- As the NCAA tournament tips off, The Crossover's Front Office provides its latest first-round projections for the 2018 NBA draft. Which prospects have the most to gain during March Madness?
With March Madness underway, Front Offices are canvassing the country and setting their eyes on the draft as the NBA season draws to a close. Although the tournament is a small, unique sample size, it’s always a sort of proving ground for talent—and post-season play is often the first time a lot of high-level execs lay eyes on certain players. Although the concept of 'draft stock' is mostly a function of who’s playing well and what rumors are swirling, every year there are players who leave a strong impression in the NCAA tourney and end up earning a better draft slot because of it. We know who the elite players are, but this is far from a finished picture.
Some key dates to remember from here, as the season wraps up and players begin to make their pro intentions known: underclassmen have until April 22 to declare for the draft, with the lottery set for May 15 and the combine from May 16–20. College players will then have until May 30 to withdraw. The draft itself is June 21—which is exactly 99 days from now. The actual first-round picture is more confusing than usual, as there’s still a ton of uncertainty in the standings. A pair of good Western Conference teams are going to miss the playoffs, and bad teams continue to reverse jockey toward favorable lottery odds. The end of the season promises to be chaotic and consequential, even when the basketball gets bad.
As always, the mock draft serves to project what the big picture looks fine within the confines of a given day’s scenario, whereas our Big Board serves as the Front Office’s own assessment of talent. Below, you’ll find all 30 picks allotted in current reverse standings order, with tiebreakers done at random.
1. Grizzlies: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last: 1
Stats: 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.6% FG
Losers of 18 straight games and counting, the Grizzlies are barreling at full speed toward highly favorable draft odds. The franchise is at a bit of a crossroads, with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still dangerous when healthy, and the latter presently unsettled. Ayton is a physical marvel and the best prospect in the draft, and he just made a statement with two jaw-dropping games to finish off the Pac-12 tournament. In theory, Memphis could play him next to Gasol next season and deploy a high-low centric attack. His defense needs work, but is far from a deal-breaker. Playing alongside elite passers for the first time should unlock even more of Ayton’s potential, and with his fast-developing offensive skills, the sky is the limit.
2. Suns: Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Last: 2
Stats: 15.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.4 APG (24.7 MPG)
The Suns are in dire need of both a lead ball-handler and a center, and Doncic is a nice fit alongside Devin Booker on the perimeter and a more NBA-ready choice than any of the bigs available here. Doncic is currently dealing with a thigh injury in Spain, but his talent is no secret and he’d be able to take over a large chunk of the offense right away. His greatest strength is his on-court intelligence, and while he may not evolve into a dominant scorer, Doncic could be the glue necessary to bring together the Suns’ young pieces. Playing off of Booker, who will happily shoulder more of the shots, helps lessen the pressure and allows him to do what he does best: make reads and make teammates better.
3. Hawks: Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Fr.
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 7
Stats: 11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocks
The Hawks aren’t tied down to much of anything on their roster beyond John Collins, and are in search of a foundational player. Jackson Jr.’s ability to space the floor and protect the rim makes for an ideal fit, and would give them a great interior duo. He’s really helped himself over the course of the season, flashing a greater offensive skill level than expected and making a tangible defensive impact, able to guard in space and provide weak-side help. His 5.7 blocks per-40 minutes are a wild statistic. Jackson needs to mature physically and mentally and is probably a few years away from being able to anchor a winning team, but Atlanta has time to let him grow. He’s probably not leapfrogging Ayton or Doncic, but the No. 3 spot is within reach.
4. Magic: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Fr.
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 3
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 10.4 RPB, 3.7 BPG
Expect the Magic to lean toward long-term upside and projection wherever they select. There’s no question that Bamba has insane defensive potential with his length and mobility. His 7’9” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach are true rarities, and given his overall aptitude, he’s a good bet to become a legitimate menace as he develops. Bamba’s offense is a riskier bet, but he may only need to be a DeAndre Jordan-type lob threat to be immensely valuable. He has shown potential shooting jumpers and is more skilled than he’s been able to show at Texas. The chief concerns from NBA teams center on Bamba’s motor and how badly he wants to compete. He’s been banged up with a toe injury, but the NCAA tournament gives him a nice platform to show he’s locked in.
5. Kings: Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 4
Stats: 21.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 60.5% FG
Although the Kings have a number of bigs on the roster, it shouldn’t preclude them from selecting the best player available. At this point in the draft, it’s Bagley. The current limitations of his game have been evident, but his athleticism, offensive potential and high-energy rebounding still give him a good amount of upside. His defensive struggles have led Duke to play a lot of zone, and his interior play can be predictable, but at some point there’s no sense looking past his insane production. Bagley’s best NBA position is probably going to be power forward, but he will need to keep improving as a jump shooter to maximize his talent. He’s still a very good prospect, and deserves some patience.
6. Cavaliers*: Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Fr.
(Note: Cleveland owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 19 | Last: 8
Stats: 13.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG
Whether or not LeBron leaves, Carter’s blend of offensive skill and rim protection gives the Cavs a desirable piece to build around. He has solidified himself as a Top 10 pick among scouts with an impressively consistent freshman year, despite a sometimes-awkward fit next to Marvin Bagley. His game has no major weakness beyond a lack of quick vertical lift, and he should be able to extend his shooting range to the perimeter, where his passing ability and feel will stand out even more. He’s a terrific rebounder and has a good sense of defensive positioning, as well. Carter is a safe bet to have a long, useful career, and there’s a sense that on a different college team, his talent would pop even more.
7. Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 5
Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG (2016 U18 FIBA Americas)
After hitting on Dennis Smith last year, Dallas will be well-positioned to complement him here. Gambling on Porter’s health and scoring ability could be a meaningful risk/reward move. He returned to game action last week in a surprise return from early-season back surgery, and while he didn’t look especially mobile, it’s difficult to properly assess his long-term situation until teams get their hands on his medicals. His size, shooting ability and polished offensive game should keep him pretty safely among the draft’s early selections, but there have always been questions about his ability to make others better as well as his defensive fit. NBA teams will be watching him closely in the NCAA tournament.
8. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova | Jr.
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 10
Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43% 3FG
A defensive-minded wing like Bridges is a perfect fit with Chicago’s young pieces, and with his wealth of college experience, he should be able to help right away. He’s viewed as a safe pick, with his crude-but-improving ability to create his own shot the biggest knock on his game. His ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions makes him an easy theoretical fit in any lineup. If Villanova makes a deep tournament run, he can help himself further.
9. Knicks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Fr.
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 6
Stats: 27.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, 36.1% 3FG
The Knicks have been experimenting with Frank Ntilikina playing at the two, and Young could be a nice fit alongside him. Though his star has dimmed a bit with his late-season struggles, he’s still a fascinating talent and in the right situation could pace a team with his shooting and playmaking. In New York he can take on a shot-creation role while also spacing the floor, and play to his strengths with less strenuous usage. The pressure, however, would be immense.
10. Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Fr.
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 9
Stats: 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 35.4% 3FG
Until Charlotte hires a new GM, it’s tough to really chart their draft course, but a malleable talent like Knox, who’s still learning the game, would be a useful building block for the long run. He had an up-and-down season, but his scoring touch, three-point shooting potential and physical tools give you a lot to work with. Knox may not be a star, but he’s far from a defined product and should be able to play both forward spots.
11. Clippers*: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama | Fr.
(Note: Los Angeles owns Detroit’s top-four protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 13
Stats: 19.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 34.4% 3FG
A pair of big games in the SEC tournament has given Sexton’s reputation a late-season jolt, and while Trae Young’s season has dovetailed, his case to be the first guard drafted has gotten stronger. They’re very different players: Sexton is a gifted downhill scorer who is tough to stop at the college level when he’s locked in, and despite just 28 steals in 924 minutes this season, has the ability to become an useful defender when he wants to be. There is some concern about the selfish nature of his game and whether he makes teammates better. The Clippers have a glut of ball-handlers to make decisions on, but at this point in the draft, Sexton would be the best piece available.
12. 76ers*: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | So.
(Note: Philadelphia owns the Lakers’ first-round pick unless it falls between Nos. 2–5, in which case it conveys to Boston.)
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 12
Stats: 16.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 36.9% 3FG
Identifying prospects who can thrive playing off of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is an interesting task, and while Bridges’ game is a bit of a weird fit in general, Philly would be a potentially ideal destination. His ability to sprint the floor and knock down set shots makes him a great fit alongside Simmons, and the Sixers have been unafraid to trot out tall, weird combinations. The big question is whether Bridges will embrace the likely glue-guy role an NBA team will ask of him. If he steps up his defensive effort, and remains a consistent shooter, he’s so athletic that it can work.
13. Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 18
Stats: 13.9 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG
Denver could use a well-rounded playmaker to enable Jamal Murray to spend more time running off screens. Gilgeous-Alexander has become Kentucky’s best player and potentially its best prospect, emerging as a dark horse to be the best long-term point guard in this crop if he lands in a good situation. He was fantastic during the Wildcats’ SEC tournament run and is pushing the envelope for late-lottery consideration. He’s a crafty finisher and improving shooter, and his size, length and instincts are all appealing.
14. Jazz: Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami | Fr.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 11
Stats: 11.5 PPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG
The Jazz are building around Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles and could address a few different needs in this range. Walker could be a good fit next to Mitchell as he improves his jump shot and learns to play off the ball. They’d have a hyper-athletic young backcourt. Walker is a talented but inexperienced slasher who has substantial upside, but a long way to go. He can bully his way to the basket and elevate for difficult finishes, but doesn’t have a great feel for picking his spots or finding teammates. He needs to become more consistent and commit further to playing defense.
15. Suns*: Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Fr.
(Note: Phoenix owns Miami’s top-seven protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last: 19
Stats: 11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG
A powerful dunker off two feet with good timing as a shot-blocker, Gafford played himself into the first round picture this season and would be a nice fit here, as Phoenix has a need for a rim protector. Gafford runs the floor hard and finishes lobs well, and his lack of developed offensive skills are less of an issue given the passers they could put around him (with Doncic in the fold in this scenario). He’s a work in progress but comes with definite upside.
16. Suns*: Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Fr.
(Note: Phoenix owns Milwaukee’s first-round pick if it falls from 11–16.)
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 15
Stats: 11.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG
If the Bucks’ first-rounder ends up conveying, as it does in this scenario, Phoenix will likely draft three times in the first 20 selections. Brown has the talent and athletic ability to be a useful utility-style wing, able to handle the ball, find open teammates and also defend multiple positions. He disappointed as a three-point shooter this season, and will have to display improvement in workouts. His ability and feel for creating his own shot has wavered, and he can drift in and out of games, but Brown’s well-rounded game puts him firmly in the middle of the first round.
17. 76ers: Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State| Sr.
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 16
Stats: 19.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG
Hutchison had a prolific season at Boise State and won’t have to handle that heavy an offensive load in the NBA. He’s got a good build, rebounds and passes well and could potentially even spend time as a small-ball four. The question is how well he’ll shoot from deep (35.2% this season). Hutchison isn’t a creative scorer, but he’s a good cutter without the ball and should offer a level of role versatility. He would make Philly’s lineups even more versatile and athletic.
18. Spurs: Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M | So.
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 14
Stats: 10.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG
San Antonio could miss the playoffs and is stumbling toward the mid first-round, where they should be able to find some useful talent. Williams is a gifted athlete who plays above the rim with little effort, and when he’s playing hard, he’s a load for opponents on the glass and as a finisher. The issue is that he’s never done it consistently, which teams view as a risk factor. The team fit wasn’t ideal at Texas A&M, but he didn’t do much for himself by returning to school and remains in the late lottery mix at this stage. In the right role, he could be a terrific contributor. The Spurs’ winning culture could bring the best out of him, and his upside here is more than worth it.
19. Clippers: Dzanan Musa, SF, KK Cedevita
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 17
Stats: 12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 48% FG (22.1 MPG)
Musa provides some shooting and slashing ability and is a legit perimeter threat at 6’9”. As one of the younger players available, he’s put together a good résumé overseas. He’s extremely skilled offensively and known as an intense competitor, and scouts say he is highly motivated to make the NBA. The Clippers need talent on the wing and need to get younger, and he checks both boxes.
20. Wizards: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Jr.
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A
Stats: 20.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 43% 3FG
Finding useful backcourt depth behind John Wall and Bradley Beal has been a bit of a challenge for the Wizards, and they should end up in a good draft range to address that need. Holiday’s stock skyrocketed this season as he set himself apart from other veteran college point guards with his precise distance shooting, poise and ability to use high ball screens. His issues getting downhill off the dribble likely cap his upside, but he’s tough, defends and adds scoring punch. He had a bit of a meltdown at the end of a First Four loss to St. Bonaventure.
21. Lakers*: Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (LA) HS
(Note: Los Angeles owns Cleveland’s top-three protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 22
Stats: 25.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 BPG (2016–17 HS stats)
The Lakers have cleared the deck to pursue top free agents this summer, and acquiring this pick from the Cavs at the deadline was somewhat of a coup. They can angle for a future contributor in this spot, and will be in need of frontcourt help given the likelihood of Brook Lopez’s departure. Once Robinson gets into team workouts we’ll have a much better read on his situation, but he’s highly athletic and physically jumps off the page with a 7’3” wingspan. There have been questions about his feel for the game in the past, and taking a season off didn’t help. His draft range is wide, but his tools are clearly first-round caliber based on projectability.
22. Bulls*: Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri | Fr.
(Note: Chicago owns New Orleans’s top-five protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 26
Stats: 10.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 37% 3FG
The Bulls are set to pick twice in the first round after acquiring this pick from the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic deal. While Porter doesn’t jump off the page as an athlete, he’s an outstanding, skilled player who’s exceeded all expectations after reclassifying to play at Missouri. He‘ll likely be the youngest player in this draft, and his ability to space the floor, pass the ball, rebound and block shots is extremely appealing. As he matures physically, he could be an ideal fit next to Lauri Markkanen.
23. Hawks*: Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Sr.
(Note: Atlanta owns Minnesota’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: 20
Stats: 15.3 PPG, 41.4% 3FG (2017 UnderArmour Association)
Teams will have additional opportunities to evaluate Simons in April as he’s set to appear in the Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic before presumably testing the draft waters. He’s got a lot of intriguing traits, with high-level explosiveness, great foot speed and developing three-point range. Simons may not be a true point guard, but should be able to handle some level of ball-handling duties in time.He’s full of potential as a scorer, but untested and a long-term project. The Hawks can afford to let it play out.
24. Timberwolves*: Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton | Jr.
(Note: Minnesota owns Oklahoma City’s lottery-protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 27
Stats: 15.3 PPG, 41.9% 3FG, 1.7 SPG
Thomas has been solid for Creighton and emerged as one of the better on-ball defenders in college basketball, while also hitting threes at a strong clip. He’s athletic but not a creative scorer, which limits his overall upside. He can focus on his strengths in Minnesota, where he could be a useful glue guy and floor-spacer next to the Wolves’ wealth of high-end talent. He’s a good fit for Tom Thibodeau.
25. Pacers: Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College | Jr.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A
Stats: 20.4 PPG, 3.4 APG, 41.9% 3FG
There’s a sense around the league that Robinson has played his way into the late first round: he was the ACC’s top scoring guard, creates well off the dribble and can put the ball in the basket from all three levels. He plays with a unique change of speeds off the bounce, and solidified himself as a legitimate prospect with a breakout year. His intangibles and ability to play on and off the ball are appealing. The Pacers still need a lead ball-handler long term, and Robinson would look good taking turns with Victor Oladipo.
26. Trail Blazers: Bruce Brown, G, Miami | So.
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 21
Stats: 11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.0 APG
It was a lost season for Brown, who continues to recover from foot surgery and likely won’t play in the NCAA tournament. He hasn’t made the requisite type of strides you’d like to see from a 21-year-old sophomore, regressing as a shooter (26.7% from deep) and profiling more as a combo guard than a point. Still, his gritty defense and athleticism are strong points. The Blazers could use a defensive-minded guard to add to their rotation, and Brown’s size and athleticism are still intriguing from an NBA perspective.
27. Celtics: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Fr.
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A
Stats: 10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Scouts at the Big Ten tournament were enamored with Fernando’s tools (he’s ready to compete physically and has a 7’4” wingspan), and while it’s unclear if he’s coming out this year, he’ll have a chance to go in the late first round. Unusually mobile and strong and with a higher skill level than he displayed this season, the Angola native will be in good position if he tests the waters (his per-40 averages are eye-popping). Physical two-way rim-runners are in demand, and with Aron Baynes set to be a free agent, the Celtics could find a replacement on the cheap here.
28. Nets*: Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona | So.
(Note: Brooklyn owns Toronto’s lottery-protected 2018 first-round pick.)
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 24
Stats: 13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 36.7% 3FG
A key part of Arizona’s Final Four hopes, Alkins has scoring upside thanks to his strong build and explosive leaping ability. He plays hard and a bit bigger than his size, and shoots the ball well from outside, though he can be streaky. An early-season foot injury led to a bit of a stunted start to the season, but Alkins drew late first-round interest in last year’s class and will have a chance to solidify his status in workouts. The Nets could use a tough wing player like him to complement their ball-dominant guards.
29. Warriors: Shake Milton, G, SMU | Jr.
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 23
Stats: 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 43.4% 3FG
The Warriors might be priced out of retaining Pat McCaw in restricted free agency, and this is a spot where they should be able to bolster their backourt. Milton’s size, shooting and playmaking ability make a lot of sense with their scheme, and he’d look much better in a situation where he’s not forced to carry an offense. He could be the eventual replacement for Shaun Livingston here. Milton missed the second half of the season with a hand injury, but should be on course to return for pre-draft workouts.
30. Hawks*: Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Sr.
(Note: Atlanta owns Houston’s top-three protected first-round pick.)
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 23 | Last: N/A
Stats: 17.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, 41.2% 3FG
The Hawks will pick three times in the first round and can really replenish their talent with a good draft. Graham is viewed as a safe bet to be a useful ball-handler, though not a star. His production was consistent at Kansas, although he shot just 39.2% on two-point shots and struggles to finish at the rim sometimes. As Atlanta rebuilds (and with Dennis Schröder’s future unclear), adding a steadying presence to the backcourt makes sense.