Ranking Top NBA Draft Prospects Playing in NCAA Tournament's Final Four

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 29, 2018

Ranking Top NBA Draft Prospects Playing in NCAA Tournament's Final Four

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    NBA scouts from across the league will be traveling to San Antonio for a look at the Final Four prospects.

    The Kansas-Villanova matchup will draw the most attention from NBA evaluators. Featuring two No. 1 seeds, this game will have eight potential first-rounders for the 2018 and 2019 drafts combined.

    Loyola-Chicago and Michigan won't be sending many players to the NBA, though the Wolverines' top big man still makes the game worth scouting. 

    These rankings are based on long-term NBA potential and not college impact.

10. Lagerald Vick (Kansas, SF, Junior)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Second round/undrafted, 2018/2019 

    Villanova will need to get a hand up on Lagerald Vick, Kansas' glue guy who's 10-of-21 from three in the NCAA tournament. He's recorded at least 13 points in each round. 

    He'll need the jump shot to keep falling for a chance to crack an NBA roster. Vick hasn't improved much as a creator, with 67.4 percent of his offense coming off spot-ups, cuts and transition. 

    He's still been effective working off the ball and scoring inside defensive zones. His best weapon could be his runner and floater, as he's made 19 of 31 of them on the season. 

    The NBA scouting lens does still like his athleticism, tools and versatility but not the idea that Vick isn't great in any one area. 

9. Moritz Wagner (Michigan, PF, Junior)

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2018

    For two years, we've seen flashes of NBA shooting and scoring moves from Moritz Wagner. From a draft-stock perspective, they just haven't been frequent enough to compensate for limitations that could be here to stay.

    His stretch 4 potential has no doubt earned NBA attention, as evidenced by his invite to last year's NBA combine. 

    Wagner at his best is certainly intriguing. The 6'11", 245-pounder just made three threes, as well as a few impressive off-the-dribble maneuvers against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16. 

    And then he followed that by shooting 0-of-7 from behind the arc with four fouls and zero blocks versus Florida State in the Elite Eight. When Wagner's shot isn't falling, he isn't helping, considering he averages fewer than one assist, block and steal per game, and he struggles to defend inside and out. 

    Synergy Sports grades him as below average guarding post-ups and spot-ups.

    Teams could still ignore his weaknesses for his valued ability to stretch the floor and attack closeouts. But he'll have to convince a scouting department that those strengths will be enough to lean on in a speciality role. 

8. Udoka Azubuike (Kansas, C, Sophomore)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Nos. 25-50, 2019

    Udoka Azubuike has improved his body a great deal, but he still doesn't fit the profile of a modern NBA big man. It won't mean he can't carve out a role with his finishing potential and enormous presence in the paint. 

    His 1.77 PPP around the basket ranks No. 1 in the country (minimum 40 possessions). He's shooting 77.2 percent from the floor, taking only high-percentage dunks and lay-ins off cuts (1.71 PPP, 99th percentile) and pick-and-rolls (1.64 PPP, 99th percentile).

    At 7'0", 280 pounds, Azubuike is an easy-basket target at the rim, though he's also been a highly efficient low-post scorer, shooting 70.1 percent on those possessions.

    The big question is whether he can move with NBA bigs or fit into an offense without hurting spacing. He can't play outside the paint (41.7 percent FT, zero made jumpers) or guard away from the basket. And he isn't skilled enough to be considered a realistic option to feature from the elbows or short corners.

    He'll still be worth looking at as a potential backup center/interior specialist for a team trying to beef up its front. But it would make sense for Azubuike to return as a junior to continue improving his conditioning, footwork and touch.

7. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas, SG/SF, Senior)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2018

    Entering the Final Four making 3.0 threes per game at a 44.7 percent clip, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will draw NBA looks for his shooting specialist potential.

    He's become more threatening off the dribble, but creating still isn't a strength (13.4 assist percentage), as he's generated just .59 PPP out of isolation (19th percentile) and .71 PPP (40th percentile) as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. 

    He struggles to convert from 12 feet in, having made just five of 27 runners and 35.7 percent of takes to the basket off spot-ups.

    However, his shooting stroke is highly convincing (46.7 percent catch-and-shoot jumpers). And at 6'8" and still 20 years old, he has time to continue improving his ball skills and physique. 

    Mykhailiuk could have a tough assignment and defender to deal with against Villanova if matched up against Mikal Bridges on Saturday night.

6. Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova, SG, Sophomore)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: Nos. 20-50 2019

    Donte DiVincenzo's game was built for the sixth-man role he occupies at Villanova. NBA teams will view him in the same light—as a potential spark they can bring off the bench to make shots and apply pressure at both ends.

    DiVincenzo won't be a first-round option in 2018, but he continues to flash glimpses of what he can add down the road.

    The 6'5" combo plays on and off the ball, generating 1.00 PPP as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (93rd percentile) and 1.02 PPP (70th percentile) out of spot-ups.

    Averaging two three-point makes per game and shooting 39.7 percent on dribble jumpers, he's improved around the perimeter and remains a threat to catch fire like he did against Alabama (five threes) in the round of 32.

    A pesky defender, DiVincenzo gives Villanova a two-way punch of firepower and energy. And that will be his calling card down the line. Assuming he's back at school next year, he should have a better chance to build a first-round case as a top-two option for the Wildcats.

    He'll want to improve his one-on-one shot-creating, being that he's 5-of-18 out of isolation this season.

5. Omari Spellman (Villanova, PF, Freshman)

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    NBA draft projection: Nos. 20-50, 2019

    Omari Spellman hasn't done enough to build a solid first-round resume for 2018. But this strong NCAA tournament, plus another big game against Kansas, should help him earn a spot on scouting watch lists entering the summer and 2018-19 season.

    He turned heads during Villanova's win over West Virginia (18 points, eight rebounds) in the Sweet 16, when the 6'9", 245-pounder drilled four threes and blocked three shots.

    Spellman isn't an exciting athlete, but he packs a unique mix of power, length and foot speed. And he's made 44.6 percent of his 139 three-point attempts.

    Regadless of what happens in the Final Four, he'll need to return to improve his post game (.833 PPP, 55th percentile) and effectiveness as a roll man (.846 PPP, 28th percentile).

    But Spellman will wind up drawing more NBA attention for his fit than his talent. And in certain instances for bigs, it's about checking the right boxes—not all of them.

4. Malik Newman (Kansas, SG, Sophomore)

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Second round, 2018 or late first round, 2019

    No Final Four prospect has more to play for in the draft-stock game than Malik Newman. His resurgence has been the biggest talking point over the past week following his 32-point outburst against Duke.

    It was his second 30-point game of the month (Oklahoma State, March 8). Since his first, he's averaging 22.7 points over a seven-game stretch.

    Is this late run meaningful or just a hot streak? It should look more convincing if he's able to cap it off with a productive Final Four.

    Throughout the season, he's improved his body and decision-making. Newman has shot 51.6 percent on two-pointers (up from 40.7 percent at Mississippi State two years ago) and 41.5 percent from three while turning the ball over just 1.8 times per 40 minutes.

    The 6'3" combo has become one of the top pick-and-roll ball-handlers (1.06 PPP, 95th percentile) in the country, both as a scorer and passer (1.30 PPP, 93rd percentile).

    Newman didn't receive enough love after declaring for the draft in 2016. Today, he's a more mature, sharper player. This next game against Villanova could ultimately determine whether Newman should strike while the iron is hot and declare or return as Kansas' lead guard for 2018-19.

3. Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Senior)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: No. 25-45, 2018

    Devonte' Graham guided Kansas to a No. 1 seed this year, resulting in a First Team All-American nod and some NBA attention. 

    He hasn't been as sharp in the NCAA tournament, as he's shooting just 34.0 percent from the floor. Kansas will need Graham's best against Villanova's Jalen Brunson, and the 23-year-old point guard could use another standout performance on the big stage before the predraft process begins.

    Lacking the size, length and athleticism that typically points to NBA upside, Graham has turned into a versatile scoring and playmaking weapon, fueled by skill over burst. 

    Averaging 7.3 assists, he has become one of the best passing pick-and-roll facilitators in the country (1.28 PPP, 92nd percentile). And he's shooting at least 40.0 percent from three for the third season at Kansas.

    He's also had success working off the ball, generating 1.13 PPP out of spot-ups (86th percentile) and shooting 45.5 percent off the catch. 

    Graham can be inconsistent at both ends, and his age won't help his draft stock. But he'll have a chance to convince NBA teams he can carve out a spark role with ball-screen offense and shot-making.

2. Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Nos. 20-40, 2018

    Even without the traditional NBA speed or explosion, Jalen Brunson's credibility continues to rise as a result of his commanding floor-general presence, efficient offense and winning track record.

    He'll have the chance to further strengthen his case in the Final Four against fellow First Team All-American Devonte' Graham.

    Brunson could be playing for a spot in this year's first round by convincing one team late in the 20s to throw out the eye test and value his basketball IQ, skill level, elite college success and genes.

    On paper, he's been spectacular in every offensive facet of the half-court game (1.15 PPP, 98th percentile), ranking in the 90th percentile or better in pick-and-roll ball-handling, spot-ups, isolation, post-ups and off screens.

    He's shot 50.5 percent off the catch and 44.8 percent off the dribble, and despite lacking athleticism—the big knock that suggests his game may not translate—he's converted 63.8 percent of his shots at the rim, far better than Graham (43.3 percent), Trae Young (49.6 percent), Collin Sexton (47.2 percent), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (57.4 percent) or Trevon Duval (48.5 percent). 

    Could Brunson make it work the way Jameer Nelson and Andre Miller did? Teams may now be enticed to find out.

1. Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    NBA draft projection: Top 10, 2018

    Mikal Bridges' breakout season extends to the Final Four, where he can lock up his spot as a top-10 pick.

    He had a rare off game against Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, finishing without a three-pointer for only the fourth time all season. Otherwise, his body of work for the year paints the picture of an efficient, two-way NBA wing. And in the pros, even the non-All-Star shooters who defend positions 2-4 (Otto Porter, Robert Covington) can hold significant value. 

    He still needs work as a scorer off the bounce. Bridges has only made two of nine runners and 18 of 51 dribble jumpers on the season.

    But he's shot 43.6 percent behind the arc and 58.8 percent inside it. Bridges has improved on the ball with improv scoring and speciality moves. And he's a bigger threat as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, generating 1.00 PPP (93rd percentile) on those possessions, up from .72 PPP (53rd percentile) a year ago.

    A versatile, disciplined defender, he should see time on Kansas' Malik Newman and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk on Saturday night.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.


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