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The complexion of the 2018 NBA draft first round will change in the coming days, with the draft lottery taking place Tuesday.
While the lottery might not change the projected order a lot, it could give a franchise an opportunity to move up into the top three and take a difference-making prospect.
From the perspective of the players, the NBA draft combine, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, could change their status in the eyes of some prospective suitors and move them into the first round on draft night June 21.
There’s also the potential for some borderline top-14 lottery picks to improve their case for a higher selection with some of the top players in the draft pool absent from the combine.
2018 1st-Round NBA Mock Draft
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia
3. Dallas Mavericks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State
4. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke
5. Orlando Magic: Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke
6. Chicago Bulls: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri
7. Sacramento Kings: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn): Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Los Angeles Lakers): Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
11. Charlotte Hornets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
12. Los Angeles Clippers (from Detroit): Miles Bridges, SG/SF, Michigan State
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
14. Denver Nuggets: Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky
15. Washington Wizards: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
16. Phoenix Suns (from Miami): Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Mitchell Robinson, C, United States
18. San Antonio Spurs: Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina
19. Atlanta Hawks (from Minnesota): Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, Unattached
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Oklahoma City): Troy Brown, PG/SG, Oregon
21. Utah Jazz: Jontay Porter, PF/C, Missouri
22. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans): Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
23. Indiana Pacers: Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
24. Portland Trailblazers: Khyri Thomas, PG/SG, Creighton
25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland): Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State
26. Philadelphia 76ers: Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State
27. Boston Celtics: Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke
28. Golden State Warriors: Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
29. Brooklyn Nets (from Toronto): Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU
30. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston): Tony Carr, PG, Penn State
Ayton, Doncic Won’t Appear At Combine
The two players projected to go at the top of the 2018 NBA draft won’t be in attendance for the NBA draft combine.
Arizona center Deandre Ayton, widely regarded as the top frontcourt prospect in the draft class, is skipping the combine, while other collegiate players have opted to participate in some fashion.
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Slovenian guard Luka Doncic won’t be in Chicago for another reason, as his European team, Real Madrid, is involved in the Euroleague semifinals.
Doncic’s skill set might not be as familiar as Ayton’s to the casual basketball fan, but he is the real deal and should make an instant impact in his rookie season.
In addition to Ayton and Doncic, Texas A&M big man Robert Williams and another foreign prospect, Dzanan Musa of Bosnia and Herzegovina, won’t be at the combine.
While there is some risk involved with missing the combine for Williams and Musa because of their projected status in the first round, Ayton and Doncic shouldn’t be hampered by it.
The only players capable of knocking Ayton and Doncic out of the top two at the moment are Duke forward Marvin Bagley III and Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who headline the combine roster of 69 players.
If Bagley and Jackson impress, they could intrigue whichever teams land at the top of the lottery. Still, it would be hard to pass up on the potential of Ayton or Doncic.
Unsigned Prospects Ready To Impress, Boost 1st-Round Stock
The players under the biggest microscope at the NBA combine will be the ones who haven’t signed with an agent yet.
Creighton’s Khyri Thomas became the latest prospect to officially enter the draft by hiring an agent ahead of the combine, as he tweeted his decision Sunday:
Khyri Thomas @Khyri_2
After consulting with my family and Coach Mac, I have made the decision to remain in the NBA Draft. I would like to thank everyone at Creighton for their incredible support the last 3 yrs. It was an honor to play in my hometown in front of the best fans in the country! #GoJays https://t.co/1GbOO9t1sJ
While the potential first-round pick left no doubt about his future before the combine, the fate of others could be determined in Chicago.
The highest-profile players with the unsigned tag coming into the combine are the Villanova duo of Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman.
The national champions are understandably testing their value at the professional level after impressive performances throughout the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Brothers Caleb and Cody Martin from Nevada, who also boosted their stock in the NCAA tournament, Syracuse’s Tyus Battle and Maryland’s Bruno Fernando are among the prospects who could alter the complexion of the first round with strong combine showings.
When it comes to the positions outside of the top-14 lottery picks, teams could look to fill specific needs instead of taking the best player available on their boards.
If that is the case, players like the ones mentioned above could fill a niche and be selected earlier than some experts predict.
Of course, the picture will be clearer by the end of the combine, but for now, the opportunity is in front of many prospects to perform well in Chicago in order to have their names called among the first 30 picks.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.