“A center, a center! My kingdom for a center!” - Mark Cuban, probably
Nope. Turns out that’s still Shakespeare.
Last week on Prospect Watch we took a look at a variety of wing prospects from around the country. All mostly familiar names that you’ve seen before in this weekly series. But important names nonetheless because, though the top of this draft class appears stacked with talent at other positions, there are some sneaky good wing players ready to take the next step. And, well, *looks at Mavericks depth chart* the Mavs need some help in that department.
It’s a slow game week for Dennis Smith Jr. and Co., meaning it’s a perfect opportunity to do some extra research on your next favorite Maverick. This edition of PW we’re going to go back and highlight some games at the position this class is most stacked at: bigs. They come in many shapes and sizes, with plenty of different skill sets. And if the Mavericks are lucky, they’ll have their pick at a handful of these.
It was about 12 months ago that the Mavericks were talking about their new center of the future. And look at us now. I’m not sure what they’ve learned from the Nerlens Noel debacle, but hopefully they’re setting their sights on one of these players below.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 17TH
Texas vs. Texas Tech (7 CT, Longhorn Network)
The Texas Longhorns, like all Big 12 teams this season, have a tough schedule this week. Mohamed Bamba and the squad from Austin will face two of the toughest defenses in the country, first facing Texas Tech, then West Virginia on the road. It's a solid test for Bamba, a center who will earn his paycheck on the defensive end at the next level.
I am admittedly lower on Bamba than others studying draft prospects. But nevertheless, he deserves credit for his consistency. His block rate has remained high, and there is clear potential there. And at the end of the day his measurements remain out of this world.
FRIDAY JANUARY 19TH
Michigan State vs. Indiana (6 CT, FS1)
On the other end of the spectrum, I am higher on Jaren Jackson Jr. than others. He has a lot of raw ability, and shows a pretty balanced game on both ends of the floor. He may be missing that dynamic spark that some of these players possess. But he fits the mold of the future of the NBA center position.
Dig in to the numbers and see that Jackson's rim protection ability isn't far behind the lauded Bamba. The Spartan freshman is seventh in college ball in blocks per game with 3.2 (Bamba is first with 4.4), and sixth in block percentage at 14 percent (Bamba is third at 15.8). Jackson also beats Bamba with the third best defensive rating (Bamba is fifth). And Jackson does it seven fewer minutes per game. Oh and he shoots 43 percent from three.
SATURDAY JANUARY 20TH
Texas @ West Virginia (1 CT, CBS)
Arizona @ Stanford (3 CT, CBS)
DeAndre Ayton remains at the top of the center board because of his ability to take games over, and how easy it is to envision him a the cornerstone and future of any NBA team. His offensive game is versatile, and he has the tools to eventually be a solid defender.
There are questions about his investment on both ends, and whether or not he should be dominating more given his outstanding foundation. But there's no doubt that he's already well ahead the other true centers in this class.
Kentucky vs. Florida (7:15 CT, ESPN)
We won't be looking at Kentucky big man Nick Richards, though he'll be on many first round draft boards. Instead focus in on combo forward Kevin Knox, as the Wildcats face one of the other teams at the top of the SEC leaderboard.
Eventually Knox should move to power forward at the next level. When that happens he'll need to improve his work on the glass. And to maintain his potential as a playmaker, he'll also need to finesse his shot on the perimeter. Still, he has top ten lottery game.
In a future Prospect Watch we'll dive into the dynamic post play of Marvin Bagley III, who logged his 15th double-double of the season against Miami Monday night, passing the Duke freshman mark set by Jabari Parker. And don't forget his freshman counterpart Wendell Carter. If it wasn't for Bagley, more people would be writing about Carter's production (he had 15 points, 14 rebounds Monday).
Finally, a name few are talking about since he isn't on the mainstage: Brandon McCoy, a freshman center who will be a first round pick out of UNLV, should he choose to enter. Earlier this year he put up 33 points and 10 rebounds in a battle against Ayton.
Is there another post player you have your eye on? Let us know in the comments below!