The NCAA Final Four games take place Saturday night in New Orleans. With the draft just around the corner, the MMB Draft Team took some time out this week to talk about NBA Prospects to watch in the Duke vs. North Carolina, and Kansas vs. Villanova games.
JORDAN: Alright Ian, we’ve been in draft hiding too long. I think the last time we had one of these conversations a young man named Luka Doncic had not yet been drafted into the National Basketball Association. So, a few things have happened since then. But let’s focus on the upcoming draft. Draft order isn’t set (Mavericks would currently select 26th). And this is the time of year where things get pretty hectic around draft prep. Players are in the middle of declaring, workouts are happening, and we haven’t even touched the combine.
But the Final Four is this weekend, and while it was a sort of strange tournament from a competition standpoint we ended still having four blue blood schools remaining with a handful of high-profile players in this draft class still playing. What will you be watching for this weekend? I’d like to focus in on players that might fall within the Mavericks’ draft window. Do you have two or three names that you’ll be keyed in on Saturday night?
IAN: Four very familiar teams left, so it will be a good test of seeing high level competition for these schools, all of whom have potential NBA players.
The team you probably have to start with is Duke, who is simply stacked with prospects. While guys like Paolo Banchero, and A.J. Griffin figure to be long gone when Dallas comes on the clock, there are two or three guys also on that team who could be available in the back half of the first round that I would think at least warrant consideration. The first I’d like to talk about is Wendell Moore Jr. He’s a 20 year old, 6’6 wing who had something of a breakout season for the Blue Devils this year. He’s an intriguing mix of tools (he’s a good athlete and has a 7’0 wingspan) and skills (shooting splits of 50/41/81 with a 4.4-to-2.0 assist-turnover ratio) and one of the more complete players currently projected in Dallas’ range.
Sticking with Duke, another name Mavs’ fans should be watching this Saturday is Mark Williams. The 7’0 big man has shot over 70% from the floor this season, and offers elite physical traits as a lob-catching, shot-blocking center. Some mocks have Williams as high as the lottery, but it does seem that this archetype is being devalued somewhat in the draft these days, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Williams slid a little. It isn’t hard to see what kind of role Williams could play next to Luka, but I must be honest I have some serious questions about his instincts, especially on defense. Still, right now the clearest position in need of upgrading is in the frontcourt, and Williams represents one of the best prospects of that type who isn’t currently being projected in the top 10.
JORDAN: Yes this is an interesting Final Four from a draft perspective, because the quality of the games should be great but the draft talent really seems confined to two teams: Duke and Kansas. I’m pretty intrigued by Moore. As you said above, within the Mavericks’ range Moore might be the most complete player. Duke’s offense has been humming in the tournament with Moore averaging 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. The offense doesn’t run through him but I’ve noticed he stays relatively engaged without the ball. He has shot an eye-popping 57-percent from three in these four games. But puzzling that he had zero attempts in two of the games and just seven attempts overall. For what he’d be in Dallas I’d like to see him shoot a little more (he averages a little over three attempts per game this season).
I’ve told you away from here that I have almost moved exclusively in the “don’t draft a big” camp, and Mark Williams probably doesn’t get me to back away from that. I’d like to see him be a bigger presence when challenged down low. North Carolina runs sets through Armando Bacot. The UNC big man had 23 points and 12 rebounds in that jaw-dropping season finale at Cameron Indoor for Coach K’s final home game. I’ll be watching what Williams can do to slow down Bacot, and how they handle the red hot outside play of stretch big man Brady Manek. Is there anyone else from Duke (or UNC) that you’ll have an eye on — Duke guard Trevor Keels seems to float around the top of the second round in some mock drafts, but I’m not sure I’m too interested for the Mavericks.
IAN: You bring up Keels; I think he’s interesting as a big combo guard, though with all the talent on Duke it can be a little hard to project exact what his role would be in the NBA. The other guy from the Duke/UNC matchup I’ll be watching is probably North Carolina’s Caleb Love. Love had a very forgettable freshman season after being a highly sought after recruit, but he’s been better as a sophomore. While his overall efficiency and shot selection leave something to be desired, he’s had a very strong March, putting up 30 points in a comeback win against UCLA in the Sweet 16. His shotmaking is impressive when he’s on, and he’s cut down on bad turnovers compared to last season.
JORDAN: The Mavericks won’t have a shot at Kansas Jayhawk, and Big 12 Player of the Year, Ochai Agbaji unless they trade up into the lottery. But they could have opportunity at the Jayhawks second leading scorer in junior guard Christian Braun. He’s the most Jayhawk looking Jayhawk if I’ve ever seen one. But he’s got a pretty strong NBA body (6’6, 205 pounds) and is the standard high-floor player teams see in the late first round. The more I watch him the more I’m intrigued. It wouldn’t be a huge swing but you get the feeling he could contribute off the bench pretty quickly. He’s the kind of guy I think Rick Carlisle would have loved. What are your thoughts on Braun?
IAN: He’s a little similar to Wendel Moore, in that both are juniors who took a big step this season, improving as shooters and playmakers. I agree that Braun would make a lot of sense as a Carlisle pick, being an upperclassman with lots of experience and enough skill to be able to contribute quickly. Braun is a good athlete at 6’6 who gets a lot of his scoring in transition or off cuts to the basket. As difficult as it is to predict who is available outside the top 20, my guess is that there would be another wing available when Dallas picks that I like more, but Braun is certainly a solid option if I’m wrong about that. We didn’t mention anyone from Villanova, I don’t think. This may not be the most talented team Jay Wright has assembled in recent memory, but the Wildcats are back in the Final Four thanks in no small part to fifth year senior Collin Gillespie. Do you have any thoughts on him?
JORDAN: Just like Braun has the feel of a Kansas player through and through, Gillespie is exactly that for Villanova. He got to play behind a talented group of guards on a championship winning team back in 2018 (Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Mikal Bridges) and he’s continued to excel and grow into a knockdown shooter and game manager. But I think I’d only want the Mavericks to take a flier on him if it was a camp invite, rather than a draft pick. He’s a smart and skilled player, but will his lack of athleticism hurt him in the move up? My guess is yes. Though his former teammate and current Maverick maybe shuts me up.