AND WE BACK. And we back and we back and we back...
Like a phoenix, long left for dead in the desert of drafts gone by, Prospect Watch has risen from the ashes from whence it came, breathing life into a season suddenly gasping for air. After last summer’s miraculous twist of fate when the Dallas Mavericks traded a future first round pick for the rights to Luka Doncic, the necessity of an all-season PW (like last year) felt futile. And suddenly, after more trades and terrible basketball, the Mavericks have suddenly made Prospect Watch relevant again.
This week we enter NCAA Conference Tournament week, where teams either solidify, stumble in...or out, of postseason bids. And for us, it might be our chance at last looks for some NBA Draft prospects.
Let’s take this slowly, not getting ahead of ourselves by assuming the Mavericks end up keeping that 2019 lottery pick (don’t want to jinx anything). For now, we’re going to focus in on that early second round pick that the Mavericks will have. And more specifically, we’re going to look at players on teams that may not make the real March Madness — who are either on the bubble, or completely out of postseason consideration. Here’s who MFFLs should pay attention to this week:
Luguentz Dort, Shooting Guard (Arizona State)
Freshman, 6’5 215 lb
First game: 3/14 - 8 CT, PAC-12 Network
It would likely take a slip up for ASU to not make the tournament, so we’re cheating here a bit. But Luguentz Dort, the Canadian freshman leader for the Sun Devils, is someone to keep eyes on this week. Averaging 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and nearly two steals per game, Dort’s hot start in non-conference play is really what put him on the map.
He’s an athletic off-guard with NBA strength, and an ability to drive and create on his own. With a listed wingspan over 6’8 combined with an active intensity, he could be an interesting option to pair alongside Luka Doncic or Jalen Brunson in the future.
Where he needs to show improvement is from the outside, where he’s shooting a weak 31-percent from three (29-percent from the NBA range). If he can develop that in the next few years, he could be an interesting second round steal.
Isaiah Roby, Forward (Nebraska)
Junior, 6’8 230 lb
First game: 3/13 - 5:30 CT, BTN
Nebraska junior Isaiah Roby has the coveted size and length that NBA teams are looking for at both forward spots right now. He’s slowly built on his game over the last three seasons, though maybe not making quite the leap some would expect this year.
Still, he projects as an early second rounder because of his effectiveness as a scorer and rebounder around the basket, as well as showing flashes of a three-point stroke (he shot 37-percent from three over the last two seasons). For his size, Roby looks pretty comfortable handling the ball, in the open floor or half court. He also projects the ability to defend multiple positions, and has a knack for blocking shots.
Jaylen Hoard, Forward (Wake Forest)
Freshman, 6’9 215 lb
First game: 3/12 - 11 AM CT, ESPN
Born in France to a basketball family, Hoard came to the states in 2016 after spending time in French developmental programs. After two seasons playing high school basketball in the U.S. and making himself a top-20 recruit, Hoard is finishing an up and down freshman year that finds him on the fringes of the draft.
Ultra long with a frame that could take more muscle, Hoard plays from the outside-in and does most of his damage around the rim. He’s shown little ability this season to hit from three though, so it’ll be interesting to see how he slots in to an NBA role as power forwards are increasingly expected to stretch the floor.
Kris Wilkes, Small Forward (UCLA)
Sophomore, 6’8 205 lb
First game: 3/13 - 8 CT, PAC-12 Network
The sophomore wing returned to UCLA after testing draft waters last spring. Ultimately deciding to forgo the draft for a prove-it season, Wilkes built on a solid freshman run, even in the midst of a somewhat disastrous season for UCLA that included firing head coach Steve Alford mid-year.
Wilkes is thin, but has the height and decent length (measured a wingspan over 6’10) to be in the league along the wing. Even if his physical shooting motion is a little awkward, he’s hitting 37-percent this season from NBA range, though his numbers above the break weren’t great. If he can add a little more muscle, he has the fundamentals to be an NBA player.
He finds himself in a tough spot now. Wilkes is mostly near the back of most draft boards, but UCLA is a mess. He might be a candidate to test the waters and prove himself as a late second rounder, or undrafted free agent.
Jalen McDaniels, Forward (San Diego State)
Sophomore, 6’10 195 lb
First game: 3/14 - 4:30 CT, CBS SN
As has been the theme with this list, McDaniels is another long, thin forward with athletic ability. He also tested draft waters last spring after his freshman season, though he was a relative unknown. It makes some sense, as McDaniels fits the mold of projects nearly every NBA team takes on right now: versatile, lengthy players that you just have to find ways to get on the floor.
The obvious flaw right now is his lack of muscle. At his height and length McDaniels will need to fill out his frame to improve his versatility and durability. While he’s effective near the rim with a smooth touch, he needs a proven jump shot to stretch the floor and expand his game.
McDaniels figures to be a consideration for many teams in the early second round. But it should be noted: he’s also dealing with an off-court issue involving a very serious matter, and will need to answer to that when meeting with NBA teams.
We’ll be digging in to more prospects soon, not just for that second round pick, but also the possible lottery selection. Keep checking in at Mavs Moneyball for all Mavericks and draft related news and analysis.