The college basketball season is over for all but the last four teams left standing. While Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago get ready for San Antonio, top players across the country will start preparing for the NBA draft.
Some big names are already officially entered their name in June’s draft, with Trae Young, Mohamed Bamba and Michael Porter Jr. among them. There has already been one projected first rounder to decide he’s going back to school. That would be Arkansas freshman center Daniel Gafford, who we had at No. 21 in our last update.
It was not a great tournament for some of the draft’s top prospects. Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Young, Porter and Bamba were among the prospects eliminated on opening weekend. That should only make this draft more intriguing — it will be about talent and fit more than narrative.
As the Final Four arrives, here’s what the NBA’s draft picture looks like.
1. Phoenix Suns - Luka Doncic, G, Slovenia
We’ve had Doncic at No. 1 since our very first 2018 mock draft in late June. Deandre Ayton looked to be gaining ground late into the college season, but Arizona’s first round exit to Buffalo exposed some of his defensive question marks.
Doncic remains this draft’s most complete prospect from a skill perspective. He’s big (6’8, 230 pounds), versatile on both ends and special sense for passing.
Doncic is not an elite athlete. Critics will question his ability to adjust to the speed of the NBA game. His value is often below the surface, stuffing the boxscore but still doing so many little things that don’t necessarily show up there. This was evident during Slovenia’s upset run to the EuroBasket championship and has consistently shown up during his Real Madrid career.
2. Memphis Grizzlies - Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
Arizona’s loss to Buffalo was especially frustrating for Ayton. Buffalo was not scared to attack him in the paint when it had the ball. When Arizona was on offense, the Bulls packed the lane and forced Ayton to make plays through multiple defenders. It was a long night for him, finishing with only 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
Of course, you can’t judge an NBA prospect off one game, especially when teammate Allonzo Trier was still looking for his own shot rather than feeding his big man. Ayton remains the type of prospect that should be nothing less than a multi-time NBA All-Star thanks to his elite size and athleticism for a center, with a skill set that is developing at a rapid rate.
Ayton is huge (7’1, 250 pounds) and agile even by elite NBA standards. He’s able to score from a variety of angles when he gets the ball in close and has a developing pick-and-pop game. The word “freak” fits here in the best possible way.
There are big questions about Ayton’s defensive instincts. It will be fascinating how much value teams place on that come draft day.
3. Atlanta Hawks - Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State
Jackson only played 16 minutes in Michigan State’s second round loss to Syracuse, an inexcusable coaching decision by Tom Izzo that cost the Spartans their season.
Jackson is very much a 3-and-D center that fits in wonderfully in the modern NBA. He has quick feet, a 7’4 wingspan, and the intrinsic gift of timing when it comes to shot blocking. His block rate of 14.6 is No. 5 in the country — ahead of even Mohamed Bamba.
Offensively, Jackson’s value will be tied to if he can continue to hit three-pointers. He’s knocked down 38 threes this year at a 39.6-percent rate, giving him an edge on Ayton, Bagley, and Mohamed Bamba as a perimeter shooter.
He’s also coordinated enough to finish around the rim with either hand. For a player only averaging 11.3 points per game, there’s a lot to like about Jackson.
4. Dallas Mavericks - Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke
Bagley is so skilled at scoring around the basket. He was unstoppable with one-on-one coverage all year, using a variety of tricks to average 20 points per game in his true freshman season for Duke.
The question is whether he blocks enough shots to be a center or has the type of perimeter game the modern four now demands.
A bet on Bagley comes with the idea that he’s just scratching the surface of his skill level. He’s shooting 36 percent from three-point range on 50 attempts this season, but he’s only a 62-percent free-throw shooter. You can see the outline of a playmaking big man who can attack off the dribble for himself and others, but his feel and handle are still developing.
Finding the right team will be as important with Bagley as any prospect. Bagley is not a shot blocker and he doesn’t have strong defensive instincts right now. He needs a defensive anchor next to him, ideally one who can also stretch the floor.
5. Orlando Magic - Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
Bamba isn’t a finished product, but there’s so much to like about his potential. His appeal starts with his historic length — his 7’9 wingspan will be the longest in the NBA from the moment he enters the league. He’s already a skilled shot blocker, swatting shots on 13.3 percent of opponent possessions, the No. 7 mark in the country. Think of Bamba’s current fit like Rudy Gobert’s in Utah.
Bamba’s offensive upside relies largely on his jump shot. He’s knocked down 13 threes this season, but at just a 26.5 percent clip. Still, he’s a confident shooter with solid form who should be able to make stride as he matures. Initially, he’ll provide his largest offensive value as a lob target and screen setter, but if he can put it all together, he’ll be something special.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers - Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri
Porter missed his entire freshman season after back surgery, but made his return for Mizzou in the SEC tournament, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-17 shooting from the floor in a loss to Georgia. His second and final game saw him post a 16-point, 10-rebounds double-double, but results in a first-round NCAA Tournament exit. Before the injury, Porter was considered a possible No. 1 overall pick. Now he’s at least a bit of a gamble.
Porter became arguably the top incoming recruit in college basketball because he’s an athletic 6’10 combo forward who can score inside, in the mid-range, and beyond the arc. In a draft loaded with big men but light on wings, he fills a positional need for almost every team at the top of the order.
The injury is definitely a concern. How Porter checks out medically will ultimately determine if he goes higher or lower than this.
7. Sacramento Kings - Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Bridges isn’t a go-to scorer or playmaker, and that limits his ceiling. He’s not someone who is going to initiate offense or create scoring opportunities off the dribble late in the shot clock. Bridges sticks to what he knows, and that’s playing great perimeter defense and hitting three-pointers.
But in today’s NBA, a good three-and-D wing is incredibly valuable. That’s worth a top-10 pick.
Bridges is one of college basketball’s elite defenders, leveraging his 7’1 wingspan to get into passing lanes and smother smaller ball handlers. He’s also grown into a knockdown three-point shooter after four years of college basketball, hitting 42 percent of his triples this season.
8. Chicago Bulls - Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke
There’s a lot that Wendell Carter does well. At 6’10 and 260 pounds with a 7’3 wingspan, he’s a monster rebounder who ranks in the top 100 of both offensive and defensive rebound rate nationally. He’s can score with his back to the basket or with a face-up jumper. He’s been shockingly good from three-point range, canning 50 percent of the 38 threes he’s attempted. He’s also a solid post defender who uses his length to block 2.2 shots per game.
The issue with Carter is he isn’t a great defender in space. If he can figure that out as he gets older, he could be an Al Horford-type on the next level.
9. New York Knicks - Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Sexton is the polar opposite of the other top point guard prospect, Trae Young. He’s bigger, stronger, and more athletic, a downhill point guard who thrives getting to the rim and to the free-throw line. Sexton drew 7.6 fouls per 40 minutes, good for seventh-best in the country. He’s also a tough defender thanks to a relentlessly competitive mindset.
Sexton just isn’t the shooter or passer Young is. He hit only 30.6 percent of his threes and averaged 3.6 assists per game, compared to 8.8 for Young. The good news is that he shot 78 percent from the foul line, which is a pretty good percentage. His shot isn’t broken. If his jumper comes around, he could become similar to Kyle Lowry.
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Ah, yes, Trae Young. The man who went from the best story in college basketball to the sport’s most polarizing player in the span of a few weeks.
Young was a golden boy for the first half of the season, drawing Steph Curry comparisons with unlimited shooting range and dazzling passing ability. Oklahoma — a team that won 11 games a year ago — suddenly found itself ranked in the top five.
Then the second half of the year happened. Young’s efficiency tanked, his turnovers spiraled out of control, and suddenly his deep threes weren’t falling as regularly. The Sooners lost eight of their last 10 and almost missed the NCAA tournament completely.
It’s important to recognize the reality of Young’s situation. Oklahoma didn’t have another NBA prospect on the roster, or anyone who could create their own shot. Young carried an immense burden all season. The cost of that was losing some efficiency. He’s still a great shooter and passer who should be even better with real talent around him.
His defense ... well, let’s not talk about his defense. It’s what pushes back college basketball’s best scorer to No. 10 in the draft.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
A 6’6 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan, Gilgeous-Alexander has gone from one of Kentucky’s least heralded recruits to its best two-way player. SGA can get into the teeth of the defense and use his length to finish inside. He’s also a skilled passer, averaging five assists per game. Shooting is the question mark, but he’s hitting 40 percent of his threes (and 80 percent of his free throws) on a low volume this season.
12. Los Angeles Clippers - Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
Williams is a 6’10, 240-pound big man who projects as a quality shot blocker and lob target thanks to his 7’4 wingspan and elite leaping ability. His numbers have stagnated as a sophomore after a surprising decision to return to school despite being projected as a lottery pick in last season’s draft. He also hasn’t been in an ideal scenario, logging lots of minutes at power forward next to a throwback center in Tyler Davis.
A role similar to Clint Capela’s — a screen setter and rim runner surrounded by shooters — seems like the best way to unlock his potential.
13. Los Angeles Clippers - Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
Bridges is a monster athlete with good shooting touch who plays a premium position as a wing. He can be deadly as a cutter on the baseline or a lob target, thanks to his effortless ability to finish above the rim. He’s also a solid shooter — hitting 37.8 percent of his threes across two college seasons on over five attempts per game.
The frustrating thing about Bridges is he appears too willing to settle for a jumper. A player as strong and athletic as he is should be able to get to the rim off the bounce. Maybe it will happen as he grows in the league and his ball-handling ability improves.
14. Denver Nuggets - Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia
Musa is a lanky wing who has put up big scoring numbers playing as a pro in Europe since he was 17 years old. He’s a confident shooter from three-point range who can get hot in a hurry, and he’s also shown some slashing ability. Defense is the big question mark.
15. Phoenix Suns - Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
Knox is a 6’9 combo forward who has developed into Kentucky’s most reliable scorer as a freshman. He’s a solid spot-up shooter (35 percent from three) who can also get a look from mid-range off the dribble. When his jumper is falling, he looks fantastic.
Knox does need to grow on the defensive end to reach his potential. He has the tools to be an impact defender who can switch screens and guard multiple positions, but that hasn’t showed up in his lowly block and steals numbers yet.
16. Phoenix Suns - Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
Smith is projected as the No. 16 pick in the 2019 draft by ESPN right now, which means slotting him in here is breaking from the consensus quite a bit. Three reasons I think it’s possible:
- This part of the draft feels totally unstable right now.
- There’s a dearth of wings available.
- Smith is a monster athlete who is all over the floor whenever you watch Texas Tech.
Smith was barely a top-200 recruit out of high school, but he’s made a name for himself quickly because of his energetic presence on both ends of the floor. Smith’s most immediate impact will come on defense, where the 6’5 guard has elite athleticism, a lockdown mindset, and the ability to force turnovers. Offensively, he’ll get baskets around the rim just based on his athleticism. He’s also been a 40 percent three-point shooter, albeit on low volume.
17. Washington Wizards - Mitchell Robinson, C
Robinson should have been at Western Kentucky this season, but a series of bizarre occurrences left him training for the draft all year instead. He was a McDonald’s All-American out of high school as an ultra athletic 7-footer who profiles in a shot blocker/lob target role similar to the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert. His offensive skill set remains unrefined.
18. Atlanta Hawks - Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
Michael Porter’s brother is considered a 2019 draft prospect for now, but his skill set as a shot blocker (top-100 nationally in block rate) and three-point shooter (38 percent from deep) could make him appealing to teams in the pre-draft process. He hasn’t been consistent this season and he’s still working on improving his body, so another year in school might not be the worst idea.
Also: our Mizzou man Bill Connelly told me he reminds him of Sam Perkins.
19. Utah Jazz - Troy Brown, G, Oregon
Brown is a 6’7 wing with a well-rounded game. Considered a point guard for most of his prep career, Brown is a heady passer and productive defender thanks in large part to his 6’11 wingspan. He’s not an above-the-rim athlete or a knockdown shooter (30 percent from three) yet.
20. Chicago Bulls - Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy
Simons will enter the draft after doing a grad year at IMG Academy. ESPN had him as a top-five pick in the 2019 draft originally, which means he could provide big upside to a patient team at the bottom half of the first round.
Simons is 6’3 and rail thin, but he has great bounce and the ability to hit shots off the dribble. A year or two in the G-League would do him a lot of good.
21. San Antonio Spurs - Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
Thomas is one of college basketball’s most ferocious perimeter defenders thanks to a lockdown mindset and 6’10 wingspan that makes him play bigger than he actually is at 6’3. Thomas has also developed into a 42 percent three-point shooter this year. He knows what he’s good at and does it well.
22. Indiana Pacers - Chandler Hutchinson, F, Boise State
Hutchinson is the first senior off the board as a 6’7 slashing wing who made major strides as a shooter over his four years in school. He’s a 36.5 percent three-point marksman over the last two years, which has opened up the rest of his game. He averaged 19.5 points per game for Boise this season.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves - Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
Walker tore his meniscus in the preseason and took a while to work himself into shape. It’s part of the reason his numbers on the season are relatively underwhelming at 11.6 points per game on just 42 percent shooting from the field. His talent has never been in question, and lately that’s shining through more and more.
Walker entered the ACC tournament hitting multiple three pointers in his last five games. He has a short, compact stroke that should translate to the NBA line. He’s also capable of some creative finishes driving to the basket, which should only increase as he gets more comfortable playing on the ball.
24. Philadelphia 76ers - Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA
Holiday is a tough, defensive-minded point guard who has grown into a 20 points per game scorer and 45 percent three-point shooter this season. His brothers, Jrue and Justin, carved out quality NBA careers, and Aaron should, too.
25. Los Angeles Lakers - DeAndre Hunter, SF, Virginia
Hunter had been a breakout star for Virginia as a redshirt freshman, morphing into ACC Sixth Man of the Year and an emerging NBA prospect — if not this year, then next. He was ruled out for the tournament shortly before Virginia lost in historic fashion to No. 16 UMBC.
The 6’7 wing has a compact shooting stroke (37 percent from three), a developing comfort level with the ball and plus athleticism. It’s not easy to find a long, skilled wing at this point in the first round.
26. Portland Trail Blazers - Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan
Wagner is Michigan’s stretch center who can score from anywhere and secure boards. The junior is the Wolverines leading scorer at 14 per game, but most impressively is how well he’s shooting the ball from deep for the second consecutive season. At 40 percent from three, he lures defenders out of the paint, and that may be his best quality.
Whether he’s quick enough to adjust to the NBA pace, or big enough at 6’10, 210 pounds, to defend NBA bigs.
27. Boston Celtics - Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
Bates-Diop blew up this season, averaging 19 points per game and garnering All-American acclaim for Ohio State as a junior. He’s a 6’7 wing who can guard multiple positions and score in a pinch. He hit 35 percent of his threes this season, and ability to hit spot-up jumpers will likely make or break his pro career.
28. Brooklyn Nets - Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
Alkins is a strong 6’5, 220-pound shooting guard who thrives getting to the rim. He’s also turned into a 38 percent three-point shooter this season.
29. Golden State Warriors - Jacob Evans, SG, Cincinnati
Evans is a 6’6 shooting guard who profiles as a 3-and-D wing player. He’s hit over 40 percent from three-point range the last two years, and has been a critical cog in Cincy’s No. 2-overall defense in the country.
30. Atlanta Hawks - Grayson Allen, SG, Duke
Allen’s one of the most polarizing players maybe ever, but there’s no denying how talented a shooter he is. He scores well off the dribble, off the catch, and he’s been doing it against elite ACC opponents for years.
You’ll hate drafting him, but learn to accept him one three-pointer at a time.