The opening day of the 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament gave NBA scouts plenty to think about.
Potential top pick DeAndre Ayton was on the wrong side of the day's biggest upset, as his fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats were ousted by the 13th-seeded Buffalo Bulls. Likely lottery locks Marvin Bagley III and Collin Sexton blitzed the box scores to help their teams advance. And Trae Young predictably went out with a bang.
The Big Dance is an underrated evaluation tool. The field is rich with players vying to become the Association's stars of tomorrow and how they handle one of basketball's most pressure-packed environments can be revealing.
The more intel that's gathered, the easier it becomes to determine how the upcoming draft should go. So, let's predict the opening round of the 2018 talent grab and take a closer look at the potential fits for three prospects poised to be dancing for a while.
2018 NBA Mock Draft
1. Memphis Grizzlies: DeAndre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)
2. Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)
3. Atlanta Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)
4. Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn Nets): Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
6. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
7. Dallas Mavericks: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)
8. New York Knicks: Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)
9. Chicago Bulls: Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)
10. Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)
11. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit Pistons): Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)
12. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)
13. Denver Nuggets: Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)
14. Los Angeles Clippers: Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, PF/C, Freshman)
15. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)
16. Phoenix Suns (via Milwaukee Bucks): Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)
17. Philadelphia 76ers: Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)
18. Washington Wizards: Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)
19. San Antonio Spurs: Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)
20. Utah Jazz: Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)
21. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)
22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans Pelicans): Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)
23. Indiana Pacers: Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy, PG, 1999)
24. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami, SG, Sophomore)
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, PF, Junior)
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)
27. Boston Celtics: Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG, Sophomore)
28. Brooklyn Nets (via Toronto Raptors): De'Anthony Melton (USC, SG, Sophomore)
29. Golden State Warriors: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)
30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Senior)
Potential Fits for First-Round Prospects
Marvin Bagley III to the Sacramento Kings at No. 6
The Sacramento Kings are in the phase of their rebuild where they should focus on finding the top talent available. If Marvin Bagley III is still on the board when they're selecting, they might sprint their pick up to the podium.
He's not only the best player still around, he's a significant step toward solving their offensive issues.
The Kings are led in scoring by Zach Randolph—in 2018. The 17-year veteran is the least productive leading man in the league, averaging just 14.9 points per contest.
It's no surprise, then, that Sacramento sits 29th in average scoring and 28th in offensive efficiency.
Bagley couldn't change those numbers by himself, but his addition would be a big start. He can score from anywhere thanks to a soft interior touch, a developing off-the-dribble game and expanding shooting range. His 25.4 points per 40 minutes would be impressive on their own, but they look special when paired with 60.5 percent shooting and a 37.0 percent accuracy rate from three.
He might not slip to sixth. But if concerns about his defense and fit with some of the clubs selecting in the top five push him out of it, the Kings would be thrilled to add him.
Mikal Bridges to the Chicago Bulls at No. 9
Some might lament the Chicago Bulls' inability to slide further down the standings, but this organization has quietly seen one promising sign after another.
Lauri Markkanen has shattered expectations in what should be an All-Rookie first-team campaign. Kris Dunn has recovered from a disastrous freshman year and hinted he could man the wheel for a good team. Zach LaVine looks predictably rusty in his return from a torn ACL, but the fact he's making regular appearances is encouraging nonetheless.
The Bulls—who should have two first-rounders and ample cap room—might be closer to returning to relevance than people think. Adding a polished talent like Mikal Bridges would accelerate the process.
The standout junior has engineered a breakout season, nearly doubling his scoring average (from 9.8 to 18.0) and flirting with a 50/40/90 slash line. He followed up a Co-Big East defensive player of the year award with an all-conference first-team selection.
He might not have the highest ceiling in this class, but his game fits both the modern NBA and Chicago in particular.
"A defensive-minded wing like Bridges is a perfect fit with Chicago's young pieces, and with his wealth of college experience, he should be able to help right away," Jeremy Woo wrote for Sports Illustrated. "... His ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions makes him an easy theoretical fit in any lineup."
Miles Bridges to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 10
Thanks to modern basketball thinking, we don't have to waste time debating whether Miles Bridges can play either forward spot. The hyper-athletic sophomore can bounce back and forth between them, while guarding multiple positions, finishing above the rim and burying spot-up jumpers.
The Charlotte Hornets keep fishing for the right forwards to put around Kemba Walker. Just this season, they'll pay out $71 million to Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams, via Basketball Insiders.
But all that spending hasn't helped. Charlotte will almost surely miss the playoffs for the second straight season, and none of the frontcourt players are particularly impressive or cost-effective.
Bridges isn't perfect by any stretch. He's a work in progress when it comes to creating shots, and he doesn't always attack the way his explosiveness says he should.
But athleticism, shot-making and defensive versatility are clear selling points. Given the state of the Hornets front line, that's more than enough to pique their interest.