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Scouting With the Mavs: Dayton vs SMU

Two NBA prospects attract several NBA scouts in Dallas Wednesday night

Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic - Day Two Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Seven NBA teams were in attendance of Dayton vs SMU Wednesday night at Moody Coliseum to see Zhuric Phelps and SMU host DaRon Holmes and Dayton. Holmes was an attendee of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago earlier this year, but withdrew to return to school as one of the top returners for the 2024 NBA Draft. This matchup drew 7 NBA teams, including the Dallas Mavericks.

Zhuric Phelps had a mostly good game, showcasing tight handles and advanced dribble moves without losing the ball, but the glaring flaw continues to be his jump shot. Phelps finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals, and 4 turnovers on 6-15 shooting, including the missed game-winning shot. Phelps is yet to shoot 50% or better in his first seven games.

With a three point percentage of 31% last year with 61% from the free throw line, and 23% from three and 74% from the free throw line this year, Phelps needs to reconsider his shot diet of pull-up jump shots and get to the rim more than he shoots jumpers. He also has a mechanical issue as a shooter of often poking his elbow out of the proper spot, making it more difficult to get a consistent release. This same problem plagued GG Jackson in last year’s draft cycle, and was a key factor in him slipping on draft night into the second round.

However, Phelps thrives defensively as a playmaker, being able to force deflections and turnovers often. His ability to read the passing lanes without taking detrimental risks is one of his best traits, and plays a role in his high steal percentage, which is a stat teams often prioritize in evaluating defensive upside. Phelps could have upside as Kris Dunn if the jump shot never develops.

Phelps continues to draw NBA scouts, and will need to find consistency as a shooter to keep them coming back for more games.

As for Dayton, DaRon Holmes was the big draw in this matchup, a 6’9 (without shoes) big with a 7’0 ½ wingspan, that has mobility defensively, good court vision, and outstanding production over three years at Dayton as a rebounder and scorer. Holmes finished this game with 20 points 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, and 2 turnovers on 6-10 shooting, including 1-1 from 3 and 7-9 from the free throw line.

Holmes is a favorite of analytically-minded scouts, given his production across the board on both ends, and if his early season successes (splits of 50/36/72) can be maintained, he has a real chance of going first round as an experienced big that can play both inside and out, while being a positive defender. The first thing that stands out when Watching Holmes is his size & intelligence on-court. While he can often be a second slow to process the game in front of him, he generally makes the right decisions, even if the aesthetics aren’t always smooth.

With Holmes’ jumper, while the form generally doesn’t seem broken, he does have inconsistencies, generally around his guide hand. At times, he holds his guide hand perfectly still without getting in the way of the release, which is the general mechanics NBA players use. However, at times, the guide hand almost recoils to the left, leading to an exaggerated fall-off of the ball. This can impact the control of the shot if the guide hand is not consistent, but most importantly he needs to find which mechanism is more comfortable for him, and repeat those mechanics with good efficiency. All that being said, there are several scouts that believe Holmes does not need to be much of a shooter to be impactful, but being a shooting threat at his size drastically changes how players defend him in the NBA.

Holmes could be an impactful rookie with Dallas, given his versatility and rebounding prowess. A constant double-double threat, Holmes could help improve the Mavs’ depth in the front-court for cheap if he were to fall to the early second round, which is a range Dallas is not shy to buy into.

Overall, Holmes’ productivity will make it hard for NBA teams to turn down Holmes in the late first round or early second round, especially if he improves as a shooter while maintaining his dominance in the A-10. The common theme for both players that were scouted by 7 NBA teams Wednesday night is shooting: if both players fix their shot mechanics, thus improving shooting efficiency, their draft stocks skyrocket. Holmes has the higher draft floor and likely draft ceiling, but Phelps’ defense + shooting combination, with improved handles, could make him someone that has an overall higher ceiling in the NBA.

With the Mavs having no picks at the moment for the 2024 NBA Draft, Holmes would be unlikely to be available for the Mavs, despite being a fit. As for Phelps, he could be in a similar situation to Mike Miles on draft night.