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 is going to be a good one for us draft evaluators, as several of the draft’s top prospects are going to be facing stressful challenges this week. Whether it be a challenging rim protector, another top draft prospect, or a mess of length and athleticism, players like Zion Williamson, Jarrett Culver, and Naz Reid won’t be able to cruise this week, and we could see some interesting ways in which these guys will adjust.
Tuesday, Jan. 8
Duke vs. Wake Forest - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Duke: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, Tre Jones, Jack White; Wake Forest: Jaylen Hoard
This will probably be an exposure game for Jaylen Hoard, who has been slipping in recent weeks due to his weak frame and lack of any real skill set outside of cutting and passing. Now he has to face Zion, which does not project to go well.
Wednesday, Jan. 9
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Buducnost - 2:05 p.m. EST, Euroleague TV
Maccabi: Yovel Zoosman; Buducnost: Goga Bitadze
The top two 2019 NBA Draft prospects in Euroleague square off. Zoosman is an athletic wing with good finishing touch and defensive versatility, while Bitadze is a potential stretch-five/rim protector who has impressed in his minutes so far at Buducnost.
Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN3
Virginia Tech: Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Georgia Tech: Michael DeVoe
Alexander-Walker has been rising in the past few weeks, currently sitting as a lottery prospect at some outlets and sitting 19th on my board after starting the year in the second round. He’s a good catch-and-shoot weapon at two-guard and solid secondary creator. He gets a tough matchup against DeVoe, who probably will not come out this year but is a skilled defender who can body up NAW.
Thursday, Jan. 10
Wofford vs. UNC Greensboro - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN3
Wofford: Fletcher Magee; UNC Greensboro: James Dickey
This was an incredible game in the SoCon Tournament last season, and once again gives us a good look at some fringe draft prospects. Magee has continued his torrent of threes this season and has real NBA potential as an off-movement shooter, and Dickey is one of the best mid-major defensive prospects and will likely draw some duty on him. If you like grainy ESPN3 action, this is the game for you.
Michigan vs. Illinois - 8:00 p.m. EST, Fox Sports One
Michigan: Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews; Illinois: Ayo Dosunmo
Dosunmo competed well against Romeo Langford and Illinois, and his athletic defense has been promising this year. Hope for some matchups between him and Matthews here, as Matthews could give him issues with his mid-post game.
Penn State vs. Nebraska - 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Penn State: Josh Reaves; Nebraska: Isaiah Roby
Floor vs. Ceiling matches these two draft prospects. Reaves is the high-floor 3-and-D defensive ace, while Roby has a lot of potential as a playmaking four, but doesn’t have the consistency or the awareness to be confident in him.
UCLA vs. Oregon - 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
UCLA: Kris Wilkes; Oregon: Louis King, Kenny Wooten
While Bol Bol’s injury certainly sucks the air out of watching Oregon for the rest of the year, this is still an important game for potential first-round prospects in Wilkes and King, both small forwards with interesting but unpolished skill sets.
Friday, Jan. 11
Indiana vs. Maryland - 7:00 p.m. EST, Fox Sports One
Indiana: Romeo Langford; Maryland: Jalen Smith
Langford gets the spotlight on Friday as he tries to help Indiana keep its hot start to Big Ten play going. If he can finish well against Smith and Bruno Fernando, that will keep his stock rising.
Saturday, Jan. 12
Duke vs. Florida State - 2:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Duke: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, Tre Jones, Jack White; Florida State: Trent Forrest
Florida State’s size and athleticism should give Duke the same issues they had against Auburn in the Maui tournament. In particular, Reddish, who will have to check Terance Mann, Jones, who will match up against Forrest, and Williamson, who will have to finish against Christ Koumadje, will be stressed here.
Texas Tech vs. Texas - 2:00 p.m. EST, Longhorn Network
Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver; Texas: Jaxson Hayes, Kerwin Roach
Culver and Hayes are two Draft Twitter favorites, and this will be an interesting matchup to see how Culver finishes against Hayes at the rim, and how Hayes deals with massive Texas Tech rim protector Tariq Owens. If you haven’t seen either of these guys and are one of the twenty-eight or so people that get LHN, this is one to keep an eye on because both of these guys will matter in June.
Seton Hall vs. Marquette - 2:00 p.m. EST, Fox Sports One
Seton Hall: Myles Powell; Marquette: Markus Howard
Two very solid options as backup NBA guards will be on display here. Both are excellent shooters, but are undersized. Expect plenty of fireworks at the end if this game is close.
LSU vs. Arkansas - 6:00 p.m. EST, SEC Network
LSU: Naz Reid, Tremont Waters; Arkansas: Daniel Gafford
A matchup of two mid-first round big man prospects. Gafford’s athleticism and shot-blocking instincts are going to be valuable in the NBA, and he will get to put them to the test against the slow-mo, crafty Reid. This will be a big chance for Reid to prove that he has upside if he can have a positive impact in the paint.
Western Kentucky vs. Marshall - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN3
Western Kentucky: Charles Bassey; Marshall: Jon Elmore
There are questions about how well Bassey will translate to NBA pace and style of play. While the talent level isn’t there, Marshall’s play style should give him a few fits.
Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky: 8:30 p.m. EST, SEC Network
Vanderbilt: Simi Shittu, Aaron Nesmith; Kentucky: Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington
Shittu and Johnson have both been difficult reads this season - it’s clear they have a ton of talent, but their mental lapses are just too frequent to push them into the top 7 or 8 prospects. Shittu’s going to have a tough task trying to defend Washington in space and tangle with Nick Richards under the glass, so this is a big game to get a real look at his defensive profile.
Gonzaga vs. San Francisco - 10:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Gonzaga: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Killian Tillie
One of the tougher tests the Zags are going to see in conference play, San Francisco has a lot of good athletes and has impressed this season. They probably aren’t up to the task of upsetting Gonzaga, but will present some challenges for this trio of draft prospects.