 can be very unpredictable with teams taking players simply to stash them overseas and not have to pay them now, usually cap-strapped teams. That’s why it won’t be a huge surprise if Gabriel does hear his name called tonight, which is what we’re all rooting for.
Here is what the lottery of ESPN’s final mock draft looks like:
1. Phoenix Suns - Deandre Ayton
2. Sacramento Kings - Marvin Bagley III
3. Atlanta Hawks s - Luka Doncic
4. Memphis Grizzlies - Jaren Jackson Jr.
5. Dallas Maverick - Mohamed Bamba
6. Orlando Magic - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
7. Chicago Bulls - Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York Knicks - Kevin Knox
11. Charlotte Hornets - Collin Sexton
13. LA Clippers - Jerome Robinson
14. Denver Nuggets - Miles Bridges