The 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament is here, giving NBA draft prospects a big opportunity to improve their standing with scouts and executives.
March Madness shouldn't erase what we know about these players, but we also shouldn't dismiss the impact of big-time performances against top competition on a major stage. If not for past Big Dance breakouts from Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker, maybe those players don't wind up cracking the top 10 in their respective drafts.
NCAA tournament performances matter, so after laying out our latest first-round mock, we'll look at three players who could vault themselves up draft boards over the next three weeks.
2019 NBA Mock Draft
1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
2. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Barrett, SG, Duke
4. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, PG, North Carolina
5. Atlanta Hawks: De'Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Virginia
6. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks): Bol Bol, C, Oregon
7. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
8. Washington Wizards: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
9. New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
10. Los Angeles Lakers: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
11. Charlotte Hornets: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
12. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
13. Orlando Magic: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings): Brandon Clarke, C, Gonzaga
15. Miami Heat: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
16. Brooklyn Nets: Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky
17. Detroit Pistons: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
19. San Antonio Spurs: Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
20. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France
21. Utah Jazz: PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky
22. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Roby, PF, Nebraska
23. Indiana Pacers: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington
24. Portland Trail Blazers: Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston Rockets): Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia
26. Philadelphia 76ers: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver Nuggets): Chuma Okeke, PF, Auburn
28. Golden State Warriors: Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors): Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
Are we positive Culver isn't the second-best prospect in this class? If so, will we still feel that way if he carries the third-seeded Red Raiders through the West Regional and into the Final Four?
He already looks the part of an elite wing prospect, with length, athleticism and an Association-ready 6'5", 195-pound frame. Moreover, he does so much for Texas Tech that if this team makes a deep run, his fingerprints will be all over it.
"Culver brings a lot to the table for Chris Beard, giving Texas Tech both the best defensive rebounding...of any starter and the highest assist rate on the entire roster," ESPN.com's John Gasaway wrote. "Plus, the sophomore is, of course, the main source of scoring."
While Culver's numbers are up nearly across the board, the one area he has regressed in is three-point shooting. Last season, he hit 38.2 percent of his triples; this year, he's down to 32.3. Rediscovering that form on a stage like this might be the missing piece that pushes Culver into the top three.
Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
It isn't often you'll find a junior whose best NBA attribute is upside, but that's more or less the case with Hachimura.
Sure, the athletic forward has made obvious strides in his third season with the Bulldogs, nearly doubling his scoring output (20.1 points per game, up from 11.6) and bumping his conversion rates from the field (60.9) and three (46.9). But consistency continues to elude him at the defensive end, and there's never been much volume with his perimeter shooting.
Some clubs will look beyond those question marks and see an instant-impact rookie with tons of physical tools, mismatch-creating quickness and soft touch around the basket. Those teams probably don't need to see much more from Hachimura.
For the skeptics, though, all eyes will be on Hachimura, giving him the opportunity to perhaps jump into the top half of the lottery if everything breaks right. With his top-seeded Gonzaga squad poised to stick around a while, he'll have plenty of chances to do the things scouts still want to see and would elevate his stock if they do.
Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
While the word unique probably applies to every pro prospect, it feels especially appropriate for Horton-Tucker.
He carries 234 pounds on his 6'4" frame, and he isn't particularly long or athletic. He's also a streaky shooter, and nothing about his 41.0/31.4/62.5 slash line suggests that's going away soon.
On the other hand, he boasts a deep array of dribble moves and has the ability to create shots for himself and his teammates. He's still putting everything together—oh by the way, he doesn't turn 19 until November—but he's erupted as a scorer, shooter, rebounder and playmaker at different times.
For the sixth-seeded Cyclones—16th overall on KenPom.com—to escape the first weekend, they'll need Horton-Tucker to be at his most efficient and consistent. If he does that, he could have plenty of helium on mock draft boards.