Pre- NCAA Tournament Lottery Mock Draft

Today is the first day of the NCAA Tournament, technically, and also the first day of the NIT tournament, where some top prospects are playing in. The NCAA Tournament can drastically change mock drafts and the actual draft selections. Here’s my mock draft, likely to be my only one of March. Expect major changes in the next mock, as someone on the bubble of the first round may jump near the lottery.

Standings are per Tankathon.com as of 3/13:

1) Memphis Grizzlies: DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona.

While the Grizzlies still have Marc Gasol until 2020, they need talent desperately regardless of position. This will give the Grizzlies a cornerstone to build with after moving on from Gasol.

2) Phoenix Suns: Luka Doncic, Wing, INTL.

The Suns are another team that needs talent at nearly every position. Devin Booker has improved his playmaking this season, but the Suns need another playmaker and scorer on the roster. Adding Doncic will set up for a nice future, as Doncic, Booker, and Elfrid Payton can all create for themselves. Doncic could potentially take Elfrid Payton out of the picture if the Suns wanted to make Doncic or Booker full time point guard.

3) Orlando Magic: Michael Porter Jr, F, Missouri.

The Magic are in a tough spot here, since it’s the first pick after the two elite players are off the board, and they also don’t get to fill their need at point guard in this pick. Porter still adds much needed shooting to the Magic roster though, and should be a capable contributor from day one.

4) Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke.

While there are concerns about Bagley’s fit in the modern NBA, Bagley’s talent is impossible to pass up on at #4. Bagley would thrive with Dennis Schroder, but may overlap with John Collins. If Bagley’s jump shot can improve, the combination of Collins and Bagley could be a top front court pairing.

5) Sacramento Kings: Jaren Jackson Jr.

While Skal Labissiere and Willie Caulie-Stein have emerged as rotation pieces since the departure of Demarcus Cousins last year, neither have proved themselves to be cornerstones. Adding Jaren Jackson with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield makes for a promising defensive identity in Sacramento, and his shooting and finishing with both hands will make him an immediate impact player from day one.

6) Cleveland Cavaliers: Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova.

No, this has almost nothing to do with Lebron James’ potential departure (or could it?). Bridges is arguably the top talent on the board at this point, and his floor of being a great 3&D player with room to fill in the rest of his game is highly attractive to a team that needs someone both for the future and that can contribute now. As I’ve noted before, Bridges is best as a spot up shooter, and that would likely be his role in Cleveland.

7) Dallas Mavericks: Wendell Carter, C/PF, Duke.

With Bamba on the board, this would cause quite a split among Mavs fans. Carter addresses the drought of a dominant rebounder and interior presence. Carter also poses as a threat with his growing jump shot. His versatility is key for the Mavericks, and it’s likely that the Mavericks trust Carter’s offense more than Bamba’s, given that his passing overall offensive skill are ahead of Bamba’s offensive skillset.

8) Chicago Bulls: Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas.

The Bulls need a long-term interior defender to put next to Lauri Markkanen, and Bamba can be just that.

9) New York Knicks: Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama.

Sexton had a strong run in the conference tournament to push Alabama into the big dance, averaging 26 PPG, 3 APG, and 5 RPG on 54% shooting, with a 58% 3P% and 90.5% from the line. His high motor and competitiveness will be welcomed by all Knicks fans, and he is a strong defender. Assuming Emmanuel Mudiay, who hasn’t posted much production since being traded, is not considered a long term piece, then Sexton and Ntilikina should be a great backcourt pairing.

10) Charlotte Hornets: Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky.

Knox is a great scorer, especially as a shooter, and also shows potential to be a two-way player if he polishes his defensive inconsistencies. Knox would fit well with Charlotte both in the short term and long term, as he can potentially make other forwards on the roster more flexible in trades.

11) LA Clippers: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma.

If Trae Young continues struggling like he has in his recent games, expect Young to continue sliding down in mocks. I have had Young below Sexton most of the year. I believe the Clippers are one of his best fits in the draft. At Oklahoma he has very little shooting surrounding him, but with the Clippers, he should be able to make plays for teammates pretty easily. With a potential max contract slot for the summer, he could be playing for a playoff team right away. Young would thrive coming off the bench at first, which would likely mean backing up Patrick Beverley to start the season.

12) Philadelphia 76ers: Troy Brown, SF, Oregon.

Brown plays on Tuesday night in the NIT opener vs Rider, but struggled mightily in the PAC 12 tournament. While the NIT may not impact his stock much, strong play to close the season would benefit him. Brown is a jack of all trades player, but lacks a great first step and needs to improve his shooting. He is a great secondary ball handler, but reaching his ceiling relies on his shooting success.

13) San Antonio Spurs: Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State.

Bridges is a high IQ player that has made significant improvements in shooting and shot creation this season. If the Spurs’ rare lottery position holds, Bridges would be a great value pick at 13 and a great fit for the Spurs.

14) Denver Nuggets: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky.

Gilgeous-Alexander has had a strong second half of the season, and he also played well in the SEC Tournament, averaging 21 PPG, 6.7 APG, and 5 RPG on 55/40/81 splits. The Nuggets need a point guard, and while Gilgeous-Alexander’s jump shot may be a concern, he can get to the basket at ease and play solid defense.

Again, this is all based on entering the NCAA Tournament. Lots of things will change from now and the draft, so this should be taken pretty lightly. Here are a few players I could see emerging into the lottery range, should their teams play well in the tournament:

  • Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton (vs Kansas State, potentially vs Virginia in the round of 32)
  • Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova (vs play in winner and vs winner of Virginia Tech/Alabama)
  • Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M (vs Providence, potentially vs North Carolina in the round of 32)
  • Dan Gafford, C, Arkansas (vs Butler, potentially vs Purdue in the round of 32)
  • Zhaire Smith, Wing, Texas A&M (vs Stephen F Austin)

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