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Scouting with the Mavs: Kansas at TCU

A full house of scouts watched a competitive matchup between multiple first round prospects and a lottery prospect

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In what was one of the best atmospheres TCU Basketball has ever seen, Kansas won a nailbiter 63 to 58. A stadium full of NBA evaluators saw a great game from start to finish, and walked away with takeaways on the six key players they were scouting: Gradey Dick, Jalen Wilson, and Kevin McCullar from Kansas; Mike Miles, Damion Baugh, and Emanuel Miller from TCU.

With 32 NBA scouts, personnel, and key figures from 19 teams in attendance, the six players being most heavily scouted put on a show.

Gradey Dick was active and involved from the very beginning of the game. His feel for the game is off the charts on both ends, being in the right spot at the right time, and seeing plays before they happen. While most of his damage was done in the first half, particularly the first 10 minutes, he still had his fingerprints all over this game. Being a six foot eight mistake-free shooter with the ability to be trusted with the ball in his hands, he is going to make an impact immediately in the NBA. As he continues to develop his ball-skills to create shots, he will be more threatening with the ball in his hands in attacking closeouts.

Defensively, Kevin McCullar stood out for Kansas. McCullar showcased why he is the best defender in the Big 12, locking up Mike Miles for the night, forcing him to shoot just 28.5% from the field on the night, and being unable to get free off-ball. McCullar has top-tier instincts and feel for the game; scouts will rarely see him make a mistake, particularly on the defensive end. However, he will need to prove a bit more worth on the offensive end, scoring just 10 points per game on subpar efficiency without a reliable jump shot. On the year, McCullar’s shot type stats, per synergy:

  • Off the dribble: 21-63 (33.3%)
  • Catch & shoot: 22-71 (31%)
  • Overall jump shots: 43-134 (32.1%)

If McCullar can work on developing a three point shot or become a great connecting passer offensively, he will stick. If he is unable to score against mismatches and defensive breakdowns, he will have a hard time finding a spot in the league. McCullar’s best outcome early on is to go to the G League and adapt to the scoring tempo there while building more offensive skills. From there, he should be able to find an NBA or overseas role easily.

Lastly for Kansas, Jalen Wilson had a disappointing homecoming to his native North Texas, being an alumnus of Denton Guyer. He finished the game with seven points, 13 rebounds, three assists, one steal, four fouls and three turnovers on 27% shooting. The Horned Frogs took away his dominant right-hand drives, and forced him to create in a crowded paint. He also airballed two jumpers, and while he played good defense, he was at times a black hole for the Kansas offense by trying to force his way to the rim instead of keeping the ball moving. Wilson’s lack of a great left hand and only mediocre athleticism in traffic limit him as a self-creator, which he will have to overcome in the NBA.

For TCU, Damion Baugh yet again stood out, scoring 11 points, albeit on 25% shooting, six rebounds, four assists, one block, and three steals. He led the offense while Mike Miles was being face-guarded off-ball the entire game, and orchestrated an efficient offense. Baugh fell victim to something the entire team also fell victim to, which led to a decreased efficiency: foul hunting. Baugh & Miles particularly went to the rim aggressively, but were so focused on getting foul calls that they were not making the right reads once they got to the rim. This ultimately hurt TCU’s offensive efficiency, because most nights they get the calls they did not get Monday night. However, Baugh made such an impact on both ends of the floor that his shooting woes were not as harmful as the box score makes it out to be.

Look for Baugh to latch on as a two-way player in the NBA this summer, should he declare. His intangibles, work ethic, and feel for the game make up for a lack of shooting & being slightly undersized at six foot three. He should stick, at a minimum, in the G League with a chance to rise in the NBA once he further develops his three point shooting.

Emanuel Miller is someone that has started to be scouted more with the emergence of his brother, Leonard Miller of the G League Ignite. With an ideal toolset for a wing, being six foot seven, a great athlete, and plus length, Miller is going to catch scouts’ eyes all season long. However, his lack of a consistent jump shot and inconsistent two point scoring makes him a bit of a project as a prospect that will be 23 on draft night. Teams feel invested in him given his raw tools, plus his nonstop competitive motor.

The likely outlook for Miller is that he will be given two years in the G League to develop further in a more player-development-friendly environment, and reevaluate from there.

Lastly, Mike Miles had a difficult, underwhelming game as a co-headliner prospect in front of over 30 NBA scouts. He finished the night with 13 points on 28.5% shooting, with four rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers. He faced a full 38 minutes of being face-guarded by whichever Kansas defender was assigned to him, no matter how many switches he got from moving off-ball. When Miles was able to find holes in the defense off-ball he could do damage, shown in this video below. His athleticism, both with explosion out of his first movement & vertical explosiveness towards the rim, are overlooked given that he is six foot one.

While Miles struggled against 38 minutes of tight pressure, he is unlikely to see this night-to-night, let alone in the NBA. This similar situation happened to Desmond Bane against USC in 2019, and the following games helped Bane more easily find open looks behind off-ball screens, playing to his strengths. Miles should be able to follow a similar trajectory.

Overall, NBA scouts and decision-makers got to see a great game Monday night, showcasing highs and lows of the multiple prospects in this game. With TCU playing Texas in their final home game next week, they should see another high-volume night of scouts in Fort Worth.