NCAA Tournament: Breaking Down Top NBA Draft Prospects ahead of March Madness


I love the NBA Draft.

It’s my second favorite event of the year outside the NCAA Tournament.

I have already taken off work for June 21, the date of the 2018 NBA Draft. Every year there is a debate of how good a draft it is, and this year is no different. You’ll hear about certain players years in advance and sometimes that player stays atop that class, and sometime they don’t.

This is one of those years where that top player has seemingly changed several times.

First it was Michael Porter Jr., long seen as the top prospect in this class. Then it was Luka Doncic after his Eurobasket display where he went head-to-head with several NBA players. Then Marvin Bagley III, and now it’s Doncic again.

The catch with this draft is that many people, including two of the analysts who will work the draft for ESPN, haven’t seen two of the top four guys play.

Porter played two minutes in an exhibition game before suffering at back injury that has forced him to miss the entire regular season. The Missouri freshman did return for the Big 12 tournament and will play in the NCAA tournament. The other, is Doncic.

Luka Doncic

Slovenian star Luka Doncic is playing in Europe for Real Madrid and averaging 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Doncic is an all-around good player. He can handle the ball, pass and shoot from three. He has good athleticism, good instincts and makes his teammates better.

The big thing with Doncic is that, unlike the guys you’ll be glued to the TV watching these next couple weeks, he’s already playing with professionals. He played in the 2017 Eurobasket tournament and stood out among NBA-caliber players.

A team that’s going to take him is someone that is looking for a combo guard that can do a little bit of everything.

NBA comp: C.J. McCollum

Michael Porter Jr.

To me, Michael Porter Jr is the best prospect in this draft. He can do everything.

The recently-returned Missouri product has incredible athleticism, especially for a guy that’s 6-foot-10. He reminds me of Blake Griffin if Griffin was a good 3-point shooter. Porter is an excellent shooter with the bonus of Griffin’s incredibly gifted athleticism.

Porter also shows flashes of Griffin and Ben Simmons in the open court. He can dribble and score in transition.

One thing I do believe Porter needs to get a little better at is finishing in traffic. He will have to adjust to the NBA and get better in that department.

In my opinion, Porter should be the No. 1 pick.

NBA comp: Blake Griffin with a shot

Deandre Ayton

Physically, Ayton has a very easy comparison. Ayton is a freak, especially for his age. He looks like Charlotte Hornets’ center and former No. 1 overall pick, Dwight Howard.

Ayton dominates on the boards, can score around the basket, but also has a little bit of a jump shot in and around the paint. He can iso and take it to the basket as well by using his size and physicality.

I feel like where Ayton goes depends on who gets the top pick. If it’s a team like the Phoenix Suns, he will likely be the No. 1 selection. A team like the Sacramento Kings, though, recently used a top 10 pick on Willie Cauley-Stein, so they would potentially go in another direction.

NBA comp: Dwight Howard

Marvin Bagley III

In my opinion, Marvin Bagley III isn’t actually a lottery pick. Everything I’ve seen from him tells me he will be a huge bust and I would want no part of him, at least in the lottery.

My dislike of Bagley as a prospect starts with the Boston College game. The Duke freshman was beat time after time for rebounds by both of the Eagles’ smaller guards; Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, and out-played by power forward Nic Popovic. Most of those were the result of poor positioning and sheer laziness.

The next time I saw Bagley was against Notre Dame, which was without star forward Bonzie Colson and guard Matt Farrell. Despite not having their best forward, Bagley still had trouble with the makeshift Fighting Irish front court.

Again, the same things were clear. Bagley was constantly boxed out by smaller forwards and guards and beat for rebounds.

He’s too skinny, he’s not a good finisher. He gets pushed around way too much, can’t shoot and has no range. Against Notre Dame, he finished 4 of 14 from the field.

If he played for any other team in America, he wouldn’t be on TV every game and would not be touted as this type of prospect.

I wouldn’t think about taking him until the lottery is over. I see a lot more John Henson, Anthony Randolph or Tyrus Thomas in him than Chris Bosh.

NBA comp: Tyrus Thomas

Mohamed Bamba

Mo Babma has many of the same issues as Bagley. He reminds me a lot of former No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel (partially because he looks exactly like him).

Bamba is very skinny, even moreso than Bagley. He has to rely on athleticism to get rebounds, blocks and steals, and uses that to overcome the size discrepancy.

Like Noel still – who has been in the league since 2013 – Bamba needs to develop his offensive game. Most of his points come off of dunks and putbacks.

The combine and workouts will determine a lot for him. He has to show he has some range. If he can shoot from 16 feet, Bamba could shake that natural comparison to a guy like Noel, who can’t get on the floor for one of the worst teams in the NBA.

NBA comp: Nerlens Noel

Trae Young

Trae Young reminds me a lot of a certain Western Conference guard that has the same height, same build, same ball-handling ability and game.

No, not the one everyone is thinking of.

Young reminds me of Lou Williams when he entered the NBA out of South Gwinnett High School in 2005, with one major difference.

Williams didn’t know what a pass was until recently. Young is a very good passer, with excellent vision. Once he gets past halfcourt, he is looking for an open teammate.

His release and shot remind me of Williams’ as well. Both players are pure scorers and very good shooters. The big question will be whether Young will be a point guard or a shooting guard in the NBA.

As a starting shooting guard, he would definitely get outmuscled by guys at the position. At point guard, he needs to be quicker with the ball. He is definitely not too small for this league though.

NBA comp: Lou Williams