The college hoops season is well over halfway to completion and March Madness is right around the corner. So with months of games in the bag for many of this year's top prospects, there's a healthy sample size of action to reflect on what we've learned from the season thus far and its impact on the upcoming NBA Draft. Cue the mock draft music!
In this first in-season NBA mock draft, you'll notice there aren't many changes from my preseason mock at the very top of the draft. Still, there have been subtle shifts as a result of what we've seen on the court and how opinions have been swayed in recent months. Some notable names have moved down while others have moved up, and a handful have dropped out entirely from our first round projections.
So this projection will reflect the latest changes on that front with an up-to-date check on the draft landscape. Because the NBA season is still relatively young, and therefore the draft order (set by recent SportsLine projected win totals) remains unsettled and hardly concrete, the following mock draft does not significantly factor in team needs because so much can change between now and the draft. Rather, this will serve as an informative projection highlighting what each prospect brings to the table while providing a sense of general ranges in which those prospects are currently expected to land.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Oklahoma State • Fr • 6'8" / 220 lbs
To draft Cade Cunningham at No. 1 overall would be to go with the safest, most easily projectable prospect in this year's class. The Oklahoma State product is a point guard in a wing's body with great positional size, a talented two-way game and passing chops to boot. Even on an Oklahoma State squad that doesn't feature other blue-chippers, he's shooting well and showcasing his skills as a creator.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Gonzaga • Fr • 6'4" / 205 lbs
I'm a sucker for a good story, and there'd be none better in the draft than Suggs getting drafted by his hometown Timberwolves. A former five-star recruit and rare Gonzaga one-and-done, he's a competitive lead guard who can initiate offense, pass at a high level and has acquitted himself nicely as a shooter, the latter of which was one of the bigger questions about his game entering the college level.
Round 1- Pick 3
Southern California • Fr • 7'0" / 215 lbs
A sinewy 7-footer from Southern Cal, Mobley is a No. 1 pick contender because of the rare combination of his size, skill, agility and projectable position at the next level. He's a difference-making big who leads all freshman in blocks per game this season and has on four occasions blocked five or more shots in a game. In time his offensive arsenal should be even more advanced enough for him to regularly knock down shots from anywhere on the court, which he's done in spurts already with the Trojans in a major college conference at just 19 years old.
Round 1 - Pick 4
The G League Ignite season has -- pardon my pun -- sparked Kuminga's draft stock to new highs. The jumbo wing is averaging 16.7 points per game as an 18-year-old pro and doing so while flashing some real potential off the dribble as a scorer and initiator. Because of the size, skill level and the fact that he plays on the wing as a positionless archetype of the modern day NBA star, there's going to be teams looking at Kuminga as a potential No. 1 pick.
Round 1 - Pick 5
This is probably the floor for Jalen Green in this year's draft, but reflective of his somewhat sluggish start to the G League season and also of the strength of the top of the draft. Still, he's come on strong for Ignite of late, scoring 21 or more points in four of his last eight games, and there's always going to be a role for players who possess the rare combo of his athleticism, shot-making and defensive chops.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Tennessee • Fr • 6'5" / 186 lbs
A springy forward with freakish athleticism who can make plays above the rim, Keon Johnson is a marvelous talent whose long-term potential is obvious. He's already an impactful player as a freshman for a top-20 Tennessee team and should be considered a legitimate top-10 talent in this draft class if the shot starts to fall. It's a bit of a gamble on raw potential, but it's one NBA teams will happily take given what he could eventually become.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Connecticut • Soph • 6'5" / 190 lbs
After missing more than a month recuperating from an in-season elbow surgery on his non-shooting arm, UConn's James Bouknight returned last week to drop 18 points in a critical win for the Huskies' tourney chances over Providence. Bouknight is a bucket, plain and simple. Smooth scorer who can create space for himself and should be a lethal shot-maker in the league.
From Houston Rockets
Round 1 - Pick 8
Arkansas • Fr • 6'6" / 205 lbs
The NBA can't get enough of big-bodied wings who can shoot 3-pointers and defend at a high clip, so the fact that Moses Moody does both bodes well for his draft prospects. It's why I have him as a top-10 talent in this class. He's shooting 37.3% from 3-point range and averaging 1.1 steals per game as the go-to option for Arkansas as a freshman.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Gonzaga • Sr • 6'7" / 220 lbs
Gonzaga's undefeated season and run as the No. 1 team in college hoops has been keyed by Kispert, the sharpshooting forward who is hitting 45.7% from 3-point range. Corey Kispert rates in the 95th percentile as a spot-up shooter on the season and figures to be a similarly potent outside threat in the league because of his smooth, quick release and repeatable motion.
From Miami Heat
Round 1 - Pick 10
Florida State • Fr • 6'9" / 227 lbs
A former five-star recruit who signed on with a talented and deep Florida State team, Scottie Barnes has come off the bench this season more times than he's started, similar to former FSU one-and-done Patrick Williams. However, Barnes has been plenty effective, showcasing his huge frame and pristine passing to really underscore why his playmaking skills make him such a coveted prospect. The shooting touch is still a work in progress and he's not a huge threat as an outside shooter yet, but he remains one of the most intriguing and unique prospects because of his two-way impact, size and playmaking.
From Dallas Mavericks
Round 1 - Pick 11
Stanford • Fr • 6'8" / 185 lbs
It's been something of a sloggy season for Ziaire Williams, who has had some very strong moments as a shot-maker and producer while also notably struggling in moments. He's hitting fewer than 30% of his 3-point attempts, fewer than 38% of his field goal attempts, and his size -- or lack thereof -- has sapped some of his potential potency as a slasher. Still, he's a wing whose gifts as both a scorer and shot-creator are undeniable. There's plenty of upside as he gains more strength and confidence that his best assets will in time make him a quality contributor in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Duke • Fr • 6'9" / 220 lbs
After opting out of the regular season with six games remaining, Duke has subsequently reeled off three consecutive wins in his absence and reemerged as a potential tourney team. So that, coupled with the optics of quitting the team, hasn't been good PR for Jalen Johnson or his prospects. But teams don't draft on optics. And the truth is that, though Johnson didn't have a particularly successful one-and-done season, he's still a 6-8 forward who can rebound, put the ball on the floor, pass at a high level and run the break. Hard to see him falling too far outside of the top 10 -- if he does at all.
Round 1 - Pick 13
LSU • Fr • 6'4" / 210 lbs
Cameron Thomas is leading the SEC in scoring as a true freshman and emerging all the while as one of the more surprising risers into potential lotto range in the process. That's because, though his efficiency isn't staggering (40.6 FG% and 30.3 3FG%), he's able to create his shot with ease, has insane range and a rapid release to top it off. He's still a work in progress overall but he's got a translatable skill as a gifted scorer to help smooth over his transition to the pros.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Tennessee • Fr • 6'4" / 204 lbs
There's some serious moxie to Jaden Springer's game, and that's accompanied by some real skill he's shown at Tennessee as a scorer, facilitator and all-around offensive weapon. He's had some real boom games to highlight his talents, too, like his 30-point outing against Georgia earlier this month. It's been hit or miss for him on the whole this season as he tries to carve out a consistent role, but I like the wiggle I've seen from him with the ball in his hands. He plays with so much confidence and poise it's hard not to fall in love with what his NBA role can be as a two-way guard who can do a little of everything.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Texas • Soph • 6'11" / 218 lbs
There's a dearth of big man talent in this draft at the top and that, coupled with the emergence of Kai Jones on a strong sophomore campaign, should help pump his stock into this range of the draft. He's an athletic marvel with leaping ability to finish lobs and swat shots around the rim with ease, but he can also step out and take 3-pointers, though he doesn't do it consistently.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Illinois • Jr • 6'5" / 200 lbs
There's going to be split opinions over Ayo Dosunmu among decision-makers because he's 21 years old, which is typically older for picks in the teens, and because his junior season star turn as a shooter doesn't quite jive with what we've seen from him in year's prior. So I readily admit that I have him higher than where many will project him. But who cares? I'm ready to buy him in this range. He's made real strides as a 3-point shooter and improved as a passer, too, with a career-high assist rate right now that's comfortably hovering above 30%.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Louisville • Soph • 6'5" / 210 lbs
Have long been a David Johnson admirer, having placed him in my preseason top-10 in large part because I expected him to break out as a sophomore. Indeed, he's done exactly that. Carlik Jones' arrival stunted his turn to superstar status with the Cardinals, but he's still a highly productive 6-5 guard who is significantly improved as a 3-point shooter, which was really the only major hang-up on him being a surefire first-rounder. As a lead guard, you'd like to see him cut down on the turnovers a tad but it's a minor quibble for a well-rounded guard who can play both ends and does a lot of things at a high level.
Round 1 - Pick 18
UCLA commit-turned-G League Ignite member Daishen Nix has done well for his prospects overall, acquitting himself nicely as a productive guard with the ball in his hands because of his wiggle, strong handle and sheer physicality getting to the rim. But Nix lacks the real burst many expected, and that could be attributed to being listed around 225 -- almost 20 pounds heavier than he was coming out of high school.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Auburn • Fr • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Sharife Cooper is one of the most delightful guards at the college level to watch. He makes ridiculous passes with regularity, thanks to elite court vision and creation abilities. He's on the smaller end at 6-1 that's keeping him from being a potential top-five prospect but he's got an immediately translatable skill as a creator.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Texas Tech • Soph • 6'6" / 210 lbs
Guards always tend to shine a bit brighter in Chris Beard's system at Texas Tech, between Mac McClung, Jarrett Culver, Zhaire Smith and Jahmi'us Ramsey. But Terrence Shannon's the real deal: a graceful 6-6 wing who can attack off the bounce and has shown modest improvement in the jumper. Would like to see his outside shot improve instead of hovering around 30%, but I do buy the shot mechanics and think it can be an asset for him long-term.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Usman Garuba is an 18-year-old international prospect widely viewed as the best overseas player in this draft class. And while he's not done a lot to bolster his standing on that front this season, averaging fewer than four points and four rebounds per game, he's not done a lot to lose it, either. His big appeal remains on the defensive end, where he's a bear from perimeter to post who plays with physicality and has the footwork to really move his feet. He doesn't have a ton of athletic pop, but he remains one of the more safe bets in this range to be an impactful NBA player.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Texas • Fr • 6'9" / 205 lbs
I'd personally love this pairing. Greg Brown's a physically gifted forward who has flashed some real skill beyond leaping ability at Texas, but he remains incredibly raw on both ends. Toronto, of course, is a development factory famously known for crafting Pascal Siakam from raw prospect to All-Star. Could see them really making something out of Brown given all his physical tools and potential.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Baylor • Jr • 6'3" / 195 lbs
As a sophomore last season Jared Butler was one of my favorite sleepers had he declared for the draft, but alas, he's no secret anymore. He's a polished ball-handler who can score it at every level and is hitting 45.3% of his shots from 3-point range on the season. Modern guard whose game is best suited for the NBA right now where earning minutes require immense skill on offense.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Arizona State • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
This is a draft where big wings are aplenty, and the NBA right now is really valuing that specific archetype. That's what makes Josh Christopher a lock for first-round territory. But it's hard to put him much higher than the 20s right now. He definitely has the scoring chops to survive and thrive in the league, but he's not doing it very efficiently and there's not a lot of other appealing parts of his game right now, though I do expect his defense and passing to improve as he continues developing.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Michigan • Soph • 6'9" / 220 lbs
Probably not a future All-Star, almost certainly a high-level role player: that's the selling point for Franz Wagner. At Michigan as a sophomore this season he's doing a bit of everything, from hitting 3-pointers to creating to playing top-shelf defense. He does so many different things at a high level it's hard to see him dropping much further than this. There's just an obvious role for a 6-9 forward who can do all of those things -- and well -- at the NBA level.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Baylor • Jr • 6'2" / 205 lbs
Very few upperclassmen have dramatically improved their draft stock this season the way Davion Mitchell has improved his. The Baylor standout is coming alive down the home stretch of the season for the Bears, averaging 20.0 points and 5.0 assists per game over his last four. And he's done so while hitting 3-pointers at nearly a 50% clip on the season. His consistency as a shooter combined with his speed and tenacity off the bounce have elevated his profile drastically.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Kentucky • Fr • 6'7" / 185 lbs
It certainly hasn't been the season many expected from Brandon Boston when he signed with Kentucky as a top-10 prospect and potential top-5 draft pick. He's really struggled most of the season to carve out a role on this Kentucky team, and been pretty ineffective in the opportunities he's been given. Still, he's showed some scoring flashes and potential down the stretch of the regular season, and it's important to remember: He's a 6-7 wing who, theoretically, can be a big-time scorer in the right situation. There's sure to be some team in the first round willing to bet on his pedigree and potential that he figures things out.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Arizona State • Fr • 6'8" / 215 lbs
Arizona State's been one of the more disappointing teams in college hoops this season, yet Marcus Bagley has been one of the more pleasantly surprising freshmen in the sport. The four-star Sun Devils signee looks the part of a one-and-done like his older brother, Marvin, because of his big 6-foot-8 frame for a wing. He also has done well for himself in his tiny role on this team, hitting 36.2% of his 3s and converting nearly 40% off catch-and-shoot opportunities, per Synergy data. He's played in just 11 games because of an injury but there's plenty of evidence out there on him to suggest he can, and will, be a first-rounder.
Round 1 - Pick 29
North Carolina • Fr • 6'11" / 265 lbs
Day'Ron Sharpe has taken two 3-pointers on the season at North Carolina. He rarely breaks out of the paint and doesn't operate much on the perimeter, as he's more of a throwback big. But even in the NBA where those types of players are more and more being marginalized, Sharpe has managed to build up his draft profile because of his physicality as a rebounder and impact around the rim on both ends of the floor.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Kentucky • Fr • 6'10" / 205 lbs
Kentucky has started to feature Jackson more as an offensive weapon, with a season-high streak of three games in double figures scoring for him. Not coincidentally, all three of those games were wins. He's an efficient scorer who affects winning. But more than that, he's just a made-in-the-lab type big, with a 6-10 frame, long, wiry arms and oozing with athleticism. And oh, I buried the lede: He's also a gifted shot-blocker and shot-disruptor with great leaping ability coupled with natural anticipatory skills. Very much one to watch in the coming months as a potential late-season riser.