2018 NCAA Tournament: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top NBA Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 19, 2018

2018 NCAA Tournament: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top NBA Prospects

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    With so many high-level prospects participating in the NCAA tournament, NBA scouts have been busy.

    Some evaluators put more stock into these big-stage performances. And a few of our top players have put forth disappointing efforts.

    There are also two who are still alive and potentially strengthening their draft cases.

    We took a stock report on the top prospects, plus other risers and fallers, following the round of 32.

Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Stock report: Steady

    Projected draft range: Top two

    Arizona's embarrassing loss to Buffalo won't change NBA teams' evaluations on Deandre Ayton, though concerns over his defensive awareness showed on multiple possessions.

    He's still the No. 1 overall favorite after averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds on 61.2 percent shooting. His 1.052 points per possession on post-ups ranks in the 90th percentile. And he knocked down his fair share of jump shots throughout the season, including 12 three-pointers and 16 jumpers (39.0 percent) from 17 feet to the arc. 

    Given his foot speed and immaculate tools, plus the fact he's had to play out of position at the 4, teams will likely overlook Ayton's defense for his elite offensive upside and potential to switch on defense and improve in rim protection. He'll remain No. 1 on our mock draft board unless Real Madrid's Luka Doncic returns from injury and starts taking over.

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

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Stock report: Steady

    Projected draft range: Nos. 2-6

    Marvin Bagley III continues to take care of business against weaker front lines. He's a combined 18-of-24 through two NCAA tournament wins against Rhode Island and Iona, dominating around the basket with his quick jump and explosive bounce. 

    He also hit a three-pointer in each game, and despite the concerning 62.2 percent free-throw clip, he's now made 22 of his 57 three-point attempts as a freshman.

    Defense remains the biggest question mark for Bagley, who lacks awareness and blocks a red-flag low 2.8 percent of opponents' two-point attempts. Creating offense is another weakness that hurts his chances of going No. 1. 

Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Stock report: Steady

    Projected draft range: Nos. 3-7

    Scouts didn't see anything new or different from Mohamed Bamba in the NCAA tournament. Playing to his strengths as a finisher and interior presence, he went for 13 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in Texas' loss to Nevada.

    NBA teams will ultimately value Bamba's game-changing defensive potential. They'll be intrigued by the possibility he'll have the same effect Rudy Gobert has had on the Utah Jazz. 

    Gobert hasn't needed to develop an offensive game to be a difference-maker. And at 6'11" with a 7'9" wingspan, Bamba may not, either. He finished 74.5 percent of his shots around the basket.

    On the other hand, he ranked in the 34h percentile on post-ups and 20th percentile on pick-and-roll finishes, per Synergy Sports. And he shot 30.0 percent on jumpers.

Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Stock report: Rising

    Projected draft range: Nos. 7-14

    Mikal Bridges scored 22 second-half points to help Villanova eliminate Alabama and advance to the Sweet 16. 

    His shooting (44.2 percent 3PT), defense and athleticism always pointed to convincing three-and-D potential. But he's made noticeable strides this year with his all-around scoring and shot-making, and though he'll turn 22 years old in August, his continued improvement suggests there is more to come. 

    With so many bigs in the draft and teams needing wings (Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls), Bridges could sneak into the top seven ahead of some flashier, one-and-done freshmen.

Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Stock report: Steady

    Projected draft range: Nos. 6-10

    In 19 minutes against Rhode Island, Wendell Carter Jr. made six shots without missing. He showed off the mid-range jumper, post game and pick-and-roll finishing, as well as his ability to pass and contest shots at the rim. 

    As one of the country's steadiest prospects, Carter has been viewed by scouts as a safe top-10 pick all season. And though a lack of explosiveness, face-up scoring ability and perimeter quickness suggests his ceiling isn't as high as Marvin Bagley III's, Michael Porter Jr.'s or Mohamed Bamba's, Carter's floor is a selling point in itself.

    At the least, teams should feel confident in his chances of being a long-term starter for his physical tools, skill level, toughness and basketball IQ.

Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Stock report: Steady

    Projected draft range: Nos. 3-7

    From a draft-stock perspective, Jaren Jackson Jr. will be able to afford his no-show performance against Syracuse. He finished without a field goal, unable to earn looks inside the zone. 

    Jackson, 18 years old, will get a pass for his disappearing act, though quiet Big Ten and NCAA tournaments may make teams hesitate before putting him ahead of Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba. 

    He was one of two players in the country to average a three-pointer and three blocks per game, and he was the only player in 25 years to do it in fewer than 25 minutes, per Sports-Reference.com.

    The combination of shooting and defensive upside is Jackson's big selling point, and given his age, flashes of post play (1.226 PPP, 98th percentile) and ability to attack closeouts, it appears he could offer a lot more offensively after a few years of development.

Michael Porter Jr.

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Stock report: Falling

    Projected draft range: Nos. 6-8

    Michael Porter Jr. may have been better off sitting out the season as opposed to returning for two games out of shape and rusty.

    Missouri lost both outings with Porter in the lineup. He combined to shoot 9-of-29 with one assist in 51 total minutes, looking heavy-footed and tired.

    While it would have been unreasonable to expect Porter to dominate, it was unsettling to see how little explosiveness he had following back surgery. His method for shot-creating against a set defense also consisted of just rising up or away from his man to take a tough jump shot.

    Scouts have seen plenty of Porter over the years, and they aren't likely to put too much stock into these performances. But he didn't give teams any reason to think he's the safer play compared to prospects like Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mohamed Bamba. 

    At this point, it seems unlikely Porter goes top five, though he won't slip far. His combination of 6'10" size, coordination and shot-making remains attractive. 

Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Stock report: Rising

    Projected draft range: Nos. 7-14

    Collin Sexton went for 25 points to sink Virginia Tech after averaging 26.3 points through three SEC tournament games. 

    He was less effective in Alabama's loss to Villanova, finishing with five turnovers to three assists. 

    Still, Sexton's scoring prowess was on full display over the past two weeks. Teams should feel confident in him putting pressure on defenses with his open-floor attacking, downhill driving and overall shiftiness off the dribble.

    The concerns are with his shooting and playmaking. Sexton shot 33.6 percent from three as a freshman, showing a capable but flat-looking jump shot. His 3.6 assists and 2.8 turnovers per game also raise questions about his ability to facilitate and create for others.

    But Alabama also had a young, poor-shooting team that relied heavily on Sexton to generate offense. 

    It wouldn't be surprising if some teams had Sexton higher than Trae Young on draft boards. He looks poised to go somewhere in the Nos. 7-14 range, with the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers possibly looking for guards.

Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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    Kyle Phillips/Associated Press

    Stock report: Falling

    Projected draft range: Nos. 7-14

    NBA scouts have started jumping off the wagon, despite Trae Young going for 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds in his first (and likely only) NCAA tournament game.

    He turned some scouts off in the loss with his wild shot selection, turnovers and poor defense. Those are concerns that raise questions about how his game will translate, particularly given Young's lack of size (6'2"), length, strength or athleticism. 

    He's still undeniably skilled in terms of creating shots, making shots and passing. But it's starting to sound more likely that Young will be available to teams later in the lottery. 

Other Risers, Fallers and Noteworthy Performances

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Rising

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

    Playing at his own, slower pace, Gilgeous-Alexander picked apart Buffalo, finishing with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists after going for 19 points, eight boards, seven assists and five steals against Davidson.

    Despite lacking explosiveness, he throws off defenses by changing speeds, and he does an excellent job of shielding his man with his body to earn himself uncontested looks. As a long, 6'6" ball-handler capable of guarding both backcourt positions, Gilgeous-Alexander is rising, possibly into the 2018 lottery mix. 

              

    Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)

    Smith could wind up playing himself into the 2018 first round after racking up 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against Florida.

    As one of the country's most explosive leapers, he has also shown flashes of passing and shot-making (3-of-5 3PT in NCAA tournament). Smith may need another year to improve on the ball as a creator, but it's also easy to picture teams willing to reach early and bet on long-term potential.

               

    Falling

    Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    Shamet looked rattled against Marshall's pressure, finishing 3-of-13 in the round of 64. Scouts praise his skill level and basketball IQ, but there are concerns about his lack of speed and strength, which showed in the loss.

    Considered a fringe first-rounder entering the NCAA tournament, Shamet could have something to play for now at the NBA combine.

               

    Watch list

    Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)

    Hachimura turned heads Saturday with 25 points off the bench against Ohio State. He added a three-pointer and four blocks after totaling just four threes and 13 blocks entering the NCAA tournament.

    With a standout NBA profile (6'8", 225 lbs) and plenty of athleticism, Hachimura is averaging 22.7 points per 40 minutes and shooting 61.7 percent inside the arc. He needs a jumper, but he'll be worth tracking for NBA teams the rest of the way.

                

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology unless otherwise noted.