Welcome to the first 2018 edition of Prospect Watch! We’re nearly halfway through the college basketball season, but we’re still in early development in the draft world. To mix sports metaphors, we’re rounding first and on our way to second. *For context, the conference schedule is second base, postseason tournaments is third, and the combine and private workouts is sliding in to home - good for one of those classic basketball inside the park home runs.
This week we’re going to take a look at some of the usual draft suspects, followed by a deep dive on players that should start to be on your radar. As in, possible picks when maybe the Mavericks continue to win, maybe if they only want an international player, and maybe when they’re ready to use that second round pick (protected 31-55).
This is the Prospect Watch deep cuts, where we finally ask ourselves how much longer we can avoid talking about college basketball’s most electric player.
FRIDAY JANUARY 5TH
Real Madrid vs Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1:45 CT)
When there is a player the caliber of Luka Dončić wowing scouts overseas, it’s a little frustrating to not get the access to watching him that you’d like. Lucky for us, that wait should only be another six months at most. But it probably won’t be until he’s putting on an NBA uniform.
My best suggestion for those that would actually like to watch him (legally) in true game action would be to check networks like beIN Sports, which shows plenty of non-U.S. sporting events. They’ve shown Real Madrid games in the past, and may continue to do so.
Luka continues to tear through La Liga and Euroleague play, impressing scouts and coaches at least once a week. This season he is averaging 22.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists per-36 minutes. He screams Rick Carlisle perimeter player, and because he should remain at the top of every team’s draft board, the Mavs will need plenty of things to swing their way draft night for him to land in Dallas.
As he transitions to NBA basketball I’d like to see his shooting motion be a bit quicker. This season he’s shooting just under 34 percent, so that may need to be a point of emphasis for him up until draft time.
Friday, Real Madrid takes on Maccabi, who roster both former Maverick Pierre Jackson, and Norris Cole. They played each other earlier this season and Dončić put up 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists against the two former NBA players. Neither of those guys represent quality NBA talent, but the follow up should be good, and may prove a measuring stick for his growth since the last match up.
SUNDAY JANUARY 7TH
SMU @ Cincinnati (5 CT, ESPN2)
We continue our deep dive into players who could be options for the Mavericks in the second round. The primary target here is Shake Milton, a name mentioned previously in Prospect Watch. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Milton go in the late first round, so the Mavericks may not get a shot at the local talent.
Additionally, keep eyes on SMU guard Jarrey Foster. He isn’t consistently on every scout’s radar yet, but as the second leading scorer for a solid Mustang squad, the 6’6” junior shooting guard should garner some attention.
One of the team’s toughest matchups to date pops up this Sunday, when they visit the 19th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. The two Mustangs will be head to head with Jacob Evans, Cincinnati’s leading scorer this season. The 6’6” junior second round sleeper, Evans is shooting a very respectable 42 percent from deep this season.
TUESDAY JANUARY 9TH
Creighton vs Butler (7:30 CT, FS1)
Finally, take the deepest of dives with me to keep tabs on Khyri Thomas, the junior shooting guard for the Creighton Bluejays. If I was a team like, I don’t know say the Mavericks, that needed a three and D prospect to pair next to an athletic point guard, Thomas would be near the top of my list in the second round.
Though only 6’3”, Thomas boasts a reported 6’10” wingspan. Yo that might be the wingspan of JJ Barea and Yogi Ferrell combined. He’s a scrappy on ball defender with potential. On top of that, he’s been a career 40-percent three point shooter for his three years of college ball.
Creighton has the task of welcoming perennial giant killer Butler in to Omaha next week. It should be a chance for Thomas and backcourt mate Marcus Foster to shine.
Facing the Trae Young Dilemma
The Mavericks were very fortunate as they sat with the ninth pick on draft night last June. It was a lottery not just stacked with plenty of talent, but point guard talent (heck, the best point guard of the group this season has been Donovan Mitchell and he went 13th). So when Dennis Smith Jr. practically fell in to the lap of the Dallas Mavericks, it felt like they took care of that position for the long term, and could focus their attention on other areas of need.
And while that still looks to be the case, nearly halfway through DSJ’s first NBA season, the fact remains that this Dallas team is deprived of much franchise changing talent. There are plenty of positions that need the front office’s attention. But when the Mavs sit in their war room with the hypothetical sixth pick and Trae Young is still sitting on the board, you’re telling me he won’t at least make them pause?
Listen, I’m a major fan of Young’s game (and not just because I’m an OU alum). If you haven’t watched him yet, you should do yourself a favor because the hype is real. I’m not interested in comping him to be the next Steph Curry, but his game is undoubtedly electric.
Dennis Smith Jr. has spent much of his court time this season playing off the ball, along side the undersized Barea and Ferrell, interchangeably playing point guard. And we’ve seen small backcourts exist in the league (namely Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum). If the Mavericks didn’t have so many other needs (the post, which this draft is filled with) then I might be considering this more. But don’t think a Smith-Young backcourt hasn’t already entered my mind.
Trae Young faces his toughest test yet against the stout defense of Jevon Carter and West Virginia. Oklahoma heads to Morgantown on Saturday the 6th, airing at 6:15 CT on ESPN2.