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With the NCAA tournament coming up, NBA scouts will be watching and searching for the best prospects for this year’s upcoming draft. This draft class is loaded with talent and there are a few possibilities for who could be the number one pick. The Big Dance is where stars are born and the best prospects can help lead their team to a title. Here is a list of the top 3 NBA prospects in each region and my scouting report for each player. As a bonus, I will also throw in how their tournament performance could affect the player’s draft stock.
DeAndre Ayton | Arizona
DeAndre Ayton is considered by many people to be the number one pick in this year’s NBA draft. He is 7’1, 260 pounds, with an almost 7’6 wingspan. His athleticism, explosiveness, and pure physical dominance at the college level have set him apart from other prospects in this class. Although he has some question marks surrounding his motor and needs to improve on defense, his potential is so high teams would be willing to take him no matter what. If he continues to play well into the tournament and helps Arizona make a deep run, I think that could help solidify him as the number one pick. I don’t see anyone stopping Ayton but if he somehow plays horrible it may drop him to 3 at the worst.
Mohamed Bamba | Texas
Mohamed Bamba has been called the “unicorn” of this year’s draft and rightfully so. Not only is he a 7-foot bigman, he has a wingspan of 7’9 which will be the longest in the NBA (surpassing Rudy Gobert by 0.5″). This length has made him one of the premier shot blockers in college basketball as he is rejecting 3.7 shots per game. His offensive game is not as polished but he can catch lobs, score out of the pick n roll, and get putbacks. Texas is one of the most likely teams to pull an upset in the first round and if Bamba shows what he is capable of on defense in addition to scoring, this could be a huge boost to his draft stock. Bamba is the type of player that would be drafted off of potential so I don’t see his tournament play hurting him too much if he struggles.
Kevin Knox | Kentucky
Knox is a combo forward that has all the physical tools to be a solid player in the NBA. He has good size at 6’9 with a 6’11 wingspan. He has a nice 3 point shot and can score the ball as he is averaging 15.6 points per game in his freshman season with the Wildcats. His offensive game does need work as he has trouble creating for himself and others. He also needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball and has room for improvement as a rebounder. Knox has the most to gain with tournament play. Being outshined recently by his point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Knox playing great at the tournament could only help his draft stock and could even move him up a few spots. He is currently projected as the 10th pick in the draft. If he stays in the shadows of Shai for the next few games, he may drop a few spots to land just behind his point guard on the draft board. I don’t see him falling out of the lottery.
Michael Porter Jr. | Missouri
Before this season, MPJ was possibly going to be the first pick in this year’s draft but, after suffering from a back injury that almost put him out for the whole season, he has slipped out of the top 5 in recent mock drafts. At 6’10 with a 7’0 wingspan, he has great size, length, and athleticism for a combo forward. Because of his injury, this NCAA tournament is huge for his draft stock. He has barely played any minutes at the college level so having a few good games could improve his stock and help push him back into the top 5. Showing that he can bounce back from injury is something that many teams will look at when considering drafting him. These next few games will define his college career and will affect his future in the NBA. No pressure.
Robert Williams | Texas A&M
Williams was considered to be a high pick in last year’s draft but opted to return back to school and, this year, he is still being considered a first-round pick. He is 6’9 with a long winspan of 7’4. His mix of athleticism, size, and length could be an asset to any team in the league. He is a great defender and rim protector as he is a former SEC Defensive Player of the Year and this year is averaging 2.5 blocks per game. He isn’t a huge scorer but his athleticism allows him to catch lobs, get putbacks, and dunk over any defender. I don’t see the tournament affecting his draft stock much because the combine is where he will really be able to showcase his athleticism. Although showing up and playing great never hurts and can always bump a player up a few spots.
Keita Bates-Diop | Ohio State
Bates-Diop made a huge jump this year in production from his junior season. He went from averaging 9.7 points last year to 19.4 this year which really helped him improve his NBA stock and gain some recognition. He was awarded the Big 10 Player of the Year award and also made All-Big 10 First Team honors. His potential in the NBA is pretty unclear right now as many people don’t know what kind of player he will be in the league. He’s a versatile scorer as he can shoot it from 3, attack off the dribble, or post up down low. He’s an impressive defender and a good shot blocker for his size. He’s a great all-around player but not elite at any one skill which leaves him to be picked up late in the first round. Leading the Buckeyes to a deep postseason run could really help his draft stock and move him up a few spots to a middle of the first round pick.
Collin Sexton | Alabama
Collin Sexton is one of my favorite college players this year. This kid is tough and is not afraid to take the big shot. He’s a great athlete and can score the ball with the best of them. His attitude towards the game makes him a fearless competitor that any team should want. He can be turnover prone and does take questionable shots at times but that will get better as he develops a higher IQ. If the Tide get past their first-round matchup, they will be matched up (most likely) with Villanova so we get a great point guard matchup with Sexton vs. Brunson. If Sexton catches fire in the tournament that could push him to be a top 10 pick as NBA teams are always looking for elite scoring guards.
Mikal Bridges | Villanova
Mikal Bridges is the best two way player in all of college basketball. He is 6’7 with a wingspan of 7’1 which helps him on defense defending multiple positions. He’s the safe bet to go with if you’re wanting to draft a player that will have a long career. It’s always a positive when a player is drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard which is exactly what Bridges has done. He’s an efficient scorer (43% from 3) that can lock down his matchup on the defensive end. With Villianova getting the 1 seed, they have a pretty good chance at making a deep run in the tournament. Bridges will have a chance to showcase his two-way talents on the big stage, show his star potential, and solidify himself as a top 10 pick.
Daniel Gafford | Arkansas
Gafford is a 6’11 forward with a 7’2 wingspan who will dunk on anything that moves. His athleticism makes him one of the top big-man prospects of this draft. Although he can’t create his own offense or shoot, if you throw him the ball on a lob, cut, or PnR situation it’s an automatic dunk. He excels at finishing around the basket and is also a good shot blocker. Any team that needs a strong roll man or rim protector should consider drafting Gafford. The combine is where he will be able to showcase his athleticism and physical gifts so I don’t think his play at the tournament will affect his draft stock a whole lot.
Marvin Bagley | Duke
Bagley is another player that has a good chance of being the number one pick this year. He is a 6’11 forward with a 7’0 wingspan. Bagley has been producing all year for the Blue Devils putting up 21.1 points and 11.5 rebounds on 60% from the field. His talent is impossible to deny and he can put up a double-double with ease every game. He has a nice post game, can finish at the rim off drives, and has an outside shot that improved throughout the season. In a conference full of talent, Bagley was named the ACC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. No denying his dominance in college basketball this year and as Duke prepares to make a deep run into the tournament, Bagley will be at the center of it all. Duke has a good shot at winning the championship this year and if Bagley can help propel them to a title, it could definitely help his case come draft time. Bagley won’t fall out of the top 3 as his sheer talent alone is enough for any team heavily consider drafting him.
Jaren Jackson Jr. | Michigan State
Despite playing only 22 minutes per game this season, Jackson has been a big contributor to Michigan State. He has been an outstanding freshman this year and was even named Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. His defense and outside shooting is what makes him such a desirable prospect in this upcoming draft. He has a few habits he needs to correct and he is often in foul trouble but that comes with his youth and inexperience. His ability to stretch the floor, which is huge in this era of the NBA, and his unlimited potential on defense is what intrigues NBA scouts the most. Jackson already had his share of struggles in the Big 10 tournament so making up for those will be key for him in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Trae Young | Oklahoma
Trae Young was must-see basketball in the first half of the season while he was playing out of his mind and drawing comparisons to Steph Curry. Despite his struggles in the second half of the season, he still leads the country in points and assists which is impressive. His insane range and ability to shoot off the dribble is what is successful for so many guards currently in the pros. He also has playmaking ability and can create shots for his teammates which is needed at the point guard position. The Sooners are in a tough spot right now entering the tournament as a 10 seed playing Rhode Island in their first game and then advancing to most likely take on a very talented Duke team. This is Young’s last shot to give everyone a show and lead his team out of the recent slump they have been in. If Young can return to his first half of the season form I think it can push him up a few spots on the draft board. He just as easily can fall a few spots if he gets outperformed by guards such as Collin Sexton from Alabama.