• Paul Innocenti

2018 NBA Draft Prospects With Most to Gain in NCAA Tournament

Killian Tillie, PF, Gonzaga

Tillie struggled to get minutes in his freshman season due to the presence of the all-time Division 1 wins leader Przemek Karnowski and 2017 top 10 draft pick Zach Collins. However, he burst onto the scene in the national championship game as Collins sat with foul trouble and recorded nine rebounds in a loss to North Carolina. The French import carried over that momentum to his sophomore campaign where he was one of the most improved players in the country and emerged as Gonzaga’s second leading scorer (13.4 PPG) and rebounder (6.0 RPG). If Mark Few’s squad can make another deep run this March, it may do wonders for Tillie’s draft stock. Tillie is currently seen as a second-round prospect, but a strong performance in the tournament could bolt the 6’11 big up draft boards. Tillie projects to be a knockdown stretch four at the next level and hit 50% of his three-pointers this season, including an astounding 13/14 clip during the West Coast Conference Tournament. With the Bulldogs projected to face UNC-Greensboro, Ohio State and Xavier in the tournament, Tillie may not get a chance to face any of the nation’s top bigs, so he will have to take over games in a similar fashion to what Collins did against South Carolina last season to improve his draft position. Despite being one of the most consistently dominant teams in basketball, Gonzaga has seen some of their players draft position depend on their performance in the NCAA Tournament. In 2013, Kelly Olynyk had a chance to go in the first half of the NBA Draft Lottery, but after getting upset in the round of 32 fell to 13th overall (despite posting a 26-point effort against Wichita State). On the contrary, Zach Collins came out of nowhere during the Zags run to the title game last year and went in the lottery despite never playing more than 23 minutes in a single contest. If Gonzaga can string together some wins this March and Tillie continues his hot shooting, he’ll put himself in the conversation to be a First Round pick come June.

Michael Porter Jr, SF, Missouri

It’s rare that a top prospect has so much to gain entering in the NCAA tournament, but that’s what happens when you miss 95% of the year with an injury. Porter was the nation’s top recruit but injured his back just minutes into the season opener vs. Iowa State. The spinal disc surgery forced Porter to miss the rest of the regular season and he didn’t return until the Tiger’s lone game in the SEC tournament against Georgia. Naturally, Porter looked a bit rusty and did not mess well with his teammates did not mesh in the loss. Most mocks still have Porter going in the 3-5 range with Deandre Ayton of Arizona separating himself as the frontrunner to go 1st overall. However, if the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP can get a game or two to show off his unparalleled combination of size, shooting touch, athleticism and basketball IQ, we may again be talking about him as the consensus top NBA prospect. Porter drew comparisons to Kevin Durant for a reason, he just didn’t get a chance to live up to them due to his back injury.

Jaylen Adams, PG, St. Bonaventure

Adams is not a household name due to the lack of exposure that St. Bonaventure gets, but is one of the more dynamic guards in America. The Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Year averaged over 19 points and five assists per game and that was even with a slight drop off in production from last year. He is extremely comfortable as a decision maker in the pick and roll and knocked down 44% of his three-pointers; an impressive clip in the Bonnies’ high volume and up-tempo attack as he attempted over six treys per game. Additionally, at 6’2 190 lbs., the four-year starter has adequate size for the point guard position and a strong build to be a plus defender at the next level. The Bonnies were in the First Four play-in game, so Adams had an extra game to enhance his stock. The senior from Maryland struggled to shoot all game, but he showed up when it mattered most and pulled up from just inside the arc to drill the go-ahead basket in their 65-58 triumph over UCLA. There is a little bit of CJ McCollum in Adams’ game and they even resemble each other a bit on the court as St. Bonaventure wears a similar color to Leigh’s brown jerseys. Adams can’t dream of becoming a lottery pick like McCollum was in 2013 after upsetting Duke in the opening round of the tournament, but could bring his name into the national conversation.

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