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Empire of the Suns NBA mock draft: Predicting who goes where

We have and will continue to take a look at who the Phoenix Suns will select first, 16th, 31st and 59th in the 2018 NBA Draft, or consider if the team will trade one or more of those picks.

But to gain a further understanding of what the Suns will do and which players will be on the board for them to choose from, we wanted to lay out the draft in the context of the rest of the NBA.

So, here is a mock draft of predictions. Unlike Kellan Olson’s previous mocks, the picks aren’t based on our own personal big boards as much as on expectations for team need and a general consensus of players’ draft stock.

First up: No surprises here. We have the Suns taking Deandre Ayton to start things off.

1. Phoenix – Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

Kellan Olson: Everything we’ve heard so far from both an NBA and Suns scale point at Ayton being the pick. You can’t go wrong with a center who has the potential to be a transcendent offensive and defensive player.

2. Sacramento — Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Kevin Zimmerman: There’s growing belief Marvin Bagley III could be the choice and that Doncic’s stock is falling, but a 19-year-old hitting a wall and still winning an title MVP doesn’t sound like it holds much weight in devaluing the player with the best all-around skillset in this draft.

3. Atlanta – Marvin Bagley III, C, Duke

Olson: Bagley is widely thought of as the third-best prospect in this class and his upside as a skilled big with the more traditional John Collins is a great match for Atlanta.

4. Memphis — Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State

Zimmerman: The Grizzlies have a bunch of young bigs like JaMychal Green, Deyonta Davis and Ivan Rabb, but it seems likely a bad start to next year could push center Marc Gasol to the trade block anyway.

5. Dallas – Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

Olson: Bamba has talked about the fit with Dennis Smith Jr. and both would be on the same trajectory as top-5 rated prospects who need time to develop.

6. Orlando — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

Zimmerman: It’s a tough choice to pass up on Michael Porter Jr. here, but the Magic also desperately need a point guard and couldn’t build much more excitement than picking the electric Young. Re-sign power forward Aaron Gordon and pair him with a lanky group of forwards and Young’s defensive issues can be hidden.

7. Chicago – Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke

Olson: This is an incredibly smooth fit. Carter is a strong rebounder and interior presence who has some supplementary skill, a perfect partner for Lauri Markkanen’s stretch-four capabilities.

8. Cleveland (from Brooklyn via Boston) — Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

Zimmerman: The fit for Carter to the Bulls is fine, but nothing would be surprising about the Bulls gifting a guy who at one point was considered the top prospect in this class to the Cavaliers. This would probably be a good start to keep LeBron James in Cleveland.

9. New York – Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

Olson: I don’t think the Knicks trust Frank Ntilikina as a primary ball-handler, so here’s that guy. Sexton and Ntilikina is a menacing defensive duo and they complement each other better than you might think.

10. Philadelphia (from Los Angeles Lakers via Phoenix) — Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

Zimmerman: While the Sixers could lose a few of their shooting guards in free agency, there’s enough guard depth between Ben Simmons, T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Markelle Fultz to fill in the gaps. They need a switchable forward who can hit an open shot and make the right pass.

11.Charlotte – Mikal Bridges, F/G, Villanova

Olson: I’ll be shocked if Bridges doesn’t go in the top-10, but we’ve managed to pull that off. I think Charlotte would see the appeal in the dynamic he would provide with Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as contrasting skill-sets on the wing.

12. LA Clippers (from Detroit) — Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky

Zimmerman: Tobias Harris and Wesley Johnson hit free agency after the 2018-19 season. Putting another lanky wing around DeAndre Jordan and point guards in Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic isn’t a bad idea.

13. LA Clippers — Zhaire Smith, G/F, Texas Tech

Olson: Make it two wings! The Clippers have enough offense to allow Smith’s heady plays and defense to shine through while his offense develops.

14. Denver — Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M

Zimmerman: What a pickle. The Nuggets could use a big wing or even a power forward to develop, but there’s not much to reach for here. Best available talent it is.

15. Washington — Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State

Olson: Our first curve ball of the proceedings! I think Washington would avoid the upside prospects here. They are handcuffed with money and need an immediate contributor with versatility. Now go get us another guard out of Kentucky, Kevin.

16. Phoenix (from Miami) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zimmerman: We promise this was a completely organic process that led to Gilgeous-Alexander falling to the Suns, giving them a potential future starting point guard. A good point to bring up heading into the real deal: A lot will depend on what the Clippers do at Nos. 12 and 13. They don’t need a point guard, but SGA could be a can’t-pass-up guy for Los Angeles.

17. Milwaukee — Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Olson: To continue off Kevin, I think the top-16 — funnily enough — is where there’s a cut-off. A really enticing talent like Gilgeous-Alexander, or in this case Walker, will fall to that spot. Anyway, shooting and length for the Bucks to put around Giannis.

18. San Antonio — Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton

Zimmerman: Resisting stereotyping with the obvious draft-and-stash pick of Dzanan Musa, let’s have San Antonio draft one of the most solid all-around perimeter players left. Thomas can shoot, defend and make the right decisions.

19. Atlanta (from Minnesota) — Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova

Olson: At this point, Atlanta has to be prioritizing the types of players to put around Bagley and Collins. HINT: The guys who can make the ball go in the hoop from very far away so there’s space for them inside. I almost went with Kevin Huerter here, but DiVincenzo adds some much-needed on-ball skill at guard.

20. Minnesota (from Oklahoma City via Utah) — Chandler Hutchison, F, Boise State

Zimmerman: Most teams probably would call Troy Brown, Dzanan Musa or Kevin Huerter the best available prospects left at this point.

Narrator: Thibs doesn’t. He likes the best 3-and-D wing left.

21. Utah – Troy Brown, G/F. Oregon

Olson: Brown needs to land in a situation with a smart coaching staff and veterans that will help shape him into a balanced, two-way player. Utah can do that.

22. Chicago (from New Orleans) – Kevin Huerter, G, Maryland

Zimmerman: The Bulls need dudes. Huerter is the dude with the best talent available.

23. Indiana – Elie Okobo, PG, France

Olson: The Pacers have only Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and T.J. Leaf on the cap sheet beyond 2019, so I think they take a big swing here on someone who can make a big impact when that season comes. Okobo coming over after next season sounds like the right pick to me.

24. Portland — Dzanan Musa, F, Cedevita

Zimmerman: Musa might need seasoning in Europe and a few pounds added before he heads to the NBA. Talent-wise this is a huge win for Portland, which doesn’t really need any more cap stress, as small as a rookie contract at this price may be.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland) — Mitchell Robinson, C

Olson: The Lakers did a great job this season improving their defense and Robinson’s upside is for his defensive potential. He could be the centerpiece of that identity.

26. Philadelphia – Jacob Evans, G, Cincinnati

Zimmerman: Philly might lose J.J. Redick in free agency.

27. Boston — Shake Milton, G/F, SMU

Olson: This pick makes too much sense. Another long, athletic defender for Boston who can do a couple things on offense.

28. Golden State — De’Anthony Melton, G, USC

Zimmerman: Of course the Warriors get a good player that everyone forgets about here.

29. Brooklyn (from Toronto) — Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan

Olson: Oh man, that’s OG Anunoby all over again. The Nets need bigs and love 3-point shooting.

30. Atlanta (from Houston via LA Clippers) — Grayson Allen, G, Duke

Zimmerman: Allen tested very well at the combine and with his experience as a scorer and, over the last two years, as a playmaker should provide shooting and playmaking for a team needing to catch up to almost every NBA team in terms of talent.

31. Phoenix Suns: Josh Okogie, G, Georgia Tech

Olson: The Suns take the best available prospect here in Okogie. He has an NBA body with NBA athleticism and really competes on-ball defensively. At 19, Okogie could develop into a specialist off the bench.

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