As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to struggle, we’d like to offer you some alternative viewing experiences. The Cavs will almost assuredly be picking at the top of the 2019 NBA Draft, and it’ll be important to keep tabs on all of the top prospects this winter. That might be a challenge this year, as the class could have a lot of fluctuation during the season, especially outside of the top five. That can make it difficult to keep track of everyone.
But never fear — we will be here to provide your weekly watch guide to all of the top prospects. Each week, we will break out the best games of the week for NBA Draft interest, including who will be matching up and where to find the week’s top games in college basketball and Europe.
This week happens to be showcase week for some of the Draft’s rising stars. Several players have made pushes for the top ten with strong starts to the season, and as players like Quentin Grimes and Darius Garland fall due to poor play or injury, respectively, new names are quickly making a claim to be in the conversation. Some were expected, like Ja Morant of Murray State; others came out of nowhere, like Luguentz Dort of Arizona State. This is a good chance to get a look at some of these names as they try to stake a claim at being doomsday options for the Cavs in June.
Arizona State vs. Vanderbilt - 7:00 p.m., SEC Network
Arizona State: Luguentz Dort; Vanderbilt: Simi Shittu
Dort is another rising star in this draft class. He’s a 6-4 shooting guard who can get to the rim at will, and is a pretty strong passer to. Ben Rubin of the Stepien has your scouting report, and it paints a fun picture. Granted, he looks and plays a lot like our favorite lovable 6-4 scoring guard from the 2012 Draft, but even if Dort is Dion 2.0, that’s still probably a lottery pick this year. We will see how this holds up against an NBA-level center in Shittu.
Davidson vs. Wake Forest - 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Davidson: Kellan Grady; Wake Forest: Jaylen Hoard
Wake Forest’s relatively fluffy non-conference schedule hasn’t made for many opportunities to catch Hoard, a probably mid-first round power forward. He matches up with lights-out shooter Kellan Grady here, and this game should provide us with a good competition as Hoard continues to sort out his three-point shooting issues.
Princeton vs. Duke - 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Duke: R.J. Barrett, Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, Jack White, Zion Williamson
You know the drill by now. Princeton’s like facing the option in college football with their slow pace, so at least that might be interesting for a half.
Georgia Tech vs. Arkansas - 9:00 p.m, SEC Network
Georgia Tech: Mike DeVoe; Arkansas: Daniel Gafford
Gafford is a first-round prospect who has shown limited development this season; DeVoe is a sleeper prospect as a 6’4” off-guard with good length and an impressive 6.4 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. This is a good chance to see both defense-oriented prospects.
Texas Tech vs. Duke - 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver, Tariq Owens; Duke: R.J. Barrett, Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, Jack White, Zion Williamson
The marquee matchup of the week pits the Blue Devils up against one of the 2019 NBA Draft’s rising stars, Jarrett Culver. Culver is one of the best two-way wings in the draft class, a strong 6’8” perimeter defender in Chris Beard’s rugged system who looks like a future secondary creator at the NBA level. He’s going to be on R.J. Barrett duty, and that’s a fascinating matchup between a potential lockdown defender and one of the best isolation scorers in this class. Throw in Zion having to deal with Tariq Owens, who is in the conversation for National Defensive Player of the Year, and this is probably the best battle we’ve seen this year for NBA Draft scouting outside of Duke/Gonzaga.
Penn State vs. Alabama - 9:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Penn State: Josh Reaves; Alabama: Herb Jones, Donta Hall
Three of the better defensive prospects in the draft feature in this game, which will be utterly unwatchable if you aren’t a draft scout or a fan of these two schools.
Wake Forest vs. Tennessee - 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Wake Forest: Jaylen Hoard; Tennessee: Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield
Now here’s a real test for Hoard, facing off against Williams and Schofield, who both are late first-round level power forward prospects in their own right. How Hoard handles Williams’s inside-out game will be a good evaluation tool.
Murray State vs. Auburn - 4:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Murray State: Ja Morant; Auburn: Anfernee McLemore
Morant passed his first test at the major level against Alabama; now he gets an NBA defender in Anfernee McLemore to deal with. This will be an incredible test for the best mid-major prospect in the draft.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina - 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Kentucky: Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington, Immanuel Quickley; UNC: Nassir Little, Coby White
Three potential top-ten prospects square off here as Johnson, White, and Little match up. White should get ample opportunities to take over with the disappointing Kentucky backcourt opposite him, but the real matchup to watch will be Little vs. Johnson. Neither has established true defensive production this year, but both present interesting challenges for each other - Johnson is going to take Little through screens and likely match him on the glass, while Little’s transition game should stress Johnson’s lack of awareness there.
Vanderbilt vs. Kansas State - 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Vanderbilt: Simi Shittu; Kansas State: Dean Wade
Shittu should be on the Cavs’ radar even though he’s a small-ball center, because he’s a very skilled roll man and potentially elite team defender. Wade is a productive two-way stretch four with limited upside who should be a late first rounder. A nice palate cleanser after UNC/Kentucky.
Kansas vs. Arizona State - 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Kansas: Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson, LaGerald Vick, Udoka Azubuike; Arizona State: Luguentz Dort
Dort has been better than Grimes all season, and can prove that on Saturday night. This could be Dort’s official coming out party as he bookends the week with two very important matchups.