With March Madness in the rearview mirror, we look ahead to the NBA playoffs and then to the draft. The NCAA tournament is a great chance for players to improve their stock. Guys such as Jalen Brunson, Malik Newman, and Moritz Wagner all did so this March. Let’s get into the mock.
(Order based on the current standings on 4/3/18)
1. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
DeAndre Ayton is the consensus top prospect in the 2018 NBA draft. He has all of the makings of an elite center in today’s NBA. He is big, strong, tall, and long. Ayton is very athletic, has advanced low post moves for his age, good passing ability, and a developing jump shot. His defensive effort is occasionally not there, but that can be easily fixed through NBA coaching. Phoenix has been drafting big men high for quite a few years (Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Alex Len) and still have not found the one. Ayton could be a potential franchise-changing prospect and a great option next to Devin Booker.
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke
The Memphis Grizzlies are in desperate need of an injection of young talent. The core of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are quickly aging and not the star duo they once were. Selecting Bagley would allow him to develop under the veteran Gasol and eventually take over as the face of the franchise. Bagley is supremely athletic and will be one of the best rebounders in the NBA in no time. His second jump is lightning quick and will be one of the best in the NBA right when he comes in. He has shown flashes of offensive polish around the basket; a deadly lefty hook; and a promising jump shot (39.7% from three).
3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid
Luka Doncic made his debut in the Spanish league at the ripe age of 16 and has not looked back. Three years later, he is leading his team in the Euroleague (the second best league in the world), a league in which young players rarely get big minutes. He has averaged 17.1 points and 4.6 assists in the Euroleague. His combination of size (6’6″), shooting ability, and vision at guard spot makes him one of the top prospects in this class. Doncic and Dennis Schroder could form a formidable backcourt duo. Doncic can play off-ball well and take the on-ball duties when Schroder is out of the games. The Hawks have not had a true franchise player for quite some time; Doncic could be that guy.
4. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
This season, the Dallas Mavericks have been the worst rebounding team in the NBA (47.4 REB%). Their big men, including Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel, and Salah Mejri have struggled on the defensive side of the ball all year. When Bamba walks into the NBA, he will have the longest wingspan in the league at 7’9″. He has the physical tools, instincts, and timing to be a premier rim protector and defender in the NBA. His offensive game is incredibly raw, but he has shown some decent touch at times and a developing three-point shot. If everything breaks right for Bamba, he could become Rudy Gobert with a three-point shot. Sounds scary, doesn’t it.
5. Orlando Magic: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo played Jackson out of position for most of the season, at the power forward position. He elected to play guys like Nick Ward at center ahead of Jackson. Jackson had a very solid freshman season, but it would have been better if he played at his position. And get it straight: Jaren Jackson is a center.
He is one of the best shot blockers in the nation at three blocks per game. Jackson has the leaping ability to block shots as a help defender and the quickness to alter shots as a primary defender. He has all of the tools to become an elite defensive big man in the NBA. Jackson’s offensive game is raw and his jumper may not project to the league but he has made bigger strides in his freshman year than most expected. With Nikola Vucevic potentially on the way out, Orlando could use a young, promising big man to pair with Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon.
6. Sacramento Kings: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri
Michael Porter Jr. was the consensus number one pick heading into the NCAA season. Unfortunately, he missed significant time due to a back problem. When he returned, he clearly looked like he had lost a step. Back in his sophomore and junior seasons of high school, Porter looked like an athletic freak. He has a good jump shot, good handles is a good rebounder, and has all of the makings of an NBA scoring champion. Porter’s pre-draft workouts and combine will be crucial for his draft stock. If he gets his athleticism back, Porter could be a steal at this point in the draft. The Kings lack a true go-to scorer. Porter could be that and so much more for them one day.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Trae Young is the most controversial prospect in this class. His shooting, ball handling, and passing ability harken back to a young Stephen Curry. Yet, his slight frame, poor defense, and bad shot selection make give him extreme bust potential, especially given all of the hype he has accrued. Young might not be the best fit on the Cavaliers, but LeBron James likes Trae Young and the Cavs’ front office will do whatever they need to to keep the King in Cleveland. A player like Mikal Bridges or Collin Sexton may fit with Cleveland better, but Young could provide instant offense for the Cavaliers, and play off of James as well due to his shooting.
8. Chicago Bulls: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Collin Sexton is the fiercest competitor in the NBA draft and has the biggest heart. We saw him go off in the SEC tournament, carrying his Alabama squad to the tournament, and picking up a win there too. He is lightning quick with an elite first step and an airtight handle. Sexton’s finishing ability around the bucket is great too. Sexton’s three-point shot isn’t the best or most consistent and will need to improve in the league. He is not a true playmaker and often neglects the easy pass, but does occasionally show flashes of great vision. The Bulls have Kris Dunn, but they may want to take Sexton, who may be a better player in the future. A backcourt of Sexton and Zach LaVine may be the most athletic backcourt in the NBA.
9. New York Knicks: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Coming fresh off of a national championship, Bridges took a big leap from his sophomore to junior season. He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation and a prolific three-point shooter. He is a lockdown on-ball defender and understands off-ball defense like most rookies do not. Bridges is not the best at creating his own shot but is developing that ability. The Knicks are in desperate need of 3-D wings, as they have the third worst three-point percentage in the NBA at 34.6%. Bridges will start immediately over the likes of Lance Thomas and Troy Williams; his value as a shooter and defender cannot be understated.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Wendell Carter Jr., PF, Duke
Wendell Carter flew under the radar a bit due to playing next to Marvin Bagley. He is a great rebounding big who defends the post well. His post moves are very advanced for his age and he spaces the floor well. He is not an elite athlete. The Sixers have their starting lineup basically set; Carter would fill a need at the backup big position. Dario Saric and Robert Covington are good shooters but don’t create their own shot well. Carter could come in next to Embiid and have a guy who can create his own shot, along with hitting the open three.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
The Hornets nab a great wing player here with Knox. He is a great shooter, a versatile scorer and a fluid athlete for his size. He is built to play the small ball four in the modern NBA. If the Hornets retain Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard, adding role players like Knox could be key in making the playoffs in the East.
12. Los Angeles Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Gilgeous-Alexander was not on NBA radars heading into the season but emerged as Kentucky’s best player. The 6’6″ combo guard is incredibly versatile, a good scorer from all levels, a good defender and a great passer. He is not an excellent athlete or three-point shooter, but his shot looks promising. The Clippers have some solid point guards in Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley but both have had injury issues this season and are not getting any younger. Gilgeous-Alexander could learn and develop under these veteran guards and play both guard spots if needed.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams, PF, Texas A&M
The Clippers have two first round picks due to the Blake Griffin trade with the Pistons. DeAndre Jordan has been on the trade block for what seems like an eternity and his future with the Clippers is uncertain. Williams stayed for his sophomore season and did not improve much. His offensive game is raw but he is a very good defender and a great rebounder with a high motor. Williams could come off of the bench at center for the Clippers early and could eventually take over for DeAndre Jordan.
14. Denver Nuggets: Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
Miles Bridges is an interesting prospect. He is a bit of a tweener with below average handles, but incredible athleticism and strength, an improving jump shot, excellent rebounding and the versatility to switch 1-4 in the NBA. The Nuggets have their young core set in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris and are looking for role players now. Wilson Chandler is solid but is not getting any younger. Bridges will be a great role player right away with the potential to become a borderline All-Star.
15. Phoenix Suns: Lonnie Walker Jr., SG, Miami
Lonnie Walker’s production wasn’t spectacular during his freshman year but he showed great promise as a scoring guard. He is very quick with great leaping ability, great finishing ability, and a good three-point shot. He has also shown some promise on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns already took DeAndre Ayton in this mock and add another talented guard to play alongside Devin Booker here.
16. Phoenix Suns: Dzanan Musa, SF, Cedevita Zagreb
Behind Luka Doncic, Musa is widely considered the second best international prospect. He is not overly athletic and not a great defender, but he is a fluid scorer with excellent shooting touch. His size and length give him the potential to defend multiple positions on the next level. The Suns add another wing in this mock who can score the rock and shoot the three ball.
17. Washington Wizards: Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
Zhaire Smith was under-recruited coming out of high school but worked his way up into the Texas Tech starting lineup, blossoming into a bona fide star. He is a good shooter and an explosive athlete. He does the little things that most guards do not do. Most importantly, he is a lockdown defender, an elite rebounding guard and the best shot blocking guard in the nation. The Wizards add another 3-D wing to their collection; Smith could be one of the best role players in the NBA in a few years time.
18. Chicago Bulls: Mitchell Robinson, C, USA
Former five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson surprisingly left Western Kentucky to prepare for the NBA draft. This move definitely hurt his draft stock, as we have not seen Robinson play college basketball. He is a very athletic run jump and dunk type of center. Athletic, rebounding, rim running and high energy centers have great value in the NBA. The Bulls aren’t too deep at center; Robinson could be an immediate upgrade over the likes of Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State
Chandler Hutchison is one of the most underrated prospects in this class; plenty of mocks have him in the late first or out of the first round. Hutchison does everything: he is a great shooter, passer, finisher, rebounder and a very versatile defender. His only real knock is his age and the fact that he came out as a senior. Hutchison adds a 3-D wing who could develop into a player who can create his own shot and create shots for others in the future.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jontay Porter, PF, Missouri
Brother of Michael Porter Jr., Jontay played above expectations during his freshman season at Missouri. He took full advantage of his brother’s injury to put himself in the first round conversation. Porter’s good athleticism, good shooting ability, and all around skill set make him a perfect four in the modern NBA. The Timberwolves have their core in place and they are now looking for solid pieces to fill in the roster holes. Although Taj Gibson is having his best career season, he is not a floor spacer, and not getting any younger. Porter could have an impact on the Timberwolves right as he steps on an NBA court.
21. San Antonio Spurs: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
Khyri Thomas is an undersized two guard who is a ball hawk on defense and an improved offensive player. He is a great three-point shooter (41.1%) and is developing his ball handling ability. Gregg Popovich is always looking for more talented guards who shoot the three and play defense and Thomas fits this bill perfectly.
22. Utah Jazz: Anfernee Simons, PG, IMG Academy
Anfernee Simons declared for the NBA draft without going to college, as he is technically one year removed from high school. Simons is a gifted scoring guard, who is a lights out shooter and a good finisher above the rim. He is still filling out his body and is not a true point guard; he is a bit undersized (6’3″) to play the two guard. Besides Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum, the Jazz don’t have many young and promising guards. Simons could sit behind Mitchell for a year or two and learn from the veterans on the team. A backcourt of Simons and Mitchell could be a lethal scoring combo for the years to come.
23. Indiana Pacers: Troy Brown Jr., SG, Oregon
Troy Brown Jr. is a very versatile player. He is not a great three-point shooter or an explosive athlete, which will lower his stock. He has sound shooting mechanics and he could easily develop a three-point shot. Brown is a good defender, a good passer, a good rebounder and has developed a wide array of scoring moves in the mid-range or below. The Pacers add another wing player here to bolster their bench. After a surprising season where they made the playoffs, the Pacers will look to add more versatile talent to their bench this offseason.
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan
Moritz Wagner’s incredible tournament performance rocketed him up draft boards, putting him in late first round contention. He did something against Loyola that he doesn’t often do: show great effort on the glass. Wagner is an elite three-point shooting big with great low post touch and quickness to get by slower bigs. He is not strong, not a great defender and will need to work on his conditioning. The Blazers could use Wagner as a better Meyers Leonard; a big to space the floor for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. A big man with Wagner’s skillset will always garner interest in today’s NBA.
25. Philadelphia 76ers: Trevon Duval, PG, Duke
Duval came into this season as one of the top point guards in the class but didn’t live up to expectations. His main weakness is his three point shot but he is lightning quick, a great leader, a great finisher, and an improving passer. Duval’s decision making has improved greatly as the season went on. The 76ers could add another guard to play behind Ben Simmons and act as a safety net if Markell Fultz can’t get off of the ground.
26. Los Angeles Lakers: Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame
Bonzie Colson is the 2018 version of Draymond Green. He is only 6’5″, but he is an excellent rebounder and post scorer. Colson is a smart player, a willing passer, and a versatile defender. Colson’s outside shot is not there yet, but there is potential there (43% from three last year). The Lakers don’t have many backup wings and bigs and Colson steps in and has a role on the team from day one. He is a guy who will have a long NBA career due to his versatility.
27. Boston Celtics: Chimezie Metu, PF, USC
Metu is an athletic big man who rebounds the ball well and has potential to become a good offensive player. His three-point shot looks good and could improve on the NBA level. The Celtics are stacked at the wing position, so they use this pick on a guy with high upside who also bolsters their frontcourt right now.
28. Brooklyn Nets: Caleb Martin, SF, Nevada
Caleb Martin is a prolific shooter and scorer, who combined with his brother, led Nevada to a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA tourney. His age, 22, means that he needs to declare now as a junior. The Nets take a chance on him here due to his upside as an offensive weapon.
29. Golden State Warriors: Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke
The rich get richer with this pick. Trent is a strong framed guard who is a lights-out shooter and has made strides this season in creating his own shot. Trent isn’t a great defender and isn’t overly athletic. The Warriors could use Trent as another shooter off of the bench. He could become a very good defender if he can improve his lateral quickness.
30. Atlanta Hawks: Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV
The Hawks already took a guard and a wing in this mock, so they nab a center with the last pick of the first round. McCoy is an old-school type center. He is a great back to the basket scorer and a great rebounder. He has good physical tools and great athleticism; McCoy projects to be a good defender at the five position on the next level. McCoy adds good depth to an already pretty athletic Hawks team.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.