The NCAA men's tournament is an important time for the NBA scouts looking at players who are likely to have a future career in pro basketball.
The basic scouting work about draft-eligible players was done during the regular season, and offseason workouts will help them get an even better idea about a player's skill level, athletic potential and ability to understand the pro game.
But the tournament is a valuable scouting tool because players are performing under the brightest spotlight in games that mean the most. Those performances may not translate to the NBA playoffs, but scouts learn which players will step up or shrink under the most difficult circumstances.
In this piece we offer a mock draft and a deeper look at the best prospects who are playing for teams in the NCAA men's tournament.
NBA Mock Draft
1. New York, Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
2. Phoenix, Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. Cleveland, Rui Hachimura, SF-PF, Gonzaga
4. Chicago, R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke
5. Atlanta, DeAndre Hunter, SF-PF, Virginia
6. Atlanta, Coby White, PG-SG, North Carolina
7. Memphis, Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
8. Washington, Keldon Johnson, SG-SF, Kentucky
9. New Orleans, Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
10. Charlotte, Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
11. Orlando, Cameron Reddish, SG-SF, Duke
12. L.A. Lakers, Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
13. Minnesota, KZ Okpala, SG-SF, Stanford
14. Boston, Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
15. Miami, Nickeil Alexander, SG, Viriginia Tech
16. Detroit, Daniel Gafford, PF-C, Arkansas
17. Brooklyn, Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
18. Boston, Bol Bol, C, Oregon
19. Utah, Naz Reid, C, LSU
20. San Antonio, Sekou Doumbouya, SF-PF, France
21. Boston, Jaxson Hayes, PF-C, Texas
22. Portland, Goga Bitadze, C, Republic of Georgia
23. Cleveland, Ty Jerome, PG, Virginia
24. Oklahoma City, Kris Wilkes, SF, UClA
25. Indiana, Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
26. Philadelphia, Chuma Okeke, SF-PF, Auburn
27. Brooklyn, Jordan Nwora, SF-PF, Louisville
28. Golden State, Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State
29. San Antonio, Eric Paschall, SF-PF, Villanova
30. Milwaukee, Ashton Hagans, PG, Kentucky
Key Player Profiles
Zion Williamson, Duke
Zion Williamson is the most anticipated prospect in years because the 6'6", 280-pound power forward has an unstoppable characteristic to his game, as well as incredible skill and the ability to dominate any game when he is healthy.
He has been compared to Charles Barkley and Blake Griffin by NBAdraft.net, and while Williamson is a freshman who didn't even play a full season, that comparison may be underselling his attributes. He is an overwhelming competitor who has a rare leaping ability, especially from such a thick-bodied and strong man.
There are few players who can match what he can do in the transition game, and while his best asset may be his ability to finish, he demonstrated in the ACC title game the ability to make a sensational bounce pass with his left hand to a teammate who was able to finish the break.
Ja Morant, Murray State
The 6'3", 175-pound point guard has excellent athletic ability and playmaking skills that should translate to the next level. Bleacher Report NBA draft expert Jonathan Wasserman says Ja Morant has "A-plus explosiveness, passing skill and vision point to elite playmaking potential."
Morant is averaging 24.6 points and 10.0 assists per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.
R.J. Barrett, Duke
R.J. Barrett has also been a dynamic player in his freshman year, and if not for Williamson's presence, he would be Duke's most talked-about player. The 6'6", 210-pound shooting guard has been compared to Michael Redd by NBAdraft.net, and he has the kind of versatility that will allow him to succeed at the next level.
He can play shooting guard, point guard or small forward, and he has the ability to score against any defense. Barrett is averaging 23.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils, and while he clearly benefits from playing with Williamson there is no doubt about the talent he brings to the game.
Cameron Reddish, Duke
Shooting guard-cum-small forward Cameron Reddish is another member of Duke's overwhelming freshman class. Reddish has a quick first step that allows him to get away the defender, and while he has plenty of explosiveness, he also has the finesse game that should work out well at the next level.
Reddish has been compared to Rudy Gay by NBAdraft.net, and he is averaging 13.8 points per game for the Blue Devils. He has to work on his shooting since he is connecting on just 35.6 percent of his shots, but he has excellent defensive skills, and the 6'7", 215-pound star has the kind of physical skills that should translate to the next level.
Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
Jarrett Culver, a 6'6", 195-pound shooting guard, has shown that he has the skills to be a go-to scorer. He is averaging a team-high 18.5 points per game for the Red Raiders, and he has been connecting on 48.5 percent off his shots from the field.
Culver can come up with his share of rebounds and is averaging 6.3 boards per game. Wasserman pointed out that with a bit of improvement, Culver could make it as 2-guard.
"Improvement as a ball-screen facilitator (3.7 assists per game overall) could ultimately help tip the scale toward Culver, a well-rounded, two-way 2-guard," Wasserman wrote.