2018 NBA Draft Big Board: Ranking the Top Prospects in the NCAA Tournament

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 14, 2018

2018 NBA Draft Big Board: Ranking the Top Prospects in the NCAA Tournament

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    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    Scouts will be put to work this year during the NCAA tournament, which will host dozens of must-track NBA prospects.

    Thirteen of our 14 projected lottery picks will be participating, including the draft's likely No. 1 overall pick—which we haven't seen the past two years with Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons.

    The following big board excludes overseas players or those playing in the NIT or CBI. They are ranked on NBA potential and not college basketball impact.

Nos. 30-21

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    No. 30. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas, SG/SF, Senior)

    A 6'8" wing making 3.1 threes per game at a 45.3 percent clip, Mykhailiuk will lean on his jumper for an NBA contract. He's having a career year behind the arc, but a tough one inside it, converting just 42.7 percent of his two-point attempts.

                

    No. 29. Jalen Hudson (Florida, SG, Junior)

    Hudson will earn looks for his shooting off the catch (43.6 percent) and dribble (40.7 percent). He doesn't pass (1.0 assists per game), rebound (3.9) or defend at a noteworthy level, but his shot-making gives him a chance to stick as a specialist.

        

    No. 28. Gary Trent Jr. (Duke, SG, Freshman)

    Trent's size (6'6", 209 lbs) and shot-making (85 threes) will give him a chance. He needs to improve his off-the-dribble game and defense. A below-average athlete for an NBA wing, Trent shoots 41.6 percent inside the arc, and he averages just 1.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds per 40 minutes.

        

    No. 27. Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)

    Brunson lacks NBA speed and athleticism, which raises questions about how much of his college success will translate. Some team should be willing to find out with a second-round pick, though if he carries Villanova to the Final Four, that could lead to interest from teams in the 20s.

        

    No. 26. Jericho Sims (Texas, C, Freshman)

    Sims isn't ready for the draft, but he stood out while filling in for Mohamed Bamba, and it's clear he has NBA-caliber tools, bounce for finishing and the quickness to defend away from the basket. He'll be back at Texas to sharpen his post skills and strengthen his credibility as a prospect.

        

    No. 25. Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Senior)

    Graham earned himself NBA looks while leading Kansas to a No. 1 seed. He turned 23 in February and isn't an extraordinary athlete—flaws that will make it tough for his draft stock to explode. It's still easy to picture him carving out a role with pick-and-roll play (0.9 PPP, 85th percentile) and shooting (41.2 percent 3PT) the way Shabazz Napier has.

        

    No. 24. Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)

    Scouts will likely advise Hachimura to return for another year to improve his jumper (4-of-24 3PT). He's worth tracking for his NBA tools, athleticism, face-up scoring ability—plus his 22.4 points per 40 minutes on 61.8 percent shooting inside the arc.

        

    No. 23. Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)

    Explosiveness, shot-making (2.7 threes per game) and secondary playmaking (4.5 assists) will give Allen a chance in the pros. He's turned into a threatening pick-and-roll passer (1.1 PPP, 70th percentile), which helps his cause by expanding his all-around versatility. However, he struggles badly at the rim (42.9 percent) and projects poorly defensively, and he's been frustratingly inconsistent.

        

    No. 22. Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)

    One of the hottest shooters in the country, Tillie heads into the NCAA tournament having made 22 of his last 26 three-pointers. Red flags have been raised about his athletic limitations, but his ball skills, footwork and jumper have been standout level. With Gonzaga a threat to go far, Tillie could have the chance to make an impression and rise into the first-round conversation over the next two weeks.

        

    No. 21. Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    Some scouts think Shamet can play in the league based on his size (6'4", 180 lbs), jumper and basketball IQ. He struggles to blow by opponents, but he shoots 40.0 percent off the dribble and 61.4 percent at the rim. And he's a good passer, averaging 5.1 assists to 2.0 turnovers per game.

Nos. 20-16

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    No. 20. Jacob Evans (Cincinnati, SG, Junior)

    Evans' physical tools, toughness and versatility suggest he's a future NBA role player, even if the numbers aren't exciting. He could stand to improve as a one-on-one shot-creator, but at 6'6", 210 pounds, he can run pick-and-rolls, attack and score, shoot off the ball and defend multiple positions.

                  

    No. 19. Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

    The eye test says yes on Walker, who has the physical profile and shot-making confidence to hit from deep or under pressure. He still needs significant work on his shot-creation and selection, playmaking (13.5 assist percentage) and finishing at the basket (50.0 percent).

        

    No. 18. Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)

    Smith could move the needle with a big NCAA tournament. He's found the radar, though scouts are on the fence about whether he's worth a first-round look this year. Still 18 years old and one of the top athletes in the country, he has turned heads with his explosive leaping, capable jumper (13-of-31 3PT) and defensive playmaking (1.7 steals, 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes).

        

    No. 17. Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)

    Thomas is long and quick defensively around the perimeter, shooting 63.8 percent inside the arc and 41.9 percent behind it. His game—including his three-and-D potential and overall efficiency—and numbers scream role player.

        

    No. 16. Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, PF, Junior)

    Averaging 19.4 points per game, Bates-Diop has made a draft case with his scoring versatility as a long, 6'7", 235-pound forward. He's hitting 1.8 threes per game and making defenders pay for closing out too hard. Out of spot-ups, he's shooting 42.3 percent on pull-ups, 8-of-11 on runners and 14-of-22 on drives to the basket. He has the potential to guard 3s and 4s, so there is enough for teams to consider drafting Bates-Diop in the first round.

Nos. 15-11

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    No. 15. Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Williams lost supporters in 2017-18, having failed to add anything new or consistently impact games. He's still averaging 14.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per 40 minutes with 62.0 percent shooting, and there are reasons (6'10" height, 7'4" wingspan, explosive athleticism) to believe his effectiveness at the rim will carry over. But unless he develops into a more skilled scorer, which seems unlikely, he won't have any margin for error with his motor, which isn't always fully charged.

        

    No. 14. Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)

    With scouts tuned in across the country for his brother's return against Georgia, Porter was more effective, finishing with 20 points on four made three-pointers and eight total shot attempts. He isn't the quickest or bounciest athlete, but his shooting, passing and rim protection are attractive for a modern-day NBA center. Per 40 minutes, he's averaging 2.1 threes, 3.5 assists and 2.7 blocks.

        

    No. 13. Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG/SG, Freshman)

    The big stage was built for Sexton, who thrives in competitive settings like the SEC tournament, in which he averaged 26.3 points per game. Even if there are questions about his playmaking (3.5 assists to 2.6 turnovers per game), he is going to win over teams with his ability to apply pressure at both ends and raise the intensity on the floor. If Alabama can escape Virginia Tech, there will be a lot of attention payed to Sexton's matchup with Jalen Brunson and Villanova in the round of 32.

        

    No. 12. Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Knox's impact fluctuates, but he's also 18 years old and Kentucky's leading scorer. The NBA lens immediately picks up his 6'9", 215-pound size and perimeter skills, including the ability to make threes (1.6 per game), pull-ups (41.3 percent) and runners (42.3 percent). However, he offers minimal playmaking at either end (8.6 assist percentage, 1.6 steal percentage), his rebounding numbers are scary low (6.7 per 40 minutes), and his defensive engagement can be concerning. He gets somewhat of a pass because of his age, production and offensive potential.

        

    No. 11. Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Freshman)

    Gafford's tools, athleticism and activity have registered on NBA scouts' radars. A lack of skill and polish hasn't stopped him from averaging 21.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes with 61.8 percent shooting. He's flashed glimpses of post scoring, but his future appears clear: Run the floor, dive to the hoop, crash the glass and protect the rim. He ranks in the 85th percentile or better off cuts, transition and pick-and-rolls.

10. Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Often forced to play out of position on the wing with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Nick Ward at the 4 and 5, Miles Bridges has been up and down, though the extra reps working off the dribble may benefit him long term.

    Praised for his explosive leaping (87th percentile in finishing at basket) and shot-making—he's hitting two three-pointers per game again—Bridges has also more than doubled his production as a pick-and-roll ball-handler from last year, generating 56 points on those possessions (up from 20).

    He'll still be best used in the pros as a small-ball power forward, as he can exploit slower bigs from face-up positions. But Bridges must improve his pull-up game (31-of-91) and ability to create against a set defense.

9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's stock is up following his 29-point outburst that pushed Kentucky past Tennessee in the SEC tournament final. He'd been carrying the Wildcats throughout conference play with his timely scoring and playmaking.

    Despite lacking the explosiveness that traditionally hints at upside, Gilgeous-Alexander compensates with 6'6", 180-pound size, crafty ball skills and advanced footwork. He uses unpredictable hesitation to shake free and angles to shield the ball and finish in the lane.

    He's also made five threes over Kentucky's last four games, showing more confidence in his jumper.

    A tall, long and willing facilitator and versatile defender who's capable of scoring by taking what's given to him, Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as Kentucky's most reliable player and top NBA prospect.

8. Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    Wendell Carter Jr. has built a top-10 case with fundamentals and consistency over flash.

    The past two weeks haven't been his best, with Carter scoring fewer than 10 points in three of Duke's last four games. But his body of work speaks for itself: 20.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes with 56.4 percent shooting, including 19-of-41 from three.

    With a solid 259-pound frame and 7'3" length, Carter is super effective around the basket, where he makes 68.6 percent of his attempts, shows sound box-out technique and demonstrates advanced footwork on the block.

    His jumper also looks smooth, even if he hasn't shot it often.

    Without a face-up game or lateral quickness around the perimeter, it's tough to picture Carter reaching star status in the NBA. But teams should feel confident they're drafting a pro.

7. Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Every scout will be watching Missouri in the NCAA tournament.

    Teams are trying to get a read on Michael Porter Jr., who was off during his first game back from spinal surgery.

    On one hand, it's easy to see why scouts had him pegged as a top pick entering the season. A 6'10", 215-pound face-up scorer, Porter hit two threes against Georgia on Thursday, appearing comfortable firing over his man from anywhere and handling the ball in the open floor.

    There are also questions scouts will be looking for answers to in the NCAA tournament. Does he pass? Can he create good looks against a set defense? How about finishing? Porter was blocked twice by Georgia on drives, and though it was his first game back, skinny legs and a lack of explosiveness could make things challenging for him inside.

    A Missouri-Xavier matchup in the round of 32 this weekend would be a scout's dream.

6. Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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    Trae Young's bandwagon is lighter than it was a month ago, but he's still leading the nation in scoring and assists and has undeniable shot-making skills and unique playmaking vision.

    He'll have the chance to win back support with Rhode Island and Duke on Oklahoma's path to the Sweet 16.

    Few players draw more attention from defenses than Young, whose efficiency plummeted the second time around during conference play.

    Regardless, NBA teams will value his ability to break down defenses and create shots, even if his scoring firepower doesn't carry over.

5. Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Scouts will be anxious to see Mohamed Bamba in a competitive setting after he missed three games in late February and early March (including one in the Big 12 tournament) to nurse a toe injury.

    In its opening-round game, Texas will face Nevada, which starts four 6'7" players and a smaller guard. Bamba, 6'11" with 7'9" length, should have plenty of chances to showcase his elite finishing and rim protection.

    He's converting 74.3 percent of his attempts at the basket and blocking 3.7 shots per game, though it's the flashes of three-point shooting (14 made threes) that spark the imagination.

4. Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Too big and athletic for practically every Duke opponent, Marvin Bagley III has averaged 21.1 points on 60.5 percent shooting without any advanced skills.

    He's leaned on his quick feet and jump around the basket to finish putbacks (1.3 PPP, 84th percentile), cuts (1.5 PPP, 91st percentile) and pick-and-rolls (1.5 PPP, 97th percentile). NBA scouts are salivating at the chance to see him match up with Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. in the Sweet 16, especially considering Bagley played only 10 minutes against the Spartans in November before leaving with an eye injury.

    He's shown flashes of back-to-the-basket scoring and shooting. However, he's struggled when double-teamed in the post (0.7 PPP, 24th percentile), and despite 20 made threes, he's 4-of-16 on two-point jumpers and he converts just 62.0 percent of his free throws.

    Defense is still the biggest concern with Bagley, who struggles in space, shows poor awareness and rarely blocks shots (3.0 percent).

3. Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Mikal Bridges enters the NCAA tournament averaging 23.1 points over Villanova's last eight games, a stretch that has propelled him past a group of one-and-done freshmen on our board.

    He continues to show notable improvement to his scoring and shot-creating skills with off-the-dribble runners and pull-ups that weren't previously in his arsenal. And they've come on top of lights-out three-point shooting (2.6 3PTM, 43.3 percent) and versatile defense, a combination that always pointed to a higher floor.

    Scouts are now equally intrigued by his ceiling. And he can continue to fuel that intrigue by leading the Wildcats on a run as their No. 1 option.

    Heading into the tournament, he ranks in the 90th percentile or better off screens (1.3 PPP), spot-ups (1.4 PPP), pick-and-roll ball-handling (1.0 PPP), cuts (1.6 PPP) and isolation (8-of-18). And he ranks in the 85th percentile or better in defending pick-and-rolls (0.6 PPP) and spot-ups (0.7 PPP).

2. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, C, Freshman)

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    Jaren Jackson Jr. isn't the tournament's second-best player, but the NBA's long-term projection mirror loves his physical tools, defensive instincts, shooting and age.

    He's blocking 5.7 shots per 40 minutes and making 1.2 threes per game, and despite his ball-skill level being lower than Marvin Bagley III's or Michael Porter Jr.'s, he'll be the youngest prospect in the draft.

    We've also seen enough flashes of post scoring (1.2 PPP, 98th percentile) and face-up drives to feel good about his chances of improving and expanding his offense.

1. Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    Pulling away as the No. 1 long-term prospect for the draft, Deandre Ayton could also be the NCAA tournament's most dominant force.

    He just totaled 27 field goals, 64 points and 32 rebounds in Pac-12 tournament wins over UCLA and USC.

    A powerful finisher around the basket, where he's shooting 71.8 percent, he is also one of the top post players in the country, particularly when double-teamed, averaging 1.5 PPP as a scorer (99th percentile) and 1.5 PPP as a passer (92nd percentile).

    He continues to show promise with his jumper as well, having hit 12 threes, 40.0 percent of his attempts from 17 feet to the arc and 74.2 percent of his free throws.

    His questionable defensive instincts are well-documented, and they'll be under scouts' microscopes in the NCAA tournament. But the concerns don't sound alarming enough when he's taking over games and scoring so effortlessly with spectacular physical tools and translatable skills.

        

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology and Sports Reference.