How are top prospects looking as March Madness begins?
The NCAA Tournament starts today and prospects are looking to raise their draft stock on the biggest stage. Top prospects have already emerged from outstanding seasons, while some other preseason top prospects have fallen even out of the first round due to abysmal seasons. I am surprised at how efficient this college basketball season has been, considering the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing. Very few games have been postponed or canceled in comparison to how many games have been played by NCAAB teams. After Cade Cunningham’s outstanding Big 12 Tournament play, he has locked up his spot as being the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Cunningham has completely changed the dynamic of a team that wasn’t supposed to be great. In fact, no one expected Oklahoma State even with Cunningham to be a #4 seed in the NCAA tournament and beat 22-2 Baylor in the Big-12 Semi-Finals.
Evan Mobley has USC poised for a postseason run as he has shown why he is easily the best defender in the draft and why he is so closely compared to a young Anthony Davis. Jalen Suggs has already shown how good he is, helping lead Gonzaga to a 26-0 record and the overall #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Suggs will try to cap off an unreal Freshman campaign with Gonzaga’s first NCAA championship. Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga are pretty much locked up to round out the top 5 in the upcoming NBA draft, but a great postseason from Scottie Barnes(Florida State), Moses Moody(Arkansas), and James Bouknight(UCONN) could possibly change that. Either way, NBA prospects are ready to increase their draft stock as this is poised to be one of the best NCAA tournaments in recent memory, although it may just be hyped up since there was no March Madness last year.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cade Cunningham, 6-8 Freshman PG, Oklahoma State
After Cunningham’s Big 12 tournament showing and what he is about to do in the NCAA tourney has already solidified him as the #1 overall pick. Cunningham not only has elite scoring, size, playmaking, and rebounding for his position, but he has shown the intangibles he has by singlehandedly leading this Oklahoma State team to prominence. The 6-8 PG has drawn comparisons to Ben Simmons, Luka Doncic, and LeBron James already, and it is much deserved since Cunningham will enter the NBA averaging at least 20 PPG, 5 APG, and 5 RPG. He’s just that good and whoever ends up with the #1 pick will get their franchise-changing player.
2. Detroit Pistons: Evan Mobley, 7-0 Freshman C, USC
Evan Mobley in one season at USC averaged 16.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 3 BPG, continuously showing that he is one of the most promising NBA prospects in recent memory. His length, size, elite defense, and ability to spread the floor on offense has drawn comparisons to Anthony Davis. He is easily the best interior defender in the country, not just the Pac 12, similar to Anthony Davis in his lone season at Kentucky. They play very similar and Anthony Davis is the only other Freshman in NCAA history to win a power conference’s “Player of the Year”, “Defensive Player of the Year”, and “Freshman Of the Year” awards. Mobley would be the #1 overall pick in almost any other draft, and there is a serious argument that Mobley has the highest upside in one of the most stacked draft classes of all time. Whoever gets Mobley at #2 overall will be ecstatic. Mobley will enter the league as a game-changing defender and once his offensive game fully develops in the NBA, he will be a perennial NBA All-Star. You can book it.
3. Houston Rockets: Jalen Suggs, 6-5 PG, Gonzaga
The Rockets better fall into the top 4 of the draft lottery, otherwise, they give up their pick to Oklahoma City from the Rusell Westbrook trade a couple of years back. If they get the 3rd overall pick, team need does not play a factor in drafting here. They will draft the most talented player at this position in the draft, and that will be Jalen Suggs. He has helped lead Gonzaga to 26-0 entering the tournament. Again, in last year’s draft Jalen Suggs would have been picked #1 overall. That is no offense to Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball, but this draft class is just that good. Suggs’ playmaking is unbelievable as he can make plays that very few Freshmen have ever been able to make. He is also extremely athletic and can score at will. Suggs also has one of the highest basketball IQ’s in this draft. His mix of elite playmaking, scoring, and defensive skills will give him a good shot to be a perennial NBA All-Star. In fact, Jalen Suggs is poised to become an NBA superstar if he continues to improve at this rapid rate.
4. Orlando Magic: Jalen Green, 6-6 SG 18 years old, G League Ignite
Jalen Green is one of the best scoring prospects in recent memory. Whenever a team needs a bucket, Green can go and get it, anytime he wants. Green is also one of the most athletic players in the draft. His mix of athleticism and scoring has drawn comparisons to Kobe Bryant, Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell, and Paul George. Green has the opportunity to be a very special player, and there is an argument that if he went to college instead of the NBA G League, he could have very well been the #1 overall pick. Whoever gets Green at #4 will get an athletic scorer with a tremendous amount of upside.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga, 6-7 SF 18 years old, G League Ignite
Kuminga is simply a really good basketball player. He is arguably the most athletic player in the draft and is also one of the best defenders in the draft. He has great size and length for a Small Forward at 6-7 with a 7-foot wingspan. Kuminga had an incredible G League season averaging 15.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 1 SPG in his lone season for Ignite. He has a natural ability to get to the rim and score at will. His defense looks to translate immediately to the NBA as well. Kuminga is very young and is still working on his playmaking and offensive consistency, but all of the tools are there, and Kuminga has one of the highest upsides in the draft.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Scottie Barnes, 6-9 SG/SF Freshman, Florida State
Barnes is the next big name to come out of Lenoard Hamilton’s elite Florida State program. Barnes has elite size and strength for a G/F at 6-9 227 pounds. He also has a 7-2 wingspan which already allows him to play elite defense. Barnes is a gifted playmaker and is also super athletic. His statistics at Florida State don’t say much(11 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.3 APG), but Florida State is such a balanced team with depth, no one is averaging over 15 PPG. Barnes is expected to go anywhere between #6 and #13, but I think he will break out in the NCAA tournament, help lead Florida State to the Final Four, and raise his draft stock to the 6th overall pick.
7. Sacramento Kings: Moses Moody, 6-6 SG Freshman, Arkansas
I had Moody at #11 in my original mock draft, but Moody has continued to wow people with his athleticism, scoring, and defense, resulting in him jumping up the draft board. He has helped lead this Arkansas team to a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament and scouts are in awe of Moody’s rapid rate of improvement throughout this college season. Moody is hitting shots whenever he wants, creating for his teammates when he is doubled, and is playing lockdown defense on whoever he guards. Moody is poised for a great NCAA tournament showing which will solidify his spot being drafted in the top 10.
8. Washington Wizards: James Bouknight, 6-5 SG Sophomore, UCONN
Bouknight has wowed scouts this season with his 19.7 PPG, 1.2 SPG, and 5.7 RPG. He has shown his elite defense, scoring, and athleticism, all of which will transfer to the NBA in time. He was injured for a bit, but Bouknight has reminded scouts of how good he is during recent games. A solid showing in the NCAA tournament will help Bouknight get drafted in the top 10.
9. Memphis Grizzlies: Keon Johnson, 6-5 SG Freshman, Tennesee
Johnson is a big-time playmaker and an elite defender who has drawn comparisons to Issac Okoro from last season. He entered the year barely ranking in the top 30 of the ESPN recruiting rankings but has shown a tremendous ability to defend and create for his teammates. His stats(11.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 2.5 APG) are not indicative of how he impacts this #5 seeded Tennesee team. He does all of the little things that don’t show up in the box score. He has already vastly improved his playmaking and defense at the college level, and this rapid improvement shows signs of tremendous upside in Johnson, who will improve his shooting at the next level as well. Whoever drafts Johnson is getting an elite defender and a valuable playmaker who is athletic, quick and has tremendous upside to improve the rest of his game.
10. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Johnson, 6-9 SF Freshman, Duke
Johnson got a lot of criticism for dropping out of Duke midseason to prepare for the NBA Draft. That should not affect his draft spot that much. Realistically, Johnson should be a top 6 pick, but because of all of the controversy about him not being a “team guy” and “quitting”, while also not having the best season at Duke, has made him fall a little bit in the rankings. With Johnson’s elite playmaking ability, tremendous athleticism, and scoring ability, all at 6-9 220 pounds, he should not fall out of the top 10. He’s too good to fall out of the top 10, even if he is getting a bad reputation for bailing on his team. He didn’t have many talented teammates at Duke this year, resulting in Johnson passing and creating for guys that couldn’t hit shots, and missing his own shots because he was so heavily guarded since the other guys couldn’t knock down shots. He is much better than his statistics allude to.
11. New Orleans Pelicans: Ziaire Williams, 6-8 SF Freshman, Stanford
Williams did not have the best year, only averaging 10.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.2 APG in his lone season at Stanford. Even in a down season, Williams showed his elite defense and athleticism, which points to him being a lottery pick regardless of the year he had. Williams is one of the most talented guys in the draft and definitely has one of the highest upsides. Any team getting Williams at #11 will be lucky, because even though it may take time, Williams has the talent to become a very special player in the NBA.
12. Chicago Bulls: Sharife Cooper, 6-1 PG Freshman, Auburn
Cooper is a gifted scorer who reminds a lot of scouts of Collin Sexton or Donovan Mitchell. He is only 6-1, but can take over a game whenever he wants with his ability to score. He has a Damian Lillard-type mindset on offense and his extraordinary scoring abilities should transfer over to the NBA almost immediately. His playmaking is truly fantastic as well as Cooper averaged 8.1 APG in his only season at Auburn. His ability to score and pass at a high level has also drawn comparisons to Trae Young. Does Cooper need to work on his defense? Absolutely, but his ability to score and create at a high level won’t let Cooper fall out of the lottery
13. Indiana Pacers: Corey Kispert, 6-7 SF Senior, Gonzaga
Kispert has had a remarkable year at Gonzaga averaging 19.2 PPG while hitting 45 percent of his 3PT shots. I personally would not draft Kispert 13th since I don’t see his upside, but some teams right inside of the lottery will see his high floor similar to that of Joe Harris and make the selection here. Kispert will be a knockdown 3PT shooter and a solid defender at the NBA level. He will not be much more though. If he knocks down a ton of shots in the tournament, he may even move up a couple of spots in the draft.
14. Golden State Warriors: Franz Wagner 6-9 SF Sophomore, Michigan
Wagner is 6-9 and can pass and score at a very high level. Assuming the Warriors stay in the 9th spot and are the final team in the lottery, they will look to add depth and a prospect who fits right into their system like Wagner. Corey Kispert is another guy the Warriors will look at if available, but Wagner is young, has time to improve his all-around game, and has already shown the ability to pass and score at a high level. Wagner needs a good tournament showing to make sure he is drafted in the lottery.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Greg Brown, 6-10 PF Freshman, Texas
Brown is one of the most athletic players in the draft. He is also one of the best defenders. His offensive game is getting better as well. If a team is drafting Brown they are drafting an extremely athletic big who can defend at a high level. They are also drafting a prospect who has one of the highest upsides in the draft and can turn into an NBA star. Getting Brown at #15 is a steal, but a good NCAA tournament could result in Brown going higher.
16. New York Knicks: Jason Preston, 6-5 PG, Ohio
Preston has a fantastic story. Once a walk-on after having no scholarship offers, Preston has become the best player on an NCAA tournament team that will probably upset #4 seed Virginia this weekend. He has put up triple-double type numbers(16.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 7.2 APG), and is one of the fastest risers in this upcoming draft. A strong tournament showing which is almost inevitable for Preston will result in him being a solid first-rounder and maybe even a lottery pick. Preston truly is a special talent and continues to improve at an extraordinary rate. Any team that drafts Preston will get lucky as he is a truly gifted offensive player.
17. New York Knicks via Dallas Mavericks: Josh Christopher, 6-5 SG Freshman, Arizona State
Josh Christopher’s Arizona State team didn’t do well at all. Many expected a team that talented to at least make the NCAA tournament, but they didn’t even get to .500. They finished 11-14 and Christopher ended up averaging 14.3 PPG on 43.2 percent from the field. 14.3 PPG isn’t bad, but as one of the best scorers in the country, Christopher should have averaged more points than that. Either way, Christopher is still a gifted scorer who is very athletic. He has tons of upside on the offensive end and should put it all together eventually. Question marks surround his one season at ASU, but that shouldn’t result in him falling out of the top 20.
18. Charlotte Hornets: B.J. Boston, 6-6 Freshman, Kentucky
Once thought of as a potential top 3 overall pick, Boston and the Kentucky Wildcats had a season to forget. Boston only averaged 11.5 PPG on 35 percent from the floor, which is pretty awful. However, Boston still has one of the most fluid jump shots in the draft. He is tall and long at 6-6 with a 6-11 wingspan, allowing him to play some solid defense and accumulate a lot of steals and blocks. Boston is also extremely athletic and has one of the highest upsides in the draft. It is all about finding his shooting stroke with Boston. He has it in him as he was a lights-out shooter in high school. Once Boston fixes his shot, he will have the opportunity to be an NBA Star as his game emulates Brandon Ingram a lot.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Kai Jones, 6-10 PF/C Sophomore, Texas
Jones is a premier shot-blocking defender who is also very athletic. His offensive game needs a ton of work, but he has proven to be an elite defender this season at Texas. A good showing in the NCAA tournament could make him jump up a couple of spots in the draft. Either way, if Jones is able to develop an offensive game at the NBA level, he will become a very good NBA player.
20. Boston Celtics: Jaden Springer, 6-5 PG/SG Freshman, Tennesee
Springer is a very athletic combo guard who can do a lot of things very well, but none great. He can score, pass, rebound, and defend at a decent level. He is very young and has a ton of upside, but he will have to improve every part of his game drastically to stay in the NBA. It is possible, but as of right now Springer projects to be a scoring threat who plays some solid defense at the NBA level. This is a very respectable pick at 20th overall.
21. Portland Trailblazers: Ayo Dosunmu, 6-5 SG Junior, Illinois
Dosunmu has had a tremendous season at Illinois averaging 20.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 5.3 APG. He has completely dominated teams in the Big Ten this season, going on rampages against really solid defenses. Dosunmu has lead Illinois to a #1 seed in the tournament and a Big Ten title so far, and a strong showing in the tournament should help Dosunmu jump up higher in the draft rankings. He really is an astounding all-around player who is NBA-ready.
22. Denver Nuggets: Chris Duarte, 6-6 SG Senior, Oregon
Duarte can score at will and has helped lead Oregon to an impressive 20-8 record entering the NCAA tournament. Duarte is averaging a very efficient 16.7 PPG on 52 percent from the floor. Durate is a spark plug and when he gets hot from the floor, Oregon can beat anyone. The ability to score will translate immediately to the NBA. Duarte is also a naturally gifted on-ball defender as he has averaged 2 SPG this season at Oregon. His defense will also transfer to the NBA immediately. Like other stars in the tournament, a strong showing should help make Duarte’s case as a first-rounder and even a lottery pick.
23. Miami Heat: Isaiah Jackson, 6-10 PF Freshman, Kentucky
Jackson has been the bright spot on this year’s Kentucky Wildcats team. Everyone expected Terrance Clarke, B.J. Boston, and Devin Askew to make noise and all be first-round draft picks, but it’s been Jackson that has been consistent and is rising up the draft rankings. Jackson averaged 2.6 BPG and 6.6 RPG as a Freshman at Kentucky this year. He is a premier shot-blocker who has the athleticism and strength to turn into a really good scorer at the NBA level as well with further development. This will be a great draft pick at #23, assuming he doesn’t rise after the combine.
24. Los Angeles Clippers: Day’Ron Sharpe, 6-11 C Freshman, North Carolina
Sharpe has already proven to be a good all-around player, averaging 9.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1 BPG in his Freshman year at UNC. He has also shown extreme athleticism with his high-flying dunks throughout the season. He is very fast for a 6-11 Center who is 270 pounds and should be able to defend the 4 and the 5 at the NBA level. Sharpe is really a promising prospect with much room to grow.
25. Milwaukee Bucks: Usman Garuba, 6-10 PF 18 years old, Real Madrid Spain
Garuba is a really talented international product who has a long wingspan at 7-3, which has already made him a very good defender. His defense will translate to the NBA immediately, but the rest of his game will take time. His interior scoring and playmaking are respectable for his size, but his shooting needs a ton of work, even if as he’s already able to knock down the 3 ball pretty consistently. He has a knack for rebounding and shot-blocking already. Garuba is a lock for the first round and could even slide into the lottery as he has loads of potential.
26. Phoenix Suns: Jared Butler, 6-3 PG/SG Junior, Baylor
Butler has already shown everyone why he is one of the best college basketball players in the country. His ability to lead a team, score at will, and create to get others open is paralleled by few in the NCAA this year. He and Davion Mitchell have propelled Baylor to a 22-2 record with a great shot at winning it all. Butler’s defense is also improving tremendously, and while his upside is questioned by many scouts, his floor is there and at worst Butler will be a high-end rotation player that can give you solid defense, scoring, and playmaking. Phoenix will be right in the midst of the playoffs next season as well, and getting a guy for depth that they can count on like Butler seems like the correct move.
27. Utah Jazz: Davion Mitchell, 6-2 PG/SG Junior, Baylor
Mitchell and Butler have been the dynamic duo that has helped this team get to 22-2 and have a good shot at winning it all. Mitchell has averaged 14.1 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 2 SPG proving that he is an elite on-ball defender and a threat to score and create on the offensive end. He has one of the highest floors in the draft and because of that, a contending team will take him late in the first round.
28. Philadelphia 76er’s: Cameron Thomas, 6-5 SG Freshman, LSU
As a Freshman at LSU Thomas averaged a whopping 22.6 PPG. Thomas can flat-out score, and he is also very athletic and a good defender. A team like Philadelphia, who is trying to improve its shooting and scoring/defense, will be inclined to take Thomas in the late first round. He will instantly score at will and play solid defense at the NBA level. Whether he will improve the rest of his game remains to be seen.
29. New Orleans Pelicans via Los Angeles Lakers: Daishen Nix, 6-5 PG 19 years old, G League Ignite
Nix was committed to UCLA before opting into joining Team Ignite in the NBA G League. He probably should have attended UCLA as he would have been their best player and he would have had the opportunity to show his talent in the NCAA tournament. He did not have a great season in the G League only averaging 8.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 5.3 APG in 27 MPG. He could have scored more and shot better from the floor, but any team that drafts Nix knows that he can pass, rebound, and defend at a high level for the PG position. His scoring will get better as he improves, but the Pelicans would get depth and a player with tons of upside at the PG position with this pick.
30. Brooklyn Nets: Roko Prkacin, 6-9 PF 18 Years old, Cibona Croatia
Prkacin is one of the most promising international prospects in this year’s draft. Prkacin’s ability to create on offense and defend multiple positions on defense should allow scouts to look past his lack of athleticism. He is a good shot-blocker, and he can score and create on the offensive end at 6-9. He should not fall out of the first round, but you never know. Anything could happen.