Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
The 2018 men’s NCAA tournament lost more than a handful of top teams over its opening weekend. The field also witnessed the departures of several of the NBA draft’s top prospects.
In other words, there’s no more game information to gain on the likes of Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba and Trae Young.
But since their scouting reports are already well-documented, that should make it easier to project how things will transpire inside the Barclays Center on June 21.
2018 NBA Mock Draft
1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, SG, 1999)
3. Orlando Magic: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
4. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)
5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
6. Sacramento Kings: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn Nets): Wendall Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
8. Chicago Bulls: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)
9. New York Knicks: Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)
10. Charlotte Hornets: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)
11. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)
12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit Pistons): Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)
14. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)
15. Phoenix Suns (via Milwaukee Bucks): Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)
16. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, PF/C, Freshman)
17. Utah Jazz: Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, SF/PF, Junior)
18. Philadelphia 76ers: Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)
19. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy, PG/SG, 1999)
20. Washington Wizards: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)
21. Indiana Pacers: Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)
22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans Pelicans): Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)
23. San Antonio Spurs: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)
24. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Jacob Evans (Cincinnati, SG/SF, Junior)
27. Boston Celtics: De’Anthony Melton (USC, PG/SG, Sophomore)
28. Golden State Warriors: Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)
29. Brooklyn Nets (via Toronto Raptors):Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Tony Carr (Penn State, PG, Sophomore)
Drama Starts at No. 3
Ben McKeown/Associated Press
If the Phoenix Suns or Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in the first draft slot, their war rooms will surely weigh the merits of Ayton against Luka Doncic’s. But even with some question marks surrounding Ayton’s defense, he’s cementing himself as the clear-cut No. 1.
You get the idea.
If Ayton goes first, Doncic almost has to go second. He’s a 6’8″ playmaker with advanced feel for his age, modern versatility and a budding three-point stroke.
What happens next will shape the rest of the top 10.
It’s hard to ignore what Marvin Bagley III is doing. It’s not just that he’s averaging 21.2 points and 11.3 rebounds, he’s also connecting on 61.3 percent of his field goals and 38.6 percent of his triples.
And, as Woo pointed out, the numbers look even stronger once you remember Bagley wasn’t even supposed to be a part of this class:
“His success is all the more impressive when you consider he reclassified—he should have been a high school senior, and instead he averaged a double-double at Duke. That has to be a factor when considering his weaknesses—he’s extremely left-hand dominant, his jump shot is still developing, and he doesn’t make much of an impact on defense.”
Bagley’s defensive shortcomings could make him a tricky fit with the Atlanta Hawks or Orlando Magic, who both need anchors for their bottom-10 defenses. They’re especially hard to look past considering who’s still on the board—Jackson, a shot-blocker and defensive-switcher, and Bamba, a rejection artist with a 7’9″ wingspan and 9’6″ standing reach.
And who knows, maybe they’ll feel the scoring potential of a Michael Porter Jr. or Young is too difficult to pass up. It’s not like most teams drafting in this range are swimming in go-to offensive options.
If you were going old-school and writing a mock draft on paper, you could put Ayton and Doncic in ink. Everything else should be pencil.
Sweet 16ers with Upward Mobility
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Our first-round draft board includes eight prospects who are still alive in March Madness. While Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. don’t have much room to climb given how early they’re going, the other six could all boost their stocks at the Big Dance.
Villanova’s combo of Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson are likely hurt by their age and perceived lack of upside. They can challenge that narrative by exceeding expectations on the big stage. Neither has really erupted yet, but Bridges came into the tourney scoring 23-plus points in four of his previous five outings, and Brunson delivered a 31-point, eight-triple gem in the Big East championship.
The bracket is set up for Kentucky to potentially make a deep push, which would increase the exposure of Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The latter has already helped himself with an explosive stretch (23.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists over his last four games), and the former boasts an NBA-friendly skill set of two-way versatility and three-point potential.
Finally, it’s hard not to notice Robert Williams or Zhaire Smith when either takes the floor. They might be going head-to-head for the tourney’s top dunker.
Smith has already sparked a viral fire with an absurd alley-oop:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
ARE YOU SERIOUS, Zhaire Smith? 😳😳😳 #MarchMadness https://t.co/S3rNGvkM7b
And Williams has climbed the ladder the way few players his size (6’10”, 240 pounds) can:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
WINDMILL. Robert Williams is a RIDICULOUS athlete 😱 https://t.co/tq1nEDoO8q
Any scouting notes taken over the next two weekends should heavily feature these six prospects.