2018 NBA Mock Draft: Full 1st-Round Predictions Entering March Madness

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 13, 2018

2018 NBA Mock Draft: Full 1st-Round Predictions Entering March Madness

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    NBA draft projections and rankings changed following the conference tournaments. And chances are, we'll continue to see movement over the next four weeks with so many high-level prospects participating in the NCAA tournament. 

    The No. 1 overall favorite has become clearer entering March Madness. Meanwhile, Michael Porter Jr.'s return drew mixed reviews.

    And how much has Trae Young's stock fallen? An unexpected team may now have a chance to draft the polarizing playmaker.

    This mock draft order was created based on the standings heading into March 12. 

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

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    The Memphis Grizzlies' decision at No. 1 appears easier today than it was a week ago. Deandre Ayton separated himself from the pack during the Pac-12 tournament, when he combined for 64 points and 32 rebounds in wins over UCLA and USC. 

    It was pure dominance, but not just due to Ayton's immaculate physical profile. Along with all the easy baskets he earned at the rim, he was equally effective around the perimeter, firing jumpers over his man who had no chance at making them tougher to convert. 

    With Luka Doncic now hurt after struggling overseas through March, Ayton is playing his best ball of the season at the most important time. 

    Marc Gasol's presence and contract won't stop Memphis from taking a center if he's the best prospect in the draft. It's looking more likely Ayton goes No. 1, regardless of who's selecting.

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

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    The Phoenix Suns may want to explore trading down a few spots for a defensive prospect like Mohamed Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr. No. 2 seems high for both, but they each would fill a need, whereas the weaknesses of the other top prospects could possibly add to the Suns' existing problems. 

    They could also view Luka Doncic as their next point guard, despite the fact the combo label is more appropriate based on his style and versatility. 

    Doncic, a 6'8" ball-handler, has exceptional feel facilitating and scoring off ball screens. The Suns could see his terrific passing and basketball IQ being a fit alongside Devin Booker.

    Michael Porter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III also deserve consideration, but Porter potentially creates a development-stunting logjam, and Bagley's defense at the 5 may be a turnoff. 

    Doncic was struggling before it was announced he'd need to miss two weeks with a muscle injury. But he's also the draft's most proven prospect, given his experience, production and impact playing at a pro level.

3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, C, Freshman)

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    With John Collins at the 4, the Atlanta Hawks could look to build using a defensive-minded anchor at center.

    Blocking 5.7 shots per 40 minutes, Jaren Jackson Jr. ranks second in the nation in defensive box plus-minus, per Sports Reference.

    He's also making 1.2 three-pointers per game at a 39.6 percent clip, and despite being on the raw side offensively, he's averaging 1.22 PPP in post-ups (98th percentile).

    Jackson had an off Big Ten tournament that highlighted his offensive limitations as a shot-creator. But his defensive potential is as enticing as anyone's in the draft, while his ability to just stretch the floor holds value in itself. Being the youngest prospect in the field should ease concerns over his scoring ability.

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

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    Marvin Bagley III has been too productive for concerns over his defense to make the Orlando Magic pass at No. 4. They need a point guard, but none is worth taking this early. 

    Even without a go-to offensive skill, Bagley is still averaging 21.1 points on 60.5 percent. He continues to score by tapping into his quick jump, bounce and body control off drives. 

    His activity level is tremendous and something the Magic should feel comfortable banking on, even if his creating and shooting never take off. But he's also still 18 years old (for one more day), and he's shown enough flashes of the jumper (20 threes) and back-to-the-basket game.

    Orlando's roster lacks an identity, and the Magic shouldn't be looking to fill any specific holes outside of talent. They'll view Bagley as the best player available and worry later about how to play him with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. They should all be versatile and interchangeable enough to make it work.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets): Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers could look at Mohamed Bamba to strengthen their No. 28-ranked defense, per ESPN.com.

    Blocking 3.7 shots per game, he changes the way opponents play against Texas, which has Kenpom.com's No. 10 defense in the country.

    Bamba also shoots 74.3 percent at the rim, giving his guards an enormous finishing target (30-of-31 on basket cuts) and clean-up man (1.328 PPP on putbacks).

    Still, the Cavaliers take Bamba over Michael Porter Jr. or any of the guards for their need to improve defensively.

6. Sacramento Kings: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    The Sacramento Kings need a scoring wing or forward, and with Michael Porter Jr. back on the floor looking healthy following back surgery, he is a likely target at No. 6.

    The 6'10" combo forward finished with 12 points on two three-pointers during in his return against Georgia in the SEC tournament. He missed makable shots that could start falling once he builds back his confidence, comfort and conditioning. 

    Porter's shot selection and defense will be under the microscope in the NCAA tournament. But with Ayton, Doncic, Jackson, Bagley and Bamba off the board, it's tough to find an available prospect the Kings could rank higher than Porter.

7. Dallas Mavericks: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    After drafting Dennis Smith Jr. in 2017, the Dallas Mavericks will now look to address their wing with Mikal Bridges, whose breakout season continues.

    Valued mostly for his defense entering the year, he has now scored at least 23 points in four of Villanova's last five games. He's up to 2.6 threes per game on 43.3 percent shooting, but it's the flashes of expanding shot-creation and scoring ability that propel Bridges into the top 10. 

    He has earned the title of top two-way forward in the draft, and he'll have a chance to strengthen his draft case even further, assuming the Wildcats advance to the second and third weeks of the NCAA tournament. 

8. Chicago Bulls: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    The evolution of Kris Dunn makes the Chicago Bulls pass on Collin Sexton and Trae Young for Wendell Carter Jr., who can replace Robin Lopez long term.

    One of the draft's steadiest players, Carter has consistently produced, using his strong frame, scoring instincts and footwork around the basket. He also uses his developing jumper to stretch the floor and threaten defenses as a three-point shooter (19-of-41).

    He's also blocking 3.2 shots per 40 minutes, despite not being known for defense. His length should come in handy, even if Carter struggles with lateral movement.

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

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    Despite the lost season, the New York Knicks might end up picking late in the lottery and missing out on the potential franchise talents. But they can still fill a need based on who's projected to be available. 

    The Trae Young versus Collin Sexton debate should be a good one inside New York's front office. Young should ultimately get the nod based on his extraordinary shot-creating and playmaking ability, which are weaknesses of rookie Frank Ntilikina.

    Despite the questions that have popped up during the second half of the year, when defenses have loaded up on Young and his efficiency has plummeted, he still leads the country in scoring and assists at 19 years old. At No. 9, the potential reward with Young is worth the risk to the Knicks, who need a spark.

10. Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Lacking offensive weapons at the forward spots, the Charlotte Hornets could be drawn to Kevin Knox, the 6'9" combo who's averaging 15.6 points and could be the second-youngest prospect in the draft (behind Jaren Jackson Jr.). 

    He's making 1.6 threes per game, working strictly as an off-ball scorer who can generate offense without needing time in isolation or one-on-one dribbles.

    Creating, finishing in traffic and defense are glaring weaknesses, but given his age, the Hornets will overlook them for his room to improve as well as his athleticism, mismatch tools, production and fit.

Nos. 11-20

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    No.11. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pistons): Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

    The Clippers need a point guard to build with. Sexton would give them Patrick Beverley's toughness, but more scoring and two-way impact. We just saw him carry Alabama to SEC tournament wins over Texas A&M and Auburn, combining for 58 points between the games. For the Clippers, his killer instinct and drive will be equally attractive as his offensive skills and production.


    No. 12. Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers): Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Bridges' athleticism, shot-making and defensive versatility are selling points for the 76ers. His shot creativity remains a work in progress, but alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, he can stick to his strengths as a spot-up, small-ball 4.


    No. 13. Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

    It's becoming easier to overlook Gilgeous-Alexander's lack of speed and explosiveness. He just went for 29 points against Tennessee, carving up its defense with nifty footwork, hesitations and crafty finishes. Gilgeous-Alexander should give the Nuggets' backcourt more defense, passing and game management, which they could use behind microwave scorer Jamal Murray.


    No. 14. Utah Jazz: Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Freshman)

    One of the draft's most athletic bigs, Gafford is limited offensively, but he's still producing at a monster rate, averaging 21.1 points per 40 minutes on 61.8 percent shooting. The Jazz will value his efficiency around the basket, shot-blocking (3.8 per 40) and room to improve his scoring around the key.


    No. 15. Phoenix Suns (via Bucks): Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)

    Williams hasn't added anything to his game, but his mix of size, length and explosiveness still translates to 14.0 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per 40 minutes on 62.0 percent shooting. He'd give the Suns an easy-basket weapon and rim protector—just not much scoring outside of finishing and putbacks. 


    No. 16. Phoenix Suns (via Heat): Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)

    With its third first-round pick, Phoenix could draft-and-stash Musa, an 18-year-old wing averaging double figures in scoring in the Adriatic League, Eurocup and the Croatian League. There are questions about how his game will translate without traditional NBA athleticism for a perimeter player, but his consistent production over the years makes him too enticing.


    No. 17. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)

    Without any obvious answers at No. 17, the Clippers can take a chance on Robinson, whose 7'1" size and explosive athleticism point to potential, while his lack of game action over the past year raises questions about his skill level and feel.


    No. 18. Philadelphia 76ers: Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

    Flashes of potential earn Walker a spot in the top 20. He hasn't been efficient and needs to improve his shot-creating and playmaking, but between his tools, athleticism and shot-making, he has a promising 19-year-old foundation to build on for a shooting guard.


    No. 19. San Antonio Spurs: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)

    Will Jontay leave for the NBA? He should draw first-round interest if he puts his name in. Porter checks the right boxes for a big man in today's league with his 2.1 threes, 3.5 assists and 2.7 blocks per 40 minutes.


    No. 20. Washington Wizards: Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, PF, Junior)

    Bates-Diop just combined for 49 points and 19 boards in two Big Ten tournament games. With his scoring versatility, rebounding and defensive potential, he could be a fit next to Otto Porter for the Wizards. 

Nos. 21-30

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    No. 21. Atlanta Hawks (via Wolves): Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy, PG, 1999)

    We aren't likely to hear much from Simons' camp until April or May, but he plans to test the NBA waters. Without many exciting, can't-miss options in the 20s this year, someone can take a chance on the explosive combo guard, who'll be eligible as a fifth-year high school player. With three first-round picks, the Hawks can afford to gamble on upside.


    No. 22. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)

    Averaging 19.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, Hutchison will be a prospect to watch in the NIT. He's a scorer with NBA tools, but inconsistent shooting has kept scouts on the fence.


    No. 23. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cavaliers): Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)

    Holiday struggled against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament, but he had come in scorching hot, averaging 28.2 points over his previous five games. Scouts have become more open lately to the idea of considering Holiday in the first round for his potential to develop into a scoring specialist off the bench.


    No. 24. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)

    Thomas' three-and-D potential has drawn attention from scouts, even though he struggles to create or facilitate. He's shooting 63.8 percent inside the arc and 41.9 percent behind it. Thomas' athleticism and efficiency create a convincing role-player package.


    No. 25. Indiana Pacers: Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)

    Smith could leave early and sell himself on potential, which is fueled by explosive leaping ability, defensive playmaking and a capable jumper. He's a project, but this late, the Pacers aren't finding an immediate contributor. Smith has an opportunity to bolster his first-round chances in the NCAA tournament.


    No. 26. Portland Trail Blazers: Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Scouts like the idea of Brown, a point forward with an NBA physical profile. His sales pitch revolves around two-way versatility, though a lack of production and no signature skill have raised questions about the legitimacy of the first-round hype.


    No. 27. Boston Celtics: De'Anthony Melton (USC, SG, Sophomore)

    Melton created enough intrigue as a freshman to draw first-round interest this year without even playing a game. His shooting development will be key, but the Celtics could value Melton's two-way playmaking, especially if they're hesitant to match big free-agent offers for Marcus Smart.


    No. 28. Brooklyn Nets (via Raptors): Shake Milton (SMU, PG/SG, Junior)

    Milton missed the last 11 games with a hand injury, the 6'6" combo guard's three years of consistent shooting (above 42.0 percent 3PT every season) and improvements as a scorer (18.0 points per game this year) help justify late-first-round consideration.


    No. 29. Golden State Warriors: Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    An excellent shooter (45.9 percent 3PT) and high-IQ passer (5.1 assists, 2.0 turnovers), Shamet has scouts buying into his backup guard potential, even if he lacks exciting speed, explosiveness or strength.


    No. 30. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Tony Carr (Penn State, PG, Sophomore)

    Carr boosted his stock in the Big Ten tournament, combining for 50 points during the first two games. He needs to improve inside the arc, but at 6'5", his ability to handle and shoot (46.0 percent 3PT) stands out under the NBA lens.


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    Biggest riser

    Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Freshman)

    Gafford jumped from No. 22 into the lottery following his 21-point, 10-rebound, seven-block game against Auburn. He's making an impact with NBA tools and limited skill, which he can develop under his rookie contract. The latest eye-test results and numbers appear too convincing, even if his upside only reaches role-player level.



    Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)

    Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)

    De'Anthony Melton (USC, SG, Sophomore)

    Tony Carr (Penn State, PG/SG, Sophomore)


    Left off

    Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    Diallo has failed to reach double figures in scoring during 14 of Kentucky's last 17 games. And that's a problem, considering he isn't a playmaker or defender. Athleticism alone won't keep him in the first round. 


    Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)

    Averaging just 9.9 points in 29.2 minutes, shooting 27.0 percent from three and 57.8 percent from the free-throw line, Duval is simply too far behind as a scorer. The 5.5 assists per game won't save him.


    Gary Trent Jr. (Duke, SG, Freshman)

    Trent can make shots, but he hasn't done it consistently enough to compensate for his weak defense and lack of playmaking. He'll have a chance in the NCAA tournament to make one last statement with his scoring before the predraft process.


    Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami, SG, Sophomore)

    Even before breaking his foot, Brown was having a down year when most expected a breakout. His scoring and shooting struggles worsened. And now that he's expected to miss the NCAA tournament, he won't have the chance to redeem himself. 


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology unless otherwise noted


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