“Ignorance is the curse of God, Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” - Mark Cuban on his StairMaster
Or, no... looks like my sources are saying that was William Shakespeare. Still, the sentiment remains. We’re back with Prospect Watch, as we are every week, to drop some knowledge on draft prospects. And this time specifically, some wing knowledge. Get it? Get it??? *taps mic* tough crowd.
It’s no secret that the Mavericks are hurting desperately for wing depth this season. It’s bad enough at this point that the starting shooting guard spends a lot of time as the primary backup at the small forward position, and Devin Harris, originally a point guard, spends time at “small forward” (an apt title for the wrong reasons) in the Mavericks’ most effective bench lineup. And yes, injuries have affected this; but honestly, the Mavericks would still need wing help if Dorian Finney-Smith were healthy.
In any rebuild, a team has to both draft effectively and work the free-agent market. Scanning a list of upcoming free agents available this summer, there are very few young shooting guards/small forwards that fit the rebuilding timeline the Mavericks have in place. Most of the exciting young free agents who fit are in the post. So this week we’re going to focus on some of the wings that the Mavericks should consider from the draft this summer. There are more than those listed below, but these players have big matchups worth watching this week.
It should be noted that the top two wings are not included in this week’s watch. Luka Dončić, who can play 1-3, is the clear front runner of this group. And Michael Porter Jr. is a small forward (maybe power forward) with star potential, but a lot of unknowns because of his current injury.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 10TH
Villanova vs Xavier (7 CT, FS1)
I’ll be the first to admit I did not have Mikal Bridges terribly high on any Mavericks draft list coming in to this season. Partly it’s because of his age (but really, he’s still just 21), partly because of his production his first two seasons. I just didn’t see him as a lottery option.
But two months in to the season he’s seized complete control of his opportunity. Only averaging two more minutes per game, but taking twice as many shots as he did last season, Bridges has cranked up his numbers across the board. Putting up 17.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and averaging more than a block and a steal per game, while shooting a very solid 45-percent from three, he is showing himself to be the kind of reliable wing that any team with a playmaking point guard needs. If the draft were tonight, and the Mavs wanted to select a wing in the 5-10 range, he might be my pick.
The No. 1 Villanova Wildcats will take on the tenth-ranked Xavier Musketeers tonight, in what’s slated to be a heated conference battle. Bridges will play opposite Xavier’s senior star Trevon Bluiett, who led the team through last season’s Elite Eight tournament run.
SATURDAY JANUARY 13TH
Michigan State vs Michigan (11 CT, Fox)
Yes, there’s Jaren Jackson Jr. (someone I’m particularly high on), but for Wing Week let’s focus back on the sophomore Spartan leader Miles Bridges. Before Bridges shocked most analysts and scouts by passing on last summer’s draft and returning to school, the combo forward was projected to be a back-end lottery pick. It may never be clear whether that changes much about his prospects professionally, though it may be beneficial personally.
Bridges has been solid this season. His numbers have been nearly identical to his freshman season so far. One slight concern has been a dip in his three-point shooting where he’s hitting 34-percent this season (down from 39-percent last year). Combine that with a shorter wingspan for his size, and his “tweener” label, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sit around the same place in next summer’s draft, probably between No. 6 and No. 12.
Still, with his potential as a combo forward, his energy and athleticism, and his ability to fill a box score, Bridges is a guy that fits the multi-position style so many teams are looking for.
Oregon @ Arizona (1 CT, ESPN2)
Oregon freshman Troy Brown has had a solid but quiet season for the Ducks. Coach Dana Altman’s squad is having a somewhat down year, and Brown has had to step in as a leader in his first season. He’s putting up decent numbers, though his ability to consistently rebound from his position on the floor might be what stands out the most so far. Brown has plenty of room for improvement and will most likely be a mid-to-late first-round choice, should he opt for the draft.
The Ducks have a very tough road trip this week, taking on the Arizona State Sun Devils, then facing the Arizona Wildcats two days later. I’d say watch this game either way (because DeAndre Ayton is still a sight), and when you do, pay close attention to Brown playing opposite veterans Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, the two Wildcat wings who can be flamethrowers from deep and will be late first-round or early second-round options in the draft.
MONDAY JANUARY 15TH
Duke @ Miami (6 CT, ESPN)
With football fading to the background, we finally get back Big Monday, which seems to consistently produce exciting college basketball matchups. Kicking things off, we have ACC foes Miami and Duke. This game features lottery talent all over the floor, perhaps the most since the early season Duke-Michigan State battle.
Miami’s two lottery wings, Bruce Brown Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV, were mentioned in a sidebar of last week’s Prospect Watch as they took on Florida State. Brown led the way for the Hurricanes in the win, pouring in 23 points (though half of it was from the free-throw line). Both players have shown flashes of potential to do everything, but they still have plenty of questions to answer as they both have noticeable holes in their game this season. This will be the third ranked opponent in a row for Miami.
On the other side of the ball, Duke’s stack of freshman talent will be on full display. When this team is on, it’s really been a case of pick your poison — and whether you pick it or not, most of the time the poison has been Marvin Bagley III. But let’s look past him and fellow big man Wendell Carter Jr. and focus on the Duke perimeter trio of Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr. and enigmatic shooting machine Grayson Allen. Allen is shooting a slick 43-percent from three this year and has a J.J. Redick-like toughness that may carve out a role for him on a team picking late in the first or early in the second. The perimeter might be the line of battle in this game.
Do you have other wings you’re keeping eyes on for the draft? Let us know down below!