The BIG Story The 2018 NBA Draft

Nearly six weeks after the NBA Draft Lottery, the 2018 rookie class entered the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to find out where they would make their NBA debut.

Mystery remained near the top of the draft order. Were the Phoenix Suns truly decided with the No. 1 pick? What direction would the Sacramento Kings take at No. 2? Who would rise and fall with little to no notice?

With those questions hovering over them, the next wave of NBA talent sat and waited to hear their names called.

Holding the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in their 50-year history, the Suns used it on a guy who played less than two hours away.

Deandre Ayton needed just one year at the University of Arizona to make his case as the top talent in the 2018 NBA Draft class. The 7-foot-1 big man averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game en route to multiple Pac-12 and several national honors.

Ayton now joins 21-year-old Devin Booker (24.9 ppg) in a paring he has already dubbed "Shaq and Kobe 2.0." If that bold prediction holds, the Suns should be in good shape to end a franchise-record eight-year playoff drought.

After reportedly considering Euroleague superstar Luka Doncic and Missouri's Michael Porter Jr., Sacramento ultimately opted for one of the most complete offensive players in the Draft.

Marvin Bagley III shredded opposing defenses for 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in his lone season at Duke, exhibiting everything from a quick-fire second leap to the kind of on-court passion coaching staffs crave.

After investing heavily in backcourt talent (De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield), the Kings now have the frontcourt scoring punch that should complement Willie Cauley-Stein well.

After being considered a candidate for the top overall pick, one of Thursday's biggest questions was where Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic would land. When his was the third name called, it appeared the answer would be Atlanta.

Instead the Hawks dealt the Euroleague MVP to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the fifth pick -- which was used to draft Oklahoma guard Trae Young -- and a future first-round pick.

Both franchises now turn to new chapters. The Mavericks will hope Doncic can succeed future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki as the best European player in the NBA. The Hawks, meanwhile, will see if Young (27.4 ppg, 8.7 apg) can be Atlanta's most offensively gifted guard.

With Doncic off the board and Young not under consideration at No. 4, the Memphis Grizzlies injected some youth into their team by drafting the youngest player taken in the first round.

Jaren Jackson Jr.'s raw stats (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 bpg) weren't overpowering, but his potential and skill set had NBA scouts salivating through the pre-Draft process. If his 3-point shooting (39.6 percent) holds up, he could become a frontcourt pillar for Memphis.

Shaquille O'Neal. Dwight Howard. Mohamed Bamba?

The 7-foot shot-blocker wasn't the No. 1 overall pick like his Orlando predecessors, but the Magic anticipate he'll make an impact in his own way. After registering a record-breaking 7-foot-10 wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine and showing an improved shooting stroke during workouts, Bamba boasts all the tools to spark a new era in Orlando.

A year ago, the Chicago Bulls dealt Jimmy Butler for a package that included the No. 7 pick. That selection wound up being Lauri Markkanen, who became an All-Rookie First Team pick.

Hoping to complement the Finnish forward with the same pick, the Bulls took Wendell Carter Jr. out of Duke. The 6-foot-10 center's defense and rebounding (9.1 rebound, 2.1 blocks per game) should pair well with Markkanen, who became the fastest in NBA history to reach 100 3-pointers made.

Even as Cleveland prepares for the possibility of life without LeBron, the Cavaliers solidified a piece of its future with the eighth overall pick. With it, they selected Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (19.2 ppg).

If James does indeed depart via free agency, Sexton should be up to the challenge. He famously keyed Alabama's near-win against Minnesota -- despite the Crimson Tide playing 3-on-5 over the final 10 minutes.

The spotlight might shine brighter on the New York Knicks' NBA Draft moment than any other. Into that glare and the No. 9 pick stepped Kevin Knox, a long and athletic forward whose tools fit the modern-day skill set required to play position-less basketball.

At 6-foot-9 and 213 pounds, Knox is long and quick enough to bother opponents on defense. If his 3-point shooting can improve (34.1 percent), the Knicks may have their perimeter complement to All-Star Kristaps Porzingis.

As the Draft continued, one burning question began to gather steam: how far would Michael Porter Jr. fall? The former top-ranked high school prospect saw his Draft stock fall following back surgery that limited his college career to just nine games.

The 6-foot-10 forward tried to restore his value in the pre-Draft process, working out for several teams among the top 10. At one point, he was under serious consideration to go second overall.

Instead, Porter Jr. continued to slide past the Philadelphia 76ers (Mikal Bridges), Charlotte Hornets (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) and LA Clippers (Miles Bridges, Jerome Robinson).

Finally, Denver leaped at the chance to take Porter Jr. with the last pick of the lottery at No. 14.

If healthy, Porter Jr.'s versatility could help the young Nuggets -- a team that missed the playoffs by one game -- into the Western Conference postseason mix.

As already witnessed near the top of the Draft board, trades can alter the fates of team and players in an instant.

That chain reaction occurred again in the middle of the first round. When Philadelphia selected Villanova star Mikal Bridges 10th overall, it seemed like the perfect fit. The 6-foot-9 Bridges -- who can shoot and defend -- would look great alongside the Sixers' star duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

The off-the-court connection appeared even more seamless. Bridges' mother works within the 76ers organization and he grew up in Philadelphia before starring at Villanova. Philadelphia seemed poised to welcome one of its own to their fast-blooming "process."

Instead, Philadelphia dealt the home-grown prospect to Phoenix in exchange for the 16th pick (Zhaire Smith) and a future first-round pick.

Though he won't enjoy the homecoming he initially imagined, Bridges (17.7 ppg, 43.5 3-point pct.) should fit in nicely with the Suns.

Overall, eight trades were completed on Thursday night with several more reportedly pending. Kentucky and Duke each had four players taken in the NBA Draft, while talent born outside the United States accounted for three of top 11 picks and seven of the top 31.

The majority of the 2018 Draft talent will see their first NBA action next month at the various NBA Summer Leagues. After that, the focus shifts to the 2018-19 season, when their impact will will be felt in the box score, standings and, for some, the NBA playoffs.

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