2018 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions, Breaking Down Prospects on the Rise

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 13, 2018

Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22) shoots as Davidson guard Kellan Grady (31) defends during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

The majority of NBA draft prospects in the one-and-done era have been under the microscope of professional franchises since their high school days. 

While the top players in the 2018 draft pool fit into that category, there are some potential first-round selections who have worked hard to put their names in the conversation for the top 30 picks.

These rising prospects thrived throughout the collegiate season, and they come in different packages, as unheralded freshmen and experienced upperclassmen alike caught the attention of scouts.

Below is a look at three players who will continue to rise up draft boards as June 21 approaches.

                

2018 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft

1. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic, SG, Slovenia

3. Dallas Mavericks: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF. Michigan State

4. Atlanta Hawks: Michael Porter Jr., SF, Missouri

5. Orlando Magic: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke

6. Chicago Bulls: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

7. Sacramento Kings: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn): Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

9. New York Knicks: Wendell Carter, PF/C, Duke

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

11. Charlotte Hornets: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

12. Los Angeles Clippers (via Detroit): Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

13. Los Angeles Clippers: Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

14. Denver Nuggets: Khyri Thomas, PG/SG, Creighton

15. Washington Wizards: Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky

16. Phoenix Suns (via Milwaukee): Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

17. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): Dzanan Musa, SG, Bosnia and Herzegovina

18. San Antonio Spurs: Mitchell Robinson, C, United States

19. Atlanta Hawks (via Minnesota): Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

20. Indiana Pacers: Troy Brown, SG, Oregon

21. Utah Jazz: Gary Trent Jr., SG, Duke

22. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Oklahoma City): Jontay Porter, PF, Missouri

23. Chicago Bulls (via New Orleans): Anfernee Simons, SG, Unattached

24. Portland Trailblazers: Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU

25. Los Angeles Lakers (via Cleveland): Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Caleb Martin, SG/SF, Nevada

27. Boston Celtics: Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

28. Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati

29. Brooklyn Nets (via Toronto): Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

30. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Chimezie Metu, C, USC

              

Prospects On the Rise

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Unlike past one-and-done players at Kentucky, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander didn't enter the collegiate level with a ton of hype.

As the Wildcats discovered their identity throughout the season, Gilgeous-Alexander stepped up as a scoring complement to Kevin Knox.

Kentucky's late-season surge corresponded with Gilgeous-Alexander's evolution into the second key scorer behind Knox, as he recorded a double-digit point total in each of his final 10 games.

Without the help of the Kentucky staff, Gilgeous-Alexander wouldn't be considered as a potential lottery pick, as ESPN's Jeff Goodman noted:

The point guard developed his distribution as well, as he produced six games with seven assists or more after February 20.

Although he still has room to grow, Gilgeous-Alexander is a much better prospect than he was a year ago, and he is going to immediately help out whichever team drafts him.

                

Jalen Brunson

Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson is far from a lottery selection, but he is going to be a terrific value pick at the back end of the first round.

Brunson, who graduated in three years and recently declared for the draft, put together an impeccable resume while at Villanova, as CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein pointed out:

The task at hand for the son of former NBA player Rick Brunson is to prove he belongs on the professional stage.

Brunson isn't going to be a superstar like DeAndre Ayton or Luka Doncic, but he could serve as a vital asset to a championship contender.

Given his experience and performances in clutch situations, the teams in the bottom third of the first round should salivate at the prospect of stealing Brunson that late.

The 6'3" guard is as versatile as the come. He is a top distributor, can knock down shots from beyond the arc and challenge players in the paint with a post-up game few guards have.

Backing up a star guard, such as the Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving or the Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry, would be the ideal situation for Brunson at the start of his professional career. However, he could develop into the main playmaker, just like he did over the course of his three years at Villanova.

               

Caleb Martin

Nevada junior Caleb Martin thrust himself into the spotlight during the NCAA men's basketball tournament, as he helped the Wolf Pack reach the Sweet 16.

Throughout the season, Martin proved he is a reliable scorer, as he missed double digits just three times.

Martin is an intriguing prospect because of his shooting touch, as he knocked down 40.3 percent of his three-point shots, an improvement of four percentage points from his sophomore season at NC State.

While another year at Nevada may further improve his draft stock, Martin has a chance to be chosen in the late first round thanks to his exploits in March.

David Goldman/Associated Press

Just like Brunson, Martin progressed throughout his collegiate career and shone during his team's NCAA men's basketball tournament run.

The 6'7" Martin can do a little bit of everything, as he averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game, all of which were career highs.

If his progression continues, Martin would be a solid addition to a playoff team at the back end of the first round that has the potential to develop into a starter a few years down the line.

                

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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