Tulane visited SMU Wednesday night, winning a game that became much closer than expected at 97-88.
The would-be star of the game, Zhuric Phelps, missed his second consecutive game due to an oblique injury. The matchup with guards Sion James and Jalen Cook would have drawn NBA scouts, but with Phelps out, there was only one NBA team representative in attendance: the Dallas Mavericks.
Tulane headlined the three prospects most worth monitoring: Jaylen Forbes, Sion James, and Jalen Cook. SMU still had Zach Nutall healthy, who is someone I see at least playing pro overseas.
Nutall has a beautiful three point stroke, both off the dribble and spotting up. He plays both guard slots, but being 6’3 will give him some trouble scaling his role up to the next level. He displayed high-level guard skills against Tulane though, recording a season best eight assists with 12 points. As the Mavs continue to scout SMU on a nearly nightly basis, Nutall could latch on as the local Summer League prospect that a lot of teams give an opportunity to.
While Sion James wasn’t active as a scorer, he still was on five by five watch, making his presence known defensively and as a passer & connector piece. James finished the game with an impressive four points, eight rebounds, six assists, three blocks, and four steals on one of four shooting. Despite a lack of scoring, he still had a noticeable impact in helping Tulane win, both by connecting the offense and controlling the defense through versatility.
Jalen Cook is the star of Tulane’s offense, and Wednesday was another run of the mill night for him. His three level scoring was on display, hitting quick stepbacks and crafty layups, as well as spot-up jumpers. Cook finished with 25 points on 50% shooting, along with eight assists.
Tulane's Jalen Cook with an impressive 25 points, 8 assists last night vs SMU. Such a weapon at POA with OTD quickness, mean hesitations. One of the better short-range touch guards: 15-of-33 on floaters, 90% FTs. Needs to keep improving pull-up game but so far 10-18 catch-shoot. pic.twitter.com/xnCt7XgGEW— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) January 12, 2023
The downside for Cook from a scouting perspective is that he’s just six feet tall, and despite long arms, it will be hard for him to stand out in the NBA the way he has in college basketball. Regardless, he should get a chance in the Summer League, and either get a look in the G League or overseas. His speed is valuable given how much of his scoring comes from off the dribble shooting. Cook’s quick first step plus quick chain as a ball handler makes him incredibly difficult to defend, since he gets to his spots with ease, while also being a strong playmaker.
Jaylen Forbes, a former transfer from Alabama, had a big scoring night, which also has become the norm for him over the years. He hit jumpers in the face of defenders, had a mean poster dunk, and finished well at the rim. Forbes needs to prove offensive consistency and an ability to make his team better without scoring the ball.
Jaylen Forbes with a dagger 3 on SMU. He has 27 points on 9-15 shooting pic.twitter.com/iJmU3uEiNz— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) January 12, 2023
Forbes finished the game with 31 points, on 60% shooting, along with seven rebounds, one assist, and two steals.
Look for one of the Tulane prospects to stick in the NBA this year, whether it be with a two-way contract or the summer league. NBA scouts have taken note of Tulane’s breakout season, and their trio should all see Summer League action, either this year or next.