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The workouts are finished, the front offices have done their homework, and the mock drafts have been mocked. Now, the wait is almost over for the 2018 NBA Draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors participated in the NBA Finals for the 4th straight year and it generated all of the excitement of a new "Rocky" movie. Let’s hope the new crop of players help level the playing field a bit, and we see some new blood in the Finals. Let’s take a look at some of the big names in the draft and see where they might end up.
The first pick in the draft this year will go to the Phoenix Suns, and everyone is expecting them to take center Deandre Ayton from Arizona. He is a physical marvel who was dominant on offense this past year. The 7'1" freshman averaged 20.1 ppg. while pulling down 11.6 rpg. in helping the Wildcats win both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament title. He is not a sure thing, but he has the size, ability, and temperament to be a cornerstone for the Suns for many years.
After Ayton, it gets a bit dicey as to who the Kings will take with the second pick. Many experts predict Luka Doncic, a 6'8" guard from Slovenia, will be headed to Sac-town. The 19-year-old has a polished game beyond his years and could be the best player in the draft. As a standout for Real Madrid, he won the EuroLeague MVP, EuroLeague Final Four MVP, EuroLeague Player of the Week four times, plus was first-team All-League, EuroLeague Player of the Month once on his way to leading his team to the championship. No word on whether or not he sold popcorn at halftime.
Potential Lottery Picks
Marvin Bagley III should be a top-five pick this year after he set an ACC freshman record by recording 22 double-doubles and became the first player in ACC history to average at least 20 points and ten boards per game. The Grizzlies have been eyeing him for awhile, and it's possible he'll still be there when Memphis picks at number four. The 6'11" former Duke freshman was an elite talent on an elite team and should be an immediate impact player for whoever drafts him.
Trae Young from Oklahoma is one of the most intriguing players in this year's draft. On one hand, he led the nation in scoring and assists as a one-and-done freshman. On the other hand, Young seemed to wear down late in the season in the highly competitive Big-12 and relied too heavily on the 3-ball. He took 328 shots from beyond the arc and only converted on 36.9% He's still an almost-certain lottery pick and seems to be a perfect fit for Orlando with the 6th pick. The Magic was 24th in the league in scoring may not be able to pass on Young's potential to put up monster numbers.
The New York Knicks desperately lack athleticism, and former Michigan State Spartan Miles Bridges would fit the bill. The 6'6" swingman averaged 17.0 ppg and had 7.6 boards per game while hitting 37.5% of his three-point shots in his two seasons. He'd also be a great fit for Philly, and the Sixers may be targeting him with the 10th overall pick. Wherever he lands, he has a skill set that should translate well to the rigors of NBA play.
Philadelphia (10, 26) is a team on the rise that loves to stretch the floor. The hottest commodities right now are the "3-and-D" players. That's shorthand for a player who can knock down long-range jumpers and also can guard multiple positions. No player in this years' draft exemplifies this combo more than Villanova product Mikal Bridges. He hit 43.5% of his shots last year and was also one of the best in the nation at the defensive end of the floor. He would fit perfectly for a three-point shooting team like the Sixers, who could also use a bit more defense.
The Sixers have the 26th pick in the draft as well as their 10th pick, and they could be targeting another Villanova Wildcat in Donte DiVincenzo. The athletic 6'5" guard posted a vertical jump of 42 inches at the combine, and he had the fifth-fastest lane agility time (10.72 seconds). The Sixers would dramatically increase their team athleticism if they grabbed him.
The LA Clippers have both the 12th and 13 picks and provided they keep both, one of their picks could be Zhaire Smith, a guard from Texas Tech. Entering college, he was just a three-star recruit but has played himself into position to possibly be a lottery pick. Smith played one year at Tech and averaged 11.3 ppg. while hitting 45.0% of his shots from beyond the arc. The Clippers would seem to be a natural fit after ranking 23rd in the league in three-point shooting last season. The Washington Wizards look to be interested in Robert Williams, who is a big man from Texas A&M and averaged 11.1 ppg and 8.7 in two seasons for the Aggies.
The Spurs could be losing Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gay this offseason and may be looking to fill the void with Troy Brown from Oregon. He has a high basketball I.Q. and is very defensive minded, which fits in well with the Spurs style of play. He averaged 11.3 ppg, and 1.6 steals for a solid the Ducks squad last year. Another possibility for the Spurs would be Elie Okobo, a 6'2" guard from France who is equally comfortable at the 1 or the 2 spot.
Grayson Allen was one of the better players on the Duke Blue Devils, but his antics on the floor at Duke may have hurt him. He has the skills and experience to go much higher but may even drop to the second round as teams try and gauge his maturity.
Jerome Robinson, a guard from Boston College, may surprise some and go within the first 15 picks, while another player to watch is Khyri Thomas from Creighton. Thomas is a sharpshooter who hit over 40% of his attempts from long range over three seasons at Creighton.
It really is pot luck after the first five picks in the draft, but there is some talent coming into the league this year. They should bring a fresh level of excitement to the NBA regardless of where LeBron James chooses to play his trade. While the Warriors are the favorites to win it all again, here's hoping this new crop of players will lead to a couple of new teams in the NBA Finals.