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Scouting with the Mavs: Texas A&M at SMU

Sleeper guards had an intense defensive battle in Dallas

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 14 Texas A&M at SMU Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SMU hosted Texas A&M Tuesday evening as part of a non-conference matchup. Headlining this group that played in front of 4 NBA teams were: Chuck Harris and Zhuric Phelps of SMU, along with Tyrece Radford, Wade Taylor IV, and Solomon Washington of Texas A&M. The NBA teams in attendance were: Phoenix (2 scouts), Brooklyn, New York, and Dallas.

In a crowded Moody Coliseum, SMU kept it close but was unable to take the lead after the middle of the first half. Ultimately, Texas A&M won on the road 79-66. The headliners for each team (Phelps and Taylor) struggled to find scoring and shooting consistency but ultimately were able to show flashes of defense and playmaking.

For Phelps, overall efficiency was a struggle. He finished the game with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 5 turnovers on 3-15 shooting in 33 minutes. As the main draw to five NBA scouts, this was a disappointing outing for the star Mustang guard, as he struggled with good decision-making and finishing difficult shots. To improve his efficiency, he will have to adjust to having more talent around him than he had last year. Phelps still plays in isolation too often and can speed himself up in bad spots rather than keeping the flow of the offense. However, he still had some advanced shot-creation moves, such as a half-spin step back jumper, albeit a miss. Phelps, however, played strong defense and continued to further his reputation as a defensive playmaker with three combined steals + blocks (AKA stocks) per game.

This was a rough outing for Phelps, who was the main draw of the night. SMU will have several more strong tests for Phelps to shine in against strong defensive out-of-conference opponents, including Florida State, Arizona State, and West Virginia.

Staying with SMU, Chuck Harris emerged as someone that could play in the G League if he finally gets over the hump in shooting efficiency that has held him back in his entire career, having never shot above 40% from the field. Harris took the pressure off of Phelps as a shot creator, showing a tight handle in traffic with space-creating moves, along with a clean jump shot. Harris finished the game with 21 points on 8-17 shooting. If these types of efficient performances become consistent, Harris has a chance to become a G League candidate who can make some noise in Summer League.

For Texas A&M, defensive-minded players seem to be the identity of their core prospects in Tyrece Radford, Wade Taylor IV, and Solomon Washington.

Radford, a fifth-year senior guard standing at 6’2, has been an inconsistent scorer in his collegiate career, with defensive prowess and the ability to play both guard slots. While his most likely outcomes are in either being in the G League or Europe, Radford should get a chance within the NBA system and start his pro career in Summer League. Radford’s pro upside relies on his jump shooting developing and becoming more consistent. If he develops a consistent shot, he could be a two-way candidate. Conversely, if he fails to develop consistency he is likely destined to play overseas. There was a stretch in the first half where he took three shots, making two and airballing one. It seems the mechanics can be a bit inconsistent from shot to shot, which is something he will need to improve to make strides as a shooter.

Wade Taylor IV, the other end of Texas A&M’s two-point guard lineup, had an impressive game with 15 points, 5 assists, and 6 steals on 4-17 shooting. This stat line captures exactly the pros and cons of Taylor’s game: as an undersized guard, Taylor has phenomenal defensive instincts, indicated by the six steals, but has trouble scoring in the half-court. With so many eyes on Taylor and Texas A&M throughout the year as a top 15 team, Taylor and Radford have many opportunities to make a case to NBA teams, even as the most common archetype in basketball, with scouts constantly watching the SEC.

Lastly, Solomon Washington is a prospect worth monitoring over the long run that continues to intrigue scouts. Despite limited offensive capabilities right now, Washington has shown strong flashes of lockdown defense with good athleticism. He hit a mid-range isolation jumper, something he did against Texas A&M-Commerce to start the year as well. If there is potential for his jump shot, he’s a lock to be an NBA prospect. For now though, at a long and athletic 6’7, he is most likely destined to be a menacing defensive specialist that can guard almost every position and spot on the floor.

Overall, The Mavs and the other three teams should use this as a key game for noting areas of improvement in Zhuric Phelps’ game going against two strong guard defenders that are likely to play in the NBA G League or Summer League, and three fringe prospects on Texas A&M that each have unique ways to reaching the next level. Dallas likes to add players from within the state as a whole for Summer League or G League rostering, so look for one of these five players to be a strong candidate in the coming summers.