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2018 NBA Mock Draft: It’s never to early to look at who will be the best players in college basketball

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With the 2017 NBA Draft coming to a close, it’s time to take a look at the 2018 NBA Draft and some of the best, most influential potential pros in the sport next season. 

Here is a first round mock draft for 2018. In a year, we can look back on this and realize just how naive we all were.

Scott Phillips contributed to this story.

1. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri, Fr.: The 6-foot-9 former Washington signee is a lethal scorer that plays on the perimeter and has a chance to be a National Player of the Year and No. 1 overall pick. He’s got the size and athleticism to overwhelm smaller defenders and the quicks to light up college fours, Porter is also a strong rebounder who is tougher than some give him credit for.

The big question for Porter next season isn’t about him, it will be how good that Tigers team is around him. New head coach Cuonzo Martin inherited a mediocre-at-best roster, but he’s added some talented — but very young — pieces. If Porter Jr.’s younger brother, Jontay, also reclassifies to this year, Missouri might even be a sleeper NCAA tournament team.

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But even if Porter and Missouri misses the Big Dance, as expected, it shouldn’t have any kind of major bearing on his draft stock as long as he is productive. Both Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz went No. 1 in the draft after missing the NCAA tournament.

Michael Porter, Jr. (Photo by Jon Lopez)

2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona, Fr.: Not many 7-footers move as well as Ayton, and it was part of the reason he was once considered the No. 1 prospect in this class. As a sophomore in high school, Ayton once gave future Final Four team North Carolina a double-double in an exhibition game in his native Bahamas.

With an ability to run the floor like a guard while being quick enough to switch onto some perimeter players, Ayton is a rare athlete at center who also has some intriguing offensive capabilities: He has a good touch from the free-throw line and mid-range and some fluidity on the perimeter.

But the big question is his motor. There are times when Ayton disappears for stretches of games, and then there are the stretches where he absolutely dominates everyone. It’ll be fascinating to see which Ayton we see every game at Arizona. If he’s engaged all year he has a chance to be a No. 1 pick.

3. Miles Bridges, Michigan State, So.: Bridges will test whether or not returning to school when you are a projected lottery pick is the dumbest thing that an athlete can do. Anyone that watched Michigan State play last season knows how good this guy is. He’s a 6-foot-7 combo-forward that jumps through the roof and can be a multi-positional defender. In a league that prioritizes positionless basketball and values the ability to defend the rim and space the floor, Bridges shot 39 percent from three and averaged 1.5 blocks.

The big question for him next season is going to be his transition to being a full-time perimeter player. Bridges spent much of his freshman campaign playing a small-ball four role for the Spartans. But with Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward on the floor at the same time, he’s going to be a small forward through and through. Is he skilled enough for that role, or will he be “exposed”?

4. Luka Doncic, Real Madrid: The random Euro dude you’ve never heard of. He’s 6-foot-8. He’s a shooting guard that knocked down 37 percent of his threes. He’s from Slovenia. His dad’s named Sasa. When my son was born I used my one name veto on ‘Luka’. Draft Express thinks he’s going No. 1 overall. I’ll slot him in at No. 4 because his neckbeard hasn’t fully grown in yet.

5. Robert Williams, Texas A&M, So.: Here’s to hoping that Williams made the right decision. A 6-foot-9 center with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and freakish athleticism that averaged 11.9 points, 8.2 boards and 2.6 blocks as a freshman, Williams made the decision to return to College Station for his sophomore season when he had the chance to be a first round pick — potentially a lottery pick — in the 2017 NBA Draft. That’s a serious risk, one that Cal center Ivan Rabb learned was not the best decision when he went from being a projected lottery pick to the No. 35 pick by returning for his sophomore campaign. The Aggies should be really good next season, and that will help, as will the fact that there is actually a point guard on the roster. But striking while the iron is hot is the key for potential lottery picks when it comes to cashing in on those guaranteed contracts.

6. Mohamed Bamba, Texas, Fr.: Gifted with an incredible 7-foot-9 wingspan, the 7-foot-1 Bamba has the chance to be one of the best defensive players in the nation this season. Not only can Bamba wall up at the rim and defend with his ridiculous standing reach, but he’s also quick enough to switch and defend wings on the perimeter and stick with them. Rebounding also comes naturally to Bamba because his length enables him to snare rebounds well above rim level.

Offense is going to be the major question mark with Bamba. While Bamba has been able to finish over smaller defenders near the basket, he’s a very skinny 210 pounds and he doesn’t possess a lot of polish. Even if Bamba’s offensive game doesn’t show a lot this season, he has the kind of rare athleticism and tools that could make him a top three pick.

7. Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State, Fr.: Late-blooming big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has a chance to be a rare Big Ten one-and-done player. The 6-foot-10 Jackson just helped La Lumiere to a national championship at the high school level last season as he’ll be a major piece for the Spartans this season.

Not only can Jackson produce at a potential double-double level but he’s also a gifted three-point shooter who is effective in the pick-and-pop game. Young for his class, Jackson’s body and skill level are still developing, but he showed signs of being a dominant sidekick for Miles Bridges.

Wendell Carter, Jon Lopez/Nike

8. Wendell Carter, Duke, Fr.: The 6-foot-10 Carter should be much more of an impact than Harry Giles III or Marques Bolden this season as he’s a developed scorer who can play with his back to the basket or facing up. With a surprising amount of touch and perimeter skill for a 260-pound big man, Carter is the type of force who could attract double teams while opening things up for guys like Grayson Allen.

And Carter is no slouch athletically, either. Although he’s not a freak like Ayton or Bamba, Carter is a very good athlete who can rebound in traffic and protect the rim as well. It would come as no surprise if Carter was actually the most effective big man of this list at the college level this season as he should have a very balanced roster around him.

9. Bruce Brown, Miami, So.: I’m all-in on Miami as a national title contender this season, and one of the biggest reasons why is Bruce Brown. He’s a 6-foot-5 combo-guard with long arms and a physical frame, he shoots it well from three and can operate in pick-and-rolls and has a competitive fire about him that cannot be taught. I think there’s a chance that he ends up being the ACC Player of the Year this year, and if Jim Larrañaga can work his point guard magic with him, he’ll be a top ten pick in June.

10. Troy Brown, Oregon, Fr.: Brown is something of a swiss army knife in the sense that he can do a little bit of everything. He scores, he passes, he hits the glass and he does all this as a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. He’ll also be playing for a team that will showcase his versatility in Oregon. On paper, he looks like a guy that should fit the positionless mold of the modern NBA quite well. Having said that, he’s not a great athlete and he’s not a great shooter, which takes some of the luster off of the idea that he can guard multipositions and spread the floor.

11. Chimezie Metu, USC, Jr.: Metu is an interesting, still-developing prospect. He’s got the physical tools to project as an NBA front court player as well as an improving offensive repertoire. The key for him is going to be seeing where he takes a step forward this offseason. He has a decent base of perimeter skills — he makes midrange jumpers and shoots 75 percent from the foul line — but ultimately he needs to extend that range and showcase more toughness in the paint, on the glass and protecting the rim.

Collin Sexton, Jon Lopez/Nike

12. Collin Sexton, Alabama, Fr.: One of the best scorers at 6-foot-1 in recent memory, Sexton led the EYBL, Nike’s AAU circuit, in scoring last spring by a full eight points, nearly 30 points per game. Sexton is undersized and incredibly intense bordering on insane, which means that he’ll a fun player to watch and one that could become very popular with fans this season. The MVP of USA Basketball’s gold-medal winning U17 World Championship team last summer, Sexton has a big-game mentality as he’s one of the most competitive players in the class.

     RELATED: How Collin Sexton made himself a five-star

Perimeter shooting was is the shaky part of Sexton’s scoring game. He has improved it steadily over time, but that’s something he’s going to need to develop if he’s going to be a lottery pick as many project him to be.

13. Lonnie Walker, Miami, Fr.: Another one of the reasons I think that Miami is going to be awesome this season. Walker is a big, long and strong shooting guard than can play with the ball in his hands. He made 40 percent of his threes on the Nike EYBL circuit and he has the tools to be a big time defensive menace. He’s one of my favorite guards in the Class of 2017.

14. Trevon Duval, Duke, Fr.: A freakish athlete at point guard who can play well above the rim, the 6-foot-2 Duval will help stabilize the point guard position for Duke this season. Working in a reliable jump shot is going to be the big thing to watch for Duval this season. The way the point guard spot is trending, he’ll need to knock down catch-and-shoot jumpers — something that hasn’t always been reliable. There are also times that Duval can play too fast as he can be reckless with turnovers and taking tough shots. But if Duval corrects those workable mistakes, then he has a chance to get Duke to another Final Four because they have plenty of offensive weapons.

  • 15. De’Anthony Melton, USC, So.
  • 16. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky, Fr.
  • 17. Mitchell Robinson, Western Kentucky, Fr.
  • 18. Justin Jackson, Maryland, So.
  • 19. Grayson Allen, Duke, Sr.
  • 20. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas, Sr.
  • 21. Kevin Knox, Kentucky, Fr.
  • 22. Shake Milton, SMU, Jr.
  • 23. V.J. King, Louisville, So.
  • 24. Killian Tillie, Gonzaga, So.
  • 25. Quenton Rose, Temple, So.
  • 26. Vince Edwards, Purdue, Sr.
  • 27. Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Jr.
  • 28. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin, Jr.
  • 29. Marques Bolden, Duke, So.
  • 30. Aaron Holiday, UCLA, Jr.

Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl admits to playing last season with two torn groins

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Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl showed an insane degree of toughness last season as he admitted to reporters this weekend that he played nearly his entire freshman season with two torn groins.

Not realizing the injuries were that serious until after the season, Pemsl had offseason sports hernia surgery, according to a story from Rob Howe of Hawkeye Nation. Pemsl said he started to feel pain before a Nov. 25th game against Virginia in the Emerald Coast Classic and continued to play the rest of the season despite having to stretch for extended periods of time before even beginning warm-ups.

“I felt it every practice and every game. Once I started getting loose and warmed up a little bit it would go away a little but I always had that pain in the back of my mind and after the season is when I found out I had torn both of my groins. So, I guess I was playing on torn groins all season,” Pemsl said to Howe.

“So, I guess I was playing on torn groins all season.”

Dude, what!?

Not only did Pemsl show ridiculous grit by gutting out the full season, but he was also a key contributor to Iowa last season as a true freshman. As Howe points out, Pemsl was remarkably fourth on the Hawkeyes in points and rebounds per game last season (8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) as he became a solid piece for the future foundation of Iowa basketball.

“No one knew I was in pain. I never showed it or anything like that. Half the time I didn’t even remember I could feel it. Your adrenaline is going, stuff like that. But I had no idea (he had torn muscles),” Pemsl said to Howe.

Pemsl is hoping to be healthy by mid-July as Iowa is scheduled to take a European exhibition trip in August before the start of next season. Even if Pemsl is out for that trip, he should be good to go by the time his sophomore season begins next fall.

It’ll be interesting to see what a fully-healthy Pemsl is capable of after a promising initial campaign. Even with the injuries, he shot 61 percent from the field last season and had a couple of 20-point games. I also feel pretty okay with labeling Pemsl as one of the toughest players in the country for the rest of eternity.

(H/t: Rob Howe, Hawkeye Nation)

Baylor lands Mississippi State transfer Mario Kegler

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Baylor picked up a former top-50 recruit on Sunday as Mississippi State transfer Mario Kegler announced his commitment to the Bears.

Formerly the No. 48 overall prospect in the Rivals.com Class of 2016 national rankings, the 6-foot-7 Kegler put up 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a freshman for the Bulldogs. Kegler shot 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range for the season.

Kegler will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but he’ll have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s allowed to play. Having previously visited Baylor on an official visit during the initial recruiting process, Kegler and the Bears were already familiar with each other before connecting on this commitment.

A talented scorer who could be a mismatch in some lineups, it’ll be intriguing to see what Baylor can do in terms of working with Kegler since they’ve done so well recently with developing forwards.

Four Takeaways from the NBPA Top 100 Camp

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NBPA Top 100 Camp is annually one of the most important events during the summer recruiting calendar because it brings together the most talent of any event before the July live evaluation period.

With many of the nation’s elite prospects going to battle at the University of Virginia, here’s a look at some main takeaways from the event as I focus on the Class of 2018 players in attendance.

1. The battle for best point guard in the Class of 2018 will be the July storyline to keep an eye on

It’s been noted many times on CBT, and elsewhere, that the Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of top-end, one-and-done type of talent. While the lack of NBA-level star power might hurt the college game for one season — with the sport’s heavy reliance on elite freshmen now — the overall depth at point guard is certainly shaping up to be very solid for the Class of 2018. And that point guard depth will also help college basketball in a major way in the coming years.

Even with a few elite lead guards like Darius Garland and Tre Jones not competing in Virginia, the point guards took center stage at Top 100 Camp. And it made for some excellent individual battles that should set up for a very fun July.

Five-star Immanuel Quickley was perhaps the best long-term prospect among the group, but that title was challenged by a bevy of competitors that included Rivals top-40 prospects such as DePaul commit Tyger Campbell, Ayo Dosunmu, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Louisville commit Courtney Ramey, Javonte Smart, Jahvon Quinerly and Elijah Weaver. And that’s not even factoring in the top-flight Class of 2019 point guards like Cole Anthony and Ashton Hagans who were in attendance as well.

Beyond that first group, the depth in the class also shined at camp as West Virginia commit Jordan McCabe, Notre Dame commit Prentiss Hubb and TCU commit Kendric Davis were all among the camp’s leaders in assists.

Camps can be sloppy and have moments of uninspired play, but this year’s camp felt slightly more competitive thanks to all of these point guards going to war. Here’s to hoping that these guys continue to play this competitively in July and beyond.

2. Simi Shittu is a monster (with a potentially fascinating recruiting battle)

One of the notable stock risers of this spring in the Class of 2018 has been Canadian forward Simi Shittu (pictured above). Elevating into the top 10 of most major national rankings, the 6-foot-9 Shittu did nothing but backup his lofty status with his outstanding play at the Top 100 Camp.

Far-and-away the most productive player in the camp, Shittu was a complete monster during the entirety of the event. Shittu was a double-double machine who was nearly impossible to keep off the offensive glass. Leading the camp in both points and rebounds, Shittu’s recruitment is going to be fascinating to watch this July because many of the traditional bluebloods are jumping in later than normal for a top-ten prospect.

While Shittu has mentioned schools like Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Syracuse and UConn during the spring, N.C. State recently offered a scholarship while Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina have all made recent inquiries. Seeing which head coaches — specifically the newer schools entering the recruitment late — make Shittu an early priority in July will be something to watch for.

3. Besides Shittu, where did all the big men go?

For as many good point guards as there were at this year’s Top 100 Camp, there was also a noticeable lack of elite post players in attendance outside of Shittu as the Class of 2018 doesn’t appear to have a lot of instant-impact bigs.

There are certainly some top-end talents in the class like Marvin Bagley, Bol Bol and Moses Brown, but with none of those guys playing in Virginia, it meant for a guard-dominated camp. Guards typically dominate the ball in camp settings to begin with, but this year, they really didn’t have much reason to throw the ball into the post.

Five-star big man Nazreon Reid was the most talented 2018 big man in the building, besides Shittu, but he still has a lot of work to do with his shot selection in order to be fully counted on at the next level. There were flashes when the 6-foot-10 Reid displayed frightening athleticism and ability for a player his size and then he would settle for a one-footed stepback from 17 feet away that came up as an airball all within the same minute of play.

Four-star center David McCormack also continues to make strides in his game this spring as he showed post scoring ability that few players in the camp could match. But McCormack only played a limited number of games after playing the previous week in Italy for adidas Eurocamp, so the limited post play was made even worse.

Since the game continues to evolve into more and more of a perimeter-oriented contest, it could mean that we see fewer post prospects, but I have a feeling that this is just an instance of one particular class just not having a lot of high-level big men.

4. Despite last week, Louisville is in great position with regards to future recruiting

Most of the major headlines in college basketball last week were geared around Louisville and the fallout from their scandal. Even with the Cardinals facing so many potential sanctions from that scandal, it doesn’t seem to be slowing them down when it comes to future recruiting.

The team’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul both had solid moments at Top 100 as shooting guard Anfernee Simons, in particular, looked like a solid future ACC presence. With his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers while also attacking the basket, the 6-foot-2 Simons was one of the toughest covers at the event as he has the look of a potential go-to scorer for the Cardinals.

The 6-foot-3 Ramey was also steady during most of the camp, as he showed that he can score and distribute with equal effectiveness.

While Louisville has its backcourt of the future already committed in the Class of 2018, Class of 2019 prospects also seemed receptive to what the Cardinals have to offer.  With June 15th being the first day college coaches could directly contact Class of 2019 prospects — falling right in the midst of Top 100 Camp — many of the elite prospects in attendance mentioned that Louisville had called for them in the opening 24 hours of being able to do so.

It is still early to tell how that recruiting class at Louisville might unfold but many of those prospects were just excited to hear from Rick Pitino. Judging strictly on prospect perception, there seems to be minimal fallout (if any) from the Katina Powell scandal and Louisville should keep landing high-level players.

Four-star forward Kyle Young following Chris Holtmann from Butler to Ohio State

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New Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann secured a solid commitment on Monday as former Butler pledge Kyle Young will follow him to the Big Ten.

Regarded as a four-star prospect in the Class of 2017, the 6-foot-7 Young gives the Buckeyes a floor-spacing forward who also isn’t afraid to compete against bigger players on the interior. Young will mix it up on the glass and also has a solid motor despite being a bit undersized.

With Ohio State having so many scholarships to fill in the Class of 2018, getting Young in the fold right now will help ease the burden of having such a big class down the road.

Missouri freshman Jeremiah Tilmon arrested, charged for underage drinking

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Missouri freshman Jeremiah Tilmon was arrested and charged last Friday for possession of alcohol by a minor, according to campus police.

The 6-foot-10 Tilmon was released on summons after he was pulled over at 1:42 a.m. on Friday morning. Tilmon was driving on campus when he was pulled over for failing to stay in a single lane. An officer smelled alcohol inside Tilmon’s vehicle and issued a sobriety test.

Police say that Tilmon was above the “zero tolerance” threshold for underage drivers but he was under the limit for a DUI. Possession of alcohol by a minor is a Class D misdemeanor for a first-time offense.

Tilmon was previously signed with Illinois before re-opening his recruitment this spring. The Tigers landed the native of East St. Louis in the hopes that he would be able to help on the interior this season as the team is hoping to build a quick contender around five-star forward Michael Porter Jr.

“The Mizzou Men’s Basketball program and head coach Cuonzo Martin are aware of the incident, and the matter will be handled internally,” Patrick Crawford, assistant director of strategic communications for the Missouri men’s basketball team, said to the Kansas City Star.