We’re now less than two days from the 2018 NBA Draft -- the culmination of a year’s worth of rumors and speculation, with the occasional factual report sprinkled in.
While we feel pretty good about Deandre Ayton going to Phoenix at No. 1, beyond that, the rest of the night could be full of surprises.
This draft look to be a relatively top-heavy one, meaning that teams picking beyond the lottery may be more apt to trade up if a player they like slides a few spots. Some reports count Toronto among those teams, while the likes of Boston, Philadelphia and even San Antonio (for obvious reasons) have the capital to make moves should they so choose.
At the end of the day, this draft will set the tone for the rest of the offseason. The influx of new talent aside, the draft provides an artificial transaction deadline, pushing forth the negotiating process for potential trades in which picks may be involved.
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the key rumors, reports and general things to know heading into draft night:
- All signs continue to point toward the Suns taking Deandre Ayton first overall. Ayton hasn’t worked out for any other teams and said earlier this month that he knows he’s going No. 1. Of course, none of this is binding and it could all be an elaborate smokescreen by the Suns (and Ayton?), but that seems rather unlikely given the stakes.
- Perhaps the biggest mystery in the lottery is Missouri’s Michael Porter, who missed nearly all of his freshman season after undergoing back surgery. Talent-wise, Porter stacks up with any player in the draft, but the medicals are a concern, though Porter did produce a clean MRI on his hip last week. The Kings are reportedly intrigued by Porter, and while taking him at No. 2 wouldn’t be a complete aberration, Sacramento would likely look to trade down a few spots in the event that Porter becomes their top target. Even with the medical concerns and lack of college tape, Porter’s talent level is too high to prevent him from slipping out of the top 10. Chicago at 7, Cleveland at 8 and New York at 9 would all be strong landing spots if he does slide.
- Mo Bamba has picked up some tangible momentum in recent weeks. Will it ultimately affect his draft stock? We’ll see. Bamba is still likely to go somewhere in the 3-to-6 range, with Dallas at 5 looking like the best fit. According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Bamba’s camp is attempting to dissuade the Grizzlies from taking him at No. 4.
- Per Marc Stein, the Raptors are exploring what it might take to move up for Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a native of the Toronto area who shot up draft boards during the second half of SEC play. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor notes that Gilgeous-Alexander has not worked out for any teams and declined to reveal which teams(s) he met with at the Draft Combine last month. Given that they currently hold no picks in this draft, it would be difficult for the Raptors to extend Gilgeous-Alexander any sort of promise, but Toronto does have the cache of young, contributing pieces to get a deal done with teams like the Hornets (11th pick), Clippers (12th, 13th) or Wizards (15th), should Gilgeous-Alexander be available in that range.
- This isn’t exactly breaking news, but the prevailing belief around Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison is that he has a promise from a team in the back-half of the first-round. The Bulls were initially rumored to be that team, but ESPN’s Jonathan Givony wrote Monday that teams now believe it’s the Nets who gave Hutchison a guarantee. Hutchison, who pulled out of the Draft Combine with little notice and subsequently canceled his workouts, will be the first Boise State player drafted in 43 years, and the first ever in the two-round era.
- Sacramento jumping up to No. 2 on lottery night was a massive stroke of luck for a franchise in need of just that. Initially, it looked as though the Kings would be happy to take whichever of Ayton and Doncic is available, but the tide has seemingly shifted away from Doncic in recent weeks -- at least publicly. The Kings have perhaps the worst draft track record of the last 15 years, so they’re as a difficult an organization as any to read -- and not in a good, they-keep-their-business-in-house way. Doncic is still very much in play at No. 2, but if the Kings pass, it’s looking more and more like it will be for newly minted Puma frontman, Marvin Bagley.
- The top of the draft is loaded with talented bigs -- Ayton, Jackson, Bamba, Bagley, Carter -- but outside of that fivesome, this is a class mostly dominated by wings. Robert Williams is the only other true big man who’s a near-lock to go in Round 1, and Jonathan Givony’s most recent mock draft includes just four bigs -- Williams (18), Mo Wagner (28) Mitchell Robinson (39), Omari Spellman (45) -- between picks 7 and 51.
- After capturing the ACB title with a win over Baskonia on Tuesday, Doncic is expected to be in New York for the draft on Thursday. Had his team, Real Madrid, lost Game 4 of the ACB championship series, Doncic likely would have remained in Spain in advance of Game 5.
- Earlier this month, Trae Young told reporters in New York that he’d only work out for four teams: the Knicks, Magic, Hawks and Bulls -- each of which make sense as possible landing spots. Givony reported Tuesday that Young also conducted a secret workout with the Cavaliers, holders of the eighth pick, over the weekend. Per Givony, the Cavs, who likely won’t get any indications from LeBron James before Thursday night, are focusing in on Young, Porter and Gilgeous-Alexander.
- There's this:
As new element to the Draft on Thursday, NBA plans to introduce the 20 green room invites on stage prior to first pick and each will walk across main stage with two family members.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 17, 2018
For projected first-rounder Aaron Holiday, brothers Jrue and Justin will walk him into NBA.