As the NBA season has started settling in to a steady rhythm, we have taken the opportunity to point you in the direction of some exciting young players who could be joining Dennis Smith Jr. by next summer.
This isn’t about taking a deep dive into analysis and organizational fit quite yet. But it’s worthwhile to start familiarizing yourself with these stars in the making as they begin to make early statements for next summer’s draft.
The hope here, once again, is to give you a handful of the best games slated for this week. As Dallas continues to win more consistently, it’s hard to tell where they’ll land in the draft -- so we’ll try and give some variety. On to the games!
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5TH
Villanova vs. Gonzaga (6 CT, ESPN)
If the draft were today, there is a sizable list of players that MMB would want the Mavericks to select before Villanova shooting guard Mikal Bridges. Just in terms of potential ceiling, Bridges might be a less exciting option on draft night, quite simply because he is “old” (21 years old) and much of his game is known.
But the reliability that Bridges provides at the Mavericks-thirsty wing position is undeniable. As one of the proven leaders of another solid Wildcats squad, the 6’7” 210 pound Bridges is truly coming in to his own this season. With the offense flowing through him a bit more this year his numbers have jumped — averaging 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists per-36 minutes (shooting splits of 56/50/83...that’s 50 percent from three!); tack on 1.7 blocks and 3 steals per-36, and you see that he does a little bit of everything.
If the Mavericks start to win a little more frequently, and thus fall back to a spot similar to last season in the lottery, keep your eyes on a guy like Bridges.
Arizona vs. Texas A&M (8 CT, ESPN2)
The Arizona Wildcats had a hiccup in the Bahamas, but they’re back on track and have continued to play an exciting early season schedule; specifically, great matchups for potential number one pick DeAndre Ayton. At 7’ and 250 pounds, the big man continues to show versatility in his offensive game. Defensively there is plenty of room for growth, but the size, agility and athleticism that’s already on display is a bit staggering.
Saturday he had one of his more impressive games, tallying 28 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks playing opposite potential first-rounder Brandon McCoy (who had quite a game of his own):
Quick look at Deandre Ayton's tremendous offensive performance against Brandon McCoy and UNLV last night. Unbelievable blend of physical tools + skill. Ayton takes on elite rim protector Rob Williams and Texas A&M in PHX on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/077F5vSuiJ— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) December 4, 2017
In this game, Ayton sees another elite matchup in Robert Williams and Texas A&M at the BBVA Compass Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix. Since coming back from his two game suspension, the springy Williams has had some attention grabbing stat lines. His scoring numbers have tailed off over the last three games, but he’s a consistently productive rebounder, and has notched nine blocks over his last three games. Though undersized, his defensive prowess against Ayton’s elite offensive ability will be fun to watch.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8TH
Real Madrid vs Olympiacos Piraeus - Euroleague play (1 PM Central)
*A note about international stud prospect Luka Doncic: there are few international prospects that have entered draft eligibility with this much hype. Scan online for any number of highlight reels and mixtapes and you can see why.
But, like, when can we watch him in some games?
I’m working hard to find credible answers to that. As fun as it is to watch highlights, to get a true idea of a player’s ability you need to see them in the flow of a game. There has been some effort to make that happen, through different social media platforms. But there aren’t many U.S. networks spending airtime on La Liga or Euroleague play.
I will say I did catch the end of a Real Madrid game last week on a network called Eleven Sports (I’m a PlayStation Vue subscriber), but otherwise it’s been tough sledding. Hopefully more information to follow. Until then, keep feasting on this:
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9TH
Arizona vs. Alabama (9 CT, ESPN2)
Yes, we’ve been talking plenty about Ayton here. Part of that is because he’s electric. But it’s also because Arizona has had some intriguing early games. But let’s look elsewhere here.
The Mavericks will not be in the market for another point guard with their first pick. But there’s no doubt that one of, if not the most fun guards in college basketball right now is Alabama’s Collin Sexton. Having seen him in person at the most recent McDonald’s All-American game I can say that there is something magnetic about his game.
If the Mavericks start winning more games and you’re worried that they’ll be missing out on some players in the draft, you should be hoping that Sexton continues to rise on draft boards.
In addition, the Mavericks will eventually need to consider what they’ll do with their second round pick. Might that be Arizona shooting guards Allonzo Trier or Rawle Alkins? Who can say now? But watching Trier (Alkins is currently coming back from injury) matchup opposite Sexton should be worth the price of admission.
We’ll be back next week, with more Prospect Watch. Who is on your radar? Let us know below!