1. Phoenix Suns
Team need: Point Guard, Center
Ideal Pick: Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic stands out as the immediate best fit under the new and revamped Phoenix Suns. While the center position projects as the most immediate concern with Alex Len’s pending unrestricted free agency status, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough should aim to establish a strong backcourt foundation, knowing that they plan on pursuing Clint Capela in free agency. Drafting the Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic should not only alleviate the concerns of Elfrid Payton’s restricted free agent status but secure a potent offensive backcourt with plenty of playmaking along with defensive and offensive versatility. With defensive versatility becoming increasingly important in the modern NBA, Doncic’s 6-8 height allows for him to potentially switch onto positions 1-4. A backcourt of Doncic and Booker gives the Sun’s duel playmaking at both guard position, as well as ability to switch onto taller players and play off of one another with their sharpshooting off the ball. The expected progress made by Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss should fill out the frontcourt of an up and coming team. Furthermore, Josh Jackson can play within an off-ball role that would maximize his skill set with cutting, spot up shooting, and strong on-ball defense. Finally, the hiring of Igor Kokoskov as Sun’s head coach, given his relationship with Luka, should only make this pick even more obvious.
2. Sacramento Kings
Team need: Offensive Playmaker
Ideal Pick: DeAndre Ayton (If Doncic not available)
As the team ranked dead-last in the NBA in points scored per game (98.9) and 25th in total team assists (21.6), the Sacramento Kings find themselves in desperate need of an offensive playmaker. Obviously, Luka Doncic would add all-around offensive talent to less than ideal De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield backcourt combination. However, the Kings do not hold the keys to their destiny, at least for one pick. In the case Doncic is selected to the Phoenix Suns, the King’s should take one of the best all-around players in the 2018 NBA Draft: Arizona’s very own Deandre Ayton. Ayton’s fit is justifiably questionable, as his presence only further compounds the log-jam within Sacramento’s frontcourt rotations. Young developing centers such as Willie-Cauley Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Harry Giles are likely to lose out minutes to Ayton; however, Ayton’s overall skill and potential should serve to give the King’s center rotation some certainty. Ayton boasts incredible measurables, standing at 7-1 with a 7-5 wingspan and weighing in at 250 lb. He possesses jaw-dropping athleticism (reported 43” vertical) indicating high offensive and defensive potential. Furthermore, Ayton also already has a myriad of advanced low post shots that would give the Kings some consistent offensive to go to. Depending on whomever the Phoenix Sun’s pick between Ayton and Doncic, Kings fans should be excited with the infusion of a potential cornerstone to their franchise for years to come.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Team Need: Best Player Available
Ideal Pick: Marvin Bagley III
As of now, the biggest positional need that must be addressed in the Hawks roster would be the center or shooting guard. Enter Marvin Bagley III, undoubtedly the most talented player out of Duke this year. On the other hand, Michigan State Spartan Forward Jaren Jackson Jr.’s all-around skill set, consisting of a three-point stroke, defensive versatility, and guard like speed, could make a realistic contender for this position. Nevertheless, MB3’s athleticism, offensive skillset, and scoring capability from anywhere on the court give him the obvious edge in star potential. While Bagley’s defense during his lone college season was rough around the edges, his ability to post up and face up comfortably shows an offensive games refined way beyond his years. Immediately, his post-game, guard like handles, and three-point stroke (39.7%) draw comparisons to Chris Bosh, a forward able to stretch out the floor and attack opposing big men off the dribble. A big question as of now is how translatable his rebounding is. While able to make up for mistakes with his explosive athleticism, his lackluster lower body strength short wingspan indicates that he might have problems against stronger players. In the end, the Atlanta Hawks selecting Bagley will form one of the most athletic frontcourt duos with John Collins, as well as, provide a consistent scoring threat outside of Dennis Schroeder.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Team Need: Offensive Help
Ideal Pick: Michael Porter Jr.
The lottery was no doubt an incredible disappointment for the Grizzlies. Having the second-best odds of winning the first overall selection, they dropped two spots to the fourth pick. Fret not Grizzlies fans because Michael Porter Jr.’s likely availability alleviates the bitter taste of missing out on potential franchise-altering talents in Doncic and Ayton. It wasn’t too long ago since MPJ was considered the perennial number one pick and his return against Florida State, while somewhat disappointing, should instill cautious optimism. During his March Madness debut against a strong Florida State team (a team that made the Elite Eight), MPJ showcased the assortment of pull-ups and spot up jumpers that had so many scouts salivating over his NBA potential. His handle and pullup shooting indicate a high level of offensive versatility, as he would be able to bully smaller players in the post and take opposing big men off the dribble. Furthermore, his 6-10 frame allows for a strong defensive versatility, as he is able to switch onto guards and forwards with his lanky frame. A shooter and scorer of MPJ’s caliber has been an element sorely missed by the Memphis Grizzlies, as best exemplified by the slow-footed Marc Gasol, where opposing teams exploit the pick and roll movement to expose his lack of athleticism. MPJ’s speed and 6-10 frame allow for the ability to switch and contain the ball handler. Additionally, his shooting and shot-creating ability will serve to pull the Grizzlies offense from the NBA basement, ranked 29th at 99.3 points per game. Obviously, his lack of explosiveness and injury history is the main reason why so many general managers are hesitant of his value; however, with close monitoring and cautiousness, MPJ should overcome this. While general manager Chris Wallace has already considering trading down the pick, the availability of a potential all-around offensive star should deter him from doing so.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Team Need: Center
Ideal Pick: Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Dallas Mavericks falls two spots from their projected pick at #5. With most of the offensive talents already taken with the top picks, the Mavericks can now fill a hole at the center position with the Jaren Jackson Jr., a versatile, defensive forward for the Michigan State Spartans. Jackson is one of the most prominent boom-or-bust projects in the draft. He already possesses all the tools of a good rotation player but has yet to exhibit a willingness to score consistently. As one of the youngest prospects out there (still just 18), Jackson has a massive frame, standing at 6-10 with a 7-5 wingspan. Also in possession of incredible agility, which in combination with his wingspan, allowed him to average 3.0 blocks a game in limited minutes. Undoubtedly, Jackson projects as the ideal, prototypical power forward in the modern NBA, as he has the ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting, switch onto smaller guards with his quick feet, and block shots with his athleticism and wingspan. With Dirk Nowitzki likely vacating his position, Jackson’s incredible versatility allows him to become interchangeable at the 4 and 5. Jackson’s tools and skills already give him the floor of a versatile role player or average starter; however, it remains up in the air if he has the ability to develop further offensively. If Jackson does become available with the fifth pick, he would certainly make an entertaining pick and pop duo with Dennis Smith Jr. .