NBA Draft 2018: Latest Mock Draft Ahead of NCAA Tournament

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 13, 2018

Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. brings the ball down the court during the first half in an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia at the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday, March 8, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Brackets aren't the only things at stake during the NCAA tournament.

NBA draft stocks can be inflated by a starring run in March Madness or damaged by a disappointing exit.

It probably shouldn't matter as much as it does, since season-long data doesn't have the volatility of a single-elimination event. But as UConn championship leaders Kemba Walker (No. 9 pick in 2011) and Shabazz Napier (No. 24 pick in 2014) can attest, catching fire at the right time can spellbind scouts.

With the round of 64 set to fire up Thursday, let's see how the 2018 first-round draft board sits and examine which pro prospects should get the bulk of your attention.

          

2018 NBA Mock Draft

1. Memphis Grizzlies: DeAndre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

2. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)

3. Orlando Magic: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)

4. Atlanta Hawks: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

5. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

6. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn Nets): Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

7. Dallas Mavericks: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

8. Chicago Bulls: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

9. New York Knicks: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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

11. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit Pistons): Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

12. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)

13. San Antonio Spurs: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)

14. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)

15. Phoenix Suns (via Milwaukee Bucks): Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, PF/C, Freshman)

16. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Anfernee Simons (IMG, SG, 1999)

17. Utah Jazz: Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

18. Philadelphia 76ers: Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)

19. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)

20. Washington Wizards: Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)

21. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Dzanan Musa (Bosnia and Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)

22. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, SF, Junior)

23. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans Pelicans): Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Jacob Evans (Cincinnati, SF, Junior)

25. Indiana Pacers: Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami, SG, Sophomore)

26. Portland Trail Blazers: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)

27. Boston Celtics: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)

28. Brooklyn Nets (Toronto Raptors): Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

29. Golden State Warriors: Shake Milton (SMU, PG/SG, Junior)

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): De'Anthony Melton (USC, PG/SG, Sophomore)

         

Top Prospects To Watch in the Tournament

DeAndre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

On his most recent big board, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman put DeAndre Ayton second to Luka Doncic but called the sculpted center "more of a No. 1B than No. 2."

This is Ayton's chance to cement himself as the no-doubt top selection. He has probably already reached that point for some after averaging 20.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks over his first 34 games. The 7-footer has even knocked in a dozen triples at a 36.4-percent clip.

"If there is another player better, I'd like to meet him," Arizona coach Sean Miller said after Ayton carried the Wildcats to a Pac-12 title, per ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura. "He put his team on his back, and he played the right way. He absolutely was a one-man wrecking crew these past two days."

Ayton keeps raising the bar to incredible heights. As good as he's been throughout the campaign, he enters the Big Dance searing hot with per-game averages of 22.4 points and 13.6 rebounds.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats are tied for the fifth-highest odds of capturing the crown, per OddsShark. The longer Arizona can follow Ayton's lead, the higher his stock will rise.

      

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

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Here's the easiest way to build intrigue in Michael Porter Jr.—he has played 25 minutes over two appearances this season, and he's still on our list of the tourney's can't-miss-attractions.

The highly touted freshman was sidelined only two minutes into his debut and subsequently had what many assumed to be season-ending back surgery. Then last week, he made a surprise return for the SEC tournament. He played 23 minutes and largely looked like someone who had missed the previous four months, finishing with more shots (17) than points (12).

The scoring forward won't change his fate or Missouri's with any more efforts like that. But he arguably has the most to gain of any player in the field if he even approaches his towering ceiling.

Back in August, he was seated comfortably atop Wasserman's 2018 mock draft board. Now, he's looking up at a decent number of prospects who leapfrogged him while he was missing in action.

"Porter has ground to make up if he's going to be a top-three pick," an NBA scout told Wasserman.

Porter will have the exposure to potentially make his ascent. If he can steer the Tigers past Florida State in the first round, he'd almost surely have Xavier awaiting him in the second round with Gonzaga or Ohio State potentially lurking in the Sweet 16.

         

Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Perhaps you've heard about the second-half slump by Trae Young and his Sooners. By this point, you might even have some of the details memorized—Oklahoma's speedy slide from a 14-2 start to an 18-13 finish, Young hitting 40.7 percent of his triples before the skid and only 31.1 percent during.

What gets glossed over, though, is that his stat line still featured 24.5 points and 7.4 assists during that colossal collapse. He's still a Naismith Trophy semifinalist and the country's leader in both points (27.4) and assists (8.7).

For most of the campaign, Young's outings were appointment viewing. Stephen Curry dubbed Young "unbelievable," per ESPN.com. LeBron James called the Sooners star "a very special player," via ESPN.

Young has nine outings with 30-plus points and four with at least 43. He had a 26-point, 22-assist performance in mid-December. He went for 43 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists less than a month later.

His numbers boggle the mind, and he plays such an aesthetically pleasing style. There's some Curry-lite in Young's shooting range and creativity.

Young and the Sooners will tip off March Madness against Rhode Island on Thursday (12:15 p.m. ET). Hoop heads won't want to miss what could be the final game of one of the wildest one-and-done campaigns in recent memory.

         

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of KenPom.com and ESPN.com.

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