NBA Draft 2018: Final Mock Draft Before March Madness Sweet 16

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 22, 2018

Duke's Marvin Bagley III (35) and Wendell Carter Jr. (34) react following a play against Southern during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Duke won 78-61. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The 2018 men's NCAA tournament is less than two weeks away from crowning a champion. The 2017-18 NBA regular season closes in just under three weeks.

In the business, this point on the hoops calendar is called mock draft season.

Each day closer to the finish line provides more clarity on draft order and team need. There's also a wealth of information available on the class now, so scouts and executives have a better idea what these prospects can bring.

With the Sweet 16 upon us, this is the perfect time to run through a one-round mock draft and spotlight three players who have helped themselves at the Big Dance.

                      

2018 Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic (Slovenia, SG, 1999)

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

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

5. Dallas Mavericks: Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

6. Sacramento Kings: Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn Nets): Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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

9. New York Knicks: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

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

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

12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit Pistons): Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

13. Los Angeles Clippers: 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): Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

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

18. Utah Jazz: Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech, SF, Freshman)

19. Indiana Pacers: Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, SF/PF, Junior)

20. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy, PG/SG, 1999)

21 Philadelphia 76ers: Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)

22. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans Pelicans): Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1998)

23. San Antonio Spurs: Chimezie Metu (USC, PF/C, Junior)

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City Thunder): Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)

25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland Cavaliers): Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)

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

27. Boston Celtics: Jacob Evans (Cincinnati, SG/SF, Junior)

28. Brooklyn Nets (via Toronto Raptors): Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami, SG, Sophomore)

29. Golden State Warriors: Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Senior)

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

                 

March Madness Risers

Mikal Bridges, Villanova

Third-year swingman Mikal Bridges is perfectly capping what's been a breakout campaign.

His first tourney effort was a tidy 13-point, 5-of-10 performance. His next was more of an eye-popper, as he striped five triples on his way to 23 points.

Bridges doesn't have the most diverse skill set, and some teams might think he has a low ceiling since he'll be 22 before his NBA debut. But he's excellent at what he does—raining threes and defending multiple positions.

And he's showing obvious signs of growth when comparing this campaign to his 2016-17 season, nearly doubling his scoring average (from 9.8 points to 18.0) and seeing his three-point percentage (39.3 to 44.2) soar despite a volume increase.

"His continued improvement suggests there is more to come," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "With so many bigs in the draft and teams needing wings...Bridges could sneak into the top seven ahead of some flashier, one-and-done freshmen."

                  

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The draft class' top tier of NCAA point guards was expected to feature only two names—Collin Sexton and Trae Young. Even if those two are the top floor generals selected, it's hard not to think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has played his way into that discussion.

The 6'6" playmaker is quickly becoming John Calipari's star pupil. Kentucky didn't start hitting its stride until Gilgeous-Alexander did, but now that both are rolling, this looks like a heavyweight title contender.

Gilgeous-Alexander's total production through two rounds includes 46 points on 60 percent shooting, 14 rebounds, 14 free throws on 17 attempts, 13 assists and seven steals. And this comes on the heels of a furious sprint through the SEC tournament, where he averaged 21.0 points, 6.7 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals.

"He's clearly been amazing for them and is looking more and more like a lottery pick," ESPN's Mike Schmitz told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. "With the consistency he's shown, he's in the same conversation with [Sexton and Young]. It's up in the air who will be the first point guard selected."

                  

Robert Williams, Texas A&M

BOISE, ID - MARCH 17:  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats gestures during the first half against the Buffalo Bulls in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 17, 2018 in Boise, Idaho.  (P
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Even though he's 6'10" with a 7'5" wingspan and jarring amounts of athleticism, it isn't always easy for Robert Williams to stand out.

His decision play a second season in College Station pushed him into a draft class that runs deep with athletic bigs. He also spends most of his floor time away from his NBA position (center) to accommodate A&M's top scorer, Tyler Davis.

But Williams made sure he was seen during the first weekend. He not only tallied 21 points (on 75 percent shooting), 27 rebounds and four blocks over 47 minutes, he showcased his ability to score over smaller defenders on mismatch post-ups.

The NBA interest is (and will be) tied to his length, bounce and potential as a rim-running, rim-rocking and rim-protecting big. But displaying supplemental skills on the NCAA's biggest stage might help him stand out among a strong group of mid-first post players.

                 

Statistics used courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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