‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the AAC, half the roster was injured, and the Mavs won’t play Motley...
It doesn’t quite have the ring to it I was expecting, but goshdarnit we’re here, and we’re smiling.
In the meantime, we continue to keep an eye on all the young talent anxiously awaiting their opportunity with the big boys when their names are called next summer in the draft. We have two games for you to keep tabs on in between trips to the dessert table this week. And we’ll also check in with Draft Santa’s prospect list.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22ND
Texas @ Alabama (8 CT, ESPN2)
Mo Bamba has been a sort of model of consistency for most of the season so far—in the best and worst ways one can be that example. It seems that no matter the opponent, Bamba is good for his season average of 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. It’s those blocks (and the instincts and wingspan that deliver those blocks) that still have scouts paying attention.
But on the flip side, we still haven’t seen the Longhorns’ center explode, against any level opponent. Bamba has another opportunity when Texas faces a solid Alabama team this week.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23RD
Kentucky vs UCLA (3 CT, CBS)
In what has to be the most interesting game of a rather tepid college lineup, Kevin Knox will lead the Kentucky Wildcats in a New Orleans clash with the UCLA Bruins, the CBS Sports Classic. Kentucky have faced few tough opponents early this season, but Knox’s development has been a surprise.
This is a different Wildcat squad than Calipari is accustomed to in Lexington, in the sense that there isn’t an obvious standout top-five draft pick leading his team. But Knox is already further along than many expected, and he’s someone to watch to slowly creep up draft boards.
We all know that this is the time of year Santa Claus is making the finishing touches on his naughty and nice checklist, one that he makes, and apparently only checks twice. But not Draft Santa. First off Draft Santa isn’t from the North Pole. He’s probably from, like, Springfield, Massachusetts. And he’s checking his list all the time.
So we’re going to help him here, checking in on a couple of risers and fallers on the draft board. Or rather, we’re going to discuss how these players may or may not fit in with the Mavericks, due to their play of late. There’s always the possibility that any of these players could jump from one side to the other over time.
Oh. And they won’t be listed as naughty and nice here (it felt weird typing naughty next to a college basketball player’s name). Instead we have Shoddy and Ice, because their play has been shoddy, or they’ve got ice in their veins.
Robert Williams (Shoddy)
After hitting the ground running to start the season, Williams has been so-so. He missed a major opportunity up against DeAndre Ayton two weeks ago, managing just four points, seven rebounds and two blocks. He’s an athletic big with defensive ability, and some projections have had the Mavs picking Williams near the back of the top ten. But I’m just not sure I see the fit when there are other prospects sitting there with a higher ceiling.
Luka Dončić (Ice)
This highlight video from a game last week that starts off with Dončić slicing his defenders ankles off his body, and then dishing to a teammate through traffic feels like just about all you need to know on Luka. Yes, there are plenty of questions about how his athleticism will translate to American basketball. But watch tape on him, and it’s clear that he has the style and IQ to be a Rick Carlisle player.
Miles Bridges (Ice)
I’ve been a fan of Bridges since last season, and he’s done little to change that during his sophomore campaign. Though he might not have a ton of refined tools offensively and may rely too much on out-jumping opponents now, his ability to contribute in many ways and the sheer energy he brings to the floor will be assets at the next level. His fit next to Barnes is to be determined, but he’s the sort of day-one-ready wing the Mavs desperately need.
Lonnie Walker (Shoddy)
Having a rather underwhelming start to his college career, Walker has slipped just a little on some draft boards. Two weeks ago Walker torched Boston University for 26 points (on 5-of-7 shooting from three) and then followed that up with 13 against George Washington last Saturday, so it’s possible he’s just getting going. He has the size and versatility to be a long-term fit at shooting guard next to a guy like Dennis Smith Jr.. But at this point he’s on the periphery of the lottery.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Ice)
If the Mavericks find themselves on the outside looking in on the top five, I think Jackson Jr. would be my pick today. His ceiling could be sky high, and he shows massive potential on both ends of the floor. He’s long, has shown three-point range, and can be a future rim protector (he’s had 23 blocks...in his last four games). We’re very, very far away from draft day, and much will likely change, but Jackson Jr. already has me excited.