2018 NBA Draft: The Right Choice For the #1 Pick Contenders

The 2017-18 NBA season is still far from over, but for some of the league it probably can’t end soon enough. 

The Dallas Mavericks have been openly tanking for some time, the Chicago Bulls literally got in trouble for not trying to win and teams like the Memphis Grizzlies can’t buy a win even when they do put in a full effort.

All of this has fans of bad franchises looking ahead to the summer, when hope is reborn via the 2018 NBA Draft. The draft lottery will help figure things out eventually, but the worst teams in the league are obvious.

The exact order isn’t known yet, but the best basketball prospects are. DeAndre Ayton arguably still heads a pretty stacked 2018 draft class and has been a favorite with many oddsmakers and bettors. Online gambling still seems to be heating up though with who will end up going #1 overall.

Of course, the race for the top spot has been rather fluid. There are a handful of high level prospects that have a real argument for it and the only thing that can change their draft status may be exactly which team winds up with that first overall pick.

It’s still early in the process, but it could be worth your time (and money) to look ahead at the realistic options and depending on who owns the top pick, gauging what they’d do with it. 

To figure that out, here’s a look at the worst teams in the NBA right now (or the ones with a good shot at the top pick) and what they should do if they find themselves owning the #1 draft choice:

Memphis Grizzlies - Mohamed Bamba
The Grizz are in a bad way right now, but if things continue like they have been, they could be looking at the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Nothing should change in terms of team philosophy, though. 

This is still a franchise that wants to play team ball and defend. They’ll have savvy veterans like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol back, so they should build to the future while adding a piece that can help right now.

Bamba will make an instant impact as a bench defender and eventually replace Gasol. He is already an elite defensive presence, but if his offensive game matures, he could be looked at as the best overall prospect in this group.

Phoenix Suns - Luka Doncic
The Suns could opt for a big guy, but they have a nice collection of versatile giants they can turn to. Instead, they should add one more piece to their dynamic offensive puzzle by adding Doncic on the wing.

This team needs to answer a lot of questions, but they will remain a team that wants to push the pace and put up points. I don’t see them chasing a big man to add to the mix. Instead, Doncic fits what they do and he could instantly be their franchise player.

Devin Booker, Elfrid Payton and T.J. Warren are all very good offensive players, but if pushed down a notch with Doncic leading the way, a bad team could upgrade itself rather quickly.

Dallas Mavericks - DeAndre Ayton
The Mavericks landed their point guard of the future last year, so now it’s time to land a stud in the middle. Dirk Nowitzki is nearing the end, while this team inexplicably never gave Nerlens Noel a chance to prove himself.

They’re starting to do that now, but I have to believe Noel isn’t long for Dallas. Because of that and the fact that Ayton is the most talented offensive big man in this draft class, I think they aim high here and solidify the center position.

The Mavs don’t play at a breakneck speed and have decent pieces in place elsewhere on the roster, so landing their franchise man down low makes a lot of sense.

Sacramento Kings - Michael Porter Jr.
The jury is still out on Sacramento’s talented bigs, but there is no denying they have bodies to turn to in the post right now.

Sacramento is as good as anyone at bypassing their own talent, but if they stick to the script, it might make sense to add an impact perimeter talent.

Perhaps Doncic is the right play here, but from a physical perspective, Porter is a little more alluring. Justin Jackson doesn’t feel like the long-term solution at the three spot either, so why not aim high and bring in Porter to solve a lingering issue at small forward?

Atlanta Hawks - DeAndre Ayton
The Hawks simply need to add talent. One way or another, they’d get it if they found themselves with the #1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

They could literally go anywhere, but I think this pick is down to the top offensive wing (Doncic) or the best offensive big man (Ayton). 

The team already has some size and defense with John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon, but adding an elite post player with defensive ability could make both options irrelevant.

Ayton is a dominant presence that could morph into an elite two-way player. Given Atlanta’s severe lack of talent on their roster, he’s the easy call.

Cleveland Cavaliers - DeAndre Ayton
The Cavs own Brooklyn’s lottery pick this year, so it’d be quite hilarious if they got back to the Finals yet again and then somehow landed the top pick in the draft.

Cleveland could end up trading this pick to empower a title contender even more, but with LeBron James aging (and possibly leaving in free agency), they’d be wise to corral an elite franchise cornerstone.

You can make a few cases up top (as I’m detailing in this post), but for Cleveland, Ayton is the easy call. Kevin Love is pushing 30 and Tristan Thompson is a one-dimensional player that is overpaid.

Ayton makes a lot of sense, both for next year and the future. The Cavs would be absurdly lucky to land him - much less the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Orlando Magic - Luka Doncic
The Magics have always been notorious for rostering players from overseas, as well as landing versatile talent. 

I’m sure they’d consider a stud big man at the top of this draft, but after trading Elfrid Payton this year, it may make more sense for them to get more dynamic out on the perimeter.

Doncic fits the bill, as he can play off the ball at shooting guard or small forward, or potentially fit in as Orlando’s franchise point guard. Regardless of where he plays, he’s a dynamic offensive talent that would fit in perfectly with what they do.

Chicago Bulls - Mohamed Bamba
The Bulls don’t have much to get excited about down low right now. Robin Lopez is an aging center they’ll be excited to part ways with and Cristiano Felicio probably isn’t worth investing much more time in.

Insert Bamba, who is already an impact defender and has loads of upside on the offensive end. I’d hear arguments for DeAndre Ayton and even Marvin Bagley III here, but one way or another the Bulls need to land a stud at the center position.

Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen give the Bulls a nice offensive trio, but this team needs an enforced down low to set the tone. Bamba would do that, in spades.

New York Knicks - Luka Doncic
The last team I’ll look at is the Knicks, as this probably is the cut-off for realistic possibilities for landing the top overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

New York continues to be a very odd franchise, as they have inconsistent decision-making, don’t always draft well and struggle to correctly use their talent.

I’m sure they’d find a way to mess this up, but if they land the top pick they need to get Doncic. They already have a stud big man to pair with Enes Kanter, but they don’t seem to know what they have on the perimeter yet.

Whether Doncic would be their franchise point guard or start next to Tim Hardaway Jr. on the outside remains to be seen. However, he’s a highly versatile player that could work seamlessly with Kristaps Porzingis and a maturing Knicks offense.

Overall, this should give you a glimpse of who the real threats to go #1 overall are and which teams could find themselves in that spot. 

A lot of this is really breaking down team need and preference more than a franchise just taking the best talent available, but that’s something to factor into the draft process.

Regardless, the 2018 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a very interesting one and as you can see, there is a pretty valid argument for several players hearing their name called ahead of everyone else this summer.

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