If you’ve followed Prospect Watch since we started back around Thanksgiving — I’m sorry we don’t have PW Awards to hand out — you should have a solid idea of the top-end talent leading this class. By featuring the best games of the week, we have inevitably honed in on some players more than others.
Now that we’re ten weeks in, we have to start going back through these players with a fine-tooth comb, looking at the minutiae in the elite of the class and highlighting players that may pop up later in the draft. In the college season, the conference and end-of-year tournaments are homestretch opportunities for players to shoot up draft boards. But we aren’t there yet.
So over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to hit on the primary lottery suspects, yes, but we’ll also glance at players the Mavericks should have on their radar for later on.
THURSDAY JANUARY 25TH
SMU @ UConn (6 CT, CBSSN)
We’ll head straight past the top-tier games this week and look at Shake Milton in tonight’s conference road game against the Huskies. Yes, this is a player we’ve highlighted before, so we aren’t heading in to new territory. But Milton deserves the spotlight here.
This game is intriguing primarily because Shake is now officially without his perimeter running mate, Jarrey Foster, who suffered a partially torn ACL during their premiere matchup with Wichita State last week. Milton, a 6’6” 205 pound combo guard with a reported 7-foot wingspan, didn’t skip a beat in a tough road environment. Coolly leading the Mustangs past the Shockers with 33 points (11-of-14 from the field, 5-of-6 from three), three rebounds and five assists, Milton looked like the ideal NBA wing, even as the Shockers tried to push him further off the three-point line.
Draft analysts have him in a wide range of spots on their boards, clocking in anywhere from 12 to 45. Shake certainly doesn’t do it on his own (Foster included, the Mustangs have six players averaging double figures), but with the second leading scorer out, this is the sort of late-season opportunity that shoots a player up draft lists. Because of that, it’s likely the Mavericks won’t have a chance at the long shooting guard, who is shooting 43-percent from three on the season. But he’s been my sleeper favorite all year, and we can hope he’s still around to start the second round.
SATURDAY JANUARY 27TH
Duke vs Virginia (1 CT, CBS)
Somehow as the season has continued, Duke's Marvin Bagley III hasn't commanded the same attention. There has been the constant mystery and excitement of international Luka Dončić, who continues to put up stellar numbers. DeAndre Ayton's size and highlight ability will always draw in fans. And the trending three-ball magnetism of Trae Young has stolen plenty of headlines. Bagley has mostly slipped in behind all that.
It’s partially due to the ebb and flow of a season and what excites the fanbase. It certainly isn't due to a drop off in production. Dominating in the post, the combo big man is averaging 24 points, 13 rebounds and a block per-36 minutes. He's only scored single digits once, way back on November 14, when he exited early because of injury against Michigan State. And he has only four single-digit rebounding games on the season.
There are valid questions about what position he would play upon entering the league. His outside shot isn't consistent enough yet to stretch the floor, and right now he's relying on athleticism a lot down low. But he projects as a high floor player that could dip outside the top-three pick and be a steal in June.
Kentucky @ West Virginia (6 CT, ESPN)
It's been a tough stretch for John Calipari and his Wildcats. And unfortunately, it won't be any easier come Saturday, when they’ll enter a tough road environment and face a suffocating defense from the Mountaineers. And they'll see it across the floor at all positions.
This Kentucky team may be different from others, but they still have draft talent. Kevin Knox, discussed last week, may stand as the lone lottery talent, but he's assisted by two solid first-round quality guards in Hamidou Diallo and the surging Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Add PJ Washington, and the intriguing Jarred Vanderbilt, who made his college debut last week after sitting out due to a foot injury. As always, Kentucky has pro talent, but this young team will see an entirely different challenge this week.